Many people who are on a trip throughout the Balkans tend to want to make two stops in North Macedonia, Skopje and Ohrid.
And while we’d argue that there are plenty of beautiful places to visit in North Macedonia, we’re also sensitive to the fact that many people are on a fast-paced trip and have limited time to explore the country at leisure.
Therefore, getting from Skopje to Ohrid in a quick and efficient manner is doubly essential. But, as often happens with Balkan transportation, there is limited information out there on the internet.
That’s why we’re writing this series of guides on how to get between major transportation hubs in the Balkans every time we make one of these journeys, as we want to provide the most complete and up-to-date information out there, so you can plan a stress-free trip.
Luckily… getting from Skopje to Ohrid is actually quite painless, taking only 3.5 hours and costing less than $10 USD.
How to Get from Skopje to Ohrid
Skopje’s central bus station is the same as its train station and is easy to walk to from the center of town.
Note that there is no train to Ohrid, so you are going to have to take a bus (unless you rent a car and drive, which is also an option but we won’t be covering that in this guide).
A taxi from most parts of Skopje should cost about 100-200 MKD to the central bus station, but it could be higher if you are staying outside the center. For reference, I paid about 130 MKD (just over $2 USD) for my taxi to the bus station from near the Debar Maalo area.
Surprisingly, Skopje’s central bus station now has a well-functioning website with an English site, which makes it pretty easy to list all the bus times – pretty cool!
I was coming from Sofia, and I didn’t plan my transfer from Skopje to Ohrid in advance since I wasn’t sure exactly when my bus would arrive. I figured I’d just wing it when I arrived at Skopje’s bus station and see what the next bus I could get would be. I actually only had to wait 20 minutes for the next bus, luckily (just enough time to snag my favorite bus snacks from my favorite Skopje bus station store, ‘Top Gun’ – side note: you know you travel too much when you have a designated favorite bus snacks store)
The main bus company which services the Skopje to Ohrid route is Galeb. I used them both times I traveled to Ohrid from Skopje and they’re definitely the company I would recommend for travelers, as their buses are comfortable, clean, and efficient.
As of summer 2019, there are departures from Skopje to Ohrid on Galeb at the following times: 6 AM, 8 AM, 10 AM, 12 PM, 2 PM, 4:30 PM, and 6:30 PM, costing 520 denars (about $10 USD exactly).
According to Skopje’s website timetable, there is also a company called Delfina Turs with departures at 5:30 AM, 7 AM, 9 AM, 2:45 PM, and 4 PM, costing 500 denars, basically the same as Galeb.
Finally, there is also Klasik Kompani at 11 AM, 12:30 PM, and 7:30 PM, costing 450 denars ($8 USD) – good to note if you are on a budget.
I haven’t taken a bus with either Delfina or Klasik, so I can’t speak to their cleanliness, comfort, or safety standards, and given only the small price differential I am inclined to recommend Galeb as I found them to be one of the better Balkan bus companies I’ve used (and I’ve taken a lot!)
The Ride From Skopje to Ohrid
This bus ride is quite pleasant and I don’t have too much to report from it, mostly because I was lost in an audiobook my whole time.
While the distance isn’t that great, a good portion of it goes through the mountains near Mavrovo National Park, and this part can get quite winding. For that reason, if you’re prone to motion sickness, I suggest you take some sort of pill like Dramamine to help you. I didn’t find it too bad, but others more sensitive than I am may struggle a bit with the winding roads.
Keep an eye out as you pass Tetovo – this town is especially gorgeous and its striking mosque against the backdrop of mountains would make an excellent photo if you are prepared for it. I, alas, was not, but plan to return to Tetovo sometime to see their beautiful painted mosque.
Arriving in Ohrid
The bus station in Ohrid is about 2 kilometers out of town, about a 30 or 40 minute walk to the old town. If that’s not something you want to do with your luggage, I definitely recommend getting a cab.
I paid 200 MKD (nearly $4 USD) to get from the Ohrid bus station to the city center, knowing full well I was getting fleeced a bit but I wasn’t really in the mood to argue since I had been on the road for 9 hours since leaving Sofia early that morning, and there was only one cab driver by the time I got to the front of the bus station so I didn’t have any room to shop around.
Supposedly you could pay less, something like 120 MKD, but I haven’t tested it! If you have better negotation skills, or are simply less tired than I was, you may be able to haggle a better rate. Keep in mind that you never have less leverage than when you arrive at a bus station in another country and pick your battles.
If you’re staying somewhere outside the center, like in Lagadin, you will pay more – I’d estimate somewhere around 300-400 MKD.
Where to Stay in Skopje
If you haven’t yet picked out your accommodations in Skopje, here are our top picks for each budget category.
Budget: The lovely Clover Hostel right near the center of town is great for solo travelers who want a social environment with a bit of privacy, and it’s inexpensive enough that you can enjoy some peace (and nights without snoring soundtracks) without it breaking the bank. It’s located near the center as well as Skopje’s co-working spaces so if you are planning an extended stay in Skopje and need to work as well, it’s a great choice. Check out prices, availability, and reviews here.
Mid-range: For an affordable option that offers way more privacy than a hostel, I stayed at and highly recommend Boutique Hotel Rose Diplomatique. The rooms were comfortable and spacious (though admittedly furnished a bit oddly – mine for some inexplicable reason had an exercise bike in the bedroom). The breakfast spread was tasty and super generous, and I loved getting to eat in the lovely patio every morning. The staff was really friendly, even when we arrived late in the evening, and generally I just felt really welcome here. It’s a short walk from the center and an even shorter walk to the trendy, leafy hipster neighborhood of Debar Maalo. One note: there is no elevator so if you have trouble with stairs this may not be the right place for you. Check prices, reviews, and availability here.
Luxury: Skopje has a number of 5-star hotels, but our top pick is the Marriott for one main reason: location, location, location! Literally overlooking the famous “Warrior on a Horse” statue, this hotel in the center of town couldn’t be more central. The rooms are spacious and well-designed with flatscreen TVs and stunning TV views, the in-house hotel bar is sleek and trendy, and travelers rave about the delicious breakfast. There’s a luxurious in-house spa with an indoor pool, jacuzzi, sauna, masseuses, and a fitness center – so if you want a bit of TLC while in Skopje, you don’t even have to leave your hotel’s front door. If you want to stay in the most luxe hotel in Skopje – and not pay an arm and a leg for a 5-star hotel – this is certainly it. Check prices, reviews, and availability here.
Where to Stay in Ohrid
If you’re looking for tips on where to stay in Ohrid, here are our top choices.
Budget: For people wanting to stay in Ohrid on a budget but not wanting to sacrifice their privacy and stay in a hostel, Vila Dudinka is perfect. It’s where I ended up staying during my time in Ohrid and it’s a great place for budget travelers. The host, Zarko, is insanely nice and the rooms are basic but warm and welcoming. For the price and hospitality, you can’t beat it in Ohrid. The location on a quiet side street off of the main ‘road’ of Old Town Ohrid, Tsar Samoil, is quite literally perfect. Check prices, reviews, and availability here.
Mid-Range: For an affordable 4-star hotel in the heart of old town Ohrid, I recommend Villa Sofija right next to the gorgeous St. Sofia Church. It’s a short walk to all the best restaurants of Ohrid and its location on top of a hilly part of Ohrid means that you have unparalleled lake views while still being situated in the Old Town – the best of both worlds, in my opinion. Rooms are cozy and modern, with recently redone bathrooms, in keeping with the slightly elevated price point compared to other places in town. It’s still a steal for the quality to price ratio! Check prices, reviews, and availability here.
Luxury: Most of the luxury hotels of Ohrid aren’t located in the old town of Ohrid itself, because since it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site they can’t exactly bulldoze old houses and erect a 5-star hotel right in the middle of it. Because of that, most of the luxury hotels you’ll find are located in other villages around Ohrid, namely Lagadin and Trpjeca. Lagadin is quite close to Ohrid (I stayed there, though not at this hotel, my first time in Ohrid) and it’s great if you want a lake escape and don’t mind being outside of town. Hotel Dva Bisera is probably the fanciest hotel on Lake Ohrid, with an excellent restaurant, private beach with sunbeds, and if you want to get to Ohrid, a taxi is about 300 MKD (~$6 USD) away! Check prices, reviews, and availability here.
Macedonia Travel Resources
We have guides covering quite a bit of the country! Start with this guide to planning a trip to North Macedonia, and then peruse our guide to the best places to visit in Macedonia to get your ideas flowing.
We’re creating more content for Ohrid, but you can start with our Instagram guide to Ohrid!
Finally, Make Sure You Come to Ohrid with Travel Insurance
I’m sure you’re aware that getting travel insurance is a good idea for traveling in Macedonia, the Balkans, or anywhere in the world! Stephanie and I have both been paying customers of World Nomads for the last three years. We love the peace of mind it gives us in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption.
While North Macedonia is perfectly safe to travel around, there’s always a risk inherent in everyday travel, so it’s better to play it safe.
Originally from California, Allison has been living in Bulgaria for the last two years and is obsessed with traveling around the Balkans. She has been published in National Geographic, CNN Arabic, Matador Network, and the Huffington Post. She loves befriending dogs, drinking coffee, geeking out about wine, and cooking food from around the world.