Having traveled in the Balkans the entire summer, we can now definitively say that getting from place to place is kind of, well, at times, really difficult. However, getting from Sofia, Bulgaria to Skopje, North Macedonia was one of the easier trips we experienced while in southeastern Europe.
As with most bus adventures in this region, there was still some confusion and the bus ride itself wasn’t the best. But to make it as clear for you as we can in this post, we talk about how to buy tickets, crossing the border and some tips for the bus from Sofia to Skopje!
Still exploring Sofia before you leave? Check out our post on things to do in Sofia, Bulgaria for some ideas on food, sights, and day trips!
How to Buy a Bus Ticket from Sofia to Skopje
With planes being more expensive than a bus and rental cars having border fees, one-way fees, etc…we think the best option from Sofia to Skopje is a bus. Luckily, Sofia was the one city with a nice website; all these bus lines were in one, easy to use place. North Macedonia and Albania, however, well that’s a different story.
You can buy bus tickets out of Sofia fairly easily. There’s the website, or you can just go to the station and purchase them in person. However, we advise you to do so in advance so you can guarantee and pick your seat. The cost of the ticket should be around 15€ ($16 USD) one way per person and that includes the option to pick your seat.
If you want to have a better experience than us, try to get the seats behind the door so that there’s no one sitting in front of you. The people directly in front of us seemed to be the only passengers who fully reclined and had no idea (or care) they were practically in our laps.
The Nitty Gritty of Traveling to Skopje from Sofia
When it comes down to it, a bus ride is a bus ride, right? However, when there are twisty turns up and down mountains, frequent stops because the driver (and most passengers) wants to smoke, when the people in front of you have the seat reclined back to your knees and their hair is constantly touching your leg, it’s kind of an annoying bus ride.
While getting to Skopje from Sofia wasn’t the smoothest ride, it wasn’t that bad; expect it to be 4 to 6 hours depending on the border. The main point we want to make with taking a bus in this region of Europe is to just go with the flow and expect the unexpected. In the Balkans it’s just part of the experience that makes traveling here special.
Bus Bathroom Breaks – Have Some Cash!
Our bus from Sofia to Skopje included one bathroom break. It was at a small rest stop just before crossing the border into North Macedonia. It was about 15 minutes so there’s ample time to purchase snacks or grab a quick meal.
Most importantly, make sure you have enough cash on you! The bathrooms cost around 1 lev so having some coin on hand would be helpful as well. We made the mistake of spending our Bulgarian money before departing Sofia. Don’t do what we did and be prepared!
“Yay! A border crossing!” – said no one ever.
Unlike the Schengen Zone in the EU, crossing from country to country in southeast Europe requires border checks. That’s not a major problem but do be prepared for some wait time. Leaving Bulgaria, we spent about 30 minutes on the Bulgarian border and then another 30 minutes on the North Macedonian side.
They collected our passports while we stayed on the bus. It was a little weird having a stranger take our passports out of sight. It’s weird but don’t freak out because they’ll return it and you’ll be on your way.
On the Bulgarian side we had to disembark and bring our bags to the officer. We didn’t really understand why because he just glanced at it and said ok but there were some passengers that he thoroughly searched.
We’ve heard of better and worse border experiences so, again, just be ready for anything and have your smart travel hat on!
Summary of Sofia to Skopje: From One Cool Town to the Next!
Hopefully your bus journey through Bulgaria and North Macedonia is pleasant and one to remember. While we didn’t have the most amazing experience, we’re better travelers now because of it. If all else fails, just gaze out the window and enjoy the beautiful mountains that follow you every step of the way and before you know it, you’re in Skopje!
What are you doing after you arrive? Check out our post on 16 awesome things to do in Skopje, one of our favorite cities!
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