Tirana, Albania Report of what it's like to live there - 08/02/16
Personal Experiences from Tirana, Albania
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No. I have lived in Kazakhstan, Chile, Moldova, and Cambodia.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Hometown in the Midwest. Fly through Vienna or Munich to Chicago. About 20 hours but quite comfortable.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Embassy housing includes both on- and off-compound housing. There are a few apartments but most employees live in villas. Overall the housing in quite nice. I live on compound which is great for pets and kids--but it can be overwhelming to always be with your colleagues and there is a bit of everyone knowing everything about your life.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
International food can be expensive, but overall there is good access to food at relatively cheap prices. The fish and produce are very good.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Sauces, cereal, and cleaning supplies without scent.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Good delivery and wide availability. There are a few Asian places, an Indian restaurant, a few Mexican-ish restaurants. The food in restaurants is very good and affordable.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO or diplomatic pouch.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
I have loved my household help. Price is about 500 lek an hour but very very good both with my daughter and the house.
3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
4. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
5. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes. It would be quite difficult to get around.
1. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
SUV especially if you plan to travel, but it doesn't need to be huge.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Internet is good. I routinely use Facetime or stream without issues.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Embassy mostly. Some people in development have found limited work on the local market but the pay isn't great and it can be hard to find.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
No more than any other place.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
You will need to be medevaced if anything bad happens but we are close to the rest of Europe.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Overall quite good.
4. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
No. The winter is rainy and grey but not terrible.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Wet in the winter, hot in the summer.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are several choices for pre-school and kindergarten.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
There are several good choices for pre-school and kindergarten.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes. Rock climbing. Dance classes. Albanians love children.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Medium to small.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Movies, bars, restaurants, going to peoples' homes, hiking.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
This is a great family post.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Yes. While the LGBT community is not completely accepted, there is a vibrant NGO scene with LGBT activists that are working to build a safe and open community.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
This is still a conservative society in terms of gender roles.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Getting to know the local people. Traveling around the country.
7. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
You can save money, the food is great, and it is relatively safe.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes. I have stayed longer than originally planned.