While tourism prices around the world seem to be steadily increasing, Albania is one of the most economical destinations. The little country has an amazing amount of natural beauty, from crystal-clear turquoise waters along the coast, to awe-inspiring rugged mountains, and compared to the rest of Europe, it’s not over-exploited.
Cash is the primary mode of payment in Albania, with Euros widely accepted, along with the national currency, the Albania lek (ALL). Because the lek is a closed currency, it’s a good idea to come to Albania with lots of Euros in your pockets.
Most restaurants, hotels and activities in tourist areas will accept Euros for payments. For all other expenses, be prepared to pay in the local currency. Small markets and shops, buses, taxis and street vendors will accept cash only (although some taxis in large cities might accept Euros, you won’t get the best rate).
It’s always smart to have a wad of small local bills on hand, although, in shops, efforts will be made to get change for you if you present larger bills.
The Albanian lek currency includes coins and paper banknotes. Exchange values are approximately €1.00 = 101.00 Lek (ALL).
The coins are denominated as: 1 lek (rarely accepted or used) 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 lekë. People often round up or down for a difference of less than 5 or 10 lekë.
Albania had a currency shift long back, and there is still some confusion when prices are quoted in lek. Older locals will still quote the prior rate, which can sound like a simple purchase under €10 will cost you hundreds of dollars.
Just think practically and ask the shop owner to write down the price or ask for the Euro price to confirm. The discrepancy is two decimal places, but no one will take the mistaken (larger) amount from you if you unwittingly offer it up.
Banknotes come in 100 lekë, 200, 500, 1000, 2000 and 5000 lekë.
Credit or debit cards may be accepted in large multinational supermarkets, for larger purchases (electronics, eyeglasses, etc), in mall shops, finer dining establishments and large hotels. If you book ahead, check with your accommodation to see if they will accept your card, or if they prefer cash.
As is often the case, it’s better if you don’t exchange money at the airport or directly at borders, as the rate will be inflated. The best way to exchange your foreign currency (GBP, USD, Euros, etc) is at currency exchange booths that are widely available on the streets.
These kiosks, available throughout Albania, will offer a better (commission-free) rate than any bank. As mentioned above, your initial transportation from the point of entry will likely accept Euros, so you can wait until you are in a city centre to make exchanges for local currency.
ATMs are scattered frequently in large cities, and you’ll always find at least one ATM in smaller towns and areas, often one per bank. As of 2023, all bank ATMs in Albania charge a €5-6 ATM usage fee, plus a hefty currency conversion fee.
Although ATMs are usually open around the clock, they might run out of cash on busy high-season weekend and holiday afternoons. If you encounter an ATM that flashes an “out of service” screen, just check another bank’s ATM nearby, and you’ll probably be able to get some cash.
For the most part, Albania is a very safe country regarding money, and tourists are rarely the targets of money crimes. However, it’s always wise to be careful about showing large amounts of cash publicly.
You’ll see local Albanians flashing large wads of cash regularly, but, although it is rare, opportunists could look at tourists flashing money differently.
One can read scam alert sites on the internet about Albania, but for the most part, Albania is not dangerous. The country is very safe, money-wise, unlike many other Western countries that are known for their pickpockets and complicated scams.
That said, it’s a fact that whenever alcohol is involved, chances for being scammed/cheated go way up… especially at crowded bars and late night parties/clubs. It’s a good idea to keep a clear head – for example: be sceptical if you’re an average-looking, nice guy and two bombshell girls suddenly take a huge interest in you and invite you to go drinking with them at their favourite bar.
You could end up with a huge bar bill (hundreds of dollars) that you will be coerced to pay under threat. So, just say no before you go, or, if you must, you choose the bar, and pay as you go for any drinks, saying no to overly expensive ones that the girls might order.
Car theft can also happen in Albania, so do make sure to lock your car, and park it in a safe place, and don’t keep expensive items visible as a temptation to thieves.
Street sellers or panhandlers, especially groups of boisterous children, might approach tourists in crowded areas, ganging up and asking for money. If approached, don’t engage. Just hold your purse or wallet close (pickpocketing is the main goal) and make your way to the closest shop to ask for help.
As mentioned above, Albania is an economical destination, but you can also save some money by:
Planning your trip to avoid the high season, as usually reasonable prices for accommodation, car rentals and tours double or triple at this time.
Booking accommodation in advance, taking advantage of good deals online
Renting a self-catering apartment for your vacation to save money by eating some meals in. Local fruits and veggies, plus grocery staples are quite cheap by European standards.
Flying to a nearby country and entering Albania via land border. Depending on where you plan to visit in Albania, you might find much better flight deals flying into Greece (think: Corfu, then an inexpensive ferry to Sarande) or by flying to North Macedonia (Skopje) and taking a bus to Tirana.
You could also take a bus from Skopje or drive/ride to Lake Ohrid and crossover into Albania at Pogradec, to spend time on the Albanian side of the enormous lake; then visit towns/cities in the east and south of Albania.
2 litres bottled water: .€.60
1.5 litre mineral water: €.60
bottle of domestic beer: €1.50
bottle of foreign beer: €2.00
bakery croissant: €.80 - 1.50
espresso: €.40 - .60
cappuccino: €1.20 – 1.50
museum tickets (in Tirana): €4.50 – €7.60
bus tickets between cities: €4.00 – €7.00
aspirin at pharmacy (30-pill box): €.80
lunch meal in restaurant: €4 - 7.00
Planning a trip to Albania? Read our other Albania travel guides