Skopje to Sofia Border Ordeal

Trip Start Aug 27, 2013
Trip End Oct 20, 2013

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Flag of Macedonia  ,
Thursday, October 10, 2013

This morning I was to take the bus from Skopje Macedonia to Sofia Bulgaria. I had asked in the bus station yesterday what the times were and was told strange timings of 8.30, 3.30, 11pm, so I asked for the 8.30am

The ticket was 1040Mk ($21) and I had to be up early to be at the station. I made it by 8am and took my usual corner back seat. Two Australian guys sat the row in front so I had English speakers.

There was a bag so I asked if they minded if I sat there. Then a girl came and asked 'where is my bag'. I said I don't know as there was no other bag. Turns out it was her bag and she was saving the seat and I thought the guys had put their bag there.

The mountain scenery become more barren and we reached the border after two hours. Then came the usual process of checking passports and luggage hold for the border guards leaving the country and again entering the next country

I thought we were done and it was rather uneventful until we cleared Bulgarian Immigration then got to the Customs checkpoint. Everyone had to get off the bus with their hand luggage and collect their luggage from the hold

I was dreading opening up my cases again as I had to entering Kosovo. After emptying the hold the guard climbed inside, opened all the hatches, shone flashlights in, banged the walls, checked the washroom.

I guess going from a non EU country back into the EU they are stricter about border controls and people smuggling. If that's all they cared about then fine

Then everyone had to open their luggage up. This was ridiculous, I am an EU citizen entering an EU country, not a breakaway country like Kosovo.

I had to lift my 20kg suitcase onto the table so I muttered 'nice if you could help'. I had the case strapped as it is slowly breaking so I had to undo both straps.

Then he put his hand all the way to the bottom, opened the zipper to the lining, and moved his arm all the way to his shoulder inside the lining all around upsetting everything I had packed.

Then I had to open my second bag and a smaller hand bag. I was wearing my backpack and as I was putting the stuff back in the case and doing the zipper he went round behind me and tried unzipping my backpack from behind.

I spun round and told him to wait. You are not going thru my backpack from behind, plus I keep all my cash and currencies hidden in different places. I put the backpack on the table them let him see what was inside.

I couldn't put the straps back on the large case as its difficult to do and everyone had gone back on the bus and I was the last one. Across the border we stopped by a small restaurant so I tried putting the straps back on

The driver started fussing that I should do it in Sofia but I just continued and he closed the cargo hold and left me with my bags outside. I put the straps back and the bags in the hold

They dont even do this at airports. I just have one more land border into Turkey where they can be just as rough so I hope nothing happens there.

The rest of the trip I did not feel comfortable. I'd always had this impression of Bulgaria being rough and abusive. I know my hotel already charged me for three nights up front when I made the reservation when none of the other hotels did this. I was half expecting them next to deny charging me when I arrived and ask me to pay again.

The Australian guys had told me I was going to like Sofia, "its a big city like London and has tram lines", and that I should never goto Kosovo (which I had been to) as its "so dangerous" (which it wasnt). I was about to find out the complete opposite

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Sue Yeter on

Old communist sytem never changes in those countries. You must be very tired of travelling. You better come home soon and take a good rest.

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