In my ongoing World Borders series this time I report on how to get from Bulgaria to Northern Macedonia. I based myself in the capital city of Sofia just before heading across the border – you should aim to stay in the 10 Coins Hostel there – one of my favourite ever hostels. From Sofia, I decided to take the bus across the border all the way to Skopje, Northern Macedonia (or the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to give the country its old title the day I backpacked it).
Buying Your Bus Ticket in Sofia
Head on the Sofia Metro (fast, efficient, clean, easy to understand and cheap) to the main bus station which is also where the main train station is. The name of the bus station is Central Bus Station, but don’t go inside!
Please note there are two bus stations beside each other here. I firstly went into the massive indoor one pictured above and asked around for buses to Skopje, Northern Macedonia to no avail. So you need to come outside of the main station and cross the road to the smaller outdoor station in like a square courtyard with the buses in the middle and the ticket offices all around it! It was a tad confusing at first.
There may be more than one company operating buses from Bulgaria to Macedonia, but the one I used was called Matpu, and I recommend them. In local writing it looks like MATnY.
When I went there were 3 buses per day: 9.30 am, 4pm and midnight. The bus costs 32 Levya (about 16 Euros). You show your passport and pay for your ticket in cash (Levya only).
I got my ticket around 3.40 pm. The bus wasn’t full and I was there in December time. It probably will be busier at other times of the year. There was no need to book it in advance for me but if you want to make sure of your ticket, I’d recommend it. I then used up the rest of my Levya buying some beer and snacks for the journey.
Leaving Sofia, Bulgaria
We left sharply at 4pm and it was still bright. We head west towards the border point at Gyueshevo.
Leaving Gyueshevo, Bulgaria
The journey towards the border isn’t too memorable – nothing much to see but I got some reading and planning done and enjoyed my beer. It was dark by the time we got to the border, around 6.30 pm. You don’t need to get off the bus to leave Bulgaria.
Arrival in Delcevo, Northern Macedonia
First thing I have to tell you, is that even though it is a dark border, and looks like it should be the same time, it’s not! Northern Macedonia is one hour behind, so move your watches back one hour – you have gained an hour. You get your passport checked on the bus again. EU citizens do not need a visa to visit Northern Macedonia. I didn’t get an entry stamp either, but I was now in Northern Macedonia, though Macedonia itself covers many countries including Greece.
In Northern Macedonia they use Macedonian Denars and as I arrived in darkness, there was nowhere to change my US Dollars or Euros into Macedonian Denars, so I had to wait until I arrived in Skopje. However after the border check and arrival on the Northern Macedonian side, we got 20 minutes time and there was a bar and shop open. A local Northern Macedonian lady allowed me to buy a Northern Macedonian beer using a $1 US note – I did ask her nicely though 🙂
I then got back on board, enjoyed my Northern Macedonian beer and we were less than a few hours from Skopje, the capital city. We did make another stop on the way where some passengers got off. It was dark and I couldn’t work out where it was but probably Kocani or Stip.
Arrival in Skopje, Northern Macedonia
Around 8.10 pm I arrived in Skopje, Northern Macedonia, though it felt later due to the time difference. The entire bus journey took 5 hours 10 minutes, but time wise it only elapsed 4 hours 10 minutes. I headed on foot to my cool hostel – the City Hostel Skopje and was ready to explore a new country and city.
I haven’t written much on Northern Macedonia yet but I loved it! Skopje is a fabulous city, I really recommend it.
Here are some videos from my journey:
51 thoughts on “World Borders: How to Get from Bulgaria to Northern Macedonia (Sofia to Skopje bus)”
Hello. Do the buses fill up and is there a way to buy tickets in advance from the US?
Hi Katie, thanks for the comment. I was there in 2014 and back then, there was no advance booking option. I think I mentioned it in the post, you just turn up and buy a ticket. If the next bus really is full, you’ll just get a ticket for the following bus, but when I was there the buses were not filling up. Safe travels. Jonny
I am Indonesian student living in Istanbul. I wanna to make a trip from Istanbul to Sofia by bus and from Sofia to Skopje by bus, too. I saw it your post and thanks for helping me figure out the situation.
I’d like kindly ask: 1) As long as I have Multiple-Visa Schengen, does it going matter in the immigration office? I mean because I don’t have visa for MKD but I read that I can go to MKD without visa if I have Multiple Valid Schengen Visa.
2) How about the condition overall for the journey from Sofia to Skopje?
Hi Arif, Thanks for the comment. Sadly, I’m just a travel blogger, writer and backpacker and have no information on embassies or visas for those countries. I didn’t need a visa for Bulgaria or Macedonia, and Turkey was pay for a visa on arrival. I’d check with fellow Indonesian travellers if I were you as they will have had the same situation. I hope it all works out right for you. Safe and happy travels. Jonny
Thank you for your information. It helps a lot!!
I just found out one more choice today.
Kaleja runs buses at 00:00 and they start from Central Bus Station.
I think Kaleja’s counter is in the Central Bus Station.
Hi Vivi, that is great. Have a safe trip to Skopje, Regards, Jonny
Hi Jonny. Thanks so much for this! How would you rate the trip safety-wise for a woman travelling alone? I’m not familiar with both countries’ attitude towards women. Any insight you can provide is appreciated.
Hi Ella, Macedonia is very safe – much safer – I know lots of girls who backpacked it alone. Bulgaria is more dodgy and an odd country in many ways. It’s very internal and can seem unfriendly at first. Just take the usual precautions and stay safe. Jonny
I’m from Malaysia, going to visit your historical beautiful country by October 2016.
I’m writing to get information about the bus timetable from Skopje to Sofia, Bulgaria and the fare for 1 way (euro).
Thanks for your co operation .
Hi Mohd, I’m just a travel writer and backpacker – I’m not from Macedonia or Bulgaria but this post should help you along the way. Check the finer details once you get to the country! Safe travels. Jonny
how safe are the roads? can people be ambushed at night by bandits? are the roads prone to accidents? do the bus people speak english? were the buses air conditioned?
Hi Forty, thanks for the comment. The roads are very safe. You are unlikely to be ambushed at night. It is an Islamic area, so bandits are very rare. All roads in the world are prone to accidents. They speak Bulgarian and Macedonian of course – it’s their country. I speak English and so will some other foreign tourists on the bus. I can’t remember about air conditioning, it’s not important in any way to me. Safe travels. Jonny
hI-Even in my country which is not English, people speak English as it is an international language, so it doesnt mattter whether its their country or not.Would just like to know whether someone can communicate for basic things.Even in an islamic area, bandits can occur, its just some areas are prone to bandits and it doesnt matter the religion, people are people-LOL
Hi Fort, thanks for the comment. Yes, some speak basic English of course but not many. Bandits are mainly in Amsterdam and Brighton from my knowledge – you really won’t find many here in Bulgaria! Safe travels. Jonny
Jonny thanks for all this information, last year in sofia was great to plan our travel to skopje. Thank you!
thanks for your info !!!!!
Hi Giuseppe, good luck with your trip. Safe travels. Jonny
Hi Carlos, thanks for the comment. I am glad you had a good time in Bulgaria and Macedonia. Safe travels. Jonny
Hey man, great blog!! I am doing the opposite and going from Skopje to Sofia… do you remember if the bus station where you got off in Skopje is the main bus terminal?? I am struggling to find this info online… same with Veliko Tarnovo… I am going from there to Bucharest, doing the opposite of what you’ve done!
Hi Antonio, thanks for the comment. I was there in 2014 so things can change but that time YES – it was the main bus terminal in Skopje so good luck with the adventure! Safe travels. Jonny
Thank you for the very helpful sharing of information on your trip from Sofia to Skopje. We altogether 9 people will be making the same trip from Sofia to Skopje in August 2017 (Yeah, still sometime away)…I would to ask does the bus equipped with a toilet?
Enjoy Poland…I was there last year…great place to visit.
Hi Peter, thanks for the comment. I have no idea if the bus had a toilet or not!! But best wishes and safe travels. Jonny
Hi Jonny, great blog. I’m flying to Sofia for a couple days.. how long did the bus trip take you? Reckon a day or two would be worth it? or more?
Hi Shaun, thanks for the comment. It’s not worth it, time is precious. If you only have 2 days in Sofia, then definitely don’t leave Sofia! You’ll be wasting almost one of those precious days just sitting on buses/trains and crossing borders. So just spend 2 days in Sofia instead. I backpacked it a few years back but lost most of my photos sadly so I never wrote about it but there’s plenty to see and do in Sofia. Save Macedonia for your next trip. Best wishes, safe travels. Jonny
thanks for the post
do you have an idea if there any need for visa for Israelis passengers ? i want to go the same route from Sofia to Scopes .
Hi Gil, Thanks for finding my site and the comment. Sadly though, I have no idea how it works for Israeli passport holders in that region. Safe travels. Jonny
Very useful as due to go via bus from Sofia to Skopje later this month. Thanks.
Thanks for all the tips. What is the smoking policy on the bus?
Hi Michael, no smoking. I have never been on a “smoking bus” in my life! Safe travels. Jonny
Hi Paddy thanks for the comment. Enjoy your trip and safe travels. Jonny
Planning to go from Sofia to Skopje on 7th August. Are there any buses at around 5.00 a.m? If so from where and when is it likely to arrive in Skopje? Returning on 9th. What woud you recommend seeing in both Sofia nad Skopje?
It was so helpful!
I am going to the same places in 2 weeks. Finding informations about buses is a nightmare.
Thank you very much! 🙂
Hi Mania, thanks for the comment. Have a safe trip to Northern Macedonia. Regards, Jonny
Hi Satish, thanks for the comment. As I mentioned I am just a tourist like you, and also a travel writer but this trip was 3 years ago so I have no idea if it is still the same. Please check with relevant bus companies and embassies! As for sightseeing in Sofia, the Aleksander Levsky church and in Skopje the castle. Sadly I lost my photos from both cities and never fully covered them on my blog. Safe travels. Jonny
You drink beer before and at the border stop and do not know if there is a toilet on the bus. Hat off to you, my friend in travel.
Doing the trip this summer so thanks for the heads up. I have go to admit that I didn’t think about bandits in a EU country or across the border to a wannabe EU member. Was in Bucharest last year and probably the safest city I have visited for a long time. Much safer than any English city of Town or European city popular with the English at 11.30pm on a Saturday night. Everyone have a safe journey this year and enjoy the experiences.
SO happy to have found this blog! Thank you! I was having a hard time trying to find a way to get from Sofia to Skopje in May with my family! This helped so much!!
I have 6 days in Sofia and want to go to Skopje for a couple of days .
is 3 days will be enough for Skopje ? any differ from Sofia ?
and is there an option for smoking in the rest stop or at the boarder while waiting for the passport check ?
how long is the journey from sofia to skopje ?
4 hours or 5 hours ? i am confused with the lime different
Regarding one of your comments related to safety in Bulgaria and Macedonia. You have mentioned that this is Islamic area. Overall if we look it is : Absolutely no. Although in Macedonia there quite many Albanians which are Muslims.
Just I would like to say for you and other bloggers info that it is wrong conclusion.
In Bulgaria the Muslims are mainly Turkish, Gypsy people and new comers immigrant /refugees. This population is around 8-9%.
However, in BG, around 90% of the population are Christians. Mainly Orthodox. That’s there reason you can see many churches. The same was in Macedonia as Macedonia was part of Bulgaria up to 1948, after it was part of Yugoslavia till 90′.
Regarding the safety, yes it is much more safety compare to quite many western country(not all of course). During 90′ was the worse time. However, nowadays everything is normalised.
Thank you so so much! That was super helpful
Dzien dobry Kasia, thanks for the comment. You sound Polish! Hope you had a great time in Northern Macedonia and Bulgaria. Safe travels. Jonny
Hi Julie, thanks for your comment. I am glad everything ran smoothly for you and I hope the information is still suitable for any tourists who backpack the Bulgaria to Northern Macedonia border. Sorry for delays in response, I have a severe backlog of comments and have been suffering from depression since 2016. Safe travels. Jonny
Thanks so much for this post! It was exactly what I needed. I’m on the same bus right now. The price is a little bit cheaper now at 30 lev. Also, I was able to exchange my leftover Lev for Macedonian Dinar in the bus station in Sofia. The exchange place was about 4/5 huts down to the left from the bus ticket office (on the same row).
Hope the recovery is going well… Just to let you know that the above info is now out of date… Proceed to the main bus station and go to counter #10… 3 services daily…
Hi Sulls, thanks for the comment, I love to have a beer when crossing the border, really don’t remember if the bus had a toilet or not! Yes, Bucharest is safe. Safe travels. Jonny
Hi Gil, My trip to Skopje and Sofia was actually 2014 so things will for sure have changed in the last 5 years. I much preferred Skopje as a beautiful city. Sofia was a bit rude and not centralised – the sights were all over the place. In Skopje, it was easier to walk around and much friendlier. Also I met a few nasty people in Sofia including a liar. Other than that, a good time in both places. Yes you can find a place to smoke – I had a beer! Safe travels. Jonny
Hi Jerry, thanks for the comment.I think you have misunderstood myself and those countries completely though. The border area is Islamic and that is all I am referring to here – myself and everyone else is aware that most of Bulgaria is Christian and a lot of Skopje too. Northern Macedonia is also mixed with many religions so I am not sure where you got the idea that I (or anyone) class it as Islamic. We are just tourists. Safe travels. Jonny
Hi Gil, Thanks for the comment and sorry for the delayed response – I have been suffering from deep depression the last few years. This trip was probably about 5 hours long, I don’t remember exactly but try and allow at least 6 hours anyway on such trips in case of delays. Safe travels. Jonny
Hi Tom, Thanks for the comment and apologies for the delay, I have been suffering from depressionthe last few years and the blog has really suffered. Comments unchecked and so many things happened. Thanks for the update, I hope you enjoyed Bulgaria and Northern Macedonia. Safe travels. Jonny
Hi Conor, Thanks for the comment and apologies for the delay, I have been suffering from depressionthe last few years and the blog has really suffered. Comments unchecked and so many things happened. Thanks for the update, it might even have changed again by now and I hope you enjoyed Bulgaria and Northern Macedonia. Safe travels. Jonny