Living In Albania As An Expat: What You Need To Know

Discover what it's like to live in Albania as an expat and whether this country can become your perfect home in the sun.

11
Living in Albania
Saranda, a famous a resort on the Albanian Riviera.

If you are moving to Europe, and climate, cost of living, safety, and long-term potentials 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 from air, sea, and land.

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; 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.

Money Saver
Pay Less For International Health Insurance

See how much you could save by comparing the leading international health insurers quotes.

Compare Quotes Now

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.

Living in Albania
The town of Pogradec and the Ohrid lake.

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; availability is expected in 2022.

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.

Living in Albania


Nestled among mountains in the northern part of Albania, Lake Koman has the looks and climate of Scandinavian fjords.

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.

Money Saver
Pay Less For International Health Insurance

See how much you could save by comparing the leading international health insurers quotes.

Compare Quotes Now

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 Bentley’s 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.

Living in Albania
Durres, a port city not far from the capital Tirana with a long stretch of a beautiful sandy beach along the coast.

If you chose to live in one of the luxury residential communities, then 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 from 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.

Compare your international insurance options

To find out how you can protect your health abroad, talk to specialists in expatriate healthcare for multiple destinations across the world. Our partners International Citizens Insurance compare plans across the major providers to find you the best deal possible. Request a free quote now.

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 upon 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.

Living in Albania
Dajti Ekspres cable car takes you up Dajti Mountain so that you can enjoy the breathtaking views of Tirana.

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. One year entry stay for US citizens

Albania is one of only a handful of countries that offers such a generous length of stay on an entry visa. US citizens need only to leave Albania for 3-months to re-start the year after the 12-months have lapsed. Unfortunately, exits during the year don’t reset the clock.

3. 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.

4. 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 just 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

To learn 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.

Living in Albania
The central streets of Vlore are very colourful and picturesque, and the whole place has a very distinct Italian edge to it.

The communications infrastructure is modernized and provides very good and reliable internet. The significant exception being 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 a yellow license plate.

Tirana has several very nice malls filled with high-end brands. Regardless of where you chose 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 decisions about relocation. Start with Albania as your summer getaway, and then 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 fully enjoy today as well.

Tom Julian

Expat, digital nomad, published writer, freelancer, consultant, and global citizen. Contributor to Expatra and numerous other publications.
My personal brand, Globaltalon.com, is a perpetual work in progress. My background is eclectic, spanning from the areas of law and human security to fitness and travel. Being an expat and a passionate traveller is not my hobby, it's literally my life and my profession. All things Europe is my region of expertise, the undiscovered secrets of the Balkans are my speciality.

11 Comments

  1. Hi Tom
    Were would you recommend a family of 5 to move in Albania? Kids age 15, 10 and 6 proberly in need of a school for 1 to 2 years duration.
    Br.
    Janne

    • Hello Janne,
      Tirana, the capital city, has the most options for your educational need. Durres has a good school for those ages as well, but only 1. These are English language schools.
      With the educational need however, to make your life much easier, you would want to be in one of those 2 cities. However, both offer very nice rental options. Durres is a coastal city along the Adriatic. Tirana does not have the beach, but it is a very modern urban city, with a beautiful and large city park with a lake.
      Hope that helps. Thanks for the question and reading the article. If there is anything else I can assist you with, please ask.
      Julian

  2. I am a single,73 year old man, US passport, living last 5 years in Thailand.
    Considering a move to Albania.
    Income is US social security $2200.00 per month.
    Love history, literature, music, good wine, long walks, and dogs.
    Like to hike and fish, both fresh and salt water.
    Health Insurance?
    Good location to rent?
    Ability to travel from?
    Suggestions!
    .

    • Hello Dale,
      Thanks for reading the article and contributing to the knowledge base.
      Wow, 5-years in Thailand, I’m jealous LOL. On my list though.
      Albania is definitely a good choice for you. As a US citizen you can live here for 1-year on an entry visa, no paperwork necessary!
      Your income, well you can live like a king.
      Everything you love is Albania in a nutshell.
      Health insurance is a great idea, but you probably won’t use it much. The private hospitals are cheaper than most deductibles. It really comes down to the claim. They typically do not bill insurance, you have to get pre-approval and file the claim for reimbursement. I haven’t learned of any exception, including SS coverage, but things change all the time.
      But, you will need it for the purposes of traveling in general, so yes you should have/keep it. Remember, you need to exit for 3-months and return to re-start your year.
      Tirana is a great choice, as it offers everything except the coastline.
      But Durres is also a good choice if you require the coastline.
      Tirana has the best choice of new development, Durres is probably going to be an older apartment.
      Tirana has the airport, Durres the ferry port, both have main bus stations.
      So, from those 2, all of Europe and Albania are open to you.
      Down south, Vlora and Saranda, are also good options, more seasonal and in season very expensive. Vlora also has an airport.
      Let me know if you need anything else/more info.
      Best of luck Dale and thanks for the comment.

  3. Hi Tom,

    Thank you very much for your article – very useful and informative. I still have a question though. I am nearing “early retirement” age and planning on retiring to Europe with my wife. Considering that the main source of income will be US social security, we are contemplating an option of “waiting out” a year or 2 before starting collect SS… You know how it is if you start right away, say at 62, you get X-amount of benefits, but if you start 2 year after that you get a few thousands more, which in retirement is quite helpful 😉 Provided that Albania has a very generous 12-months visa-free entry for US citizens, it seems to be a very good place to “wait out” the needed period.
    I’m doing my homework trying to find answers to those questions that seem important for our move, but one of them is still a “black hole” for me. And that is in regards to health insurance. In your response to Julian you mentioned that”Health insurance is a great idea, but you probably won’t use it much. The private hospitals are cheaper than most deductibles.”… We are (knock on wood) are in relatively good health, but still (just in case) we would like to feel safe knowing that if (God forbid) a need to visit a doctor present itself, we would be able to do/or afford it. It seems that you suggested just to go to a private doctor and pay cash rather than having (a quite expensive sometimes) insurance.. Please confirm that this is indeed the case. No obligation of course – just a clarified advise 😉
    Kind regards,
    Alex K

  4. Hello Alex,
    Thanks for reading the article and contributing to our knowledge base.
    For clarity:
    1: Yes, Alex you need international health insurance and for several reasons, including but not limited to: some countries may spontaneously ask for proof in order to enter (esp. due to the COVID issue), the policies typically include other services like repatriation assistance which (hopefully not but should always be prepared) may be needed at some point, and if you do intend to seek residency anywhere the insurance will be required for the application process. After you obtain residency in any European country, you will be enrolled into their nationalized public health insurance system, but private hospitals/providers may still require international health insurance.
    2: Specific to Albania, the issue is two-fold.
    First, the cost of services are significantly less than in the US and thus the typical deductible. For example, I get a thorough physical exam each year which includes complete blood work and a chest x-ray for approximately $100. All of my medical needs have been normal preventative care. I carry a $2500 deductible to make the policy cheaper and have never satisfied that. But, as medical issues become more serious, the price increases obviously (though it will always be a fraction of what you are used to in the US). My deductible of $2500 is my ceiling (so to speak) and the insurance is the backup for the worst case scenario. That is how I approach the issue.
    Second, in Albania I have never found a provider that will bill the insurance. You have to pay out of pocket first and then file the claim yourself to get reimbursed. If the insurance company wants hard-copies of the receipts and forms, to mail from Albania to the US using DHL or UPS (only options) the cost is mind-blowing, and we are back to the cost outweighing the purpose. So, keeping the deductible in mind, its typically cheaper just to pay, but that is not a substitute for having the insurance, but simply to approach your deductible as a means of reducing the cost and understanding your ceiling.

    As a side note, though you didn’t mention this, medicines (including OTC) in Europe are completely different than the US. Albanian pharmacies also, my experience, will not accept your international health insurance. You will need to file that claim, which can be quite often. Talk to the insurance company about this before buying if you need to include prescriptions and medicines in the policy.

    As you know, Medicare is not going to travel with you, but I would also suggest maintaining that in the event you chose to return to the US at some point.

    Finally, Albania is a great choice for your 2-year window Alex, for many reasons. Very good choice.

    This should clarify the issue Alex, and thanks for the comment and reading the article. I am genuinely surprised at how people are responding to my pieces about Albania.

    As a side note, I offer relocation / expat consultation services (via Zoom or Skype) and can provide more in-depth information about Albania (and Europe) if anyone desires.
    Just email me: Globaltalon1@gmail.com and mention the Expatra piece you read for a 10% discount.

    Thanks Alex
    Explore, Experience & Engage.
    Julian – Global Talon

  5. Hi Tom,

    Thank you very-very much for detailed response – I truly appreciate you finding time to do so. The health insurance ‘deal’ is much clearer now and I feel more comfortable with our planned (temporary) hideout in Albania… The final destination is just across the sea and easily accessible by the ferry 😉
    I added your email to my contacts and there is a good chance I’ll be in touch – ether when in Europe already or just before the trip.. No worries – I don’t plan to be a burden – I myself traveled to Europe excessively (work related and vacations-wise) and won’t bug you with too trivial stuff.
    Thank you once again.
    Best wishes with your Globaltalon.com endeavor. I’ll try to spread a word about it too.
    Kind regards,
    Alex K

  6. Such great information. We’re planning on leaving for Albania late May and staying 4-5 months with our four children–teens down to 6. We homeschool so aren’t worried about schooling and aren’t in love with the idea of Tirana. Any second best options that aren’t as congested and expensive? We’re looking for a mid-size city/large town near enough to Tirana for emergencies with charm and affordable rent prices.

  7. Hello Kim, Thanks for the comment, finding value in the article, and contributing to our knowledge base.
    To preface this, I want to address your 2 specific conditions of not too expensive or congested.
    Tourism is one of the largest elements of Albania’s economy, and many smaller areas actually only operate during the summer. As such, those places need to earn an entire year’s income in only those 4 months. Couple that with the fact that you are looking to use their rental for the entire summer season, and [i’m just guessing] you will probably be looking for 3-4 bedrooms, so that rent may be a bit steep in coastal areas. Also, keep in mind that during the summer / tourist months, all of the coastal areas will have a lot of tourists and activity late into the night.
    Just as an up-to-date factoid, I’m not sure where you are coming from, but Europe in general, and especially the Balkans are in a bit of an electricity crunch which has caused the bill to increase dramatically. Albania’s PM has stated that it won’t affect residences, only business, but which one of those categories these apartments fall into is still unknown, so that may affect the short-term rents as well.
    If you won’t have your own car to make those drives to Tirana, then the best option would be both the city of and general area surrounding Durres. It is a big coastal city, but much smaller than Tirana. Durres has some very nice smaller communities which dot up and down the Adriatic coastline as well. You may want to look into the areas of Plepa and Golem / Mali Robit. I lived a year in each of those and they are very nice during the summer months.
    Plepa is basically a community just on the outskirt of Durres city center, just look for Beach of Durrës on Google Maps and focus on/around the street called Rruga Pavaresia.
    Golem/Mali Robit is a small town about 20-minutes down the coast., look for Plazhi i Golemit on Google maps and that is the general area.
    To avoid the tourist crowd, the next closest city to Tirana would be Elbasan, about an hour away. But if you not crazy about Tirana, you won’t want to consider Elbasan in my opinion either. Its just a big and urban, but less modern.
    Keep in mind that Tirana is a rather large city, so there may be areas in Tirana that you may want to consider, such as Don Bosco.
    I hope this was helpful and addressed your needs.
    Thanks again for the comment, and FYI, I also offer online relocation consultations if interested. Just email me at Globaltalon1@gmail.com for more info about that.
    Who knows Kim, we may run into each other in a few months, LOL.
    Enjoy your time in Albania, it is a very nice destination.

  8. Hi! I’m so glad to read this article. I’m a US citizen and I’d like to relocate and live in Albania. I’ve been here before and just loved it so much!
    How could I find a job to work here and reside? Could you clarify what you mean about staying in Albania for a year visa-free? What would happen after that 1 years over? Could I still reside in Albania for following years thereafter?

  9. Hello Sheelie, thank you for reading the article and contributing to our knowledge base.
    As a US citizen, you can simply enter Albania and remain here for a year, no visa or paperwork to worry about. After that year, you are required to leave the country for 90-days. Then you can re-enter Albania and start all over.
    That is the easy part.
    The job is far more difficult. I can’t go into too much depth here, but the odds of you finding and securing a job that you could actually ‘live’ on, will be rare. It’s a developing economy; with tourism and call centers being the largest work forces. Both require being multi-lingual, or at least bi-lingual. Its amazing how many languages people in the Balkans speak! Many Albanians who work in call centers speak 3-5 languages! I am guessing that you don’t speak Albanian. However, being fluent in Italian would also be a huge benefit.
    Your absolute best option is to live in Albania, but work remotely with a US or EU based company. I simply need to advise you of not relying , as plan A, of finding a job in Albania, as many Albanians are trying to do the same thing. But again, skill-set, connections, and other specifics all factor in to that of course.
    I hope this was helpful and addressed your needs.
    Thanks again for the comment, and FYI, I also offer online relocation consultations if interested. Just email me at Globaltalon1@gmail.com for more info about that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.