Skopje to Belgrade by Bus: Is FlixBus the Best Way to Go?

Skopje to Belgrade by Bus: Is FlixBus the Best Way to Go?

I wanted to travel for Skopje to Belgrade and make the journey by bus. Initially, I was very happy to see FlixBus offers this route. However, in the end, that’s not the company I chose.

I like FlixBus. I’ve used its services a lot in the past. I’m sure I’ll ride with FlixBus again in the future, but it didn’t take me long to question if it was the best bus to take me from Skopje to Belgrade.

One of the good things about FlixBus buses is there is normally no need to print a ticket. You use the electronic one that’s delivered to the FlixBus app on your phone. Many Balkan bus companies insist on a printed ticket. The drivers retain part of it for their records. If you buy a ticket online you’ve got to go searching for a shop that will print it for you. Apart from being a waste of paper, I find having to print a copy is a pain in the ass so I was keen to travel with Flixbus and the price only appeared to be €22 per ticket. A price like that isn’t going to break the bank.

 

Why I Changed My Mind About Travelling with FlixBus

Just as I was about to book the ticket, I noticed the small letter “I” that FlixBus uses to indicate the presence of additional information.

Skopje to Belgrade by Bus: Why FlixBus May Not Be the Best Way to Go

FlixBus doesn’t actually do that route at all. It’s a Balkan “partner” company called Fudeks and baggage is not included in the price. Normally with FlixBus you get to stow a big bag in the hold for free and can carry a smaller one with you on the bus. Fudeks apply an additional charge of €1 per piece. It’s not a lot of money, but I wasn’t impressed. Plus travelling with Fudeks appeared to involve a further charge as well.

The pop-up information box said there’s more money to pay when you enter the bus station at Belgrade (180 SRD/€1.50), which has to be paid in cash when you arrive. I knew for a fact I’d be arriving without any local currency so, as far as I was concerned, FlixBus/Fudeks was no longer a contender.

 

The Bus Company I Chose Instead

In the end, I went to the main bus station at Skopje and bought a ticket from a company called Македонија Сообраќај АД (Makedonija Soobrakaj AD).

When I asked if there would be any extra charges for baggage, the lady told me there would not. She also said I didn’t need to worry about paying any fees at Belgrade bus station because the company has a special offer that provides a prepaid ticket so you don’t have to pay at Belgrade. As it happens, I never had to use the ticket because the bus driver stopped the bus outside the station instead of going inside.

Skopje to Belgrade with Makedonija Soobrakaj AD

How FlixBus Got it Wrong

Despite what the pop-up information said about the charge at Belgrade Bus Station, it appears FlixBus has got it wrong. I have checked with Fudeks and with the bus station staff as well. There is never a fee to pay when you arrive at Belgrade Bus Station.

There are two parts to the station—arrivals and departures. The arrivals area is outside the station, in the street, quite a distance away from the main building.

Belgrade Bus Station (Arrivals and Departures Quite a Distance Apart)

Later, walking through the station building, I saw some coin-operated turnstiles. They were at the departures area, which is closed off and protected by security guards.

I did not need the бесплатен перонски билет (free perron ticket) I got a Skopje. It will probably go unused. I think the girl who gave it to me made a mistake. She’d confessed to me she was new to the job and not entirely sure how everything worked.

My bus ticket to travel from Skopje to Belgrade cost 1,400 MKD (€22.71). All told, it would have cost me €23 to €24 to do the same journey with Fudeks, depending on whether they hit me with a charge for just one of my bags or for them both. All told there was not a lot of difference in the price.

 

What I Got Wrong About Fudeks

Since I arrived in Belgrade, I’ve discovered Fudeks runs a very modern fleet of vehicles. I’ve also visited the Fudeks office and asked some questions. FlixBus were right. There is a charge for each piece of baggage. It’s only the details of the station fees it got wrong.

I got it wrong about the need to print the ticket. Although many Balkan bus companies insist on a printed ticket, Fudeks does not. I could have showed them  a FlixBus ticket on my phone because the driver compares the name on the ticket to his passenger list.

Apparantly, Fudeks busses have onboards toilets. Many of them have Wi-Fi as well. It’s the first time I’ve encountered a bus company in the Balkans that offers either of these things.

I asked the girl I spoke to at Fudeks if it’s cheaper to book directly instead of through FlixBus. She assured me the price is the same.

After Belgrade, I may go to Budepest. Fudeks does that route for Flixbus as well. There is one advantage to buying a ticket directly from Fudeks. They supply a free perron ticket for passengers who are travelling with them out of Belgrade Station. FlixBus does not. So if you are planning on leaving Belgrade by bus you may want to bear that in mind.

 

Travelling with Makedonija Soobrakaj AD Had an Unexpected Bonus

A couple of hours into the journey, the bus stopped next to a car. The car driver got out and handed a few carrier bags to the bus driver’s colleague who was responsible for checking the tickets. The bags had croissants inside. A little while later the girl started giving them to all the passengers. So, when you travel with Makedonija Soobrakaj AD, you get a free jam or chocolate-filled croissant during the ride. I’ve traveled with a lot of bus companies, but that’s the first time anything like that has happened.

 

Would I Make the Same Journey in the Same Way Again?

The main thing that stopped me from travelling with FlixBus’ partner Fudeks was the idea that I would need to get hold of some Serbian Currency before I left Skopje. Had it not been for that, I would have probably booked a ticket via FlixBus.

The journey with the other bus company was okay, but there was no toilet on the bus. I like to keep myself hydrated but drink very little if I know I will have to wait a few hours before I get chance to go to the loo. I’m not a gambling man.

Had I known then what I do now, I would definitely have made the journey from Skopje to Belgrade in a Fudeks bus.

 

Other Things to Know about Traveling from Skopje to Belgrade by Bus

You’ll Probably Have to Travel at Night

All of the companies I looked at appeared to only send one bus per day, leaving Skopje 23:30 – 02:00. There could be some that I’ve missed, but I’m guessing they travel at night to avoid long tailbacks of traffic at the border during the day.

You’ll Probably Get Your Passport Stamped Twice

When you cross the Macedonian-Serbian border, if you have a book-type passport expect to get it stamped twice.

There are two sets of barriers across the road at the border.  The Macedonian passport officers and police sit in little huts next to the first set of barriers.  When I made the crossing, everyone had to get out the bus and show their passports to the person in one of the booths. The we had to wait for the barriers to lift and let the bus through. We climbed on board, traveled a distance that was so short we could have walked it, and then had to get out of the bus at the next set of barriers and go through the whole process again. This time with personnel from Serbian border control. Two stamps in my passport within less than half an hour. That’s a new record for me.

Visa Requirements

If you are travelling with a passport from a European country you probably won’t require a visa. In June 2019, British citizens could enter Serbia without a visa and stay for 90 days. Unfortunately, all the Brexit nonsense may eventually screw this up. If you want to check if you will need a visa to visit Serbia, the Passport Index is a useful site. I use it all the time.

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