American style barbecue is popular in the Balkans. The restaurant pictured is in Bansko, Bulgaria’s international ski resort.
Bulgaria in an EU country. The European Union’s currency is the euro. However, Bulgaria is listed as a non euro-currency country. It’s official currency is the Lev. Don’t expect to use many, if any, euros there.
Albania has applied for membership in the EU but is yet to be admitted. It applied in 2009 and has been listed as an official candidate since June, 2014. According to BBC News, Albania has been urged to do more to tackle corruption and organized crime and is not expected to gain admittance until, at least, 2020. Its currency remains the Albanian Lek.
Macedonia has also applied for EU membership. It asked for full membership in 2004 and was confirmed as an official candidate the next year. The European Commission says that Macedonia has made progress in police reform, dealing with corruption, and improving human rights. However, 8 policemen and 14 so-called terrorists from Kosovo were killed in clashes in Macedonia in May, 2015, and it’s locked in a bitter dispute with Greece over its name. Greece also has a historical region named Macedonia. Macedonia, the country, uses the Denar for its currency.
Greece is, for now, in the EU and on the euro. Of the 4 countries we visited in May, 2015, it was the only one where Ruth & I could use euros.
It was necessary in Albania, Macedonia, and Bulgaria to convert euros or dollars into the local currency. In Albania the hotel where we stayed offered a fair exchange rate. In Macedonia, where we had been told that euros were widely accepted, we had to go to an approved office to get Denars. In Bulgaria, a taxi driver accepted payment in euros but shops and restaurants did not. A couple of times we were told that euros were usable only if we would accept change in Lev.
Macedonia is especially waiting to see what happens to Greece’s EU status. If Greece leaves or is ousted from the EU, some told us, Macedonia will surely suffer.
When some Americans ask to pay in euros in Albania, Macedonia, or Bulgaria and receive a frown and a no, they conclude anti-American or anti-EU sentiment. This is not usually the case. Due to the system, it personally disadvantages merchants to accept anything but local currency so they automatically refuse.
It’s probably not such a good idea to use credit cards in economically challenged countries at the present time. ATMs are probably OK if you know what rate you will pay for the convenience and can figure out exactly how many Leks, Levs, Denars, etc. you will need for the duration of your visit. It will not be easy to convert most currencies back into dollars or euros.