There are a lot of tourists in Ohrid, and so squeezing money out of them is big business. Four times in the first three hours in Ohrid I was tapped up by the local hawkers. The best of all was Alex the abstract artist, who wanted to paint my portrait. He was good. We must have talked for a good half hour before I twigged it was actually a sales pitch. The key phrase was "I'm an artist". After that I was just waiting to hear what he had to offer me, so that I could turn it down.
Then there was Jimmy "I'm really a nice guy" Dimi who insisted my hotel was too expensive, and who also ran a 24 hour taxi service all by himself. There was Mr Cheap Hotel, who insisted he was recommended in the LP guide I as carrying. I didn't want to spend the time explaining to him that this wasn't necessarily a good thing based on my experiences. Finally you will find plenty of Captain Desperates, waiting to take you out for a ride on the lake, even if a couple of super cells have just collided in the clouds above the lake and are pouring down fire and brimstone upon it.
Once you have settled in, and stop looking like a tourist fresh off the tour bus, the town actually becomes a lot more relaxing. I didn't get more than a half-hearted inquiry about boats for the next two days after I arrived. Just don't flash your guide book, wander around wide eyed and lost, or smile back at strangers you have never met, and you probably won't be bothered by anyone. And don't worry: I found them all very friendly, and not at all persistent once they realised I wasn't interested.
Even though it was only the beginning of the summer, to get to the sights in the old town you have to do a fair amount of climbing and it was quite warm. Be sure to wear good shoes for walking on uneven surfaces and bring something to drink, I did find a small shop selling bottled water near the ampitheater but after that I didn't see any places selling drinks.
It's not really a danger, but I just want to make you aware that the COBBLE STONE STREETS & STAIRS can be slippery when wet. Also, many of the stones are uneven and you can trip on the ones that stick out. I found I was always looking down and watching my step as I did not want to trip and fall. The stairs are often steep and narrow, so just be careful.
On the other hand, I think the cobble stone streets add much charm and beauty to the old town of Ohrid.
I should have known. The Kaheo 1 Shop is located on the main pedestrian street - Kliment Ohridski. It was a hot day and I though a cold diet coke would be the ticket. I noticed this very small shop and walked in to see a kindly lady behind the counter. She had the smile – I found out later – of a crocodile. I really should have noticed she had no prices displayed like every other shop. I knew what the going rate on drinks was and opened the bottle as I handed her the money. Big mistake!
She charged me a full 20% more than the highest price I had seen anywhere in Macedonia. That’s her trick.
DO NOT BUY ANYTHING AT THIS SHOP!
This is why. Currently the other businesses spend loads of time writing out their prices and charging less. This lady is charging more and doing less work. Eventually she will tell others probably. Then suddenly shops start to see tourists as targets rather then guests. Too many up and coming tourist destinations like Ohrid have changed and lost their charm and warmth for tourists. And prices go up. This is how it starts.
Please make sure you shop around and use businesses who aren’t going to charge you whatever they want. I lost pennies, but I still lost. Make sure you don’t give more fuel to rip-off businesses.
on the southern side of lake ohrid there is a beautiful monastery of st. naum. it's located right on the macedonian-albanian border, so there are a lot of these kind of signs telling you about the border. but don't worry, if you miss the signs, you won't miss the soldiers with guns shouting at you to go back where you came from. and we just wanted to see albania...
Okay, I admit that taking a taxi to go wherever a bus goes is not the best thing one can do for environment. I was offered a ride from Gorica-2 to Ohrid for the same price as I would pay for a bus ride and well, I accepted. The main reason was that I had been there more than 20 minutes, under the sun, waiting for the bus and I didn't want to stay there longer. The car was kind of old but the guy was pretty fast although not too safe.
I do not recommend to take a taxi in Ohrid unless necessary (most of them are old and great polluters), but well, at least this guy charged me exactly the amount he promissed (30 denars) and I was back in town, ready to keep on discovering.
A few years ago we visited Ohrid for the day. While there I wanted to look at some of the famous Ohrid pearls, so we parked our car in what seemed to be the main old Ohrid parking section near the lake and in front of the old town shopping street. Everyone else was parking there so we thought our car would be safe. We returned about an hour later and our car was missing. Fortunately, there was an old man sitting on a park bench and he came over and told us that the "spider " took it. We had no idea what this spider was, but eventually figured out that our car had been towed away, even though the whole parking area was full with cars. A taxi ride later, we arrived at the place where they keep the towed away cars, and sure enough our car was there. We asked why our car was towed away, when there were 100 other cars parked in the same spot. The man replied that they only tow away the cars with foreign number plates these days, because the Macedonians can't afford to pay the fines and their car yard is full of unclaimed cars. Long live tourists!!!
Ohrid is very safe, but keep an eye on the local taxi drivers! Most have meters, but I have experienced taxis in Ohrid that have rigged their meter (or, perhaps, using a special setting) to have the fare increase in value every second in the vehicle.
Cabs' meters start at 30 dinar and should be no more than 70 dinar per kilometer driven.
Safe as houses. There's absolutely no trouble here. I guess the worst risk is from a drunken tourist, but everyone in Ohrid seemed very well behaved. Most people were in bed or back at the hotel by midnight. It's a small town, and everyone who lives there seems to know each other. All the tourists are there just to have a good time. I guess there might be some pickpockets around to prey on the tourists just like anywhere, but it didn't feel at all threatening.
My camera was stolen near one of the monastries. I don't know whether I forgot it or someone carefully took it out of my bag, but at some point I suddenly realised it was gone, forever. However this can happen everywhere, and fortunately simple cameras can be bought at many shops. The drawback was this happened 3 hours before I left, so I had to hurry to all the sights to take another picture, and once more all my pics of Skopje are gone now...
If you're going to Sv. Naum out of season, check the timetable for the last bus back to Ohrid, or else you'll finish like me... Hitchicking the way back to the town...