If you are moving to Europe, and climate, cost of living, safety, and long-term potential are important considerations for you, then Albania should be on your list.
Across the Adriatic from Italy, Albania is a 2-hour flight from anywhere in Europe and easy to reach by air, sea, and land.
Living In Albania
Who is Albania for?
Albania can cater to any means, from modest budgets to modern luxury living. Though laid-back generally, Albania can also satisfy the active, even adventurous, lifestyle seekers.
Albania’s main seasons are basically spring, summer, and autumn. Most cities experience moderate winters and cool temperatures, with a snow flurry being a once-in-three-year event. If you enjoy the snow, Albania offers numerous snow-capped mountain escapes.
Summer days can average 90°F/32°C and dry. Late autumn is a wet season of approximately 2–3 weeks, and rains can be torrential with occasional flash floods in low-lying areas. Typically, only a momentary issue, though.
The urban and modern capital city, Tirana, is a day trip to the full gamut of outdoor life, from the mountains to the pristine coastlines.
Demographically, Albania is a Muslim country, but the people embrace a secular existence. Nevertheless, Eastern and Western Rite Catholic, Christian, and Muslim holidays are recognized and represented in the country.
Albania cannot be considered an LGBTQ destination, and such public displays of affection are not advisable. However, there isn’t any prolific or aggressive harassment towards the community, politically or socially.
An official EU candidate with accession talks started in 2020, Albania joined the Council of Europe in 1995 and NATO in 2009. The official currency is the LEK, which has held strong against the Euro and US dollar while still providing a low-cost standard of living.
Can foreigners live in Albania?
Yes, foreigners can come and live in Albania as long as they comply with the immigration rules.
Foreign visitors are significant to Albania’s economy, and foreigners are welcomed everywhere. Albania is already a European vacation secret, with most tourists coming from the UK, Italy, Poland, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Germany, Russia, and the Balkans.
Albania has a long list of countries whose citizens are allowed visa-free entry. As a rule, if you are allowed to enter the country without a visa, you are permitted to stay for a period of 90 days. To stay for longer you need a residency permit.
The expat community grows every year. It’s composed of nationals from all regions of the globe, with a significant presence from Italy, the UK, and the US. And, with embassies representing virtually the entire international community, no one is ever far from their home or services.
Getting residency in Albania
Residency needs to be initiated within 30-days of entering the country. If you miss the 30-day mark, just leave the country for one day and enter again.
The process can be started using Albania’s electronic portal, e-Albania, offered in Albanian and English. But you will need to go in person to an immigration office.
As we mentioned before, Albania’s entry visa scheme is rather liberal, providing most travellers with visa-free entry.
The UK and EU have the typical 90 days, while Albania provides US citizens with a very generous 1-year stay.
US citizens should consider the potential costs of being subjected to both US and Albanian taxes if stay in Albania long term.
In 2021, Albania approved its version of the Digital Nomad visa.
Another consideration is real estate. Albania provides permanent residency to anyone who purchases real estate, though there isn’t a Citizenship by Investment scheme.
Is it expensive to live in Albania?
Albania provides a low-cost but quality standard of living for foreigners. However, the cost of living, specifically rent and nightlife, is subjective to the time of year and area.
You will find that rent and nightlife along the Adriatic and Ionian coastlines are very expensive during the summer season. It can be very difficult to negotiate an annual rental agreement close to a tourist area for a reasonable price. Generally, if you move a bit away from tourist areas, you will find good value for your money.
The capital, Tirana, is the most expensive place to be. It’s especially noticeable with new property development prices in Tirana. Albania is undergoing a massive residential development phase with dozens of apartment complexes springing up all over the capital city.
These complexes are very modern and well-equipped, with all the essentials from markets, cafes, pharmacies, dry cleaners, barbershops /salons, gyms, etc. However, they average around $1400/1200€ per sq. meter.
Many are offered for long-term rental around $400-$500/350€-425€ a month for a 2-bed 1 bathroom apartment. Utilities can run approx. $100/85€ a month. Existing real estate is cheaper even in the same areas.
Near the beach in Durres, older 2-bed apartments can be found at around $50K/40K€. Rents for the same apartment could average $300/250€, depending upon the apartment’s summer rental history.
Tirana has a cheap public transport system (less than half a dollar/Euro) and is very walkable and bikeable.
General items at the market are reasonable. A week’s worth of groceries for a typical family will average around $100/85€.
Local restaurants are cheap and offer various food from traditional fare to hamburgers, doners, and pasta. An expresso averages $.70/.60€.
There are some KFC and Burger Kings in Tirana that will cost more.
Tirana’s Blloku district is the country’s preeminent drinking and dining scene, and prices there will be very US/UK like.
Other everyday items in Tirana:
- Petrol – $1.60/1.40€ per litre
- A haircut – $4.50/4.00€, and
- Typical monthly phone/10GB data packages – about $14.50/12.50€. You will need an Albanian SIM card for any long-term stay.
Is Albania safe?
Albania does have an issue with organized crime, but the most you’ll see regarding that is the Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and Bentleys showing off in Blloku on a Saturday night in the summer. Even with that issue, the US rates Albania at Level 2. In truth, unless you’re involved in such behaviour, it will not impact your experience.
If you choose to live in one of the luxury residential communities, those types of individuals, as well as ambassadors, politicians, and celebrities, will be your neighbours. But, regardless of where you live, encountering any violence is rare.
The most common crime you’ll see is traffic violations. Albania is very safe for single travellers, females, families, LGBTQ, and the elderly.
Regarding COVID, Albania handled the issue comparatively better than many other countries. Albania has an effective vaccination program (including US and EU-approved vaccines), and everyone is eligible, including non-residents.
Albania has maintained one of Europe’s lowest infection and fatality rates from COVID, has had only 1 national lockdown, and restaurants/cafes are functioning as normal, with masks and other health security precautions.
Healthcare and health insurance for expats in Albania
Albania has a functional nationalized healthcare infrastructure, and everyone is eligible for emergency treatment. Anyone can go to a local doctor’s office and get basic treatment and prescriptions for approximately $25/20€.
However, valid health insurance is a residency requirement.
Albania has a very modern private medical sector, with hospitals accredited by the US, Italy, Greece, and Turkey. These private hospitals and clinics are equipped in all medical areas, including cosmetics for both men and women. They’re very affordable and depending upon your deductible, the bill is usually quite affordable.
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Taxes in Albania for expats
The most common tax in Albania is a sales tax of 20% on virtually everything, already in the price. Paying income taxes in Albania requires an accountant.
Personal income tax (23% average) is based on residency status. Residents pay taxes on all global income, but pensions are tax-exempt. US citizens will pay both US and Albanian taxes. Non-residents pay taxes only on Albanian income.
Can I retire to Albania?
Along with the Digital Nomad visa, Albania has modernized its retirement permit. The new policy allows retirees to receive residency based on basic requirements, including a pension, a notarized rental agreement, and private health insurance.
Considering the cost of living, modern private healthcare and caregivers, affordable housing, year-round good weather, and tax-exempt pensions, Albania is an appealing retirement option.
The pros and cons of living in Albania
As with any destination, there are good and could-be-better elements in living in Albania. Regarding the Balkans though, Albania has much more to offer than most other countries. Nevertheless, some things are lacking, but Albania is working to improve as it moves towards EU membership.
The pros of living in Albania
1. Best food scene in the Balkans
Tirana undeniably has the best food scene in the Balkans. The majority of the options are concentrated in the Blloku district, but you can find amazing places to eat all throughout Tirana.
From US-style steakhouses to some incredibly fresh and excellent sushi, virtually every cuisine is available. There is even an all-you-can-eat sushi event (average $20/17€) every weeknight.
2. Amazing nature and history
Running the full length of the country’s western border Albania’s Adriatic and Ionian coastlines are an absolute joy for the eyes. The picturesque mountains offer an unparalleled alpine experience all year long, from camping to skiing.
Albania is littered with ancient Greek and Roman remains and has four UNESCO sites and numerous more under consideration.
3. Very hospitable locals and culture
Albanian people are incredibly welcoming and hospitable. The millenniums old culture strives to maintain authenticity while working towards modernization. The Albanian code of ‘Besa’ invokes a duty upon every Albanian to provide warmth and security to all visitors to the country.
The cons of living in Albania
1. National bus system
Though there is an effective public transport system in place within the cities, going from one city to another can be very time-consuming and overwhelming.
You may need to take four buses and nearly two hours to get from Tirana to the beaches of Durres (30 minutes west) in the summertime. And these buses terminate rather early. Often, the final return is around 19:00 (7 pm).
2. Import tax
It’s very expensive to have anything internationally mailed to you in Albania. The import tax (Dogana) is nearly 25% and applies to the total value, including the cost of shipping.
3. Albanian is a difficult language
Learning Albanian may be a bit too difficult for many people. With an alphabet of 36 characters, some are pronounced with sounds most native English speakers will find difficult to make.
Italian is widely spoken in the country. English is common in Tirana. People in all private hospitals, many government agencies and tourist areas speak good English. Most of the youth and young professionals also speak English.
Where expats live in Albania
The expat community is scattered throughout the country, as Albania offers every environment.
Those who prefer a truly urban setting live in Tirana. The beach life is focused in cities such as Durrës, Vlora, and Saranda. If you desire history and tradition, head inland to Berat, Shkoder, Gjirokaster, and Korca.
For more information on various locations, read our “Best Places To Live In Albania As An Expat” guide.
What you should know before you move to Albania
Albania is still very much a cash-based society. In the malls, large markets, hotels, Blloku district, and tourist venues, credit cards are accepted. Expect to pay rent in cash. Always use the local currency as a very high conversion rate is applied.
The communications infrastructure is modernized and provides very good and reliable internet. The significant exception is in the mountains and some places in the northern regions.
Albania has three international airports and three international ferry ports. Be cautious of ‘fake’ taxis due to excessive prices; real taxis have yellow license plates.
Tirana has several very nice malls filled with high-end brands. Regardless of where you choose to live, you may need to go to Tirana to get certain things done or find certain products.
Expect to drink only bottled water.
Pork and spicy foods are available but not common.
Smoking is ubiquitous, and driving can be treacherous.
As locals earn roughly $18/15€ for an 8-10 hour shift, a 10% tip is considered generous and very appreciated.
Living in Albania – summary
Albania is very much a diamond in the rough, and you do need to know it better before making relocation decisions. Start with Albania as your summer getaway, and let it become your home.
The greatest element of Albania is the ability to enable you to invest in a very promising future while being able to enjoy today as well.
Didn’t find what you were looking for or need further advice? Comment with your question below, and we will do our best to help.
Other locations in the Balkans to consider:
Helpful external links:
- Advice for British nationals living in Albania – UK government guidance.
- Albanian traditions and customs – AFS-USA.
- Albania travel update – Travel.State.Gov.
Warren R. Johnson
Monday 20th of February 2023
I found your article very helpful. Thank you. I have one question concerning taxes for an American retired expat. Are annuities taxed? Thanks1
Tuesday 21st of February 2023
Hello Warren - Thank you for reading our article about Albania and contributing to our knowledge base. One of the things that, especially, US citizens need to adjust to the first time they move outside the US is the tax code. In most countries, Albania included, the tax code is very straightforward, unlike in the US. There are no standard deductions for filing as Single, Married, or Head of Household, and things like that. If something is putting money in your pocket, it is taxed. Some countries in Europe are offering special visas and programs providing a term of zero taxation or reduced taxation on all or certain types of incomes, such as pensions, but otherwise, if it is putting money in your pocket, it is taxable at the regular rates. The Albania tax code basically recognizes residency or non-residency and income from employment and income from other sources – i.e. stocks, annuities, etc. Residency pays taxes on all income, globally or in Albania. Non-residency pays taxes only on Albanian income. Residency income generated by non-employment has a threshold of approximately $250 dollars a month – under that is not taxed. Above that is when you venture into the 13%-23%+ tax rates. There is some current confusion regarding whether retirement is taxable. In one place in the law, it states EU pensions and in another, it states foreign pensions. Also, the word pensions is a bit confusing, as the US doesn’t really have pensions any longer, so what constitutes a pension [i.e. retirement income] is somewhat vague. This is concerning the Albania Retirement Permit which provides for tax-free pensions. With a very good attorney, you may be able to prove your annuity is really a pension, but there are no guarantees. Nevertheless, remember [if a US citizen] there is no double taxation treaty between the US and Albania. Hope that is helpful Warren. Julian – Global Talon Explore, Experience, Engage
Saturday 17th of September 2022
Great article but your rental prices for Tirana are out of date. Digital nomads, over-construction and the like have created a false economy in Tirana and have pushed rental prices to an astonishing level for Albania. Unfortunately, pushing Albanians on regular wages out of the Tirana rental market in the midst popular zones. Expect to pay a minimum €500+ per month. I had rental agencies laugh at me because I returned to Albania thinking I could rent a Central/Liqeni Area/Komuna e Parasit apartment for a maximum of €400 p/month including tax! Also, if you want a legal contract then the owners will expect the renter to pay their rental income tax, so add 15% to any listed/negotiated price. To get residency you must have a legally notarised contract.
Monday 5th of September 2022
hi! great article! We plan our trip to Balkans and consider spending some time in Albania as it seems breathtaking! A few questions (not sure if you know): 1. You mentioned one year visa-free for americans. And we found information online that after 1 year, one must be outside the country to reset the clock and get another year. What if we stay only 6 months then leave for a month or a few months and decide to come back. Will this reset the clock and when we re-enter we will get another year OR should we just count it all within the first 365 days? This is unclear. Maybe you or your friends had such an experience and know this. 2. Can a tourist open a bank account in Albania? If so, what do we need to show (which documents)? Also, if we transfer money from the US to Albania, is there a pickup location/service for Wise, Western Union etc.? 3. How does one find a long-term apartment in Albania for 6 months for instance? Do we need to sign a lease? Do we need to find a broker or is it possible to just walk around a see what's available for rent (in some countries it's as simple as that). Also, what's their rules (deposit etc)? Thanks so much!
Tuesday 6th of September 2022
@Julian, thanks for taking time and answering. We actually already found online banks with no ATM international fees, so it's a good time to switch to one. Again, appreciate all your ideas and solutions and best of luck with your upcoming release!
Tuesday 6th of September 2022
@Tara, I do not wire money, simply due to the cost of conversion and transaction. Paying those fees is simply not necessary in 2022.
With the incredible rise of the Digital Nomad sector, there are many US banking options that offer free international ATM use as well as no conversion fees and no foreign transaction fees.
I’ve been using them for years. If you do a lot of international traveling, you really need to leverage such banking options to eliminate these fees.
I apologize, but I cannot make any specific recommendations (naming institutions and banks) for financial issues here.
Please remember, that this is not my personal site.
I am in the process of finalizing my latest book which includes a chapter about this very topic, and I am able to list the specific services that I use there.
I am hopeful this will go to print by year’s end.
In the meantime, the only means of giving you more specific information is via my online consultations - when and if you are interested in that.
Thanks again Tara for your comment, questions, and contributions.
Julian – Global Talon Explore, Experience & Engage
Monday 5th of September 2022
@Julian, thanks so much for your reply! We will definitely save your email and will be in touch when we're about to be ready for our trip! You mentioned that the Western Union / Wise transfer is not recommended, I'm guessing - safety issues? So, based on this, one last question here (it might be useful for others as well) - you mentioned ATM card, but...for instance, our bank charges us tons of money (international fees) every time we use ATM abroad. Would you recommend a safe online bank that has free ATM cards in Europe for americans? (free ATMS in Balkans and Italy especially)? thanks!
Monday 5th of September 2022
@Tara, Thanks for reading my piece and contributing to our knowledge base. 1: Once you enter Albania, the 1-year clock begins and runs non-stop until the 1-year expires. Leaving during the 1-year does not reset the clock. You will still need to leave at the 1-year mark and remain outside the country for 3-months before you can re-enter.
2: Yes, there are Western Union locations in Albania, but I would not advise wiring money, ever. It’s best to simply withdraw it from the ATM.
3: Finding a long-term rental greatly depends upon the area and time of year in which you are looking. It’s not possible to address all your specific questions in a general sense here as they vary considerably from situation to situation. All of what you ask is possible to do or to occur. I would suggest that you book a 1 or 2-month stay on a site like VRBO and then work the situation from there.
FYI, I offer online consultations if you would like to consider that, and we would be able to go into greater detail about your specific situation.
You can simply email me at email@example.com for further information about that if you would like.
Thanks again Tara for your comment, questions, and contributions. Julian – Global Talon Explore, Experience & Engage
Tuesday 23rd of August 2022
Hello Julian, Thanks for valuable and keen information about the Albania. Above article is very much interesting. We are family of 2 and looking for relocation to Albania. We both are based in India and seeking more information about job opportunities, accommodation and health Services. we are 40 years old and working professional in Pharmaceutical Industry. Please suggest, how much cost of living we have to consider if we relocate and plan our retirement there. And what are the other measures we have to take to move forward to Albania. Thank you so much... !
Monday 5th of September 2022
@Rockey, Thanks for reading my piece and contributing to our knowledge base. To be honest, cost of living is a difficult question to address as it differs with everyone and depends upon where you want to live, what you require in housing, and what sort of life you intend living. It’s very possible for a couple to live on $2000-2500 a month, but again, that can go up or down significantly. In regards to actually staying in Albania, that also depends upon a number of factors, including your passport. So, it’s not possible to go into that here. You stated that you are “based in India”, but that doesn’t mean you have Indian passports. FYI, I offer online consultations if you would like to consider that, and we would be able to go into greater detail about your specific situation. You can simply email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and me for further information about that if you would like. Thanks again Rockey for your comment, questions, and contributions. Julian – Global Talon Explore, Experience & Engage
Thursday 18th of August 2022
Wonderfully informative article! Thank you!! Any thoughts on bringing pets (2 lab retrievers) over for up to a years stay?
Friday 19th of August 2022
Hey Michael, Thanks for reading my piece and contributing to our knowledge base. Honestly, I have a dream of adopting a stray cat I meet along my journeys and have him/her travel with me. I have met several people who have brought their furry family members to Albania with them. They told me that they enjoyed having them along. Just a few points to consider. 1: There are vets and vet hospitals, but you will want to rely on the ones in Tirana. 2: The vets/hospitals are not always easy to get to, and to my knowledge, your dogs will not be able to ride with you on public transport. 3: There are a lot of stray dogs in Albania (in the Balkans actually in general) so be aware of that regarding walking through the streets with your 2 dogs. 4: Labs are big dogs, and you have 2 of them. I’m not sure how experienced you are with Europe in general, but apartments in Europe are much smaller than in the US (I'm guessing that is where you are). So, a place big enough for you and 2 large dogs may be a bit expensive/difficult to find depending upon your arrival date. 5: During your apartment search, make sure you inform the apartment owner that you have 2 dogs. It’s not just an issue about potential damage to the apartment, but a noise issue and the neighbors. You don’t want to have to find a new place a few months after getting settled in. 6: Also, be sure to have an apartment secured prior to arrival, not only will you need the address for the paperwork, but I’m not aware of any hotel (currently) that will allow you to have them. 7: Most important element in your planning is to be sure your current vet is USDA approved (if you are in the US) and your dogs have electronic chips. If not, those are your first moves. Both are required for bringing them to Albania. Thanks again Michael for your comment, questions, and contributions. Julian – Global Talon Explore, Experience & Engage