After two months in Skopje, I have been impressed with the honesty of Macedonians.
However, the alerts about Roma (gypsy) gangs were brought to reality to me last night, Good Friday evening. It might seem insensitive to stereotype a group of people that has been much maligned, but the danger is real.
Coming out of the Opera House after seeing an outstanding dance performance, friends and I were had our guards down while walking on the bank of the Vardar River near Holiday Inn. In the blink of an eye, a Roma family (mother with baby in arms, a boy) came after one of us. I went to help and was then accosted by one small boy, who had his hands on me.
Before my brain caught on to the danger I saw that my purse had been opened and my wallet, which was in a zippered compartment under a buttoned flap, was missing. I had the child in hand and demanded my wallet back, but amidst the confusion the boy wriggled away.
I recognized my own stupidity at once. But I managed to do one thing right: before the little thief managed to take off I told him that he could keep my money but I wanted the rest of my wallet back - I said I would give him money if he did.
My heart sank after he disappeared, because my only ATM card was in the wallet and I just knew I would never see it again. Even though there were lots of people around in the area, no onlooker came to my assistence in spite of my shouts of "thief". The area was dimly lit in neon lights and no policeman was on patrol.
Here is the miracle: the little scum took my bait and came back with the wallet, with all money i(including coins) emptied but the cards intact.
I was extremely lucky but I fear that others will not in the hands of this little thief. In all likelihood my wallet, with the ATM card and credit cards that I so need, would have been tossed into the Vardar River after the money was taken out.
Unique Suggestions: Avoid the Vardar river banks, especially at night. Do not carry a purse after dark and if you must leave your cards out of it. Assume that you will be robbed.
If you see a family or group of Roma, run out of the way or go to a local person and ask for help. Do not let them get their hands on you.
Fun Alternatives: Avoid the Stone Bridge area, especially after dark. Do not carry a purse. Carry a noise maker.
Tourist Centre is not much; located in a very dated building they only have a desk right in front of the entrance. They sell some postcards and have some maps but that's it.
When I asked for excursions in Skopje, they couldn't give me information about that. They only start talking about an excursion to Bitola.
Not all the people that work here speak fluently English (as said in the Lonely Planet).
Sometimes they close earlier. Must be because of lack of tourists coming in!
Fun Alternatives: The information hotels can give you might be more usefull.
Taxi drivers that will offer you a ride to the city at the airport may charge you too much money (well this isn't some news really lol, it happens everywhere around the world and it's not something specific solely for Macedonia)
Most of those particular taxi drivers are not members of any relevant taxi company, so they make their own 'pricelists' (ussually at the second when u ask about the price lol).
But don't worry.
You should know that taxi transport in Macedonia is very cheap (and I may say cheap by any standards, expecially western standards) when using a reputable taxi company and not some 'individual' taxi drivers (they don't belong to a relevant taxi association so they are not obliged to follow any policy or rules)
Note that fares from/to the airport never include a taximeter (as it is a ride out of the city), so the price is 'fixed' and you will be told about it beforehand.
Currently (2006), the realistic price of a taxi fare Airport-City or vice-versa is around 10 euro (as I was told today at "Komak Komerc company". Dunno about the others, the price may vary)
The taxis at the airport will try to charge you double the price!
The best solution is to arrange a taxi from a relevant company to wait for you when you arrive, beforehand.
You can do this:
1. by PHONE and for some companies by sending SMS from your mobile phone too.
List of taxi phone numbers here:
mostly they speak english
2. you can make an ONLINE arrangement on:
You can order a taxi to wait for you at a given time and date by filling a form in english:
the prices r here:
I have been using them a lot, but I must say that I've never needed their online service so I can't comment on it particulary.
3. if you have a local friend, you can ask him/her to arrange that for you by phone or something.
These informations are not for advertisement purposes, I beleive they can be useful.
Unique Suggestions: Sometimes for some reason you may have to accept the offer of those rip-off airport taxi drivers (for example once I arrived back in Skopje after a 1 month of exhausting backpack trip abroad, I was tired, nervous, it was late at night and the weather was awful, it was snowing as hell and 3-4 freezing taxi drivers with scarfs and beanie hats approached me as I came out of the airport)
I didn't make any arrangements for a friend or a taxi to wait for me beforehand, nor I could call one by phone at the moment, so least I could do was to negotiate the price.
They may try to convince you that they can't give you any discount, but do try to haggle (expecially now when you know the realistic costs)
If you are reading loney planet 2005 (eastern Europe) you could see that there are several bus stations ..so dont pay attention to that..its not right !! i was crazy for 30 minutes trying to located me cos really i didnt know where i was !! besides dont try to look street names on the corners ..it doenst exist !!!!!! its the hell !!!! lol
If you are reading that book pay attention to the train station , where there is the central bus station where all the coaches leave and get the city !!! forget look for any other station... Thats the point why i was attonished walking in the wrong direction till some locals told me that i was wrong !!
So hard and expensive get a real map from the city and not tourist information point in the station ... so take care and be so watchfull with tiresome taxi drivers asking for everything you could need !! Actually if you are looking for the hostel is just 5 minutes walking but really hard to get it for the same reason !!!
Most taxi drivers are honest, I only had two bad experiences in these two months. But some guys are out to take advantage of foreigners. They like to lurk around at the train station, bus station, airport, hotels and tourist spots, so beware! 50 Denar (less than 1€), should get you almost anywhere within the city centre. Also make sure a taximeter is used.
Ok, I cannot generalize... and everybody that hs seen my pages, should know this by now... I think, having in mind the situation in the country in the past... X years, maybe in case you arrive at the Bus or the Railway Station, you might run into a unregistered cab that could charge you too much.
Also, another thing is arriving at the airport. It is not the best information to give but the truth is there is NO bus, organized line going from Skopje to the airport and back, so you got some cabs waiting over there but they OVER-charge!
So... not sure what to offer as a solution, just have this in mind.
Unique Suggestions: Ok, in case you need to take a cab from the Bus/Railway station, ask me first for some of the types of cabs you can use (Denis_BG asked me something like that and she made it to her hotel successfully) or have in mind that both of the stations are VERY close to the center so there IS NO way that the cab can charge you more than 50 denars.
When changing money, shop around for the best exchange rate. Last Summer the £ varied greatly from 'menuvacnica' to 'menuvacnica' (bureau d'exchange). You may find your getting ripped off. A few denars less per pound build up when you're changing loads!!
It is not a big trap but if you go on Vodno when is rain or snow you can fal too many times... I dident have that feeling but all of my frends are.