Warning to Visitors

Some of the information below may be out of date as a result of changing timetables and services. Please double check the accuracy of all information before travelling.

The booking forms should be up to date however, so if tickets for a particular service are available, then the service should be operational.

Belgrade - Istanbul (Balkan Express Train)


The Journey

The overland journey between Belgrade and Istanbul is made on-board the Balkan Express, a service shared with the Bosphorus Express between Dimitrovgrad and Istanbul.

The service offers both standard and first class seats, but also couchettes. The service is operated by Bulgarian Railways using relatively old, but nonetheless comfortable trains.

Passengers will need to have the appropriate visas for the border crossing between Turkey and Bulgaria.

From March 2012 until late 2013, a rail-replacement bus is in operation between Istanbul and Kapikule as a result of engineering work.

If you are travelling towards Istanbul, the train will terminate at Kapikule and you will be transferred to a bus (accepts rail tickets and passes). The bus will arrive at the same time as the train is scheduled to. Travelling towards Belgrade, the bus departs from outside Istanbul Sirkeci Station at the same time as the train is meant to leave, and travels as far as Kapikule where passengers can board the train as usual.

Seeing as the overnight portion of the journey is made on a coach, buying a seated ticket rather than couchette may be adequate.

Bulgarian State Railways (BDZ)

Bulgarian State Railways (also known as BDZ) is Bulgaria's main railway operator. The company operates three principal types of train:

  • Expresen Vlak - express services which require seat reservations;
  • Barz Vlak - fast trains, no reservation required; and
  • Patnicheski - slow trains, no reservation required.

Reservations (or zapazeno mysasto in Bulgarian) cost around €0.25 (although this fee may vary depending on point of purchase). The company also operates a number of international services. Reservations are recommended for these more popular routes.

The company has ticket offices at many of the country's main stations, including Sofia Central Station.

BDZ trains are generally old and in relatively poor condition. Investment is currently being made in the fleet however, with new routes and trains being introduced gradually.


Passengers may travel with bicycles on most express services. They should be stored in the last coach of the train, and there is a fee of BGN 2.00 per bike (paid at the same time as ticket purchase). Alternatively, bicycles may be carried as extra baggage, in which case an additional fee is payable depending on distance:

  • up to 100km - BGN 2.80;
  • up to 200km - BGN 3.20;
  • up to 300km - BGN 3.70;
  • up to 400km - BGN 4.30;
  • up to 500km - BGN 4.80; and
  • over 500km - BGN 5.40.

Disabled Passengers

Certain routes operate with adapted carriages for wheelchair users. These carriages include dedicated toilet facilities. If you are require assistance and are planning on travelling with BDZ, please notify the company at least one day in advance by contacting them directly.


Passengers have the option of continuing their journey on the same train to/from Budapest, Bratislava and Vienna.




The fare between Belgrade and Istanbul is around €50 each way in second class, and around €80 each way in first class.

Couchette reservations incur a surcharge or around €20.

Tickets can be bought in person at your departure station.

Rail Pass holders may pay a small supplement to upgrade from a standard seat.

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