Bus services between Skopje and Sofia run about 6 times a day with a journey time, depending on the border crossing, of about six hours. The service seems to be shared between the Macedonian Transkop Bitola company, the Bulgarian Matpu 96 OOD and a couple of others. The one-way fare at the time of writing was 32 leva (from Sofia) and the equivalent (just over 1000) in denar from Skopje.
In order to buy a ticket you’ll need your passport and tickets can be bought from any of the ticket desks at Skopje or from the Matpu office at Sofia’s Serdika bus station (adjacent to the central one). Useful to note is that the Skopje ticket office accepts major credit and debit cards (Visa and Mastercard/Maestro).
One minor difference between the two services I used is that the Matpu company charges 1 leva (30 denar) for luggage (anything bigger than a large purse/handbag) whilst there was no charge on the Transkop Bitola bus.
The journey is quite scenic, passing through the various mountain ranges, the buses are perfectly comfortable and on both legs there was a strategic rest break (cigarette break in my case) about midway. The border crossing is a bit of a hassle with both sets of border officials checking passports. Coming in we all had to get off the bus and temporarily reclaim our luggage from the baggage hold for customs inspection and then on the way back Bulgarian border control decided that my passport needed double checking (well if you saw my picture you’d understand why) and so we were held up whilst I had to wait outside the control office for about twenty minutes for that. But otherwise it was a pleasant journey.
After the recent excellent Euromeet 2011 organised wonderfully by Valentina I needed to travel to Tirana in Albania to get my flight home. an internet search produced a lot of conflicting information that was either undated, out of date or just plain wrong so I intend to provide a step by step guide which was current as of 5th June 2011. Obviously, travel information is usually out of date as soon as it is written so chack to see if there is anything more recent as the usefulness of this decays.
Firstly, a bit of mythbusting. I had heard talk of a daytime bus, which I would have preferred but it simply does not exist. There is one bus per day, it departs at 1900 hours and this is how to get it. I decided to get my ticket early although it would have been possible to turn up a short time before as the bus was nearly empty. Go the the bus station, which is on Bulavar Kusman Josefovski Pitu and is actually under the main train station. Both are signposted and a taxi will take you there although if you wish to walk and / or save a few dinari it is only about a twenty minute stroll from the centre. From eht centre, keep the river on your left, walk past the large Vero shopping centre and you will come to where the railway crosses over the road. It is just on the right and I have included a photo to help you.
When you enter, there are a number of different ticket booths and you need to go to the last one on the left which says Eurolines in Roman script. I went in and spoke to the two helpful ladies both pf whom spoke reasonable English. I purchased my ticket easily in local currency although it was quoted in Euros. Be aware that you need to produce your passport to purchase a ticket, I think it is something to do with speeding up the somewhat notorious Albanian border procedure.
One thing to note is the difficulty in obtaining Albanian currency. I tried at the bureau de change in the bus staion but they couldn't help even after making a couple of 'phone calls on my behalf. I asked was there a bureau at the border and the lady couldn't help. In the event there was not but don't panic, you can use Euros until you get to Tirana.
All the perceived wisdom is that the bus departs from stand #1 although they told me it would leave from #3 which it duly did. They did, however, tell me the bus would have the Eurolines livery although, as you can see, it wasn't.
The bus left on time with myself and one other lady on it. It was comfortable and had a toilet onboard although I did not use it so cannot vouch for it's cleanliness or otherwise. I took my favouerd seat which is the back seat in the middle. That way I can stretch my rather tall frame out a bit. As it happened, I managed to get a bit of sleep stretched out over all five seats.
the journey could probably be achieved a lot quicker but they tend to stop every couple of hours, always at a restaurant so you can stock up on food or snacks as well as attending the call of nature. All the places we stopped seemed to be clean.
In the dead of night, our assistant / ticket collector disappeared into a small building and appeared to be conducting some sort of official business. This was explained a short time later when we approached the border. The assistant took our pasports and got them checked for us (we did not leave the bus). Then he gave them back, we drove a couple of hundred yards and he took them again at the Albanian side. No, I don't understand why either. Anyway, a few minutes later I had my passport back with my long-coveted Albania stamp. All completely painless. There is supposedly an entry tax of about one Euro but we didn't have to pay at the border, I think it is inbuilt in the ticket price.
After a few more stops we arrived in Tirana at about 0430 in the morning. Tirana does not have a bus station and you are dumped in a carpark, not too far from the centre. There I was, middle of the night strange capital of a new country with not a word of Albanian nor a penny piece of the local currency. Still, I like an adventure. This is what you may care to do. If you look for the carpark, there is a main road in front and a wide boulevard going away for you. This leads to the main square. Go down there a couple of hundred yards and there is a cafe / bar just beside the casino. Both are open 24 hours a day. The staff in the cafe were friendly, spoke a little English and, most improtantly, accepted Euros. I spent a very pleasant couple of hours there until the town started to come alive and I bid farewell and moved on.
This then is how to get from Skopje to Tirana by bus and it is not as scary as some might have you believe.
I shall unashamedly crosspost this in my Tirana page.
I found it easy to arrive in Skopje by bus from Ohrid (there are departures almost every hour throughout the day). I also had an easy time finding the bus to Pristina. Although the bus station is large it is easy to navigate, and it's also easy to connect to city transit here.
During a visit to Macedonia in March 2012, we decided to make a short visit to the Kosovan capital, Pristina.
This was a last minute decision and was a rather rushed trip. We were in Ohrid and planning our return to Skopje, when I realised that if we caught an early bus from Ohrid we might just be able to squeeze in an afternoon in Pristina. So, we took the 7:30am bus from Ohrid, arriving in Skopje at 10:45am. We immediately bought tickets for the 11:30am bus to Pristina and then rushed to dump our luggage at our hotel.
We had read that the journey from Skopje to Pristina can take anything from 1.5 to 3.5 hours depending on traffic and queues at the border and that the last bus back to Skopje was at 5pm. So, as we boarded the bus, we crossed our fingers that this would be a quick journey...otherwise we could find ourselves with just 2 hours in Pristina!
The following details were correct as at March 2012.
Skopje – Pristina
We caught the 11:30am bus on a Friday morning in March 2012. It was a modern coach with "Evropska Linija" emblazoned on its side.
We paid 340 MKD (£4.50) each for one way tickets. We were told by the English-speaking staff at the ticket office that it was not possible to purchase return tickets and that we'd have to buy tickets in Pristina for our return trip.
We purchased our tickets around 45 minutes before the bus departed. There was no need to purchase tickets any further in advance. As the bus pulled out of bay number 3 at Skopje's long-distance bus station, there were only 3 other passengers on board the bus in addition to my girlfriend and I. We picked another passenger up just outside the station and a couple more in the northern suburbs of Skopje, but there were still only 8 of us on board when we reached the Macedonia-Kosovo border.
The journey from Skopje to the border took around 30 minutes, including a 5 minute stop at a petrol station while the driver went to purchase cigarettes which he then proceeded to chain smoke as he drove us towards the border. As he left the bus, the driver handed us a sheet of paper on which all passengers wrote their names and passport numbers. This would save a little time when we got to the border.
The border crossing was fairly quick and painless. There was no queue in the direction that we were heading, although we noted that the traffic heading into Macedonia was much heavier. Our passports were collected by a border guard at the Macedonian border, taken away and then returned to us a few minutes later. The same procedure then took place at the Kosovan border. With only 8 passengers on board, the process was fairly swift and the entire border crossing took place in 10-15 minutes.
From there it was a straightforward journey into Pristina. We stopped briefly at the roadside near to the town of Ferizaj to drop a passenger off and then made a couple of stops in the suburbs of Pristina to drop other passengers off.
We pulled into Pristina bus station at around 1:30pm (a journey time of 2 hours) – leaving us with 3.5 hours to explore Pristina.
Pristina bus station is located a couple of kilometers from the centre of the city. We took a taxi from outside the station to Mother Teresa Boulevard (cost: 2.5 Euros), but if we'd had more time (and, at that point, a map!) it would have been an easy 20 minute walk into town along Bulevardi Bill Clinton.
Pristina – Skopje
Immediately after getting off our bus from Skopje, we made our way into the bus station and found a ticket office to purchase our return tickets. We wanted to ensure that we got tickets for the final Skopje-bound bus of the day at 5pm. It is worth noting that if the 5pm Skopje bus is fully booked, there is also a 5pm bus to Tetovo in Macedonia, from where you could then get transport to Skopje.
We paid 5.50 Euros each for our tickets on a bus operated by Skopje-based Rule Turs.
The bus was much busier than the one we came on. It was probably around 75% full when we pulled out of bay number 8 at Pristina bus station and then proceeded to pick up more passengers en-route.
Unlike on the outbound journey, the bus drove into the town of Ferizaj and stopped at the central bus station there for around 10 minutes. Further passengers boarded here and the bus was practically full.
The driver collected all passports early on in the journey and there was no sheet for us to fill out our details on this time. Despite the bus being much busier than the one we came on, and the traffic being a lot heavier, the border crossing only took slightly longer than it had done earlier in the day (a little over 20 minutes for the whole process).
The heavier traffic, the slightly longer border crossing and the stop at Ferizaj bus station meant that we arrived back in Skopje at around 7:40pm; 2 hours and 40 minutes after leaving Pristina.
The bus made several drop offs in Skopje before ending its journey at the bus station. We jumped off near the Vero Center shopping mall which was closer to our hotel than the bus station was.
We visited Macedonia for a week in March 2012. We began our stay with a weekend in Skopje, before catching a bus south to Ohrid for 4 days and then taking a bus back north to Skopje for one final day.
The following details were correct at the time of our visit.
Skopje – Ohrid
There are two bus routes from Skopje to Ohrid; the shortest and most common route is via Kicevo, while the longer and less frequent route is via Bitola.
We opted for the former and caught the 10am bus on a Monday morning. The bus was operated by Galeb and we paid 750 MKD (£10) for a return ticket. One way tickets were available for 450 MKD, so it was beneficial to purchase a return ticket rather than two one way tickets. We purchased our tickets a day in advance, but this wasn't necessary in March – the bus was nowhere near full. I understand that purchasing tickets in advance may be necessary in the busier summer months.
We walked from our accommodation (Gueshouse Anja, on the riverside next to the Old Stone Bridge) to Skopje's long distance bus station. The bus station is located next to the railway station and is a 15 minute walk from Old Stone Bridge, first along the riverside and then past the Vero Center shopping mall. It was an easy, flat walk even with suitcases in tow.
The bus departed from bay number 8 at the bus station and first headed in a westerly direction towards Tetovo. It turned off just before reaching Tetovo and headed south past Gostivar before stopping at Kicevo around 2 hours into the journey. We stopped at Kicevo for a little over 5 minutes; a handful of passengers got on (adding to the dozen or so that were already on board the sparsely populated bus) and a few passengers got off to use the toilet facilities at Kicevo's small bus station.
The total journey time was around 3 hours 15 minutes. We stayed on board until it arrived at Ohrid bus station, but had we known the layout of the town we would have alighted outside the market on Bulevar Turisticka which was much more conveniently located for where we were staying.
The bus wasn't particularly comfortable; there were no refreshments or toilet facilities on board. The air conditioning wasn't very effective and the bus was starting to get very warm as the journey progressed.
The scenery en-route was spectacular at times; lots of winding mountain roads and precipitous drops. Furthermore, at the time of our visit, although the snow had melted at ground level in Skopje it was still deep and untouched along the mountain roads.
Ohrid – Skopje
As we had purchased a return ticket in Skopje, we had assumed that we could just turn up and catch whichever Galeb bus we liked back to Skopje. However, the owners of the villa that we stayed at (Villa Boban) told us that we should confirm in advance with the bus station which bus we would like to catch. Our wonderful hosts Tina and Boban arranged this for us. We told them on the Wednesday that we intended to catch the 7:30am on the the Friday morning and they made all the arrangements for us. The bus was about 75% full when it departed so we would probably have been ok turning up at the bus station on the morning and booking ourselves onto that bus, but it wasn't worth taking the risk (and certainly wouldn't be a wise idea in the busier summer months).
We had chosen to catch the early morning bus for two reasons. Firstly, it meant that we'd be back in Skopje in time to catch a bus to Pristina for an afternoon in Kosovo. Secondly, given the poor air conditioning system on our outbound bus, it meant that we'd be travelling before the temperatures became too warm.
Ohrid's bus station is located quite a walk (20 minutes?) from the centre and, as we were catching an early bus, we decided to use a taxi to get to the station. Our hosts phoned a taxi for us and the 5 minute journey to the station cost 100 MKD (£1.30).
The journey back to Skopje took a similar length of time as the outbound journey had done (3 hours 15 minutes) and so we were back in Skopje by 10:45am. The route was also the same (i.e. via Kicevo) but differed in the following ways:
On the way back to Skopje, the bus stopped at Kicevo only to let on a couple of passengers before setting off again immediately. There was no toilet break.
Instead, there was a 10 minute toilet/smoking break when the bus stopped at Gostivar bus station (which we didn't visit on the outbound journey).
The bus also called in at Tetovo bus station to drop off / collect passengers which didn't happen on the outbound journey.
During our visit to Skopje in March 2012, my girlfriend and I wanted to visit the thermal baths at Katlanovska Banja, around 30km from the centre of Skopje.
We read in our Bradt guidebook that the baths could easily be reached by a regular bus service (# 53) from the bus station to the entrance of the bathing complex.
We located the local bus station, which is adjacent to the long distance bus station that we had used when travelling to and from Ohrid and Pristina and which is easily spotted due to the number of bright red buses entering, exiting and parked up there!
We found the correct bay for our bus (there are clear signs displaying the numbers of the buses leaving from each bay) and scrutinised the timetable. There are lots of buses from Skopje to Katlanovska Banja in the morning; we had just missed the 10:50am bus and so sat and waited for the 11:30am bus.
We purchased tickets from the driver (just 35 MKD each way) and validated them in a machine next to him.
The journey took around 50 minutes (via lots of stops en-route, including the village of Katlanovo close to the baths) and so we arrived at around 12:20pm.
We asked the driver what time the buses departed Katlanovska Banja for our return journey (there was no timetable displayed there) and ascertained that the next two buses were at 2pm and 3:20pm. We caught the later one. There were more buses after 3:20pm, but we had to be back in Skopje as we were flying home that evening and the 3:20pm bus was the latest one we could catch.
The buses arrive at and depart from the main entrance to the Katlanovska Banja complex. From there it is just a couple of minutes walk to the reception area for the thermal baths and treatments.
I am going to Macedonia in two weeks and have booked a room at the Shanti Hostel in Skopje, who offer airport pick-ups at 5 euros less than the fixed taxi tariff of 20 euros.
I emailed them today to confirm we are still coming and the owner, Dina, emailed back to say that as of today (2nd March 2012) there is a public bus service to and from the airport to the centre of town. She sent me a schedule so just in case the link doesn't load, i'll try to summarise in details below:
The route is AIRPORT - HOTEL CONTINENTAL - INTERNATIONAL BUS / RAILWAY STATION - HOTEL HOLIDAY INN - HOTEL ALEKSANDAR PALACE.
The buses are daily and start from midnight throughout the day until 6 or 7pm most nights, and there are more services on weekends. I can't list all of the times but the link below should be ok if you copy and paste it into your address bar.
The cost is 100 denars one way.
From Google Maps I can see that the station is very central - if you find Gazi Baba Park, look south southwest from there over the river and you should be able to make out the train lines and roads for it in the intersection of Belasica and Boulevard Kuzman
Hope this helps, i'll update my information when i get back at the end of March with further tips
You can find a lot of information about the international bus services from the central bus station (Skopje) on http://sas.com.mk/.
They have added the google translation button recently so you it understandable now.
Skopje’s main bus station, which serves most major domestic routes, and several international ones, shares the “Transportation Centre” with the train station (although note that the two are no longer directly inter-connected) and is located about a kilometre southwest of the city centre.
This is a modern, user-friendly, terminus with all the facilities the traveller requires including cafes, shops, an ATM and a tourist information office which can assist with accommodation. The ticket desks sell tickets for all services, including the international routes, and especially useful is that they accept major credit cards (and so if in transit you don’t need to use local currency to buy your ticket).
Buses leave from clearly marked bays (sectors) and in my limited experience seem to run on schedule.
I’d arrived and departed to and from Sofia and on both occasions had a totally hassle-free journey. There’s a few taxi touts (who I found perfectly friendly) and the main taxi rank is in the front of the entrance. There’s also a couple of beggars and other touts but these seemed harmless enough and there is a visible police presence keeping an eye on things.
We had heard that the bus system in Macedonia was so much better than the trains so we opted to take a bus from Skopje to Sofia, Bulgaria. The bus took a little over 5 hours (6 hours if you include the 1 hour time change). We bought tickets the day before, like the other bus we took between Ohrid and Skopje, you bought a ticket for a specific time and seat.
The current price of a one way ticket is 1040 MKD ($25 US), we were able to use our credit card to purchase at the bus station. No extra charge for luggage. The current times are 0:00, 7:00, 8:30, 15:00, 17:30 and 22:00.
You can use the website below to figure out current schedules but unfortunately to use the schedules you have to be able to convert the Roman alphabet to the Cyrillic alphabet.
The bus station at Skopje is excellent. It's just under the train station. There's an ATM, shops, ticket and (English speaking) information windows open all night. I had a bit of time to spare so I asked about various international bus times. Here's what I was told (September 2009)
Buses to Sofia leave every day at 0700, 0830, 1500, 2100 and 2400. The journey takes about 5 hours
Buses to Belgrade leave at 0745, 0925, 1310, 1430, 1645 and 2030 every day. The journey takes about 8 hours
There's a bus to Podgorica every day at 2000 or 2100 (alternate days 2000 and 2100 - the Saturday one leaves at 2100). It takes 8 hours
There are no direct buses to Bucharest. Get one to Belgrade and change
There's an early bus to Thessaloniki leaving at 0600 on Monday, Wednesday & Friday only
There's a bus to Tirana every day, leaving at 1900, arriving at 0400
There are buses to Istanbul every day, leaving at 1600, 1700 and 1900. It takes 12 hours
There are buses to Sarajevo. It takes 12 hours, Not sure of the times
There are buses to Novi Pazar (5 hours), going via Prishtina, Prizren, etc, leaving at 0800 and 1300, BUT the driver won't let you on these if you have a Kosovo stamp in your passport (for obvious reasons). In that case you have to get a bus to Kraljevo (crossing the Serbian border at a legal entry point, where they'll stamp CANCELLED on top of your Kosovo stamp) then change. Take the Uzice bus from Skopje, get off at Kraljevo, then there are buses almost every hour from Kraljevo to Novi Pazar.
You can also see the timetable on the bus station website, at http://www.sas.com.mk/ (it's isn't in the English version - only the Macedonian one), but I'm not sure if it's up to date. The website also has the telphone number to ring for information.
UPDATE (June 2011). Timetables now at http://www.skopje.com.mk/angliski/megju.asp
Skopje - Ljubljana
Every day @ 15:00 & 17:00 CET
Price for round trip: 6900 MKD (112 EUR)
Time: around 15 hrs one way
Every day @ 9:00 (arr 7:23 next day) & 20:45 (arr 20:39 next day) CET
Layover in Belgrade: aprox 3 hrs if you are lucky (the train from Skopje to Belgrade is almost always late)
Price for round trip: 6500 MKD (105 EUR)
As somebody else said, taxis in Skopje (and in Macedonia generally) don't generally cost very much. (Two Euros should be enough to get you to most places in the city - Sept 2009.) And in my experience Macedonian taxi-drivers (unlike, say,Istanbul taxi-drivers) don't generally try to rip foreigners off. But there are exceptions, and one of the places where the rip-off merchants lurk is in the bus station, or between the train station and the bus station. (It happened to me once.) To avoid the danger, ask the hotel to send a taxi to meet you, or call one yourself.
If you haven't got a hotel and you don't know any taxi-drivers, call Mr Goran - 00389 (0)71 22 75 71. He speaks English (he drives a lot of people working with NGOs and the like), and he's completely honest. I got him to drive me to Pristina and I was so pleased that I got him to drive me to Matka the next day. His email is email@example.com
Arrived in and departed from the main bus station, it's a little out of town a taxi should cost (May '09) less than 100 MKD from the centre.
Tickets are easy to buy, English was spoken perfectly and there is a currency exchange office here too.
There are three or four buses a day from Skopje to Pristina. It costs about 5 euro each way. Infuriatingly it takes over 2 hours to cover a distance of just 60km! It only takes about 20 minutes to get to the border from Skopje Bus Station. After about 45 minutes at the border, it then took about another hour to get to Pristina, via a couple of short stops at bus stations in Kosovo itself.
The scenery is quite nice to look at through the windows of the comfortable bus. There is a large military presence still in the area with peace-keepers from a number of different countries driving around in their military vehicles.
The last bus in both directions leaves at 5pm.