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.
In This Post:
- Before you travel
- Day of travel
- What is the Bari Durres ferry ride like?
- Arrival in Durres
- Leaving Durres
- Bari Durres ferry: The verdict
- Things to do in Albania
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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.
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:
|Deck space||No seat or cabin – find your own spot to sleep in the lounge and use the public bathrooms.|
|Reserved seat||An 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 cabin||Your 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.
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 BnBs in the northern part of the Old Town. Il Trespolo Degli Angeli is close to the waterfront and comes recommended.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- From Durres, head south along the coast to experience the best beaches in Albania
- Hike from Valbona to Theth in the Albanian Alps
- Visit Berat, Albania’s UNESCO-listed ‘City of a Thousand Windows’