FLYING FROM ALBANIA BACK TO US DURING COVID
“Flying from Albania back to USA during Covid” – from Michelle Pineiro
Flew from Tirana to the US yesterday (4/23/2021) so I thought I’d post to help others with things I learned along the way.
I reached out to a few labs about the COVID test and ended up going with Genius (they have multiple locations and were listed on the US Embassy in Tirana. It was 8,000 lek (cash only) and they can be reached on WhatsApp. When I first texted they said results would come in 5-6 hours but since I’d heard from other labs 16-24 I went 2 days before my flight. Sure enough, when I went on Wednesday, they said results would be ready Thursday by 8 am. They also asked me to come back in person for the “official” piece of paper despite saying results could be texted. So make sure to message them the next day when you need your results (WhatsApp). Not sure if it depends on the gate agent or airline, but I showed my results on my phone in Tirana and Vienna, Austria, and was able to get my boarding pass and board just fine. No one asked for a printed copy but if you’re near the lab and have time to go back the following day it probably doesn’t hurt to have it.
Here’s where I went:
Genius Laborator QSUT +355 69 987 1179
But I also messaged this newly opened location
Genius Laborator Komuna e Parisit +355 69 363 6754
They said 8000 Lek (cash only) and 24 hours, but also said if you come between 8-9 am you can get results that afternoon.
Genius Laborator Fresku +355 69 515 7844
They also said 8000 Lek (cash only) and that results come on the phone (PDF link) within 24 hours. Genius never responded to my email asking about results and cost so I’d recommend messaging on WhatsApp. So far it seems the numbers listed on Google Maps go directly to their WhatsApp.
Hemera Medical Center +355 69 337 3337
I contacted this lab because someone else in this group, FB Group “Expats In Albania” recommended it. They quoted me €70. They said results would come in a few minutes or a few hours. But they also asked if I had symptoms or needed it for travel and when I said travel they said I’d have to come back in person. They also weren’t on the US Embassy list so I didn’t go here but someone else said it worked well for them.
Intermedica is on the embassy list but supposedly they only test at this particular location:
Intermedica Qendrore +355 4 220 0600
They said 8500 lek but that they accept both cash and credit card. 16-24 hours for results. They said only this location and Intermedica Sarande if that helps anyone. They can be reached on Facebook – Intermedica Sarande (not sure about WhatsApp).
Travel to the Tirana International Airport TIA by taxi
I was located in the vicinity of Shkoze, so the East end of Tirana.
Used Green Taxi to Tirana Airport and it only cost 1550 lek.
You can message them on WhatsApp and they ask for your Current Location (not Live Location) and arrive 20-30 minutes later. I used them once before for a 15-minute ride (2-3 miles) in Tirana and it was only 660 lek.
Now about Tirana Airport…
My flight was at 4:30 am. And I had to work remotely until midnight. I figured it made more sense to go early before curfew and instead of trying to find a taxi at midnight. I arrived at the airport at 8:15 pm and learned they don’t let you in until 2 hours before your flight.
There is an indoor/outdoor cafe attached to the airport open 24 hours. They have WiFi and plenty of outlets to charge things, but the staff wasn’t wearing masks properly (on their chins rather than covering their nose and mouth). They also play loud music and since I needed to video call I sat outside the airport on the other quieter side by Conad (which appeared closed when I was there, but maybe only because I saw the side within the airport with the gate up) until my laptop died and then to the last student I explained. He’d hear music but luckily he could still hear me over the music.
Once they do let you into the airport, the lines at the check-in counters (at least for Austrian Airlines) were extremely long, and once again the staff wasn’t all covering their nose and mouth with their masks.
Security went smoothly (no line when I went at 3:30 am) although apparently a roll of tape isn’t allowed? LOL
Past security there was a cafe open that accepts Albanian lek or Euros. I got rid of my remaining lek but accepted the change in Euro since my layover would be in Austria.
For those connecting in Vienna, Austria. I was only in Gate G and there was only one place open and serving food so the line was incredibly long at all times I walked by. There are also vending machines but you have to walk all the way to the end to find one with snacks instead of drinks. Oh, and when connecting flights to the US, they have you go upstairs and much shorter line so make sure to ask or listen to staff about connecting flights and which line to wait in.
When I arrived in the US, no one asked for a copy of my COVID test, but I have Global Entry so I also went through Customs infinitely quicker than the lines the general public would have to wait in. I highly recommend Global Entry ($100 for 5 years and includes TSA Pre-Check) and love feeling like VIP when I walk in the same line as staff and am out of the airport within minutes rather than hours.
Also when I turned on my phone data, I got a text from the CDC with quarantine and testing requirements:
Recently traveled internationally? Watch your health for 14 days. Find out if you should stay home: www.cdc.gov/COVIDtravel
I arrived in Albania in January 2021 and there was no temperature check or testing requirement. They don’t stamp your passport but from what I’ve heard they have your arrival date in their system electronically. They only asked if I had been in the UK 2 weeks prior.
I spent 2 months in Durrës and 6 weeks in Tirana. Both times I found my apartment on Airbnb and messaged the host and negotiated cheaper rent for a long stay. In Durrës I paid cash, in Tirana my host accepted payment on PayPal (but she also would have accepted cash).
I’ll probably leave this FB group “Expats In Albania” (or un-follow it so I get fewer notifications) in the next few days, but it was a very helpful resource before I arrived and during my time in Albania.
Thanks for reading this far and be safe!