26 May 2010

Driving from Belgrade in Serbia to Skopje in Macedonia

Leaving Belgrade proved harder than it should have been as major roadworks were taking place on the route to the motorway and diversion signs were patchy at best. But we eventually reached the motorway, which initially was badly in need of repair, but improved as we moved away from the city, and headed south towards Macedonia.

Motorways in Serbia are subject to tolls as they are in Macedonia, although these are not as expensive as in France, for example. It is possible to pay in both countries in Euros, although this costs about 10% extra due to exchange rates not being great. The total toll costs for this leg of our trip were about 10 euros, and you hand over your cash at toll booths. Credit cards were not accepted, although they were at service stations, which were plentiful on the motorway, but few and far between otherwise.

Just as when we entered Serbia, there were no problems crossing into Macedonia. We had to produce our vehicle registration document and the Green Card.

Between Belgrade and the border was a mixture of motorway and decent quality two lane road. Thre was good motorway for over half of the drive from the Macedonian border to Skopje, and again as we approached Skopje. The light traffic and the gorgeous scenery meant we made good and enjoyable progress, the whole trip fro Belgrade to Skopje taking about 6 hours of relaxed driving.

Driving in Skopje, which is quite a large city, is as erratic as I have experienced anywhere. This, combined with the fact that all street names are in Cyrillic script, meant finding our hotel in Skopje was interesting. Before leaving the UK we tried to find a SatNav which covered Serbia and Macedonia but although some now cover the main roads, none have yet incorporated city street detail. You really do need someone who can read a map! In spite of the apparent lack of any driving rules, as long as you drive carefully, much as you would in any new city, people respect your road space and we had no problems.

We really liked Skopje. The people were very friendly and in spite of the driving habits, very relaxed and cheerful. The city centre is an interesting mix of the modern and ancient, with lots of street art and sculpture and a lively cafe culture in the newer centre, alongside a much older "bazaar" quarter just across an old stone bridge.

Throughout Macedonia we saw churches and mosques next to each other. This made us wish we had a better understanding of the history, recent as well as older, of this part of Europe.

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