After being dismissed as Europe’s underdog for decades, Albania is surging in popularity as the top digital nomad hub in the continent for 2023: remote workers from the U.S. have been flocking to the nation in record numbers, and in this article, we will finally explain why.
Europe is the preferred destination for American nomads seeking a better quality of life and culture, especially Western countries like Spain and Italy, but now that they are facing energy crises and rising prices, attention has slowly begun to shift from West to East.
Fortunately for remote workers and budget travelers alike, the Shqiptar heartland has remained largely shielded from the latest economic upheaval, and it has taken a firm stance against unnecessary visa bureaucracies:
Albania Is Growing Shockingly Fast
Out of all European countries that are offering long-term permits, the one that’s stealing the show is Albania, a previously unheard-of Balkan state that was off-limits to tourists up until the early nineties, the reason for that being a communist regime that was eventually toppled as pro-democracy movements advanced across Europe.
Very few foreigners were allowed to enter Albania — and an even fewer number of Albanians were allowed to leave — as the dictatorship ensured the country remained isolated from the rest of the world. In the meantime, other Mediterranean competitors flourished as tourism hubs, leaving a soon-to-reopen Albania no option but to clumsily try and catch up in modernizing its economy.
Fast forward thirty years since democratization, and it’s evolved a lot since the first post-Communist decade, plagued by unreliable pyramid schemes and widespread anarchy. It may not be as developed as some of its closest neighbors, namely Croatia or Greece, but it is treading an impressive path to recovery many in the European elite could only dream of.
According to data shared by both Instat and Eurostat and later compiled by Monitor magazine, almost 3.6 million stays were fulfilled in Albania throughout 2022, a 22.8 percent increase from 2021, in stark contrast with the European Union, which has registered an average of 5.6 percent decrease in tourist rentals, short or long-term, during this period.
Essentially, Albania had the highest increase in stays in the entire continent last year, shortly followed by Serbia (21.3%). The other top five entries, Denmark (12.3%), Iceland (5%), and Norway (2.5%), all recorded less-than-impressive growth. In total, 7.1 million foreigners visited in 2022, surpassing the previous record year of 2019 by 17%.
Why Is Albania So Popular All Of A Sudden?
Albania has always been a sleeper hit waiting to happen:
It Is Shockingly Cheap
It straddles the same Adriatic coastline shared by Croatia, Montenegro, and Western Greece, directly facing Italy on the opposite peninsula, and boasts the same Mediterranean weather and nature, and in spite of being cornered on all sides by world-renowned tourist destinations – pretty expensive ones, at that – it is shockingly cheap.
Comparing the cost of living between the main capital cities in the Balkan region, consumer prices in Tirana, Albania are:
- 5.2% lower than Belgrade, Serbia
- 6.7% lower than Bucharest, Romania
- 11.7% lower than Sofia, Bulgaria
- 21.7% lower than Zagreb, Croatia
- 26.1% lower than Ljubljana, Slovenia
- 32.6% lower than Athens, Greece
All of the countries above, perhaps with the exception of Croatia and Greece, are famous among backpackers for their historically low prices, yet Albania succeeds in being even more affordable than any of those listed. In order to live comfortably as a digital nomad in Tirana, with some level of luxury, Americans would need, on average, US$2,452 per month.
This includes renting a centrally-located, fully-furnished apartment, dining out in mid-range restaurants frequently, grocery hauls, and weekend escapades to the resort-packed coastline. In New York, you would need to budget at least US$9,000 to safeguard the same standards of living or higher that you could enjoy in Albania while spending roughly 70% less.
To put it plainly, it’s a steal of a deal.
Zero Border Bureaucracy
On top of its affordability, Albania is also open for tourism and business as usual, having removed all Covid entry requirements and offering bureaucracy-free, one-year stays – that is, when you’re a U.S. citizen. You read that right: Americans can relocate to Albania for up to twelve months visa-free, a privilege not extended to Canadians or even Europeans.
With such a relaxed entry policy and easy route to permanent residency, it’s barely surprising most nomads would rank Albania as their number one dream country for a long-term ‘workcation’. There is more:
Albanian Nature Is Simply Jaw-Dropping
It is getting increasingly popular for its jaw-dropping display of natural scenery. Up North, close to the borders with Kosovo and Montenegro, it is traversed by the menacing Accursed Mountains, a vast range comprised of rugged, snow-capped peaks, vertiginous mountainside drives, and deep, lush green valleys.
Traveling South, the geography changes drastically from alpine to coastal: the country’s sea access runs for 280 miles between the Montenegrin border all the way down to Greece, and we may argue it is one of the most scenic drives and beautiful sections of the cross-border Adriatic route, lined by quaint stone-built villages and ancient historic fortresses.
The Albanian Riviera is, in fact, one of the top-rated relaxation spots in the wider Balkan Peninsula. Stretching from the modern, fast-developing city of Vlore to the Greco-Albanian, multicultural Sarande, a stone’s throw away from Corfu, it has golden sand beaches, turquoise waters, and up-and-coming resort zones that are worth checking out.
Visit Albania For Culture
Lastly, Albania is becoming a household name in the Culture department:
- Towns like Berat and Gjirokaster have been acknowledged by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites for their unspoiled Ottoman architecture
- Tirana is a sprawling metropolis littered with Communist-era bunkers and dark tourism spots known for their off-path appeal and edginess
- Castles galore: massive hilltop forts, cobblestone citadels and medieval sites yet to be ruined by the Game of Thrones overtourism effect are spread across the country
- It occasionally hosts pop music festivals headlined by Dua Lipa, Rita Ora, and other major acts of Albanian heritage
- After decades of being suppressed, the urban art scene is booming, with the quality of the murals in Tirana rivaling those of Belfast or Berlin
Albania is super trendy right now, and if you want in on the secret before everyone else, you better make your way there fast.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com