Balkans Europe

How to Travel from Italy to Albania on the Bari Durres Ferry

A Ventouris ferry – one of the ferry companies that services the Bari Durres route.

The Bari Durres ferry (traghetti Bari Durrazzo) is a convenient way to travel across the Aegean between Italy and Albania. This essential guide answers all of your questions about tickets, immigration, the ferry ride itself – and much more.

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After our week in Sicily – and a much-needed break from the Balkans – it was time to head to northern Albania. We decided to take the overnight ferry from Bari in Italy’s Puglia region to Durres (Durrës) on the Albanian coast.

It’s a seemingly straightforward, 230 km journey across the Adriatic, taking between 9 and 10 hours and costing as little as 50 Euro per person (a good deal when you consider it includes a night of accommodation).

The ferry ride was an interesting travel experience – but we faced a few challenges along the way. I’m surprised at just how little information is out there about the ferry and what’s required of passengers. Had we not been on the ball, we might have missed the boat.

This guide is designed to answer your questions about the Bari Durres ferry and provide the essential information both the ferry companies and port leave out.

Approaching the Albanian coast on the Bari Durres ferry.
Approaching the Albanian coast.

Before you travel

Follow these steps before you travel from Albania to Italy on the Bari Durres ferry.

Applying for an Albanian visa

Many nationalities (including Australian, UK and US citizens) can travel to Albania as a tourist visa-free.

Check if you need an Albanian visa, and apply for one if you do, through iVisa.

Buying Bari Durres ferry tickets online

There are currently three ferry operators on the Bari Durres route: Adria Ferries, Ventouris Ferries and Grandi Navi Veloci (GNV). Picking one is like choosing the best of a bad bunch – all of them have pretty bad online reviews.

Adria is reportedly the best choice if you’re travelling with a car. We weren’t, so we chose GNV – but only because the price was slightly better.

What we didn’t realise at the time of booking is that the three companies share ships. Even though we booked GNV ferry tickets, we ended up on an AF Adria boat.

We bought our tickets directly through the GNV website. But I wish we hadn’t. When we printed our PDF booking voucher, we noticed that the system had issued two tickets in Ross’s name (for Mr. and Mrs.). There was no record of my name. I still have no idea how this happened, but it must have been a glitch with the booking system or an autofill error on our end.

We’re lucky the ticket attendant in Bari cut us a break and changed the name for us free of charge. Otherwise we would have had to fork out for another ticket at the last minute.

If you want the safety net of booking through a third-party agent, Direct Ferries offers competitive prices for all ferry companies on the Bari Durres, Bari Dubrovnik and Bari Bar routes. Check prices and availability for the Bari Durres ferry here.

Ticket types & prices

Adria, Ventouris and GNV all have a similar pricing structure. When you book online, there are several types of ticket to choose from:

TypeSleeping arrangement
Deck spaceNo seat or cabin – find your own spot to sleep in the lounge and use the public bathrooms.
Reserved seatAn assigned recliner seat, similar to a plane seat, in a large room. Use the public bathrooms.
Shared cabin (sex-segregated)A bed in a 2 or 4 berth cabin. Washbasin in the room.
Private cabin (outside)Your own cabin, either 2 or 4 berth (single bunk beds). Includes private en suite and a window.
Private cabin (inside)Same as above, but with no window.
Deluxe cabinYour own cabin for 2 people (double beds). Includes private en suite.

To book tickets online, first select your destination and day of departure. You’ll be asked to input the age of all passengers and whether or not you’re travelling with a vehicle. On the next page, choose your preferred ferry company (note the departure time and travel duration), and then select your preferred seats.

To complete the booking, you’ll need to enter passport details for all travellers. You also have the option to add cancellation cover, which allows you to cancel your booking free of charge up to 48 hours before departure.

IMPORTANT! If you reserve your Bari Durres ferry tickets online, you will be issued with a PDF voucher and instructions to print it. It has a barcode and everything – BUT THIS IS NOT YOUR BOARDING PASS! To be allowed on the ferry, you must swap the voucher for tickets on the day of travel.

We couldn’t find any information about this process on the GNV website, nor were there any signs at the port in Bari. We only knew to do this after reading a thread on TripAdvisor. We also confirmed with a staff member at the ferry terminal.

Collecting the boarding passes is quite an involved process (as you’ll soon see). Had we not arrived early to swap the voucher, we would have been denied boarding.

See the next section for detailed instructions on how to collect your ferry tickets.

Buying Bari Durres ferry tickets in person

Adria, Ventouris and GNV all have ticket offices inside the Bari ferry terminal, and inside the Durres terminal at the other end.

At the time of writing, the GNV desk in Bari was papered over and clearly closed for the foreseeable future. Adria and Ventouris were both closed when we first arrived in the morning (at about 11am) but open from about 5.30/6pm.

There are some reports online that ticket prices drop closer to the day of travel. We booked a few months in advance, so I can’t confirm this. In summer, when the ferries often sell out, you wouldn’t want to take the risk.

Bari at sunset – view of Bari from the Bari Durres ferry deck.
Bari at sunset.

Where to stay in Bari

If you’re transiting through Bari, you might choose to stay in the city for a night before your ferry ride. This is what we did.

We stayed at Il Prisicio, a bed and breakfast close to the train station and bus terminal. (It’s also a few blocks from the best focaccia in Bari and one of the best pizza joints in town!) We arrived late on a bus from Sicily, so this was a great option for us.

If you prefer to stay near the Bari ferry terminal, there are several B&Bs in the northern part of the Old Town. Il Trespolo Degli Angeli is close to the waterfront and comes recommended.

The terminal building where you board the Bari Durres ferry.
The ferry terminal in Bari.

Day of travel

Getting to the ferry terminal in Bari

There are two passenger ferry terminals in Bari – make sure you go to the right one.

The terminal for international ferries to Croatia, Montenegro and Albania is the car ferry terminal, called Porto di Bari on Google Maps. It’s the large blue and glass building on the western side of the port.

The other terminal, Terminal Crociere, services cruise ships and boats to Greece. We made the mistake of going here first. Again, there was no signage to indicate which terminal was ours – we only realised our mistake halfway through the process of putting our bags in the left luggage room.

City bus number 50 runs from Bari Centrale train station to both ferry terminals. A single fare costs 1 Euro and tickets can be purchased at the kiosk outside the train station (directly to the left as you exit) or at any tobacco shop in the city. Remember to validate your bus ticket using the yellow stamp box on the bus.

The bus stops at the cruise terminal first. Make sure you get off at the last stop, right outside Porto di Bari.

Leaving luggage at Bari ferry terminal

On the left side of the Porto di Bari terminal building there’s a row of glass buildings that run parallel. The last of these is a luggage storage office (Gruppo Portabagagli) where you can ‘deposito bagagli’, AKA leave your bags.

The luggage storage is open from 8am until 10pm, and is closed between 1pm and 4pm for lunch. It costs 4 Euros per bag (far cheaper than the rate at Bari train station) for the entire day.

When you drop off a bag, you’ll be issued with a handwritten receipt that you must hold onto and present later.

We left two bags and had no problems whatsoever. As always, use common sense and never leave valuables in luggage storage.

What to bring on the Bari Durres ferry

If you don’t want to eat at the on-board restaurant, bring your own snacks for the ferry ride. Water on the boat isn’t potable so you’ll also need to bring bottled water (or a steri pen or similar).

If you’re a light sleeper, it’s also a good idea to pack earplugs.

The ticket desks where you collect your Bari Durres ferry tickets.
The ticket desks where you collect your boarding pass.

Swapping your online reservation for a boarding pass

So you’re at the Bari terminal, snacks in hand, logged onto the free WIFI and ready to board. Not so fast.

If you booked your ferry tickets online, there’s one more thing you need to do first.

In one of the most ridiculous boarding procedures we’ve ever encountered, you have to swap your online voucher for boarding passes. Incredibly, this happens at a different location 2 km away from the terminal. Yep – you literally have to catch a bus to another location to collect your tickets.

As you exit the Porto di Bari terminal, you’ll see a glass bus stand directly on your left (if you caught the bus down, it’s same place the number 50 bus dropped you off). From here, you need to catch a shuttle bus to Marisabella, another port 10 minutes up the road.

Mercifully, the shuttle is free. But since it does a loop, it only runs every 30 minutes. Look out for the small white vans with ‘Marisabella’ in flashing lights above the window screen.

Get off the shuttle at the last stop, in front of the white tents. These are the ticket desks where you exchange your online reservation voucher for a ferry boarding pass.

You must present your passport or travel documents at this time (but you don’t need your luggage with you – leave that in storage for as long as possible). The shuttle idles in front of the tents before returning to the main terminal. If there’s no line, you can pick up your tickets and jump straight back on the shuttle (otherwise you need to wait 30 minutes for the next bus).

Bari Durres ferry tickets.
Our Bari Durres ferry tickets.

This process is the same for ferries to Durres, Dubrovnik and Bar and must be completed by all passengers who booked tickets online. You’ll see that each ferry company has its own service window.

When we found out about this the morning of, we thought we’d be clever and go down to Mirisabella early to beat the crowds. But sadly, the desks don’t open until 5pm.

That means you have a 4-hour window, from 5pm until 9pm, to collect your ferry boarding passes before getting on the boat.

By the time you wait for a shuttle, this extra step adds at least an hour to the check in process.

This process makes absolutely no sense to me – there are ticket windows in the main terminal, why not issue the boarding passes there instead of making passengers go all the way to Marisabella? The shuttle bus is tiny and runs so infrequently, I imagine it must be chaos in summer.

The AF Adria ferry ready to take us from Bari to Durres.
The AF Adria ferry ready to take us from Bari to Durres.

Boarding the ferry

We caught the Marisabella shuttle at 5pm and were back at the boarding terminal by 6pm. A friendly lady at the information counter told us that boarding for our 10pm ferry would commence at 7.30pm. The waiting area is comfortable enough (and air conditioned), so we waited there.

The boarding area is located at the far end of the terminal building. There are two separate lines, one for EU and another for non-EU citizens. At 8pm, people started trickling through. We boarded the ferry just in time to see the sun set over Bari from the upper deck.

We passed EU immigration, ran our bags through a security scanner, and exited the terminal through the back. Several ferries all board at the same time, so your boat might be docked a short distance away.

We were surprised to find our boat was not a GNV boat but an AF Adria boat.

We walked sheepishly up the car ramp and climbed the stairs all the way to the reception to check in. If you have a cabin, this is when you receive your key. You must leave a passport with the reception staff as collateral. This is exchanged back when you check out.

If you only have deck space or a seat, you can proceed directly to your seating area without visiting reception.

What is the Bari Durres ferry ride like?

Inside our Bari Durres ferry cabin

Because we booked months in advance, we went all out and reserved a private 4-berth seaview (i.e. outside) cabin. Sounds fancy, huh?

The cabin was, in fact, pretty basic. It reminded us of a sleeper train berth. The cabin comes with two sets of bunk beds fitted with clean linens, blankets, and full-size pillows. The adjoining bathroom has a toilet, shower and basin. We were also given two bath towels, although they are more like tea towels.

Inside a 4 berth cabin on the Bari Durres ferry.
Our private 4 berth cabin on the Bari Durres ferry.

Our room also had a small portal window, two power sockets, a night table and a clothes cupboard.

There is no WIFI connection in the cabins, but there is free WIFI in the bar lounge area.

Deck space

At first we couldn’t figure out how to get outside – there is no exit to the deck on the restaurant level. Inside, you need to go up a floor and use one of the exits at either end of the cabin hallway.

Once outside, there are stairs to access the upper deck.

Eating & drinking on the ferry

The AF Adria boat has a bar/cafe and a large lounge area, plus a separate restaurant. Prices are reasonable (€1.50 for a coffee, €3 for a beer, and restaurant meals for €5-10.

The lounge area on the Bari Durres ferry.
The lounge area.

Is the Bari Durres ferry ride rough?

The ferry ride is pretty smooth, but the engine noise in the cabins is extremely loud. It’s far quieter in the lounge area.

We heard a loud vibration all night. It didn’t bother me, but if you’re sensitive to noise you might not get much sleep.

There was no turbulence or rocking of any sort – in fact, we couldn’t really tell if we were moving or not.

Arrival in Durres

Disembarking the ferry

At 6am the next morning there was a loud speaker call out for passengers with cabins to check out. We couldn’t hear the announcement clearly in our room, only in the hallway. You’d do well to set an alarm to make sure you’re up in time.

We showered, packed, and checked out. By 6.30am, the upstairs bar area was full of passengers ready to disembark. A few people had clearly been sleeping in the lounge area, stretched out on the booth chairs.

The ship docked at 7am and after a 30-minute wait, we were free to disembark. There was no official direction to do so, but once we noticed people going downstairs, we followed. We walked out the back of the boat the same way we came, doing our best to avoid the huge lorries coming down the car ramp.

The ferry terminal building in Durres, Albania.
The ferry terminal in Durres, Albania.

Albanian immigration

Once off the ferry, passengers walk directly into the Albanian immigration building where there are 4 desks processing passports. There was no line, so we walked straight through.

In the entry hall in Durres, we noticed electronic self-check in machines. If these are operational, I assume they take the place of the convoluted ticket exchange you have to do in Bari when travelling the opposite way.

Leaving Durres

Buses from Durres to Tirana

As you exit the Durres ferry terminal building, you’ll see a pedestrian overpass directly to your right. Walk over this to reach the railway/bus station.

Things are a bit hectic at the other end – we were met by a flurry of taxi drivers and money exchangers. We walked past them and jumped straight on a bus bound for Tirana (just ask around for the correct one).

These are large coaches that depart regularly once full. Tickets to Tirana cost 1 Euro per person and can be bought on board. Drivers accept both Euro and Lek, so don’t worry about changing money just yet.

Buses from Tirana to elsewhere in Albania

The bus drops passengers off on the western outskirts of the city at the Regional Bus Terminal – South Albania. From here, you can connect directly to buses bound for Berat, Gjirokaster, Vlore, and other destinations in the south of Albania.

Buses to Berat are regular, but Sarande, Gjirokaster and Vlore services are more ad-hoc. The Google Maps link above takes you to a photo of the bus timetable, signposted at the station.

Since we were going to Shkoder, we had to get to Stacioni I Veriut, where northern buses depart. It’s a 1.4 km walk east past banks and cafes. The two bus stations are on the same road, so it’s easy enough to find the one you need. Take a taxi if you prefer.

Buses to Shkoder depart Tirana every hour. Tickets cost 300 Lek per person ($2.70).

Bari Durres ferry: The verdict

Was the Durres Bari ferry worth it? Would I do it again, or even recommend it to other travellers?

If you know what you’re doing and you come prepared, I think the Bari Durres ferry is a nice way to travel. You can probably find flights for a cheaper price – but since the ferry includes a night of accommodation, it works out quiet well.

Things to do in Albania

Are you considering taking the Bari Durres ferry from Italy to Albania? If you have any questions or tips for other travellers, please leave them in the comments below.

18 Comments Add New Comment

  1. Alex says:

    At last some information!! It’s pretty difficult to find a good overview of this Adriatic crossing!
    I’ve learnt a few things here! Thanks a lot!! We’ll book with a camper so we’ll go and book with Adria… even though the online reviews are absolutely dreadful… (But then again, most people who are satisfied, dont bother leave reviews ;-))

    1. Emily Lush says:

      Glad I could help, Alex! They all have pretty bad reviews, don’t they! I didn’t think the experience was so bad. If you read closely most people seem to complain about the delays/disorganisation/lack of information.

      Good luck and safe travels!

      1. Alex says:

        Thanks for your answer Emily!
        As far as I’m concerned, if we can get a night of rest is a liveable cabin, without too much noise and smell, and end up the experience with a suitable breakfast, I’ll be ok with this… And if it’s worse than that, our simple camper will feel like a luxury suite for the rest of the trip 😀 And we won’t have to worry about a return journey since it’ll be by road 😉

        1. Emily Lush says:

          That’s a good way of looking at it! It’s a memorable experience, let me put it that way. A bit noisy, but the cabins are certainly clean and comfortable.

          I hope you enjoy the journey!

          1. Alex says:

            If you like crossing with ferries, and ever get the change to do the Navimag crossing from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales in Chile, don’t hesitate! I did this in February 2012. We got luck with the weather, and it remains one of my favorite solo traveling experience ever!

  2. Kai says:

    This is perfect, and the photos especially help. If anyone has done this route with dogs (in kennels) will you please comment? I will be going Durrës-Bari then back sometime mid-December 2019 or early January 2020….and of course I will add a comment with my experience afterwards. (I am a US citizen living in Tiranë, so of course everything is “beaurocratically complicated”). Love your blogs!

  3. Fumie says:

    Hi Emily!
    thanks about good information.
    we are planning to use this ferry next month.

    Do you know when is the check-in time limit?
    I checked direct ferries website,
    it says
    latest check-in are
    Ventouris 120mins minutes prior to departure
    GNV 240minutes prior to departure
    Adria 150mins minutes prior to departure
    do you think these limit is true??

    1. Emily Lush says:

      Hi Fumie,

      Yes, that sounds right. I don’t know how strictly those time limits are enforced, but if those are the stated caps, then I would go off that. The check in process is very time consuming (as you can probably tell from my post!). It’s always better to get in early, get the ticket thing done, then relax on the boat (in my opinion).

      Enjoy your trip!

  4. Andrew says:

    Thank you for this amazing guide! We’re currently waiting at the port in Bari waiting to board the ferry. We would have been completely lost if we hadn’t read about picking up the boarding passes from the other side of the port! Fingers crossed it’s a smooth crossing.

    1. Emily Lush says:

      Hi Andrew! Glad I could help. It was a bit of a stressful day for us, so I wanted to try and make things easier for other travellers.

      Have a safe trip and a wonderful time in Albania!

  5. Chris says:

    I travelled on 31/8/19 and the procedure was exactly as described – thank goodness I read it before I got there!!! We departed three hours late but only arrived one hour late – ???!!!

    1. Emily Lush says:

      Hi Chris!

      Fantastic – thanks so much for dropping back and letting me know.

      How curious! I suppose they were able to make up some time by speeding up during the night?

      Enjoy your time Albania!

  6. Chris M says:

    I’m currently on a train heading to Bari for the ferry – very glad I just read your report, otherwise the ticket process would have been very confusing!! Fingers crossed this somewhat convoluted process works out!! THANK YOU!!

    1. Emily Lush says:

      Good luck, Chris! If you have time to drop back and let me know how it all goes, I would really appreciate it. It wasn’t long ago that I was there but things do change and I want to keep this post as up to date as possible for other travellers.

      Enjoy the ride!

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