When planning our bus trip from Sofia to Skopje there was more information available about the bus routes than some of the other Balkan destinations. We knew that we couldn’t book in advance and what bus we were aiming for which was the 15:00 to Skopje arriving at 19:25.
Just to reassure ourselves of what times the buses were leaving to Skopje we headed to the bus station to buy our bus tickets. It was a little detour out of our day but turns out it was highly valuable as we weren’t sure which bus station the buses leave from and the timetable was slightly different.
Which bus station do I catch a bus from in Sofia? And what facilities does the bus station have?
There are two bus stations in Skopje, one for domestic buses which is the Central Bus Station Sofia and one is the International which is the Serdika Bus Station. The “Serdika” Bus Station is just an open parking lot with lots of travel agents and stalls.
This is the Central Bus Station in Sofia which is the other bus station and not the one you need for the international buses. (insert picture)
“Serdika” Bus Station is the correct station you need to catch a bus from Sofia to Skopje. As you can see highlighted on the map below.
Note that when you are in Bulgaria and Macedonia you’ll need to be able to read the Cyrillic alphabet to make any sense out of timetables (except in the bus stations in Sofia and Skopje).
The bus station has a shop, cafes, toilets (which cost money), local buses and tram stands nearby and taxis.
If you are standing outside of the Matpu 96 with your back to the office behind the first set of building in front of you will be a supermarket you can buy snacks and drinks before the trip.
WIFI is not freely available but Matpu 96 did have free WIFI in their offices to use for their customers.
Where to buy bus tickets in Sofia? How much will a ticket cost?
In some countries you can book tickets online however in Bulgaria it was only possible to book tickets at the bus station. I recommend getting your tickets the day before, not because they sell out, as a precaution so you don’t get stranded and have all the information you need for your journey.
To buy tickets you will need your passport. We made the mistake the first time of going there without our passports and were unable to purchase tickets the first time round.
There are two travel agents currently selling bus tickets from Sofia to Skopje which are Makedonija saobraćaj and Matpu 96. Both travel agents are both located in “Serdika” Bus Station near each other.
Matpu 96 will run buses daily at 09:30, 16:00 and 19:00. When we were travelling the 19:00 was cancelled for the day we were catching a bus to Skopje.
Bus tickets from Sofia to Skopje will cost 30 lev each. Matpu 96 did have a card machine but they requested payment in cash.
When we were travelling it was the off-peak season so the tickets didn’t sell out and just made sure we arrived an hour before to make sure we had a seat.
Things to consider and what to expect on the bus journey from Sofia to Skopje?
Be on time! The buses do leave on time from Sofia so make sure you get there 15 minutes beforehand if you have a ticket already. If you don’t have a ticket allow 30 – 60 minutes to buy a ticket.
Being such a long bus ride it’s a good idea to take a few snacks and drinks for the journey. Be careful with your liquid intake as you just never know when the next stop will be and make sure you take some change on the journey to pay for the facilities. There are generally no working toilets on the buses and you may go a couple of hours without a stop.
There were a few bus stops on the way but it the journey was quite tame compared to some of our other experiences.
Do I need to go through border security exiting Bulgaria?
Yes, you will need to go through border security exiting Bulgaria. The security process was not extensive when we went through.
The guard boarded the bus to check everyone’s passports and then collected them. Then they were taken for processing and once clear handed back to the bus driver who distributed the passports back to the owners.
There were brief checks underneath the bus in the luggage compartments. They may do stricter spot checks but we were not subjected to these on our trip.
Do I need to go through border security entering Macedonia? And will I need a visa?
Yes, you will need to go through border security entering Macedonia. Like the Bulgarian border the security processes were quite relaxed. The guards collected our passports, processed them and were handed back to us.
Macedonia does have visa requirements unless you are from one of these countries; Argentina, America, Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Botswana, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Cuba, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Canada, Costa Rica, Chile, European Union Citizen, Malta, Monaco, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, Turkey, Russia, Peru, Serbia, Uruguay, New Zealand, Kosovo, Peru, Panama, Montenegro and Venezuela. This means that you can stay in the country for up to 90 days.
Arriving at Skopje Bus Station
Above is the location of the Skopje Bus and Coach Station that you need to go to. Psst… you can save the map about.
Skopje bus station has an indoor area that has shops, cafes, ATM’s (cash machines), toilets, local bus stands nearby and taxis. WIFI is not freely available so to get WIFI you will need to buy something at one of the cafes to access it. The toilets will also cost money to use and will need small MKD denominations to pay.
There are quite a few taxi drivers offering you lifts to your destination in the bus station. These generally won’t be metered taxis so make sure that you agree to a price before getting in. A good way to avoid being ripped off check with your accommodation before you arrive so you know how much you should be paying.
Our taxi driver tried to charge us 300 Macedonian Dener (MKD)! Which is way more than the hostel recommended we pay. Eventually, we got the taxi driver down to 200 Macedonian Dener (MKD) instead.
If your accommodation calls the taxi companies it will generally be an official company with a metre and depending on your location will cost around 120 to 200 Macedonian Dener (MKD).
Local buses do run to the bus station and are a cheaper alternative than a taxi.
Let me know in the comments how your bus journey is!