Summer of 2017, I lived in Skopje, alone, for 8 weeks. My main reason for being there was because I was volunteering at Skopje Children’s Hospital with Project Hope. It was a terrifying, yet thrilling adventure. When researching Skopje, or Macedonia in general, I found that there was not a whole lot of information out there. All of my favorite travel bloggers hadn’t ever posted about Macedonia. I couldn’t find any relevant books on traveling to Macedonia. So I went in blind. I didn’t know what the food would be like, people, landscape, etc. But I survived! And I loved it. If you ever find yourself traveling to Skopje, here is a guide of things to expect! Good luck!
- Macedonia uses the Denar. Currently, one Denar is equal to 0.02 US Dollar. Meaning, you get a whole lot of bang for your buck. You can typically get by on approximately 1000 Denars/week, which is approximately $20 USD.
- There are tons of ATMs in Skopje, so no need to pull out money before visiting.
- The weather is typical of Eastern Europe. Snowy during the winter, hot and humid during the summer. Rainy season is typically May-June. Expect quick, intense thunderstorms during this time.
- There are no trains in Macedonia, and the bus transportation is subpar. It is cheap to take a bus, however unreliable. Uber and Lyft have yet to integrate into the country. On the bright side there are tons of taxi’s around Skopje waiting to pick you up. Taxi drivers will often times try to rip you off. Beware and negotiate before getting in. A ride from city center to the airport (approx 20 mins) should only cost 900 Denars.
- There is a bit of a language barrier in Macedonia. Not so much that you can’t get around, but enough to make you feel slightly out of your element – in the best way. A lot of locals speak broken English, and few speak great English with a heavy accent. Macedonian is the primary language, and writing is in Cyrillic so good luck trying to decipher! About half of the restaurants I went to had menus in English, and half didn’t. Be daring… point to a random menu item and enjoy!
- Macedonians typically eat heavy at the start of the day, and lighter as the day goes on. Some popular food items are toast for breakfast (not what you’re thinking… think mayo, ketchup, fries, ham, and cheese), shopska and kebabs! At restaurants people typically take their time, so sit back and relax. Tipping about 5-10% is appropriate.
Overall the people of Skopje are wonderful. If you find yourself in the capital of Macedonia, I hope that this guide offers you some comfort.