London to Bulgaria by train, a 48 hour Balkan adventure

It's not difficult to travel to Bulgaria by train, in fact it's a safe, comfortable and interesting journey.  The train ride from London to Bulgaria takes as little as 2 nights, with a variety of possible routes and options.  The train times, fares, and how best to buy tickets are all explained on this page.

Train times, fares & tickets

small bullet point  London to Sofia by train

small bullet point  London to Veliko Tarnovo

small bullet point  Trains to Sofia from other European cities

small bullet point  Trains from Sofia to other European cities

small bullet point  Sofia Central Station location & facilities

small bullet point  General information about train travel in Europe

small bullet point  Luggage   Taking bikes   Taking dogs

small bullet point  Hotels in Sofia & Bulgaria

Route map:  London to Sofia by train

Route map:  London to Sofia & Bulgaria by train

Useful country information

Train operator in Bulgaria:

BDZ (Bβlgarski Dβrzhavni Zheleznitsi), www.bdz.bgSofia-Istanbul by train


Eurostar times & fares    All-Europe online train times


Beginner's guide to European railpasses    Buy a rail pass online

Time zone:

GMT+2 (GMT+3 from last Sunday in March to last Saturday in October).

Dialling code:



£1 = approx 2.2 Lev.  €1 = approx 1.9 Lev.   Currency converter

Tourist information:    Tripadvisor Bulgaria page


UK citizens don't need a visa to visit Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary or Romania.

Page last updated:

15 February 2024.  Train times valid 10 December 2023 to 14 December 2024.

London to Sofia by train

London to Sofia via Romania is a long way round compared to the traditional direct route through Belgrade, but with the Zagreb-Belgrade train suspended since the pandemic and the Belgrade-Sofia route also screwed up, the route via Romania is the viable one.

Option 1, Eurostar to Brussels or Paris, Nightjet sleeper train to Vienna and connecting train to Budapest, sleeper train to Bucharest, daytime train to Sofia.

Option 2, the ferry alternative.  London to Amsterdam via the Harwich-Hoek ferry, then by train from Amsterdam to Sofia via Vienna, Budapest & Bucharest.

Option 1, London to Sofia via Vienna, Budapest & Bucharest

London ► Sofia

Sofia ► London

How much does it cost?

 1. London to Paris or Brussels by Eurostar

 From £52 one-way, £78 return 2nd class.

 From £97 one-way, £168 return 1st class.  Child fares 


 2. Paris or Brussels to Vienna

 by Nightjet train

In a seat

In a couchette

In the sleeping-car







+ shower


+ shower


+ shower

 One way fares per person from:











 3. Vienna to Budapest

 From €19.90 each way in 2nd class, €29.90 each way in 1st class.


 4. Budapest to Bucharest

 From €40 with a couchette in 6-berth or €47 with a couchette in 4-berth.

 These are limited-availability advance-purchase fares.

 If you want a private sleeper:

 Budapest-Arad in a seat starts at €17.

 Arad-Bucharest in a single-bed sleeper costs around €60.


 4. Bucharest to Sofia

 €35 each way, full-price.

How to buy tickets

What's the journey like?

1. London to Paris or Brussels by Eurostar

Eurostar trains link London & Paris in 2h20, London & Brussels in just 2 hours, travelling at up to 300 km/h (186 mph).  There are two bar cars, power sockets at all seats and free WiFi.  Standard Premier and Business Premier fares include a light meal with wine (or breakfast, on departures before 11:00).  There's a 30-minute minimum check-in as all border formalities are carried out before you board the train.  More about Eurostar & check-in procedureSt Pancras station guide.  Brussels Midi station guideIn Brussels, I recommend using the Pullman Hotel bar as your VIP waiting room.

A Eurostar e320 train at London St Pancras   Eurostar e320 first class seats

Eurostar e320 at St Pancras.  More about Eurostar.


1st class:  Standard Premier or Business Premier.

Eurostar e320 2nd class seats   Eurostar e320 cafe-bar

Standard class.  Larger photo.


One of two cafe-bars, cars 8 & 9.  Larger photo.

2. Paris or Brussels to Vienna by Nightjet  See the Nightjet guide

This is an Austrian Railways (ΦBB) Nightjet train, with sleeping-car, couchettes & seats.  The sleeping-car has 1, 2 & 3 bed compartments with washbasin, plus three deluxe compartments with 1, 2 or 3 beds with private shower & toilet.  The sleeper berths come fully made up with sheets and duvets, all sleeper passengers get mineral water in the evening and a light breakfast served in their compartment next morning.  Towels & toiletries are provided, including shampoo and shower gel in the deluxe sleepers.  In the more economical couchettes, you can book a couchette in a cheaper 6-berth compartment or a less-crowded 4-berth compartment, each provided with sheet, blanket, pillow & small bottle of water, and couchette passengers get a tea or coffee in the morning.  When waiting for the northbound sleeper train in Vienna, if you have booked a sleeper you can use the ΦBB lounge with complimentary refreshments.  More pictures & information about Nightjet trains.

The Nightjet sleeper from Brussels to Vienna at Brussels

On 20 January 2020, the inaugural Nightjet left Brussels for Vienna, the first scheduled sleeper train to leave Brussels in 16 years.  Above, that inaugural train is seen ready to leave Brussels Midi on 20 January - naturally, the Man in Seat 61 was on board!

Nightjet deluxe 2-berth sleeper   Nightjet deluxe sleeper in day mode   Nightjet deluxe sleeper toilet & shower   Nightjet standard (economy) sleeper

Deluxe sleeper.  Each compartment can be used as a 1, 2 or 3-bed room.  Larger photoVideo of deluxe room


Same deluxe sleeper in evening/morning mode with beds folded away, seats folded out.  Larger photo.


Deluxe rooms have a compact shower & toilet, towels & hair/body wash provided.  Larger photo.


Standard sleeper set up as 2-berth, washstand open.  It can be used as a 1, 2 or 3 berth.  Larger photo.

6-berth couchettes   4-berth couchettes on Nightjet train   Couchette car on Brussels-Vienna sleeper

6-berth couchettes.


4-berth couchettes.


Couchette car on the Brussels-Vienna Nightjet.

3. Vienna to Budapest by Railjet

Railjets are ΦBB's (Austrian Railways) premier trains, with economy & 1st class, plus a premium 1st class called business class.  There's a restaurant car, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  In 1st & business class, restaurant car orders are taken and served at your seat.  More about railjets Budapest Keleti station guide.

A railjet train about to leave Vienna

A railjet about to leave Vienna.  More about railjets

Business class seats on a railjet train   Railjet restaurant car

Business class.  About.


Restaurant car.

Business class seats on a railjet train   Economy class seats on a railjet train

First class.


Economy class.

A Railjet train at Budapest

The railjet has landed.  A railjet has arrived spot on time in Budapest's historic Keleti station, built 1881-1884

4. Budapest to Bucharest on the sleeper train Muntenia

The train has a Romanian couchette car with 4 & 6-bunk compartments, these convert from seats to bunks at night will sheet, pillow and blanket provided.  There are toilets & washrooms at the end of the corridor.  A sleeping-car is attached from Timisoara to Bucharest with cosy 1, 2 & 3-bed compartments with washbasin.

Couchette car on the Ister EuroNight train from Budapest to Bucharest   Romanian couchette car from Vienna to Bucharest

A Romanian couchette car of the sort used between Budapest & Bucharest on the MunteniaCourtesy of @AndyBTravels,


4 or 6-berth couchettes.  Larger photo.

2-berth sleeper on the Ister   The Ister at Bucharest Nord

A Romanian sleeping-car with 1, 2 or 3-bed compartments is attached between Timisoara & Bucharest. Courtesy of @AndyBTravels, Larger photo.

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Option 2, London to Sofia via Hoek van Holland & Bucharest

This is the ferry alternative, a version of option 3 that substitutes rail & sail for Eurostar.  If you live in East Anglia or prefer a ferry to Eurostar and the Channel Tunnel for some reason, this is a useful alternative.  It's often cheaper than Eurostar at short notice.

London ► Sofia

Sofia ► London

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London to Veliko Tarnovo

Bulgaria's ancient capital, Veliko Tarnovo is well worth a visit.  Below left, the main gate to the Royal hill and old cathedral.  Below right, the old town.  The station is at the foot of the hills on which the city is built, it's a longish walk up to the town, you may want to take a taxi.  Click for map of Veliko Tarnovo showing station.

To reach Veliko Tarnovo from London or Paris,  you have two main options:

Veliko Tarnovo's Royal Hill   Church frescoes   Veliko Tarnovo old town

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European Rail Timetable & maps

Thomas Cook European Timetable -  click to buy onlineTraveller's Railway Map of Europe - buy onlineThe European Rail Timetable (formerly the Thomas Cook European Timetable) has train & ferry times for every country in Europe plus currency & climate information.  It is essential for regular European train travellers and an inspiration for armchair travellers.  Published since 1873, it had just celebrated 140 years of publication when Thomas Cook decided to pull the plug on their entire publishing department, but the dedicated ex-Thomas Cook team set up a private venture and resumed publication of the famous European Rail Timetable in March 2014.  You can buy it online at (UK addresses) or (shipping worldwide).  More information on what the European Rail Timetable contains.

Rail Map Europe is the map I recommend, covering all of Europe from Portugal in the west to Moscow & Istanbul in the east, Finland in the north to Sicily & Athens in the south.  Scenic routes & high-speed lines are highlighted.  See an extract from the map.  Buy online at (shipping worldwide) or at (UK addresses).

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Lonely Planet Eastern Europe - buy online at Guide to Poland - buy online at get the most from your visit, you should take a good guidebook.  For the independent traveller, I think this means one of two guidebooks, either the Lonely Planet or the Rough Guide.  Both series are excellent.  You can buy an in-depth guide for Bulgaria or a guide covering all the countries in Eastern Europe.  Lonely Planet Eastern Europe - Rough Guide Bulgaria.

Click the images to buy online


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Hotels in Sofia & Bulgaria

For an inexpensive hotel with great reviews just outside Sofia Central station with great reviews, I recommend the Best Western Hotel Terminus, or 10 minutes walk away, the excellent Hotel Favorit which I've used myself.

Find hotels at Booking.comMy favourite hotel search: is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally use it to book all my hotels in one place.  I've come to trust's review scores, you won't be disappointed with any hotel that scores 8.0 or more.  Crucially, usually lets you book with free cancellation, which means you can confirm accommodation risk-free before train booking opens and/or you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when planning a trip.  I never book hotels non-refundably!

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Travel insurance & other tips


Staysure travel insurance


Columbus Direct logo

Always take out travel insurance

You should take out travel insurance with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover from a reliable insurer.  It should cover trip cancellation and loss of cash & belongings up to a reasonable limit.  These days, check you're covered for covid-19-related issues, and use an insurer whose cover isn't invalidated by well-meant but excessive Foreign Office travel advice against non-essential travel. An annual policy is usually cheapest even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I have an annual policy with myself.  Don't expect travel insurance to bail you out of every missed connection, see the advice on missed connections here.  Here are some suggested insurers, I get a little commission if you buy through these links, feedback always welcome.

UK flag offers enhanced Covid-19 protection and gets 4.7 out of 5 on Trustpilot.

UK flag is also a well-know brand.

US flag  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA. logo

Get an eSIM with mobile data package

Don't rely on WiFi, download an eSIM with a European mobile data package and stay connected.  Most newer mobile phones can download a virtual SIM including iPhone 11 & later, see device compatibility list.  There's no need to buy a physical SIM card! is a reliable eSIM data retailer with a 4.5 out of 5 Trustpilot rating and a range of packages including unlimited data.


Curve card

Curve card

Get a Curve card for foreign travel

Most banks give you a poor exchange rate then add a foreign transaction fee on top.  A Curve MasterCard means no foreign transaction fees and gives you the mid-market exchange rate, at least up to a certain limit, £500 per month as I write this.  The money you spend on your Curve card goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards.  And you can get a Curve card for free.

How it works:  1. Download the Curve app for iPhone or Android.  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to the UK and most European addresses.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app, you can link up to two cards with the free version of Curve, I link my normal debit card and my normal credit card.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, exactly like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance in your own currency onto whichever debit or credit card is currently selected in the Curve app.  You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction.

I have a Curve Blue card myself, it means I can buy a coffee on a foreign station on a card without being stung by fees and lousy exchange rates, just by tapping the Curve card on their card reader.  The money goes through Curve to my normal debit card and is taken directly from my account (in fact I have the Curve card set up as payment card on Apple Pay on my iPhone, so can double-click my phone, let it do Face ID then tap the reader with the phone - even easier than getting a card out).  I get a little commission if you sign up to Curve, but I recommend it here because I think it's great.  See details, download the app and get a Curve card, they'll give you £5 cashback through that link.


Express VPN

Get a VPN for safe browsing.  Why you need a VPN

When travelling you may use free public WiFi which is often insecure.  A VPN encrypts your connection so it's always secure, even on unsecured WiFi.  It also means you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geoblocking which a surprising number of websites apply.  See VPNs & why you need one explainedExpressVPN is a best buy with a 4.7 out of 5 Trustpilot ranking which I use myself - I've signed up as an ExpressVPN affiliate, and if you go with using this link you should see a special deal, 3 months free with an annual subscription.  I also get some commission to help support this site.


Anker Powerrbank

Carry an Anker powerbank

Tickets, reservations, hotel bookings and Interrail or Eurail passes are often now held on your mobile phone.  You daren't let it run out of power, and you can't always rely on the phone's internal battery or on being near a power outlet.  I always carry an Anker powerbank which can recharge my phone several times over.  Buy from or Buy from

Touring cities?  Use hill walking shoes!

One of the best things I've done is swap my normal shoes for hill-walking shoes, in my case from Scarpa.  They're intended for hiking across the Pennines not wandering around Florence, but the support and cushioning for hiking works equally well when you're on your feet all day exploring foreign cities.  My feet used to give out first and limit my day, now the rest of me gives up before they do!


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