If you are looking for a great, new, safe city to live in, Skopje may be at the top of your list.
This beautiful city offers plenty of things to do, and even though many do not know this, Skopje is actually home to many expats (including myself.)
However, before you decide to move here, it is important to consider the pros and cons of moving to Skopje.
Is Skopje a good city for expats?
Let’s find out…
In this quick write-up, I will share with you the 10 most important factors that you need to think about before making your decision.
5 Quick Facts You Need To Know About Skopje:
Now that we have covered some of the basics let’s dive into the pros and cons of living in Skopje as an expat.
What Are The Pros For Expats in Skopje?
There are plenty of reasons why you may want to move to Skopje as an expat.
Here are just a few of the pros that I have experienced since moving here:
The cost of living in Skopje is very affordable:
If you are moving to Skopje from a Western country, you will be pleasantly surprised at how affordable the city is.
For instance, you can easily find a one-bedroom apartment for under $500 in the city center, while similar accommodations can be found for as low as $200-$300 in most of the neighboring areas like Aerodrom, Karpos, Debar Maalo, Kapistec, etc.
Furthermore, a meal at an inexpensive restaurant or a fast food joint will cost around $3-5, while a meal for two, even at one of the fancier, mid-range restaurants on the city’s promenade, can cost as low as under $20.
The cost of groceries in Skopje is also relatively low, especially if you choose to shop at some of the city’s less expensive supermarkets, such as KAM, Reptil, and Tinex, over some of the more expensive ones, such as Vero and Ramstore.
In these supermarkets, you can expect to find a liter of long-life milk at around $1.20, a loaf of fresh white bread at around $0.60, and a dozen eggs for approximately $2.
Of course, these are averages, and actual prices can vary, but overall, Skopje offers an affordable cost of living which makes it an attractive destination for many travelers and expats.
There is no language barrier as many people speak English:
Although the official language is Macedonian, the language barrier in Skopje is low, as English is widely spoken, particularly among the younger generation.
This is great news for those who do not speak Macedonian, as it will make your transition to living in Skopje much easier.
Many locals have a good command of English, especially those working in the hospitality industry, including hotel staff and owners of short and long-term accommodations, restaurant servers, and even taxi drivers (of course, you can always request a taxi driver who speaks good English by calling the taxi company when booking your trip.)
This makes it easier for foreigners to navigate the city, ask for directions, order food, and engage in meaningful conversations with the locals.
However, learning a few basic phrases in Macedonian can also enhance your experience, especially if you plan on staying in the country for a longer period, and is often appreciated by the locals.
The city is very safe and has a low crime rate:
Skopje is a very safe city and has a low crime rate.
This is one of the reasons why many expats choose to move to Skopje, as it is a great city to raise a family in.
Violent crimes are relatively rare, and most common crimes are those of opportunity, such as pickpocketing in crowded places or car break-ins, which are even less common.
As always, it’s important to take standard precautions: keep an eye on your belongings, zip your bags when walking, avoid flashing expensive items, avoid isolated areas late at night, and be aware of your surroundings.
Skopje is a beautiful city with plenty of parks and green spaces:
If you are looking for a city that is both beautiful and has plenty of green spaces, Skopje is the perfect place for you.
There are many parks and gardens located throughout the city, so you will never be too far from nature.
For instance, the City Park, located in the heart of Skopje, is the largest park in the entire country. This expansive green space provides an ideal setting for picnics, leisurely walks, or simply sitting back and soaking in the tranquility.
Next to the city park is the Skopje Zoo, which spans over an area of about 12 hectares and is home to a wide variety of animal species from around the world, including lions, tigers, bears, monkeys, seals, and a variety of birds.
Recently renovated and a pleasant place to spend a day with friends and family, a ticket for visiting the zoo will run you around $1.50, while drinks and snacks from the kiosks inside can cost between $2-5.
At the zoo, you will also have the opportunity to meet locals and other families, especially during weekends, which may be a great way to meet new people and get involved with the local lifestyle.
Other notable parks include Park Zena Borec, which can be found by a less-than-a-minute walk from the city’s square and provides lush greenery, shade-providing trees, beds of flowers, and ample space for relaxation on the multiple benches.
One thing about this particular park to note is that agents from the city’s sanitation agency frequently patrol the area and are vigilant about fining individuals who litter, so be sure to dispose of your trash in the designated bins to avoid any penalties.
Besides the parks and local greenery, Skopje also boasts natural attractions such as Lake Matka and Matka Canyon, where visitors can enjoy stunning views and engage in outdoor activities like hiking and boating.
Finally, Skopje is also the home of Vodno Mountain, which is located around a 15-minute drive from the city center, where you can enjoy a plethora of activities, from picnicking, sightseeing, hiking, biking, and paragliding.
There are many things to do in Skopje:
If you are looking for a city that has plenty to keep you busy, Skopje is the place for you.
There are many museums, galleries, and theaters located throughout the city, so you will always have something to do in Skopje.
Additionally, Skopje has lively nightlife with a fantastic bar and club scene where you can sip on the national Skopsko beer or enjoy a variety of unique cocktails.
For during the day, Skopje also offers a vibrant café culture and is known for its numerous day bars and coffee shops, which are often bustling with locals and tourists alike.
Skopje’s cafés also reflect the city’s multicultural heritage, as simply crossing the Stone Bridge can take you to the Old Bazaar, a place where you can find traditional Turkish tea houses side by side with modern European-style coffee shops and restaurants.
It’s close to everywhere in Europe:
Skopje is located in the heart of Europe, which makes it a great city to live in if you want to travel.
Wizz Air offers great routes to and from Skopje from many major European airports, and flight fees are usually super affordable and frequent.
Some of the destinations you can reach directly from Skopje with Wizz Air include Barcelona, Milan, Bologna, Rome, Venice (Treviso), Thessaloniki, Stuttgart, and Oslo.
In addition to these existing routes, Wizz Air has announced new routes from Skopje to Italy, Germany, and Denmark that should commence in September 2023.
These routes make Skopje an excellent base for exploring Europe, whether you’re interested in visiting Italy’s historic cities, experiencing Germany’s vibrant culture, or exploring the scenic beauty of Scandinavia.
It is easy and affordable to get around:
Getting around Skopje is very easy and affordable.
Public transport consists of buses that typically operate on a fixed schedule and travel along specific routes. These buses usually stop at designated bus stops to pick up or drop off passengers.
The frequency of the buses varies, with more frequent services typically available during peak hours and less frequent services during off-peak hours, weekends, and public holidays.
For example, most buses usually arrive every 20 minutes during peak hours and every hour during evening hours, weekends, and public holidays.
A one-way ticket on local public transport costs around $0.70, while a monthly pass is a little under $30. Also, note that the ticket fee varies during off-peak hours, and night rides are slightly more expensive than usual rides.
On the other hand, if you prefer to take a taxi, the start tariff is usually around $1.50, with an additional $0.50 per kilometer.
The locals are very friendly:
One of the best things about living in Skopje is the locals.
They are some of the friendliest people you will ever meet and are always willing to help out.
Most people I’ve interacted with seem genuinely interested in making sure visitors have a great time in their city.
Their warmth and generosity add to the overall charm of Skopje, making the time spent here a memorable experience.
Reliable internet access is available everywhere:
If you are moving to Skopje, you will be happy to know that reliable internet access is available everywhere, which is great news for those who need to stay connected for work or other purposes.
The city is well-served by several Internet Service Providers, which offer a range of packages to meet different user needs.
These ISPs include Telekom, Neotel, and A1 (which is one of the most popular options due to their affordable and versatile packages.)
Mobile data coverage is also widespread in Skopje, with 4G networks available throughout the city.
In addition to home and mobile internet access, free Wi-Fi spots are common in public places such as cafes, restaurants, shopping centers, and even some parks.
The city’s main square, Macedonia Square, and the popular Old Bazaar area are known to have free Wi-Fi zones during certain hours of the day.
However, be wary of the fact that joining public WiFi networks does come with its own set of risks, and hackers might take advantage of the lax security to try and steal personal and credit card information.
This is something that has happened to a couple of people I personally know, which is why I usually opt for using my personal mobile data when I’m out and about in Skopje.
What Are The Cons For Explats in Skopje?
Of course, there are also some downsides to living in Skopje as an expat.
Here are a few of the cons that you should consider before making your decision:
The city can be quite polluted:
One of the downsides of living in Skopje is that the city can be quite polluted.
This is due to heavy traffic and industrial emissions, especially during winter when the use of central heating is inevitable for most households, causing the city to suffer a cloud of smog during most hours of the day.
The winters can be very cold:
Another downside of living in Skopje is that the winters can be very cold.
If you are not a fan of the cold, you may want to consider moving to Skopje during the spring or summer months or even fall if you enjoy crisp and moody but not cold weather.
However, to its credit, central heating is a common feature in residential and commercial buildings in the city, which is primarily powered by heating plants that supply hot water and steam to buildings.
The heat is distributed via an extensive network of insulated pipes, providing a reliable source of warmth during the cold winter months.
It’s not uncommon to be able to walk around your apartment or any indoor area in short sleeves while outside is well below 0°C.
Additionally, most café, bars, and restaurants that have a designated smoking area outdoors will have gas heaters close to each table and will also provide blankets to make their tobacco-appreciating guests more comfortable.
The city can be quite noisy:
One of the downsides of living in Skopje is that the city can be quite noisy, especially during peak traffic hours and on weekend nights, which will be amplified if you are residing in the city center, where bars and restaurants are heavily concentrated.
Additionally, something that many expats, tourists, and visitors have noticed is how the mosque call to prayer and the ringing of church bells are a regular part of the city’s soundscape throughout all hours of the day and night.
Although these sounds serve as reminders of the city’s vibrant religious life and its diverse cultural heritage, they can initially feel somewhat overwhelming or intrusive to those unaccustomed to such environments, particularly during the early morning or late at night.
It can be difficult to find a job:
However, on the flip side, it is very easy to start a business in Macedonia, as the country has made significant strides in creating a favorable environment for entrepreneurs.
According to the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business report, Macedonia ranks 17th out of 190 economies for ease of doing business.
The government has taken initiatives to streamline the process and reduce the bureaucracy involved in setting up a business, which includes simplifying registration procedures, reducing start-up fees, and facilitating online registrations.
Notably, the Central Registry of Macedonia allows entrepreneurs to register a company online within 4 hours. The country also provides a one-stop-shop system that makes it easier for businesses to comply with local legislation.
Furthermore, Macedonia offers competitive tax rates for businesses. Corporate income tax, for instance, is set at a flat rate of 10%, which is one of the lowest in Europe.
Investors are also drawn to the country’s strategic location, its access to key markets through various free trade agreements, a highly skilled workforce, and its continuous efforts in improving infrastructure.
The healthcare system is not the best:
One of the downsides of living in Skopje is that the healthcare system is not the best.
This is something you should keep in mind if you have any health concerns.
As per various reports and feedback from residents and expats, the healthcare sector has been grappling with issues such as outdated medical equipment, underfunded hospitals, a lack of specialists in certain areas, and long waiting times for treatments.
According to the Euro Health Consumer Index 2018, Macedonia was ranked 34th out of 35 European countries in terms of healthcare services.
The report highlighted problems with accessibility, outcomes, and range and reach of services provided.
However, it’s important to note that the government is aware of these issues and has been working on reforms to improve the quality of healthcare.
Efforts are underway to modernize facilities, improve training for medical professionals, and increase overall funding for the health sector.
For expats and tourists, it’s often recommended to have comprehensive health insurance that can cover treatment in private clinics or hospitals, which generally offer a higher standard of care compared to public hospitals but are significantly costlier than the latter.
For example, while services at a public hospital are often free or cost very minimally, the same services could cost triple the amount in a private clinic.
It’s also common for those who can afford it to travel to neighboring countries for more complex procedures or specialist treatments.
Despite the challenges, there are also positive aspects.
For instance, healthcare professionals in Macedonia are generally well-trained, and the cost of medical treatment is relatively low compared to many Western countries.
There is a bit of a culture shock:
Macedonia is generally a conservative country, and while the capital city is more cosmopolitan and diverse than other parts of the country, the wider society is still largely traditional and conservative, influenced by its rich history and cultural heritage.
This conservatism manifests in many ways, including in the strong sense of community and family values that pervade Macedonian life.
The majority population is Orthodox Christian, and the church plays a significant role in the cultural and social life of the people.
However, Skopje, being the capital city, is a melting pot of different cultures, traditions, and lifestyles and is home to a growing number of modern restaurants, cafes, and nightlife venues, reflecting a more liberal and progressive side of Macedonian society.
Despite this, it’s important for visitors to respect the local customs and traditions.
This includes dressing modestly, particularly when visiting religious sites, and being mindful of the local etiquette, such as not displaying an excessive amount of PDA, being polite and quiet in cafés and restaurants, etc.
So, Is Skopje a Good City for Expats?
Now that you know the pros and cons of living in Skopje, you can make an informed decision about whether or not the city is right for you.
If you are looking for a safe, beautiful, and affordable city to live in, Skopje may be the perfect place for you. However, if you are not a fan of the cold or pollution, you may want to consider another city.
Ultimately, only you can decide if Skopje is the right place for you to live.
You can learn more about Skopje from the eyes of an expat by seeing my previously published articles on Skopje here.