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Alexander the Great Airport
I love the Greeks. I have many Greek friends who I think very fondly of and care for a great deal. I think it's a wonderful, proud nation with an amazing and unique history... but I still love it when little Macedonia sticks it to them by naming its airport after Alexander the Great.
The Greeks get all upset about Macedonia's name, force them to use the ridiculous title of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYRM), and make life as difficult as they can for the new nation. They refuse to ratify Macedonia's accession to the EU unless the "naming issue" is resolved.
The Macedonians happily share Mother Teresa with Albania and Kosovo, even though they are Muslim nations and she was born in Skopje. But she was ethnic Albanian, so who cares. Everyone associates Alexander the Great with Greece and Macedonia, so who cares if this tiny nation steals a little of that glory. It's not like Greece hasn't got plenty of history already. Share it about a bit and stop being so petty. Or we'll keep the Elgin marbles (just kidding).
Anyway...Skopje's newly ordained Alexander the Great airport is totally unbefitting of such a great man. It's tiny. Its setting, however, is fantastic, and really dramatic when the storm clouds roll in. I snapped a picture of the sleek Alitalia Embraer on the tarmac and it looks great with the mountainous backdrop and the broody, bruising clouds on the horizon.
As the airport is small, not that many airlines serve it. There's a host of former East European airlines that fly here, like Hungary's Malev and Czech Airlines. All the main Balkan airlines fly here too, as do Austrian Airlines and Alitalia. Macedonia's flag carrier, MAT Airlines, flies to most of the major destinations.
Getting to and from the airport is by taxi only, and this should cost you no more than about 15 euros. Heading from the airport such a price is apparently difficult, as the taxi drivers seek to overcharge you. Ask your hotel to send a taxi to pick you up. Getting to the airport by taxi is less problematic.
From Skopje airport to city centre
We arrived at Skopje's Alexander The Great Airport on a Wizz Air flight at the start of our visit to Macedonia in March 2012.
Having read on various forums that there was no bus service linking the airport with Skopje city centre (some 17km away), we decided to take up the option of a pre-booked transfer offered by our accommodation, Guesthouse Anja.
General consensus on the travel forums seemed to be that privately arranged transfers such as this were a cheaper option than taking a taxi from the airport on arrival. The going rate for a taxi at the time of our visit was 20 Euros and we were offered the transfer for 15 Euros. This price included the airport parking charge (our driver had been waiting for a while as our flight was delayed by around 45 minutes) and a couple of small road tolls that the driver had to pay on the way into the city.
The journey to Guesthouse Anja, located in the heart of the city, close to the Old Stone Bridge, took around 25 minutes at 8pm on a Saturday evening.
At the end of our stay, we took a taxi back to the airport. We had spent the final night of our stay at Hotel Super 8 on the edge of the Carsija district of Skopje and, rather conveniently, there was a taxi rank right outside the hotel.
We didn't know how much we should expect to pay for a taxi to the airport so we enquired at reception. They weren't sure either, but said that they could arrange a transfer for us for 1,400 MKD (£19). We decided that we'd bargain with one of the taxi drivers and return to take up the hotel's offer if we couldn't haggle down to a lower price ourselves. The first driver that we approached offered to take us to the airport for 1,000 MKD (£14) and we immediately accepted. You may be able to negotiate a lower rate.
On a Saturday afternoon, the journey to the airport again took around 20-25 minutes and the taxi driver paid a couple of small road tolls en-route (which were included in our fare).
As the taxi driver dropped us off outside the airport terminal at the end of our stay we noticed a bus stop outside the arrivals hall. Closer inspection showed that it was for the Vardar Ekspres bus service into the city centre. This is presumably a recently introduced service.
The Vardar Ekspres operates the following route:
Alexander The Great Airport – Hotel Continental – International Bus/Railway Station – Holiday Inn – Hotel Alexander.
There are several buses per day accoring to the timetable, although the timings are quite spaced out and are not uniform from one day to the next. It may be that the buses coincide with the arrival of major scheduled flights? I've attached a photo of the timetable (as at March 2012) in the hope that it may be of help to somebody, and in case the image isn't clear enough, the times are as follows:
Monday: 00:00, 02:00, 03:20, 04:30, 13:45 and 16:30
Tuesday: 00:00, 05:00, 13:45, 16:30 and 19:20
Wednesday: 00:00, 02:00, 03:20, 10:00, 13:45, 16:45 and 19:00
Thursday: 00:00, 02:00, 09:40, 13:45, 15:00, 16:30 and 18:40
Friday: 00:00, 02:00, 03:20, 12:40, 14:40 and 16:30
Saturday: 00:00, 05:00, 08:30, 09:40, 11:00, 12:40, 13:40, 16:50 and 19:20
Sunday: 00:00, 02:00, 03:30, 10:00, 13:40, 14:50, 16:30 and 18:00
As it happens, even if we had known about the bus before our visit it probably wouldn't have been any use to us; we emerged from the arrivals hall shortly before 8pm on a Saturday evening, some 40 minutes after the last bus of the day had departed. However, it may be that the final bus had been scheduled in order to meet our flight and that it was held for our delayed arrival?
Taxi to the airport/flying out of Skopje
We did not fly into Skopje as we were on a round trip covering other countries too. But we took a taxi from our hotel to the airport.
We had the hotel call a taxi for us. We had asked in the hotel beforehand how much it would approximately be and were told 800 - 900 MKD. We didn't ask the taxi driver as he put the meter on which showed in the end something close to 700 MKD but he said that to the airport is a flat rate of 800 MKD which we paid without any queries with the rest of our Macedonian Dinars and a couple of Euro. Mind you the taxi driver had to pay toll on the motorway which was 30 MKD too.
We flew with Swiss which was actually flying for Edelweiss to Zurich. Half an hour earlier there was also a Air Berlin flight to Zurich. There were two gates and it was a big mess and very stuffy air as in the last minute they changed the gates for the flights. We walked a short distance to the plane.
Funny thing was that in Zurich they put the luggage from both planes on the same belt. I wonder if sometimes some pieces get put in the wrong plane...
I need to get to Skopje!
Reaching Skopje by a plane is still not an easy task. No low-cost companies are flying out to Skopje (except for SkyWings, but I don't know just how safe and organized they are).
I can suggest a flight through Zagreb, Belgrade, Ljubljana and there are some direct ones from cities like Vienna, Budapest or Prague.
The airport is currently undergoing some serious changes (here's hoping) and it is supposed to be improved, because at the moment it doesn't really offer the best of impressions.
There's a daily train leaving from Ljubljana at about 9:00 pm, or something like that, and that arrives here the following day at about 4:00 pm. But it is tiring, and the trains aren't the cleanest things you'd see... :-)
Buses... there are buses coming from Belgrade and also from Sofia (Bulgaria) - daily.
Busier than you think
Skopje has an international airport, which may be small in size, but not so small in the number of flights. At least 16 international destinations can be reached by direct flight.
It is important to remember this when you plan the timing of your outbound flights. In fact the locals repeated to us that it was not necessary to get there very early "The airport is small, you'll get through check-in and control in no time!".
Maybe it was that particular day, or maybe it was a time of the day with many flights, but when we got to the airport we found a big crowd at the check-in and at the security check, so we made it just on time.
So if you fly to and from Skopje, remember it is an airport with serious traffic.
In addition to the airlines others have mentioned, Skopje is now served by the extensive and efficient Czech Airlines network, via Prague. They don't fly every day but prices can be quite reasonable; for example London - Skopje around $330 return (everything included) in summer 2005.
Swiss codesharing with MAT
Swiss International is formally codesharing with MAT -- Macedonian Airlines. This simplifies check-in, boarding passes and a host of other issues for Skopje-bound passengers -- at a price!! THe better deals are usuallt through Amsterdam with MAT/KLM.
Note: If you are flying MAT/Swiss combination FROM Skopje you get your MAT boarding pass in the usual line then go to a special window to get your onward Swiss boarding pass.
The easiest, but the most...
The easiest, but the most expensive, way to get to Skopje is by air. Among the airlines that currently serve Petrovec Airport are Swiss, Malev, Austrian Airlines & Adria Airways. There is also a Macedonian carrier -- MAT. There is a once a day train from Thessaloniki and regular bus service to Belgrade.
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Skopje Travel Guide
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