How to Explore Bulgaria by Train

Explore Bulgaria by train
Explore Bulgaria by train | © Ashik Salim / Unsplash
Maria Angelova

Bulgaria is a small country easy to navigate both by car and public transportation. While traveling by car and bus is the quickest way to arrive at your final destination, choosing a train ride is definitely the best for those who enjoy the concept of slow travel, meeting more locals and looking out at views that make you press your nose against the window. If this sounds like your dream trip, here’s our guide to traveling by train in Bulgaria.

Why exploring Bulgaria by train is so worth it

Traveling by train is the most affordable way to explore the country. A train ticket from Sofia to Plovdiv costs just US$5 (BGN9) for a two-hour train ride, for example. Although the trains are sometimes old and slow, traveling in compartments gives you the opportunity to socialize with other passengers and mingle with the locals.

Understanding the Bulgarian railroad system

The railroad system in Bulgaria has several main routes where the biggest number of trains run: Sofia – Plovdiv – Burgas, Sofia – Varna, Sofia – Ruse, Sofia – Vidin, Sofia – Blagoevgrad. It’s good to know that if you want to get to the southern Black Sea Coast (Burgas), there are two routes: one is passing through Plovdiv, and the other through Kazanlak and the Rose Valley. The two routes don’t differ much in travel time, only in the towns they pass by. The main above-mentioned routes are served by fast trains and ordinary trains, while the side routes that usually connect major cities with small towns and villages are only served by ordinary trains. If you buy a ticket for a long route on a ordinary train, be advised that the ride will last much longer and you will stop at every single little train station.

A Bulgarian train

What are the most scenic train rides

If you simply want to spend an hour or two on board a train and marvel at the landscape outside the window not really caring about the final destination, hop on a train that passes through the Iskar River Gorge (search for the route Sofia – Vratsa on the railway’s website and choose a station before Vratsa). The train is winding, following the curves of the Iskar River, with tiny villages perched on the hills that can be seen on both sides. For a truly unique experience, head to the town of Septemvri, from where you can take the last narrow-gauge train known for its incredibly slow speed and scenic route across three mountains.

Bulgarian train

What are some useful things to know

All trains are run by the Bulgarian State Railroad Company. You can buy train tickets online, but only for a few rides served by the fast trains. It’s also good to know that once you’ve purchased the e-ticket, you will have to find somewhere to print it, so in many cases it’s easier to buy a ticket from a ticket office. The small town and village stations often have no ticket offices. If this is the case, you can buy a ticket from the ticket inspector on the train.

Most train stations are closed at night unless there is a train arriving, so spending the night in the waiting hall is usually impossible. The language barrier might be another problem, even at big train stations like Sofia where the workers behind the glass of the ticket office rarely speak English. While communicating with them, keep in mind the fact that Bulgarians shake their heads for ‘yes’ and nod for ‘no’. All the information on the ticket itself is only in Bulgarian as well, so if you feel perplexed, ask a young person (they are the most likely to speak English) to help you.

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.


Keen to explore the world?

Our passionately curated premium small-group trips are an invitation to connect with like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences.