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Some of the information below may be out of date as a result of changing timetables and services.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.

Bucharest - Istanbul (Bosphor Express Train)

Rail

The Journey

The journey between Bucharest and Istanbul is made on-board the Bosphor Express. The service offers both First and Second Class sleeping cabins, as well as Second Class couchettes. The service is operated by Bulgarian Railways, using relatively old (but still perfectly comfortable) trains.

Part of the journey is shared with the Balkan Express train route between Belgrade and Istanbul and the Romania Express train between Bucharest and Thessaloniki.

Some people have reported frequent delays at both arrival and departure, so bear in mind that this might not be the most efficient rail journey. Nevertheless, the scenery you can expect to see should be worth it.

For further information, try this page at Turkey Travel Planner.

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.

Bicycles

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.

Timetable

There is only one service per day in either direction, and please be aware of the possible/common delays relating to this service, so build in ample time between connecting trains.

Station461/491Station492/460
Bucharest (Nord)13.00Istanbul (Sirkeci)22.00
Ruse14.55Kapikule04.05
Dimitovgrad23.38Svilengrad05.08
Svilengrad00.10Dimitovgrad06.55
Kapikule01.10Ruse15.55
Istanbul (Sirkeci)07.50Bucharest (Nord)18.33

This service also calls at Giurgiu, Borovo, Gorna Oryahovitsa, Veliko Tarnovo, Trjavna, Stara Zagora, Simeonovgrad, Edirne, Cerkezkoy and Halkali.

Price

A second class fare between Bucharest and Istanbul will cost you something in the region of €35 each way. Prices to upgrade to a sleeping berth vary, and would be additional to the fare quoted. 

Tickets are not easy to book online, or in advance. Your best bet is to go to the station a day before departure, or contact a third party ticketing agent.

Rail pass holders should expect to pay a reservation fee from between €10 (shared cabin couchette) to €80 (private sleeping cabin) depending on the class of accommodation desired.

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