Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey and can easily be called the economic, cultural and historical heart of our neighboring country. In 2010, it was declared the European Capital of Culture and became the tenth most popular destination in the world with seven million foreign guests. Much of its historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and attracts tens of thousands of tourists daily.
Istanbul has some of the busiest roads in the world, and the new airport, which gradually began operating in 2018, is expected to become the world's largest airport in terms of passenger traffic at the end of all phases of its project. It is often used as a direct link to Asia and the United States, and with its number of airlines to the farthest corners, it can be a convenient hub from which to plan your more exotic trips.
The trip to the cosmopolitan metropolis from our country and back can be done both by air and by car or bus, and very recently by direct rail. This is an extremely convenient way for anyone who doesn’t like to fly, doesn’t feel safe driving in Turkey, or doesn’t want to leave their car in the parking lot for a long time. The connection between the two countries is through the Svilengrad/Kapikule border crossing.
The international train from Istanbul will depart at 10.00 pm, and will arrive at Sofia Central Station at 09.35 am. In the opposite direction from Sofia, via Plovdiv, to Istanbul, the train will depart according to schedule at 6.30 pm and will reach its final destination of Istanbul at 07.00 am.
The ticket price is BGN 41.27 or EUR 21 for the second class and BGN 62 or EUR 31 for the first class. For a couchette with 4 seats an additional BGN 19.56 or EUR 10 has to be paid, and for a sleeping cabin with 2 beds the amount is EUR 15 and BGN 29.34 respectively. The single passenger compartment is BGN 68.45 / EUR 35, and requires the provision of a first class ticket. Please note that when crossing the border you will need to get your luggage off for an X-ray.
This train consists of sleeping cars and compartment cars, and from June 3 for the summer season, it is planned to include a direct carriage for travel between Bucharest and Istanbul.
On Bulgarian territory, 4 more carriages will be added to the train with seats on the route from Sofia to Plovdiv and back. They will remain at the Central Station in Plovdiv, and a sitting car will be attached to the international train, which will continue on the route to Svilengrad.
The arrival station in Instanbul is Halkali which is 25 km from the city center. It can be reached by Marmaray train, which arrives at Istanbul’s old Sirkeci Train Station. These suburban trains run every 15 minutes for less than EUR 2. Travel time is 35 minutes.
If your final destination is the airport, you can use the direct HAVAIST Airport Shuttle or IETT Municipal Public Bus from the center. There is currently no direct metro line to the airport, but the M11 from Gayrettepe is under construction. The project deadline is mid-2022.