As relocation experts, at Move One we understand how important it is to familiarize yourself with your potential new home before making the big move, and of course to have a seamless transition when settling in your new destination and to make you relocation to Albania as hassle-free as possible.
Move One profiles a country every month, providing an in-depth look at Relocation, Immigration, Moving and Pet Transportation issues, which could pose problems for expats. This month, we take a closer look at relocation to Albania.
The Republic of Albania is one of Europe’s most beautiful and least-developed nations. The country has 362 kilometers of Adriatic and Ionian coastline and a scenic mountainous interior, both of which are becoming an increasingly popular holiday destination. Situated in South Eastern Europe, it is bordered by Montenegro to the north-west, Kosovo to the north-east, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south.
Albania first declared its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1912, but then underwent the better part of a century of being re-conquered and occupied by a variety of foreign powers, ranging from Italy to the Germans. Modern Albania emerged in the early 1990’s, when it established a democratic rule in place of 49 years of highly insular communism. Transition to a modern economy and government has taken a great deal of work on a national scale, and whilst there are still some sectors with a long way to go, Albania has made significant improvements over the last ten years.
Albania has gradually been aligning itself with western European norms, has successfully attained NATO membership, and is currently working towards EU membership for 2014, after being refused in 2010. The EU has made significant investments in Albania’s industry and transport systems in order to assist its candidacy. The global economic downturn affected Albania a great deal less than was predicted and notably less than its Adriatic neighbors. Aggregate economic growth in 2010 was around five percent, double what was predicted for it during the previous year.
Albania’s main export and chief sector of growth is tourism. Significant progress has been made in the necessary infrastructure, but despite making the Lonely Planet list of top ten European destinations in 2010, the World Economic Forum still rated it 90th out of a surveyed 133 countries in terms of competitiveness in the tourism industry. Regardless, tourism has more than doubled over the last five years, and in the process reduced its public deficit by 58 percent.
Albania is still one of the poorest countries in all of Europe. In the last official census of 2009, annual per capita income was $4,070. More than half of the eligible adult population works abroad in neighboring countries, sending money home to their families, accounting for as much as 40 percent of all economic activity in Albania. Unemployment is high, estimated at 13 per cent in 2010, whilst foreign direct investment is low and infrastructure poor.
According to property analysts and the lengthily titled EC ‘Economic and Financial Affairs Department’s Candidate and Pre-Accession Countries’ Economic Quarterly Report Q4 2010′, the Albanian property market managed to weather the effects of the economic crisis well. The report accepts that the market was not exactly inflated to begin with, but Albania still leads the recovery amongst the Western Balkan nations.
Albania has become a focus for early investors, as it currently has some of the lowest property prices in Europe, even within the capital of Tirana. Price per square meter was roughly $1,000 in 2010, whilst the average for Manhattan at the same time was around $15,000.
The insecurity of the legal system for land ownership has been one of the sticking points that previously failed its application to the EU. The European Commission has identified Albania’s persistent land tenure insecurity as of particular concern. Renting is strongly encouraged, as there is a high chance that ownership of any urban or sub-urban property comes with a raft of encumbrances and legal wrangles going back decades. Despite the tripling of urban property prices between 1996 and 2006, overall rates remain some of the lowest in Europe, thanks to what the World Bank identified as “issues of unresolved rights of pre-1945 landowners; complexity of ownership patterns in urban areas; lack of awareness of the value of land registration; and complexity and corruption in the land development and registration process.”
The World Bank, the EU and even the Danish government have weighed in with funding and expertise to try and rationalize the land market in Albania, but as yet it remains legally complex and probably best avoided by all but the most determined and long-term expats. The vast majority of expats reside within the capital Tirana, as it is the only center of international resources, such as international schools and private medical clinics, and is the only place where apartments approaching western standards can be found outside of holiday developments.
Like many post-Soviet nations under Russian control, the Albanian health system was grim but efficient, but nearly completely failed after the fall of communism. Whilst reports indicate that conditions are improving, hospitals still frequently experience shortages of some of the most basic medical supplies. Expats are strongly recommended to ensure that their medical insurance covers private treatment whilst in Albania, including the eventuality of medical evacuation.
Within Tirana a range of private hospitals and clinics are available, the standard of which have increased significantly along with the influx of tourists and foreign investors. Availability of high-standard private care drops off sharply to nearly zero outside of the capital, aside from a few seasonal-opening clinics in and around large tourist developments. The private sector is still developing and covers most of the pharmaceutical and dental services, as well as some clinics for specialized diagnosis, again mainly located in Tirana.
The tap water in Tirana is considered safe for purposes of cooking, washing and brushing of teeth. However, bottled water is recommended for drinking, especially outside of the capital.
For detailed information about the state of the health care system in Albania, as well as a comprehensive list of available medical and dental facilities for expats, please see our article, Medical Services in Albania.
Expats employed by local companies are required to pay the same income tax, social security and health contributions as local employees. Expats employed by companies registered overseas will only be liable for a flat personal income tax rate of 10 per cent, and will not be required to make social or health contributions. Corporate tax for businesses registered overseas is also levied at a standard flat rate of 10 percent.
Despite starting from a poor position, Albania is one of the fastest growing economies in Europe, and the poverty rate has been reduced by more than half over the last ten years. Due to vagaries in economics, the entrenchment of grey-market economies and long-term public debt, the cost of living is unusually mixed in Albania. Although Albanians have almost the lowest purchasing power in Europe, the country also has some of the highest prices in basic consumables. In 2009, food prices in Albania reached 70 percent higher than the average in EU countries, whilst medical products were ten percent more expensive than the average.
The following list will give you an idea of prices and cost of living in Tirana:
|Product||Price ($ USD)||Local currency (Albanian Lek – ALL)|
|Meal for two, Inexpensive Restaurant||$20||2000|
|Meal for two, Mid-range Restaurant||$35||3500|
|Medium Latte @ Starbucks/Costa||$25||2500|
|Fresh Milk (1 liter)||$2||150|
|Sugar (1 kg)||$1||100|
|Tomatoes (1 kg)||$2||150|
|Chicken fillet (1 kg)||$5||600|
|Apples (1 kg)||$2||150|
|Evian Water (1.5 liter bottle)||$2||150|
|Domestic Beer (Korca) (1 bottle)||$2||150|
|Heineken(330 ml bottle)||$3||350|
|Pack of Marlboro Red||$2||250|
|Lipton Tea (25 bag box)||$2||200|
|One-way Ticket (local transport)||$0.3||30|
|Monthly Transport Pass||$9||900|
|Taxi (5km, downtown)||$4||400|
|Gasoline (1 liter)||$2||185|
|Fitness Club, Monthly Fee for 1 Adult||$35||3500|
|Cinema, International Release, 1 Seat||$5||500|
|Pair of Men’s Levis 501||$40||4000|
|Old Spice Deodorant (stick 2.25 oz)||$45||4500|
|Palmolive Soap (Bar, 80g)||$4||400|
|Colgate Toothpaste (reg. tube)||$4||450|
|Johnsons Baby Shampoo (15 oz.)||$5||500|
|Tide Detergent (Powder, 33 oz.)||$15||1500|
|4 x Duracell ‘AA’ Batteries||$8||800|
|Windex Window Cleaner (32 oz.)||$3||350|
Albanian is the official state language, and is taught in schools and used by all state and national institutions. Outside of Albania, there are significant ethnic Albanian populations who claim it as their primary language in Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia, Greece and even in rural Sicily and elsewhere in Italy. The language is of the Indo-European language family, and since 1909, has officially had a standardized roman alphabet. The most commonly spoken foreign languages in the country are English, Italian and Greek.
The concentration on the tourist industry has significantly increased the number of English speakers in the capital and the tourist destinations, but communicating in English alone will have limited success, particularly in rural areas.
Here is a selection of basic, useful phrases
|Thank you (very much)||Faleminderit (shumë)|
|You’re welcome||Ju lutem|
|Bless you (when sneezing)||Shëndet!|
|What’s your name||Si ju quajnë?|
|My name is…||Unë quhem…|
|Do you speak English?||A e flisni anglishten?|
|Would you marry me?||Pranon të martohesh me mua?|
|Can you speak slowly?||Mund të flasësh më ngadalë?|
|I don’t understant||Unë nuk ju kuptoj.|
|Can you help me?||Mund të më ndihmoni?|
|How much is this?||Sa kushton kjo?|
|My hovercraft is full of eels||Hoverkrafti im është plot me ngjala|
Similarly to the health system, educational institutions rapidly fell into disrepair with the fall of communism. Albania previously had an unusually high rate of literacy considered against its GDP, but with the systemic decline of state education, the literacy rate is expected to drop sharply as significant numbers of pupils graduate secondary education without functional literacy.
International Schools in Tirana
International schools are available in Tirana, usually acting as the central point of expat enclaves and districts.
Tirana International School
Str. e Elbasanit, P.O. Box 1527, Tirana
Tel: +355 4 2365 239
AutostradaTiranë-Rinas, Km 12, Tirana
Tel: +355 4 2232 086 / 2222 077
European University for Tourism
Blv. ZOGU I, Tirana
Tel: +355 4 2265 265
International University of Tirana
Str. e Elbasanit (Rr. FuatToptani), NR 54, Tirana
Tel : +355 4 2250 550
American University of Tirana
Autostrada Tirana-Durrës, Km.1, Tirana
Tel: +355 (0) 67 20 01 100 / 67 20 02 900
University of New York Tirana
Str. Komuna e Parisit, P.O.Box 2301, Tirana
Tel: +355 4 2273 056, Fax: +355 4 2273 059
Universitas Mater BoniConsili
Str. Durresit, Paola PLA 1613, Tirana
Tel: +355 4 2273 290, Fax: +355 4 2273 291
Arsakeio Tirana (Greek College)
Tel: +355 4 21800372, Fax: +355 4 21672771
Str. “MihalGrameno”, Tirana
Tel: +355 69 23 78869
Albania has hundreds of miles of picturesque coastline along the Adriatic and Ionian seas, and is backed by the central Balkan mountain ranges, encouraging a widely varied climate in a comparatively small area. The coastal lowlands enjoy a classically Mediterranean climate, while the highlands have a much cooler continental one and in the interior, the weather varies between the two.
Inland temperatures are chiefly affected by differences in elevation, with very low winter temperatures in the mountains caused by the continental air mass moving across them. Also as a result, there is an almost year-round cold north-easterly wind, even during the summer months. Due to the cold winds meeting the warmer Mediterranean air, it rains a lot, particularly on the central uplands. Albania is blessed with some of the wettest areas in Europe, especially the Albanian Alps, but it rains only half as much in the warm lowlands.
Given how little data there is about some of the areas in the Albanian uplands, the region remains something of a frontier for meteorologists and climatologists. As recently as 2009, a team from the University of Colorado discovered a series of small glaciers at unusually low elevations in a northern mountainous region that translates simply as ‘Cursed‘.
Crime against foreigners, beyond the expected petty thievery and burglary, is comparatively rare as it tends to attract a harsh response from law enforcement. Violent crime is centered on the north and north-western parts of the country, and whilst use of firearms has increased in frequency, it has tended to be as a method of dispute resolution between Albanians, rather than directed at foreigners. The biggest criminal enterprises in Albania are counterfeited and pirated goods, of which Albania has become a significant regional exporter.
Driving is dangerous in Albania. Outside of the nicer parts of Tirana, the roads and the driving conditions deteriorate quickly, even before the city limits. The roads crack in winter and melt in summer, making potholes a concern, even on major motorways. Those very few areas with street lighting are not necessarily lit due to patchy infrastructure, corruption and incompetence, and traveling at night is generally discouraged. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are considered a good idea, even in suburban environments. Foreign license plates will attract a great deal more attention from the Albanian Traffic Police than local ones, and expats have reported a remarkably high instance of minor traffic infractions requiring small, on-the-spot cash fines to be paid.
Fatality rates on Albanian roads are amongst the highest in Europe, thanks to a combination of aggressive driving, bad roads and the scarcity of emergency medical services. Expats have reported that the best way to navigate Albanian traffic is to adopt an extremely defensive style, avoid all and any provocation, and possibly assume that the other diver is armed.
Things to See and Do
Albania is a fascinating destination for anyone with an interest in history, as its location has given it a storied and ancient heritage. Under the modern city of Durres is the site of two ancient cities, one atop the other, of Epidamnos and Dyrrachium. In 700 BC these cities were amongst the powerhouse metropolises of the known world. Today, visitors can still see impressive remains of an amphitheater, public baths and an aqueduct from the reign of the Emperor Hadrian. Even for expats who are not history buffs, the long and dynamic history of Tirana is worth looking into at the National Historic Museum, showing how the capital was shaped by Greek, Roman, Ottoman and even Norman influences. For some truly impressive history, see the ancient site of Butrint in the Saranda region, one of the most important Ancient Greek sites anywhere on the Mediterranean. The city dates back over three thousand years, and according to the poet and journalist Virgil, was founded by the son of King Priam of Troy. If archaeology is just a little too dusty for you, the Albanian coastline and countryside is attracting tourists from all around the world, and is worth exploring extensively.
|January 1-2||New Years Day|
|March 14||Summer Day|
|March 22||Nevruz Day|
|April 4||Catholic Easter|
|May 1||Labor Day|
|September 9||* Bajram Day|
|October 19||Mother Theresa Day|
|November 16||* Bajram Day|
|November 28||Independence Day|
|November 29||Liberty Day|
|December 8||Youth Day|
|December 25||Christmas Day|
* Non-fixed date (depends on lunar-calculation), date given is for 2010
If you are considering moving to Albania, Move One’s relocation services include city orientation, home and school searches, immigration as well as door to door moving services worldwide and cover packing of personal effects, warehousing, pet transportation and fine art shipping. Should you need help with your corporate or individual relocation needs, or if you would like to receive a free moving quote, or if you have any questions about relocation to Albania, do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.