People shopping in Skopje in the evening.
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Travelling safely in North Macedonia

Maysie Dee

Contributing writer

The diversely beautiful country of North Macedonia is a wonder to explore and luckily, for tourists, it’s a very safe place to visit. Macedonian people are kindly and friendly, and most will jump in to help out if you have questions or run into any trouble.

Of course, when traveling, it’s always important to be alert, especially if you are visiting an area for the first time. Or, as in Macedonia, where you can’t rely on your English language skills for navigating city streets and intercity roadways, as most signs and announcement boards will be in Cyrillic script.

Crime against tourists is almost zero, and one-off crimes tend to be crimes of opportunity, rather than organized ones. Safety isn’t always about crime, though, so to help you enjoy your trip and keep risks to a minimum, here are a few topics to consider.

General safety considerations

Pollution in Skopje and Bitola

Due to industrial pollution, winter brings an increase of smog in two of Macedonia’s larger cities, Skopje and Bitola. If you have sensitive lungs and are prone to breathing issues, it’s better to spend minimal time in these cities during winter, when conditions are at their worst. Other times of the year, pollution is not a problem in the country.

Street dogs

You may encounter groups of stray dogs in Macedonia, especially in touristic areas (in Skopje, for example). Unfortunately, they can get a bit wild, and you should keep alert and don’t encourage gangs of dogs (by feeding them or petting them) as they can get out of hand.

If you just pass them by and give them space, they’re usually docile, though, and shouldn’t cause you any trouble.

Border violence

There have been reports of violence along the border between Macedonia and Kosovo, so please be sure to stick to the authorized border crossings and avoid hanging out unnecessarily in the area.

Women traveling alone

Macedonia is a fairly conservative country, and in general, is very safe for women traveling alone. Be respectful and consider dressing a bit more modestly than you would in a liberal western country.

Always be careful to avoid lonely areas at night and don’t take risks. If you feel uncomfortable, ask any nearby woman or shopkeeper for help, and you will most likely get tons of support from the very friendly locals.

Driving and taxis

In general, the main roadways in Macedonia are in fairly good condition, so lots of travelers enjoy renting a car for touring around the country. Just be sure to have good GPS, and a good idea of where you’re headed. Some roads in remote areas won’t be kept to the same standard you might be used to in other western countries.

If you’re not sure about driving yourself, hiring a car and driver in Macedonia is easy to do (enlist the aid of your hotel or apartment host; they usually have a trusted friend or contact), and the costs are not unreasonable. A good driver will know which roads to avoid, and will be able to maneuver the bumps and curves better than a visitor.

This is especially true when traveling on mountain roads, which is difficult to avoid in Macedonia!. These steep roadways are often covered in dense fog at higher altitudes and at certain times of the year.

Also, be prepared to encounter very winding roads on your way throughout the country (for example, on the road from Skopje to Ohrid). If you’re prone to motion sickness, bring medication (or whatever you normally use) to avoid discomfort on your trip.


There are no well-recommended ride-sharing apps in Macedonia, so if you opt for a taxi ride, be sure to use a registered taxi and agree on a price before heading off on your ride.


Child pickpockets

As in other Balkan countries and in Eastern Europe, you might encounter underage pickpockets who work in groups, swarming a potential target. Be  aware of these groups in highly touristic areas of Skopje (central and the Old Bazaar) and hide your valuables.

Don’t hesitate to yell or to push them away if you are accosted – they can be ruthless and will run off with your valuables if they can. More often than not, there is no recourse for recovering your lost possessions or money.

ATM helpers

“Helpful” locals might step in to “assist” you with local ATM usage, but are usually looking for a way to lift your passcode for future use. If you must access an ATM, try to do so during daylight hours in busy areas, rather than in lonely places. If possible, use an ATM attached to a bank, which is usually easy enough to find in most cities and towns.


The normally friendly Macedonians are also very passionate about their cultural identity and regional politics. As a visitor to the area, it’s a good idea to keep your outside opinions to yourself to avoid offending someone.

 If you’re interested in knowing more about Macedonia and its history, you can always politely ask people you meet if they would be willing to share their views with you – most likely they’ll love the opportunity!

Then, feel free to ask questions if you have any, and continue the conversation with respect. You may be surprised with the local views (which can vary widely, depending on who you ask) but an opportunity to learn from a local is one of the wonderful benefits of travel. So, enjoy the chance to expand your horizons while visiting their home.

Tip: Avoid using the acronym FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) or the name North Macedonia. Both names were forced on the citizens of the country, who refer to themselves simply as “Macedonians.”

Also, the correct local pronunciation of the country name (and how you will hear locals referring to their home) is with a hard “k” sound, rather than a soft “c” sound, as Westerners pronounce it; the local way would be: Mah-keh-doh-nee-uh.”

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Maysie Dee

Author - Maysie Dee

Maysie Dee is a freelance writer, content editor, and recipe creator. She and her husband have travelled across the world for decades as natural product consultants, collecting stories along the way.

Last Updated 24 May 2024

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