Bus Sofia <-> Istanbul

Today I arrived back to Istanbul from my one-week-trip “home” to Sofia. I had a great week climbing, snowboarding, going to vernissages, museums, markets and meeting a lot of friends again.

To go with bus to Sofia from Istanbul is very easy and only costs 20 euro one way. There is a lot of bus companies to choose from, and the buses departs several times a day. Because the trip is about 8-9 hours I would recommending taking the night bus at 10 pm, which makes you miss less time and you can get some sleep at the same time. Do not have anything important planned soon after arriving because delays are common, sometimes up to 6 hours but more commonly for 1-2 hours.

The bus company I would recommend you to take is HAS Turizm which have comfortable buses, good service, few people and almost never any tourists. Also included in the price is water, tea, coffee and cake. Don’t expect anyone on the bus to speak English though, so if you want to have more control, go with for example METRO Turizm which have mostly tourists. This company is 5 euro more expensive, but have more comfortable seats together with your own personal media machine where you can watch movies, listen to music, use internet, play games and so on. Be aware that it is not uncommon for all the media machines in the bus not to work.

When you buy the ticket to the Istanbul bus, you can pre-book the ticket some days in advance, or show up one hour before departure (the buses usually don’t get full). Some of the companies tell you that you need a visa in your passport and will not sell you a ticket without this, but this is incorrect. Some nationalities don’t need a visa, and for the rest of you there is a possibility to buy a visa when you reach the border. You need cash though, don’t expect to pay with a payment card, but there should exist an ATM nearby where you can withdraw money.

About the customs between Turkey and Bulgaria, the bus will stop 3 or 4 times. The first stop will be a passport check in your departing country. don’t hesitate to leave away your passport, this is standard procedure and all the passports will be collected later by the bus driver and given back to you. Also here you might need to buy a visa if you don’t already have one. The price for this should be around 15 euro and you can probably pay with Bulgarian Lev, Turkish Lire or Euro. Some nationalities don’t need to get a visa, so check this before you start your trip.

The second stop is duty free shopping. Don’t buy anything that is in a closed box (like some cigarettes) because the customs don’t like this. Sometimes though the bus drivers ask everyone on the bus to ask one big box each for them, and then gives the people who does this a cigarette package each as a “thank you” present.

The third stop is the real customs with luggage check, sometimes skipped. Here everyone has to exit the bus again and place their luggage on a bench. Then some employee of the customs/police will go through your stuff, opening every closed package you have if you are unlucky. Food and beverage (in large amounts at least) is illegal to take between the countries. About half of the times this step with opening your bags will not happen, but be prepared to show everything you have in your bag just in case.

The fourth (and last) stop will be the passport control of the country where you are going to. Same thing here, you will leave away your passport, just to be collected later again by the bus driver and given back to you.

20 Responses to “Bus Sofia <-> Istanbul”

  1. Wes Engblom says:

    Nice to be here! I arrived at your blog via this post and I liked it so much I’ve subscribed to your rss. Thanks for the great information!

  2. Lia says:

    Hi! I am currently staying in Istanbul for my studies. I have to leave turkey within 3 months in order to prolong my visa. Could you maybe tell me if I will get a new visa when I re-enter by bus? This because I have to get one in order to finish my semester here. Thanks a lot in advance! Greetings

  3. Lia says:

    Oh, on top of this… Do you know if travelling by train is maybe even a better option? And.. do I have possibilities with visa when I do that? Thanks a lot!

  4. World nomad says:

    Hi Lia! Yes you will prolong your visa with 3 more months (unlimited times) when crossing the border, a lot of people do this. I think the train or bus is whichever you like most, and depending if you only want to cross the border or combine it with going somewhere interesting for the weekend. Good luck!

  5. amir says:

    Hi! I am Amir. Thank you for this information.you wrote” some nationalities don’t need a visa, and for the rest of you there is a possibility to buy a visa when you reach the border”, I want to know any nationalities can bye the visa or it is just for turkish?
    Best regards!

  6. World nomad says:

    Hi Amir! The impression I got was that most nationalities can buy the visa at the border. But the best thing for you is to ask your embassy or consulate. If you get any interesting information that is not covered in the post above, feel free to post it as a comment!

  7. amir says:

    Hi! Thank you. I am Iranian and I want to go Istanbul, then I am going to go to Sofia! Our embassy responsible for direct traveling from Iran to Bulgaria! I am worry about the Bulgaria border that I am not Turkish!

  8. Istanbul transfer - World Nomad says:

    […] first two I only spend 1-2 days but for Sri Lanka it will be a 10 day transfer. Again, I took the bus from Sofia to Istanbul which takes 9 hours and cost around 25 euro. Together with a friend who joined me from Bulgaria we […]

  9. Olga says:

    Hello guys!
    I’ve been reading this topic – thank you for information.
    I wonder if you know where the bus from Sofia stops in Istanbul?
    What bus station does it arrive to?
    The thing is that my mother wants to go to Istanbul from Sofia by bus and I have to meet her in Istanbul. Both of us have never been to the city before.

  10. World Nomad says:

    That will be a bit tricky as the bus stops at a bus station quite outside of the Istanbul center. From there your mother then needs to take a mini-bus which should take her to Taksim square. I don’t know the name of the bus station so you will need to ask the bus company from which you book the ticket for the name of the bus station.

  11. zak says:

    I am planning to travel from Belgrade to Sofia then take that bus to Istanbuul.. It would be great for me to discover the majors cities on the way , i can can stay 1day in each city , what are the major cities worth to spend some time , on my way to Istanbul ?would it be more expensive if i take the bus from different cities on different steps , to Istanbul ?

  12. World Nomad says:

    Probably the buses are more cheap if you travel longer distances instead of making several stops. For the cities you should visit it’s a very individual choice but I would say that wherever you go you need more than one day in a city. Enjoy Sofia and Istanbul!

  13. Mao says:

    the bus website doesnt work but where can I buy the ticket from Sofia to Istanbul? because the website doesnt work, I guess i have to go to the central station to purchase the ticket?

  14. World Nomad says:

    The bus web site DO work (www.centralnaavtogara.bg) but it’s best to go to the bus station to buy the ticket.

  15. amit says:

    When is the last bus from Istanbul to sofia? is there a bus from istanbul to Sopot Bulgaria?
    wht is the price for the ticket & how do you book these tickets online in advance?

  16. World Nomad says:

    You can probably call the bus companies and ask for these details + book the bus on the phone.

  17. Louise says:

    I am sorry but I disagree. Myself and 15 other people from many nationalities, had a horrendous bus ride from Istanbul to Sofia. First the only information that I could get was to turn up to a train station in Istanbul and get on a bus. Yes it is very cheap, but no Itinery, no jo formation, no time you get anywhere, no information on When or where we were going.

    The nightmare began when we were dumped at the border of Istanbul and Bulgaria at 0230hrs. We were told from a passager who spoke Bulgarian that we would be picked up at 0530 hrs by bus to the border. At 0700 hrs we bagan to get concerned. There was no water, no food, no where to sleep, and again no information. There was no where to wash, nothing. At 0800hrs after much yelling from the bus driver, first we were told that the bus broke down. Then we were told that the driver did not have a green card and could not go oer the border. We were the told that there was another bus, but we had to wait another 8 hours.

    The bus was no broken, the driver could drive and did drive in Bulgaria. We managed to transfer from one bus to another at the border. We were at the border for 3 hours. Again, with no water, no food an no toiletries. When we did get going several detours were taken by the bus driver with no explaination. Apparently to pick up some people that did not come form Istantbul.

    Eventually we made it to A trai. Station, where we were dumped again. No explanation, again, no food or water.

    This comment is written in a hurry, I would advise anyone travelling. To NEVER TAKE ABUS FROM ISTANBUL TO SOFIA OR BUDAPEST. NIGHTMARE.

  18. World Nomad says:

    Which company was this with? Yes it is definitely possible with big delays and other adventures on this bus route, but it is not unique for going by bus between Istanbul and Sofia. About the food and water I would suggest to bring both this and also money so that you can use the shop at the border or in the train station, which are both cheap.

  19. Tabbasum says:

    I am living in Germany and wish to buy a Metro plus bus ticket from Istanbul to sofia in advance or reserved a seat.

  20. simos says:

    does anybody knows as Cypriot if I need visa to travel from Sofia to Istanbul ?

    thanks in advance

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