Fair enough. I’ll buy a SIM card.
Hmmm, maybe I don’t want to spend $10 on the SIM card to make one phone call.
I’ll ask the shopkeeper if I can use his cell phone. He points me to a landline phone. Awesome, what a champ! I call the Greek tour operator main office but they have no way of reaching the bus driver (no radio, no cell phone number??). Damn. Guess we will stay the night.
Well, I’ll buy a couple things from the shopkeeper to thank him for letting me use the phone. He rings me up: 27€. What? 27€? Ah, there must be a decimal point in there somewhere. Nope. I actually gagged in disbelief. After putting back the two juices and cookies, I ask him to ring me up again: 24€. Disbelief is quickly turning into shock with rage not far behind.
What do you mean 24€?
Calls from landlines are expensive. You should have used a cell phone.
Jackass. Thanks for not letting me know beforehand. Thanks for not suggesting I just buy the SIM card. Thanks for pointing me to the landline instead of letting me use your cell for a couple bucks.
After asking to see prices and arguing, there’s nothing left to do but pay. Lesson learned: Always ask for prices before you use any services or sit down in the restaurant.
I storm off to find Jenn who in the meantime has a flier for a hostel and has found a French couple willing to split the taxi to Greece (140€ total split 4-ways = about the same as if we each stayed in a hostel that night and bought a bus ticket the next day).
OK, let’s do Option B and leave this place.
The taxi man calls his taxi son-in-law to pick us up. Before we leave, Jenn goes with the taxi man to get some food. Since we had such short time in Macedonian, we didn’t exchange any money for Macedonian denars. No problem because the taxi man offered to buy the pastries. What a champ! Jenn chooses 2 pastries for 105 denar (1.70€). Oh wait, he’s not treating us. Fair enough. How much? All we have is a 20€ note. He takes it, gives Jenn the change, then shoos her into his son-in-law’s taxi. As we leave, Jenn counts 11€ change. He charged us five times what those tasteless, macaroni-filled pastries actually cost. Jackass!
We bring this up to his son-in-law. His response?
Not my problem. I didn’t scam you. What? I’m related to him? That’s different. He’s my father-in-law, not my father. No, I won’t give you the correct change and get the rest from him later. You should have told me before we left Skopje (we did). You should have exchanged for Macedonian denars anyway. More excuses, ad nauseum.
In a few short hours in Macedonia we were repeatedly ripped off, which didn’t give us a favorable impression of the country. We couldn’t have been happier to leave. Hopefully, Macedonians will eventually learn to treat tourists as people instead of walking targets.
If you ever end up in Macedonia, these are the taxi men (surname/firstname):
Taxi man: Jandrijeski Nove
Taxi son-in-law: Jovanov Goran
And if you’re stuck in the Skopje train terminal, there was free wi-fi in the stairway between the train platform and the ground-level ticket offices. Use it to find a way out of that god-forsaken place.
If we had to do it again, we would spend more time in Serbia and then bus straight through to Greece. That or ferry to Italy then to Greece (How to get to Greece from Croatia).
After arriving in Thessaloniki around midnight with the French, the four of us free-camped in a park outside the train station. We breakfasted together then went our separate ways.
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