Things to do in Skopje + Cost of Living in Skopje (Month 1)

cost of living in skopje

After spending one week in Sofia (relatively expensive for us) we decided to spend two months in Skopje (relatively inexpensive). This blog post is my honest account of the first month:


Bus Ride From Sofia to Skopje + Border Crossing

We took a 50 BGN (£22) 6 hour bus ride from Sofia to Skopje with just one hiccup at the border, where, on the Bulgarian side, the guy casually fingered everyone's luggage and, in a racist way, he picked out the only bipoc guy (for our readers who are unfamiliar with this acronym and institutionalized racism, you can read about it here) on the bus and over-did his, and only his, luggage. His face dripping with suspicion as he violently fingered each piece. We all made it over though and the guy (who was from Mexico) shrugged it off as "he's had far worse border crossings".

is skopje worth visiting

We arrived in Skopje bus station which is extremely skanky (my favourite kind of bus station). We walked out under an equally skanky bridge, and were happy to see a cool (and, depending on your opinion, controversial) piece of graffiti (another thing that didn't feel right about Sofia - not enough graffiti. I associate the lack of graffiti in a city with fascism for some reason... hmm... a police state, heightened centralized control via surveillance cameras instead of locals deciding what their buildings and surroundings should look like, freely and democratically?)

what to do in skopje

It was an extremely sunny September day, well into the 30s. As we stood sweating and scrunching our eyes up at the sun, I got irrationally irritated (I overheated), sorry Tamás. Then, something so unexpected propped up that it momentarily felt like two worlds had collided. I expected to see orthodox churches and bloc houses in Skopje,  aesthetically pleasing (to my eyes) brutalist architecture, run down buildings, of course of course, maybe the odd mosque or two but I never ever expected to see red double decker buses in Skopje, yet there they were:

Red Double Decker Buses in Skopje (For Real!)

A youth warned us that we would need an app to take said bus, but I ignored her (what kind of bus doesn't take coins). These buses. (Also buses in the UK, buses in Belgrade etc etc, listen to locals, fool of a tourist.) The bus set off as I (misbalanced by my rucksack and suitcase) tried to explain to the bemused driver that I wanted to pay cash for the tickets. He just shrugged and let me on for free (it's the Balkans). Tamás got a free ride too, although I don't think the driver actually saw him. I looked around the bus. Trying to work out if it really was a UK red bus. It definitely looked like it from the outside but from the inside it felt more Asian - it had those lil air filter things you see in SE Asia. (Later I found out that in the 50s/60s they really did get them from the UK -  ones that the UK no longer wanted and 'graciously' (sarcasm) donated - right hand drive ones and everything. But, nowadays, they are actually made in China, left hand drive, often with German adverts for DM on the side - colour them multi-cultured - where will you find a faux English bus made in China? In Northern Macedonia, of course.)

what to see in skopje

Getting off the bus, I felt elated in that simple way I always do when I get away with getting something for free. We dragged our bags two blocks to our airbnb. They left the key in the letter box for us - my favourite kind of airbnb where we don't have to meet the landlords. Anyway, we ended up meeting him a few days later. I spoke to him in German and he said that my German was so good he thought I was German, which I was mollified by.

things to do in skopje

signs above the entrance of a real estate agency we found in Skopje... they know

He himself had a very rule-driven idea about land-lording though... I mean, the institution of land-lording itself is rule-driven and based on the legalized accumulation of wealth via taking money from people who do not own real estate, aka their own homes by people who are in excess of real estate and have more living space than they actually need so...

Renting an Apartment in Skopje

The place itself was bigger than it looked in the photos, with a separate bedroom for each of us, a long kitchen with a big (albeit old and noisy) fridge and a cute bathroom with my favourite bathroom colour (toothpaste green) and a bath! It felt it was vaguely ugly which tends to affect my mood in a negative way (I say this with the acknowledgement that some people don't have an apartment at all, and that's not fair.) Anyhow, for £386 for the month, for both of us, all bills included, quite near the centre, it was not a bad deal! Just a week earlier, we'd been strongly considering moving to Bristol - and paying £600 a month for one room for both of us in a shared house. I think I'd rather work less and have more space, but it is something I think about a lot.

cost of living skopje

the afore-mentioned tub

Initially it felt like home, but after two weeks the weather got worse and Tamás hated that apartment so hard. It was dark and gloomy with no heating. It was a summer house, aka a house for people to spend the summer in, with verandas jutting out way over the windows, keeping the sun out - very cool and sensible in the summer. Not nice in the autumn. I liked my room though for two reasons, one the abundance of flora outside of my window:

macedonia cost of living

And two this insane piece of art that I love so much... The back says it's by M. Stefanovski and titled 'Neuspesna Kopulacija' which my Serbian friend tells me means 'failed copulation' (lol). After an unsuccessful googling, I asked my landlord about who M. Stefanovski is and could I go and see more of their art and even buy some. And he was very cagey and secretive and weird about it until finally telling me that the artist is a friend of theirs and one of those artists that just doesn't like selling their art of whatever. Like literally got an offer on a piece and gave the piece to someone else so they wouldn't have to sell to the first.  Whatever, I will make a postcard of this piece. My favourite I've seen all year:

living in skopje

the afore-mentioned creepy portrait above my bed

Despite the gloom of the apartment, it had two things going for it: 1) a bath, which was an awesome thing to have every day and 2) it's location. There were not one but three vegan restaurants less than 3 minutes walk away (okay one turned out to actually be pescatarian and rubbish, but the second was vegan and good and the third was not just raw vegan, but one of the first raw vegan restaurants in Europe.. but more on that on our sister blog - veganvstravel (post coming soon!).

Things to Do and See in Skopje

More things nearby, it was a short (30 minute) walk to the centre of Skopje and my favourite thing to see in Skopje - the Old Bazaar!

cost of living in macedonia

the Old bazaar with the Fortress in the background that we didn't visit cause fug war

I bought myself a faux Fjall Raven bag here because I've always wanted one. It was £7 instead of £70. My apologies to the wage labourers who had to make it :( I wonder how much more, if anything, the wage labourers of the real Fjall Raven makers get...

Acupuncture in Skopje

Back to the apartment, it was also just 2 minutes walk from a chiropractor (according to google), so off I went to sort out my rib (which has been hurting for a year), and my calf (approx six months). I lied down on the table and she asked me if I'd ever done acupuncture before. I said no and wondered why she was asking that. Then she starting sticking pins in me. Lmao. She said that my back muscle is tense and blood can't get into the area and it's pushing on my nerves which I feel in a different area (the rib) which is why it hurts.

cost of living in Skopje

Oh my days as soon as she pushed the needles in all my pain shifted around. I could feel nerves rearranging or releasing or I don't even know as they stuck in me. I came home and had the trippiest, most intense nap of my life with super weird dreams. Then I did yoga and cried cause I feel like I've been neglecting my body (as ever). But I (surprisingly) seem to be on the road to health and I cried about that too in gratitude. I went back there for cupping (which I'm not as convinced by but was fun to try) along with massaging and more acupuncture.

is skopje worth visiting

My rib is still not 100%, but my calf has not hurt since. Thank you Macedonian acupuncturists! I recommend acupuncture as a thing to do in Skopje. It's probably not the first thing anyone associates with this city, but that's part of the appeal for me.. I've been trying lots of different 'alternative' medicine practices in the Balkans - acupuncture in Macedonia, chiropractor in Serbia, physiotherapist in Albania etc. (Okay physiotherapy is not alternative treatment I know but I haven't tried it before.) It (almost) goes without saying that for us, it's cheaper than doing it in the West and in my (absolutely limited) experience, it's a more pleasant experience too with more skilled practitioners. But I have an anti-west bias. (As a westerner.)

Couple's Therapy in Skopje

And in the therapy vain, we went to couple's therapy for the first time (here's the link to their website in case anyone is interested)! It was very Balkans (she was smoking) and honestly I did not like her as a therapist (low-key gas-lighty, patronising and I got the vibe that she liked Tamás and didn't like me. And she assumed a lot of things that just aren't true). But the main take-aways were that we are don't have problems like her usual patients - she didn't say this of course, but she did say that the number one problem she sees is couples not communicating. Which is something we do all the time. I don't know, I left feeling very positive about our relationship and I've been feeling it ever since. She also basically said a lot of our issues in the past sounded like they stemmed from taking too many drags which sounds kinda judgemental and kinda wrong but also kinda right and a great rug to sweep everything under so let's go with that lol.

what to do in skopje

'volim te' means 'I love you', one of our fave graffitis

Also, a big take away was when we were explaining who we are and where we've come from, I said that I've been travelling since 2013 and she said "oh no, you don't belong anywhere, you belong to the world" and she said it like it was a bad thing in this sad voice, and it has been something I've felt sad about sometimes but her putting it like that made me feel like "fck ye! I'm an anarch1st I don't believe in nation states. The world is my home! International employees of the world, unite!" (And I say that with the understanding of the gravity that comes with that - it is an absolute privilege to be able to say that and unfair that not everyone can. Just as it's a privilege for others to have a home which I don't have.) Home is wherever my laptop and bag is and I feel grateful for that. Grateful that I can travel around with my best friend, someone who understands me way more than a rubbish therapist. Anyway.

Mushroom Picking in Gazi Baba Skopje

One day I agreed to meet Mila at Gazi Baba park. But to get there I had to take a taxi. It would be the first time ever in my life that I'd taken a taxi by myself, and I was rewarded for my adulthood behaviour by the driver putting his hand on my leg and short changing me. But in all honesty I found the whole experience rather hilarious. There was a time that 'driver non-consensually handling my leg and crossing my boundaries; would have thoroughly, and understandably, upset me. But it just doesn't anymore.  I'm at a point in my life now where I was just like.. I just don't care. And I'm confident knowing he has no idea.. no idea I could beat his @ss if I wanted to. And that I'd enjoy it.

Upon noticing he'd short changed me, I tipped him generously and said "ciao bello". He probably thought I was just a dumb dumb female western idiot. But I felt I'd taken my power back. Whatever.

what to see in skopje

view of Skopje from Gazi Baba park... beaut innit

I met Mila and she told me the most bat sh*t crazy stories about some guy cutting not one but three wives heads off (she's a criminal psychologist and has seen some sh*t.) She also talked about corruption and racism in Macedonia, how you can just bribe the judge to avoid drink driving fees. She also also told me about having a surgery where they thought they might have left a gauze inside her, so they had to reopen her up, but couldn't give her enough anesthetic so she felt it all (and there was no gauze). Then, after she, mistakenly, told me that you can't eat rose-hips because 'they are poisonous' she showed me how to pick mag1c mushrooms that grew right there in the park because 'that's what we do in the Eastern bloc when we run out of w33d'.

things to do in skopje

the shr00ms i found in the grass at the park

I, not eager to get in another taxi alone, then walked home.

cost of living skopje

one of the many random pomegranate trees on the streets of Skopje

What else can I say about our first month in Skopje? We found pomegranates and kiwi just casually growing everywhere like it was oblivious to the fact that I find that eden-like.

macedonia cost of living

yes, kiwis grow in Skopje too

As a kid who would actively pick exotic fruits as a treat at the supermarket over chocolate or sweets, this is extremely b0ner inducing for me.

Free-Ranging Dogs in Skopje

There are also so many free dogs <3 We watched one pack of about twelve. They seemed to have a leader - this black one and they all kept going to lick his mouth, it was very.. sweet? What was also sweet was how the dogs are handled. We saw dogs lying in the road, dogs chasing car wheels and the Macedonians.. not honking, not trying to run them over or whatever, just chill, letting the dogs do what they want and driving around them. Yes thank you.

living in skopje

We also met Nori!! (Tamás's little sister.) I thought she was an absolute delight - far more interesting and intelligent than almost all the adults I've met this year. (hashtag give children the vote.)

is skopje worth visiting


One of the last things we did in this apartment was buy some budgies and set them free. It was a beautiful sunny, warm day, and I feel that even if they do end up dying in the winter, it's preferable to them living in a cage.. I just couldn't walk past that shop and let them live in prison it was vile.

what we did in skopje

that pack of free dogs chillin peacefully next to Macedonian school kids on one Skopje's main squares

All in all, our first month in Skopje had it's little lessons (don't live in a summer house in the autumn), and it's gifts (accidental acupuncture and a whole bin full of clothes).

Food Prices in Skopje

There was also a big sexy market near our apartment - one of those ones that outside but under a little roof:

things to do in skopje

the farmers market nearest to us

There, a man clicked his fingers at me (rude) to then produce a box which had a live cat in it - my friend Jenn says it's perhaps the only acceptable reason to click your fingers at someone and I'm inclined to agree. Not that randomly lifting up cats who are peacefully chillin in boxes is a cool thing (nope) but I did love the universal unspoken language of 'look how neat this cat in a box is'. I further loved this graffiti:

what to see in skopje

The fruit and veg was pretty good quality and relatively cheap for us - not as cheap as Albania, but cheaper than Bulgaria, Serbia (we wrote about eating plant-based in Serbia on our sister site) and Montenegro. I usually like to go to the markets (even though I find them intimidating) because it feels 'realer' or something.

cost of living in skopje

But in Skopje my absolute favourite place to food shop was KAM. Oh my. Light of my life, apple of my eye. So cheap. So full of vegan treats  and accidentally vegan treats (olive spread, baklava, tahini, vegan cheese etc). This has been my favourite supermarket in the Balkans thus far. There's a sentence I never thought I needed.

Cost of Living in Skopje, Macedonia

I spent around £520 in this month (September) - £193 on rent and all those house-hold bills like internet water, electricity whatever (which were included in my rent). I spent about £140 on food, £100 on shoes, £10 on that one taxi (should have been around £3), £30 on eating out and alcohol, £30 on medicine - (acupuncture, cupping and a massage),  £15 on shopping (clothes, a bag, some body lotion). Maybe I should have bought health insurance but I didn't. But I did pay my taxes. You can certainly find cheaper rent in Skopje on Airbnb, I just left it a bit late. I was also limited by 'only' being able to stay for 3 months visa free - if you stay for a year you'll definitely find cheaper rent - thought your bills probably won't be included. I'm at a point in my life (30s) where I am happy to pay extra to not have the hassle of paying the bills myself. Time is mine.


If you enjoyed my misadventures in Skopje and would like to read more of my travels please let me know, because I'm writing a book about my past 10 years of travelling and I mostly feel most of the time that no one will be interested in it, so if YOU write and say you'd be interested in reading it it will give me what I need (motivation) and I will cheer your dreams on too. (I will also just do this anyway, let me know what your dreams are.) Also, if you're interested in a way of travelling and getting accommodation cheaply, you might wanna check out house sitting. Trustedhousesitters.com was kind enough to provide us and our readers with a 10% discount, feel free to click on the link to use it :)

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ABOUTME

Travelling through the kyriarchy and weaselling our way out of the rat race - a female travel blogger writing about socially and politically conscious travelling.

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