Bulgaria has an extensive but run-down rail network. Most train cars are old and very hot in winter and summer. Frequent delays are reported and the level of cleanliness leaves much to be desired. Catering services are also unreliable and dining cars are often absent.
Yet, if you are willing to turn a blind eye to the above discomforts, rail travel remains an affordable way to see the countryside and the many scenic railway routes.
Overnight trains to Belgrade, Bucharest, Istanbul, Kiev and Moscow leave daily. Note that a valid passport and visa might be required.
Currently there are no trains to Greece, as the regular line to Thessaloniki was stopped in 2010.
The daily train from Sofia to Yambol before departure at Sofia's Central Train Station.
Frequent domestic trains (including sleeper trains) leave for Varna and Burgas. The same trains pass via Plovdiv, St Zagora and Gorna Oriahovitza.
Less frequent trains leave for Vidin, Vratsa, Koprivshtitsa, Blagoevgrad and the Greek border.
Check bgrazpisanie.com or the “Schedule of train movements” mounted on the wall of the Railway station for detailed information on train schedule.
BUYING TICKETS FROM OUTSIDE BULGARIA
RailEurope.com offers tickets and passes, including a “Bulgaria pass” for all Bulgarian trains, but the prices are several times more expensive than buying a ticket from the local train station.
Even with the sometimes long queuing factored in, it might not be worth purchasing train tickets from outside Bulgaria.
BUYING TRAIN TICKETS FROM BULGARIA
Tickets for same-day trains are sold at the ticket offices at the stations. You must know where you are going and how to say it in Bulgarian, as it is highly unlikely that the ticket agent will speak English.
A train ticket to the Bulgarian Railways.
International train tickets, sleeper couches and advance tickets can be reserved in the Rila Train Ticket offices.
There is one in the Central Railway station at the end of a corridor to the left of the main entrance. Passports will be required.
The other Rila Train Ticket Office in Sofia is located at:
5 Gurko str
5 Gurko str
A long-awaited online ticket sales service should start functioning sometime in 2014.