I made a dumb mistake today and offered to overpay for a bottle of water. In restaurants, they often give prices in “old Lek” which are 10X the “new Lek.” So, my bottle of water was 600 lek, but that was “old lek.” When I tried to give them 600 lek they told me to just take the water and not worry about it. Then I understood that it was idiotic for a bottle off water to be almost twice what I paid for all three of the crepes I had bought and then I fished out 60 lek in coins and paid for my water.
At the same time as I’m trying to remember the difference between old and new lek, I’m also trying to keep track of how much a lek is in relation to a dollar (basically, a dollar is something like 104 lek) and get used to carrying around and using 1000 and 5000 lek notes (which are equivalent to tens and fifties). Then I have to remember what sorts of things those lek can buy. This morning we stopped at a “creperie” around the corner from our hostel. We bought three crepes (Shawna had cheese and mushroom, I had ham and cheese and Carly had Nutella, which she put all over her face) and it cost us 440 lek (about four dollars) for all three of them. Then there was the 60 lek bottle of water. You can’t have just one crepe in the US for $5, not to mention all three plus water.
In addition to using Lek as currency, the Euro is common here, even though Albania is not in the European Union. So our rent is paid in Euro, as is our rent at the hostel. We’re paying 25 euro a night at the hostel and our rent will be 400 Euro a month. Now you have to translate Euro into dollars so you know what you’re paying. Lately, it’s about $1.32 to a Euro, so our rent will be something like $520. For some reason, I’ve never heard anyone pay rent here in Lek, only Euro, though it’s also possible to pay rent in dollars if you arrange that ahead of time. Of course, when we travel, we’ll be using Euro in Italy and other EU countries so, in contrast to looking at a 1000 Lek note and thinking ($10), I have to remember that the 10 Euro note is ($13). Unless a place takes dollars. Then I have to make sure that I’m not paying more in dollars than I would in Euro. Or lek.
Errand today: find an ATM and take out dollars. Change them into Euro to pay for rent tomorrow. Make sure to get some changed to Lek, too, so I can buy coffee and crepes. Remind self that when I’m walking around with 10,000 Lek in my pocket and buying 5-star dinners for three for the equivalent of $40, I am indeed a very Lekky man.