is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office
at the U.S. Embassy in Skopje. OSAC encourages travelers to use
this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in North
Macedonia. For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s North Macedonia
country page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact
information, some of which may be available only to private-sector
representatives with an OSAC password.
U.S. Department of State Travel
Advisory at the date of this report’s publication
assesses North Macedonia at Level 1, indicating travelers should exercise
normal precautions. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the Consular Travel
Overall Crime and Safety
U.S. Department of State has assessed Skopje as being a MEDIUM-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official
U.S. government interests. The primary crime concern in-country remains
petty crime (pickpocketing and street crime), particularly in areas tourists
and foreigners frequent.
In 2019, U.S.
embassy personnel reported no instances of pickpocketing or vehicle break-ins,
and only one theft from an embassy residence. The number of reported break-ins
at residences and commercial properties located next to U.S. personnel
residences remained the same as in 2018 (4 cases). Review OSAC’s reports, Hotels: The Inns and
Outs and Considerations for
particularly alert for pickpockets and other attempts to steal mobile phones,
laptops, tablets, wallets, purses, bags or backpacks in public areas such as Skopje
Square, the vicinity of the Vardar River, large shopping areas, Matka Canyon,
aboard public transportation (buses), and in restaurants. Criminal elements
also surveil parking areas for targets of opportunity, and will break vehicle
windows or open unlocked car doors to steal personal property when items are
visible. Lock vehicles and ensure all items of value, to include bags and
electronic items, are out of view. Review OSAC’s report, All That You Should Leave Behind.
instances of theft decreased by 11% in 2019 (3,989 cases) while rates of
“severe theft” (using a tool to break into a residence or vehicle) fell by 20%
violent crime, including murder and attempted murder, varied across North
Macedonia in 2019. There was a 46% increase in the number of murders (19 cases,
compared to 13 in 2018), a 47% decrease in cases of attempted murder (18 cases),
and a 13% decrease in acts of violence (231 cases).
The number of
reported rape cases increased by 6% (32 cases compared to 30 cases in 2018).
Sexual assaults of juveniles fell by 13% (26 cases) and reports of other sexual
crimes against children increased by 25% (15 cases). Domestic violence is a
persistent and common problem. In the first half of 2019, authorities
registered 767 victims of domestic violence, of whom 572 were women, 160 men,
and 75 children.
There were no
reported assaults against U.S. personnel in 2019.
Europe (i.e. North Macedonia, Albania, and Kosovo), continues to face
challenges from organized crime, particularly in drug trafficking, money
laundering, trafficking of migrants, extortion, and property crimes.
In general, travel
in groups, carry only enough money/credit cards to make a purchase, maintain
copies of credits cards and identity documents in a safe location, and be aware
of your surroundings. ATM use is generally safe, but you should still take standard
safety precautions and be aware of your surroundings. Review OSAC’s
reports, The Overseas Traveler’s
Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud and Taking Credit.
North Macedonia continues to be a concern, as hacking and data breaches have
increased worldwide. Cybercriminals use spam and phishing e-mails to compromise
online accounts and steal personal information.
North Macedonia had 156 documented cybercrime offenses, with damage and illegal
access to computer systems being the most common (60 cases). The government
brought 26 criminal cases against individuals who used computers to distribute
racist or xenophobic material. There were eight reports of production and use
of fraudulent payment cards. In total, cyber related crimes in North Macedonia
increased by 70% compared to 2018.
good security practices when communicating on mobile devices or other
electronic media, as it could have privacy repercussions. Protect devices and
personal information to avoid potential exploitation. Review
OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity
Practices for Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling
with Mobile Devices: Trends & Best Practices.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
conditions differ significantly from those in the United States. Unpredictable
drivers, speeding vehicles, poor vehicle maintenance, uneven road surfaces, and
poor lighting all contribute to precarious driving conditions. Drivers and
passengers should always wear seatbelts. Drivers may not use a cell phone while
nationals must carry a valid U.S. driver’s license in conjunction with an
International Driving Permit to drive legally in North Macedonia. Driving is on
the right side of the road. The maximum speed limit in populated areas is 50
km/h. Take care to comply with imposed safety restrictions such as maintaining
proper distance between vehicles and speed. The maximum speed limit (if not
posted) is 120 km/h (Highway), 80 km/h (Open road), 50 km/h (In towns), and 30
km/h (Residential areas).
are quite old by western standards. Horse-drawn carts, animals, and/or other
objects are regularly visible on public roadways.
headlights is mandatory day and night. Most major highways are in good repair,
but secondary urban and rural roads vary widely in condition and lighting. Mountain
roads can be narrow, poorly marked, and lacking guardrails, and can quickly
become dangerous in inclement weather. Roadside emergency services are limited.
Macedonia’s Interior Ministry provided the following vehicle accident
statistics for 2019: traffic accidents decreased by 17% (2,929 reports); and traffic
fatalities decreased by 7% (120 killed).
services are available using the following telephone numbers: Police assistance:
192; Ambulance services: 194; and Roadside support: 196.
OSAC’s reports, Road
Safety Abroad, Driving
Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive
Driving Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving
and road safety abroad.
Public Transportation Conditions
transportation in Skopje is generally reliable. Pickpocketing is possible
aboard buses. Taxis are generally safe. Use metered taxis to avoid
conflicts about the fare. Review OSAC’s report, Security
In Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.
Macedonia has two international airports. Skopje International Airport (SKP) is
located approximately 17 kilometers (11 miles) from Skopje. Security measures
include passenger and bag screening that are on par with international norms.
Ohrid “St. Paul the Apostle” Airport (OHD) is located approximately nine
kilometers (6 miles) from the city of Ohrid, North Macedonia. OHD is smaller
than SKP but provides an additional option for international flights. Each
adheres to international air-safety standards. As there is no direct commercial
air service to the United States by carriers registered in North Macedonia, the
U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of
North Macedonia’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International
Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.
U.S. Department of State has assessed Skopje as being a MEDIUM-threat location for terrorism directed at or affecting
official U.S. government interests. North Macedonia had no terrorist events in
2019. The Balkans and North Macedonia continue to face concerns of returning
foreign fighters and the potential for radicalization to violence. Authorities
from North Macedonia assess that ISIS members and sympathizers maintain a
presence in North Macedonia. The National Committee for Countering Violent
Extremism and Countering Terrorism estimated that at least 156 North Macedonian
nationals traveled to join terrorists in Syria and Iraq, which is illegal under
North Macedonia’s criminal code. Of that number, 36 died, approximately 37
remained in the region, and 83 returned to North Macedonia.
Terrorist Fighters repatriated to North Macedonia in August 2018 and in March
2019, and pled guilty for their ISIS involvement; six received six-year prison
sentences and one received a nine-year sentence.
Macedonia has taken measures to increase border security, but illegal border
crossings have occurred. Currently, 22 suspects are in pre-trial detention and
39 others are serving prison sentences on terrorism-related charges. The
country’s anti-money laundering and countering terrorism financing legal
framework remains largely in compliance with international standards.
In March 2018,
North Macedonia adopted national counterterrorism and countering violent
extremism strategies, accompanied by respective action plans. North Macedonia
continues to cooperate with U.S. counterterrorism efforts, demonstrating its
strong commitment to the Global Defeat ISIS Coalition.
Religious, and Ethnic Violence
U.S. Department of State has assessed Skopje as being a MEDIUM-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting
official U.S. government interests.
common in North Macedonia and a frequent platform for social or political
movements. The Regional Security Office recorded a sharp decline in
demonstrations in Skopje in 2019 (82 compared to 182 in 2018). The most
frequent concerned economic conditions, followed by political demonstrations
(mostly anti-government), and civil rights or the environment (primarily air
typically involve less than 1,000 participants; however, the largest
demonstration in 2019 had approximately 10,000 people. No events in 2019
required additional police response beyond standard security measures.
in North Macedonia are generally peaceful, but protestors routinely block
traffic near the Government building. The Ministry of Interior deploys public
order police equipped with water cannons to maintain peace, if necessary. Most
demonstrations occur in close proximity to, or in front of, government
buildings located near the city center, approximately two kilometers from the
U.S. Embassy. Avoid suspected trouble and/or demonstrations. Review
OSAC’s report, Surviving
currently no known, specific, credible threats against U.S. nationals in North
Macedonia. No demonstrations in 2009 included prominent anti-U.S. messages and
no protests occurred at or near the U.S. Embassy. During political protests in previous years, some demonstrators and
speakers made calls for specific U.S. officials to withdraw from North
Macedonia, sometimes using violent or threatening language.
Macedonia is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and multi-lingual state. While
there is little religious/ethnic violence in North Macedonia, inter-ethnic and
inter-religious tensions do exist. In September, unknown persons attempted to
assault the founder of the Religious Community of Orthodox Albanians, who
blamed an ineffective government investigation of a previous assault. Police
said they charged six persons for instances of theft, arson, or vandalism
against religious targets, but did not identify the perpetrators of a separate
attempted arson of a church in Cheflik belonging to the Evangelical Church. The
Macedonian Orthodox Church reported 12 incidents of theft and one of attempted
arson of its churches, and the government reported two incidents of vandalism
against Orthodox cemeteries; this compares with 26 acts of theft or vandalism
of Orthodox sites in 2018. The government also reported one theft at a mosque.
Macedonia is at risk for various natural and man-made disasters, to include
earthquakes and floods. Weather conditions and pollution can result in delayed
and canceled flights during the winter.
Critical Infrastructure Concerns
Macedonia is working to build a nationwide natural gas pipeline and
distribution network. Currently, the country receives its small natural gas
supplies from Russia via Bulgaria. In 2016, North Macedonia signed a memorandum
of understanding with Greece to build an interconnector that could connect to
the Trans Adriatic Pipeline that will traverse the region once complete, or to
an LNG import terminal in Greece.
Economic Concerns/Intellectual Property Theft
While larger stores and restaurants accept credit cards, carry
cash in local currency (denar) for purchases in small establishments.
Although it is not a financial center and most criminal activity
is domestic rather than transnational, money laundering is a problem due to the
country’s mostly cash-based economy and weak enforcement.
Personal Identity Concerns
law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace of both men and women, and
provides a sentencing guideline of three months to three years in prison for
violations. The government effectively enforces the law. Women’s rights
activists formed a new social movement with the hashtag #ISpeakUpNow (English
translation) to show the normalization of sexual harassment in society. Sexual
harassment of women in the workplace is a problem, but victims generally do not
bring cases forward due to fear of publicity and possible loss of employment.
In 2019, authorities received complaints alleging discrimination against women
athletes. The commission found discrimination existed and recommended all
sports federations align their internal regulations and practices with the
antidiscrimination laws. There were also complaints about workplace
discrimination against pregnant women. Review the State Department’s webpage on
security for female
There are no
legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI+
events in North Macedonia. Vandals attacked an LGBTI+ center several times in
the last five years. Skopje’s first Pride parade took place in June 2019. A
counterdemonstration occurred on the same day. Also on that day, a group of approximately
20 assailants chased, pulled from a car, and violently assaulted a prominent LGBTI+
rights activist in Skopje, threatening to kill him and other activitsts. Police
arrested the assailants. Exercise caution when attending LGBTI+ events. Review
the State Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI+
OSAC’s report, Freedom to Practice,
and the State Department’s webpage on security for faith-based
Macedonia’s law requires only that new buildings be accessible to persons with
disabilities. Most public buildings are inaccessible and inconsistent
inspection results in construction of new facilities that are not accessible.
Public transportation for persons with disabilities is very limited; although
all buses the government has purchased for Skopje since 2013 have been
accessible to persons with physical disabilities, public transportation remains
largely inaccessible in other regions. Review the State Department’s webpage on
security for travelers
Macedonia is a major transshipment point for Southwest Asian heroin and hashish,
and a minor transit point for South American cocaine destined for Europe.
Macedonia reported 17 cases of kidnapping in 2019, which is an increase of 86%,
while drug-related offenses rose by 19% (813 cases). Reports of migrant
smuggling also increased by 12% (47 cases compared to 42 cases in 2018). Review
OSAC’s report, Kidnapping: The Basics
establishing a business or practicing a profession that requires additional
permits or licensing should seek information from the competent local
authorities, prior to practicing or operating a business.
were several cases of alleged threats and harassment against journalists during
2019. Freedom House’s Freedom
in the World 2019 report stated that “while the media and civil society are
active, journalists and activists face pressure and intimidation.” The report
noted the media landscape was “deeply polarized along political lines, and
private media outlets were often tied to political or business interests that
influenced their content. Some critical and independent outlets operated and
were found mainly online.”
photographs of anything that authorities perceive as having military or
security interest may result in problems. Comply with “no photography” signs.
If you are in doubt, ask for permission before taking photographs. Review
OSAC’s report, Picture This: Dos and
Don’ts for Photography.
Macedonia’s customs authorities enforce strict regulations that require special
licenses or permits for the exportation of items deemed to be of historical
value or significance. Taking such items out of North Macedonia without the
appropriate government-issued permit can result in arrest, monetary fines, and
prison sentences. North Macedonia's Customs Administration provides
more information on customs regulations.Read the State Department’s webpage on customs
and import restrictions for information on what you
cannot take into or out of other countries.
police emergency line in North Macedonia is 192. The national police maintain
internal security, including migration and border enforcement, and report to
the Interior Ministry.
law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any
person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in
court. The law requires that a judge issue warrants for arrest and
detention of suspects based on evidence, and police generally followed this
requirement. The law states prosecutors must arraign a detainee within 24 hours
the State Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.
medical emergency line in North Macedonia is 194 or (+389 194 from a
foreign cell phone). If you suspect a heart attack, explicitly
request cardiac assistance. Ambulance services are available in Skopje and
major tourist areas, such as Ohrid, though response times, equipment and staff
training may be below U.S. standards. In rural areas and small towns,
ambulances are staged regionally and may be more than an hour away or
unavailable when needed. Government-operated emergency services are substandard.
Private emergency services in Skopje, operated by private institutions, meet
high quality standards. Find contact information for available medical services and
available air ambulance services on the U.S. Embassy
in North Macedonia varies in quality by location and provider. Skopje has four
private hospitals that offer services ranging from cardiovascular surgery to
pediatric intensive care. Quality of care is not equal to U.S. health care. Rheumatology,
endocrinology, burn, and psychiatric services are either substandard or
unavailable to non-citizens throughout the country. Outside Skopje, medical
care is substandard, except for trauma services in Ohrid.
formulary controls which prescription medications are available; the list does
not include several medications available in most Western countries. Insulin
is not available to non-citizens. Always carry your prescription medicine in
original packaging, along with your doctor’s prescription. Check with the North
Administration to ensure the medication is legal in North Macedonia.
is a significant problem in certain areas around the country due to metallurgical
plants. Skopje has severe air pollution problems every winter as a result of
industrial emissions, smoke from wood-buring stoves, and exhaust fumes from old
cars. In some cities, to include Skopje, Bitola, Kicevo, Tetovo, and Veles,
particulate pollution exceeds acceptable norms more than 150 days per year.
Particulates, especially PM 2.5 particles, cause significant health effects;
exposure is likely to be more severe for sensitive populations, including
people with heart and lung disease, children, and older adults.
Review OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way, Traveling with Medication, I’m Drinking What in My Water?, Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad, Health 101: How to Prepare for Travel, and Fire Safety Abroad. The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for North Macedonia.
SAC Country Council
Country Council in Skopje is active. Contact OSAC’s Europe team for more information or to
U.S. Embassy Contact
21 Samoilova Street, 1000 Skopje
Regular hours: 0830 – 1630, Monday – Friday
you travel, consider the following resources: