If you are planning on traveling between North Macedonia and Serbia, there are three ways to go: car, bus, or train. The cheapest way to travel between Serbia and North Macedonia is by bus. The quickest way to travel is by car and the longest via train.
If you have no means of transportation, using a bus is always a good option when traveling in the Balkans.
The most common bus company to provide transportation between the two countries is Nis Ekspres. The bus route is Skopje – Niš (Ниш) – Belgrade. It takes four-five hours to get from Niš to Skopje and vice versa by bus, but it’s the cheapest option if you are a solo traveler or a couple.
- How much is bus ticket price from Skopje to Nis?
Around 1,050 MKD or 2,100 Serbian Dinari (~ $20) for a return ticket. You can purchase bus tickets in advance at any bus station or last minute.
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Depending on the time of day you go, it will either be the local bus and cover many towns between the two capitals (Skopje and Belgrade), such as Kumanovo, Bujanovac, Vranje, Leskovac, and Nis.
If it’s the express bus, it will go from Skopje to Belgrade with a limited stoppage between the two locations.
The local route when traveling from North Macedonia it starts from Skopje, it gets on the highway and goes to Kumanovo, the most northern city in North Macedonia. After a quick passenger drop-off/pick-up, it continues straight to the North Macedonian/Serbian border.
Bujanovac is the first stop after crossing the border.
The bus driver usually calls out for a 5-minute break here during the passenger exchange. The Bujanovac bus station is under construction, and now it stops either in Vranje or Vladici Han for bathroom breaks.
After Bujanovac, it continues to other smaller cities in Serbia, such as Vranje, Vladici Han, and Leskovac. Approximately three hours after crossing the border, the bus arrives in Nis.
First, the bus stops at the main Railroad Station in Niš, and then it stops at the Bus Station. The driver will announce passenger exchange to other locations, such as Novi Sad, Kragujevac, or even Belgrade if passengers are required to change the bus.
Traveling Skopje to Niš-Belgrade Tips
The bus ride from Skopje to Niš is all country-side, mountains, greenery, and fields of sunflower. Here are some tips to help you on your journey between the two countries:
- Take the 7:45 AM bus from Skopje if you want to be in Niš by noon or 6 pm in Belgrade.
- Take an early bus from Belgrade or the 10:40 AM from Niš if you want to be around 4 PM in Skopje.
- Always validate your return ticket a day in advance at the billing/cashier (Biletara or Билетара) office in the bus station.
- Below is the timetable of the location/approximate time for the 7:45 AM bus from Skopje to Niš I took on 07/2017:
|Skopje||7:45 AM (Departure)|
|North Macedonian/Serbian Border||9:00 AM (20-30 Minute for passport check)|
|Vladici Han||10:20 AM|
|Nis (train station)||11:45 AM|
|Nis (bus station)||11:50 AM|
Popular Bus Company – Niš Express
Niš Express, a popular bus company in the Balkans, doesn’t have the best or the most modern buses; however, they get you from point A to point B.
In recent years, the company has added free Wi-Fi to most buses. The Wi-Fi is available as soon as you cross the into Serbian territory (the Wi-Fi is not available in North Macedonia for those coming from Serbia).
Also, there are no electrical charging stations, so be cautious of your battery level. Of course, the buses have air conditioning for summer and heating for the wintertime.
The seat numbers are by the windows, usually covered by the curtains.
The bus drivers usually reserve the first two rows, so they will tell you to sit where ever you want. As most people wish to sit in their assigned seats, expect some arguments to arise.
Documentation and Border Crossing
Crossing the North Macedonian-Serbian border usually takes 20-30 minutes to get everyone checked. However, if it’s in the summer and a weekend, it might take longer with everyone going on vacation.
Be prepared to spend some time waiting for the bus. The driver and his coworker do not let people off the bus, even for a bathroom break.
At the North Macedonian border, the driver or his coworker usually collect all the passports or ID cards (those that have North Macedonian/Serbian ID cards can travel with them, no need for a passport), and take them to the passport control – or a police officer boards the bus and collects them. At the Serbian border, the procedure has changed because of the new immigration situation in Syria. You will need to get off the bus and walk yourself to the passport control when told, and hand-in the documentation personally.
Serbia and North Macedonia have consolidated their borders into one. The bus will let off all passengers on the first side of the border. The passengers will then walk to a police booth that has police officers from both countries to get their documents checked.
Once you cross the border, everyone waits for the bus to be inspected by the police and customs before being allowed back on.
There is no duty-free shopping or bathroom break at the border.
Do you need a visa to visit North Macedonia or Serbia?
- Check if you have the proper documentation to enter North Macedonia or if you need a visa at the official site of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia.
- Check the official site of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia. Also, you can check if you meet the general entry requirements to enter into Serbia.
Pay-tolls Between North Macedonia and Serbia
For those that want to travel between North Macedonia and Serbia by car, I’ve noted down the current pay-tolls between Skopje and Niš.
In both countries, two pay tolls are present, so four fees in total. See prices for cars below:
- North Macedonia pay-toll #1: 40 MKD or 1 Euro
- North Macedonia pay-toll #2: 60 MKD or 1 Euro
- Serbia pay-toll #1: 80 DIN or 1 Euro
- Serbia pay-toll #2: 210 DIN or 1.50 Euro
You can check the local prices of pay-tolls throughout North Macedonia (the site is in North Macedonia, so use Google Translate). The site also allows you to check pay-toll prices from North Macedonia to other foreign countries in Europe.
Going by car from Skopje to Niš or vice versa (round trip) is more expensive than a bus ticket price per person. With the tolls and gas prices, it’s around 5-15% more expensive.
Tips for the Bus Ride
- DO NOT USE THE BATHROOM in Bujanovac.
The bus station is in complete ruins, and almost nonexistent. Try not to have many liquids during the trip, and wait to use the bathroom until it stops in Niš (do talk to the bus driver to see if there will be a break in Niš if you are continuing to Belgrade).
- The tickets have assigned seat numbers, but a lot of the older generations that travel by bus do not follow the rule, so don’t be surprised if you find someone seated in your seat.
- Make sure you have proper North Macedonian/Serbian currency to check in your bags. The bus driver doesn’t accept dollars and only takes 5-20-euro bills.
- It is 10 MKD to use the bathroom at the Bus Station in Skopje. If you don’t see toilet paper in the bathroom stall, ask the person you paid. It comes with the price.
How To Get To North Macedonia via Bus – Bottom Line
I can’t say the bus is the easiest way to travel between the two countries or the most comfortable ride. I have seen foreigners having issues at the borders due to improper documentation and being left at the country border to sort it out.
The bus is on a schedule and will not wait. However, I’ve met many people from Canada, Turkey, and New Zealand on a Niš Express bus that didn’t have any issues and enjoyed the ride.
It all comes down to personal preference, time, and money.
I wish you all the best on your journeys!