Sofia To Bucharest By Train: A Complete Guide

The Sofia to Bucharest train journey is a popular route for travellers looking to explore both Bulgaria and Romania. Tickets are purchased from the Central Train Station in Sofia, with payments being made using cash or credit card.

The daily train from Sofia to Bucharest typically departs at 7 am, arriving in Bucharest at 5 pm. However, the train schedule may vary slightly depending on whether you travel during the peak or off-season. Border controls happen at Ruse station in Bulgaria and Giurgu Nord station in Romania.

The ten hour journey passing forests, rivers, karsts, agricultural land and pretty villages, stopping at various stations, offers a relaxing and scenic way to travel between these vibrant cities.

Inside a second class carriage on the Sofia to Bucharest train.
Sofia To Bucharest Train Second Class Carriage

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How Much Is A Sofia To Bucharest Train Ticket?

An adult second-class train ticket from Sofia to Bucharest costs 48.50 BGN (Bulgarian Lev) plus an additional 2.44 BGN for the mandatory seat reservation. First-class tickets cost approximately 20% extra.

First-class seats are only available during the peak season. During the off-season, the train runs with second-class coaches only.

Prices in my articles link to the xe currency converter to enable you to check the prices in your currency.

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How To Buy Tickets For The Sofia To Bucharest Train

Train tickets for the journey from Sofia (София) to Bucharest (Букурещ) can be purchased from Sofia Central Station.

International train tickets are sold from booths 21 and 22, although the small signage on the window does not make it obvious.

Staff at the international booth speak English. Payment is with either cash or credit card. If you need cash, there is an ATM at the station.

Remember to take your passport when purchasing international train tickets.

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Bulgarian And Romanian Train Websites

BDZ, the Bulgarian train website, does not sell international tickets; however, you can use it or the Romanian CFR Calatori train website for timetable information for the Sofia to Bucharest train.

It is possible to buy a ticket for the trip through the CFR Calatori website, but the ticket must be picked up from a Romanian station, making it worthless when beginning your journey in Bulgaria. So, use the website as a guide only.

Physical tickets must be shown on the train. If you do not have the ticket, your journey is invalid and will lead to a fine.

When using the Romanian international online timetable, be aware the city name is Bucuresti. The English spelling of Bucharest is not recognised even when using the English language translation.

A graffitied train at Levski, a small Bulgarian station.
Levski Station, Bulgaria

Reserving A Seat On The Sofia To Bucharest Train

International trains require a seat reservation, which is not included in the price of your ticket. However, at €2.50 for a ten-hour journey, it’s worth it.

If you prefer a window seat (Fenster), you can request one while purchasing your ticket.

How To Read The Bulgarian Seat Reservation Ticket

Each passenger receives an individual ticket, but when more than one seat reservation is made, it will be combined into a single voucher.

A seat reservation for the Sofia to Bucharest train.
A Sofia To Bucharest Train Seat Reservation Voucher

The image above shows a seat reservation voucher for two tickets. An explanation and how to read the voucher is given in the list below.

  • Klasse 2 – Second Class Carriage
  • Zug – Train Number (train number 460)
  • Wagen – Carriage (carriage number 472)
  • Sitzplatz– Seat Number (seat numbers 35 and 36)
  • Fenster – window (we requested 2 window seats)
  • Barzahlung – Cash payment

The Difference Between First And Second-Class Carriages

There is no significant difference between the seats in first and second-class carriages. Even the toilets are the same.

However, there are more electric sockets in first class and a headrest between the seats.

First class is likely to be quieter, with fewer passengers. It’s unlikely locals travelling between stations will buy a first-class ticket, so as the train gets closer to the border, second-class carriages will start to fill up with people.

Of course, if you’ve bought a first-class ticket, you can sit in second-class if things are too quiet. But a second-class ticket is not valid in first class.

A first class compartment with bright red seats on the Sofia to Bucharest train.
Sofia To Bucharest Train First Class Carriage
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Sofia To Bucharest Departure And Arrival Times

Daily trains from Sofia leave at 7 am and arrive in Bucharest at 5.10 pm. However, it is advisable to check the Bulgarian website for the most up-to-date information.

The train timetable differs slightly between the peak season and the off-season.

The peak season for the Sofia to Bucharest train is from the 9th of June to the 9th of October. What’s known as the off-season is from the 10th of October until the 8th of June.

The train is direct during the peak season.

It is important to note that another Sofia to Bucharest train departs at 7.35 am, but it heads north and crosses the border between Vidin (Bulgaria) and Calafat (Romania). This train does not arrive in Bucharest until after 8 pm.

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Taking The Train From Sofia To Bucharest October – June

There are still daily trains between Sofia and Bucharest outside of the peak season between the 10th of October and the 9th of June, but you will need to change trains at Gorna Orjahovica (Горна Оряховица) and Ruse (Русе). However, the journey still takes ten hours.

How To Get To The Central Train Station in Sofia

Sofia’s Central Railway station is located at 1202 Orlandovtsi, Sofia and is easily accessible by bus, tram or metro.

To reach the station by metro, take line 2 to Tsentralna Gara, then it’s a short walk to the station. Check out the official website to learn more about the Sofia metro.

Tram and bus stops are also located close to the train station.

Alternatively, taking a taxi from the city centre to the station should not cost more than 7 BGN.

Uber does not operate in Bulgaria.

If you prefer to walk, it will take around 20 minutes to reach the station from the city centre.

Red seats in a first class carriage of the train from Sofia in Bulgaria to Bucharest in Romania.
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Hotels Close To Sofia Central Train Station

The city centre is within easy reach, so there’s no need to stay near the train station.

When visiting Sofia, I choose to stay at the Sofia Place Hotel by HMG. It’s conveniently located just around the corner from Vitosha Boulevard, the main pedestrian street in Sofia, which offers a wide range of restaurants and shops.

Additionally, the hotel is only a ten-minute walk from Serdika metro station. Sofia Place Hotel by HMG is a clean and budget-friendly option, perfect for travellers seeking a great location.

How To Find The Correct Train At Sofia Central Station

Sofia train station has several platforms, and as Bulgaria uses the Cyrillic alphabet, it’s not easy to understand the departure board or find your way around, so give yourself plenty of time to find your train.

The international train typically departs from Track 8 West, downstairs from the main concourse. However, changes may occur, so check before boarding the train and ask again when you arrive at the platform.

Have some small change ready, as there’s a good chance ‘help’ given in the station will come with a price. Expect to be told that whatever you give is not enough.

How To Read The Departure Board At Sofia Central Station

The departure board written in the Cyrillic alphabet at Sofia Central Station.
Departure Board At Sofia Central Station

The image above shows the arrivals and departure boards at Sofia Central Station.

English translations for arriving (пристигания) and departing (заминавания) are displayed in the top right corner of each board.

Refer to the table below for the Cyrillic to Latin translation, which will help you understand the departure board and find your train.

Train Departure Board Cyrillic To Latin Translation

Cyrillic Departure Board English Translation
влакTrain Number
категория (кат)Category
приcтигаArrival
минава презPassing Through
чаcTime
коловозTrack
закБcнениеDelay In Minutes (мин)
пристиганияArriving
заминаванияDeparting

Boarding The Train And Ticket Inspections

There are no barriers at the Central Railway Station in Sofia. Tickets are checked, signed and dated on the train, once in Bulgaria and then again when you cross into Romania.

Is There A Restaurant Car On The Train?

There is no restaurant car or trolley service on the Bulgaria to Romania train, and the train doesn’t stop long enough in the stations to jump off and buy snacks.

It is essential to be prepared and bring everything you’ll need for the ten-hour trip, including at least two litres of water per person; it can get very hot in the carriages, especially if you travel during the summer.

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What Are The Toilets Like On The Sofia To Bucharest Train?

The toilets on a train are never great, and the ones on the Sofia to Bucharest train are no different. They aren’t clean, but they are usable.

There will likely be toilet paper and soap, but don’t rely on it. Take your own toilet paper, and remember hand sanitiser.

Two trains, one graffitied, side by side at Ruse, the Bulgarian / Romanian border town station.
Ruse, The Bulgarian Border Town Train Station

Crossing The Bulgarian-Romanian Border

Bulgaria and Romania joined the Schengen area on March 31st, 2024. Therefore, crossing by sea or plane is no longer subject to checks. However, land border checks are still in place until a later date.

While the border crossing and passport control are at Ruse (Русе), police get on the train at Gorna Orjahovica (Горна Оряховица), two hours from Ruse.

Gorna Orjahovica is a major interchange station, and it is important to be seated in the correct compartment as carriages are removed from the train at this station.

How To Get Your Passport Stamped At Ruse Train Station

Border guards get on the train at Ruse and will take your passport for around 15 – 20 minutes. When they return, check your passport has been stamped with the correct date.

During the peak season, the train is scheduled to travel direct from Sofia to Bucharest, with only the train number changing at Ruse. If there are no changes, do not get off the train.

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Romanian Passport Control

Romanian passport control is at Giurgu Nord station, approximately 35 minutes from Ruse. Getting your passport stamped at the Romanian border is the same process as at the Bulgarian border.

Gara Giurgiu Nord station with overgrown train tracks
Gara Giurgiu Nord, The Romanian Border Town Train Station

Crossing The Danube River At The Bulgaria Romania Border

The train will cross the Danube River approximately ten minutes after leaving Ruse. You’ll get the best view from the right side of the train.

The Friendship Bridge crossing the Danube is not great for taking photos. The iron struts supporting the bridge will likely get in the way of every shot. So sit back and enjoy the view rather than trying to capture it.

Arriving At Bucharest Train Station

Gara de Nord (North Train Station) is Bucharest’s main station and is much easier to navigate than Sofia Central Station.

The platforms are all on the same level with easy-to-understand signage (Romania uses the Latin alphabet).

There are plenty of places to grab a snack, a Carrefour supermarket and a pharmacy.

Gara de Nord train station is connected to the Bucharest metro lines 1 and 4.

The arrival and departure hall at Gara De Nord, Bucharest's North Station.
Gara De Nord, Bucharest North Station

Where To Stay in Bucharest

I highly recommend the Europa Royale Bucharest Hotel for your stay in the city.

It’s next to Piata Unirii Metro on the edge of Bucharest’s Old Town, and the location couldn’t be better. Being on the edge of the Old Town means it’s quieter than most hotels in the area but everything is on your doorstep.

The hotel is clean, modern and the breakfasts are delicious. Having stayed at the Europa Royale Bucharest Hotel several times I would happily choose this hotel for future stays in the city.

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Sofia To Bucharest: A Great Train Journey For Over 50s

The Sofia to Bucharest train journey is particularly suited to mature travelers.

Both train stations are centrally located, making it easy to reach the city centres.

Additionally, travelling by train is much easier than dealing with the hassle of airports, long security lines, wait times and baggage restrictions.

More importantly, choosing train travel over air travel significantly reduces your carbon footprint.

While it’s a long trip it’s a stress-free journey with comfortable seating, scenic views, and the freedom to move around, stretch your legs, and relax, while gazing out at the landscape or getting to know like-minded travellers and locals.

The Sofia to Bucharest train journey promises an unforgettable adventure that caters perfectly to mature travelers.

Enjoy Guided Tours Around Sofia And Bucharest

If you’d prefer the comfort of a one day guided tour from Bucharest to Veliko Tarnovo in the north central area of Bulgaria check out the link below.

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Alternative Options For Travelling Between Sofia And Bucharest

Aside from the train, there are a couple of other public transport options available for travelling between Sofia and Bucharest.

Night Buses From Sofia To Bucharest

Two bus companies offer direct links between Sofia and Bucharest. Both Union Ivkoni and Flixbus are night buses.

Union Ivkoni has a bus departing from Sofia at 10 pm and arriving in Bucharest at 6.30 am, with ticket prices starting at 37 BGN.

The Flixbus departs at 11.30 pm from Sofia and arrives in Bucharest at 6.35 am, with ticket prices starting at 30 BGN.

Due to the border crossing involved in the journey, the estimated journey times may be extended. However, if the trip takes less time, you will arrive at a bus station in the early hours, which may not be the safest option, especially if you are travelling alone.

Direct Flights Between Sofia and Bucharest

The quickest way to travel between Sofia and Bucharest is to take a direct flight, which takes one hour.

Tarom Airlines, the Romanian national airline and Turkish Airlines fly direct between Sofia and the Romanian Henri Coanda (OTP) airport.

Tips For Planning Your Trip To Sofia And Bucharest

For a fantastic adventure in Bucharest or Sofia, use these trusted resources to simplify your travel planning and ensure a smooth and memorable trip.

  • Accommodation – I always rely on Booking.com for a wide range of options and hassle-free reservations.
  • Tours – Explore top-rated tours with unforgettable experiences and skip-the-line access through GetYourGuide.
  • Travel Essentials – Find all your travel gear easily and with plenty of choices on Amazon.

The Lonely Planet Bulgaria And Romania Travel Guide

A new Lonely Planet Bulgaria and Romania travel guide is now available for pre-order and will be released in August, 2024.

In the meantime, I recommend taking a look at the Eastern Europe Travel Guide released in 2022, which covers 21 countries in the region. While not as in-depth as a country-specific guide, this book is handy and informative.