What It’s Like Living in Albania As a Tourist
Last Updated on July 2, 2021 by Anita Hendrieka
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 to move to Albania over all the other amazing places I’ve visited.
Moving to Albania was one of the best decisions I ever made, and I encourage others to do the same if they can. But like anywhere, living in Albania has pros and cons, so I have included some of the downsides, as well!
Why I chose to live in Albania
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, especially 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. And it isn’t just visiting, the general cost of living in Albania is lower than most of Europe. This isn’t the only reason I chose to move to Albania, but it definitely didn’t hurt!
Example of prices in Albania:
For reference, 1 USD ≈ 110 LEK
- 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
When I decided to live in Albania, I choose a city called Saranda, which is along the Albanian Riveria. I don’t consider it as a city, though, 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. One of my favourite things about living in Albania actually is how easily I can travel around this part of Europe.
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. To live in Albania 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 2019: I am still living in Albania, but 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.
Is living in Albania safe?
This is probably the number one question I get asked about Albanian life. 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 living in Albania, I haven’t met any yet. I feel safer living and travelling here than in most western European countries. The tourist crime rate here is very 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. For these reasons I have never felt unsafe living in Albania. You can read more about safety in Albania here.
Not only is Albanian life very safe, but Albanians are very kind and helpful. There have also been multiple occasions where Albanians have helped me tremendously.
When I arrived in Tirana in April, I needed to catch a bus down to Saranda. 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 living in Albania 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. I can stay here for 3 months at a time. When I decided to move to Albania, I went to my local Saranda police office to apply for Albanian residency and stay longer. If you’re from the US you can technically stay here for up to a year!
Disadvantages of moving to Albania
As I said before, living in Albania comes with both pros and cons. There have definitely been struggles to moving to Albania. In addition to my visa process, another downside is that food is very limited in variety. You will find an abundance of Greek food, 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 one 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.
Albanian life 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 even a number of expats who come to retire in Albania. Tirana and Saranda are popular choices for expats who move to Albania, although it is of course possible to live elsewhere. Living in Albania is a great option for old and young.
If you have any other questions about me in living in Albania and Albanian life feel free to leave them below! I promise, moving to Albania doesn’t need to be scary! If you’re looking for accommodation throughout Albania then click here for the latest availability and prices.
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