Here are a few useful Albanian Rules of the Road (as observed by me):
- Green means GO, even if there are pedestrians in your way, even if there are old men on bikes in your way, or old women laden with bags of vegetables trying to cross the road. It means GO even if the intersection is already full of cars, or if there is a policeman in the middle of the road telling you to stop. It always means GO.
- Amber means hold on to whatever you can find in your vehicle because I, the driver, am going to step on the gas and make a run for it.
- Red is just a suggestion. Stop if you want to. Maybe you need time to light your cigarette, change the radio station, put on some lipstick. But don't stop for no reason at all. Especially don't stop if people are crossing the road in front of you (because they have the little green man telling them it's okay). If the light is red and you want to go just pound on your horn loudly and proceed through the intersection, parting the sea of people.
Horns are a very important part of being a driver in Tirana. Learn to blow your horn for any and every reason possible. Never be afraid to blow your horn at 4:30 in the morning, especially if you are a bus driver. Blow your horn when you see your buddy. Blow your horn when someone is stopped in front of you while trying to make a turn. Blow it when mothers and children are crossing the street, even if they have the green man on their side. Blow it when the car in front of you has stopped at a red light (how dare he?). Blow it when you're going to attempt to pass another car by driving on the other side of the road. Blow it when your team wins the football game. Oh just blow, blow, blow.
The Man With the Biggest CAR Wins (and yes I know what that word means in Albanian)
Don't even think about driving a Smart Car. Nor a nice little sporty BMW. You may drive a Mercedes, but it must be a big one. An SUV is definitely better and will ensure you win almost any on-road competition. If you really feel competitive, get a Hummer. Two were spotted yesterday, so you better hurry. Soon you will need a tank, especially out at Zogu i Zi where it is looking like a real war zone.
If there are two lanes, make three. If there are three, make four. Do whatever you can to be at the front of any line-up. Never wait behind someone else's car, it's so demeaning. Always go around (leftside or right it doesn't matter). Go right to the front of the line, just like with bread. And please don't worry if you can't see the traffic light at this point. Someone will "horn you" and let you know when it is green. Never worry if one lane goes in one direction and the other lane goes the opposite way. If you are important just use the other lane and make it go your way. Flash your lights and just go. And one-way streets are just for pedestrians aren't they?
Only for babies. No wait. Albanian babies and children never wear seatbelts, so why should you, a full grown adult. In fact, why do manufacturer's even bother to put them in cars destined for Albania?
Well you get the picture. I could go on but I'll hold back. I'm never shocked when the local news shows people killed in traffic accidents here, but I am sad, and angry. Learn to drive with respect for other people's lives and your own. Oh Albania, how long will it take you to cherish your new-found freedoms?
You can read a very interesting (albeit old)article from the Wall Street Journal about driving in Albania.