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.
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.
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.
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.
The bus situation in Skopje is a little confusing, but here's a rough guide:
1. If you are coming in from another city in Macedonia, you will almost certainly be dropped off at the New Intercity Bus Station next to the modern train station.
2. Buses to Tetovo go from a car park like bus station across the Old Stone Bridge and underneath the Kale on the north side of the river.
3. International buses usually go from the car park in front of the Holiday Inn on the south bank of the river.
The main bus station (1.) is actually pretty big and busy. You can buy tickets, exchange money, pick up a burek, etc. The other two are barely recognisable as bus stations, and more like dusty parking lots.
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.
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.
However the bus station is quite clear...small and cosy at the same time and as other cities trying to avoid pickpockets and burglars before you enter to the plattform an employee ask for your ticket..if you dont get it you cant enter there...its a good point !
Although the language is cirilic after passing by Bulgaria you know very well the charachters and its easy to translate ..i have to say something there are the two characters on the screens latin and cirilic so its not so hard as Bulgaria or Serbia !!
So usefull staff on desks helped me so well to take my schedule to Ohrid and after my bus....its really informative the station and its not possible to be confused there....believe me a small one station but very well organized !!
As I said on my Sofia page i took a cheap coach through Sjopje... it was almost empty, just 10 people and it was a damp and grey morning and so much cloudy to take good pics... the road was amazing going up hills and after going down amidst the mountains and the forest... so much beautifull...the most gorgeous part was after pass the Makedonan border where the road followed a small spring sprinkled by some small towns.
The worst part was the makedonian border where the cops open my backpack for the first time on that trip!! *** !! it doesnt happen nothing but it was so annoyed and bored and wasting time for nothing ... stupids
After 1 and a half hour more i got Skopje ..so hard to located oneselfwith lonely planet guide....read on my tourist trap tip !!
Many expatriates working in Pristina, Kosovo take the bus to Skopje over the weekends to recharge their batteries, visit some nice cafes, and eat at McDonalds. Buses run nearly a dozen times per day (beginning in Pristina at 5:30 AM with the last bus leaving Skopje at 5:30 PM) and the journey takes about 2 hours, depending on the border.
Unlike the accompanying picture, the buses tend to be quite nice, clean, and with plenty of space. Additionally, the Skopje bus station is centrally located and is quite convenient to downtown (a taxi should cost no more than 70 dinar from the bus station to downtown).
Bus fare should run about 5 Euro each way.
International buses to Skopje arrive in an enormous bus station hidden underneath the train station, about a kilometre from the centre of Skopje.
Buses to Sofia take around 4 hours, depending on the border procedures. We had to all get off the bus and get out all our bags from the baggage compartment, ready for inspection...it was bitterly cold, they made us all wait there for about a quarter of an hour, but nobody checked any bags at all. Don't know what that was all about.
Buses north to Prishtina leave fairly regularly in the morning, and take a couple of hours. The border is fairly quick and easy to cross at the moment, although whether that will change once the border changes from UNMIK to Kosovan police, I don't know. At the moment, you are still stamped as crossing into UNMIK, not the Republic of Kosovo. Those planning a day trip to Prishtina should get the earliest bus possible, as the last one back to Skopje leaves at 3pm.
I'm told there is a nightbus over to Tirana too, leaving at something like 7 or 8 in the evening.
People at Hostel Hostel generally know lots of info about buses...
There is no public or shuttle bus to the airport (shame!) Taxi drivers charge 20 euro or 1000 denars for the ride from the city center. For budget travellers there is other solution:
Cross the bridge from Holliday Inn hotel to the city bus "terminal" (red buses). Take a bus 52 or 53 to Petrovec (40 denars). One bus per hour or so. In Petrovec get off and turn left (ask people for "aerodrome" if necessary). Cross the highway - you will see airport ahead - it is about 2 km walk from Petrovec so allow plenty of time... Going from the airport turn right leaving terminal....