Our travels in Bulgaria
Whilst we were travelling in Bulgaria, we utilised two different modes of transport. Below is a summary of where we went, the mode of transport used, the length of time the journey took, and how far it was.
Click on the links in the table below
|Journey||Mode of transport||Distance (miles)||Time taken||Cost per person (Lev)|
|Bucharest (Romania) to Veliko Tarnovo||Bus||122||3 hrs 45 mins||10 (Euro)|
|Veliko Tarnovo to Sofia||Bus||136||3 hrs 30 mins||19|
|Sofia to Plovdiv||Train||91||2 hrs 45 mins||9|
|Plovdiv to Istanbul (Turkey)||Bus||261||7 hrs 30 mins||40|
Accommodation is available to suit all budgets in Bulgaria. Our experience is that you get what you pay for. We stayed in a number of different places on our travels throughout the country. Using various booking portals to book the accommodation. From our experience, the accommodation we stayed in was all of a reasonable standard.
Don’t expect tea/coffee making facilities in hotels or guest houses. Bathrooms are western style, with bath or shower.
WiFi may be advertised as being available. Generally, it is, but the signal strength and quality can be poor in the rooms that aren’t close to the router.
From our experiences of eating out in Bulgarian restaurants, some of them are very chaotic when it comes to service.
Even though we were only a table of 2, ordering at the same time. In some establishments, there was a significant time between both of our meals arriving. One of us had finished eating before the other meal had arrived. The food may not come in any particular order either. Ordering meat or fish with a side order of chips. The chips could arrive first with a long wait for the meat or fish or vise versa. Choosing to wait for everything to come out before you start eating will result in a cold meal.
Buses are a popular way to travel throughout Bulgaria. Most of our journeys in Bulgaria were by bus. There are a plethora of bus companies, both large and small, operating modern comfortable buses across the entire country. The larger companies’ buses have air conditioning, entertainment systems, and free WiFi.
They generally stop about every 2 hours for a toilet break. The toilets are western-style toilets at these stops and don’t have toilet paper. Drinks, snacks, and meals are available where the buses stop.
Most bus stations throughout Bulgaria have ticket counters for the major bus companies, together with the smaller local companies. We tried to book in advance of our journey to guarantee we could get the bus we wanted. To do this we used the online booking portal getbybus.com. We found this site really easy to use, also the booking fees were minimal.
Luggage is stored under the bus. It’s a good idea to keep your valuables with you at all times. Watch your bags being loaded onto the bus, keep an eye on what bags are taken off at stops.
Bulgarian railways are run by the Bulgarian State Railroad Company. Trains are generally slow devoid of air conditioning and restaurant cars. However, they are the best way to see the Bulgarian countryside. Ticket prices are low making the train a perfect way to explore Bulgaria on a budget.
Tickets can be purchased through the Bulgarian Railway online ticketing system.
Pricing is based on the length of the journey and the day and time of travel. In many cases, it’s easier to buy a ticket from a ticket office. Smaller towns and village stations often don’t have a ticket office. If this is the case, a ticket has to be purchased from the ticket inspector on the train.
When purchasing an online ticket. Enter the departure station, the arrival station, and the date of travel. Submit the passenger information and the additional services required. Confirm the order and pay electronically. Print the electronic ticket or save it to your smartphone, ready for inspection by train staff.
When purchasing a ticket in person, the language barrier can be a problem. Even at Sofia station, the ticket office staff rarely speak English. Bear in mind that Bulgarians shake their heads for ‘yes’ and nod for ‘no’. Once purchased, all the information on the ticket is in Bulgarian. If you need help, just ask a young person to help, as most of them speak English.
Types of ticket
One-way ticket (regular price)
These tickets are sold at the station up to 5 days prior to the date of travelling. For holidays and in the summer season, tickets are sold 20 days in advance. Interim stops in the journey are not allowed with this type of ticket.
One-way ticket (calendar price)
Tickets at calendar prices are issued for Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays, and for holiday eves and holidays only for certain trains.
These tickets are sold at the stations up to 5 days prior to the date of travelling. For holidays and in the summer season, tickets are sold 20 days in advance. Tickets are valid for all categories of trains. Tickets must be stamped at the station before the outward and return journey. The only exception is when the return journey starts from an unmanned station, then the ticket can be stamped on the train.
Seat reservations are made only with a ticket.
The price for a seat reservation on a fast train, whatever the distance and the class of travelling, is 0.50 Lev.
Sleeper cars and couchettes
Berths are booked, together with the tickets, up to 30 days prior to the date of travelling.
The prices for a berth , whatever the distance, are:
second class compartment – 10 Lev
First class compartment – 12 Lev
Business-class (single compartment) – 18 Lev.
Berths and couchettes are booked only with a ticket or other travel documents.
Compensation is available for train delays. A written request for compensation is to be submitted to the Head Office in Sofia.
Train travel tips
Take toilet paper and soap, these are not provided on trains.
Catering is not provided (except on international services), so take food and water. Some stops will be long enough to allow a visit to a station food vendor.
We purchased our tickets at a station with the kind assistance of a fellow passenger.
Our train journey was a safe and enjoyable experience. Should you be travelling late at night, we would advise sitting with other passengers rather than in an empty compartment.