Everything you have to know about the transportation in Bulgaria – trains, busses, shared community drives, facebook car pooling, hiking and much more

 

Bulgaria is a relatively small country and getting around between the big cities is quite easy, except if you are going from Sofia to Varna by car. There is still no highway.

To start with, you have to know that there are 4 transportation modes used in Bulgaria:

          1) Air
          2) Rail
          3) Road by bus
          4) Road by car
1) Let’s look at the air mode first:

There are 4 main airports in Bulgaria. They are situated in the 4 biggest cities in the country – in Sofia, Varna, Burgas and Plovdiv. There are 2 Terminals in the airport of Sofia and 1 terminal in the other 3 cities. The main airline serving the 4 cities is called “BulgariaAir”. Its website can be found here: https://www.air.bg/en/

In Bulgaria you can use it if you would like to travel from Sofia to Varna, Varna to Sofia, Sofia to Bourgas and Bourgas to Sofia. There are the only relations which our national airline serves on the territory of Bulgaria. Ticket prices vary, depending on many well known criteria and 1 single travel ticket can cost you between 50 and 100 Euro in one direction.

2) Let’s look at the rail mode second:

Trains in Bulgaria are very old. There haven’t been any major reconstructions or improvements neither in the train network system nor in the trains themselves. Travelling by train is one of the cheapest modes in Bulgaria but you have to know that there is absolute no comfort and our trains travel very slow. In particular if you want to travel between Sofia and Bourgas by train it will take you approximately 9 hours. If you travel by car it will take you maximum 4 hours. On the main website you can find more information about the ticket prices, the routes and the timetables:

http://www.bdz.bg/en/

Be aware that in the trains there is no air-conditioning and in the summer months (June till September) it can get really hot inside. There is no security as well. That is why you have to be aware of your personal belongings all the time.

3) Let’s look at the road by bus mode third:

Travelling by bus in Bulgaria is much more comfortable than travelling by train. Though, it is more slowly than travelling by car. The positive thing is that there are bus stations in all major and small cities in Bulgaria and theoretically you can get everywhere by bus. There are 3 major bus operators in Bulgaria:

          – Biomet http://www.biomet.bg/english/schedule.php. This transport provider serves between the biggest cities in Bulgaria: Sofia – Veliko Tarnovo – Varna; Sofia – Ruse – Tutrakan – Silistra; Sofia – Stara Zagora – Burgas; By now this is the most reliable transport provider by bus; Prices vary between 10 and 17 Euros in one direction, depending where you would like to go and where you get on the bus; If you buy a two-way ticket there is a price discount and maximum which you can pay is about 30 Euros (2 way ticket); The advantage of Biomet is that the drivers are very experienced, there is an air-conditioner in all buses and there are movie screens inside. Times go by really fast. The only disadvantage is that the bus is set to have a maximum speed of 99 km/h which makes the journey a little bit slower than a journey by car.

The best thing about Biomet is that you can buy a ticket online in advance if you have a valid Debit or Credit Card and reserve a seat. You can do it on the following website http://busticket.bg/index.jsp?lang=en. Go and register yourself first. Pick up the date when you would like to travel first (if you are going back click on the Return box), then select your starting Point (Sofia, Varna, Burgas, etc) and select your final destination (Sofia, Varna, Burgas, etc). Select an hour to go and to come back. The system will automatically propose you all the available hours for the date chosen. Select your ticket (one way or two way; if you are a student or a pensioner there is a discount – select that). Pick up a seat for each ride and pay for your ticket. You can upload it to your smartphone and you are ready to go. Another important detail is that Biomet serves during the summer only the biggest resorts in Bulgaria ( Sunny Beach, Golden Sands, Albena). Therefore, you can catch a bus from Sofia and go straight to Sunny Beach for example.

          – Etap&Group http://www.etapgroup.com/?lang=_en. transport provider serves between different big and small cities Bulgaria; Prices are similar as the prices of Biomet but you have to have in mind, that this transport provider has bus stops in every big and small city on the way, and your journey can easily increase by an hour or 2 because of the stops. The buses are not as modern as the buses of Biomet, but they are still OK. There is an air conditioner inside. There could be a lack of a movie screen. An additional disadvantage of this bus line is that they do not offer online tickets reservation. You can buy a ticket only from a desk. A list with all desks you can find here: http://www.etapgroup.com/biletni-centrove.

          – Union Ivkoni – http://www.union-ivkoni.com/home . Unfortunately their website is in Bulgarian only.

If you are not sure when exactly you will arrive (what time) than you can just go to every bus station and ask for a ticket to your destination. If there aren’t any national holidays, than you will have 99% chance to get a ticket because there is not full bus capacity utilization.

Here are the websites of the major Busstations in Bulgaria:

          – Sofiahttp://www.centralnaavtogara.bg/
          – Varnahttp://www.autogaravn.com/ – the website has no english verison, but if you open it with Google Chrome you can always right-click in the body of the page and click “Translate to English”.
Here you can find a map and contact details of the main bus station in Varna: http://www.autogaravn.com/contacts/
The railway station, the bus station and the airport in Varna are far from each other. If you think of combining different modes of transportation then you need a plan.
          – Burgashttp://burgasbus.info/burgasbus/?page_id=71 – the website has no english verison, but if you open it with Google Chrome you can always right-click in the body of the page and click “Translate to English”.
The bus station is located right here. Please look at the map. The good thing in Bourgas is that the train station and the bus station are next to each other. Therefore you can combine these 2 modes of transportation. Unfortunatelly, the airport is not but there is a regular bus line to there. It is bus number 15 and it goes every 20 minutes from Burgas Bus and Train station to Burgas Airport. If you would like to go from Bourgas to Nessebar, Sunny Beach, Sozopol, Pomorie or other resort on the sea side, you can catch during the day a small bus (the same bus station) for a price between 3 and 5 Euro one direction.
          – Plovdiv – http://www.avtogara-plovdiv.info/ – the website has no english verison, but if you open it with Google Chrome you can always right-click in the body of the page and click “Translate to English”.

4) Let’s look at the road by car mode:

This is by far the most convenient and the fastest (after the air mode) mode of transportation. If you don’t own a car, do not worry. There are different options.

          – You can rent a car in all major cities in Bulgaria (Sofia, Varna, Burgas, Plovdiv)

          – You can join a car pooling group and ride as cheap as for only 10 Euro from Sofia to the sea side

In Bulgaria there are indeed car pooling websites but almost nobody uses them because of the lack of security who exactly is behind the profile. For this reason, the car pooling in Bulgaria is done by 99% entirely on Facebook. Yes, exactly – on Facebook. There are facebook pages full of members. Those pages have been created by private individuals and they have the name of the relation which you are travelling.
For example if you would like to travel from Sofia to Varna or Varna to Sofia you can join one of the following groups:

          – https://www.facebook.com/groups/188085691330088/?ref=bookmarks

          – https://www.facebook.com/groups/425409490804647/?ref=bookmarks
Don’t forget that you have to click join the group first. Then you will have to wait for an administrator to approve your request. After that as all posts are written in Bulgaria, do not hesitate to write a post in English that you are looking for a transportation between Sofia and Varna for example, for a specific date and time (if necessary) and that you have one or two or three suitcases with you. People will contact you very soon and that is why you have to unlock the feature in facebook to receive messages from people who are not in your friends list. Otherwise you won’t receive any request when someone is sending you a text message via messenger/facebook. Never forget to fix the pick up and the drop-off location before the actual day of transportation, as well the price. The usual and the highest price possible for Sofia – Varna and Varna – Sofia is 10 Euro (20 leva). If someone wants you more, do not get in this deal. As there are mainly young drivers in the facebook groups ( 20 – 30 years old), they will most probably to take you and drop you off where you tell them. If you are travelling during the summer do not forget to ask the driver whether he/she has an air conditioner in his car.  This is necessary because the car park in Bulgaria is pretty old and a great percentage of the vehicles lack an air conditioner.

If you would like to travel from Sofia to Burgas or Burgas to Sofia you can join one of the following group:
          – https://www.facebook.com/groups/170166326408823/?ref=browser . The same rules as above apply here as well.

If you would like to travel from Sofia to Plovdiv or Plovdiv to Sofia you can join one of the following group:
          – https://www.facebook.com/groups/347973931909973/?fref=ts

Hiking is not used any more actively but for your information if you really want to hike you can just find a spot on the exit of each city in the direction where you would like to go and lift your finger. If you are looking pretty OK, you will for sure find a car driver in your direction. Prepare yourself and print on a A4 sheet of paper your destination so that the drivers know where you would like to go. Otherwise you risk to wait longer on the road with your finger lifted up.

If you are looking for another relation and you cannot find it on facebook or you have a question which has not been answered above please let me know:
georgi.nikolov@cars-help.com or per WhatsApp (+359 888 981 781)

 

Best Regards
Georgi