Macedonia travel guide
Macedonia is underrated and underexplored. A mountainous nation at the heart of the Balkans, it’s sprinkled with picturesque valleys and shimmering lakes, offering outdoor appeal in spades. Yet that isn’t its sole selling point – Macedonia also has a bustling capital, a rich Hellenic heritage and an up-and-coming wine industry that appears on the cusp of international recognition.
For most visitors, the adventure begins in the capital Skopje. The cityscape is an incongruous jumble of buildings and gigantic neoclassical statuary. Monolithic socialist apartment blocks sit beside grandiloquent monuments, controversially added during an ambitious government scheme dubbed Skopje 2014. Old Ottoman and Byzantine edifices hark back to the nation’s pre-communist history, while buzzing bars and clubs project its forward-looking aspirations.
Rural Macedonia is far easier of the eye. Blessed with an extraordinary diversity of landscapes, the countryside is also home to serene lakeside towns such as Ohrid, which offers glorious relief from the sizzling Balkan summer. Visitors can while away lazy days on the dreamy lake’s edge, visit the region’s handsome, time-warp churches and enjoy languid evenings quaffing wine produced in the surrounding hills.
From Ohrid push on into the endless green pastures of the Šar Planina mountain range, where the tranquil glacier lakes mirror the surrounding peaks, or try trekking the mountainous Pelister National Park, a dead ringer for the Swiss Alps. Outdoor enthusiasts heading to the remote hinterlands are more likely to see wild goats than deluxe resorts, but the country’s rustic inns are welcoming and affordable. During winter, there are many opportunities for skiing and snowboarding, particularly in the Mavrovo region.
Like most countries in the region, Macedonia has had its fair share of political and economic problems over the years. But shrug aside the stigma of the past and you’ll find a different Europe – one that’s fresh, crowd-free and, for the time being, incredibly affordable.
25,713 sq km (9,927.8 sq miles).
2,081,012 (UN estimate 2016).
81.5 per sq km.
President Gjorge Ivanov since 2009.
Prime Minister Zoran Zaev since June 2017.
230 volts AC, 50Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins are standard.
Last updated: 21 October 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Most visits to Macedonia are trouble-free. Occasional acts of criminal violence occur, although foreigners are not generally targeted.
Take particular care if you travel to the north of Macedonia near the border with Kosovo.
Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Macedonia.
Mosquito-borne diseases, including West Nile virus are present.
Earthquakes occasionally occur.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.
Safety and security
Personal attacks against foreigners are extremely rare. Organised criminal groups are active, particularly in the north of Macedonia near the border with Kosovo. Shooting incidents, including in Skopje do sometimes occur, but are not targeted at foreigners. Gunfire can also be heard as part of a celebration. You should be vigilant at all times.
There have been several cases of pick pocketing by gangs of children and bag snatches in the main shopping and entertainment areas late at night. Foreign nationals appear to have been specifically targeted. Make sure your personal possessions are secure.
In the event of civil disorder, stay indoors as much as possible, especially after dark, and avoid crowds and demonstrations.
Keep your passport in a secure place and carry a copy of your passport data page for identification. If your passport is lost or stolen report it immediately to the local police and the British Embassy Skopje on +389 (2) 3299 299 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Travel near the border with Kosovo should be restricted to primary roads and daylight hours only.
Lorries transiting Macedonia borders may be subject to long delays before being allowed to cross. Make sure you have the proper customs documentation before arrival at the border.
Between November and February, Skopje and surrounding areas can experience thick fog. This can sometimes cause delays or diverted flights if visibility at Skopje airport is affected. Updates of arrivals and departures, as well as delays and cancellations due to weather conditions can be found on the Skopje airport website.
Driving is on the right. Road conditions and driving standards vary widely. Driving styles differ significantly from those in UK. There are frequent accidents. Take care at all times while driving or on foot.
You can drive in Macedonia with either a UK licence or International Driving Permit.
By law all vehicles must use side lights/ dipped headlights during the day, and at night, on all roads. Not doing so will result in a fine of 15 euros during daytime and 35 euros at night time.
It’s illegal to use mobile phones while driving. If caught you’ll be fined 40 euros.
It’s a legal requirement for drivers and passengers to wear seatbelts. Not doing so will result in fines; 40 euros for drivers, 50 euros for passengers.
Road speed limits in Macedonia are as follows: 130 km/h on highways, 110 km/h on roads reserved for motor vehicles, 90 km/h on other roads and 50 km/h on roads in built up areas. When travelling on major roads, you can pay the toll fare in Macedonian denars or in Euros by using cash or a credit card, Euro coins are also accepted.
The legal drink/drive limit in Macedonia is lower than in the UK. The blood alcohol limit is 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood or 0.5 per millilitre. Drink driving whilst over the limit can result in heavy fines and the possibility of arrest. There is a policy of zero tolerance for professional (eg HGV) drivers.
If you are taking your own car, you must have vehicle registration/ownership documents and a locally valid insurance policy. If you do not have a green card valid for Macedonia you will be charged a cash border insurance fee, the price of which depends on your vehicle. You should confirm that your insurance company recognises that your policy covers Macedonia.
In case of emergency, drivers may contact the police (telephone 192), the ambulance service (telephone 194), or roadside assistance (telephone 196).
In the event of an accident, don’t move a vehicle until the police have recorded the incident and allowed you to do so.
Rivers and lakes
According to checks conducted by the State Sanitary and Health Inspectorate, the water in Ohrid, Prespa and Dojran lakes are suitable for swimming, recreation and water sports.
However the rivers Vardar and Treska as well as Lake Treska are rated below the level suitable for swimming.
Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Macedonia. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. Terrorists may target religious sites, including churches.
There is a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Local laws and customs
Same-sex relationships aren’t illegal, but Macedonians are not very open about the subject and there are few bars and restaurants which are LGBT friendly.
Taking photographs of any military installation, establishment or site of government or strategic importance is prohibited.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
British passport holders do not need a visa to travel to Macedonia for up to three months.
Holders of UK Refugee Travel Documents travelling to Macedonia or transiting the country en-route to Kosovo, must obtain visas for travel to, or transit through, Macedonia from the Macedonian Embassy in London.
If you plan to stay for longer than three months, contact the Macedonian Embassy in London.
Unaccompanied minors (children under 18) must have a letter of consent from their parents or guardian. Failure to do so may result into refusal of entry and deportation.
Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. No additional period of validity beyond this is required.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Macedonia. However, they must have at least 3 months validity.
Registering with the police
You must register with the local police in the town/city where you are staying within 24 hours of your arrival in Macedonia, unless you are in a hotel in which case you will be registered automatically on checking-in.
If you don’t register you may receive a fine of between 600 to 1,000 Euros, and be detained or face a court appearance (which may include a restriction on your ability to return to Macedonia).
Travel to Serbia
Foreign nationals, including those from the United Kingdom, have sometimes been denied entry into the Republic of Serbia from Macedonia if they hold entry/exit stamps from Kosovo.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
There is a reciprocal healthcare agreement for British nationals, which entitles you to free emergency treatment in Macedonia. You will need to present your passport and an European Health Insurance Card as proof of entitlement. The health system in all parts of Macedonia is suffering from widespread shortage of medicines and other essentials and you may need to pay some of the initial costs (usually between 50 and 100 Euros). If the treatment is not deemed an emergency then you will have to pay the full cost yourself. Make sure you have adequate travel and medical insurance.
Mosquito-borne diseases including West Nile virus are present in Macedonia.
Earthquakes occasionally occur. Skopje and the surrounding region experienced a number of moderate earthquakes and after-shocks from 11 to 14 September 2016. You should familiarise yourself with steps to take in the event of further seismic shocks.
The official currency is the Macedonian denar (MKD). Credit cards are accepted in most hotels and shops, and ATMs increasingly accept international bank cards. British banks do not exchange Denars so you may wish to exchange any unwanted Denars before you leave Macedonia. You should only change money through banks or official exchange offices and not through street dealers. You will be unable to exchange Scottish and Northern Irish bank notes.
You must declare any cash amount of foreign currency greater than EUR 10,000 on entry into Macedonia. Failure to do so may result in detention and forfeiture of funds when attempting to leave Macedonia.
ATMs are widely available in Macedonia.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.