How Easy: Rent a car & Drive in North Macedonia

Skopje city center

Driving in North Macedonia is super easy, although there are a few things to consider. In this post, I share what’s driving like in the country. Self-drive is the most convenient way to go anywhere and stop everywhere you want, mainly if you like to discover things that aren’t easy to scope with public transport.

This beautiful country in the Balkan is relatively cheap and often skipped by some travelers. But they don’t know that there are many things to see and do. You will be surprised by the beautiful nature, picturesque villages, crystal clear waters, and some cultural attractions. North Macedonia should be on your list, a destination that does not overrun by tourists.

Ohrid

However, many confuse it with Macedonia in Greece, but in 2019 was modified to North Macedonia. I even encountered someone who commented on my video to change the caption to Greece. My inscription was clearly from Ohrid, Macedonia. Since then, to avoid confusion, each of my posts specified North Macedonia, the country’s official name. 

How to get to North Macedonia

Although North Macedonia is not as known as other countries in Europe. There are some flights to Skopje if you check on Skyscanner. I flew with Austrian Airlines. It’s just a coincidence that they have a better offer in terms of prices and departure time.

I have flown with them to Serbia, Albania, and North Macedonia—the reason why? Their schedule was just perfect. Fly on Friday night and return home on Monday morning. If you are flexible, other airlines have flights to Skopje, like budget airline Wizz Air. I only have a long weekend and was looking for an evening flight from Brussels.

Getting from Skopje airport to the city

Depending on what time you arrive in Skopje. You won’t struggle to get to the city center if you arrive during the day or have a car. I arrived in Skopje at midnight and wasn’t keen to drive in the dark as a lone traveler. So, I took a taxi, which I booked in advance from Booking.com. Remember, no UBER in Skopje. The regular price of taxis outside the airport starts from 23 euros, that is, if you find a sincere driver. I got it cheaper at 18 euros, and with ease, the driver was waiting for me at the arrival terminal.

The stone bridge

The best choice will be the bus for 199 Denar (3.20 euros). I took the bus to the airport when I pick-up the car. They have three main stops in the center: Holiday Inn Hotel, Central Bus Station, and the Capitol Mall. Check the location of your hotel for the nearest stop. 

The downside of the airport bus in Skopje is only one service every hour, which reminds me of the airport buses in Curacao. I got out of the airport, and they just left. So I waited for another hour. It’s a matter of timing. If you arrive on time in Skopje, you can check the bus schedule  HERE. Remember you must have denar currency for the bus. The taxis in North Macedonia accept euros.

Do you need a car in Skopje?

Yes and no. Depending on how did you arrange the car. I spent one-day in Skopje without a car – a vehicle wasn’t necessary. First, the parking in the center was horrendous. Secondly, all tourist attractions are within walking distance. However, if you have a vehicle, ensure your hotel has free private parking. I suggest leaving your car at your hotel parking and exploring the city on foot.

Renting a car in North Macedonia

Car rental

First, you must be 25 years old to rent a car with one year of driving experience. I have been renting vehicles throughout my journey. Before I made a booking, I read most of the time reviews from companies to avoid unforeseen circumstances during and after the rentals. Also, I search for affordable cars. It takes time to research, mainly if you compare the prices, but Booking.com offers all-inclusive insurance at a reasonable price. 

Anyway, I only rented a car for one day, but better be safe than sorry. Things can happen unexpectedly…I’m comfortable driving in a foreign country if I’m all covered during my trip. For a total of 50 euros, the car plus full insurance, can’t find cheaper than that.

Additional Info: ensure you check the scratch and bumps from the car and take some photos and videos before signing the document. Don’t forget to check inside if everything is functioning, such as air conditioning, lights, indicators, and importantly the breaks. Moreover, I noticed the vehicle conditions in North Macedonia had their time and already traveled miles. It was the case with Enterprise cars, but no problems in anyways.

Is your driver’s license accepted in North Macedonia?

The landscape in North Macedonia

Some say you need an international permit to drive in North Macedonia. Depending on which country your license was issued. For most European nationals, your home driver’s license is adequate in North Macedonia but must have an English translation.

I have a Belgium driver’s license, which is accepted. In addition, you need to provide an ID or passport and a credit card during the pick up of the vehicle. Depending on the company with Enterprise Rent a Car, they blocked 300 euros from my credit card but released it immediately when returning the car.

Choose the airport for pick-up and dropped-off

You’ll be surprised how many car rentals are in such a small airport. There are 22 counters inside the arrival terminal building in Skopje, from international companies to local rentals. However, some don’t have an office at the center, so you would likely need to pick up the vehicle at the airport.

In fact, driving from the airport will take you quickly to the A2 motorways, and you don’t have all those traffic lights. The disadvantage when returning the vehicle and wanting to refuel, the nearest gas station to the airport is 10 kilometers away. Nevertheless, the distance does not reduce the fuel tank, something less to worry about.

The roof of Ohrid city

Toll roads in North Macedonia

Oh yes, North Macedonia has toll roads, the same as Serbia. The A1 runs south from the northern part of the country around the capital Skopje and the A2 motorway runs west from Skopje. The rates depend on the route you traveled and the category of the vehicles. When approaching the toll gate, you see which payment is accepted and can be paid in euros, denars, or credit cards. 

I spent 6 euros driving on motorways from Skopje to Ohrid with a bit of detour to Matka Canyon and back. A length of more than 200 km…is that expensive? Not overstate compared to other places in Europe like France, North Macedonia has the cheapest toll roads.

Road signs and speed limits

Road signs on motorways are in Cyrillic and underneath in the Roman alphabet, which reminds me of Cyprus. But poor signage in small towns unless you’re following a tourist spot. Still, it doesn’t give any clarification. Like driving to Matka Canyon, I was thankful to have navigation because some roads are not designated. I thought I was lost, but following my GPS brought me to the right place.

Moreover, driving on roundabouts is insane. The local drivers don’t know how to use them properly. They are wildly overtaking you, especially in busy cities like Skopje and Ohrid. In general, good and pretty easy. The only thing you should keep in mind, Macedonian loves speeding and overtaking. Like on highways, the maximum speed is 130 kilometers per hour, for Macedonian motorists effortlessly drive 150 kilometers per hour.

Matka Canyon

Bring a Navigation System

Navigation can be a big help if you drive in towns where signs are only Cyrillic which reminds me of Saudi Arabia. The streets in some places are only in Arabic, which is challenging to find your way around. As I don’t use my mobile data in North Macedonia due to the high cost of roaming, I download the offline Google Maps and Maps.me beforehand. If you don’t like using mobile, take your GPS device if you have one. 

Anyway, during the pick-up of my vehicle at the airport, they offered me portable internet for 6 euros a day  an irresistible price, which makes my life so much easier to have unlimited internet all day. Instead of using my offline maps, I used Google Maps for navigation, driving, and walking.

The City Parkings

Parkings are problematic anywhere when you have a vehicle. As mentioned, finding free parking in cities like Skopje and Ohrid is difficult. Your best bet is to find paid parking. Still, it isn’t guaranteed you to have space. I have been driving around in Ohrid Center multiple times, but no luck. I pull off the road and search on Google Maps for free parking, and it shows me the Upper Gate.

If you are visiting Ohrid, set up your navigation to Upper Gate, where you can park for free all day. Aside from that, you’re closer to tourist attractions. The only thing that worries you is the location on the hillside, mounting when returning after you visit the city, exhausting.

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