About Macedonia (MK)
Forged from centuries of Greek, Turkish, and Albanian influence, the country of North Macedonia (MK) is one of the final undiscovered gems of the Balkan region. Its diversity of natural beauty and easy-going pace of life create a refreshing atmosphere of hope in a region that’s been chewed up and spit out a number of times over. Nevertheless, many parts of North Macedonia remain unchanged from the Renaissance Period. It’s home to some of the largest and cleanest freshwater lakes in all of Europe, and its mountainous terrain gives way to some genuinely breathtaking scenery. But there’s a lingering sensibility of ethnic and cultural ambivalence amidst the scenic views, historical ruins, and sedate villages, a vibe that more or less puts an edge on a visit to the region. North Macedonia is a beautiful place — you just have to be careful about what you say and whom you say it to. Avoiding any sort of conversation about ethnicity will make everything a lot smoother.
Getting around is much more pleasant if you rent a car in Macedonia. Public transportation is slow and inefficient, and the country is covered by an extensive network of roads in good to fair condition. Driving habits are typically Balkan — not very safe or courteous. But otherwise, you can see a tremendous amount of the country in a very short period of time when you have a private vehicle. Be advised that winter conditions in and around the capital of Skopje produce a particularly dense fog that may persist for days on end, severely limiting your visibility. And as with any other mountainous region, drivers should have a significant amount of alpine driving under their belts. But aside from the areas near the border of Kosovo, there’s nothing to stop you from exploring the country from the comfort of your Macedonia car rental.
Choosing your car
The best deals on car rentals in Macedonia will be found at Avis, Dollar, Sixt, Europcar, Hertz, and Budget — although in no particular order of value. Choose from all types of vehicles: 7-12 seater minivans on down to minicars, four different class of sedans, SUVs, estate wagons, and premium and luxury 4-door sedans.
Tips and advice
Stick to the main routes, and try to avoid driving at night if you can help it. Macedonia is generally safe for foreigners and tourists, but road services close early, and assistance — should you need it — won’t arrive in a very timely manner.
It’s generally a problem everywhere you go in Macedonia, but cars are generally parked wherever they fit. Often times, the right lane of a four-lane road will be occupied by a column of cars.
Signposts generally in Cyrilic and Latin, but the majority of street names in cities and towns are not posted. Navigation — even with a GPS — is much more of a touch and feel type of experience, where if it looks like the right road, then it probably is.
Roundabouts are a fairly new innovation in Macedonian traffic, and the locals are still working out the kinks.
Many Western mobile devices struggle with Macedonia’s wireless infrastructure. In-the-know travelers recommend that you download the maps from Google before hitting the road. Either that, or just pay for GPS.
Due to some creative layouts of certain junctions, blind corners are a serious concern for visiting motorists. Macedonians have a habit of launching out of turns without so much as a glance at the flow of traffic.