Are you planning to go from Sofia to Istanbul by night train?
Not that much information on Internet, right?
Fortunately for you, I took this train a few days ago and I will answer all your doubts (if you have some after reading the entry) 😉
I hope you find the information useful.
2. NIGHT TRAIN FROM SOFIA TO ISTANBUL (ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW)
Where do I buy the train tickets?
Tickets can be purchased only at Sofia Central Station. Go to the ticket offices number 21 and 23 (tickets are NOT available on the Internet).
How much does the ticket cost?
It depends on whether you want to travel alone in a private room, in a double room with another person or in a 4-people room:
- Price in a private room for one person: € 67, 130 lev or $ 74 (it is actually a double room where you buy both beds).
- Price in double room: ≈ € 33, 65 lev or $ 37 per person.
- (*) They also have rooms for four people, but I didn’t ask the price. By the same rule of 3, I suppose they will walk for € 15-17 per person (33 lev or $ 19).
Do I need my passport to buy the ticket?
Yes. Passport or identification document. For example I used my Spanish ID.
How long does it take to get from Sofia to Istanbul?
The train takes a total of 9 hours. It leaves at 9 pm from Sofia (Bulgarian time) and arrives at 7 am in Istanbul (Turkish time; +1)
Is the train direct?
Yes, but it will stop twice at the border between Bulgaria and Turkey. One before leaving Bulgaria in which they will check your passport on the same train and another shortly before entering Turkey. In the latter you will have to get off the train to have your passport, visa and luggage checked. In my case, both controls were extended for about an hour. If you want to plan the hours of sleep, these are the stages of the trip:
- From 21 to 2 h: Direct route from the Sofia Central Station to Kapikule (border between both countries).
- From 2 to 3 h: border control.
- From 4 to 7 h: direct route from Kapikule to Halkali train station. (*) Remember that you will add one hour as you pass the border when changing from Bulgarian time to Turkish time.
What platform does the train leave from?
I do not know if this will change on each route, but in my case it left from platform 1. Looking at ticket offices 21 and 23, on the right hand side there is a door to access platform 1 (it is behind the ticket offices). Once past the door, go to the right. The train leaves at the end of the platform. (*) Ask at the information window and the station workers.
What if I fall asleep on the train?
Do not worry about falling asleep. The train workers will wake you up both at the border control and 20 minutes before arriving in Istanbul (speaking loudly and knocking at your door). Basically you will not leave Bulgaria or enter Turkey without having your passport checked, so don’t worry about this.
Is the train nice and comfortable?
Both the double room and the toilets are in very good condition. It is a very comfortable train.
Can I buy food and drinks on board?
There is no catering service on board, so keep this in mind and bring drinks / food with you. Anyhow, in the double room you will have a bottle of water, a salty snack and a juice for each passenger.
3. TO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT
I recommend you buy some Turkish liras in Sofia before the trip. Why? Because to go from Halkali station to the center of Istanbul by subway you have to buy the Istanbul card and they only accept Turkish liras notes (the machines do not have the option to buy with cards). Neither there are ATM in the station, plus the workers do not speak English. So, travel with some Turkish liras with you. In any case you will spend them in the city because most places do not accept cards. (*) The Istanbul Card costs 6 Turkish Lira (≈ $ 1) and each trip by metro 2 TL (≈ $ 0.3).
4. DO YOU HAVE ANY ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS?
If you have any questions, share them in the comments and I will respond as soon as I see them. 😉
Safe trip! 🚋
Hey Ben, I’m afraid I can’t help you with that. :/
I don’t remember exactly if this train works on a daily basis, but I think it doesn’t = tickets could sell out quickly.
I hope you can figure it out cause the experience is worth it.
Good luck and enjoy the trip!
Thank you Javier, I hope it works out too!
Thank you so much for this amazing article! I am planning to take this exact same train this summer and I am looking forward to it!
One question, I saw that I am unable to book this train online, but I will be arriving in Sofia the morning of the same day that I will be leaving, so I won’t be able to buy tickets with much time inbetween. Do you know if the tickets sell out very quickly?
Hi Ben, I am also looking at doing this trip later this month. I will be in Sofia for a few days at the end of July, could maybe help you out with the tickets while I’m there, if I’m there before you are? Contact me, @thorntonrich on twitter if you like.
Javier, thanks for this really helpful article!
Hi Rich! Thank you for your helpful comment. I’m planning to take the train out of Sofia on the night of the 19th. Will you be in town then? Also, I don’t have Instagram/twitter, but you can WhatsApp/iMessage me at +1 (85O) 533-3923.