There are several things to consider when planning a trip and your trip budget. One of the important things a traveler should consider when they arrive in a new country is the tipping culture.
It doesn’t matter where you’re from: you are a guest in someone else’s country, and as a result, you need to follow local customs and guidelines, keeping in mind that people have different expectations for tourists than they do for fellow locals. This doesn’t mean you’re being hustled: it’s the way tourism works worldwide.
If it’s your first time in Albania, you may have several questions about how tipping in Albania works (and how money in Albania works in general), such as how much is expected and when and how you should add a tip.
Stephanie and I have visited Albania several times over the last 3 years, and we consider it one of our favorite countries in the region. Information on the internet about Albania is often out of date, so we’re happy to share all we’ve learned about Albania in our many visits there to keep you in the loop.
Here’s our best pointers on how to tip in Albania so that you (and your servers, taxi drivers, bartenders, and the like!) can have a fantastic time.
Tipping is not compulsory, but it’s more or less expected
When it comes to tipping in Albania, there are a few things you should know (7, in fact, as this post will outline!).
For one, know that often, the base salaries are incredibly low. Albania has one of the lowest minimum wages in Europe – the equivalent of 210.66 euros per month, as per last July. That’s less than 7 euros per day.
While your average server in Tirana will likely be making more than that, it’s definitely not a given, and in smaller towns around Albania, a salary closer to the minimum wage is a lot more likely.
Leaving the equivalent of a $2 USD tip on a multi-course seafood meal for two that ends up costing you $20 USD is a small added cost for your individual budget, but it will make a huge difference for your service collectively with the tips of other tourists.
If you have the privilege to travel, you can afford to tip as well and should factor that into your budget. You should budget to add about 10% tip for fair to good service. Consider tipping more if your service was excellent.
Keep in mind that service standards differ from country to country. What is standard service in the U.S. or Canada would be over-the-top basically anywhere in Europe, and especially in the Balkans.
Service in Albania is generally friendly but laid-back — promptness is not so important here as in other parts of the world, as meals are considered a time to relax and unwind with family and friends rather than rush through. That doesn’t mean that your server is doing a bad job – it’s just part of the culture.
If you truly have bad service, it’s better to speak with the management about what could be improved about your meal, or to leave a smaller tip, rather than to just straight up not tip. Perhaps there was a misunderstanding or you can improve things for future visitors.
Don’t enforce your point of view on tipping culture on others
Continuing on a similar vein from the above point, when it comes to tipping in Albania, please be mindful of the country’s customs with respect to what servers expect when it comes to tips in Albania. Don’t let your country’s tipping culture override how you tip in Albania.
I’ve met my fair share of Australian and British tourists while I travel who hate the concept of tipping culture and feel like they shouldn’t have to tip because it’s not expected for them back home. While I certainly have my problems with tipping culture, I know that skimping your waiter by refusing to tip is not the way to solve those problems — especially when it’s clear that you have a good deal of privilege relative to your wait staff.
Likewise, I’ve met a lot of travelers in the Balkans who get frustrated with the fact that servers in this region tend to be more matter-of-fact and less overtly friendly than servers in their home country. As an American, I try to remember that my expectations for service are greatly different than people from other countries, and I try to adjust my expectations accordingly.
When you travel, it’s best to be aware of what the local expectations are and to adjust yourself to that, rather than expect people to adjust themselves to you.
There are different guidelines for tipping in Albania for different kinds of service
The etiquette for tipping in Albania depends largely on the kind of service you’re receiving. We’ll go over the kinds of service workers you’ll most likely encounter during your trip and what a good tipping baseline is for each of them.
Waiter: 10% of the bill for fair to good service or 15% for fantastic service is the norm.
Taxi Driver: Round up to the nearest hundred lek (~$0.90 USD) for a charge under 1,000 lek; perhaps add on another hundred lek if the bill is above 1,000 lek (~$9 USD). However, if you negotiate a price with your driver rather than using the meter (or if you’re in a place where meters are not used), tipping is not required, but it could be nice if rounding up makes sense.
Barista/Café Worker: Not required if you use counter service, but tipping small change if they have a tip jar and you pay in cash is appreciated. At sit-down coffee shops where you receive table service, round up to the nearest increment of 100 lek or add about 10%, whatever seems more appropriate.
Nail or Hair Salon Worker; Masseuse: Approximately 10% for good service.
Hotel Housekeeping: It’s polite, but not required, to leave a tip of around 100-200 lek per night for a budget hotel that provides daily housekeeping. You should leave this with a note so that the housekeeping staff knows it’s a gratuity and not an accident. For a more luxurious hotel, around 300-500 lek per night is more appropriate. You can tip daily or in a lump sum at the end of your trip.
It’s rare to have a service charge added, but do check before paying regardless
I can’t think of a time when I had the service charge added to a bill in Albania, but it could potentially happen – especially in touristic beach resort towns and cities like Ksamil or Saranda.
However, there is a chance that some places may add a service charge to your bill, so do quickly scan your bill to see. Be sure you’re not confusing the VAT/tax with the service charge! If you’re confused, as most bills will be written in Albanian, simply ask your waiter to clarify your bill.
It’s not always possible to tip on a credit card, so have some cash on hand
Depending on the point of sale device, it is not always possible to add a tip with a credit card. Even when it is, cash tips are generally appreciated as it is more likely to go directly to your wait staff rather than the restaurant management.
While in the U.S., for example, you often have the ability to add a tip at the very end of a meal after your credit card has already been run, in Albania that’s not the case and you usually have to tell your waiter exactly how much to charge on a card if you are tipping by card. For that reason, I think it’s generally less awkward to simply pay with a credit card and tip with cash. Keep some small increments on hand (coins and some 100-200 lek notes).
Tip using Albanian lek, not Euros
Albania uses the lek (plural lekë) for all payments, and Euros are generally not accepted. If they are accepted, it’s usually at a poor exchange rate – i.e., 100 lek for 1 Euro, as opposed to normally you’d get around 130 lek for that same Euro.
You should tip in lek as well, unless there is some reason you can’t and leaving Euros is preferable to not tipping at all. After all, you don’t want to give your server the errand of also going to convert that currency in order to get their tip – and if you do, make sure you leave a memorable enough tip to make it worth it.
Make sure you either exchange your money or take out some local currency from an ATM so you can tip in the right currency!
Don’t forget to tip your tour guides!
Tour guides often get forgotten about when it comes to tips, but they shouldn’t be — they have to go through licensing procedures which are time-consuming and expensive, not to mention how much time they spend preparing to be ready to guide people each day.
I suggest a tip of approximately 10% of the cost of the tour for your tip for your guide, keeping in mind that if you have both a driver and a guide, they will likely share the tip.
If you take a free tour – such as the excellent Free Tirana Tour– we recommend tipping a minimum of 500 lek (less than $5 USD) per person and more if your budget allows!
5 Things to Pack to Travel Hassle-Free in Albania
We have a complete packing list for Albania, but make sure you bring these five items with you!
Lonely Planet Western Balkans is a great guidebook for your visit to Albania, and it’s great if you’re also visiting any combination of the following countries: North Macedonia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, and Slovenia. It can be really hard (sometimes impossible) to buy a physical guidebook in English once you’re in Albania, so if you like having your guidebook in your hands you will need to bring it with you from home.
Unlocked Cell Phone: Stephanie and I both have unlocked cell phones that we bought in Europe (Steph uses a Samsung and I use an iPhone). This allows up to get SIM cards when we travel so that we always have the internet. This has gotten us out of so many jams!
If you don’t have an unlocked cell phone that can use an Albanian sim card, you can buy a cheaper unlocked phone online and bring it with you!
Pacsafe Citysafe or Other Anti-Theft Bag: This is the bag both Stephanie and I use (and they also make men’s versions). It has a pouch with RFID technology so our credit cards can’t get scanned from afar, interlocking zippers to make it harder to pickpocket, and it’s roomy enough to be a perfect sightseeing day bag. It’s also aesthetically pleasing and stylish enough to be used as an everyday bag, which is unusual for a bag with so many safety features.
A Sturdy Moneybelt: If you don’t want to get a new bag with anti-theft features as I use, you can use a money belt instead. I prefer to have these features built into my bag instead, but I know for a lot of people a money belt is a less expensive investment than a new bag.
Grayl Water Filter: While the water is safe to drink in the country’s larger cities, you need to avoid it in the small towns and villages inland and on the coast. If you don’t want to be buying millions of plastic water bottles, you can get a reusable water bottle that comes with a water filter so that you can stick to the tap water and reduce your plastic waste.
Wet wipes, hand sanitizer, TP & other Balkan transit needs. Bathrooms in the Balkans tend to be… how can we say it?… not so well-stocked. Save yourself the disappointment and bring a mini-rescue pack of wet wipes & hand sanitizer.
Where to Stay in Albania
We are working on hotel guides for Albania’s major cities. When traveling to Albania, we recommend checking out Booking.com as early as possible. The country is gaining in popularity as a tourist destination, so some of the best spots do sell-out early (especially in summer in Tirana and on the coast)!
More Albania Travel Resources
First, start by reading our post on planning a trip to Albania. It covers everything from visas to vaccinations to what to pack, so it’s a great jumping-off point for your travel plans.
If you’re curious about the currency used in Albania (the lek) and how tipping works, we recommend our Balkan currency guide to learn all about the Albanian lek and tipping culture. We also have a post on Albanian cuisine!
If you’re looking for even more places to add to your Albania itinerary, we have a bunch of ideas for you from us and other bloggers in this collaborative post about the 15 best places to visit in Albania! If you love UNESCO sites, make sure to check out Gjirokastra, Berat, and Butrint!
We are working on all of our Tirana guides, but for now, we have this major post on things to do in Tirana, as well as smaller posts on on the best restaurants in Tirana, the best Tirana cafes, and the best Instagram spots in Tirana, plus how to visit the Tirana Christmas Market.
Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!
If you’re planning a trip to Albania, make sure to travel with a valid travel insurance policy. While we feel safe in Albania, it’s a good idea to be covered in case of an emergency. Travel insurance covers you in case of theft or an accident, which can save your trip if there’s an incident.
For travel insurance, Stephanie and I use World Nomads. I’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.
Originally from California, Allison has been living in Bulgaria for the last two years and is obsessed with traveling around the Balkans. She has been published in National Geographic, CNN Arabic, Matador Network, and the Huffington Post. She loves befriending dogs, drinking coffee, geeking out about wine, and cooking food from around the world.