Fortunately for your budget, many people don’t know where Albania is. Or they think it’s some sort of “dangerous” mafia country.
This hidden gem was discovered by many during the pandemic.
Until 2020, most didn’t consider Albania because they could go to famous neighbor countries such as Croatia, Italy or Greece.
During Covid, it was hard to enter and live a “normal” pre-pandemic lifestyle in most European countries. Albania remained open to visitors from all around the world without any major restrictions.
Everyone was pleasantly surprised by the good standard of living, stunning countryside and beautiful beaches.
Even better was the unique 1-year tourist visa, which allows them to stay longer than most countries without having to get residency.
7 Reasons Albania Rocks
1. Easy Entry & No Visa Required
You do not have to apply for a visa or prepare documents to prove sufficient financial means. US citizens can stay in Albania without a residence permit for up to 1 year. If you want to stay in Albania for 1 more year visa-free, you can leave for 90 days, and then come back.
2. Cheap Rent, Even on AirBnB
Albania is the cheapest country in Europe after Bosnia. When the tourist season starts, the prices (especially in the south) increase dramatically, but they will still be twice as cheap as many popular tourist destinations in Europe and the USA.
If you come to Albania for the first time, rent Airbnb. You can find a decent apartment for around 600 EU / 634 USD. You can find even cheaper rent after you get the lay of the land.
Where to Stay
If you want to live closer to the capital, choose Durres. This is a coastal city that is much nicer than haphazard and chaotic Tirana. It’s only 30 minutes away from the Tirana international airport.
The south is more beautiful and touristic. The main coastal city to consider is Vlore. It is not overwhelmed with tourists, plain and spacious, with great roads for cyclists, and not far from the best beaches in Albania.
3. Great Seasonal Produce (No Wax-Coated Apples)
The climate of Albania allows the cultivation of various fruits and vegetables. Next to almost every house, you can see lemon, persimmon, and pomegranate trees. Even different types of grapes. There are lots of street sellers and open-air markets where you can buy fresh quality fruits and veggies for not much money.
If you are tired of the tasteless produce in western stores, shiny and “perfect” wax-coated apples in Walmart, you’ll definitely like the produce in Albania!
4. Stunning Beaches and Great Expats Community
The beaches are as beautiful as any you will see elsewhere.
Everyone knows about the Maldives, Greece, and Italy, but few people know about the turquoise beaches in Albania. The main difference between these destinations is the cost of living. A week’s vacation in the Maldives will cost you more than a couple of months of a comfortable life in one of the coastal cities in the south of Albania.
Want to work on a laptop with a nice view of the sea? Head to Vlore or Saranda.
Saranda is well-known for its large expat community. You can meet a lot of American expats, and make friends fast. The best beach with crystal-clear water is Ksamil (15 minutes away from Saranda by car/bus). You should also visit Dhërmi.
5. Magnificent Mountains & Castles
Albania has not only stunning beaches but majestic mountains and charming villages. Whenever you get bored of Tirana, or the scorching sun at the seaside, you can always escape to a tiny mountain village like Teth, Vermosh, or Valbona.
If you check Wikiloc, you will find many beautiful trekking routes with sublime mountain views. You should take the ferry ride through a long canyon and see the emerald waters of Lake Koman. The beauty of this route will remind you of Scandinavian fjords.
Albania boasts of a number of cultural UNESCO sites. These are Butrint National Park, the Castle of Gjirokastra, the citadel and the fortress of Kala at Berat, the Albanian part of Lake Ohrid.
Hiking Trails: Maja Kolata (The Albania Alps)
6. High Levels of Safety
Albania is a very safe country. You are unlikely to meet any bad guys on the street, get pickpocketed, or your car stolen. It is a safe country for both women and men. If you are going for a swim in the sea, just leave your clothes and shoes at the beach. Nobody will steal your stuff like at Copacabana Beach in Rio.
Tips for men: Don’t argue with Albanian men, they are impulsive and hot-tempered. Do not discuss politics, relations between Serbia and Albania, or the situation in Kosovo.
Tips for women: If an Albanian man is staring at you, it doesn’t mean anything. He is curious because you’re a foreigner. If you go to Buenos Aires, you’ll get much more unwanted attention from men. In Albania, if you show that you’re not interested in any type of communication, men will not bother you. You can have a walk in the park or at the beach at night, and not have to worry.
Here’s a chart to compare the levels of crime in Tirana, Vlore, and Chicago.
7. Friendly People
Albanian people are friendly, positive, and open. They will try to help you even if they do not speak English. If you get into trouble, need transport advice, or have a problem with something, they’ll try to help.
Don’t be afraid to communicate with locals and ask for information. If they don’t know how to help you, they will call their friends, family, and neighbors and find a way to help out.
Downsides of Living in Albania
When you come to Albania, you’ll notice that many people will try to speak Italian with you. You’ll frequently hear “Parla Italiano?” After the crash of communism, Italy was the number one immigration destination for Albanians. Nowadays, many Albanians have relatives in Italy and go there to study and work. They study Italian at school and watch Italian television.
If you speak Italian, that is a huge advantage.
The official language in Albania is Shqip. This language is unique and not easy to learn. If you do take the time to learn it, you’ll be comfortable navigating public procedures and making friends, and can rent an apartment for a better price. If you are going to be there long-term, you will want to learn the basics.
Albanians are more likely to understand you speaking Italian or Shquip with an accent and mistakes than English. If you speak only English, it will be hard to communicate with locals. You’ll mostly communicate only with expats (of which there are many). For long-term residents, the best bet is to learn Italian instead of shqip. Now you have a language good in several countries.
Expensive Shipping & Import Tax
If the weight of the package is more than 0.5kg, shipping from the USA to Albania won’t be cheap. If the full value of your item is over 22 euros (23.24 USD), you’ll have to pay a 15% import tax.
Albania has made significant progress in the last 20 years. It used to be one of the poorest countries in Europe, but now the quality of life is much better. They have strengthened political and economic institutions and attracted more foreign investors.
The reason everything is still cheap compared to most of Europe is the low average income of locals. In 2020 the annual GDP per capita was 14,866 USD, or 1238 USD/month.
The economy of Albania has recovered faster than expected after the pandemic. In general, this country has a lot of potential for investors, especially in the real estate and tourism sector.
Albania and other Balkan countries are prone to earthquakes. In 2019, there was a strong earthquake that badly destroyed Durres, a coastal city not far from Tirana. It ruined around 500 houses, thousands of people were injured, and more than 50 people died.
Earthquakes do not happen every day in Albania, and some of them you may not even notice. But you should be aware.
Frequently Asked Expat Questions
Where do expats live in Albania?
The majority of expats live in Tirana, Durres, Vlore, and Sarande.
How much money do you need to live in Albania?
If you earn 1000 USD (114.191 LEK) per month or more, it’s enough to have a comfortable life in Albania. Your biggest expense will be rent, and then everything depends on your lifestyle. In Albania, you can always find an option that meets your current budget.
Do they prefer cash or card in Albania?
Cash is always better. Some cafes and restaurants accept only cash. You can pay with the card in the supermarket, but if the purchase is less than 5 euros, they’ll ask you to pay in cash. If you do not have LEK (local currency), you can pay with euro.
Is the Internet fast enough in Albania?
The Internet in Albania is ok. They do have faster internet plans you can pay for.
What about Healthcare in Albania
In Albania, there are public hospitals and private hospitals. Unfortunately, the level of healthcare is low in public medical institutions due to the lack of modern equipment and qualified specialists.
The level of medical services in the private clinic is much higher, and not as expensive as it would be in the USA. If you have a sickness or injury, go to a private hospital.
Pharmacies. You can find almost everything in the pharmacies. You can buy many drugs without a prescription unless it’s a potentially harmful drug if taken without supervision. Americans are always surprised at how easy it is to get medication abroad.
Is Albania safe for female solo travelers?
Albania is safe for female solo travelers, probably one of the safest countries in Europe.
Is Albania gay-friendly?
Albania is a conservative country. The LGBTQ community keeps a certain level of privacy. It’s better not to show any same-sex affection in public.
Does Albania have religious tolerance?
There is freedom of religion. It doesn’t matter if you are Muslim or Catholic, you won’t feel any negativity, pressure, or discrimination.
What is winter like in Albania?
It can be very cold in mountainous regions. In general, winter in Albania is quite mild although it may rain a lot.
Can I retire in Albania?
You can get a retirement permit in Albania. The cost of living, tax-exempt pensions, affordable housing, and good climate make Albania a good option for retirement.
If you are curious and want to learn more about Albania, you can join expat groups on Facebook. There is a general group Expats in Albania, and there are several active groups for expats in Tirana, Sarande & Vlore. There is a useful website for everyone moving to Albania: expatsinalbania.com.
You can easily spend as much time per year in Albania once you find the location there that you prefer.
If you want fantastic beaches in Eastern Europe on the cheaper tip, Albania might be the perfect spot for you!