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 2019.

I want to go from Istanbul to...

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

Before 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.

European 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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Hotels in Istanbul & other cities


Favourite hotel search & price comparison: checks all the main hotel booking sites at once to find the widest choice of hotels & the cheapest seller.  It's been named as the World's Leading Hotel Comparison Site in the World Travel Awards and I recommend it to find hotels in even the smallest places and to check that another retailer isn't selling the same hotel for less.

Favourite hotel booking site: is my favourite hotel booking site, and unless HotelsCombined throws up major price differences I prefer doing my bookings 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.

Other hotel sites worth trying...

Backpacker hostels...

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Travel insurance & health card



Columbus direct travel insurance

Take out decent travel insurance, it's essential...

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.

In the UK, try Columbus Direct or use to compare prices & policies from many different insurers.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65, see - 10% discount with code seat61.

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

  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

Get a spare credit card, designed for travel with no currency exchange loading & low or no ATM fees...

It costs nothing to take out an extra credit card.  If you keep it in a different part of your luggage so you're not left stranded if your wallet gets stolen, this is a form of extra travel insurance in itself.  In addition, some credit cards are significantly better for overseas travel than others.  Martin Lewis's explains which UK credit cards have the lowest currency exchange commission loadings when you buy something overseas, and the lowest cash withdrawal fees when you use an ATM abroad.  Taking this advice can save you quite a lot on each trip compared to using your normal high-street bank credit card!

Get a VPN for safe browsing when you travel.  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 them myself.


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