Transportation - Get In
Macedonia has two international airports, the main airport in the capital Skopje "Alexander the Great Airport" (SKP) and another in Ohrid "St.Paul the Apostle Airport" (OHD). There are around 150 flights a week from different European cities to Skopje. The Macedonian Government awarded one Turkish Airport Operator Company (TAV) a contract to construct a brand new Terminal building in Skopje Airport. Construction was completed in October 2011. From the low-cost airlines, only WizzAir flies directly between Skopje and London (Luton Airport), Barcelona (El Prat), Venice (Treviso Airport), and Milan-Bergamo in Italy.
Another option to travel into Macedonia is to fly to Thessaloniki (SKG) or to Sofia (SOF) and get a taxi or bus from there. There are 5 buses from Sofia Central Bus Station to Skopje, leaving at 09:00, 12:00, 16:00, 17:00 and 23:59. The two bus companies which operate these services are MATPU and Kaleia, both of which are located outside the main bus terminal. Single ticket is approximately €16 (MKD32). There are also services from Skopje to Sofia at similar prices and times for a return flight home.
Additionally, if you contact the Sofia Tourist Information Service, they can normally put you in contact with private transfer companies who will pick you up at the airport and take you to Skopje. Prices range from as little at €60 to €160. Negotiating with taxis can be trickier but may be able to get a cheaper price.
If you fly to Thessaloniki, you can go by public bus (24/7) for €0.50 to the train station and catch a train from there (€14 one way).
Regular train services used to connect Macedonia to Greece in the South but all international trains to Greece were stopped until further notice in February 2011. Services to Serbia in the North are still running.
A cheap way of travelling to or from Macedonia might be the Balkan Flexipass.
Be sure your Green Card (International Insurance Card) has an uncancelled "MK" box. The guards almost always want to see it, unlike those in Serbia and Greece. Try to get a good map of Macedonia and/or try to be able to read Cyrillic letters. Although most street signs are printed in Cyrillic and Latin letters it can be helpful to have a little knowledge of the Cyrillic alphabet, especially in small towns.
The border guards often make a big deal about having the original documents for the car (no copies). The enforcement rate about this is 50-50 and if you have a rental car this can be a problem as you usually have a copy. Tourists have been told in the past to drive back several hundred kilometres over this detail by certain power hungry guards.
Eurobus is an international coach operator based in Macedonia that has almost daily tours from Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Slovenia. Prices from €60 and possible to get student discount.
- EuroBus Macedonia, , e-mail: [email protected]. almost daily in modern coaches from Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Italy, Slovenia. Stops in the major cities Skopje, Tetovo, Ohrid. €75/€140rt from Vienna.
There are bus connections from Serbia, Kosovo, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Croatia and Turkey to Skopje. In addition some buses, those operated by Drity tours at least, run from Tirana to Pristina via Skopje (don't expect them to wake you up or stop anywhere near Skopje bus station though)
In Skopje, there are two bus terminals. Most buses come to the new terminal, but some connections (for example to Pristina) are serviced by the old one, which is located at the city centre. If you need to change the terminals, you need to walk to the stone bridge over Vardar and cross the bridge (about 2.5 km) or take a taxi.
At both terminals, you will be constantly nagged by taxi drivers, who will try to convince you to use their services. Unless you have too much money to throw away, you shouldn't take their advice. The taxi is likely to be heavily overpriced, especially for foreigners, while the buses are cheap, clean and safe.
Transportation - Get Around
In this mountainous developing country, the roads are often narrow and not very well maintained, with warning signs for the quite frequent sharp turns rarely provided, and the safety barriers between your tires and high cliffs often rusty, or sometimes completely absent. In the north, there is a short network of motorways with separated directions and a posted speed limit of 120kph, linking Skopje with Tetovo and Gostivar in the west, and with the Alexander the Great Airport and Kumanovo in the east, but the surface quality is hardly better than the rest of the roads. The toll collection on the motorways depends on a system of toll stations (PEAGE) situated every 20 km or so (typically after leaving and on approaching major towns, which means you will pay twice for the route, say, between Skopje and Tetovo, two neighbouring cities), where all through traffic comes to a complete halt (as opposed to only those leaving and entering the motorway) and pay according to the type of the vehicle (for motorcycles and cars, which is often 20 or 30 den).
Always make sure your tires are good enough. Especially in spring and autumn, weather in the mountains (Ohrid, Bitola) can differ significantly from the weather in the area you're coming from.
All directional signs in the country show the town names in Macedonian Cyrillic and their Roman transliterations, sometimes accompanied by a second local language, which is often Albanian.
National trains are slow, but they are nonetheless a nice alternative to hot, crowded buses in the summer. The main train line runs from Skopje to Bitola and Skopje to Gevgelia. No trains run to Ohrid.
Perhaps the most common way of travelling in the country, the buses are frequent and quite reliable, if sometimes a bit slow and old (though not exactly dilapidated). The tickets are typically printed in Macedonian, with English translations or even Roman transliterations rarely provided. Here is a quick guide to reading your Macedonian ticket: The destination will be printed on the top (best to refer to the Wikivoyage article of the town in question for the Macedonian name of it), Дата (Data) translates, non-surprisingly, date, and Час (Čas) is the time of the departure. Перон (Peron) indicates the number of the platform your bus will be departing from, which is usually well-signed in the stations, and Седиште (Sedište) is your seat number, although on less travelled routes, this will typically be assigned to the seats 3 and 4, which means you are allowed to sit whatever place you like. It's possible to hail buses directly on the streets, in which case you will pay to the driver on board, but if there are no free seats available, this means you are making the whole journey standing—which is unlikely to be the best travel experience. The bus companies often prefer to inscribe their names in the Roman alphabet in the livery, but the tickets will indicate them in the Cyrillic. Common national companies include Rule Turs (Руле Турс), Galeb (Галеб), and Classic Company (Класик Компани). The destination signs in front of the buses are provided in Macedonian, and in the other common local language of the destination if there is one, this in most cases being Albanian.
Taxis are perhaps the most common mode of transport in Macedonia among tourists. Most will usually charge a flat rate of MKD30 (in Skopje MKD50) with the extra kilometres added on. Be careful when negotiating the price of the fare beforehand. Within city limits, prices over MKD100 are considered expensive even though the amount only converts to a few American dollars. Macedonian cities are much smaller in comparison to most western developed countries and would only take approximately 10–15 minutes to travel from one side of the city to the other by car. In Skopje, the capital and largest city, this should work out to an amount of about MKD100-150.
A general exception to this rule is during peak tourist seasons particularly in the town of Ohrid. The summer months are the most profitable for many small businesses in Ohrid (and for some businesses, the only profitable months) including taxi drivers. For this reason many drivers will charge up to three times the flat rate for the same distance. Most taxis will insist on driving for no less than MKD100 which can be heard as "sto denari" or a "stotka" (slang term for a one hundred denar bill). Generally this is excessive but you can either negotiate the price down to 80 or even 70 denars to be reasonable, or else simple bargain hunting is all that is required. During the peak seasons it is possible to find drivers willing to go as low as 40. Never feel pressured to take a taxi that seems overpriced.
There are plenty of boats for charter around Lake Ohrid and will show you the whole lake for a cheap price.