"Perfectly safe." That's how many travellers in different travel forums have described the Republic of Macedonia, formerly known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Indeed, one can travel around this small landlocked nation with minimal paranoia.
We say minimal because, like anywhere else, it has its troubles, which can be easily avoided by following some simple tips.
Most criminal activity is of the petty, opportunistic kind. Pick-pocketing and purse-snatching tend to be the worst, so common-sense in crowded and touristic areas should apply.
The hotspots for thieves are the Skopje city centre including the Main Square (Ploshtad), the Trgovski Center Mall, the riverfront, and the Old Town. The city's rascals have developed an unique tactic to distract victims and empty their pockets: they send a large group of children to swarm them and pester them for money.
Overwhelmed by the tot mob, a wallet can be snatched unnoticed.
If you get swarmed and can't shake them off, keep your hands firmly on your valuables and walk quickly to a restaurant, cafe or shop.
Exercise caution when walking at night. Keep to well-lit areas with plenty of people. The Vardar river bank has been known to host shady characters after sunset. Better to not carry valuables if strolling at night.
There are some levels of organized crime, but violence is confined to rival gang members. Unless you are planning a life in the underworld, you'll be safe from the occasional grenade and firefight.
More worrisome is the growing threat of credit card fraud. Use plastic only for large purchases at trusted businesses, like hotels and car rental companies.
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