By now, I’ve taken the bus from Skopje to Sofia (and vice versa, which I’ve written about here) a number of times and I know what to expect.
Since it can be difficult to find current and accurate information about buses in the Balkans ahead of time, we’ve decided to start gathering trip reports of our bus journeys between major points in the Balkans.
Keep in mind that while all information was accurate at the point of writing this post (May 2019), timetables do change, especially seasonally. As a result, we welcome you to share in the comments stories of your own bus journey so we can keep these posts an up-to-date source of information – with your help!
I’ve only taken the night bus between Skopje and Sofia for visa reasons (as I still am technically a tourist in Bulgaria due to bureaucratic nightmare hell, I’m only allowed 90 days per 180) so that I can maximize each day I spend at home in Bulgaria. I’d much rather cross the border at 3 AM than 3 PM!
However, I recognize that most people don’t enjoy night bus journeys and don’t exactly dream of leaving at midnight and rolling up to their next city at 6 AM, so I’ve also taken the liberty of gathering the daytime schedules for all the regular people out there.
Getting to the Skopje Bus Station
Luckily, Skopje’s bus station is not so far from downtown, so it actually is pretty possible to walk here from your hotel or hostel, depending on where you are staying. Generally, I have too much stuff and a bad back and don’t want to deal with walking and I opt for a taxi. Calling a taxi is usually the best bet to get the best rate with a meter. I’ve paid 130 denar ($2.36 USD) from the Debaar Malo area and 70 denar ($1.25 USD) from the Old Bazaar area.
Don’t give yourself too much time at the bus station, as Skopje’s bus station is not my favorite place in the world. There’s no easy-to-access public WiFi, though you can go to Café Jablko and buy a small thing and get onto their WiFi if you need a hit and don’t have a Macedonian SIM card. You can buy some snacks at my favorite Skopje bus station shop, топ ган (Top Gun), or there are also some small shops selling more filling fast food like gyros and pizza in the area.
You can buy your tickets at the information desk unless you are taking the night bus, in which case the information desk will be closed and you’ll need to make your way to the Makedonija Soobrakaj ticket selling office in the station where you can purchase your ticket.
When is the Bus from Skopje to Sofia?
Luckily, Skopje is one of the few cities in the Balkans that has a functional bus website, which you can check out here.
There are two main companies that serve this route: Matpu and Makedonija Soobrakaj/Kaleia (same company as far as I can tell).
I’m a little confused about the departure times for Matpu, as the Skopje bus site and Matpu’s site have conflicting information.
According to the Skopje bus station site, Matpu has departures at the following times: 8:30 AM and 3 PM. However, the Matpu site has the departures at 9:30 AM and 4 PM. This could be some sort of discrepancy due to the time change between Macedonia and Bulgaria (Bulgaria is one hour ahead and Matpu is a Bulgarian company). Still, it’s kind of weird. I’d err on the side of believing the Skopje bus station’s website because it’d be better to wait an extra hour than miss the bus entirely.
Makedonija Soobrakaj/Kaleia has the following departures: 7 AM, 5:30 PM, and midnight. Those times should definitely be accurate because they correspond on both the Skopje bus station’s website and the Kaleia site.
The bus takes approximately 5 hours including border crossing formalities, but also factor in the time change. Therefore, the night bus from Skopje to Sofia leaves at midnight but arrives at 6 AM, etc.
I paid 990 MKD for my bus ticket plus a 50 MKD station fee, for a total of 1040 MKD (roughly $19 USD).
This is a little more than Matpu, which charges a total of 980 MKD including station fees (roughly $18 USD) but I think they’re a lot more comfortable.
What is the Skopje to Sofia Bus Like?
On Matpu, they always use large buses that aren’t the most comfortable – the seats are in a really strange configuration which makes any human being with knees feel cramped.
This is what I’ve used on all my Sofia to Skopje journeys and I haven’t gone the reverse route, Skopje to Sofia, on Matpu but I would imagine they use the same uncomfortable buses. The only plus that I can say about Matpu is they stop at my favorite bathroom stop in the Balkans, with a cute cat who is there all the name and who I’ve apparently named Rebecca. (Say hi to her if you see her, because she’s lovely).
I had a much better ride with Makedonija Soobrakaj both times I went from Skopje to Sofia overnight. The first time, it was a smaller bus, more like a Mercedes Sprinter.
The second time, they used a bus with the name Kaleia on it which seems to be a branch of the same bus company as their schedules are identical. Both buses were pretty comfortable and I’d recommend them over Matpu (sorry Rebecca).
The Border Crossing from Macedonia to Bulgaria
Honestly, it’s a pretty standard border crossing, where the Macedonia agents board your bus, take all passports, stamp them, and then bring them out to be redistributed. You then repeat this at the Bulgaria checkpoint.
There was some hold up at the Bulgaria customs side of things, and we waited an extra 15 minutes or so to get the all-clear to go forwards.
Arriving in Sofia
Welcome to one of my favorite cities in the world! Depending on what bus you take, you’ll either arrive at the main domestic bus station or the Serdika bus station which is just about 100 meters away. Generally, Matpu should arrive at Serdika and Makedonija Soobrakaj/Kaleia should arrive at the main bus station.
The Serdika station looks like this:
If you arrive here, you’ll want to walk to the building that looks like this to get a taxi.
Important: don’t get a taxi at the Serdika bus station as it is not monitored, putting you at high risk for a scam!
This is the main bus station and it’s where you should get a taxi from. This is because the main bus station has an official relationship with OK Supertrans taxis here and you shouldn’t have any trouble with taxi scams.
Just look for this helpful sign below!
If you can read Cyrillic, ONLY board a taxi that says “OK Supertrans” and not something similar like “Cititrans” or “Superplus”. If you don’t read Cyrillic, check the phone number carefully as this cannot be faked. It should say 9732121, just like it says on the signs.
The numbers should match the sign and the taxi. If it doesn’t, it’s not a real OK taxi and you may be at risk of a taxi scam.
No fake taxis should be in the line with the sign in front of it, as pictured above, but I still recommend you double check just to be sure. Importantly, never go with a tout who is trying to get you to take their taxi as you are guaranteed to pay more!
Is There a Train from Skopje to Sofia?
At the moment, no. There is talk of developing a high speed rail between Skopje and Sofia, which has been in the works since 2014, but currently there is no rail service. We’ll update this post if that changes in the future.
Where to Stay in Sofia
We have a full guide on where to stay in Sofia already, but here are our top 3 recommendations!
Budget: For a hostel, we always recommend Hostel Mostel. I have never stayed at the Sofia location but several of my friends have and have always spoken highly of it. I stayed at the one in Veliko Tarnovo and it was excellent. Perks include a free vegetarian dinner in addition to breakfast included in your stay! Check rates and availability here. If you are traveling in peak season, be sure to book online, as Hostel Mostel is popular and tends to get booked up.
Mid-range: For a trendy new boutique hotel that is shockingly affordable, we recommend R34 Boutique Hotel. The location is fantastic, near the Ivan Vazov National Theater in central Sofia. It has gorgeous, loft-inspired details like exposed brick, giant windows, and streamlined but modern décor. It’s a great bargain, too – check rates, reviews, photos, and availability here.
Luxury: As far as we see it, there’s only one option for the best hotel in town: Sense Hotel. We go to their upscale, beautiful rooftop bar all the time when we have guests in town – it has one of the best views in the entire city and they make fantastic cocktails. With beautiful views over Alexander Nevsky, Sofia’s most iconic landmark, the hotel couldn’t be in a better location. Sense Hotel also boasts a state-of-the-art fitness center, an art gallery in the lobby, an excellent spa with luxe treatments, and an indoor pool. It’s truly the best choice in town. Check rates, reviews, photos, and availability here.
More Sofia Travel Resources
You may want to check out our Sofia taxi guide if this blog post left you with any unanswered questions!
If Sofia is not the only place you’ll visit in Bulgaria, check out our post on the best places to visit in Bulgaria for more inspiration. The most popular cities to visit are Plovdiv and Veliko Tarnovo, and we have posts on things to do in Plovdiv as well as what to do in Veliko Tarnovo.
Planning a Trip to the Balkans? Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!
We always recommend that you travel to the Balkans with a valid travel insurance policy. It’s important to be covered in case you have an accident or fall victim to theft. Should something happen, travel insurance will help you recover your expenses and continue to enjoy your trip.
For travel insurance, we use World Nomads. I’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.
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.