North Macedonia (FYR Macedonia) travel guide
About North Macedonia (FYR Macedonia)
The Republic of North Macedonia, formerly known as the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (sometimes abbreviated as FYROM and FYR Macedonia), is underrated and under-explored. 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 – North Macedonia (FYR 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 North Macedonia (FYR 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, North Macedonia (FYR 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 Stevo Pendarovski since 2019.
Prime Minister Talat Xhaferi since January 2024.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.
Before you travel
No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide as well as support for British nationals abroad which includes:
advice on preparing for travel abroad and reducing risks
information for women, LGBT+ and disabled travellers
If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.
This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in North Macedonia set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the North Macedonian Embassy in the UK.
There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for passengers entering North Macedonia.
Passport validity requirements
Make sure your passport is valid for at least 90 days from your date of entry into North Macedonia.
You can visit North Macedonia for up to 3 months without a visa.
Travelling with children
Children need an extra (officially stamped) document signed by their parents, second parent or legal guardian(s) if they’re travelling:
- with only one parent
- with an adult who is not their legal guardian
Third countries you are transiting may also have their own rules. If travelling by air, you should also check with your airline as many have their own specific forms for this purpose.
UK refugee travel documents
If you hold a UK refugee travel document, you must have a visa to travel to North Macedonia. You will also need a visa to travel through North Macedonia on your way to Kosovo. You can apply for a visa from the North Macedonian Embassy in the UK.
Applying for a visa
If you plan to stay for longer than 3 months, contact the North Macedonian Embassy in the UK.
Registering with the police
You must register with the local police in the town or city where you’re staying within 48 hours of your arrival in North Macedonia. If you’re staying in a hotel, staff will register you at check-in. Keep the registration document with you until you leave North Macedonia. If you have registered with the police directly you must de-register 24 hours before you leave the country.
If you do not get registered, you may face:
- a fine
- detention and a court hearing
- a restriction on returning to North Macedonia
Travelling to Serbia
Serbia has sometimes denied entry to people leaving North Macedonia with passport stamps from Kosovo.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the vaccinations and certificates you need in TravelHealthPro’s North Macedonia guide.
There are strict rules about goods that can be brought into and taken out of North Macedonia. You can find more information from the North Macedonia Customs Administration. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.
Taking money into North Macedonia
You must declare any cash amount of foreign currency greater than 10,000 euros when you enter North Macedonia. If you do not, customs officers may detain you and seize the cash when you try to leave.
There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. You should remain vigilant at all times.
UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.
Terrorism in North Macedonia
Terrorists are likely to try and carry out attacks in North Macedonia.
Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. Terrorists may target religious sites, including churches.
The authorities in North Macedonia have carried out raids against suspected terrorists. There’s a risk of terrorist attacks inspired by extremist ideology in North Macedonia.
Occasional protests occur in North Macedonia which can cause disruption. Elections are scheduled to take place in April and May which could increase the frequency of these. You should check local media for the latest information, be vigilant, and avoid large crowds and gatherings.
If there is civil disorder, stay indoors when possible, especially after dark, and avoid crowds and demonstrations.
Attacks against foreigners are extremely rare.
Organised criminal groups are active, particularly in northern areas near the border with Kosovo.
There are occasional shooting incidents, including in Skopje, but they are not targeted at foreigners. People sometimes fire guns when celebrating.
Protecting your belongings
There have been several cases of pickpocketing 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.
Keep your passport in a secure place and carry a copy of your passport photo page for identification. If your passport is lost or stolen, report it to the local police and cancel it immediately.
Laws and cultural differences
Using cameras and binoculars in secure areas
It is illegal to take photographs of any military installation or site of government or strategic importance.
Same-sex sexual relationships are legal, but people in North Macedonia are not particularly open about them. LGBT+ bars and restaurants are not common.
Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.
British banks do not exchange Macedonian denars, so exchange any unwanted denars before you leave. You should only change money through banks or official exchanges and not through street dealers. You will not be able to exchange Scottish and Northern Irish banknotes.
Outdoor activities and adventure tourism
Lakes Ohrid, Prespa and Dojran are suitable for swimming and recreation, according to the North Macedonian State Sanitary and Health Inspectorate.
However, the authorities rate the rivers Vardar and Treska and Lake Treska as unsuitable for swimming.
If you are travelling near the border with Kosovo, you should only travel on main roads and during daylight hours.
Lorries crossing the North Macedonia border may be subject to long delays. Make sure you have the proper customs documentation before you arrive at the border.
Between November and February, Skopje and surrounding areas can experience thick fog. There can be flight delays and diversions if fog affects visibility at Skopje airport.
You can find flight information on the Skopje International Airport website.
Licences and permits
You need either a 1968 international driving permit (IDP) or a valid UK driving licence to drive in North Macedonia. The 1949 IDP is not accepted any more. You cannot buy an IDP outside the UK, so get one before you travel. You can buy an IDP in person from some UK post offices – find your nearest post office branch that offers this service.
Driving a British car in North Macedonia
If you are taking your own car, you must have:
- vehicle registration
- ownership documents
- valid insurance to drive in North Macedonia. Check your insurance covers you to drive in North Macedonia and you are able to show proof to border officials. A green card might be helpful to demonstrate you have the correct cover.
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.
If you have an accident, do not move your vehicle until the police record the incident and allow you to do so. In case of emergency, contact:
- police: 192
- roadside assistance: 196
The legal drink drive limit in North Macedonia is lower than in some parts of the UK. The blood alcohol limit is 50 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, or 0.5 milligrammes per millilitre. If you drink and drive you risk a heavy fine and the possibility of arrest. There is a policy of zero tolerance for professional (eg HGV) drivers.
You can be fined for offences including (but not limited to):
- not using side lights or dipped headlights, including during the day
- using a mobile phone while driving
- not wearing a seatbelt, as both a driver and a passenger
- not having all the required safety equipment, including snow chains where conditions require them
When travelling on major roads, you can pay the toll fare in Macedonian denars or in euros by using cash or a credit card.
Extreme weather and natural disasters
Forest fires can happen during summer months. Check on the outbreak of fires with local media and follow any instructions from local authorities.
In the summer months there may be bans on movement in forest areas to help prevent fires. Follow advice from local authorities. If you ignore the ban, you may get a fine.
Earthquakes occasionally occur. You should familiarise yourself with steps to take in the event of further seismic shocks.
Before you travel check that:
- your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
- you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation
This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.
Emergency medical number
Dial 194 and ask for an ambulance.
Contact your insurance or medical assistance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Vaccinations and health risks
At least 8 weeks before your trip check:
- the latest information on vaccinations and health risks in TravelHealthPro’s North Macedonia guide
- where to get vaccines and whether you have to pay on the NHS travel vaccinations page
Mosquito-borne diseases including West Nile virus are present in North Macedonia.
High levels of air pollution in cities, especially in winter, can affect public health. Children, the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions may be especially affected. You can find more information and advice on air quality on the World Health Organization (WHO) website. Keep up to date with local information and seek medical advice on appropriate precautions.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.
The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.
Accessing and paying for healthcare
There is a reciprocal healthcare agreement for British nationals, which entitles you to free emergency treatment in North Macedonia. Further details are available online at UK reciprocal healthcare agreements with non-EU countries.
There is a reciprocal healthcare agreement for British nationals, which entitles you to free emergency treatment in North Macedonia.
Make sure you have adequate insurance. You may need to pay for some treatment up-front and should familiarise yourself with your travel insurance policy and what that might cover.
COVID-19 healthcare in North Macedonia
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for North Macedonia on the TravelHealthPro website
See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Travel and mental health
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.
Emergency services in North Macedonia
Roadside assistance: 196
Contact your travel provider and insurer
Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.
Refunds and changes to travel
For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.
Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:
- where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
- how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim
Support from FCDO
FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:
- finding English-speaking lawyers, funeral directors and translators and interpreters in North Macedonia
- dealing with a death in North Macedonia
- being arrested in North Macedonia
- getting help if you’re a victim of crime
- what to do if you’re in hospital
- if you’re affected by a crisis, such as a terrorist attack
Help in North Macedonia in an emergency
If you are in North Macedonia and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British embassy in Skopje.
You can also contact FCDO online.
FCDO in London
You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.
Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)
Risk information for British companies
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.