Albania was the first country we visited where we really didn’t know what to expect. When we told others about our plans to spend a month there, we were often met with a blank look or heard some negative stereotype about the country. In contrast, almost everyone who had actually experienced the country seemed to love it. We decided to approach the capital city, Tirana, with an open mind.
And we were so glad we went! We had a great time in Tirana, and the cost of living there was incredibly low. For us, this meant we didn’t have to think twice about ice cream (sundaes), eating out, or grabbing a coffee whenever we felt like it. Let’s take a moment to break down our monthly expenses in Tirana, Albania:
We booked a two bedroom Airbnb with air conditioning and an elevator in the center of town. COST - $555/month
Once we arrived in Tirana, we were able to easily walk to grocery stores, restaurants and cafes. On occasion, we took buses, which were incredibly affordable at $0.34/ride. A taxi ride across town set us back about $5. Even long distances buses were quite affordable - our family of four paid $55 for a 4-hour bus ride from Tirana to Podgorica, the capital of the neighboring country.
Groceries in Albania were very inexpensive. A liter of milk was around $1, a loaf of bread was $0.50, a large watermelon cost $3 and a kilogram of cherries was just over $2. You get the picture - unless you are buying something imported, local fruits, vegetables and milk products are incredibly affordable. Our total expenditure on groceries for the month was only $220...
...which was partly due to the fact that we ate out a lot! Restaurants in Tirana are everywhere, and they are both delicious and inexpensive. Typical lunches of grilled meat, feta cheese, bread and a Greek salad would cost less than $10 for the entire family. Italian food in Tirana is excellent, and two pizzas and a large salad at a nice establishment would feed the family for around $12. At these prices, it made sense to experience the local restaurant culture and leave the more frugal home cooking for our more expensive destinations. A month of restaurants, cafes and lots of gelato set us back about $200.
This category included excursions such as taking a cable car to the top of a mountain outside Tirana, going swimming in a large aquatic complex in the city, and frequent visits to indoor play spaces for the kids (especially on days when temperatures hit greater than 95 F). Total: $150.
Given the low cost of living, we decided to get dental cleanings while in Tirana. We asked around for recommendations and found a friendly and knowledgeable dentist who spoke English. Dental Cleaning: $18 I was also in need of a haircut, and decided to treat myself to one of the better salons in town. I was very happy with their work. Haircut: $27
Total Expenditures: $2,000 (with no attempts to be frugal)
Bottom line, we have no doubt that Albania will become a more popular tourist destination in the future. The history and culture of this Mediterranean culture are fascinating, and the capital city boasts cafes and restaurants on every corner. Prices are so low that you can happily treat yourself. If you are visiting more expensive Western European countries, the low cost of living in Albania can help balance out those higher expense destinations.