We bought the ticket to Nis at the Rila office in the railway station. When you enter the main hall there is a passage to your left and at the end of the passage you will find the Rila office.
Even though the ticket was cheap there was still something fishy about it. The lady asked us the departure time and then kept saying some number which we figured was the price. Funny enough we got reservations for that number which turned out to be the departure time at night. So it was not at all the train we wanted. In the end we paid the number (= departure time) as the price for our tickets and reservations which didn’t really sum up with the prices on the tickets/reservations. Mind you, for the day train you don’t really need a reservation either. So the journey cost Euro 8.40 plus Euro 1.25 for the seat reservation.
Please note, that there is a time difference to Serbia of one hour. The journey took several hours and also went through some mountains.
There are two direct trains to get to Bucharest from Sofia. The first leaves in the morning at 0715 and arriving at 1718. There is also a night train at 1930 arriving the next morning at 0530. Check bahn.de for up to date times (using stations sofia and Bucuresti Nord as your station locations.)
There are border controls at the frontier. You will need to show your passport on both sides of the border although you will not need to get off the train to do this.
Getting to and from Sofia by train is generally a cheaper (and slower) option than the bus and whilst the trains do look a little shabby they are comfortable, reasonably clean and in my experience so far, reasonably reliable. The BDZ network covers the country quite extensively with stations in almost every town of note and some of the journeys, such as over the Balkans from Sofia to Vidin (costing 11.40 Leva for a 6 hr, 300 Km journey), are spectacularly scenic.
The Central Railway Station is next door to the bus station, once again about 10-15 minutes walk from the city centre, and whilst a little scruffier than its bright shiny next-door neighbour is perfectly functional with all the necessary facilities such as shops, cafes, left-luggage and etc. The only minor hiccup that I've had here is that none of the ticket staff seem to speak English and I did manage to get the wrong ticket TWICE but that got sorted out in the end!
More on Bulgarian railtravel when I get round to writing a Bulgaria page.
On my last trip I arrived in Sofia by train from Athens. There's a comfortable nighttrain which gets you to Sofia in about 13hrs. The price for a berth in a couchette is also quite ok, just slightly over 40 Euros.
Sofia's Central Train Station is located in the North of town and is quite a gloomy affair in need of a make-over. But it has a lot of stalls for some cheap shopping :).
Of course the train station is served by trains connecting the capital to many parts of the country and fares are still inexpensive compared to Western European countries.
I took the 13,10 train from Sofia Bulgaria to Budapest Hungary, travelling across Serbia. A journey of 17 hours. 135Lev [£47 ], i had a sleeper cabin to my self.There is no food or drink on sale, i took my own supplies. For security there is a safety chain on the cabin door. The website mentioned here changes to english and gives train times inside Bulgaria.
There are at least three trains a day linking Sofia with Thessaloniki in Greece, the night train with couchettes but slow and not so clean, the day trains are new and faster. Tickets cost about 20-25 euros return (a sleeper cost an additional 10 euros one way).
If you're planning to visit Sofia from Belgrade, you can choose between a morning (8.40) and an evening (21.00) trains. In either case, it'll take you about 10 hours to get to Sofia.
You can get back to Belgrade by the 22.20 train or 13.10 train, leaving from the Central Railway Station.
In January the return ticket was 1,900 dinars (less than EUR 22). But there wasn't any heating! 1 more reason to visit Sofia when the weather's better.
Though we travelled around Bulgaria from Sofia to Rila, Bansko & Plovdiv by bus we enjoyed walking around the central train station , conveniently located just next to the central bus station.
The statue situated in the lower level is nice and jumps out above the street, while the atmosphere of any other big station will get a grip on you right away when u walk around
If you are planning to take the night train from Belgrade to Sofia in winter, take a lot of warm clothes. The train doesn't have heating, and I assure you that it gets cold. If you you can, try to ask for a blanket. We didn't, and when we got out of the train in Sofia (-18ºC) we saw a compartment full of blankets, but apparently nobody knew they were there.
I first came to Sofia, from Istanbul on the Balkan Express in 2003. In 2004, I took this train from Sofia to Istanbul. If you are combining travel to Istanbul with Sofia, I recommend this option. I purchased a sleeper car ticket at the Rilla Agency in Sofia. The cost was very reasonable. The train was clean and comfortable. There's no diner car, so be sure to take on some bottled water and snacks. The border crossing between Bulgaria and Turkey can only be described as surreal. Which ever way you are going, it seems you always end up at this station at 3 in the morning. You are awakened and herded off the train. You stumble across several tracks and make your in the dark to the station with one small light burning outside. Hopefully, everyone finds their way back to the right train once they have their visa and their passport stamped. One time, I became disoriented and briefly panicked when I couldn't find the right railroad car! When I took my son to Bulgaria in 2004, I made sure that we made this Sofia-Istanbul leg of the trip by train, just so he could experience this.
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