What is the best currency to take to Albania?

Albania has a different currency from the rest of Europe. Therefore, it is always good to prepare yourself before traveling. I travel to Albania regularly, and I always bring currency with me, so that I am prepared for my holidays in Albania.

What is the best currency to take to Albania? The best currency to take to Albania is the euro. The Albanian currency is called LEK. However, you can only exchange LEK inside Albania. If you take euros in cash to Albania, you can exchange it at a currency exchange agency. Moreover, airport taxis and many hotels accept euros.

The Albanian currency is not available abroad. Moreover, many tourists are used to paying by card everywhere. However, in Albania the locals pay everything in cash. And since Albania is not a part of the European Union, you may pay extra for a card withdrawal.

What currency do I need for Albania?

For your travel to Albania, the best currency to bring is the euro. Because many hotels quote their prices in Euros. And upon check-out, you can settle the bill with euros. Moreover, you can find currency exchange agencies on every street in the cities, so you can exchange the euros for Albanian LEK easily.

However, if you do not have euro, then best alternatives are US dollars or pounds. Because euros, pounds or us dollars are easy to buy and sell in Albania. Avoid bringing rare currencies, like Polish Zloty, Swedish Krona or Macedonian Dinar, because these are difficult to sell in Albania and therefore more expensive to exchange.

Albania’s national currency is the LEK, but euros are widely accepted in touristic places. The taxi from the airport and your hotel will most likely quote their price in euros. Most hotels will allow you to settle the bill in euros or LEK, as you prefer.

In Albania, paying in cash is more popular than paying by card. In your country, you are probably used to paying by card. Maybe you don’t even carry cash, because you are used to contactless payments. However, this is different in Albania.

There are many local places in Albania, where you can only pay in cash. Although it is true that larger hotels, International shops or travel agencies will allow card payment. There are many small supermarkets, souvenir stores, beach shops and little bakeries, that only accept cash. In fact, Albanian people prefer to pay in cash for their purchases. You will see that the Albanian people always have a small wad of cash in their pocket.

Moreover, many Albanian people carry foreign currencies in cash, like euros or pounds. Since many young Albanian people work abroad, they send foreign money home to their parents. Therefore, you can find a currency exchange agency of the corner of every street. So, if you have some cash euros, pounds or US dollars, you will easily be able to get some Albanian LEK, whenever you need it.

It is best to always carry some cash money with you in Albania. When you arrive, it is best to bring euros in cash. So that you can pay the taxi or the bus at the airport in cash. Once you arrive at your accommodation or hotel, you can ask them if you can pay with cash euros. Once you settle into your hotel, walk around the neighbourhood to find a currency exchange agency. So that you can exchange some euros for LEK for your travels.

It is a good idea to exchange some of your foreign currency for Albanian LEK on the first day of your holiday. Some of the local shops, do not use a till. At the little shops along the road, you can only pay in cash. You will probably laugh, when they give you a handwritten receipt with your purchases.

For some touristic expenses, you will need cash LEK. Many castles and national parks in Albania charge their entry fee in cash LEK. Moreover, if you drive a car, you will need to settle some car parks in cash LEK as well. Be sure to carry some cash LEK, so that you can try the local foods, like Byrek pastry on your trip.

*****INSIDER TIP****

In Albania, it is cheaper for foreigners to exchange cash money, than to withdrawing money from a cash machine. Therefore, you will save money, by bringing some cash foreign currency on your trip. Let me explain in more detail, in the paragraph below.

Can you use credit cards in Albania?

You can use a credit card in Albania at ATM machines, in hotels, luxury restaurants and at international shops. However, paying by card in Albania can be quite expensive for foreigners. Therefore, you will save money if you bring foreign currency in cash. 

Let me explain why paying by card is expensive in Albania. Within the European Union, banks must clearly communicate their fees. Because the EU has a regulation that forces banks to inform the customer about their exchange rates and withdrawal fees.

However, since Albania is not a part of the European Union, these transparency rules do not exist in Albania. Therefore, many Albanian banks have their own exchange rates and withdrawal fees. If you withdraw money, it may cost you €4 – €5 for every 100 euro you withdraw. The same applies when you pay by card somewhere.

Moreover, not all the ATM machines will inform you clearly about their withdrawal fee. Some ATM machines will show their fees and ask you if you would like to continue with your transaction. However, some ATM machines do not inform you about their fees. So, you will only see these hidden fees, when you check your bank statement afterwards.

Not all the Albanian banks have high fees. But unfortunately, because there are no transparency rules and regulations, you won’t know for sure until you check the balance on your bank account after the cash withdrawal.

What type of money is used in Albania?

The money used in Albania is the Albanian LEK (ALL). The Albanian currency is only available within Albania. Therefore, it is smart to brings some cash euros, which you can exchange. Moreover, Euros are accepted in most hotels, airport taxis and travel agencies.

Albanian currency to euro
1 euro = 125 LEK

Albania currency to USD
1 US dollar = 110 LEK

Albanian currency to GBP
1 pound = 140 LEK

It is smart to exchange some of your foreign currency into Albanian LEK, because you can get better prices in Albanian LEK. Moreover, many local places only accept Albanian LEK, for instance: local bakeries, beach shops, souvenir shops, parking places, castles and museums.

The Albanian currency are all very large amounts. There are notes of 100 LEK, 200 LEK, 500 LEK, 1000 LEK, 2000 LEK and 5000 LEK. Therefore, you will immediately feel very rich in Albania. However, 200 LEK only buys you a cup of coffee.

Make sure that you spend your remaining Albanian LEK before you go home. Because you cannot exchange Albanian LEK abroad.

Where can I change Albanian currency?

The best place to change Albanian currency is in a currency exchange agency in Albania. Because you cannot change Albanian currency abroad. 

Since, you cannot change Albanian currency outside Albania, it is best to bring some foreign cash. So that you can exchange it in Albania. Make sure to bring some euros, pounds or US dollars for currency exchange. Do not worry about finding a currency exchange agency, because they are everywhere in the cities in Albania.

The Albanian LEK is a small currency, which is very difficult to exchange outside Albania. Therefore, exchange small amounts of cash at the time. And at the end of your holiday, either spend or exchange the remaining LEK before you leave.

Tips for currency exchange in Albania

Currency exchange is very cheap in Albania. The currency exchange agencies in Albania offer very good exchange rates. Agencies will exchange your foreign currency for a margin less than 1%. In many foreign countries currency exchange is expensive, but in Albania it is actually very cheap.

How can you save money on currency exchange in Albania?

  1. Avoid banks
  2. Don’t exchange at the airport
  3. Install an app on your phone, which calculates exchange rates

Currency exchange agencies are much cheaper, than banks in Albania. Banks in Albania will charge you 6% – 8% on a currency exchange. Therefore, it is much cheaper to go to a currency exchange agency, because they usually charge less than 1%. So, if you exchange at the bank in Albania, you will lose €4 – €5 each time.

To save money, avoid exchanging money at the airport. Because the exchange rates are higher at the airport. I believe this applies to pretty much every airport in the world. Because currency exchange is the first thing, you think about in a foreign country. If possible, avoid exchanging money at the airport, because it is much pricier than elsewhere in Albania.

It is best to bring some cash euros with you on your trip. From the airport, you can take a taxi or a bus to your hotel. You can pay the taxi or bus in euros. Then at your hotel settle the bill for the first night in euros. And once you have checked-in at your hotel, walk around the neighbourhood to find a currency exchange agency. Most likely, the staff at your hotel can give you some directions. This way, you avoid paying for the high exchange rates at the airport.

And finally, install an app on your phone, which will calculate the exchange rates for you. Since exchange rates vary day-by-day, the app will help you to stay informed. It will literally take you 2 seconds to check the exchange rates on your app. But it can prevent you from exchanging money in an expensive place.

How much money to take to Albania?

You will need €42.00 per person per day for your trip to Albania. On the website “Budget Your Trip” people have entered how much money they spend in Albania. As it turns out, former travellers spend €42.00 per person per day on average in Albania.

Obviously, the amount of €42.00 per person per day is an average. What you will spend depends on whether you travel on a budget, mid-range or luxuriously.

According to the Lonely Planet, you will need:

  • Less than €50.00 per day for a budget trip
  • €50.00 – €100 per day for a mid-range trip
  • More than €100 per day for a high-end trip

However, from my experience, the numbers of the Lonely Planet are on the high side. Compared to the rest of Europe, hotels, meals and attractions are very affordable. Although there are some high-end hotels and luxury restaurants, there are not many.

Tips for currency exchange in Albania

Currency exchange is very cheap in Albania. The currency exchange agencies in Albania offer very good exchange rates. Agencies will exchange your foreign currency for a margin less than 1%. In many foreign countries currency exchange is expensive, but in Albania it is actually very cheap.

How can you save money on currency exchange in Albania?

  1. Avoid banks
  2. Don’t exchange at the airport
  3. Install an app on your phone, which calculates exchange rates

Currency exchange agencies are much cheaper, than banks in Albania. Banks in Albania will charge you 6% – 8% on a currency exchange. Therefore, it is much cheaper to go to a currency exchange agency, because they usually charge less than 1%. So, if you exchange at the bank in Albania, you will lose €4 – €5 each time.

To save money, avoid exchanging money at the airport. Because the exchange rates are higher at the airport. I believe this applies to pretty much every airport in the world. Because currency exchange is the first thing, you think about in a foreign country. If possible, avoid exchanging money at the airport, because it is much pricier than elsewhere in Albania.

It is best to bring some cash euros with you on your trip. From the airport, you can take a taxi or a bus to your hotel. You can pay the taxi or bus in euros. Then at your hotel settle the bill for the first night in euros. And once you have checked-in at your hotel, walk around the neighbourhood to find a currency exchange agency. Most likely, the staff at your hotel can give you some directions. This way, you avoid paying for the high exchange rates at the airport.

And finally, install an app on your phone, which will calculate the exchange rates for you. Since exchange rates vary day-by-day, the app will help you to stay informed. It will literally take you 2 seconds to check the exchange rates on your app. But it can prevent you from exchanging money in an expensive place.

Is Albanian LEK a closed currency?

The Albanian LEK is a closed currency. Therefore, you cannot exchange Albanian LEK abroad.

Since the Albanian LEK is not available abroad, you must exchange your foreign currency upon arrival in Albania. Furthermore, you should try to spend your remaining Albanian LEK before leaving. Or you can exchange the remaining LEK for foreign currency before you depart.

Related Questions

Is it acceptable to bargain in Albania? It is acceptable to bargain in souvenir shops and on street markets in Albania. Moreover, it is a good idea to bargain or discuss the price for a taxi ride before your trip. In regular shops, it is not acceptable to bargain.

Do you tip in Albania? You tip in restaurants in Albania. The normal tip is around 10% of the total bill. Especially, in fancier restaurants a 10% tip is expected. In bars and cafes, tips are not necessary, but it is polite to leave some coins for the waiter.

How much cash can I take to Albania? The maximum cash you can take to Albania is a total value of one million Albanian LEK. You need to add up the total value of cash, foreign currencies, precious metals or gems, valuable items and antiquaries. If you have more than one million LEK, you need to declare the amount at the border. 

Image Credit

Old Bazaar Kruja, Albania | Klejdi Shtrepi | WikiCommons
Gjirokastra, Albania | Gjata Ervin | Pixabay
2000 Leke | Banknotes WS | WikiCommons
500 Leke | World Paper Money | WikiCommons