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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.

Key facts

Area:

25,713 sq km (9,927.8 sq miles).

Population:

2,081,012 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

81.5 per sq km.

Capital:

Skopje.

Government:

Republic.

Head of state:

President Stevo Pendarovski since 2019.

Head of government:

Prime Minister Talat Xhaferi since January 2024.

Travel Advice

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

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated.

Travel insurance

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.

COVID-19 rules

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.

Visa requirements

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:

  • alone
  • 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.

Vaccination requirements

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the vaccinations and certificates you need in TravelHealthPro’s North Macedonia guide.

Customs rules

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.

Terrorism

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.

Political situation

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.

Crime

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.

LGBT+ travellers

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.

Money

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

Swimming safety

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.

Transport risks

Local travel

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.

Road travel

If you are planning to drive in North Macedonia, see information on driving abroad and read the RAC guide.

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.

Driving regulations

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
  • ambulance: 194

  • 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

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

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:

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.

Medication

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.

Read best practice when travelling with medicines on TravelHealthPro.

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.

FCDO has a list of English speaking doctors in North Macedonia.

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

Read FCDO guidance on travel and mental health. There is also mental health guidance on TravelHealthPro.

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

Ambulance: 194

Police: 192

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:

Contacting FCDO

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this travel advice is updated.

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)

Find out about call charges

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.

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