North Macedonia Buses: Getting Around North Macedonia
Traveling in the Balkans is an exciting yet quite challenging thing. Buses here usually don’t have fixed timetables, and even if they do, the departure times are mostly incorrect. For some, it might appeal as an interesting trip, whereas for others, it might be pretty stressful. North Macedonia buses are not exception.
Regardless of the type of traveler you are, this article will perfectly prepare you for your travel in North Macedonia. It’ll give you all the information you need about North Macedonia buses, when to pay and how much, the best way to get around, taxis, and whether you should bargain the price.
Rules For Traveling In North Macedonia
- Be flexible
- Ask for the bus departure directly at the bus station
- Don’t forget the station fee
- Have printed tickets to board a bus (e.g., purchased with Flixbus)
- Bargain with taxi drivers
North Macedonia doesn’t have trains. So the only way to travel around is either by car, buses or taxi. The most convenient way to travel to North Macedonia is to rent a car in Skopje.
It’ll give you a flexible schedule, you’ll get to the more remote places, and you’ll be able to plan ahead.
As I mentioned above, transportation in North Macedonia is pretty unpredictable, so rent a car for your North Macedonia road trip if you don’t want to stress out.
The most convenient way to travel to North Macedonia is to rent a car in Skopje.
If you’re traveling solo or for some reason don’t want to rent a car, you can travel by bus and minibuses/vans in North Macedonia. Alternatively, you can also take taxis, but they’ll be a lot more expensive.
North Macedonia Buses: Traveling North Macedonia By Bus/Minibus & Van
Traveling North Macedonia using buses or minivans is an adventure on its own. The buses usually don’t have a fixed timetable, only in bigger cities like Skopje or Bitola.
In smaller towns like Ohrid, I highly recommend checking the departure times directly at the bus station. Always ask the day before what time does a bus leave for your destination.
For instance, I also found a good-looking bus schedule online, which looked official, and I thought the bus was really leaving that time. However, when I came to the bus station and asked at the counter, the lady told me there was no bus that day anymore. So that’s why you have to double-check personally at the counter, at least the day before you want to travel.
What I can say is that the situation with buses is definitely much better than in Albania. In Albania, you really don’t have a clue about the timetable. But the issue is that neither locals have it.
So you have to ask bus drivers most of the time and believe that it’s true. In Albania, even the bus stations are usually closed (except in Tirana), or there is nobody.
So here in North Macedonia, you don’t have to be that stressed. The bus stations are usually open in the towns and cities, and there is always somebody to ask about the timetable.
Be Flexible When Traveling North Macedonia
When you’re traveling in the Balkans, I always say that rule number one is to be flexible. Even though in North Macedonia, the situation is not that difficult as in Albania, I still recommend being flexible if there is no bus on the day you want, or some change occurs in the timetable.
How To Buy Tickets For Buses In North Macedonia
Balkan countries are quite different from other European countries, and transportation is not an exception. If you are already familiar with the big companies like Flixbus, Eurail or Interrail, Eurobus, and Regiojet, be prepared that Balkan countries don’t work with these companies.
You’ll only find bus connections on the Flixbus site, but the actual journey will be operated by a completely different bus company.
What If You Have Prepaid Ticket With Flixbus/ Other Bus Company?
I booked a ticket from Skopje to Tirana (Albania) with Flixbus on their official site. However, during the booking process, there wasn’t shown any information about the actual carrier.
When I came to the bus station in Skopje, I realized that the bus ride was covered by a local bus company called HAK or IDO Tour.
So if you’re booking any of these transfers in North Macedonia with Flixbus, be prepared that there is no actual Flixbus bus. It’ll be operated by a local bus company.
They accept the bus tickets from Flixbus but don’t forget to print them in advance. Some drivers get angry if you only have an electronic ticket, and they might make you trouble and won’t let you board the bus.
Have a printed ticket to board a bus.
Don’t Forget The Station Fee
Another important thing you have to bear in mind when traveling by North Macedonia buses is the so-called station fee. It’s something I’ve only seen in the Balkans, and any other European country doesn’t have it.
The station fee is what you have to pay inside the bus station in North Macedonia to get to the bus platforms. Without this station fee, the guy waiting at the entrance to the bus platforms won’t let you enter, and you might get into trouble of missing your bus.
If you already have your prepaid bus ticket, just go directly to the counter at the bus station, show it to them, and they’ll register and tell you immediately that you have to pay this fee. It’s kind of strange, but don’t worry. It usually costs only between 30 to 50 MKD, around 50 cents to 1 Euro or 1 USD.
In case they don’t tell you to pay at the counter, rather ask them about the station fee to avoid additional issues when entering the bus platforms.
Buying Tickets At The Bus Station
If you don’t have a prepaid ticket, you can always buy it directly at the bus station. It’s even easier to do so as you’ll avoid some problems. Buying your tickets directly at the bus station before your ride will be easy.
Just tell them where you want to go, and they’ll issue the paper ticket for you. The price will also include the station fee, and they’ll give it to you directly. In North Macedonia, it’s usually not necessary to prepay the tickets.
The buses normally have spots available even if you can 30 minutes before departure. Usually, you can pay by card at the bigger bus stations but have also cash in local currency (Macedonian Denar – MKD) handy just in case.
Prices Of Buses In North Macedonia
Traveling in North Macedonia is generally quite cheap. To have a better picture of the prices for buses here, I’ve marked the prices for each ride I took in North Macedonia. Please note that the rates might change depending on the year. These were the prices for each bus ride from summer 2021 when I was traveling in North Macedonia.
Skopje ⇒ Matka Canyon: 50MKD, approx. 1 hour ride (no station fee required, pay directly to the driver)
For additional information about the bus ride to Matka Canyon and getting back to Skopje, I recommend you read my Matka Canyon Guide. It’ll give you insights into the timetable, bus number running to Matka Canyon, prices, and how to get back to Skopje.
Skopje ⇒ Ohrid: approx. 600MKD, approx. 3 hours ride (station fee required in Skopje)
Ohrid ⇒ Bitola: 250MKD including station fee of 20MKD, 1 hour & 30 minutes ride (station fee required in Ohrid)
Bitola ⇒ Ohrid: 190MKD, 1 hour & 30 minutes ride (no station fee in Bitola)
St. Naum at the Lake Ohrid – unfortunately, there is no bus running from Ohrid to St. Naum and to the border with Albania near Pogradec. Therefore, if you want to visit St. Naum from Ohrid, the only way is to do a boat excursion or take a taxi. Check out additional information about this ride and the price of the taxi to St. Naum in my article about things to do at Lake Ohrid.
Travelling North Macedonia By Taxis
Taking a taxi in North Macedonia is common, especially in Skopje, and for shorter distances such as getting to Matka Canyon or traveling around Lake Ohrid. For longer distances, buses are always available.
Taking a taxi in North Macedonia is pretty safe, even for a solo woman traveler. Some taxi drivers don’t speak English at all, but you might be lucky to find a good English-speaking one.
These are the best as they are friendly and excited to chat with you.
For instance, during my taxi ride from Ohrid to St. Naum monastery, I also paid for a history lesson on North Macedonia :D. I was asking so many questions to the taxi driver, and he was excited to answer them all and gave me insights into North Macedonian history, culture, and religion.
It was very interesting, and I am sure you’ll also find a taxi driver like him. People in North Macedonia are generally very friendly, and taxi drivers are not an exemption.
Negotiate With Taxi Drivers In North Macedonia
Don’t be afraid to bargain with taxi drivers. They are not as willing to accept your bargain as in Albania, but you won’t lose anything if you try it. I managed to negotiate the price even with the official taxis, and you can do so as well. It’s much easier to bargain with drivers who don’t have the official taxi sign on their car.
What I also recommend is to always share the taxi ride with other travelers or friends. It’ll get a lot cheaper, and you’ll get to your destination in a much shorter time.
Below, I am giving you an overview of the prices for each taxi ride and the price you can try to negotiate.
Skopje ⇒ Matka Canyon: 600MKD, negotiate for 400MKD
For additional information about the taxi ride to Matka Canyon and getting back to Skopje, I recommend you read my Matka Canyon Guide.
Skopje ⇒ Ohrid: it is better to take a bus, they run regularly
Ohrid ⇒ Bitola: 800MKD, negotiate for 600MKD
Bitola ⇒ Heraclea Lyncestis: 100MKD, negotiate for 70MKD
This is all the information you’ll need if you plan to travel by North Macedonia buses and taking local taxis. Let me know if you have any comments or additional questions in the comment section below.
The travel system and transportation in North Macedonia is one of the easiest and more organized from the entire Balkan peninsula. Follow this advice, and you’ll be completely fine. Also, don’t forget to be flexible and check the bus timetables directly at the bus station.
More Tips For North Macedonia Travel
If you like to gain more insights into North Macedonia, check out my North Macedonia travel guide with the most beautiful places to visit in North Macedonia. I’ve also designed the North Macedonia road trip itinerary for you. Take it, and you don’t have to plan anything. It has all the information about places you should see when visiting North Macedonia, tips for accommodation, activities, and a lot more.
If you are only in Skopje and want to make a day trip, I recommend you visit the Matka Canyon. Read my Matka Canyon Guide for additional information, how to get there, and activities you can do there.
Another place you can’t miss on your North Macedonian itinerary is Lake Ohrid. It’s the most popular spot for a summer vacation for locals and also for visitors from all around the world. It has a rich history, cultural sites, and great beaches for your relaxation.