Discovering Tirana, Albania

Tirana, Albania, might be the easiest option if you’ve ever dreamed of living in Europe!

Nestled on the shores of the Adriatic Sea, it’s a popular vacation spot for many Europeans due to being a vibrant city, offering a unique blend of stunning landscapes, rich history, and a welcoming community.

Its cost of living is low compared to the US and other places, so it might also be an excellent place to call home.

After spending two months here, we’re genuinely impressed and excited to finally share it with you!

Watch Our Video About Tirana Albania

Visa Options

Before exploring Tirana’s charms, let’s consider the practicalities. Albania offers various visa options for those seeking to establish residency.

There are pathways for different needs and circumstances, from a 1-year tourist visa for U.S. citizens to 90-day tourist visas, and long-term permits for retirees, investors, and digital nomads.

Whether you’re a US passport holder or from elsewhere, Albania’s visa options make it remarkably accessible for those seeking to live in Europe.

To qualify for a residency visa you’ll need proof of funds, an Albanian bank account, and an Albanian address. Residency visas can be renewed for 5 years after which you can apply for permanent residence.

Living in Tirana, Albania

I heart Tirana signNow, let’s delve into what makes Tirana such an appealing destination for expats!

We landed in Tirana in mid-January. The tiny airport, with only one runway, reminded us of the one in Cuenca, Ecuador.

Warm Hospitality

Albanians are renowned for their friendliness and hospitality and for welcoming and embracing newcomers.  The people are friendly (some of the friendliest we’ve met), they are very welcoming to tourists and foreign residents, nicely dressed, and they practice a healthy boundary in respecting your personal space.

English Accessibility

Tirana Albania picture of park and buildingUnlike some European countries, Tirana boasts many English speakers, easing communication and integration for expats in the larger cities!  This was evident in places like grocery stores, restaurants, dentists, Airbnb hosts, and young cab drivers, all of whom spoke English.

Ideal Location

Situated close to picturesque beaches and majestic mountains, Tirana offers endless opportunities for outdoor adventures. Plus, its international airport facilitates easy travel to other European destinations.

Manageable Size

With a population of around half a million, Tirana balances cosmopolitan amenities and a cozy atmosphere. Navigating the city is convenient, with most attractions within walking distance.  Traffic can be challenging, and while they stop for pedestrians outside the main areas, they can be a little crazy behind the wheel.

Clean and Safe Environment

Lighted flower sculptures in Tirana, AlbaniaTirana impresses with its cleanliness and safety, providing a tranquil setting for residents to enjoy their daily lives without worry.  We didn’t see much graffiti and were impressed with how people maintained their homes and businesses. We felt safe walking at night.

Affordability

Compared to many Western European cities, Tirana boasts a low cost of living, making it an attractive option for retirees and budget-conscious expats.  We will share a cost of living video, so hit the subscribe button if you want YouTube to tell you when it’s ready.

Quality Healthcare

Tirana offers decent healthcare facilities and is a popular medical and dental tourism spot. Tirana also boasts many cosmetic surgery options. While these services are excellent for those with private medical insurance, they may be out of reach for those relying on the public system!

JP broke a crown while in Tirana and had it replaced for 300 euros in a top notch facility with English-speaking staff.

Food & Culinary Scene

Tirana has a vibrant food scene catering to diverse tastes and preferences. Produce is affordable and easy to find in plentiful grocery stores, food stands, and farmer’s markets! Restaurants offer many cuisines, including Italian, Greek, Indian, Pizza, Irish Pubs, and American. We were huge fans of La Chakra (Indian).

Rich History and Culture

Sculpture in Tirana, AlbaniaAs a former communist country, Albania is steeped in history, offering intriguing insights into its past through landmarks, museums, and cultural experiences. We visited popular places such as the Pyramid of Tirana, Bunkart Museum, Skanderbeg Square, and Tanner’s Bridge!

Final Thoughts

Tirana, Albania, emerges as a hidden gem for expats seeking an affordable, welcoming, and culturally rich European destination. Whether you’re drawn to its natural beauty, warm community, or diverse opportunities, Tirana promises an unforgettable experience for those willing to embrace its charms.

We enjoyed our time here. The best part was that we didn’t experience culture shock or feel uncomfortable. As mentioned above, the people were friendly, welcoming, and accommodating. It reminded us a lot of Ecuador!

Are you ready to embark on your next adventure in Tirana? Let us know in the comments below, and stay tuned for more insights into expat life in Europe!

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Saranda Albania: Even Better than Expected

In this guest post, Warren R. Johnson shares his experiences in Saranda, Albania. Here is his story…

I first ran across Saranda, Albania several years ago on YouTube. I saw a video of the city and thought, “Oh, that looks like a nice place,” and didn’t give it another thought.

But as algorithms work, YouTube kept sending me more Saranda videos and I kept watching them. Soon I was hooked. I had to see this place.

Arriving in Saranda

In no time, I found myself on a small bus ascending mountains and cascading one of them straight down to the shore of the Adriatic Sea.  I had arrived in Saranda (officially Sarandë). I looked out at the Bay and then turned around. There was the view I had seen so often on YouTube: the panoply of white towers encircling the Bay.

As soon as I settled in, I headed straight to the water’s edge. I looked out upon the Bay, with a view to the Greek Island of Corfu. Then, I turned around and was struck with the view of the picturesque buildings climbing up the mountainside. This was no video. It was the real thing. I had arrived in Saranda.

Saranda Albania PromenadeI started to walk the promenade (boulevard to some). The central portion at the head of the Bay is paved with elongated tiles and runs for almost one kilometer. This is Saranda’s main focal point. Its flat, smooth walkway makes for easy walking in an otherwise vertical city. People walk this promenade day and night, not only for exercise but also to encounter their friends. The view in all directions is stunning, even more so at night with all the twinkling lights popping out around this crescent.

Five roads curve horizontally around the mountainside echoing the shape of the Bay. There is only one real vertical road crossing the five. Otherwise, access is by climbing several series of marble steps. Fortunately, not being one of the faint of heart, I climbed up and up with the reward of a magnificent view out to sea each time I turned around. I think I have climbed all of these stairways to become acquainted with the five roads.

Where is Saranda

Saranda sits in Southeastern Europe lying along the Adriatic Sea close to the border with Greece. It has been dubbed the Albanian Riveria. Situated at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, it is the unofficial tourist capital of Albania. Saranda is considered to be part of the larger Mediterranean Riviera.

What’s in a name? Greece considers its waters to be the Ionian Sea, including those around Corfu, while Albania lays claim to be alongside the Adriatic Sea. Saranda lies directly on the coast and climbs up the mountains. It is a beach town as well as a port for ferries and cruise ships.

Saranda is served by two international airports. The first is in Tirana, the nation’s capital. Reaching Saranda requires a five-to-six-hour bus ride. The second is in Corfu, with a thirty-to-fifty-minute ferry ride. The ferry port is right at the edge of the city center.

Viewing the Temperature Gauge

Mango Beach Saranda AlbaniaOne of the reasons for Saranda’s popularity is its weather. Saranda has a Mediterranean climate and claims to have 300 sunny days each year. In essence, the summers are hot and dry, while the winters are cold and wet.

The winter season lasts for seven months starting in late September, while the summer season lasts five months starting in late April. The wettest month is November, bringing five inches of rain. July sees the least amount of rain, averaging 0.04 inches. Consequently, winter brings higher humidity and wind than summer, but neither is excessive.

Mean temperatures in Saranda range from º5C (º41F) to º33.5C(º92.3F). These low and high figures generally occur in January and July-August. I should point out that these statistics are from pre-Covid days, a demarcation we seem to have developed. Bear in mind that the world’s weather seems to be changing, so these figures are probably fluid.

Shopping and Eating in Saranda

Shopping in Saranda follows the usual European model. I find that I have to shop in multiple stores to find what I want. There are no large department-type stores. There are four large grocery stores and many smaller convenience stores that specialize in one product or stock smaller quantities of multiple products. I need to go to a grocery store or visit one or more of the street vendors every other day. I can carry only so much each trip.

Supposedly, Saranda has more restaurants per capita than any other European country. This is hard to prove but might be realistic. Certainly, there is a large quantity of places to eat from traditional restaurants to sidewalk stands. In addition to Albanian restaurants, there are ethnic restaurants representing numerous countries. What there isn’t is any international fast-food establishments.

The New Cobblestones

Saranda Albania Sidewalk DesignI find an amazing civic project taking place in the central and western areas of the city. Sidewalks, and eventually streets, are being replaced with a new form of cobblestone. These 2-inch square stones, at 4-inch height, are being meticulously installed by hand in a decorative pattern.

Teams of four men throughout are hand-setting each of the stones. First, a sand base is laid and then curvature-shaped pipes of various sizes are laid to specification. A tan stone is placed within the outline of these curvatures and the areas between the pipes are filled in with white stones. Lastly, all the stones are cemented together.

This pattern is not just limited to the sidewalks. The streets will have the same stone pattern. To allow for easy accessibility, there will be no curbs. A shallow drain allowing for rain runoff separates the street from the sidewalk. This massive project must be very expensive, but the final result will put the city on the map, bringing a beauty unparalleled with other cities.

Another massive project underway is the construction of more apartment buildings and hotels. Although there are more such accommodations than there are permanent residents in Saranda, the need for expanding the lodging facilities is to meet the continually growing summer tourist demands. The winter season is fraught with multiple construction sites all around the city. It is a noisy time of year.

During the summer months, Saranda is overflowing with tourists. Accommodations need to be reserved well in advance. It would be unwise to think of driving in the city during this season because of the heavy congestion. Even the locals park their cars outside the city for their own travels during the summer. There is just nowhere to park.

An Expat Haven

Saranda MarinaA large international gathering of expats have chosen Saranda for temporary or permanent living. The weather and the lower cost of living here have induced these expatriates to leave their homes and journey to Saranda. It is not possible to calculate the number of expats here, as they come and go.

The United States played a supportive role in the Balkans War of the 1990s and Albania is especially thankful for their involvement. Consequently, Albania offers all Americans the opportunity to enter and remain for twelve months visa-free. At the end of the twelve months, or any time short of that, Americans must leave the country for three months before entering again. All other countries are granted the normative three months of visa-free entry.

Albania is open to hosting tourists, retirees, and other nomads. They have yet to offer a digital nomad visa, but you can work online for yourself or an international company. You may not be employed in Albania under normal conditions. Nonresidents do not need to pay any taxes, though it’s best to consult a tax attorney to clarify this. Albania is not in the Schengen Zone nor the European Union, though they are working toward joining both.

Final Thoughts

Despite the large amounts of tourists and heavy traffic during the summer months, Saranda lives up to the hype. It’s an excellent destination for a vacation or permanent move. The temperate climate and the beautiful scenery make it a must-visit. It was even better than I expected.

DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING WE GET A COMMISSION IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A PURCHASE THROUGH OUR LINKS. THERE IS NO COST TO YOU AND SOMETIMES YOU'LL EVEN GET A DISCOUNT BY USING OUR LINK. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

 

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