15 Things to know before going to North Macedonia — 2019 Info
Update: The name “Macedonia” was changed into “North Macedonia” officially on the 11th of January 2019 and set into force on the 12th.
Read: Macedonia -> North Macedonia
As a real insider, a true Macedonian (born, bred and currently resident), let me tell you a couple of things to know before going to Macedonia. I will try to answer the most important questions like: Is Macedonia safe, is Macedonia expensive, are Macedonians friendly etc.
But first… Visitors heading on vacation to Macedonia are in for a wonderful experience. The country is known for its natural beauty, laid back persona, and home to one of the tastiest food in the world.
15 Things to know before going to Macedonia
The official currency in Macedonia is Macedonian Denars. While you might find vendors and taxi drivers that accept Euros, you will definitely need denars everywhere in the country.
If — in your country — you can’t find exchange office that trades Macedonian Denars, do not worry. Euros, Pounds, Australian Dollars & US Dollars are also welcome in Macedonia so you can take them as cash, in low denominations (nothing bigger than €20) and change them locally as and when you need to. You should get around 60/61 Denars for €1, which in the average bar will be enough to buy a beer.
There are many exchange offices in Skopje city center and also at Skopje and Ohrid Airports. However a general rule: try to avoid exchanging currency at the airports, due to lower exchange rates.
ATMs in Skopje and Macedonia are widely available everywhere. There are ATMs at Skopje Airport as well, so you can simply withdraw Macedonian denars once you arrive.
While Ohrid has been known to tourist for many years, Skopje and the rest of the country started greeting more independent travelers since not so long ago. That being said, most of the people are not used to foreigners and will move heaven and earth to make you feel safe, welcomed and comfortable.
- See also: 100 Basic Macedonian Phrases
People here are very direct, so from the first moment when you meet someone you can expect questions like: how much money do you earn, why are your parents divorced, why you still don’t have kids etc.
When you answer these questions, and the answer is not something they expect they might just say ‘you are crazy’. But do not take this personally please, this is how direct the culture is.
Most of the people speak basic English so you won’t have problems ordering food or shopping.
3. Bus transportation to Ohrid and other cities in Macedonia
We have written a whole article about how to get from Skopje to Ohrid by bus, so you will find everything what you need to know.
But in short, it is not possible to purchase a bus ticket online, so you must go to the Central Bus Station to purchase the tickets.
4. Is Macedonia safe? Is Skopje Safe?
Macedonia is literally super safe. Skopje is also super safe! I can say that the Balkan countries are among the safest places in the world. No pickpocketing, no bus tickets scams, no crime on the streets, no bullies provoking on the streets for no reason, no racism, no hidden commissions at exchange offices or ATMS etc. You can walk in the middle of the night or 4am in the morning in the park and nothing will happen to you, okay maybe someone will ask for a lighter since most of the people smoke.
Many of the western medias are presenting Macedonia and the rest of the Balkan countries as tense regions and war always lurking from the corner, trust me that is totally not true. You can visit any city just for one night and see that all the reports are pile of rubbish.
This topic about safety around the Balkans really angering me because it is such a false picture and I really want to know what is the end game in promoting those kind of reports. So again, Is Macedonia Safe? Yes it is!
Taxi is very cheap and as long as you are in a verified cab you are safe. By verified I mean:
- Having a plate on the top with the name of the company or having ‘taxi’ sign and the name of the company on the doors.
- Having the license shown in the right bottom corner of the windshield
- Have a taximeter and radio station
We recommend always calling a taxi on the phone (instead of waving one down on the street). Try Taxi Global +38970515180, when you call them they will hang up and call you back. They will send an SMS with the cab number and also let you know how many minutes will the car arrive. They also provide a link to follow your car real time.
6. Public transport in Skopje
To use the public transport in Skopje (bus) you will need to have a “Skopska Card“, which is a pre-paid plastic card that you need to fill up with “rides“. When you first purchase it, it comes with 3 rides and it costs 150 MKD (105 MKD for 3 rides and 45 MKD for the card). The price per ride is 35 MKD when you further fill it up. If you have a local SIM Card you can use your mobile phone by calling 185 and then touching the phone to the machine. One ride paid by mobile phone is 40 MKD.
Open this Google Map to see where you can find all the green kiosks (marked with blue) from where you can buy or fill up the Skopska Card.
If you are staying in one of the apartments in Skopje that me and my wife are renting, you will have Skopska Card provided by us, that you just need to fill up with rides.
Check our apartments if you need place to stay in Skopje
7. Sim card
T-Mobile & VIP (Vodafone) are the operators in Macedonia. Both companies have many shops around the cities so you just need to visit them personally, show passport or ID and they will set you up with a Macedonian number and credits.
8. Boarding pass
Even though you have your boarding pass printed or you have it on you phone in PDF and you have checked in online, you will still need to go to the counters to check in and obtain ticket that is issued on the spot at Skopje Airport. Recommended to have the online boarding pass printed just in case.
The map will show the countries that need visa for the Republic of Macedonia. We found that this map is not updated often and there might be some incorrect info, so for better informations go to the official website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The countries are written on Cyrillic so make sure to figure out how does you country’s firs letter looks like in Cyrillic so you can use the website.
11. Tourist tax
The tourist tax cost 40 MKD or 70 euro cents per day per person. Usually the hotels or airbnb hosts are paying this but don’t be surprised if you are charged extra somewhere. Ask ahead!
12. Airport to Skopje & Back
There is a shuttle bus between Skopje Airport and the city center. For more read our article Skopje Airport Bus
See more info about the Skopje Airport
We offer airport pickup for the same price as taxis, 20 Euro one way.
If you want to go by cab, there are always cars in at the arrivals. Never pay any money extra, for pay tools or parking, everything should be included in the price.
In the center of Skopje and the center of other major cities in Macedonia parking is NOT free. If the spot is marked with white lines that means you can park there.
Make sure to find the sign on which is written the parking zone (usually a letter and number/s, like C14, A6, D8 etc.). This is the number you have to include in the SMS along with your license plate. When you return to your car and ready to leave the parking, you’ll have to send one more SMS to the same number. Just write “S” — as in Stop. Always make sure that you have a reply to your message.
In the Bohemian Quarter there are ticket machines where you can pay in cash.
14. Petrol & Road trips
The price of petrol in Macedonia is everywhere the same! So when you are on the highway you don’t need to go into a city to fill up the tank. You will pay at every petrol station exactly the same price.
- Read also: Skopje to Ohrid — Road trip
There are pay tools on the highways and if you pay by Euro in cash it will be 20% more expensive than paying in MKD. If you pay by card it is the same.
Tap water is safe to drink in Macedonia.
The Things to know before going to Macedonia list will be updated whenever is needed. If you think that there is something else worth mentioning send us a message.