This page explains how to travel by train from Istanbul to other key European cities, and how to buy the cheapest tickets.  Click here to for journeys starting in another city.  Train information updated for 2020.  COVID-19 update.

bullet pointI want to go from Istanbul to...

  Ankara   Izmir   Sofia   Bucharest   Odessa
  Belgrade   Budapest   Vienna   Munich    
  Paris   Brussels   Amsterdam   London    
  Tabriz   Tehran   Tbilisi   Yerevan    

bullet pointBefore you buy your tickets...

Take a moment to read these tips for buying European train tickets.  It answers all the usual questions, "Do I need to book in advance or can I just buy at the station?", "Can I stop off?", "Are there Senior fares?" and that old favourite, "Should I buy an $800 railpass or just buy a €35 point-to-point ticket online?".  Click here to understand how far ahead you can buy train tickets.

bullet pointEuropean train travel FAQ...

An introduction to European train travel

 

Senior fares (over 60)

 

Guide to Eurail passes (overseas visitors)

Important tips for buying European train tickets

Youth fares (under 26)

 

Guide to Interrail passes (for Europeans)

How to check European train times

Child fares & child age limits

 

Couchettes & sleepers on night trains

Do I need to book in advance?

Luggage on European trains

 

Train seat numbering plans

How far ahead can I book?

Luggage storage at stations

 

Wheelchairs & special needs

Can I stop off on the way?

Taking a bike by train

 

Real-time service updates

Should I travel 1st or 2nd class?

Taking a car by train

 

Hotels & accommodation

How long to allow for connections?

Taking dogs & pets by train

 

Changing stations in Paris by metro or taxi

How early to arrive at the station?

Maps of the European rail network

 

What to do when things go wrong...


Istanbul to Ankara, Izmir & other destinations in Turkey...

See the train travel in Turkey page...

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Istanbul to Sofia & Belgrade...
The transfer bus to Halkali, outside Istanbul Sirkeci station.

The free transfer bus from Istanbul to Halkali, outside Istanbul Sirkeci station.  Courtesy of Philip Dyer-Perry.

Turkish sleeping-car   2-bed sleeper, in seats mode

1 & 2 bed sleepers:  An air-conditioned Turkish TVS2000 sleeping-car as used on the Istanbul-Sofia Express.  Comfortable, carpeted, with compartments bookable as singles or doubles.  Above right, a sleeper compartment shown with beds folded away and seats folded out.

4-berth couchettes in seats mode   The Istanbul to Sofia Express

4-berth couchettes:  The Istanbul-Sofia Express usually has two couchette cars.  One is an air-conditioned Turkish TVS2000 couchette car with comfortable 4-berth compartments, shown above left with beds folded away and seats folded out.  Exterior shots courtesy of Paul Bateman

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Istanbul to Veliko Tarnovo & Bucharest...
The transfer bus to Halkali, outside Istanbul Sirkeci station.

The free transfer bus from Istanbul to Halkali, outside Istanbul Sirkeci station.  Courtesy of Philip Dyer-Perry.

The Istanbul to Sofia Express   4-berth couchettes in seats mode

Couchette car:  Between June & September there is a direct air-conditioned Turkish couchette car between Istanbul Halkali and Bucharest with 4-berth compartments, as shown above.  The seats convert to flat bunks with rug, sheet and pillow.

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Istanbul to Budapest, Vienna, Munich, Paris, London...

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Istanbul to Brussels & Amsterdam...

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Istanbul to Athens & Greece...

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Istanbul to Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan...

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Istanbul to Tehran & Iran...

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Istanbul to Odessa & Ukraine...

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bullet pointHotels in Istanbul & other cities

Find hotels at Booking.comMy favourite hotel search site: www.booking.com

www.booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally prefer booking my hotels all in one place here.  You can usually book with free cancellation - this allows you to confirm your accommodation at no risk before train booking opens.  It also means you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary, and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when putting a trip together.  I never book hotels non-refundably.  I have also come to trust their review scores - you won't be disappointed with anything over 8.0.

Tip:  It can pay to compare prices across multiple hotel sites:  HotelsCombined.com is a price comparison site which compares hotel prices on Booking.com, Hotels.com, Expedia, Accor, Agoda and many others.  Though if there's not much in it, I prefer keeping all my bookings together in one place at www.booking.com.

Other hotel sites worth trying...

Backpacker hostels...

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bullet pointTravel insurance & VPN

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

 

Confused.com logo

Always take out travel insurance...

Never travel overseas without travel insurance from a reliable insurer, with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover.  It should also cover cancellation and loss of cash and belongings, up to a sensible limit.  An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheaper than several single-trip policies even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I have an annual policy myself.  Here are some suggested insurers.  Seat61 gets a small commission if you buy through these links.

UK flagIn the UK, reliable insurers include Columbus Direct.

UK flagIf you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65, see www.JustTravelCover.com - 10% discount with code seat61.

UK flagYou can use Confused.com to compare prices & policies from many different insurers.

  Australian flag New Zealand flag  Irish flag    If you live in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites.

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

A Curve card saves on foreign transaction fees...

 

Curve card

Most banks give you a poor exchange rate, then charge you a currency conversion fee.  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 at time of writing.  The balance goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards.

How it works:  1. Download the app for iPhone or Android.  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to most European addresses including the UK.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, just like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance onto whichever of your debit or credit cards you choose.  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 - I get some commission if you sign up to Curve, but I'm recommending it here because it's great.  See details, download the app and get a Curve card - they'll give you £5 cashback through that link, too.

 

Express VPN

Get a VPN for safe browsing.  VPNs & why you need one explained...

When you're travelling you often use free WiFi in public places which may not be secure.  A VPN means your connection to the internet is encrypted & always secure, even using unsecured WiFi.  In countries such as China where access to Twitter & Facebook is restricted, a VPN gets around these restrictions.  And lastly, you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geographic restrictions which some websites apply - for example one booking site charges a booking fee to non-European visitors but none to European visitors, so if you're not located in Europe you can avoid this fee by browsing with a UK IP address using a VPN.  VPNs & why you need one explainedExpressVPN is a best buy and I use it myself - I've signed up as an ExpressVPN affiliate, and if you go with expressvpn.com using the links on this page, you should see a special deal, 3 months free with an annual subscription, and I get a small commission to help support this site.

 


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