One of the most common questions we get is - how expensive is Albania?
The answer depends a lot on what and where you buy. We will try to summarize at least the basic things here.
First of all, it should be said that there is a big difference in food/accommodation prices by the sea (in Tirana) and in the mountains. Mountains are significantly cheaper.
What is used to pay in Albania?
The official currency of Albania is the Albanian lek (ALL) and its exchange rate is approximately 4.7– 5 lek to one Czech crown. In simple terms, the prices in Albania can be divided by five and you will get the Czech equivalent.
Before I get into the specific prices, I would like to mention an important thing - it is not usual to pay by card in Albania. And not even at gas stations. Of course, on the routes to the sea you will already find gas stations that accept cards. In the same way, by the sea, you can pay for accommodation by card in new hotels. But it is definitely not the standard we are used to in the Czech Republic.
Off the coast, the situation is even worse, don't expect terminals at all in mountainous areas.
Fortunately, the availability of ATMs has improved significantly recently, so withdrawing cash is not a problem.
For withdrawals, I strongly recommend using ATMs of BKT bank (bkt.com.al), which have by far the lowest withdrawal fee (at the time of writing, it was 700 lek). At other banks, the fee is higher, usually around 1,000 lek, but you will also encounter a fee of 1,700 lek, and that is already a racket.
For that reason, I recommend withdrawing at least 50,000 lek (approx. 10,000 CZK), where the fee is spread out at least a little.
In Albania, you can also pay in euros, especially at the seaside and in larger cities, this is not a problem. Albanians usually use the central bank exchange rate for conversion, which is a fair approach. I have not experienced the frauds and scams that we know from Czech exchange offices in Albania.
How much will you pay in Albania?
Albania is sometimes perceived as a cheap destination. The Albanians themselves are partly to blame for this designation, because this is how they sometimes present their country. But the truth is that staying by the sea can cost you the same as in Croatia.
On the contrary, you can live really cheaply in the mountains.
However, we're going on vacation, so we won't be looking at the crown, right? That's why I'm not listing all the things you might need, but just a list of pleasant and less pleasant surprises.
What will pleasantly surprise you
Food prices - the price/quality ratio for food is very good in Albania. This is true for the mountains and, surprisingly, for the coast as well.
It is typical for Albanians that the whole family goes out to eat and shares individual meals with each other. That's why you'll often find Albanians serving large portions that are usually enough for two. When you eat meat in the mountains, expect that you will get half a kilo of meat for 1,000-1,200 lek (approx. 200-240 CZK).
Similarly, the salad, which costs 200-400 lek (approx. 40-80 CZK), is a portion for at least two. The salad is made mostly of home-grown ingredients and is delicious.
The influence of Italian cuisine is noticeable in Albania, they have excellent pasta and pizzas. If you want to eat well and affordably by the sea, choose pasta with seafood. They cost around 700 lek (about 140 CZK), they are excellent and you will find yourself full.
French fries (a typical Albanian side dish) cost 150-200 leks (30-40 CZK). Here's one specific thing - fries are an appetizer for Albanians, so they usually bring them to you before the main course. So, if you want to have grilled meat and fries together, always inform the staff about it. But even this does not always guarantee that you will get meat and fries at the same time. 😊
For example, see our article on food in Albania.
Accommodation prices outside the coast - accommodation in the mountains is significantly cheaper than what we are used to here. And I don't mean hostels or accommodation with locals, but accommodation in guesthouses. In the mountains, it is not a problem to find accommodation including breakfast for around 3,000 lek/night (approx. 600 CZK). Likewise, accommodation is cheap in cities outside the coast. For example, in Berat you can find beautiful accommodation in historic houses for 2,500 lek/night including breakfast (approx. 500 CZK).
Raki and coffee - especially in the villages, raki and coffee are a sought-after combination to improve the day. Both tend to be of very high quality and at a low price. Raki costs an unbelievable 50-80 lek (10-16 CZK), espresso costs around 50 lek (approx. 10 CZK) and caffé latte 150 lek (approx. 30 CZK).
Cigarettes - I don't smoke, but I think it's fair to point this out - cigarettes are very cheap in Albania. They range from half to two thirds of the prices here in the Czech Republic.
What will surprise you unpleasantly
Gasoline/diesel prices - gasoline and diesel in Albania are currently around 40 crowns per liter, diesel is a little more expensive than gasoline (195 lek gasoline and 215 lek diesel). That is, more expensive than in the Czech Republic. So I recommend refueling before entering Albania, especially if you are driving through Montenegro (see our article - How to travel to Albania). Gasoline and diesel are significantly cheaper there than in Albania (around 1.5 EUR per liter).
Otherwise, the price of fuel is almost the same everywhere in Albania, it almost seems like a cartel. There is simply no point in speculating that you can buy them cheaper somewhere.
Regarding the fuel quality - I have never had a bad PHM fueled up. Albanians themselves have never told me there is a problem with this, nor do they prefer certain pump networks. They reluctantly recommend Kastrati, which is a network of fuel distributor stations. They suggest that as a distributor it will be best to keep it to yourself.
Price of a beach umbrella - I don't go to Croatia or anywhere near the sea so I have no experience of how much a beach umbrella costs in other destinations. Unfortunately, I remember a time when an umbrella was free on an Albanian beach, mostly as a service from a local bar, hotel or restaurant.
That's why 2,000 lek (approx. 400 CZK) for a parasol + two sunbeds seems a bit much to me. And that, unfortunately, is the lower limit. It can be as much as 4,000 lek (approx. 800 CZK). There are even beaches where prices depend on how far you are from the sea. This is the custom on the more luxurious beaches around Ksamil and Saranda. The hard-to-understand 15,000 lek (approx. 3,000 CZK) is then paid for the first line.
Many hotels have their own beaches, and when looking for accommodation, it is worthwhile to choose hotels that offer sunbeds in the price of the room.
Price of alcohol (does not apply to raki) - you might expect other alcohol to be cheap based on the price of raki. It is not so. Beer costs the same as in the Czech Republic and its quality is worse. Likewise, hard alcohol costs similarly to the Czech Republic. Mixed drinks are again as expensive as in the Czech Republic.
The situation is a little better with wine. If you drink local - so-called "house wine" - it is cheaper than in the Czech Republic and it is usually good. If you drink Albanian wine, it will also be cheaper than in the Czech Republic. However, there are not many Albanian wines yet, good ones are grown around Berat, but mostly you will come across Italian wines, which can be more expensive than in the Czech Republic, because Albanians consider them luxurious.
In short, if you go to the Albanian hinterland and mountains, you will live cheaper or as expensive as in the Czech Republic.
Prices may be higher by the sea, but it is certainly not a tragedy.
Note: All listed prices are valid as of September 2022. Apart from gasoline prices, there are no significant fluctuations.