This is a delayed cost breakdown of all the expenses from our trip to Albania and Macedonia. As usual, we keep track of all of our expenses while traveling, so this is exact and may help you get an idea for how much a trip like this would cost, and where our money went.
Check out the pictures of beautiful Albania (5 nights were in Macedonia).
This post will discuss:
- How much we spent. Down to the penny on food, flights, hotels.
- Breakdown on everywhere we stayed, and costs.
- Car Rental
- Flights = $453.68 for 2 (mistake fare)
- $226.84 per person
- Food = $498.20 for 2
- $27.67 per day for 2
- Transit = $381.52
- $172 for 2/3 (or $261.02 total) for car rental
- Accommodation = $421.08
- and 20,000 IHG points
- Misc = $68.17
Total = $1,822.65
Truth is, we got very lucky. Not just because we got a good price, but because we didn’t get a terrible price.
We planned a trip with a friend to Albania and I procrastinated on booking the tickets. I started checking for flights with miles and nothing was working out.
Then, there was an Air Serbia mistake fare to Belgrade and I decided to check flights for Tirana. Sure enough, tickets were $226 a person.
One small problem was that flights were out of NYC… So we ended up using AA miles to go from Austin to NYC.
Well, there were only two cities with a points hotel/chain. In Tirana, Albania we stayed at the Sheraton, although we just paid $94 for the night. And the other city is Skopje, which had a couple options, but we stayed at the Category 1 Holiday Inn.
Otherwise, airbnb was our best option for a couple reasons.
First, airbnb was often the only option. I mean there were non-chain hotels in most places, but often poor quality. Airbnb was by far the obvious choice for price and value.
Second, we were traveling with a friend, and it’s quite economical to just get a two bedroom apartment somewhere.
Tirana, Albania: airbnb = $40/nights
This was just someplace near the center. Actually, we stayed at two places a block away from each other.
Shkoder, Albania: Hotel Princ $33.68/night (for 2 people)
This was a last minute decision once in the city, although I still booked online via booking.com.
They also let us park our tiny car there for three days while we took a giant jeep into the mountains.
It felt like a Holiday Inn Express in Indonesia. Like brand new with modern elements, while still feeling like a 2 star hotel. But 100% clean.
Theth, Albania: airbnb / Shpella Guest House = $36/night (for 2 people)
Theth is in a valley stuck in the mountains and there was a movement a few years ago to help locals build guest houses.
This was definitely the highlight. All the guest houses are run by locals who are from this tiny village, and they cook for you… and it’s just wild. They live like pilgrims – they actually use aquifers, farm (or even transit) with animals, make everything themselves, etc…
The guest houses cook big dinners that are family style. It’s not normally my preference to forcibly socialize with a long table of strangers, but it was great. They don’t hold back with the food.
Some guest houses include the food as part of the hotel rate, but ours charged an extra 8 Euros… which is more than a meal in the rest of Albania, for sure, but in a remote mountain village it was totally fair.
Also, these rooms are typically dorm styled. Very much not my thing. But I messaged ahead and confirmed a room with a double bed. So the price was still $18 a person, but for the same price ($36) we got our own room. Worked out very well.
If you only watch one video, you need to watch one of the videos of our hikes in Theth. Try this one – hiking to “Blue Eye” in Theth.
Saranda, Albania: airbnb = $0 or $412
We booked a Penthouse suite with a beautiful view. To the north was the Saranda downtown, looking south you could see down the coast all the way to Ksamil islands, and across the water you could see the Greek island Corfu. Wow.
I don’t think the same place we booked is available now, as it appeared to be on the market, aiming to be sold… and I don’t see it on airbnb anymore.
In all sincerity, this and the next stay (Berat) are probably the only times our blog has gotten us a different experience than what could be replicated, in that we used airbnb credits earned from blog referrals. We had enough to cover the $412 for three nights. So we just covered it for our friend too, since we didn’t deserve to have it free any more than him.
It’s also hard to remember which came from the coupons from the $50 airbnb promo.
Berat, Albania: Airbnb = $0 (or $98)
This was a guy who built a two bedroom apartment onto his property and didn’t get any guests for a few months until listing on airbnb. Unbelievably cheap for us, and a huge success for him, as he’s now doing it full-time.
While it was our friend’s favorite stay, after Theth, the host was extremely chatty. Which, I find can go against the goal of working-while-traveling when you’re back at your balcony. On the other hand, it was pretty awesome that the guy’s wife made dinner for us – we paid of course, but it was pretty unique – and he showed us around the castle area.
Ohrid, Macedonia: airbnb = $25 for 2 people, for 2 nights ($38 for the entire place for two nights)
This for sure is when we used one of the $50 coupons from the airbnb business promo.
So, the stay in this two bedroom apartment would’ve been $88 for two nights, which is already cheap. But the $50 coupon made it $38. That’s for two nights, and for two rooms.
This was someone’s apartment who seems to not live in Ohrid anymore, but a family member checked us in. It was right next to the main square and it would’ve been super cheap even without using a $50 credit… but that just made it even cheaper.
Skopje, Macedonia: Holiday Inn = 10,000 IHG points
They gave us and our friend a suite, which was nice. For a 10,000 point hotel, it was right downtown. And for a Holiday Inn, it was super nice. It exceeded my expectations.
Technically, we paid for both rooms for two nights. But in terms of posting our personal expenses, it was 10,000 points a night.
Tirana, Albania: Sheraton = $94
The hotel is very nice, and because of our lowly silver status they gave us a club room, when passing the front desk I asked if it came with club lounge access. The club was very lame, but breakfast was currently in the restaurant, which is always an upgrade… but that was not exactly a 4 star meal either.
None the less, the hotel is very nice.
Car Rental in Albania
We originally wanted to go to Albania with a car rental we got in Croatia two years ago. We took it to Bosnia and Montenegro without issue. But upon talking to my friend Stefan (of Rapid Travel Chai), I learned that the car can’t cross the border.
Well, I suppose I could have. I likely could have gotten the green card or whatever was needed, at the border. You can just buy the insurance and permissions. However, the car rental terms that I looked up, strictly forbid it from going to Albania. (And you can see why in the video of us trying to leave Berat).
Similarly, even when we rented the car in Albania this time, we needed special permissions to go to Macedonia.
1) The car rental place made us buy a paper that gave us permission to go to Albania. It was $20 or so. It basically said that the rental place allowed me to go to Macedonia.
No one, at all, was interested in this paper.
2) What was really needed was a green card / insurance package that you can buy at the border.
At the border there are booths of insurance companies selling car insurance for people going into Macedonia. I think it was $40.
The total for $18 days was $261, although our portion was $172.
We spent $8 on tire repairs.
We also rented a big 4×4 for 2 days that was like $70 a day. Carrie kept track of the details, but I think I remember that we split that 50/50 with my friend Wade, instead of our regular 2/3, because I wanted to take the cheaper shuttle and Wade wanted to drive. I was easily swayed.
Gas. I believe the other $140 was our 2/3 of the gas.
Also, note that the roads are the worst. Not just pot holes, or getting a screw in the tire, or even all the animals in the road.
We had one occasion where we’re winding along a river and go around the corner and a concrete wall (like on the side of the road during construction) was positioned to block off the road. Not a coincidence, a car that was before us had run head on into the concrete.
But the reason the concrete block was put there was because the road had started to sink, and it just ended. Had the wall not been there the guy who hit it would’ve gone flying into the river.
Geez. At no point did they put orange cones out ahead, a sign, or something?
We could go around by going on the wrong side of the road, but eventually that road turned into gravel and got worse and worse, til we had to turn around.
I mentioned this before, but do not use apple Maps, use Google maps – at least on my Android it worked.
Albania, if not obvious, is pretty cheap.
I think our average per person meal was a little over $4, and that includes the average being brought up by [very mediocre] seafood in the south, and the $8 meals at lodges, and drinks.
That being said, surprisingly it’s not as cheap as SE Asia, Turkey, or many other places in eastern Europe. I think maybe the lack of infrastructure brings up the costs.