Situated in Southeastern Europe on the Balkan Peninsula, Albania is blessed with pristine Adriatic and Ionian coastlines and the imposing Albanian Alps. Though undoubtedly beautiful, this small country is still wrestling its Soviet past and, while there have been positive signs of growth, Albania remains one of the poorest countries in Europe.
Although it is not necessarily a popular expat destination, those who do decide to relocate to Albania speak positively of the gorgeous beaches, sunny weather and low cost of living. Albania is a relatively safe country, though petty crime such as pick-pocketing occurs in major cities. Driving in Albania can be harrowing, and road accident rates are high compared to other European countries.
The Albanian government has been working hard to rehabilitate the country's economy and global image. Currently campaigning for EU accession, Albania is already a member of prominent international organisations such as the UN and NATO.
More foreign businesses have migrated to Albania in recent years, and this has created some employment opportunities, especially in the areas of energy, textiles and transport infrastructure. The tourism industry is also rapidly expanding and has become one of the country's main sources of income. Nevertheless, agriculture remains the most significant sector, accounting for one fifth of Albania's GDP and employing nearly half of its labour force. Chief agricultural products include wheat, olives and olive oil, fruit and various other produce.
Albania is largely homogeneous with most of the population being ethnic Albanian, and the official language being Albanian. The majority of the country’s nearly three million people are Muslim. Expats moving to Albania should make a concerted effort to learn Albanian in order to converse with the local population, as most locals are unlikely to speak English.
Although efforts have been made to improve healthcare in Albania, the sector remains poor and underfunded. The state of education in Albania is gradually improving but it is still hampered by Soviet-era mismanagement. As the local curriculum is taught in Albanian, expats moving to the country largely choose to send their children to international schools and most international schools are found in the capital, Tirana.
A somewhat unlikely destination for expats, but for those who do take the plunge and relocate to Albania, an adventure awaits, and for many the magnificent scenery and beautiful weather are enough to make up for a lot of the country's shortcomings.
Population: About 3 million
Capital city: Tirana
Neighbouring countries: Albania is a coastal country bordered by Greece to the south, Macedonia to the east, Kosovo to the northeast and Montenegro to the north.
Geography: The coast of Albania extends along the Ionian and Adriatic Seas. The majority of the country's landscape is mountainous and there is a multitude of rivers as well as both natural and manmade lakes.
Political system: Parliamentary republic
Major religions: Islam, Roman Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity
Main languages: Albanian
Money: The Albanian Lek (ALL) is divided into 100 qindarka. Expats should be able to open an account at a bank of their choice, and ATMs are plentiful in most major cities, though they are rarer in Albania's smaller towns.
Tipping: Tipping is not expected but is appreciated.
Time: GMT +1
Electricity: 230 V, 50 Hz. European-style plugs with two rounded pins are used.
Internet domain: .al
International dialling code: +355
Emergency contacts: 127 (ambulance), 128 (fire), and 129 (police)
Transport and driving: Cars drive on the right-hand side of the road. Albanian drivers can be aggressive and some roads are in need of maintenance. Buses and trains are common and popular modes of public transport.