Planning a visit to the European Capital of Culture 2019 is a great choice, but you are unsure what the best way to get here is and what your transport options are?
In this article, you'll find information about each of the transport options (flights, companies, and airports, international trains, driving to Bulgaria or bus) as well as useful tips that will make your trip easier, cheaper and stress-free!
The first thing you need to know is that traveling in Eastern and Southern Europe is not as easy as in Western Europe because of the strange or difficult to pronounce names, the different alphabet (Latin - Cyrillic - Hellenic) and the fact that the information about the cross-border journey you find online is sometimes unreliable. The transport infrastructure is less developed, with fewer highways and old trains running on the railways built during the Communist regimes.
Flights to Plovdiv:
The easiest and cheapest way to get to Plovdiv is to fly to Krumovo Airport, which is located ten kilometers from the city. Currently, you can use the regular flights of the low-cost airline RyanAir from Brussels, Bergamo or Stansted. It is also possible to take a flight from Moscow (Domodedovo) of S7 Airlines or take advantage of some of the charters of the tourist companies.
Alternatively, you can fly to Sofia Airport and then have either a transfer service or use road/rail transport, and for the last options, we will provide detailed information a little further down.
Low-priced flights start from 10 euros in one direction but usually range between € 60-120 for a round trip. During the big holidays (Christmas, Easter) and the summer months, many Bulgarians living abroad return home so expect higher prices and full flights. Keep in mind that flights from Krumovo airport are not daily and adjust your trip dates with their timetable.
The flight to Bulgaria/Plovdiv is the best way to get here. Whether you plan a city trip or a longer trip in our country and region, flying will save you valuable time that you can use to explore more of the country.
Driving to Plovdiv - Eastern European road trip
If you are a fan of the road, enjoy the driving and want to find some picturesque routes, we recommend you travel to Plovdiv by car.
You can get here easily from Romania, Serbia, Hungary and even Germany, Italy, Austria and the Czech Republic. The main roads in the region are generally good and connecting with Bulgaria is easy, but some routes are quite busy in terms of traffic.
Following the refugee crisis in 2015, standard procedures were introduced in Europe, so expect a routine inspection by border control officers. You must be ready to identify yourself and sometimes you may be asked to open your trunk. There will be 2 points - when leaving a country and entering a new one, but this should not take more than 30 minutes - 1 hour, depending on the traffic. Again, avoid big holidays and the summer holidays. Once you are on Bulgarian territory, you will need a vignette (toll), which can be purchased from the border checkpoint or from the nearest gas station.
The roads leading to Plovdiv are in relatively good condition and relatively easy to navigate. Beware of some reckless drivers here and there, many trucks, cyclists and wagons that can often be spotted, even on the main roads.
Police in the region: some know English, others don’t. If you are stopped, stay in your car until a uniformed employee comes to your window and be prepared with a driver's license, vehicle identification document (registration) and your ID. Also, have car insurance at your fingertips. The speed limit on the highway is 140 km/h, and on the outlying roads - 90 km/h, but don’t forget to check the traffic signs. Popular gas stations: Shell, Lukoil, OMV, Gazprom.
Driving in Eastern Europe is a great way to discover the region's culture and see local life outside the big cities - it will surely surprise you
Trains to Plovdiv
The international train from Sofia passes to Istanbul, and if you first reach the railway station of the Bulgarian capital, then there are lines to Thessaloniki, Bucharest, Craiova, Belgrade. Most of these trains in Eastern Europe work 1-2 hours late and travel at low speeds, making traveling with them quite long (10+ hours).
Check the schedules well (online + call at the departure station) and pack enough books + food. Wagons are usually clean and safe and offer free sightseeing!
Bus trip to Plovdiv
The cities and capitals of the Eastern European countries are connected by bus routes, but it is best to explore them locally and check the time and departure prices. One of the major bus companies operating in the city is Eurolines, which has quite a number of connections with different cities inside and outside the country.
However, keep in mind that bus travel can be a short-distance solution, but longer routes such as Plovdiv - Köln, Plovdiv - Paris, for example, mean many hours spent in the bus or waiting at the border crossings.
No matter how you decide to get to the city under the hills, we guarantee that it will be worth it and you’ll spend an unforgettable time in the oldest live city in Europe.