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When planning our bus trip from Skopje to Tirana it became evident how little information was available. After hours of searching on Google, I found a bus on Balkanviator which is a website that frequently pops with bus information. Balkanviator displayed a bus that suited the times for our trip which was leaving Skopje at 23:00 and arriving in Tirana at 07.30.
It turned out that this bus did not exist and there was only one night buses from Skopje to Tirana leaving at 19:00 and arriving at 02:00. Be mindful that using websites like Balkanviator may not give you actuate information. By the end of my internet searching I was still clueless on what time I would be able to get to Tirana by bus. Even the hostel couldn’t rely on the information that they had and mentioned that travellers have been stranded before!
Not to worry, there are buses from Skopje to Tirana! Three in buses a day were running when we were there, a bus at 06:00, 09:00 and 19:00 and taking approximately seven hours but this is dependent on border security.
You can look at SAS website for timetables but they don’t show all the buses that are running from Skopje. After a few glitches on this trip using Balkanviator I would suggest that this website shouldn’t be used as a reliable source.
The best way to confirm is by heading to Skopje Bus Station and asking the information desk for the latest bus timetables.
Which bus station do I catch a bus from in Skopje? And what facilities does the bus station have?
There is only one main international bus station in Skopje which is located next to the Railway Station. It’s about a 20-minute walk from the Alexander The Great Statue in Skopje City Centre.
Above is the location of the Skopje Bus and Coach Station that you need to go to. Psst… you can save the map about.
Local buses run to the bus station or alternatively you can catch a taxi. Some taxi drivers will run their meters and some will negotiate with you. 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).
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.
Toilets will also cost money to use and will need small MKD denominations to pay.
Note that when you are Macedonia you’ll need to be able to read the Cyrillic alphabet to make any sense out of timetables (except in the central station in Skopje).
Where to buy bus tickets in Skopje?
In other Balkan countries we were used to approaching travel agents which had the destination we were looking for and we did the same when we were in Skopje. However, it turns out that the types of travel agents we were approaching in Skopje bus stations weren’t offering the tickets we needed.
The windows that have www.sas.com.mk written on them will sell you tickets to Tirana for the various companies running the routes.
In some countries you can book tickets online however in Macedonia 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.
What do I need to buy tickets from Skopje to Tirana and how much will a ticket cost?
To buy tickets to Tirana you will need your passport, Albania visa (if required), cash or a Master/Visa card to pay. As I said above there is an ATM in the station if you do need to take out money.
One ticket cost 1,280MKD this including luggage for the Durmo Tours service.
Things to consider and what to expect in the bus journey from Skopje to Tirana
Be on time! Even though Macedonia has a relaxed culture and they take their time to do things, the buses do leave on time at the main station.
Our bus did a couple of stops on our way to Tirana, even a detour to the coast which ended up adding an extra 2 hours to our journey. They even picked up a car door and randomly dropped it at a petrol station to a guy on the side of the road.
Be prepared! The road quality is poor and there is a tremendous amount of potholes to endure on the trip!
Being such a long bus ride it’s a good idea to take a few snacks and drinks for the journey.
There are generally no working toilets on the buses and you may go a couple of hours without a stop. In Macedonia you are always required to pay to use the toilets at the stations/ stops but in Albania all the toilets were free at the stations/stops. Be careful with your liquid in take 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.
At least with Albania you don’t have the dilemma of not having the currency to use the bathrooms as I have experienced in the other countries.
Do I need to go through border security exiting Macedonia?
Yes, you will need to go through border security exiting Macedonian. The security process for when we travelled through was light compared to other border checks I have gone 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.
Additionally, they open the luggage sections underneath the bus and have a brief look around. Although, they may do stricter spot checks and we were not subjected to these on our trip.
Do I need to go through border security entering Albania? And will I need a visa?
Yes, you will need to go through border security when entering Albania. The same level of security was applied when we were entering the country.
As Albania is currently outside of the Schengen Zone you may require a visa depending on your nationality. For example, as an Australian I did not need a visa and I was allowed to stay for up to 90 days. The same applies to EU citizens, including the UK, and to US citizen. To check whether you need a visa click here.
Arriving at Tirana Bus Station
Once you get off the bus you will be surrounded by a few taxi drivers offering their services. If you do opt for a taxi make sure you agree on the price before getting in the taxi as they don’t often run metres. Getting around the city should not cost you more than 300 to 400 (Albanian Lek).
The Tirana bus “station” is just an open parking lot with lots of travel agents and stalls. It was not obvious whilst walking around that there was WIFI, ATMs or toilets available around the station.
As the station is just off the main street there are cafes and ATM’s down the main road so it won’t be an issue finding something close by to get WIFI, money or toilets.
Above is the location of the Tirana Bus Station that you need to go to. Psst… you can save the map about.
I hope the information above helps you plan your bus journey from Skopje to Tirana. Let me know in the comments below of your experiences!