Sofia-Belgrade train
   

Belgrade to Sofia by train...

The train ride between Belgrade and Sofia by train is a fascinating adventure across the Balkans on a route once taken by the famous Orient Express.  This route has had its ups and downs over the last few years, the result of limited resources and poor management.  There used to be a day train and overnight train all year round between Belgrade & Sofia, but by 2013 this had dwindled to just a night train.  They then reinstated the day train, briefly restoring two trains a day before discontinuing the night train, then (in 2018) rendering the day train summer-only:  It seems Serbian Railways was broken up into passenger, freight and infrastructure companies, the diesel locomotives necessary to haul the train between Nis & Dimitrovgrad were all allocated to the freight company, and the passenger division then couldn't afford to hire in the necessary locomotive from its own sister company.  So today there's a series of connecting trains making the journey possible all year round, with a direct train only running in the summer months.  This page explains it all...

COVID-19 update:  All cross-border trains on this route have been temporarily suspended until further notice.  More COVID-19  info.

small bullet point  All year round service - series of connecting trains, use these whenever the direct train isn't running.

small bullet point  Summer service - direct train mid-June to mid-September, subject to confirmation.

All-year-round service, for whenever the direct train isn't running...

This 3-train connecting service operates every day, all year round.  Use it whenever the summer-only direct train isn't running.

The Main in Seat 61 says...  Until 2020, this 3-train combo got you from Belgrade to Sofia in a day, just like the direct train.  And in the westbound direction, it still gets you from Sofia to Belgrade in a day.  But in the eastbound direction in 2021, Belgrade to Sofia takes 24 hours, possibly the worst service on this route since the 19th century.  This is because Serbian Railways have moved the middle of the three trains (Nis-Dimitrovgrad) to an 07:10 morning departure, meaning you have to leave Belgrade the previous evening and stay overnight in Nis.  Then wait several hours in Dimitrovgrad for the onward Bulgarian train to Sofia!  This may be associated with track upgrading due to happen on the Nis-Dimitrovgrad line, although as far as I know that contract wasn't in fact let and no work is likely to happen.  Whatever.  It's still a great trip, and stopovers in Nis and Dimitrovgrad are not without their interest, but let's hope these two capital cities get a better train service in future years.  Please give me have feedback if you use this route.

All these trains are 2nd class only unless otherwise stated, with toilets, but no catering.  Bring your own food & drink!

Belgrade ► Sofia

Sofia ► Belgrade

Fares & how to buy tickets...

What are the trains like?

Serbian electric train, Belgrade-Nis   Seating on the Serbian electric train, Belgrade-Nis

Train 1, the modern air-conditioned Serbian electric train between Belgrade & Nis.  1st & 2nd class with accessible toilet.  Photos courtesy of Dr Denis McCullough & Linnie Rawlinson.

Serbian diesel train, Nis-Dimitrovgrad   Seats on the Nis-Dimitrovgrad train

Train 2, the modern air-conditioned Serbian diesel train between Nis & Dimitrovgrad.  This train is 2nd class only, with accessible toilets.  Courtesy of Stephanie Robert.

Scenery from the train between Nis & Dimitrovgrad

Scenery from the train between Nis & Dimitrovgrad.  Courtesy of Steven Bodnar...

Seats on the Dimitrovgrad-Sofia train   The Dimitrovgrad-Sofia train, arrived at Sofia

Train 3, the Bulgarian train between Dimitrovgrad & Sofia.  Just one car goes direct, 2nd class only.  It's comfortable enough, bring your own food & drink.  Photo courtesy of Steven Bodnar.

Summer service: Direct train 12 June to 20 September 2021, subject to confirmation...

The European Rail Timetable is showing this train as scheduled to run in 2021, with the same dates as 2020, but even if travel restrictions and border closures are lifted, it is not certain this direct train will in fact run in 2021.  I will post updates here, or you can check nearer the time (meaning a month ahead, tops, maybe less) using the online timetable at the Serbian Railways website, www.srbvoz.rs/en/timetable.

Belgrade ► Sofia

Sofia ► Belgrade

Fares & how to buy tickets...

Travel tips...

What is the journey like?

The Belgrade to Sofia train

The Belgrade-Sofia train, currently summer-only, at Topcider station in Belgrade.  Just two coaches, one Bulgarian, one Serbian, but comfy enough in spite of the graffiti.  Bring your own food & drink and enjoy a scenic run across the Balkans.   Photo courtesy of Matthew Woodward - see more photos & an account of this journey on his blog.

The Belgrade to Sofia train arrived at Topcider

The Belgrade-Sofia train at Topcider.  This is the westbound train, arrived at Topcider in the evening.   Courtesy of Ivan de Jacquelin.

2nd class seats on day train from Belgrade to Sofia   Scenery from the Belgrade to Sofia train

2nd class seats in the Serbian car.  Photos courtesy of Remco van der Kort.

 

The train snakes through a gorge east of Nis, photo taken from the rear carriage.  Courtesy of Matthew Woodward.

The Sofia to Belgrade train at Sofia

The westbound Sofia to Belgrade train, about to leave Sofia Central.  Extra cars are conveyed between Sofia and the Serbian border, make sure you travel in the cars going through to Belgrade.  Photo courtesy of Peter Binnersley.


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