The Albanian Lek (ALL)
The lek floats freely but is relatively stable. As of the time of going to press, the exchange rate is 146 lek to the pound sterling, 120 lek to the euro, and 110 lek to the US dollar. The currency is sometimes represented by the initials “ALL” on banks and exchange rate boards.
A zero was dropped, but many Albanians still use the old number of zeros. In modern supermarkets, prices are displayed in “new” lek, while in markets and small shops, prices may be displayed in either the old or new system.
Cash is widely used in Albania, especially outside major city centers where credit card acceptance can be limited. So, getting some Lek before your trip or withdrawing cash from ATMs is best.
The most common Lek banknote denominations are 100, 200, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000. Coins represent the smaller values such as 10, 20, and 50 Lek.
For more details on the denominations and security features of the banknotes, visit the Bank of Albania.
You’ll get the best exchange rates at banks or licensed exchange offices rather than airport kiosks or hotels. US Dollars and British Pounds are the most widely accepted foreign currencies for exchange.
Try to acquire Lek within Albania, as its use is limited outside the country. If exchanging money before your trip, ask for smaller denominations of Lek banknotes and coins for everyday purchases.
Understanding Old vs New Lek
Here’s where it can get confusing. Some businesses in Albania still refer to currency prices in the “old” Lek, which has a different value than the current “new” Lek.
This terminology dates back to the 1960s when the Lek was revalued and exchanged at 10 old Lek = 1 new Lek. While all transactions are conducted in new Lek, some vendors (especially older generations) may still quote prices verbally in old Lek out of habit.
For example, a souvenir may be priced at “one thousand Lek,” which sounds like 1,000 Lek. But the vendor means 1,000 old Lek, which is 10,000 new Lek – a tenfold difference.
To avoid accidental overpayment:
- Confirm if the prices quoted are in old or new Lek
- Verify any written amount is denominated in new Lek
- Politely request receipts to check charges
- Know current exchange rates and average costs of items
- Ask locals or your hotel staff for help decoding Lek prices
With vigilance and preparation, you can master the Lek currency during your Albania visit. A little extra awareness will ensure you don’t overpay and can focus on enjoying your trip.
Six Interesting Facts about the Albanian Lek
- The Lek was established in February 1926 as Albania’s first independent national currency, previously relying on gold and foreign money.
- The imagery on Lek banknotes has evolved, reflecting different political eras like Italian occupation, communism, and modern Albania.
- Some older Albanians still refer to money amounts in “old” Lek, based on a 1960s revaluation at 10 old Lek = 1 new Lek, which can confuse tourists.
- During communism, possessing King Zog’s banknotes was illegal and punishable by forced destruction.
- In 1997, many lost trust in the Lek amid the economic crisis and high inflation of 400 Lek to $1 USD.
- Albania has applied to join the EU. If accepted, the Euro could someday replace the Lek, rendering it obsolete after nearly 100 years as Albania’s sole currency.
Tips about currency for visiting tourists.
- Most shops, restaurants, and hotels in main tourist areas accept credit cards but carry cash (Lek) for paying in smaller towns or rural areas.
- Check with your bank about transaction fees on using your debit/credit card in Albania to avoid surprises. Fees may apply for international use.
- Notify your bank you’ll be traveling to Albania to prevent your card from being blocked when foreign transactions appear.
- Carry a mix of smaller and larger Lek banknotes – some smaller vendors may struggle to make change for big bills.
- Exchange money at banks or official exchange offices rather than street vendors for better rates and security.
- US dollars and euros are widely accepted, as well as Lek. British pounds and other currencies are less so.
- Exchange receipts can be requested to check the rate charged. Count change carefully when transacting.
- Lek can only be exchanged within Albania, so spend excess cash before leaving the country.
- ATMs are common in larger cities to withdraw cash in Lek. But have a card backup in case an ATM is out of cash or not working.
Understanding the local currency is key to stress-free travel in any country. Follow this guide to using and exchanging Lek in Albania, and you’ll be prepared to handle transactions smoothly as you discover all this fascinating country has to offer.
Online Currency Exchange
While you can exchange money physically once in Albania, the easiest and most cost-effective way is to exchange your currency online before you arrive. This allows you to get local currency at excellent rates without carrying much cash.
Use Xe Currency Exchange. As one of the world’s leading online currency transfer services, Xe offers:
- Competitive exchange rates
- Low, transparent transfer fees
- Fast transfers, often within minutes
- Easy online platform and 📱mobile app
Whether exchanging $USD, £GBP, €EUR, or other global currencies, Xe makes it simple to get Albanian Lek at excellent rates securely.
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