We have already commented on the difficult situation for rail travellers bound for Greece in an earlier post. The withdrawal of all international trains across Greece's borders affects travellers following Route 43 in Europe by Rail. A pity as this is a great route from Belgrade via Skopje to Thessaloniki. But worry not! You can still follow Route 43, pretty much as described in the book. You'll just need to hop on a bus for the final leg of the journey, viz. from Skopje to Thessaloniki.
Several bus companies ply this route. One that seems well attuned to serving a varied international clientele is Simeonidis Tours. They run comfortable coaches six times each week in each direction. Services depart Skopje at 6am from Mondays to Saturdays inclusive. The northbound bus leaves Thessaloniki at 5.30pm Mondays to Saturdays inclusive. The travel time is four to five hours.
The one-way fare is €20. The return fare is €25. Simeonidis Tours runs several other international bus routes to and from Greece, including a daily overnight service from Thessaloniki to Istanbul (usefully replacing another rail link that has been cut by the Greek authorities). It is wise to reserve places in advance on all Simeonidis Tours coach services. The Skopje to Thessaloniki service can be full on peak travel days. You can contact the company's Head Office in Thessaloniki at +30 23105 40970.
If you use this bus link, or the services of any other operator from Skopje south into Greece (or vice versa), we would very much like to hear your experience. The times we quote are correct at 13 January 2012. But of course bus schedules do change, and if you find that the service pattern has altered, or you would like to recommend other operators on this route, please let us know.
David McTier, a Fulbright Scholar presently based in Kosova, kindly contacted us in mid-June 2012 with an update on the information provided above. David tells us that the bus service we describe above now runs daily in both directions between Skopje and Thessaloniki.
He suggests that for information and reservations, the best e-mail addresses to use are:
David travelled this route in both directions in hot weather in June 2012 and advises passengers not to expect air-conditioned comfort. “These are not full-size luxury coaches” he writes. And David adds: “So the ride can be a little rough. Don't plan on taking a nap.”
As always we appreciate updates from travellers who have recently followed routes described in Europe by Rail or elsewhere in our writing.