Currency in Albania, what money is in circulation, how is the exchange rate, and whether cards are accepted for payment – these are some of the first questions any tourist would ask. In this article, you will find answers to all these questions, along with many tips and life hacks that will help you save some money. And if not save, then at least make the traveler’s life a little easier.
Currency in Albania: General Facts, Exchange Rate
Let’s start with the fact that Albania is not currently a part of the European Union, although it aspires to be. Therefore, the official currency here is not the euro. The government’s plan is to adopt the Euro by 2030.
- The official currency of Albania is the Albanian Lek.
- International symbol – ALL.
- Internal symbol LEK. It is an abbreviation for Leka i Madh, which means the name of Alexander the Great.
- Since Albania has had little independence throughout its history, its national currency appeared quite recently. Only in 1926 did the country introduce its own currency – the gold franc.
- The smaller currency at that time was precisely the Lek. 1 gold franc was equal to 5 lek.
- It was only in 1947 that gold francs were phased out, and only one national currency was recognized in the country: the Albanian lek.
- During that time, small denominations called “kindarka” were also introduced. 100 kindarka equaled 1 lek. Over time, kindarka completely went out of circulation, and you won’t find them anymore.
The exchange rate of the Albanian lek to the US dollar and Euro
As of 2023, the exchange rate for the national currency of Albania is as follows:
- 1$ = 105 ALL. It’s easier and more convenient to consider 1 dollar as 100 lek.
- 1 euro = 120 ALL.
Important to know:Paper money and coins are currently in circulation in the country. The banknotes come in denominations of 5000, 2000, 1000, 500, and 200 lek. The coin denominations are 100, 50, 20, 10, and 5 lek. The 1 lek coin is no longer in circulation.
Currency of Albania: Where to exchange?
In the country, there are only two options for currency exchange to Albanian lek:
- Private exchange offices.
Important to know:It is better, easier, and more advantageous to exchange currency for Albanian lek at private exchange offices. The rates are always more favorable, and there is no commission unlike banks. Additionally, banks close in the evening, they have lunch breaks, while exchange offices are numerous and operate late.
It is also important to know that it is safe, and you won’t be deceived or robbed. It is practically excluded in Albania. Tourists are respected here, and the owners of exchange offices are local businessmen who value their reputation greatly. So feel free to exchange money at such establishments, as shown in the photo below.
Any exchange office will exchange your dollars, euros, Swiss francs, Canadian dollars, and a few other currencies. However, the main currencies they deal with are dollars and euros.
Tip:Don’t be surprised if the exchange office doesn’t have printed exchange rates. In general, price tags in Albania are a luxury. They are not always available everywhere, especially in small shops, bakeries, currency exchanges, etc. Just ask. It’s normal. By the way, you can read all about the shops in this country in a separate article.
What about credit cards in Albania?
The situation here is interesting. Well, if we call it interesting, Albania is still lagging behind in terms of non-cash payments, maybe somewhere around 1999 or at most 2005.
There are many ATMs in the country where you can withdraw money from your card. They are almost on every corner. The most popular ones are Bank of Tirana.
Important:Always check with your bank about the fees for cash withdrawal from ATMs in Albania before your trip. The fees can be quite substantial and vary depending on each bank and the type of your card. Moreover, there are only a few ATMs that dispense dollars or euros. There’s a good chance that you will have to withdraw lek, which means unfavorable conversion rates.
The easiest way is to travel to Albania with cash while having a reserve on your card. As for the safety in the country and the presence of scammers and the famous Albanian mafia, you can read about it in the article via the provided link.
Where in Albania can you pay by card?
A little background for clarity.
Today, the country is just starting to implement non-cash payments. 95% of purchases are still made in cash. It may be inconvenient for tourists, but you quickly get used to it. Plus, there are quite a few exchange offices, especially in major cities.
So, you can pay by card:
- At the airport. There is only one airport in the country. You can read all about it in the article – Tirana Airport.
- By the way, there’s an exchange office there, and the exchange rate is almost the same as in the city, just slightly lower. So, you can confidently exchange $50-100 upon arrival for initial expenses, so to speak.
- In supermarkets. Only in major ones. Keep in mind that some supermarkets may set a minimum threshold for card payments, usually around 1000 lek (10$). If your purchase is below that amount, they will ask for cash.
- In pharmacies.
- Some restaurants, although it is rather rare.
- Hotels, specifically hotels. Guesthouses, hostels, and apartments won’t accept cards.
Useful to know:As I mentioned earlier, you will be paying in cash 95% of the time. This is due to the high commission for businesses during card transactions and the reluctance to invest in payment terminals.
Currency of Albania: What money to bring with
Here’s the simple part. I strongly recommend bringing euros, specifically a portion of the amount in small denominations like 20-10-5 euros. This makes it more convenient for transactions without requiring change. With 100 euros, you might struggle to find change.
The country is eager to join the EU, and its neighbors, such as Montenegro, have already adopted the Euro. Even if you decide to exchange your dollars at an exchange office, having cash in Euros will allow you to:
- Pay for any accommodation. Hosts will gladly accept euros, and the cost of accommodation is often already quoted in euros.
- Pay for taxis.
- Many cafes and restaurants will accept euros.
- Rent a car. Renting a car in Albania is highly recommended. You can read all about it here.
- Purchase a SIM card. There’s a comprehensive review of internet options in this article. However, you can also pay for a SIM card with your card.
Useful to know:Even if you arrive in Tirana late at night when all exchange offices are closed, if you have euros, you can easily take a taxi to the city and check into your hotel. In the morning, you can exchange as many lek as you need. The same goes when you’re departing. If you have a day or two left and you’re unsure how many lek to exchange to avoid having leftover currency, you can pay for many expenses in euros.
Here are some important general points that will not only help you save money but also make your life easier:
- Come to Albania with cash in euros + have a reserve on your credit card.
- Exchange money at private exchange offices rather than banks. Exchange rates at different offices may vary slightly, but the differences are minimal. If you are exchanging a large amount, you can shop around for a better rate. However, if it’s around 200-300 euros, there won’t be much of a difference, but you can still explore your options.
- Always have small change with you. This includes coins and banknotes of 200 and 500 lek. When making small purchases, taking the bus, or in general, change is often not available when paying with large bills. Having small change will greatly simplify your life.
In conclusion, the currency of Albania today is the Albanian lek. I hope that as a tourist, you have found answers to all your questions regarding transactions in this Balkan country.
Wishing you a favorable exchange rate!
Resources to help you plan your dream trip to Albania
- Flights at the best prices with juicy discounts
- Car rental in Albania (cheaper – only by bus):
- Hotels and apartments throughout the country: Booking
- Tours, excursions and activities (including extreme ones):
- Comprehensive travel insurance: EKTA
- eSIM virtual sim card in Albania
- Taxi and transfers: Intui.Travel