Money & costs
Macedonian denar (MKD) notes come in denominations of 10, 50, 100, 500, 1000 and 5000, and there are coins of one, two and five denar. Restaurants, hotels and some shops will accept payment in euro (usually) and US dollars (sometimes).
Small private exchange offices throughout central Skopje and Ohrid exchange cash for a rate that is only slightly better than at banks. ATMs can be found in all of the major towns and tourist centres but not in out-of-the-way places. Travellers cheques are a real hassle to change and we advise against relying on them, except as a form of emergency back-up money. Credit cards are widely accepted, but don’t take it for granted, even at a hotel or restaurant. Diners Club is surprisingly popular.
Health & safety
Dangers & annoyances
In general, Macedonia is a safe and easygoing country. Watch out for pickpockets in crowded areas, and taxi drivers charging exorbitant fares from the airport. A more specific annoyance can be the persistence of young beggars, particularly around the riverfront and square in Skopje, and at traffic lights. While they are unlikely to hurt you, it can be quite intimidating to have half a dozen rug rats hanging off every pocket for 15 minutes at a time, getting progressively more aggressive. Keep your hands firmly on your valuables and walk quickly into the nearest café or store if you’re unable to shake them.
Citizens of EU countries, Argentina, Barbados, Bosnia, Botswana, Croatia, Cuba, Iceland, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Maldives, Norway, Switzerland and the USA don’t need visas for Macedonia and are allowed to stay for up to three months. Visas are required for most others and cost €20 to €50 depending on where you apply for it and whether it is single- or multiple-entry. Even though some visas can be obtained at the airport for some nationalities, it is much safer to apply in advance. The regulations change quite frequently – check www.mfa.gov.mk for the latest information.
Work & study
Macedonia’s official languages are Macedonian. Macedonian, a South Slavic language, is spoken by most of the population. There are some grammatical similarities between Macedonian and Bulgarian, such as the omittance of case. Speakers of Bulgarian, Serbian, Croatian and, to a lesser extent, Russian should get by without too much difficulty. For others, we recommend a good phrasebook, such as Lonely Planet’s Eastern Europe Phrasebook.
Macedonian uses the Cyrillic alphabet, based on the Glagolitic script, which originated in Macedonia and spread across the eastern Slavic world. Though Latin script appears on road signs and some shop names, the Cyrillic alphabet is predominant and street names are printed in Cyrillic only, so it’s a good idea to learn the alphabet before travelling to the country.
Businesses tend to stay open late in Macedonia. Travellers will generally find them open from 8am to 8pm weekdays and 8am to 2pm on Saturday. In smaller centres they may close for lunch from around 1pm, and reopen at 4pm. Post offices open from 7am to 5.30pm and banks from 7am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. Restaurants, bars and cafés tend to open at 9am and close at midnight, extending to 1am on Friday and Saturday.