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6 Best Places to Live in Albania

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Albania is one of those countries that took us by surprise. After selling the van we lived in during our Western US road trip, we wanted to move somewhere affordable, scenic, welcoming, and ideally in Europe.

That's how we landed in Albania.

This country quickly met then surpassed our expectations. 3 months living in Albania came and went far too quickly.

Whether you're a digital nomad like we were and want a place to spend a few months or are looking for a long-term home abroad, there's a lot to love about this Balkan country.

Let's dive into the best places to live in Albania (from my experience and that of other expats) and some things you'll want to know before you buy your plane tickets.

Short on time? Here’s the cheat sheet:

💭Albania offers a bustling capital city, small mountain towns, and cities on the beach for expats and digital nomads to choose between.

🛂US citizens get 1-year visa free here. Most other foreigners are here on a retirement visa or the new digital nomad visa. 

🏥Accidents happen so come prepared with nomad insurance, just in case!

🏙️My top 6 recommendations for best places to live in Albania are:

  • Tirana
  • Saranda
  • Shkoder
  • Durres
  • Vlore
  • Korca

🚗To get around Albania, I recommend renting a car or traveling via public bus.

1. Tirana: For Year-Long Entertainment

Tirana Skanderberg Square, photo courtesy of depositphotos.com

Tirana, the capital city of Albania, is the biggest city and one that offers the most to do all year-round. Tirana is home to about half a million residents, making it by far the biggest city in Albania.

The architecture in Tirana is mainly reminiscent of its Communist past, with brightly painted block-style buildings at every corner. The snow-capped mountains in the distance adds a lot to your day-to-day view.

Compared to other European capital cities, Tirana boasts a very affordable living cost.

Pros to Living in Tirana

Since Albania gets 4 true seasons, the best time to visit affects a lot of the smaller towns more than it does Tirana.

In Tirana though, although the weather will get cold, most places, like bars, restaurants, and shops, will stay open year-round. In the summer though, the energy of the city drastically changes with everyone soaking up the sun on outdoor patios.

If you're interested in the ease of international travel, living in Tirana will be best. With the exception of the ferry to Corfu in Saranda or to Brindisi in Vlore, Tirana is home to the international airport, opening up your options for weekend getaways.

Foodies will also love living in Tirana most. The mix of international restaurants and traditional cuisine is fantastic. You'll have an endless stream of affordable places to try while living here.

Another perk to living in Tirana is for the history buffs. There's a wide array of museums and bunkers from the communist days.

Cons to Living in Tirana

Driving in Albania is a little bit chaotic and nowhere is that more obvious than in the capital city. You'll want to look both ways and sometimes even the sidewalk before deciding to cross the street.

This was my first time seeing a capital city transform so much. While compared to the rest of the country, it's a year-round city, you can expect a big difference between winter and summer.

In general, Tirana is much safer than its reputation but just like any city, it's best to keep your head on a swivel and practice general safety tips.

Best Areas of Tirana to Live in

Before signing a contract, I recommend you arrive in Tirana first. Get a feel for the area you're interested in living in by booking a hotel or an apartment rental on Vrbo or Airbnb.

📍The best areas to live in Tirana as an expat are:

  • Laprake: Here you'll find tree-lined streets and well-connected bus routes. To be as centrally located as possible, the Tirana getaway apartment is a great choice.
  • Don Bosko: This neighborhood has large apartment blocks, which typically means plenty of apartment openings. This luxury apartment is great for a family moving to Albania.
  • Blloku: For those that want a lively neighborhood, Blloku is a great choice. This one-bedroom apartment is a fantastic choice. 

2. Saranda: For a Tranquil Coastal Paradise

I never got tired of this balcony view in Saranda

Saranda is located in the south, on the coast, just north of the popular resort destination, Ksamil. While some might actually prefer Ksamil, Saranda offers more year-round livability, albeit just slightly.

We chose to live in Saranda for much of our time in Albania and really loved it but it's not for everyone and the time of the year will drastically change your experience.

Pros to Living in Saranda

Living in Saranda means living on the beach. And while that's not unique to all other places on this list, it is a huge perk when compared to inland cities.

From Saranda, you get to look out onto the Greek island, Corfu. It makes for a dreamy view and also an easy getaway accessible by ferry.

Just like everywhere else in Albania, Saranda has a low cost of living. There are not many places in the Mediterranean where you can have a high quality of life with such affordable costs.

Although Saranda is small, there's everything you could need: bars, restaurants, a large promenade, gyms, and markets for groceries.

Right outside of Saranda is the stunning beach town of Ksamil. While the beaches in Saranda are nothing to brag about, the ones here are. Between these 2 towns is Butrint National Park, home to recently discovered Roman ruins.

Cons to Living in Saranda

Saranda is built on a hill so your desire to constantly walk up or down has to be pretty big.

It's not really necessary to have a car when living in Saranda but many expats tend to buy one thinking they can save themselves the hike while enjoying an apartment with a view. While that could work well in theory, during the summer, it's nearly impossible to find parking along the coast.

During the off season, Saranda practically closes down with very few places open. Markets for food don't typically close but bars and restaurants will. Although far south, the wind can be brutal during the winter there.

Best Areas of Saranda to Live in

When looking at a map of the city, you'll see Saranda is made up of 5 roads that run parallel to one another, starting at the coast. Most locals refer to these roads at numbers, road 1, 2, etc. Road 5 is where we lived and while we did have epic views, the hill to get up there is tough.

Prices though tend to get lower the higher you get. For me, I'd take a view and stunning Adriatic sunsets any day of the week and as an avid hiker, didn't mind the hill. It did make me lose motivation to hop down to the coast for a quick coffee though.

📍My favorite part about living in Saranda was the view so my biggest recommendation would be to book an apartment with big windows and a balcony like this apartment with a sea view

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3. Shkoder: For Easy Access to Nature

Bandido & I loved the walking street in Shkoder

Shkoder was the last place we stayed in Albania and one we wish we would have visited sooner and had more time in. We instantly fell in love with this city and could see this as our home if we decide to return to Albania.

Shkoder is in Northern Albania on the border with Montenegro. The city is just off of Lake Shkoder.

Pros to Living in Shkoder

If you're eager to spend your free time in the fresh air surrounded by stunning mountains, you'll love living in Shkoder. Shkoder is what people call the gateway to the Albanian Alps and is most likely where you'll start your trip to Theth for the impeccable Theth to Valbona thru trail.

Since Shkoder is on the border, Shkoder is actually closer to Podgorica (1hr) than it is to Tirana (2hr), giving you easy access to that city center as well.

Shkoder itself is a really cute town with a pedestrian-friendly area that's full of bars, restaurants, shops, and stunning mosques. Plus, since it's flat, it's a very bicycle-friendly town.

Cons to Living in Shkoder

There's a few cons to living in Shkoder. Compared to other parts of the country, the expat community is pretty small here. If you're interested in meeting other foreigners, more likely than not, the ones you meet out for a beer are hikers passing through rather than expats living here.

I only spent time in June in Shkoder when the weather was pristine but expats say that one of the biggest cons to living in Shkoder is the heavy rainfall in the winter. Given it's location, flooding isn't all that uncommon.

Best Areas of Shkoder to Live in

Personally, I recommend living right in the city center of Shkoder. One of the best things about living here is the easy walkability and bikeability so I'd want to take as much advantage of that as possible.

If you're after a quieter lifestyle though, you might prefer the neighborhoods closer to the lake so you can spend your mornings on a paddleboard or kayak.

📍To get your bearings in Shkoder, I'd start off central and scope out the area before signing a lease, like this 2-bedroom apartment.

4. Durres: For a City on the Sea

Durres' city center and coastline, photo courtesy of depositphotos.com

Durres is the 2nd largest city in Albania but only has around 100,000 inhabitants. It's about 30 minutes west of Tirana directly on the Adriatic Sea.

While it does offer beaches, part of Durres is a port city so you can expect big boats and areas closed off to swimming.

Like much of Albania, there's a lot of history to discover in Durres. Explore ruins, temples, and a culture shaped by Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans.

Pros to Living in Durres

If you want to soak up the Mediterranean climate as much as possible but still live in a city, Durres is a great compromise. You can find pretty much everything Tirana offers, just on a smaller scale.

During the summer, Durres can get pretty crowded. The city hosts a lot of events and boasts exciting nightlife. This might be a pro for you or could be more of a con - your choice!

Compared to Albania's capital, the cost of living is much more affordable. Being only 30 minutes away though, you can still spend the day in Tirana or go out for a nice meal before heading home to Durres, giving you the best of both worlds.

Cons to Living in Durres

Much like other beach towns in Albania, the seasons greatly change the landscape. During the summer months, locals flock to the beautiful beaches but in winter, those same beaches are dead. This change in population and activity can be tough to deal with.

Depending on the season, it could be tough to find a long-term rent starting in the summer as most tenants would prefer to rent it out to tourists to earn more.

Best Areas of Durres to Live in

Most foreigners who live in Durres choose to live on the coast to enjoy the Adriatic coastline as much as possible. If you prefer more going on all year-round, you'll enjoy living in the city center instead.

📍Wiggle your toes in the sand on a daily basis with this sea view apartment or have the city right at your fingertips at this cute one-bedroom apartment.

5. Vlore: For Italy in Albania

Vlore from the sea, photo courtesy of depositphotos.com

Vlore is another coastal city in Albania near the center or southern region. It's the 3rd most populated city in the country and known as the area with the best beaches.

Given its close distance to Italy (just 50 km from the Italian heel), Vlore actually has a close history with the Italians. You can start your day with an espresso and end it at any of the number of Italian cuisine restaurants. You can even hop on the ferry to the country itself.

Think of it like Italy but with a fraction of the cost of living.

Pros to Living in Vlore

Vlore is another great coastal town in Albania. Compared to Durres, it's similar but the beaches are much more beautiful and you can skip the busy port.

It's a low-key city though so don't expect too much going on. The expats and digital nomads who call Vlore home love it because it's low-key and quiet.

Along this area of the coast, there are a lot of undeveloped areas and national parks, ripe for exploring and outdoor activities. If you have your own car or even your own boat you'll have a lot of fun enjoying nature in this part of Albania.

Cons to Living in Vlore

The cons to living in Vlore can honestly be the same as the pros. If you're not looking for a city that acts more like a fishing village than anything else, you might find it too laidback for your liking.

Best Areas to Live in Vlore

For more people, they'll say the closer to the Lungomare (the promenade along the coast), the better. Of course this also means a higher cost of living so there is a trade off. Between the Lungomare and the city center will really be hard to beat.

📍This central apartment will give you access to the coast and the city center so you can easily explore to find your long-term rental.

6. Korca: For Small Town Charm

The center of Korca, photo courtesy of depositphotos.com

Pretty far from everywhere else on this list is Korca, 1 of the 6 best places to live in Albania. Here you'll be closer to Northern Greece and North Macedonia than you will be to other places to explore Albania.

Given its location, it tends to get skipped from many Albanian travel itineraries but not for a good reason. There's a lot to love about Korca.

Pros to Living in Korca

Korca is actually one of the oldest cities in Albania, so it has a rich heritage for you to soak up. Within Albania, it's one of the country's most famous cities so it has a great reputation.

The city center is home to wide boulevards that make an afternoon stroll feel like something special. There's plenty of fantastic traditional restaurants, bars, and green spaces.

In the winter it typically gets covered in a blanket of snow but instead of getting grungy like most cities, it turns Korca into a winter wonderland. While most places in winter are dead, Korca actually gets a lot of tourism during this time so you don't need to worry so much about the seasonality that affects other smaller cities and towns on this list.

If you have a car, there's plenty of lakes and mountains to explore just outside of the city limits.

Cons to Living in Korca

Without a car, you might get bored in Korca. Since it is small, you won't have the diversity of places to visit and things to do as you would in bigger places. Unless you're eager for a routine, this repetitiveness might tire you quickly here.

Its location also means you're a bit isolated from a big city or international airport. So unless you're happy to hang out in Southern Albania and the neighboring countries, your options for weekend getaways will be limited.

Best Areas to Live in Korca

Since Korca is so small, I recommend living in the city center. Your life will be really walkable if you choose this area which to me is a huge perk.

📍This spacious apartment will allow you to easily explore Korca on foot to find the ideal area for you.

Before You Move to Albania

Hidden gems like this beach await you in Albania

We loved our time living in Albania but there are some things that you'll want to know to make settling in even easier.

Long-Term Visa Options

If you're a United States resident or citizen, you're able to stay in Albania for 1 year, visa-free. Anyone that has lived abroad before knows just how big this perk is to be able to skip out on visa hassles for an entire year. Know that this doesn't give you residency, you can just think of it as a prolonged tourist visa.

Most other nationalities are allowed to stay in Albania for 3 months visa-free. You would then need to do a visa run to restart your 90 days.

They do have other visas that will allow you to stay in the country long-term.

The most popular are Albania's retirement visa and the new digital nomad visa, called Albania Unique Stay Visa. This one allows you to stay 1-year in Albania and is renewable for up to 5 years, as of now.

Culture & Language

Depending on where you live, you'll want to speak some Albanian. We were able to get by just fine with some basic words and phrases as most people we came across spoke English.

The only time this was pretty trying was in Theth and Valbona. Everywhere else we went in the country, English was sufficient.

I am a firm believer that if you want to stay in a country, learning the language will make your life much, much richer. You'll be able to better connect with locals and have experiences that as a non-native speaker you wouldn't have been able to have.

Getting Around the Country

Since we travel full-time with our dog, we tend to opt for cars and trains when traveling.

Train travel isn't an option in Albania, so we stuck to rental cars to get between cities and walked and took the local bus within places.

Albania does have transportation connections so if you prefer to travel the country via bus, you'll be able to do so. Just know that the roads aren't always in the best shape and in the mountains they can be quite windy. If you get car sick like I do, come prepared!

Best Places to Visit in Albania

Albania is full of stunning places to visit, not just great places to live.

You might be thinking, wouldn't they be the same list? And in some cases there is some overlap but in general, living somewhere is far different than just visiting. All of the cities listed above would also be great for tourism, but these best places to visit in Albania might not be the best to live in:

  • The Accursed Mountains (Theth/Valbona)
  • Berat
  • Llogara National Park
  • Gjirokaster
  • Ksamil

Where Will You Choose to Live in Albania?

Be sure to plan for a weekend away to Gjirokaster

Although a small country, Albania is full of beautiful cities, stunning nature, and well preserved Ottoman architecture. Once you start exploring, you'll be scratching your head wondering how this place has blown up in terms of international tourism but on the same note, you'll be thankful it hasn't and it be in on the secret.

Deciding where you'll live in Albania will be based on what kind of lifestyle you're looking for, from the bustling capital city to quiet mountain towns and cities on the beach. This beautiful country has a spot for you, you just need to choose it!

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