What It’s Like Living in Albania

What It’s Like Living in Albania

 

Nearly every day I have to slap myself that I live in Albania.  A country that I knew nothing about 6 months ago but have been back to 4 times since April.  Now as I sit here overlooking the ocean, I thought it would be the perfect time for a little life update and tell you guys what it’s really like living in Albania, and why I choose this destination over others.

 

I fell in love with Albania in March when I took an overnight road trip with some people I met in a hostel in Kotor, Montenegro.  We decided on a spontaneous trip to Albania.  By the time we got to the north of Albania – Shkodër it was late afternoon.  We checked into our hostel (The Wanderers) and for €5 we got a bed, a beer, and free breakfast, I couldn’t believe it.  It was almost like we had transported ourselves to Asia where the prices are incredibly low.  We then went out for a meal we ordered a table full of different dishes plus wine and it cost no more than €6 or €7 each.  What was this place?

If you haven’t already noticed Albania’s prices are crazy cheap compared to the rest of Europe to tourists.  A hostel will cost you next to nothing and so will your meals.  It’s the perfect place if you want to explore somewhere that’s affordable.

For example:

  • A loaf of bread – 60 LEK (€0.44)
  • Souvlaki – 180 LEK (€1.30)
  • A draught beer – 150 LEK (€1.10)
  • A Greek salad – 300 LEK (€2.20)
  • 1.5 litre of raki (the local moonshine) – 600 LEK (€4.40)
  • Burek – 50 LEK (€0.37)

 

I currently live in a city called Saranda, which is along the Albanian Riveria although I don’t class it as a city because it’s super small. It’s a fantastic base because it has an abundance of good restaurants, pumping nightlife in the summer, and from there is good transportation throughout Albania and onwards to Athens or Corfu.  If I am catching a flight to Europe I will catch the ferry over to Corfu (which takes half an hour), as flights are normally cheap and easy to get from there.

 

What it's really like living in Albania

I rented a brand-new apartment right on the beach and about a 15-minute walk if I want to be right in the heart of the city.  Where I am located now is lovely because it’s a little quieter than if I was to live in the city and the beaches are nicer here.  I pay €150 per month for rent and then €80 on top of that for power, water and fast WIFI.  All together that’s €230 a month for my own space right on the beach, which is perfect for me because according to studies, living by the beach is where you are the most creative, and as a blogger, I need my creative juices to be flowing always!

what it's like living in Albania

Is living in Albania safe?  This is probably the number one question I get asked.  There are a lot of misconceptions about Albania and its safety.  Albania is not full of gangsters, sex traffickers and mafia walking around on the streets.  Every country in this world has its share of bad people but in Albania, I haven’t met any yet. I feel safer here than in most western European countries.  The tourist crime rate here is low.  Albania also has a code of Besa which is the highest ethical code and roughly translates to ‘to keep the promise’.  Albanians are very loyal people and if they see tourists they feel it is their duty to keep them safe and feel welcomed.  There have been multiple occasions where Albanians have helped me tremendously.

When I arrived into Tirana in April, I needed to catch a bus down to Saranda.  When I arrived, there were about 15 men asking where I was going.  When I yelled Saranda they all look worried and as I looked up, the bus was pulling onto the highway.  All of them started yelling at the bus driver to stop, some even stood in front of the bus, one man picked up my (huge and heavy) bag and another waved me to come hop on.

Another time when I was catching the overnight bus from Athens to Albania I sat next to an Albanian lady who insisted on feeding me.  She pulled out toasted sandwiches from her bag and even though I said no thank you, she grabbed my hand and insisted I eat it.  Then at around 1 am, we had a stop near the border.  She noticed that I was running low on water so she went into the shop and bought me a new one.  How sweet is that?!

Instances like these happen nearly every day and it’s a big part why I love it here so much.  Not only that, but as a digital nomad this is an affordable place to base myself and it’s not part of the Schengen zone and also I can stay here for 3 months at a time, or go to the police office and apply for residency to stay longer.  If you’re from the US you can technically stay here for up to a year!

what it's like living in Albania

Living in Albania does have its struggles though.  Food is limited to variety. You will find an abundance of Greek, Italian and obviously Albanian food but if you’re craving something spicy or even just a burger, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find that unless you’re in Tirana.  Also, the postal service here is non-existent so I cannot get anything sent here but I feel like that’s a small price to pay to live in such an untouched and beautifully raw destination like Albania.

Life in Albania is slow-paced, relaxed and it’s probably my favourite place I have lived in so far as it’s so different from anything I have experienced.

If you have any other questions about me in living in Albania feel free to leave them below!

 

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What It’s Like Living in Albania

 

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28 Comments

    • September 15, 2017 / 1:35 am

      Thank you 🙂 I hope you come to visit Albania soon!

  1. September 15, 2017 / 3:24 am

    SUPER interesting. I’ve wanted to visit Albania since I went to Croatia like 15 years ago. It’s even better than I thought! Super cool move.

  2. September 15, 2017 / 1:07 pm

    Living in Albania sounds amazing! I was hoping to visit on my travels earlier this year but didn’t quite make it that way – will definitely make sure it’s on the ‘must-visit’ list when I am back in Europe soon! x

  3. September 17, 2017 / 6:10 am

    Hi Anita, great post and well done on taking the plunge. A friend of mine and me are coming to Saranda next Friday and plan to visit Butrint & Blue Eye from there and travel to Tirana on Saturday. Do you know the easiest way to travel. I saw there was a Riviera bus via Durres but not sure if it is running. We would love to go by train but I hear this may be hit and miss. Any insight you have will be fabulous. Wilbur.

    • September 22, 2017 / 5:15 am

      Hey, thank you for reading 🙂 That’s amazing, I hope you love Saranda. Yes, there are local buses running from Saranda to Butrint and Blue Eye. To the blue eye, you will need to catch the bus that goes towards Gijrokastor. On the way back you will need to hitchhike though as its never sure when the buses come back through. You can also catch a taxi which is much easier and for a very good price (they will wait at the blue eye and then take you back) as soon as you are limited in time. To Butrint there are buses every half an hour leaving from Saranda and a ticket costs 100lek. Don’t catch the Riveria bus, it’s over-priced! There are a few buses to Tirana, including an overnight one. I think the ticket is about 8-10 euro if I remember correctly. There are no trains here unfortunately so it’s all buses! If you are confused on times just ask a local as they will know exactly when they leave etc, especially as it’s the end of the season and bus times may change a little. Have fun!

      • September 22, 2017 / 7:34 am

        Thanks Anita, we will put it into practice tomorrow. Wilbur.

  4. September 18, 2017 / 6:05 pm

    Nice article. I have been in Tirana 2 years ago, when we crossed the Balkans towards Greece. I can confirm that food is super cheap and people are nice. It was surprising to see all the last decades at the same place (’50s, ’60s, etc until now).
    PS. One correction though. Albania doesn’t have an ocean but a sea.

  5. September 20, 2017 / 9:37 pm

    I really enjoyed my recent trip to Tirana. You are so right about how friendly and honest the people are, they’re a big part of why I loved Tirana so much: http://www.lemonsandluggage.com/blog/eight-reasons-tirana-is-my-favorite-city-in-the-balkans-so-far

    It sounds like you’re living a great life over there. I live in Athens, and I would say it’s similarly difficult to find international food here, but it’s a big city, so in Saranda it’s even more expected, I guess. Slowly, slowly there is more variety here though and even some vegan places. I like that you wrote an honest post about the pros and cons, and I always try to do the same when I write about Greece: http://www.lemonsandluggage.com/blog/whats-it-like-in-athens

  6. November 29, 2017 / 9:06 am

    I visited Albania August 2016 and am constantly missing its beauty and the people. Reading your post makes me want to move there!

  7. January 29, 2018 / 2:44 am

    Wonderful story !
    For one like me and my family who will travel for the first time, to spend one week at Hotel Paradise Beach (Vlore), what would you advise us ? Do we need to have local currency upon us, or it is enough to have our credit cards ? I’d like to meet people to tell us more about Albania, to take us and show Vlore etc. etc. Who is eager to meet us between 17 – 24 august 2018 ???
    I’ll appreciate anyone’s experience that may assist us.

    Yours cordially,

    Doru Varlan
    varlandoru@gmail.com

    • May 30, 2018 / 2:43 am

      Hello Doru, Thanks for reading 🙂 Yes, you will need local currency (LEK) as credit cards are not widely accepted. It’s still very much a cash society. Hope you have a great time on your first trip to Albania!

  8. Matt
    February 26, 2018 / 9:19 pm

    I’m an open water swimmer and I’m looking for a coastal town in Albania so I can train a lot, but not have to spend a fortune. What places in Albania would you recommend? Does anyone play water polo there? How are the roads for cycling? Thanks, Matt

    • February 27, 2018 / 12:16 am

      All of the coastal towns in Albania are inexpensive. Saranda is the most expensive seaside city in Albania but even then it’s incredibly affordable. I haven’t heard of anyone playing water polo there but maybe I am wrong! A lot of people cycle around Albania. The roads are pretty good, the drivers are what you have to watch out for 😛

  9. March 6, 2018 / 8:57 am

    That’s such a helpful article – thanks so much Anita! We are currently considering to stay in Albania for a while after Romania and Croatia so the fact that I found this post now is perfect. If you don’t mind me asking, how did you find your apartment? Paying less than 300 Euro a month seems too good to be true, haha.

    All the Best,

    Lisa

    • May 30, 2018 / 12:45 am

      I am curious how to find one in this price range as well!

    • May 30, 2018 / 2:45 am

      Hey Lisa, I always find my apartments by asking locals and getting them before or after the busy season (July, August) as during the busy season apartments are double the price. If you get them online or through a real estate agent you will be paying a lot more. It’s better to rent an Airbnb for a week and whilst you’re there to ask as many people as possible and make some good contacts!

  10. dhruv manocha
    March 21, 2018 / 7:00 am

    That was very nice 🙂

    What about the pollution levels in albania ?

    • May 30, 2018 / 2:50 am

      The pollution levels are not something you have to worry about. Of course, in the capital Tirana, there will be some pollution from the transport but it’s no different to most cities in Europe.

  11. Karen
    April 1, 2018 / 4:47 am

    I plan on moving to durress in oct any info for how to ship clothes or any thing ? Thankyou for your artical i enjoyed it you are right so beautiful and i plan on marrying aman there do you know those laws?thankyou

  12. Frankie
    April 17, 2018 / 3:06 pm

    Hi! I hope all is well and that youre enjoying your stay.
    As ive been doing some research, ive found that i may want to live there. Havent had the chance to travel yet (so anxious to do so!). I have been looking into private schools since i do have 2 young daughters (grade school aged)- so far Tirana has what im looking for. Do you have any advice or where to look concerning education for children? This would be a major determining factor, if and/or when i decide to make Albania our new home.
    Thanks in advance 🙂

    • May 30, 2018 / 2:53 am

      Hello Frankie, thanks for reading! As I don’t have children myself I cannot comment on the education here, but there are two great Facebook groups which you should join as there are a lot of families on there that regularly talk about education in Albania. The groups are both called ‘Expats in Albania’. Hope that helps!

  13. Bill Steele
    April 30, 2018 / 10:57 pm

    Hi! Anita.
    Met you very briefly as you were leaving the Hairy Lemon last Thursday and plan to return very soon.
    Would love to meet you and share a beer,
    Bill.

  14. May 21, 2018 / 5:43 pm

    Is it possible to get in contact with you? I currently live in South Korea teaching but am American. I will be leaving here soon and want to continue teaching but online. I am seriously considering Albania, and after seeing your post, knowing the prices and the good air quality, I think your area is one I would like to live in! Is the WiFi pretty good there? Able to get organic or atleast good quality produce? Fruits veggies. If you are able to email I would be so happy. mrsilaspotter@yahoo.com

  15. May 23, 2018 / 4:41 pm

    Hello! I am planning on moving for close to a year hopefully to near your current location based on your blog, and my own personal research. I would love to be able to ask you some questions! If you’re willing to chat, my email is mrsilaspotter@yahoo.com

  16. Adam
    July 10, 2018 / 5:17 pm

    That was a great read, thanks for writing! Definitely at least Tirana on my travel schedule.

  17. Natalie
    July 11, 2018 / 12:00 pm

    Hi Anita,
    Thanks for the nice blog. I’m planning to visit Albania in October & stay there for about a year if possible.
    I won’t be working there. I was wondering how I can transfer money for my living expenses. Can I open a bank account there as a tourist? I’ll appreciate any info you can give me. I live in California.
    Thanks
    Natalie

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