727 - İstanbul Sofya Treni - OnurPassenger

Istanbul Sofia train guide for beginners

Train service between Istanbul and Sofia has started. But it’s not easy to reach to clear official information. 

We travelled to Sofia for you, and prepare this little guide:

Ticket sales at Sirkeci

Unfortunately, there’s no way to buy it through internet. There’s no even way to buy it from a train station other than Sirkeci. But don’t worry. Train is not full, you can buy it just before you get on the train.

No names on tickets, you can buy it before you decide with whom to go. 🙂

Roundtrip is possible, but no discount. Cash and credit card are accepted.

Where’s Sirkeci station?

Do not expect much to learn at ticket office

There were two officiers at Sirkeci with very limited English. One of them didn’t want to answer any question even in Turkish.

Timetable and ticket fares of Istanbul-Sofia train

Train departs from Halkali

Unfortunately, trains cannot reach Istanbul city center yet. The departure station is Halkali, 20 km west of Istanbul.

Where’s Halkalı Station?

But do not worry. In March 2019, Marmaray project was commissioned. The suburban trains started running between Gebze and Halkali, which enables reaching Halkali without any interchange from many points in Istanbul, such as Sirkeci, Bakirkoy, Bostanci, Ayrilikcesmesi, Sogutlucesme.

Marmaray suburban trains

Cover Photo: Onur Uysal ©

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70 replies »

  1. Why are there so few passengers on the Sofia/Bucarest-Halkali Istanbul route ? Well, I took the Bucarest Halkali sleeper last month, but only very few people know it exists. The DB or SBB online timetable show all the relations with train changes (3 train changes for the Bucarest Halkali train) but they don’t mention anything about direct carriages (…) – If they would update their website info, or if TCDD would tell them to do, then they would stand a chance to attract more travellers (apart from the rail enthusiasts, the Interrail travellers …)

    • you are completely right. I will tell this, when I find chance to meet anyone responsible for passenger transport.

  2. Hi, I want to take the train from Sofia to Istambul. Do you know where I can buy the tickets in Sofia? Thanks for the help!

    • With SBB at the station in Switzerland they proposed 1st class single sleeper Bucuresti – Halkali Istanbul for CHF 200; the same purchased at Bucuresti the day of the travel came out half price (and they accept CC payments). In meantime I learnt that the sleeper car has been cut.

  3. My mom and are will be traveling from Istanbul to Bulgaria and then beyond. We have the Eurail Global Pass which says it includes trains into and out of Turkey. We will be traveling to Sofia from Halkalı and would like to purchase a Sleeper compartment. What would be our cost for each ticket (double occupancy one-way)?

    • the supplement is mentioned in the website of TCDD as 15 €/person if you reserve double occupancy in sleeper.

    • Hello, I bought 2 tickets but unfortunately I cannot attend my journey with the train. It’s possible to be refunded?

      Thank you

  4. That was great train and the quality was high…but we right now are in sofia, unfortunately we bought the return ticket from istanbul and we want to change the date, today we go to station international part and they said we should pay 60 AB to change the date, there is no hint or at least rule for that and the lady could not just explain the situation….

    • Sorry to hear that. Let me check what happens if you want to change a return ticket of Sofia Express in Turkey.

    • Hi sonia, congratulation i need some information to you. You go sofia from istambul. Have needed any visa for sofia?

  5. Thanks for this informative site, Onur! I’m on the train now. It’s great.

    You might want to add a couple things:

    1) they took my ticket away and now I’m not sure what time it stops next Plovdiv. Around 8, I think. So stopping times would be great!

    2) Might be worth mentioning that their is no WiFi, as far as I can find.

    Thanks again. 🙂

    • Hi Steffani. There’s a link to timetable in the post. I prefer a link rather than a image, since timetable may change..

      And thanks for WiFi info.

      I hope you enjoyed your trip..

  6. Hi, do you know if is usually train delay? I have a lot of experiences with high delay of Balkans trains… I would like to catch flight at 12:00 from Sofia airport and I don´t know if is it possible, thanks.

  7. Hi,
    I’m planning a trip to Turkey and I would like to take the train from Sofia to get off at Edirne. There is no way to reserve tickets on the Bulgarian railways website. Can they be booked only at the Sofia station? Looking at the timetable the train stops at 3-4a.m. at Edirne station, is it correct? Are there connections from the station to the center at that time?
    Thanks, Gio

    • unfortunately, sofia express is not sold online. yes, arrival at Edirne is too late (or too early should I say). train station is at the edges of the city, 5 km from city center. only transport to city center is by taxi at that time. ask help from station staff if needed.

  8. hello, thank you for sharing this information of train to Sofia. This is very useful for us.

    And excuse me that I have a question. If I would take the train from Edirne to Sofia. How much is the ticket price? (I cannot find any hints or info from internet, there is only price from Istanbul to Sofia.)

    Thank you very much.

  9. They charged me 10 EUR for my bike, even when I took of the wheels and it fitted perfectly in my compartment. At the ticket office they said I could take the bike without any cost, on the train I had to pay 10 EUR. Also the trainstaff is very unfriendly.

  10. Can I buy sleeper tickets in Istanbul for the train Plovdiv-istanbul?
    Also if I read correctly there is no sleeper trains from Oct 2 on, I’m travelling Oct 19

  11. Can’t remember but found out since that it’s incorrect but apparently because of construction on the line there have been long delays and the train goes only part of the way in Turkey and then you get bussed the rest because there are stations closed due to the same rail construction what do you know?

  12. I took the train this weekend but the train arrived in Sofia 4 hours later and on the way back, the train arrived in Halkali 2 hours later. I tried to claim but TCDD does not want to be responsible for it. Do you know how i can claim for it?

    • Hi Gonzalo. Sorry about that. TCDD Tasimacilik website explains such cases as below: “If it becomes clear that train will arrive destination with a delay of 60 min or more, passenger has the right to get off the train. Then the amount for “not travelled distance” will be refunded. This has to be done during travel, not afterwards. After travel, the only channel TCDD accepts complaints is written application to head of TCDD Tasimacilik or regional offices (in Istanbul, it’s at Haydarpasa). Since it’s a cooperated train, you can also follow steps of BDZ (Bulgarian State Railways).

  13. Hi, I shall be traveling to Istanbul for a holiday,and would like to visit sofia, some information (1) where to buy Train ticket ( 2) what is the cost for sleeper for two (3)how much it cost (4)and where to buy tickets in Istanbul (5)up to date timetable,I would appreciate in advance for info you will provide, cheers

  14. Hi ..
    thank you so match for all these important information.
    some details was not enough clear for me, about prices; It,s a bit confused:
    1- Should I by ticket for couchette first, then I have to by ticket for sleepers in addition?
    2- is single room (one bed) available? how much is it?
    3- How much the ticket (istanbul – sofia) – including sleeper (room with 2 beds- and single room).
    4- Can I buy tickets for round trip from Istanbul? Is it good choice?
    best regards

  15. Hi, is it possible to buy the tickets a day before departure? Will they be likely sold out? departure is Sunday (night) in March.

  16. Muchas gracias por el post! Ha sido de gran utilidad.
    Thanks a lot for sharing the information! It was very helpful.

    • Thanks for such useful information!
      Do you know (BDZ email does not respond):
      1. The price from Dimitrovgrad to Halkali is the same like for the whole route?
      2. Can we buy tickets in Sofia international cash desks but from Dimitrovgrad?
      3. So, now there is no bus shuttle – passengers have to travel by themselves (by Marmaray – suburban trains)?

    • Thanks. 1. It’ll surely be less, but don’t know. 2. sorry, don’t know. it would be good to tell us if you learn. 3. no bus anymore. but I’d not suggest using it if it were. marmaray is easier to get in, faster to reach, safer and more reliable.

  17. Read from top to bottom searching for the ticket charges. Saw lot many poor jokes though information was good, but no train fares. No pun intended !

    • Hi Sam, train fares is in first page, under heading “Do not expect much to learn at ticket office”. It’s a link to train’s page at Rail Turkey to ensure that you reach up-to-date information any time.

  18. we valued this account loads. And you were so correct about the ticket office. we purchased our ticket from Sirkeci station and from there is a bus transfer at 21;30 hrs

    • Happy to hear that. Now that Marmaray suburban trains work, I guess no more shuttle service between Sirkeci and Halkali.

  19. I ll tell in case I use it! About Marmaray 1. Do you need Istanbul card to use it from Halkali to Sirkeci (as I understood it does not include in price of train Sofia-Istanbul? 2. How long it takes between this stations? 3. What is the price? Thanks!

  20. We’ve just returned from our trip to Istanbul from Sofia. Few practical notices: 1. The bus shuttle from Halkali is still EXIST (you can see the timetable on Sirkeci). 2. In Sirkeci they do accept just credit card (not debit card) – do not know what is the difference. 3. There are 3 couches in the train – one is for 4 persone (sleeping). 4. On the way to Istanbul we were 15mins late, from Istanbul to Sofia – about 1hour. Soon will write a post with photo in my blog (in Ukrainian).

  21. Merhaba! Me and my boyfriend and planning to travel back to Italy from Istanbul and we would like tot take the train to avoid the plane because we have 2 dogs. They are quite big but we have cages for them. Is it possible to bring them in the cages ?

  22. Hi! I would like to know if the Istambul – Sofia express train is still operating. If it is not, due to pandemic issue, I would like to know when will it be operating again.
    Thank you in advance

    • It’s not operating, due to pandemic. Restart time not announced. Most probably end of pandemic will be waited.

  23. thank you for this very helpful review! seeing from the answers you got, it’s apparently impossible to take the Sofia Istanbul Express due to pandemic. however i would like to know if the train will be avaiable again, can we use it through Interrail Pass ? because i cannot get any information from interrail.eu and nothing from Turkish and Bulgarian transportation websites.
    thank you in advance !

    • I guess, this will be the first train to start after pandemic comes to end in both countries. Will surely announce via Rail Turkey.

    • No WiFi on train, but 4G almost whole way with 5G sometimes. Ensure you have good roaming or local simcard of course.

  24. Hi!

    Tickets for Istanbul – Sofia can be bought on Halkali as well – guide needs to be updated. May be important when using it right after the airport!
    Maybe worth mentioning nearest supermarket to buy some food is 5-10 mins walk uphill.

    • Worth mentioning, international ticket office is number 1 on the right side and you may need to explicitly ask for someone as this desk was empty when I came. Only after I asked in another cash desk (after waiting in line) the guy came there.

    • So you arrived and bough your tickets at Halkali. I’m very glad to hear that. I’ll add existence of international ticket office at Halkali Station. Thank you. And enjoy your trip.

    • Bicycles are not allowed in sleepers/couchettes unfortunately. But I’d suggest to go a departure at Halkali before buying a ticket and talk directly to train chiefs. Maybe they can offer you a way considering condition of train.

    • Thank you very much. This is really good information for a first time traveler like me.

  25. Hi! I want to take my dog with me, should I buy an extra ticket for her? I’m planning to buy a compartment for one person.

    • In Turkey, pets are not allowed at sleepers. I’d strongly suggest to talk that when/before buying ticket.

  26. Hi! First of all: Thank you very much for this information, it’s really useful.
    In our case, we will be travelling first half of April from Bucharest to Istanbul.
    We already learned that the season for the Bosphorus Express (Bucharest-Istanbul) will still not be open, so we have to travel to Bulgaria (first stop Ruse), and decide from where to take the train to Istanbul, as we prefer night trains with a 2yo child (instead of a bus).

    Do you know about experiences taking train in Dimitrovgrad instead of Sofía or Plovdiv? Just because of uncertainty I would travel to Sofía, but might not be the most convenient.

    Thanks again!

    • Hi Miguel. Thank you for the kind words. Both Plovdiv and Dimitrovgrad are ok. Two cons: Very late boarding times and possible waiting due to delays.


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