Travel leads you on some unexpected adventures. My month in Europe in October 2016 gave me many stories but none as memorable as the train ride from Bucharest, Romania to Sofia, Bulgaria. I had decided to go to Bucharest as a friend happened to be going there before heading to Transylvania and the timing worked out with the end of my 10 days in Italy. When I made the plans for Bucharest I decided to take the train to Sofia since a lovely friend of mine is from Bulgaria (though not Sofia) and I figured I might as well check it out since it wasn’t too far (well I should say I thought it wasn’t too far, I was under the impression the train ride was shorter than it was).
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INFORMATION ABOUT THE TRAIN FROM BUCHAREST TO SOFIA
While this post is mostly a story I do have some useful information to give as well. As it turns out information on the train between Bucharest Romania and Sofia Bulgaria is very limited, in English at least, so here are some useful things that you might want to know about the train ride.
- The train runs once a day from Bucharest to Sofia and visa versa. It leaves Bucharest in the early afternoon and arrives in Sofia in the evening (at the time of writing, Oct 17, the schedule is 12:45 departure from Bucharest Romania and a 22:25 arrival in Sofia Bulgaria. This can change so check in advance.)
- As of writing the ticket price is about €25 though this of course is subject to change.
- As of writing you can not buy tickets online but you can go through a ticket broker, travel agent, or your hotel if you wish to get tickets in advance. I went to the ticket office at the train station in Bucharest a few days before to ensure I got a ticket (after a interesting adventure in Morocco) but the day before or probably even the day of would do as it was not a crowded train by any means so the extra expense to get them in advance is not likely wo
- The train ride is about 10 hours long so this journey will take your whole day so be prepared for that in your scheduling!
- There is no dining car in fact, as the title of this post suggests, the train was only 2 cars long. So remember to bring your own food and drinks (this includes beer and wine!).
- If so far didn’t make it obvious there is no wifi but surprisingly there were outlets that worked.
- Remember to make sure your passport is easily accessible for the crossing into Bulgaria.
- Bring something for entertainment if you are not as lucky as I to meet interesting travelers on the train. The views are pretty nice too if you just want to look out the window.
OTHER USEFUL INFO ABOUT BUCHAREST ROMANIA AND SOFIA BULGARIA
Here are a few other pieces of information that might be useful to start your research for your stays in Bucharest and/ or Sofia.
- Where to Stay in Bucharest: Hostels
- First Hostel Bucharest is where I stayed my first two nights in Bucharest and while slightly outside the main town center it is close enough to everything and has a great grocery store up the block. It was nice and clean and the bathroom for each room was ensuite.
- Where to Stay in Bucharest: Airbnb
- Retro Style in Old Town is where I spent the rest of my time in Bucharest after I met up with my friend. It was in a great location and a lovely place. After traveling for over 2 weeks I was very happy to have the washer in the apartment as well.
- Where to Stay in Sofia: Hostels
- Hostel Mostel is not where I stayed but after another fun adventure where I would suggest staying. They have a great common area and breakfast and from other travelers I met the rooms were nice as well.
- Moreto & Caffeto Hostel is where I stayed while okay was a bit further out and a bit of a party hostel. It was clean and had the little curtains on the hostel beds which I always am a fan of and everyone was nice so it is a good second option.
- Things to Do in Bucharest
- MBQ – This is a really unique store that sells handcrafted items by the Roma people (you might know them as gypsies which you should not be calling them by). You can read more about their mission on their site.
- Lacrimi si Sfinti – This is a great Romanian resturant that I highly suggest checking out. The food is traditional but of a very high quality. My friend and I enjoyed everything we got here.
- Things to Do in Sofia
- Balkan Bite Food Tour – I highly recommend this free food tour for your first day in Sofia. It is a great way to get a glimpse of Sofia and learn more about the food culture before you explore on your own. Bonus you might meet some fun travelers as well!
- Tour to a Bulgarian Sight – If you want to check out the Belogradchik Rocks or some of the other wonderful things there are to see in the area around Sofia I highly suggest contacting Sofia Trips. I ended up going with some other travelers to Belogradchik Rocks with them and I highly recommend them as tour guides. The company is run by a husband and wife team who are well seasoned travelers in their own right and love to share the wonders of their home country with fellow travelers!
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THE STORY OF THE TRAIN FROM BUCHAREST TO SOFIA
I awake Monday morning later than planned and rushed to prepare and pack for my train ride to Sofia. I researched as best I could in advance and made sure I was stocked with food, water, and of course wine for the long train ride ahead. Since Uber is so cheap I call one up to take me to the train station. My driver is chatty but interesting, regaling me stories of his life and where he has traveled in the world. We say our good byes and I head into the station. As I like to get places very early I had time to grab some pastries to eat as I didn’t have much of a breakfast in my rush to get ready.
I find my platform, ticket in hand, when two other passengers around the same age as me approach where I am standing. “This train can’t be ours right?” I over hear two other backpackers exclaim on the platform. I join them with my train ticket in hand for Bucharest to Sofia, they have the same tickets. We all collectively are staring at the two car train in front of us, we all double check our tickets, “This should be the right platform” I say “but is it really just a two car train for this 10 hour trip?” We all look at each other and shrug while continuing to look around for more info. Then I spot it a hand scrawled sign on a piece of cardboard in the train window with “SOFIA” written in large block letters. I point at this sign and make the comment that “Well, it looks like this is our train”.
Shortly after the discovery that this tiny train is indeed what we will be spending the next 10 hrs on we were allowed to board the train. As we were walking to board the train we were talking a bit about the ride ahead of us and I commented that there was no dining car. This was news to both of them and I mention I have lunch and wine packed for the ride. This in turn made the male of the two travelers I met mention he had a few bottles of wine but no bottle opener and would go try to find one at the station. I mention that I have one and to come find me because they are free to use it. As it turned out the two travelers (lets call the guy Oli & the girl Beth going forward) I met were seated in the bank of seats across from mine (the train was pretty much only the 4 seats with the table in the middle kind. We all settle in and Oli quickly runs back into the station to grab some food and maybe cards for the journey.
While Oli is only successful on procuring food on his return to the train a 4th person has joined our seating area, and older British man (we will call him Roger), he is seated in the seat across from me. With him joining us we all give a little background on who we are and why we are traveling by train to Sofia. I, as typical for me am the only American, Roger is a retired British teacher who has been traveling around Europe since he retired. Oli is Dutch and worked for the government or something of the like, and Beth was also British and backpacking around Europe before she headed off to her soon to start job. This is also where I learn that Oli and Beth did not know each other, they had briefly met the day before buying tickets for the train where Beth needed to borrow money because she did not have enough cash on her for the tickets.
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