Whilst in Skopje, I tried to change some travellers cheques (American Express) but without success. I tried a couple of banks and a bureau de change, but no-one would change them. I'm sure there are places that will change them, but you might have to hunt them out.
I didn't actually need the money, as i had sufficient cash, but it might be a problem if you are solely reliant on them.
Update November 2013.
I do like to keep my tips as up to date as possible and I stumbled upon this one lately. I just haven't got the time to check all my old tips on a regular basis but if I find an obvious mistake I try to rectify it immediately.
Since I originally visited Skopje in 2005 things have changed greatly, not least in the field of technology and banking. the travellers cheque is all but extinct now and crdit / debit cards and ATM's are the preferred way of paying for things whilst travelling. I revisited Skopje for the excellent Virtual Tourist Euromeet in 2011 and had no difficulty either finding or using ATM machines with my British ATM cards. I did not use my debit card as it attracts a ridiculously high charge from my home bank but I did see plent of Visa signs indicating that they would be accaptable. The attached link gives the locations of ATM's for one of the major banks but obviously there are others.
I'm glad to have cleared that up and I really must go looking for other out of date tips to sort out!
I don't know if it’s an issue of lack of public toilets, but I don't think I've ever seen as many people urinating in public as I did in Skopje. Only Budapest with its large homeless population comes close. It was isolated mostly to the areas around the Stone Bridge and the Kale, but some of those places I wished I had a peg for my nose the stench was so bad. Inside the Kale fortress, one mother was helping her kid use the wall of the Kale itself as a toilet. Bizarrely, she was standing right next to a portable loo!
Apart from that, the city was actually pretty clean.
My first visit was in 2003...It was one of the most terrible zoos that I have ever seen. We thought that the animals would be better off dead than having to live in this prison.
When we visited Skopje Zoo again in May 2008 hoping for improvements, not much had changed, although efforts were made by building some new cages, which were not occupied yet.
In 2011 we tried again, after hearing the rumor that Skopje Zoo actually had become a better home for the animals. And it has, although still a lot has to be done. More green would be welcomed by a lot of animals I guess. However, it nowadays is not a place anymore where you leave with tears in your eyes...
The Zoo is in the City park, next to the Museum of Natural History, west of the center of Skopje.
Address: Boulevard Ilinden 88.
Admission is 50 Denars (less than 1 euro).
Skopje has a rather chaotic, and congested, traffic system (and not aided by the roadworks taking place during my visit). As I mention on my Intro page my first experience of it was when leaving the bus station some guy attempted to run the red light on the main crossroads and not realising the other side was taped off almost ended up flattened by a bulldozer. This pic here was taken at another crossroads at the bus station. The red lights were being totally ignored and even with the green man lit we still had to thread our way across the road as the cars attempted to squeeze through into the, with the lights, flow. Fortunately it was so congested that nobody was getting anywhere fast - crazy!
When looking for Tourist Information, www.exploringmacedonia.com will show up in google. Having booked and paid a guided walking tour on their website and made some further finetuning by email. No guide ever showed up. When asking for the reason, no email was answered.
So after having paid and them saying it was confirmed: no guide, no answers and money gone.
If you go to beautiful Macedonia, skip www.exploringmacedonia.com !
As a foreigner, it is not always easy to navigate around Skopje. Although streetnames are shown on the maps, they are not shown in the streets!
When you're just walking in the city center this is usually not a big problem, but when you are in a car trying to navigate somewhere, it can be pretty hard to see where you are...
So, be well prepared and know where you have to be and have a good map at hand...
See the map of Skopje in my general tips.
Since there are a lot of muslim in the Skopje and their women are dressed in their traditional black dresses with their hair and face covered with veils. I suggest not to try to take photos of them because you can get yourself into trouble. Their husbands are always near them and they won't allow photographing their wives....
Be careful when going through a crowd, always keep your hands on your pockets, don't hold anything of greater value in your hand cause you won't even notice when it disappears....
And if you carry a backpack try not to put valuable things in it.... or at least let your partner walk behind you and "watch your back".
Dogs in Macedonia are more beasty and nasty than in western countries. Three dogs approached to me as they were bewitched human bandites. If they wow at you, specially at night, turn to them and make some sounds in order they get away.Otherwise they may even bite you. Try it whith the Turkish syllable "hosht!"
The meening of such showdowns could be:
Whithin three days you'll get robbed out or into a bad situation if you are not careful whith the offers of indigenous people.
Travellers to the Old Town should be careful to keep a good eye on their bearings, as it is quite easy to get lost. Don't make the mistake I did of trying to navigate by minarets, unless you are particularly adept at differentiating them. Not knowing how many mosques there actually were, I tried navigating (on a very dark, wet day) by using minarets and got a little lost! It did make for a very interesting afternoon, though, as we found a lot of out of the way places that I suspect most travellers don't get to see.
In hindsight, I suppose using the map might have been a good idea!
The photo shows the slightly chaotic shopping street we ended up in.
I have been lucky enough to have travelled fairly extensively. I have been unlucky enough to have witnessed some absolutely horrendous driving over several continents, but i don't think I have ever witnessed anything like the appalling standard in Skopje.
Crossing the road anywhere is a major adventure. The fact that the lights are in favour of the pedestrian seems to matter not a jot, they will still drive at you. I saw busses disgorging passengers whilst parked right in the middle of a pedestrian crossing.
Perhaps my pet peeve is the fact that pavements (sidewalks) in Skopje are clearly there solely to facilitate the parking of vehicles. You frequently have to resort to the road. How anybody pushing a pram gets about on foot, I have no idea.
A trip in a Skopje taxi is an experience. The one we got to the station on leaving was a completely clapped out old Lada which would not even be allowed on the road in the UK. It was positively falling to bits. Coupled with the near suicidal antics of the taxi driver , it was an experience I'll not forget in a hurry.
When you are comming to Skopje from Yugoslavia, you will pass through danegerous zone of Kumanovo where took place military operations between macedonian security forces and albanian rebelians. Also nearby Skopje and airport Petrovec were military operations and you must take care because there is a lot of land mines.
Be aware that there are numerous opened manholes throughout the city. It is particularly risky at night if you are tipsy.
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