Can I use credit cards in Albania?
The question I always get from family, is whether you can use a credit card in Albania. So, I decided to answer this question in a helpful blogpost.
Can I use credit cards in Albania? You can use credit cards in Albania in the larger hotels, international shops, travel agencies and at ATM machines. However, in local shops, taxis and midrange hotels, you can only pay in cash. It is best to carry cash with you and exchange it. Because card withdrawal can cost you €4-€5 each time.
It is best to carry some cash with you for your trip to Albania, however, the amount of cash you need depends on your travel plans. Let’s dig a little deeper and make sure you bring the right amount of money for your trip to Albania. So that, you do not have to worry while you are on your holiday.
Credit cards in Albania – A detailed explanation
It is possible to use credit cards in some of the high-end hotels and on ATM machines in Albania. However, cash is more widely accepted.
The reality is that you will need cash money for your holidays in Albania. Because touristic sights, souvenir shops, local markets and beach shops will only accept cash. You could search for an ATM machine at that moment. But it is better to bring some cash Euros, Pounds or USA dollars and exchange it in a currency exchange agency.
Moreover, exchanging cash is usually cheaper than withdrawing cash from an ATM machine in Albania. Since Albania is not a part of the European Union, there are no clear transparency rules for disclosing ATM fees. Basically, when you withdraw cash from an ATM machine or pay by card in a restaurant, this transaction will include a currency exchange. You might pay a fee of €4 or €5 each time when you pay with your card or withdraw money. And because there are no transparency rules, you will not know until you check your bank account afterwards.
On the other hand, bringing cash and exchanging it at a currency exchange office is very cheap. Because cash is widely accepted in Albania, you can find a currency exchange agency on every street corner. And these currency exchange agencies have very low margins. At a currency exchange agency, it cost you less than 1% to exchange euros, dollars or pounds. The usual margin for currency exchange is less than 1% in Albania.
When it comes to exchanging cash money, it is best to avoid banks. Because the local currency exchange agencies in the cities in Albania are cheaper than the banks. At the bank, you can be charged 7% – 8% for a currency exchange, whereas a currency exchange agency in the city will charge you less than 1%. This may seem counterintuitive, but Albania is a country that uses cash for the majority of the payments. Moreover, many Albanian people work abroad and bring foreign money home, so currency exchange is very popular in Albania.
And finally, try to avoid exchanging money at the airport in Albania. Exchanging money in Albania is usually very cheap, but the airport is an exception to this rule. Like in any country, the exchange money at the airport is much more expensive.
How much is Albanian money worth?
The official currency of Albania is the Albanian LEK.
The exchange rates for LEK as follows:
1 euro = 125 LEK
1 pound = 140 LEK
1 US dollar = 110 LEK
The value of LEK is low compared to international currencies, like Euros, Pounds or US dollars. But the amounts seem very big, because the notes are all in hundreds. A coffee, for instance, costs 200 LEK. The notes mostly used are 200 LEK, 500 LEK, 1000 LEK, 2000 LEK and 5000 LEK. There are coins of 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 LEK but the value is very little. The only thing you can buy for the coins is bread or a coffee. Bread is very cheap in Albania and usually costs only 70 LEK, which is less than 1 euro.
What currency is accepted in Albania?
LEK is the official currency in Albania. Although Euros are accepted in some hotels and travel agencies in the touristic cities. For hotel rooms or accommodation, the prices are usually given in Euros. So, you can pay your hotel room in Euros or LEK as you prefer.
Whether or not you will be able to pay many things along your trip in Euros, depends on where you are travelling to. If you are going to a major touristic city like Saranda or Vlore, you will most likely be able to pay most of your expenses in euros. But if you visit a smaller place, you can only pay in LEK.
Regardless of where you are going, it is recommended to bring cash money with you on your trip. Because there are many little bakeries, fruit shops and local restaurants that only accept LEK. So, there is always going to be a moment during your trip, where you will need Albanian LEK. You can bring cash euros, pounds or us dollars, which are all easy to exchange anywhere in Albania.
ATM machines are available in the cities, but not in the rural areas. However, cash is still preferred everywhere in Albania. Therefore, you should bring cash euros, pounds or us dollars with you for your main travel expenses. So that you can exchange currency when necessary. Only bring your credit or debit card with you as a backup plan, so that you can withdraw money, in case you run out.
And finally, be sure to spend your remaining LEK before you leave Albania or exchange it for foreign currency. Because you cannot exchange Albanian LEK outside Albania.
Can you use euros in Albania?
You can use euros in Albania at the larger hotels and travel agencies in the touristic cities. However, in smaller places and in local shops, you will not be able to pay in euros.
Either way, it is a good idea to bring cash euros with you. In case, you are not able to pay for your purchases in euros, you will always be able to exchange the euros for Albanian LEK.
Since currency exchange is very popular in Albania, you will be able to find a currency exchange agency easily. In the cities, there is a currency exchange agency on every street corner.
Where can I change Albanian currency?
You can change foreign currency for Albanian LEK in currency exchange offices in Albania. For your trip, simply bring some cash euros, pounds or US dollars with you. Currency exchange agencies are available on every street corner in Albania.
However, before you go home, remember to exchange your remaining cash money back. Because you cannot exchange Albanian LEK abroad.
Albania ATM fees
If you take money with a foreign bank card from the ATM in Albania, you can be charged extra fees. Not all the ATMs charge an additional fee, but some ATMs in Albania will charge you between €4.00 – €5.00 per withdrawal. Furthermore, your own bank at home might still charge you fees as well.
Since Albania is not a part of the European Union, there are no transparency rules about disclosing the fees. Some of the ATM machines will advise you about the fees, before you withdraw money. So that you can retrieve you bank card, if you do not agree with the pricing.
However, not all ATM machines in Albania advice about their fees beforehand. In this case, you will only be able to see the ATM fee on your bank statement afterwards.
Therefore, for your trip in Albania, do not pay everywhere with the card. Instead carry some euros, pounds or us dollars with you. So that you can exchange the money in a currency exchange agency. And if necessary, withdraw some money from the ATM machine, when you run out.
How much money to take to Albania?
You should take €42.00 per person per day to Albania. The website “Budget Your Trip” calculated the average, based on what previous travellers spend in Albania. This amount of €42.00 per person per day is an average, so it depends on whether you travel on a budget, midrange or extravagant.
For a budget trip, you will spend less than €50.00 per day. A dorm bed will cost only €10 – €15 per night or a double room in a budget hotel is €25 – €40. And budget food will cost you only €2.00 – €4.00 per meal. You could have some pizza or Byrek pastry in the local bakery, where the food is very affordable. Moreover, a trip with the Furgon minibus costs between €2.00 – €7.00.
A midrange trip will cost you between €50 – €100 per day. A midrange hotel usually costs between €40.00 – €60.00 per night. And if you eat lunch or dinner in local restaurants, the price is between €4.00 – €10.00 per meal. Entry to a museum is also very affordable and roughly between €1.00 – €4.00 per entry. Plus, you could take a short taxi trip for €5.00 – €10.00.
And finally, a top end trip will cost you more than €100.00 per day. A 5-star hotel in a big city could cost you €80.00 or more per night. A meal in an extravagant restaurant in Tirana, will cost you €15.00 – €30.00 per meal. Moreover, a guided city tour is usually €20.00 – €30.00 for half a day.
From my own experience, I would say the €42.00 per person per day is the correct amount of money to take on your holiday. Expenses balance each other out as well. For instance, you could go for a lunch or dinner in a local restaurant once a day but have some pastries from the bakery for your other meal. Similarly, you might stay in a midrange hotel if you travel to a touristic city, but in another location, you might find a budget hotel.
How much money can you take into Albania?
You can take less than 1.000.000 Albanian LEK to Albania. Because if you take more than 1.000.000 LEK you should declare the cash at customs.
1.000.000 LEK = 8200 Euros
1.000.000 LEK = 7300 British pounds
1.000.000 LEK = 9050 US dollars
If you travel across the Albanian border, you must declare the cash, any currency, precious metals or gems, valuable items and antiquaries if they exceed the value of 1.000.000 LEK. If the total of all the currencies you carry is more than 1.000.000 LEK in value, you also must declare this at customs. You need to give the reason for carrying this amount and fill out the correct forms.
Is Albania expensive to visit?
Albania is a very affordable country to visit. Especially if you compare Albania with other countries in Europe or in the Balkans.
A double room in a hotel in Albania is not expensive at all. A night in a budget hotel will cost you between €25.00 – €40.00 per night only. But for this price, you will have a wide variety of hotels to choose from. Only in the bigger touristic destinations or Tirana, you can find some more expensive 4- or 5-star hotels. But you can still stay in a high-end hotel in Albania, without spending a fortune. You can stay in a 4-star hotel for €40.00 – €80.00 per night.
Food is even more cheap in Albania. The local restaurants serve incredibly fresh food. The food served is like Greek or Italian food. You could eat a generous meal for €4.00 – €10.00. But there are even cheaper food options in Albania. Along the street you will see little bakeries that serve Byrek pastry, which is a spinach pastry. If you have some lunch in one of the little bakeries for lunch, it will cost you only €2.00 – €4.00.
The only big expense you could have in Albania is renting a car. A car rental could cost you between €20.00 – €35.00 per day, depending on the make and model of the car. Renting a car will give you the freedom to explore some of the hidden beaches and travel at your own pace. However, it also significantly increases your daily spending. As an alternative, you could travel by bus through Albania, which is very cheap. A bus ride will cost you between €2.00 – €7.00.
Is Albanian LEK a closed currency?
The Albanian LEK is a closed currency. So, it is not possible to buy or sell LEK outside Albania. Therefore, it is best to bring cash Euros, Pounds or US dollars with you for your trip. Once you arrive in Albania, you can exchange the cash you brought for Albanian LEK.
If you travel with cash euros, you can try to pay the taxi from the airport in euros. So that you can avoid a more expensive currency exchange at the airport. Moreover, your hotel in Tirana or Durres might accept euros as well. Therefore, you only have to exchange money once you are settled into your hotel.
Moreover, it is important to spend your remaining Albanian LEK before going home or changing it back. Because you will not be able to exchange the LEK once you are back home. It is best to only change the amounts of cash into LEK that you need. So that, you do not end up with excess LEK cash at the end of your trip.
Do you tip in Albania? It is normal to tip a small amount in Albania. The usual amount to tip is 10% of the total bill. In cafes and bars, the prices are usually quite low, so it is polite to leave some coins of change. Prices are very affordable in Albania, so tipping 10% is little compared to other European countries.
How much is a meal in Albania? A meal in Albania is €2.00 – €4.00 for a budget meal, it is €4.00 – €10.00 in a local restaurant and it is €15.00 – €30.00 in a leading restaurant. Previous travellers to Albania spend on average €13.00 for their total meal cost per day.