In addition to our good meal this evening, after having a so-so meal the night before, it felt celebratory for us! Sometimes it is the little things, which add up to big things.
Earlier, we had a bit of a challenge finding ATM’s around the city that worked. Sarandë is fairly good size, so this was surprising. The fourth one we tried decided to claim $400, but did not give me any cash (this happens more often than we like to deal with in our travels). AND, while in the subject, it pays to count your cash at each ATM withdrawals, because we have discovered we don’t always get the same amount dispensed, as our banks get charged! Thankfully, a call to our bank in the USA always resolves these issues, for which we are grateful! Whew!
Being within days of departing one country for another, it’s critical not to be left with any local currency, as it’s worthless anyplace else, even at “money exchanges.” Needing to figure out what monies we will need for bus tickets and/or a hired driver, and meals for the next few days, is a balancing act even time. Most less-traveled countries do not like to take credit card, especially during these slow times, and others places say they won’t take them at all. It is not like we know if businesses take credit cards in advance, so it gets tricky, as we go along.
In the end, I had to use some emergency US dollar funds we have on-hand, for just this purpose, and exchanged them for Euros. Euros are a much safer bet to have on-hand in this situation than extra Lek (local money), as Euro is accepted in non-EU Europe, too. This way, now we will have cash to fill the rental car with fuel, before returning it, as we know gas stations take cash, and we can eat and buy water.
It also worked out that the rental car company we used, who we enjoyed working with, will also drive us to the Macedonia border (4-5 hours), as a hired- driver option. There are no buses available from Sarande, and a shuttle company I found online, will not respond to my inquiry of driving us. If needed, we could have rented the car for another two days with an overnight hotel, plus pay the one-way pickup fee to drop the rental car in Durres; 4 hours to Durres from Saranda. Then, from Durres, (where buses are) we would still be another 3-4 hours on a bus, to the border from there. We do have the time in a lot of cases, but not always the patience, or desire.
So, tomorrow, on our last full day in Albania, it’s a play-day. No touring, but instead, some downtime, enjoying the beautiful beach and ocean, right at our hotel stay!
On Thursday, we get picked up in the AM at our hotel by the hired-driver, who will take us to the Macedonia border. Yay!
New adventures await, but if by chance we can’t cross the border in to Macedonia, by the time we arrive, we will remain in Albania, near Lake Ohrid. (Lake Ohrid is shared, by both Macedonia and Albania). It is a good plan to visit this location last, just in case we need a backup plan to await open borders.
“Winging it as we go,” is the new way of traveling!