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What It’s Like Living in Albania As a Tourist

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What It’s Like Living in Albania

Living in Albania is easy with views like these!

 

Nearly every day I have to slap myself that I live in Albania.  A country that I knew nothing about at the start of 2017, 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 2017 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, the best hostel!) 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.

 

Example of prices in Albania:

  • A loaf of bread – 50-100 LEK
  • Souvlaki – 180 LEK
  • A draught beer – 150 LEK
  • A Greek salad – 300 LEK
  • 1.5 litre of raki (the local homemade spirit) – 600 LEK
  • Byrek – 50 LEK
  • Single Expresso – 50 LEK
  • 7-hour bus ride – 1300LEK

 

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 (Greece).  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!

Update Dec 2018:  I now live 1 minute from the beach in a 2/3 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment and still pay €150 per month!  You can see more in depth of the other monthly expenses here.

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.  You can read more about safety in Albania here.

 

travelling albania

 

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

Disadvantages of moving to 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.  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.  There are a number of expats who come to retire in Albania.  Living in Tirana and Saranda are popular choices for expats.  Albania is a great base for old and young.

If you have any other questions about me in living in Albania feel free to leave them below!  If you’re looking for accommodation throughout Albania then click here for the latest availability and prices.

 

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What It’s Like Living in Albania

 

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56 Comments

  • Reply
    Pier @ The wind behind me
    September 14, 2017 at 10:43 pm

    Very well written and catching post. It makes makes me want to visit Albania.

    • Reply
      Anita Hendrieka
      September 15, 2017 at 1:35 am

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

      • Reply
        Sam Goddard
        November 13, 2018 at 9:25 am

        Hi Anita,

        How fast is the high speed internet?

        Thanks in advance.

        Regards,

        TErry

        • Reply
          Anita Hendrieka
          November 14, 2018 at 6:45 pm

          I’m unsure of the numbers but here in Albania I have faster and better quality than in New Zealand and I pay 1/5th of the price! Hope that gives you a good idea 😉

  • Reply
    sanpedroscoop
    September 15, 2017 at 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.

  • Reply
    emmajayneknapp
    September 15, 2017 at 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

  • Reply
    Wilbur's Travels
    September 17, 2017 at 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.

    • Reply
      Anita Hendrieka
      September 22, 2017 at 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!

      • Reply
        Wilbur's Travels
        September 22, 2017 at 7:34 am

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

  • Reply
    AZ (@SciCommWoman)
    September 18, 2017 at 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.

  • Reply
    Nina | Lemons and Luggage
    September 20, 2017 at 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

  • Reply
    Jensen
    November 29, 2017 at 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!

  • Reply
    Doru Varlan
    January 29, 2018 at 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

    • Reply
      Anita Hendrieka
      May 30, 2018 at 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!

  • Reply
    Matt
    February 26, 2018 at 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

    • Reply
      Anita Hendrieka
      February 27, 2018 at 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 😛

  • Reply
    Lisa
    March 6, 2018 at 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

    • Reply
      Silas Potter
      May 30, 2018 at 12:45 am

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

    • Reply
      Anita Hendrieka
      May 30, 2018 at 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!

  • Reply
    dhruv manocha
    March 21, 2018 at 7:00 am

    That was very nice 🙂

    What about the pollution levels in albania ?

    • Reply
      Anita Hendrieka
      May 30, 2018 at 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.

  • Reply
    Karen
    April 1, 2018 at 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

  • Reply
    Frankie
    April 17, 2018 at 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 🙂

    • Reply
      Anita Hendrieka
      May 30, 2018 at 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!

  • Reply
    Bill Steele
    April 30, 2018 at 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.

  • Reply
    Silas Potter
    May 21, 2018 at 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

  • Reply
    Silas
    May 23, 2018 at 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

  • Reply
    Adam
    July 10, 2018 at 5:17 pm

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

  • Reply
    Natalie
    July 11, 2018 at 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

    • Reply
      Jürgen
      September 14, 2018 at 7:19 am

      Hi Natalie
      I ve been staying in Saranda for the month of September and want to go back for one year starting in October maybe we can prospect together i am living for the moment in Brussels 49 years old travelagent i won t be xorking there neither hope to hear from you Jürgen

  • Reply
    Hazel Blumberg-McKee
    July 31, 2018 at 5:56 am

    How difficult is it to learn Albanian? I know it’s not related to any other languages–except to ones that are dead. If one doesn’t speak Albanian, what other languages are helpful to know? I’m fluent in English (my native language) and German, but I don’t know how much of a help they’ll be.

  • Reply
    Dwight Felton
    July 31, 2018 at 6:45 am

    Hi, I am coming too Albania in September an I am planning living there as a retired voice actor,Filmmaker.
    It would be great too net work with you.
    My email address is soulpwr1@yahoo.com.
    Iam from the southern California and I need too live near the water like you.
    I draw my creative energy that way too.Dwight

  • Reply
    Jurate
    August 29, 2018 at 3:04 am

    Hi,

    Anita, Thank You so much for sharing information. I am looking to move in for a month or two in Albania near the beach in October/November 2018. Maybe You or somebody else know something good to rent like in this article, under 300 euros per month? I am looking to rent a studio or a private room near the beach, or something even better :-). At the moment I am looking nice place to relax but at the same time I want to start working online, still early days, also my interests are self development/spirituality/raw foods/holistic living/relationships/fashion… Also I like laugh, have a fun and explore a new things.

    Have a great time everyone! Jurate, gniustuke@gmail.com

    • Reply
      Anita Hendrieka
      September 9, 2018 at 10:06 pm

      Hello Jurate, Yes, I know of one studio which I rented for those months last year which is right on the beach, about a 15-minute walk to the center. If you’re interested then please email me at contact@anitahendrieka.com and I will give you his details. I paid 150 euro for this studio apartment and it’s beautiful!

  • Reply
    Jürgen
    September 14, 2018 at 7:21 am

    Hi Natalie
    I ve been staying in Saranda for the month of September and want to go back for one year starting in October maybe we can prospect together i am living for the moment in Brussels 49 years old travelagent i won t be xorking there neither hope to hear from you Jürgen

  • Reply
    Karen
    September 21, 2018 at 6:32 pm

    Hi Anita, thanks so much for your take on Albania! I’ve been searching for months for a good alternative for myself and hubby from South Africa. I have a fee questions… Are there job opportunities for people like us, 50 and 57 years old, eith very little cash to start?

    • Reply
      Anita Hendrieka
      September 21, 2018 at 9:39 pm

      Hey Karen, thanks for reading 🙂 I guess it depends where you go. If you plan to live in the capital of Tirana then I’m sure you could try pick up something like teaching or working in the embassies. There are two good Facebook groups called ‘Expats in Albania’. You could ask on there if anyone knows of any job opportunities.

  • Reply
    Jack
    September 28, 2018 at 5:11 pm

    Can you tell me the best resource for renting locally (as opposed to paying premiums through sites like Airbnb)?

  • Reply
    Dani
    October 2, 2018 at 6:24 pm

    Great article! Very informative. How is the medical care and cost there?

    • Reply
      Anita Hendrieka
      October 16, 2018 at 8:08 pm

      Extremely affordable. I had a wisdom tooth extracted for 15 euros.

  • Reply
    Emilia Fuller
    October 16, 2018 at 3:52 am

    Hi! I’m considering moving to Albania for longterm – possibly Sarande – and I have a couple of questions! Firstly, and most importantly: finding an apartment! I’m a little nervous about showing up with nowhere to live, so I thought I’d book an airbnb to begin with, but the question is, for how long? How long does it take to find an apartment? Is it hard to do? Should I book my airbnb in Sarande or in Tirana if I am looking for an apartment in Sarande? The second question is just about winter, and again, how that will affect how easy it is to find an apartment. If you have any contact details of estate agents that would be wonderful! Thanks so much, and for your blog! Emilia

  • Reply
    Merita
    November 12, 2018 at 8:15 pm

    Hi Anita,

    I Ioved your post about my country. If you come to Tirana I would love to offer a coffee/ raki with you.
    Merita

  • Reply
    Linda
    December 9, 2018 at 8:58 pm

    Wonderful article! You mentioned that your internet connection was good. The possibility of slow internet was one of the things really holding me back from visiting. Do you happen to know what the actual download, upload, and ping speeds were for the internet in Saranda? Thanks so much for writing this article, Anita!

  • Reply
    Walter
    January 22, 2019 at 4:37 pm

    Loved what you wrote about Albania. My girl and I travel around a lot mostly in Asia. So now it’s time for Europe.I was hoping to get a place to stay as a base that was cheap enough that I could keep and come back to and of course I thought about Sarande and Vlore as well as Kotor in Montenegro and Split in Croatia or even Dubroadnick. Sarande looks beautiful but so does Kotor etc. I read you went to Kotor and maybe most other places I mentioned so, why Sarande Please compare if you would.

    How cold is it there now in general? Please talk about getting around accessibility. You mentioned that the town itself was about 15 min. Away? You get around by taxi, buss?
    Please tell us more and those videos I love! Compare those towns mentioned if you can.
    Thank you!

  • Reply
    Shehab
    January 24, 2019 at 10:59 am

    Hello
    You gave very good information I was looking for
    I’m travelling to armenia in February coming and planing to visite Albania in March
    Can you advice me
    Thanks a lot

  • Reply
    Kieran
    February 4, 2019 at 5:39 pm

    I have a question. What do you (personally) do once your 3 months are up? Do you apply for extra time (If so and you have done this can you expand on the process and difficulty of extending your stay?) If not, again what do you do?

  • Reply
    Patricia Love
    March 26, 2019 at 6:26 pm

    I’ve lived in Tirana for three years and fell in love with Sarande last summer on several visits. While I’m in the USA for a few weeks, I’m considering returning and settling in Sarande this time. I’d appreciate if you’d email me with rental information for one person with a nice and well-mannered cat! My plan is to stay for a full year’s lease. Something near the beach would be ideal – one or two bedrooms. Thanks in advance for getting back to me Your blog is positive and cheery. Great!

  • Reply
    Gordon
    April 8, 2019 at 10:24 am

    Hi Anita thank you for your blog it was well written and informative. I am wanting to come to Albania, near Saranda in May, I want to look at how I can get involved in any environmental volunteering while there. I did this work in the UK and in India, I set up a registered charity to do this work in India. Ultimately I want to look at settling in Albania? Any advice or help would be greatly appreciated
    Thanks

  • Reply
    Qybare Pula
    April 12, 2019 at 6:03 pm

    Great story! Being of Albanian decent and born in America, I loved the fact you are living in Albania! It is a beautiful country! I will be visiting in August in Sarande. Hope to see you there!

    • Reply
      Anita Hendrieka
      April 17, 2019 at 12:49 pm

      That’s fantastic! As you can tell, I love Albania a lot ;p Have a great summer in Saranda! Feel free to message me closer to the time and we can meet for coffee 🙂

  • Reply
    Owen
    April 18, 2019 at 8:05 am

    Nice article! I’m living in Ksamil now and I was curious how you found your apartment. The picture of yours looks really nice, if you have any info to pass along it would be greatly appreciated! I’m going to Saranda today to look around. Thanks, enjoy the sun! 🙂

    • Reply
      Anita Hendrieka
      April 21, 2019 at 3:57 pm

      Hey Owen, that’s great! I would suggest joining the Facebook group ‘Saranda expats’ and asking about apartments. There are a few people in that group that have/know apartments available to rent for expats 🙂

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