ISTANBUL - SOFIA - BEOGRAD - night train BALKAN EXPRESS
Pete @ 15-07-2008 18:16
ISTANBUL - BELGRADE (Beograd)| night train (via SOFIA)
Information for Interrail, Eurail travellers and persons with normal train ticket travelling the route Istanbul (Turkey) via Sofia (Bulgaria) to Belgrade (Serbia).
Train connection from Istanbul to Belgrade: currently the direct overnight does not run anymore. You have to split your trip. First Istanbul to Sofia, then Sofia to Belgrade.
More information on railcc.
Istanbul - Sofia: https://rail.cc/en/train/istanbul-to-sofia
Sofia - Belgrade: https://rail.cc/en/train/sofia-to-belgrade
Belgrade - Sofia: https://rail.cc/en/train/belgrade-to-sofia
Sofia - Istanbul: https://rail.cc/en/train/sofia-to-istanbul
Beograd Dep: 0750
Istanbul Sirkeci Arr: 0750(next day)
Istanbul Sirkeci Dep: 2200
Beograd Arr: 1947
1-bed-compartement (only 1st class)
Rail pass fare: EUR 66
Standard fare: EUR 145
Rail pass fare: EUR 33
Standard fare: EUR 98
Rail pass fare: EUR 20
Standard fare: EUR 85
Rail pass fare: EUR 9
Standard fare: EUR 60
Update: Nov 2016
Castaway @ 09-04-2010 22:26
Are these travel supplements in EUR as a reference or do they actually accept EUR?
Pete @ 09-04-2010 22:33
The EURO are only as reference. Maybe you have the luck and they accept EURO, but normally not.
Castaway @ 10-04-2010 15:51
Ok. Just one more question, when you arrive at Istanbul Sirkeci and you happen to be sleeping, how do they warn you to exit the train? 😎
SiDUDe @ 10-04-2010 15:58
Well, you probably wont be since youll have been woken up to buy a visa at 5am, and the views as the train comes into Istanbul are awesome. But if you are they will bang on the door until you wake up!
Castaway @ 10-04-2010 16:02
I thought they used a bell or something like that. Is that the common procedure all around Europe? 😐
SiDUDe @ 10-04-2010 16:05
Yeah ive been woken a couple of times at borders by customs/border police. Its a little worrying haveing people carrying guns knocking at the door, until you wake up properly and realise that youre on a train crossing a border!
Ive never felt intimidated or threatened by them though, they are normally really nice
Castaway @ 10-04-2010 16:20
Stupid question: imagine you are deeply sleeping and you don't notice someone knocking on the door... and you don't open the door regardless of the noise. What happens?
Pete @ 10-04-2010 16:30
Just relax... you will wake up. Otherwise they can as well unlock the door. 🙂
grotta5555 @ 10-01-2011 14:38
i was planning with scotty my route to return in Italy from Ankara and the response to the query was ambiguous.
It said that from Istanbul to Sophia there's the Balkan express (direction belgrad 😲 ), but then it says me i've to change in sophia to reach Belgrad, with another train called Nusic....is it true or is it a mistake of the system??
Pete @ 10-01-2011 15:34
All schedule planers show different results. So the best is to check the website of the Turkish railway directly.
There you will find the direct night train number 492:
Istanbul dep: 2200
Sofia arr: 1052 (no change here, stay in the train, dep: 1150)
Belgrade arr: 1919
You do not have to change, neither in Sofia not in Dimitrovgrad. The train consist at the departure in Istanbul of different wagons with different destinations. If you buy a reservation for a bed for Istanbul-Belgrade, you are automatically in the right wagon. 🙂
grotta5555 @ 10-01-2011 17:18
thank you peter for your response...it makes me happy and calm, cause my trip is gonna start next monday that is so near and so i have to plan it as well as i can in these few days!
tomorrow i'm gonna go to the ankara station to make the reservations and all the necessaries things to do! 🙂
Flo @ 10-01-2011 18:02
Scotty can sometimes be quite awkward, especially with more complicated queries like yours which include through carriages. 😉
If you search your connection again in Scotty, go to the detailed view (the red arrow on the left) and then on the train number (81032). You will see that the train runs through to Belgrad but the train number changes in Kapikule and Sofia. Just get a through reservation Istanbul - Beograd like Peter said an you'll be fine. If you dont want to spend the money for the sleeping car you can also buy a couchette reservation to Sofia and then continue to Beograd in a regular seat - even with a delay the train should wait in Sofia as it has to wait for the sleeping car Istanbul - Beograd.
seroeder @ 11-02-2013 21:29
I will be going inter railing this summer and I need to get from Istanbul to Vienna. The quickest way seems to be Istambul-Belgrade-Vienna. However looking at the TCDD website it seems that the 492 goes to Bucharest. Is there an up to date time table showing the route
Pete @ 11-02-2013 21:47
You have different options:
Istanbul - Bucharest: https://rail.cc/en/train/istanbul-to-bucharest
Bucharest - Vienna: https://rail.cc/en/train/bucharest-to-vienna
Istanbul - Belgrade: https://rail.cc/en/train/istanbul-to-belgrade
Belgrade - Vienna: https://rail.cc/en/train/belgrade-to-vienna
Note: there is currently a bus replacement (included in Interrail or in a point to point ticket) from Istanbul to the Turkish/Bulgarian border.
Flow just travelled this route yesterday and will add some information the next days when he is back.
Flo @ 14-02-2013 16:42
currently, the Istanbul - Sofia/Bucharest trains are running all the way to/from Istanbul. The bus replacement service will be reinstated on 19th March, according to the information at Sirkeci station in Istanbul.
Chris_G @ 17-03-2013 10:32
Hi guys, I'm planning to travel to Istanbul by train this summer. My initial plan is to catch a train in Budapest to Belgrade, where I'll stay for a day or two.
I'll be most likely travelling to Sofia/Istanbul on the weekend. And here comes my question. Do those trains ride every day, including saturdays/sundays?
The 2nd issue: any problems while buying tickets the same day?
Thx for any help! 🙂
Flo @ 17-03-2013 13:21
Yes, all trains you need on that route run daily.
Chris_G @ 17-03-2013 16:47
Thanks mate, that helps me a lot, now I can think of booking a hostel in Istanbul.
I've read the blog, it's quite interesting. It's a pity, though, that the trains in Turkey aren't running fine yet
ascraeus @ 24-03-2013 20:27
y. train expeditions in turkey are cancelled for 3 years, and there is a year head. they will upgrade it to faster lines ( olders were quite below the normal standarts so i can't comprehend the meaning of fast, it may be something like yeah-relatively-fast)
BenBradish @ 06-04-2013 19:51
Hi guys - I'm fairly new to all this, but I am planning the same trip for the beginning of May. I just have 2 small questions:
- travelling from Istanbul to Sofia, do I need to book on to a rail replacement bus, if so where is the best to do it and when?
- Sofia to Belgrade, I have been informed you can book this journey on the day at Sofia station. If the trains become full, they just add extra carriages. Could someone verify this? Or is it worth booking my sleeping car in advance?
Sorry for hijacking this email string! Any help would be much appreciated - I'm feeling a tad nervous about this all!
Flo @ 06-04-2013 22:03
From Istanbul to Sofia the current situation is like this: The night train runs through from Halkali (suburb of Istanbul) to Sofia, no bus replacement. However, in May it is likely that there actually will be a bus replacement again, probably from Halkali until Cerkezköy. We try to inform you about this bus replacement service as soon as possible. If you have to use it, you will need no extra ticket: Just buy your ticket to Sofia plus the reservation for a bed in a couchette or sleeper (currently there is just a couchette car on this route) and you will be fine.
If you are travelling all the way through to Belgrade, you should be able to get a through ticket Istanbul - Belgrade at the train station in Istanbul Sirkeci which would allow you to break the journey in Sofia. Get your extra reservation for Istanbul - Sofia at the station as well.
I highly doubt that the night train to Belgrade will be fully booked; I travelled myself in the opposite direction in February and there were just a handful of passengers...currently the train consists of a Bulgarian seating car for which you dont need a reservation and a Serbian couchette car for which you need a reservation (which I would recommend) and no sleeping car.
BenBradish @ 08-04-2013 12:06
Flo, thanks for this information - it will be very useful. I did in fact read this article the other day and ear marked it down.
I suppose my only real concerns are getting from Istanbul to Sofia, and if rail replacement busses will be running etc. I have been reading on the TCDD website a fair bit, and they mention busses running from Sirkeci to Erdine leaving at 22:00 each evening. But there is no information about Halkali station. ❓ So I would be very grateful if you could keep me updated with what is going on with rail replacement etc.
I am hoping to arrive in Sofia at 10:30am the following morning, and spend an evening there before setting off to Beograd. So I will just book my couchette that morning for the following day. My trip will be lasting 3 weeks, and I will finish in Berlin. Everything seems to be in place, barring the Istanbul - Sofia leg f the journey.
Any further info you have will be of a great help.
BenBradish @ 08-04-2013 12:27
Flo - just read your Istanbul by train part 2. Just the info I was looking for about Halkali station.
Flo @ 08-04-2013 12:34
the latest information I have suggest that the current situation (night train starts/ends at Halkali) will last until end of May, from there on the train will start/end at Çerkezköy with bus replacement from/to Istanbul.
From where at the TCDD website did you get the info regarding bus replacement to/from Edirne? Link?
Current timings for the night train Istanbul - Sofia: 👉 https://rail.cc/en/night-train/istanbul-sofia-d-81032/310
As you can see the train currently needs to take a detour via Stara Zagora that costs even more time. This is due to the introduction of another type of train (Desiro DMU) on the way from Dimitovgrad to Plovdiv to which the night train carriages can not be attached.
If the night train arrives on time in Svilengrad you would have an alternative connection to get to Sofia earlier:
Svilengrad 0435 - 0601 Dimitovgrad
Dimitovgrad 0610 - 0716 Plovdiv
Plovdiv 0800 - 1030 Sofia
Depending on your overall travel plans, an additional stop in Plovdiv definitely would be interesting - then continue to Sofia the following day, spend the day there and continue to Belgrade in the evening.
BenBradish @ 11-04-2013 13:47
With regards to the TCDD website, I have a feeling it was only information I read at the back end of last year, I will try to find the link...
As for the detour to Stara Zagora, I hadn't anticipated it would eat up so much extra time. So if I want to get to Sofia for 10.33am, I have to make 3 separate changes? Is that correct? If so what are the train numbers that I would need to change onto?
If the train arrives late into Svilengrad, would it still be possible to get to Sofia earlier than 14.51?
Reading your blogs I realise that I should spend some time in Plovdiv, but I am on a tight time frame and I only have one night in Sofia before setting off to Beograd.
Thanks for all this additional info - it is proving a great help!
Flo @ 11-04-2013 14:50
OK, it is likely that it was an outdated information from TCDD website. 😉
I think the only possible way to get to Plovdiv and Sofia earlier is the one I described - but you could use the BDZ schedule planner to look by yourself (also to check train numbers): 👉 http://razpisanie.bdz.bg/site/search.jsp
It'd be a pity if you wouldn't be able to make it to Plovdiv...is your overall schedule that strict? 😐
But if you spend one night in Sofia anyway, than it shouldn't be a problem: Istanbul - Plovdiv, Plovdiv sightseeing and to Sofia in the evening, overnight stay and sightseeing the following day, go to Belgrade in the evening...?
BenBradish @ 11-04-2013 16:04
Flo, I will take your advice and get some site seeing done in Plovdiv.
I take it the station is central, and easy to get into Plovdiv? I will re read your Istanbul by train part 1 for recommendations.
Is Plovdiv station easy to navigate around? My Bulgarian is non existent!
And no our time table is not that strict, but I only have 3weeks, so want to see as much as possible!
Flo @ 11-04-2013 16:30
OK, great, you certainly wont regret it! 🙂
It is up to you to decide then whether you will stay overnight in Plovdiv or Sofia...as you can see in the blog I have just spent the evening in Plovdiv which was really great.
Plovdiv station: When you exit the station, head left and you will get to a small side building where you will find the left luggage office. They are open all day, at some hours you have to ring a bell to get in, just wait a few minutes and they will open. A piece of luggage was 2 BGN I think. Check out the last photo here 👉 https://rail.cc/en/plovdiv/hauptbahnhof-plovdiv/l249 Behind me you will find the luggage office.
To get to the city, head half-right from the station through the park and follow ulica Ivan Vazov, it takes about 15 minutes until you reach the centre by foot. The centre is not too big, I had no problems navigating...as soon as I got there! 🤣 Walked down the wrong street from the station at first until I tried again and finally reached the centre... 😉
At the station, timings are shown in both Cyrillic and Latin so you wont have troubles finding the correct platforms.
I will try to post some pics later.
If you decide to stay overnight at Plovdiv and visit Sofia the following day only, there is a left luggage office at Sofia station as well.
BenBradish @ 01-05-2013 21:08
Flow - I need some help again! Sorry!
Do you know if there is now a bus replacement service from Svilengrad? I have been on the Bulgarian state rail website and the 492 train from Istanbul to Sofia, via Svilengrad, dimitrovgrad and Plovdiv is no longer there on the online timetable. Instead there is some information in Cyrillic that I think I talking about bus timetables.
If you know, or have heard of any info on this, please could you let me know? I am setting off on Friday, slightly concerned....
Flo @ 01-05-2013 21:36
well, I heard nothing from this corner of Europe lately...it could well be that there is a bus replacement, but it will be difficult to find out more details in such short time.
In the opposite direction, the international train is still existing...so your train should run as well, whether it will be a bus or train, at least it will be a bit of an adventure.
Sorry that I cant help you more for now, maybe I find something out tomorrow.
BenBradish @ 01-05-2013 22:04
Thanks anyway. I guess I will have to embrace the adventure. If you do hear of anything, send it my way!
Flo @ 09-05-2013 13:45
How did your trip go?
I have received news today that the replacement bus now runs Istanbul - Cerkezköy and vice versa.
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