The Ultimate Guide to Albania for Digital Nomads

by | Jan 12, 2024 | Life in Albania, Albania for Expats, Working in Albania

Albania for Digital Nomads: Summary

So, are you considering stopping by in Albania as a digital nomad but you want to know what it’s really like? Then read on for a review of Albania for Digital Nomads by someone that works remotely (and travels) but has been in Albania for a while so knows what’s really up.

Disclaimer: I am real, I am honest and a little sarcastic at times, and I mean it in the most positive way. I live here, I don’t care enough about most of the issues and I mostly laugh it off, but I want to be honest with you.

First off, let’s score the main areas and then let’s dive into a more detailed review of everything.

Internet: 5/5 – The internet is actually fast, reliable and affordable. It’s just sometimes the case that your AirBnB may have bad internet, so you need to check that before you come.

Cafes and Coworking Spaces: 3/5 – There are many coffee places around town and no one complains about you using your laptop. Most Albanians hang out in bars all day while slurping coffee and water, so it’s not offensive to do that here. The internet speed varies depending on the place, and a lot of bars play awful music really loud, so you may need to have your calls elsewhere.

Prices: 4/5 – Overall it’s very affordable still for no, but prices like everywhere else have been steadily rising over the last 5 years, so it’s not as cheap as it used to be and as many people have shared with me over the years there are other places in the world that are similar from a cost perspective and more fun (heck I’ve even heard people had more fun in Bosnia than here).

Language: 4/5 – You can get by with just English and Google Translate. If you were planning to stay longer than 6 weeks I’d get some basic Albanian words in. You will have a much easier experience if you can pronounce things properly, ask the price of things ahead of time, tell the taxi driver, left and right etc. it just makes it way easier to get around plus people are less likely to make you pay foreigner tax which is a thing and often outweighs foreigner privilege.

Convenience: 2/5 – Albania is NOT a convenient place. Most places do not take cards, the cash machines charge fees for foreign cash withdrawals (some of them 700 Lek per withdrawal), events are badly advertised so you may often miss them, many places don’t let you order online, the food app delivery driver calls you on the phone to ask for directions and often doesn’t speak English – but that is exactly what makes going to Albania fun!

Atmosphere: 2/5 – You know how other cities inspire you with their history and architecture? Yeah this is not really the case here. There are very few old things around as they have mostly been destroyed, but on the flipside you have nature all around you and that is unrivaled, so soak up more of that instead!

Safety: 4/5 – Please stop watching movies, and listening to people who have never been to Albania who like to tell you “they’ve heard it’s not safe” this is utter trash and I’m tired of people asking me if it’s a safe place. I’ve grown up in Germany, lived in London for years and am now here, and genuinely I’ve had horrific things happen to me in London, and I haven’t been bothered once here in 5 years. You can go anywhere you like alone at night (yes even as a girl), you don’t constantly have to worry about your handbag, you can put your phone on the table and no one is going to swipe it, you can still hitchhike without issue (of course I’d still tell people who I am with, where I am or what not, use your brain) but genuinely I’ve not experienced anything negative in my everyday life here. Please be careful when you’re dating as a female though. Seriously, some people get very possessive, very quickly.

Nightlife: 3/5 – I’d say it’s alright. Tirana has options, a lot of them finish at midnight for lack of noise insulation in the buildings. A couple of clubs are open late, but they are a bit overpriced and well the vibe isn’t a mix and mingle vibe it’s often a “stand around your table and don’t move vibe” so if you’re a party animal that loves meeting new people you may want to consider other places.

Overall Score: 3/5

The Pros

Budget-friendly prices

Overall the prices in Albania are very reasonable in comparison to other countries, of course there isn’t anywhere near the amount of things on offer as in other countries either.

But, if you need a stopover that is NOT going to completely bankrupt you, then Albania may be for you.

Not in the European Union

Albania is not (and probably won’t be for a while) a member of the European Union. This means you can safely exit the Schengen zone and make your way to Albania to take your 90 day break.

Nevertheless it is well connected and Ryanair as well as Wizz Air now have direct flights to and from Tirana, so it’s easy to connect into your favourite European destination.

The ratio of coffee places to people is insane

I love coffee, and we have 1 million coffee places. Depending on where you go you can get a Makiato and water for between 150 and 220 Lek, so sitting outside, working and drinking coffee is one of the best ways to get stuff done. Some days you’ll find me in my neighbourhood, other days I’m down by the lake to enjoy the sun, there is never a shortage of options.

Fresh and Delicious Products

Fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy are local, fresh and absolutely delicious (although guaranteed not organic since people here love to spray their plants…).

There are many restaurants that know the people they are getting all of their supplies from for a long time and it’s good to know what the heck you’re eating there.

Not too many tourists

While Albania has been getting more and more popular over the last couple of years, the numbers of tourists are nothing like other European destinations as yet, so it’s still a good time to visit. Plus the main tourist season isn’t the best time to visit Albania anyways because it gets so hot that you really want to stay indoors from 9am – 9pm.

Nice Beaches and Crystal-clear Water

Now I’m not going to go on an influencer trip and tell you that this is the ‘Maldives of Europe’ or some other bullsh… it’s really not. 

But Albania does have nice long stretches of beach, some beaches can only be reached if you’re willing to hike or take a boat, some pretty comfy bars and restaurants on the beach, but that’s it.

If you’re looking for a true ‘five star experience’, for when you’re not hard at work, then you’re better off heading down to Greece, where the stars on a hotel have actual meaning, because here they do not and you will end up disappointed.

Saranda - Ksamil

The Cons

Some Amount of Racism

I’m sad to say that over the past couple of years I’ve noticed that there is some amount of racism and it’s getting worse not better.

We have been turned away from clubs and bars with the reason of “you need a reservation” which is the code word of “you’re not welcome here”. Those bars don’t take reservations or most certainly don’t require them when the place is basically empty. And the suspicion can be proven by leaving half the group behind and being allowed entry afterwards. This is overall disgusting and I don’t see it changing for the better right now, particularly because senior political figures are in denial about the issue.

Oh and if you’re looking for an LGBTQ+ scene, well if it exists, it’s so well hidden neither me or my friends know about it. There are a couple of safe spaces, but not much beyond that and I wouldn’t be displaying a lot of affection in public.

Not for delicate flowers

There are certain types of people that are not going to thrive in Albania. If you are physically sensitive to stuff like air and water, then Albania is not for you. The air quality particularly on humid days is quite bad in the cities, and while I have never had an issue with tap water myself (I don’t drink it, but I do use it for boiling pasta and veggies) others have gotten “very ill” from tap water remnants on washed salad alone, so if that’s you, maybe Albania isn’t going to help with your health.

If you have allergies or food preferences that you feel strongly about I’d also look elsewhere. People here do not understand what an allergy is and that it will kill you. If you tell someone here you’re unable to eat bread they think you’ve lost it. And if you say you’re vegan and don’t eat animal products, then you will be offered dairy and eggs and fish, because poor you can’t eat meat – it’s literally RARE that someone here will understand and respect your choices.

Power Outages

Now and again the power will go out. It depends on the season (during aircon season both in Summer or in Winter it happens more often) if you live in a rubbish building, it may also happen more often.

I’d say in my current apartment it’s once a week for 10 mins. In my last apartment it was once a month for 10 minutes. So it varies a lot. It’s not constant and it’s not once affected my work. I always have my laptop charged unless I’m out and otherwise I have mobile data as a backup, but haven’t had to use it for that reason.

Infrastructure issues

The place isn’t in the best shape, so look where you’re stepping. They’re fixing things bit by bit but I feel like the weather is damaging pavements faster than they’re being fixed. Albania gets cold in winter, freaking wet in Summer and Autumn and boiling hot in Summer, and the pavement shows it.

Credit cards not widely accepted

If you are a card payer, get used to having cash, in particular small change. I always carry 5000 Lek with me, for whatever I may need, I haven’t attempted to pay by card more than 5 times in 5 years because there is often no point in trying, either machines don’t exist, don’t work, or the place doesn’t want to use them, because then the transaction is official.

The Verdict

All in all, if you don’t have a massive budget, then Albania is going to be one of your European options. It’s a diamond in the rough. There are lots of nice things about the place, but also some that just have you scratching your head, but what matters is that you can afford to have a good life and get your work done, and that’s certainly an option here!

Basic Questions:

When is the best time to travel to Albania

This depends on your preference of course, but for me personally I have the most fun in Albania from End of March until End of June. And then again from Early September to Early November.

Spring is pleasant and warm. It does rain every day, but not all day. The rain is often a heavy downpour in the afternoons or evenings. The rest of the day is beautiful and you will spend a lot of time working outside in the sun where other places are still freezing cold.

The entertainment starts coming alive again at the end of spring, the open air cinema opens, and there are many events in the center and in the park. It will remain pleasant and warm until the middle of June when overnight the temperature will jump to 35 degrees and it won’t be much cooler at night. The days will get slightly more uncomfortable outdoors and the air quality takes a turn for the worse. Tirana has a humid subtropical climate and not a mediterranean climate and that shows in the amount of rain we get.

The temperature can peak in August somewhere between 40 and 45 degrees and the only place you are going to be is inside under your aircon unit or at the beach hiding under your umbrella.

September it starts to go back down to June temperatures and the weather remains alright (although with more rain than in spring and humidity over 75%) until early November when it will start to be a bit cold. This is the kinda cold that creeps under your clothes with the humidity, and makes being outside genuinely uncomfortable.

Around Christmas the weather tends to cheer up again and we often have beautiful sunshine all winter long and day time temperatures of 10-15 degrees, but -1 at night, so you do need to dress warm. Again if it’s humid you will REALLY feel the cold.

If you’re looking for a warm winter, go to Gran Canaria or somewhere, it does NOT get as cold here as in central Europe (and it’s by far not as miserable and dark!) but it’s cold.

Language

The language spoken is Albanian and honestly it’s all you see and hear all day long. However many people (younger ones) do speak English, so if you’re looking for a bus and the bus driver can’t speak English there will be someone around that does and people are incredibly friendly and helpful, because most of them are still in disbelief that a foreign person would come to Albania (why??).

If you do want to learn some basic Albanian, check out our courses here.

Real Albanian Language Meetup

Prices

Prices vary depending on time of year, location and what you’re buying/where you are staying.

Can of coke zero in the shop: 80 Lek

Makiato and Bottle of Water in a bar: 160-220 Lek

Pack of Pasta (1kg): 90-120 Lek

But if you buy Pesto be prepared to spend 350 Lek + per tiny jar!

Most veggies are going for around 50-150 Lek per kilo if they’re in season (if you’re trying to buy a pineapple though, be prepared to spend 1400 Lek, or 800 Lek for a small pack of blueberries), so unless you’re craving something badly, by local and seasonal.

Visa & Residency

If you’re American then you can come to Albania as a tourist visa-free for 1 year. If you are European then it’s 90 days. If you’re from the UK, the 90-day rule applies to you too.

This means you are allowed to stay in Albania as a tourist. You are not allowed to work or take up employment or do whatever. For that you need a residence permit and a work permit.

If you want to stay longer than the visa-free period, you have many different options, and these are ever-changing.

I would personally not recommend overstaying your visa. I can promise you it’s expensive and wasn’t worth the stress.

Best Digital Nomad Cities in Albania

Tirana

Tirana no doubt has the most people and facilities, and it remains my go to place for living. I could not imagine myself longer in other cities and many digital nomads have mentioned that they were incredibly bored and lonely in Vlora and Saranda.

Vlora

Vlora is one of those cities that I think SHOULD be really freaking popular with digital nomads, but it’s not. At least not during off-season and during season it’s so rammed with tourists I can’t bear the place.

Vlora is a big enough city, with beaches and great views, and nature right on the doorstep (Llogara National Park) and it’s a relatively short drive from the really nice beaches in the South, so it should be way more popular. But for now I wouldn’t recommend Vlora for more than a visit.

Saranda

Saranda is another place that is popular with some foreigners, but usually the older retired crowd, and they love it, but it’s the same issue that in the off-season the place is dead (even more so than Vlora) and during season again it’s so full you can’t stay there.

I just met a couple last week who came from Saranda and basically were so upset they had to stay there for as long as they did because of their contract, because they felt that after just 2 weeks they’d eaten in all the restaurants that were currently open.

But, the bottom line is it depends on you. If you prefer your own company and don’t really want to socialise and mostly stay in, then you may find that Tirana is a bit much for you and you may be happier in Vlora, Saranda or even Korça.

Vlora
Vlora

Rent & Accomodation

Most landlords want at least a 12 month contract. Rent varies from 200-1500 EUR a month depending on what you’re renting, where and for how long. If you’re staying short-term then often your only option is Airbnb or writing to people directly on Facebook, asking them if they accept less time. AirBnB prices vary a lot depending on time of year, apartment and location, and could be anything between $30 a night and $80 a night or even more in peak season.

Please also be aware that it is common policy in the holiday towns that even IF you have signed a 12 month rental contract and that period includes the Summer months, if you are anywhere near the beach the owner will throw you out in June to cash in the big money over the Summer, so just be prepared for that to happen unless you are way overpaying on your rent every single month.

Vlora

Food & Drink

Restaurants & Eating Out

Eating out is still moderately cheap in Albania if you stick to the local restaurants and fast food places as opposed to the ‘fancy’ ones in Blloku where the prices are the same as everywhere else, and the food is not as good as everywhere else.

Some of my favourite non-special places to go are:

Ola Fast Food – Komuna Parisit

Terracotta Restaurant – Komuna Parisit

Restorant Tymi – Rruga Kavajes

Mish Gici Geni – Pazari i Ri

Golosa Pizza – Rruga Barrikadave

Kastrati Tradicional Restaurant – Center

Vlora

Groceries & Cooking at home

If you want to cook at home, go ahead. I’d recommend getting the fruit and veg at the local market and the meat from the butcher. Make sure you cook everything properly.

Avoid buying stuff that is in packages and not Albanian (you will see that the Albanian pasta and flour are significantly cheaper than the Italian counterpart). Also Conad is expensive. Check if you have a Spar or a local shop nearby. I often find good stuff in there, and if your neighbourhood shop gets supplies from Greece, then you can find some cool sweets and chocolates you may not have tried before.

Food Delivery

We have at least 2 food delivery apps: Baboon and Foodini.

Baboon is the better functioning app, and Foodini allows you to pay by card. So you gotta pick and mix.

Downside is that the delivery driver will call you when he’s on his way despite you putting the exact location in the app. And they don’t usually speak English, so if you live in a weird place, learn how to give directions. Also don’t fall for the trick of the guy complaining of “taxi long long” your delivery fee should be on your bill (transport) and you shouldn’t pay extra just because the guy is complaining, if in doubt, call Baboon/Foodini.

Work Environment – Cafes & Coworking Spaces

Cafes

There are SO MANY coffee places I can’t potentially mention all of the ones I like and why, there are different places for different occasions (eg. summer requires water spray or air con and a shady outside space, winter requires heaters), but here are some of the places I go to when the mood strikes.

Hana Corner Cafe (because of the cake and vibe)

Swan Lounge Bar – Views of the zoo without paying 300 Lek for the zoo.

Bar Gjahtarët – Views over the lake, and cheaper plus more spacious than the other lake bar. Service is slow and on weekend mornings in the Summer you better come early cause there won’t be any space.

ILY coffee – more park, less lake vibes, but nice terrace.

The Hills Cafe – they are NOT open all year round but a great place in the middle of the park and I love this one. If mosquitos like you, don’t go hear at the height of Summer you will be eaten alive.

The Tea Room – for the tea only, if you get your laptop out here the guy may literally smack you over the head with your laptop. Cake is nice too!

Coworking

There are a few coworking spaces around town and the fees vary from 5-10 EUR per day. There are also monthly packages available and many of the coworking spaces also host a variety of events.

Follow them on Instagram to get the most up to date information:

Internet

The Internet is generally really good and affordable and it’s very reliable (basically we have a problem maximum once a year with our home internet, and it’s usually because something happened, eg. heavy rains that flooded the box in the street and killed the internet, and our provider digicom will repair this within the same day.

However in your AirBnB the internet may not be good. And if you ask people before you book if the internet is fast they’ll say YES. Because for scrolling IG it’s fast. But they don’t work from home or stream or have video calls, and have never spent much time in the AirBnB to know about the internet really.

So ask for screenshots from a speedtest, or be prepared to just use mobile data.

SIM Cards

Both One and Vodafone offer 20GB of internet for between 1200 and 1500 Lek on PAYG. Prices and offers change now and again. I just switched from One to Vodafone and Vodafone is slightly more expensive, however I haven’t had any outages on my phone, which happened with One about once a month (phone won’t connect to the network at all and nothing works, and it usually happens when I’m on my way to meet someone and really need my phone).

Traveling around Albania

Arriving by plane

You’ll be arriving by plane most likely into Tirana airport, since Kukës is for most people in the middle of nowhere, and Vlora’s airport is still being discussed.

From Tirana Airport you can get the airport bus into the center of town for 500 Lek.

Or you can prebook a taxi with one of the local companies via WhatsApp. They will be waiting for you OUTSIDE the airport premises. Don’t worry the airport is tiny, so it’s literally a 3 minute walk to get off the airport grounds. The taxi would cost you around 1200 Lek if you pre-book this and agree the price. Some companies will charge you 1500 which is also okay. I have found some companies more reliable than others and I’m happy to pay the extra to know they’ll communicate and be there on time.

Getting around by bus

This will most likely be your most used method of transportation around the country. There are mini-buses (furgons) that run from various bus stations around Tirana to different parts of the country. You will not find much accurate information online, so find out which bus station you have to go to, then go there and ask for when the next bus leaves to x location and where and you usually just pay the driver. Most buses start from around 6/7am and often the last bus to a destination leaves between 3 and 6pm depending on where you are going.

Although some locations may not look far on the map, it could be that the road conditions are quite bad, or it’s very mountainous terrain so make sure to clarify the bus times.

If you easily get car sick, grab some meds, the roads here are no joke.

Hiring a Car

This is my preferred option if you want to rule out the adventure of sitting in an overly full bus with a crazy driver and no aircon. Hiring a car is affordable and while driving is also adventurous, I like it, and it gives you way more flexibility to take detours, stop and enjoy the view and just be more comfortable.

But of course, if it’s not in the budget, or you are not a confident driver, then take the bus!

Time Off? – Where to Travel in Albania

Albania is a stunning country and it’s definitely a place for outside-y kinda people.

Cities to see – Berat and Gjirokaster

I personally think these are the 2 places to definitely go and see if you’re pressed for time. They are both centrally located and there are direct buses from Tirana running every day. From other locations you’d need to ask the locals.

Both Berat and Gjirokaster have castles and old town centres that are beautiful. Plus the food tourism around Berat in particular is amazing. There are many agroturizem places that serve delicious food and you can also grab jams and wine made in the area and they are amazing. So as a foodie, I’d take Berat over Gjirokaster any day.

Please remember they are still small towns and it won’t take you long to walk all around and see everything there is to see. So one night stopover in each place is enough to have a good look around, if you want to do other activities in the area then you may want to plan more time.

Nightlife

To be honest I’ve not found nightlife in Albania to be WOW. If you want to party then your best bet is Tirana. Even in the beach towns there are just one or two resorts that’ll have music till late and it’s likely NOT the kind of music you’d like to listen to, plus they tend to be the incredibly overpriced resorts. 

A lot of places like bars with music will stop the music at midnight. Tirana has a couple of clubs that are open late. One of them is incredibly popular and will generate queues on a lot of nights and you may be told you “need to have reservations” or “you will need to buy a bottle to get your table” (aka spend 250 EUR plus).

And the party vibe here isn’t quite the same. It’s not too much of a mix and mingle.

Beaches

We have plenty of those, there are many beaches around the country and you will have no shortage of beach time if you’re after it.

Beaches in the North have sand, beaches in the South have rocks and super clear water.

I’d use beaches that are as far away from ports and big cities as possible. I do not know what the current water cleanliness situation is, but in the past the entire wastewater from cities was just pumped into the sea, so no one in their right mind would have used Vlora’s beach.

That’s why the old beach is located outside of town in the North of the City.

Hiking & Nature

If you love hiking you can do so around the country for most of the year. In winter a lot of hiking will stop due to snow.

Please be careful and hike with a guide on some routes. Every year someone dies on the Theth-Valbona route. On the higher peaks the snow stays on the ground way longer and while it could be 25 degrees in Tirana, in Valbona on the pass you may still have snow.

So please only go with experienced people, so you don’t become this year’s story.

So, all in all if you’re the adventurous kind and you’re not expecting too many amenities and prefer spending time outdoors, then Albania is for you.

If you prefer art and alternative culture, coliving communities, meditation retreats and vegan food, then Albania may not be the right place for you.

So, are we going to see you here soon?

Jessica

Jessica

Jess is an Expat and has been living in Albania, Tirana specifically, for the last 5 years.She lives with her partner and runs her own business. Her favourite part about life in Albania is the coffee culture and you can often find her working in various coffee places around town.

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