Digital nomad guide to the Balkans

Why Balkans?

We were eager to try the digital nomad lifestyle already for a long time, and we finally did it. You probably know a lot of digital nomads who work remotely from the warm Southeast Asian countries, but we chose something different. The Balkans.

We decided on the Balkans, because:

  • it was a new area for us to explore
  • the countries are cheap.
  • there are gorgeous mountains
  • yummy food
  • and in some of them we understand the language partially
Albanian Alps Theth

Albanian Alps.

Where to look for accommodation?

Hotels due to costs, hostels due to the shared spaces were out of question for the time period we were planning to stay. We needed to work about 8 hours each day, we needed a quiet and clean environment. Co-working spaces are not present either.

One option is always to look at the local adds, Facebook groups for advertisements, but if you stay only for a month, it might be tough to find anything. We ended up using Airbnb (sign up now if you haven’t done yet and get a discount!), getting pretty nice and spacious flats (35-50 m2) with fast internet connection. The latter one was our most important search criteria and were checking also reviews carefully to find out if anybody worked from the same locations. We could live like locals in not touristy districts of Sarajevo and Tirana.

sarajevo_bosnia_center-2

Cute streets in Sarajevo.

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. View from our airbnb apartment while working remotely.

Out of the center of Sarajevo, view from our apartment.

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bullet holes in the buildings. The remaining signs of the Yugoslavian war

The remaining signs of the Yugoslav Wars.

How much does it cost?

The accommodation was the biggest cost. Obviously, we didn’t opt for the cheapest option, we wanted some comfort and needed fast internet. We cooked for ourselves on most days, but time to time we ate out in some middle-class restaurants. Marketplaces are cheap, vegetables and fruits are delicious.

Besides basic needs, we only spent money on swimming pool tickets and on gas (which is pretty cheap, especially compared to Northern Europe). We went hiking every weekend and drove quite a bit around the countries.

In details:

  • accommodation: 300-350€ per month, utilities, and the internet included (35-50m2)
  • food: we spent around 130-150€ per month per person
  • local transportation: tickets are up to 1€
  • meal when eating out in mid-range places: 10-20€ for two of us (with beer/wine)
  • fuel price: around 0.9-1€/liter

Our monthly budget was around 800-850€, but it can be easily around 600€ for two people if you don’t drive as much as we did.

sarajevo_bosnia_center-1

Center of Sarajevo.

Living in Sarajevo

Karol’s favorite place. He fell in love with the mountains and enjoyed the easy communication with locals. If you know any Slavic language, you will not have any problems, but many people speak English as well to some extent.

The city is full with the remains of the Yugoslavian war. It is worth to check out what is left from the Winter Olympic venues around the city.

You can easily go hiking anywhere in Bosnia up to the Croatian and Montenegrin borders even for the weekend. A must-visit place is the Sutjeska National Park, it is only 2 hours away from the capital.

Ups:

  • cheap fuel (cheaper than in Albania)
  • delicious Slavic food
  • local markets
  • mountains everywhere
  • quite easy to communicate in English
  • no stray dogs (despite the info we’ve found online)

Downs:

  • landmines in certain areas
Tirana Albania center

The center of Tirana.

Living in Tirana

Katalin’s dream country – although not the dream city. Tirana is quite boring, hot and dusty. Although as a tourist you can enjoy it for a couple of days, as there are museums and bunkers, probably it was not the best choice for a month long stay.

We drove to Durrës on the seaside twice a week to enjoy the beach a bit after work. Probably that would have been a better location. The seaside is amazing in whole Albania, especially if you go more south! The water is crystal clear, the coastline has amazing rocks. Swimming, sunbathing can be as good and cheap as in Asia.

We also took weekend trips not only to the coast but to the Albanian Alps. One of the last very empty, non-touristy mountains in Europe. Just take a tent (or stay in a lodge in Theth) and explore the area.

Ups:

  • cheap fuel
  • delicious food
  • local markets
  • the feeling of the Balkans

Downs:

  • slower internet
  • chaotic traffic
  • supermarkets sell limited bakery/fresh meat  (for Karol it was a minus at least…)
  • almost nobody speaks English
Tirana, Albania. View to the city from the outskirts.

Tirana, Albania. View to the city from the outskirts.

Lukova

Lukova.

Other destinations

You can easily make a trip to other countries as well, or even choose them as your home base. Montenegro, Croatia, Greece, and Macedonia are all very close.

The Montenegrin seaside, Kotor Bay, and Durmitor mountains are a must see. In Croatia, we can recommend the bay of abandoned hotels, either to spend a night there or just to explore them during the day time. In Macedonia, close to the Greek border, there are gorgeous mountains and another abandoned ex-Yugoslavian holiday resort.

Kotor fortress

Kotor fortress.

Why should I choose the Balkans to work as a digital nomad?

Do you like the seaside? Do you like mountains? How about some active weekend hikes in different national parks? Or just party in Tirana? The Balkans have a big variety!

Why choose the Balkans as a digital nomad instead of Southeast-Asia?

  • The Balkans are also CHEAP (food, accommodation, transportation, fuel…)
  • Tasty food (ofc, it is subjective)
  • Variety of cultures and religions
  • Crystal clear and warm sea (esp. in South Albania)
  • Amazing mountains to hike
  • We heard the parties are fun in Tirana (no personal experience)
  • Good enough internet for remote work (skype meetings, etc.)
  • English is also spoken among young people
  • Even if you are in a touristy area, you are not constantly approached by sellers and tour operators
  • It is in Europe, easy and cheap to get there
  • You are not among hundreds (or thousands) of tourists and expats
  • … and you will FEEL the Balkans!!!

 

 

 

Digital Nomad Guide to the Balkans. Digital Nomad Guide to the Balkans.

 

 

 

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  • Adrianna Vogel

    This is very interesting! Its amazing that you guys can explore more of the countries more people would skip! cant wait to read more about It !

    • Luckily more and more people recognize how great (and still very cheap!) these countries are!

  • Alice Rebughini

    Hi guys! I really envy you for your courage to start a digital nomad life! It’s true that the Balkans are not the first place you think about when considering where to move, but after your report I can understand why you choose Albania and Bosnia.
    I have a dear friend that is living half of his life (the work part of it) in Belgrad, and another friend that is from Macedonia, and both of them always tell me about the beauty of these lands (the second left her country during war time, but she still deeply love her country and she’s going back anytime she can).
    I probably have opted for a seaside city, especially in Albania, since I heard (and you confirmed!) that the sea in the South of the country and in Montenegro is great, but obviously because I am not, like you, a lover of hiking (at least not every weekend!).
    Keep explore! alice

    • Thank you, Alice! You should join/visit your friends in Belgrad and Macedonia…and then take a trip to the seaside! 🙂 I am pretty sure you won’t be bored at all! You can easily travel to different beach every day for a couple of weeks even!

  • Neha Verma

    The city does look beautiful. Nice to know you found a good accommodation as per your liking. This is far off on my list as there is so much more to explore..but the place is indeed tempting

  • Gokul

    That is really the perfect place to live. Beautiful landscape and iconic architecture. Your post has made it easier with all the useful tips.

  • Lauren Barratt

    Great to see someone breaking the norm a little! I never really considered visiting The Balkans and now it’s a place I will be researching more within the future.

    • Definitely! More and more cheap airlines puts them on their destination lists, so even a week or two vacations should not be a problem there 🙂

  • Fairytale Studios

    Thats a unique choice for digital nomads. But i am glad you took it. The landscapes and architecture looks fantastic. I am sure more people will be enticed to go your way after reading your experience.

    • We hope to inspire others to go on the less beaten path…at that the Balkans can be as exciting as Southeast Asia! 🙂

  • Girlswanderlust

    Whoa, the Balkans really look beautiful! Such a pretty landscape, would love to visit is sometime. And you’ve set up some great tips! Thanks for sharing.

  • Earlier I was a bit reluctant to go there, but we didn’t regret it at all! Culture, food, nature…everything is great!

  • It definitely worth the effort to set up remote work options, we could explore so much more last year than just on vacations!