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Bulgaria-Greece-Ukraine


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Istanbul – Bulgaria Travel Info

By Bus/Coach

There are frequent departures to Bulgarian cities such as Plovdiv, Haskovo and Sofia from Istanbul. Buses go less often to coastal towns. Almost all services leave from the Buyuk Otogar (Central Bus Station) in Esenler. Alternatively, take a bus to the historic Turkish town of Edirne, from where there are buses to Bulgarian cities, including border towns such as Haskovo.

Bus tickets can be bought online, via a travel agency, or directly from the Big Bus Station. Most agencies will charge a small commission for booking so it can be cheaper to buy directly from the Big Bus Station. However, the Station can be chaotic and confusing for visitors so buying beforehand can help to take the hassle out of the experience. Buses are usually comfortable and fast, and some are equipped with inbuilt TV screens (content in Turkish only), and they provide passengers with complimentary tea, coffee and snacks.

There are several bus companies servicing Istanbul/Bulgaria, the most popular of which are listed below. Varan and Metro have the most English-friendly websites.

Varan Turizm:
Services to Sofia, Haskovo, Varna and Plovdiv.
Büyük Otogar (Main Bus Station) Office Number. 15-16
Call Centre: +90 (212) 444 8 999

Metro Turizm:
Daily bus services from Istanbul to Sofia via Svilengrad, Haskovo and Plovdiv.
Buses depart from Istanbul at 09:00 am, 12:00, 17:30, 20:30, 21:30 and 23:00.
From Sofia to Istanbul, departures are at 07:15, 09:00, 12:00, 17:00, 20:30 and 23:00.
Buyuk Otogar (Main Bus Station) Office Number No. 107
Istanbul Tel: +90 (212) 658 1050, -1051
Sofia Tel: +359 (2) 325131-333281
Plovdiv Tel: +359 (32) 620063

Alpar Turizm:
Buyuk Otogar (Main Bus Station) No. 37:
Bus services to Plovdiv and Sofia, as well as to Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania.
Istanbul Tel: +90 (212) 658 3540/3541/3542/3543
Sofia Tel: +359 (2) 525 004
Plovdiv Tel: +359 (32) 631 948

Huntur Turizm:
Buyuk Otogar No. 126
Daily bus services from Istanbul to Sofia, Plovdiv, Haskovo, Ruse, Kirdzali (Kircali) and Silistra.
Istanbul Tel +90 (212) 658 0061

By Train

There is a nightly sleeper train from Sirkeci Railway Station in Eminonu which departs at 10pm for Sofia, stopping in at Edirne, Kapikule, Svilengrad and Plovdiv, and arriving in Sofia at 11.40am the next day. The train goes on to Belgrade. Be prepared to get out the train at the border points, where the bureaucracy is infamously difficult and can take anywhere from 1 – 3 hours. Make sure to have your passport and travel documents on you at all times. Train tickets can be purchased directly from the International Travel booth at Sirkeci Railway Station.

The return train from Sofia to Istanbul departs Sofia at 7.30pm each evening, arriving in Istanbul at 8am the next day. Tickets can be purchased from Sofia’s main railway station or at select travel agencies in the city centre.

For further details on rail travel between Turkey and Bulgaria, check out Seat 61.

By Plane

Turkish Airlines has regular direct flights from Istanbul to Sofia and Varna. Check out the Turkish Airlines website for further details.


Istanbul - Greece Travel Info

By Bus/Coach

There are frequent, comfortable bus services running between Istanbul and several Greek cities. Buses leave from Istanbul’s Buyuk Otogar (Main Bus Station) in Esenler to cities such as Thessaloniki (approximately 12hours) and Athens (20 -22 hours), stopping off at Xanthi (Iskeçe), Komotini (Gümülcine) and Larisa. Some bus companies have online booking systems, or else they can be purchased from one of the many travel agencies in Istanbul or directly from the Main Bus Station.
Some bus companies which travel to and from Greece are listed below (with their Buyuk Otogar ticket office numbers):

Metro Turizm:
Daily bus services from Istanbul to Thessaloniki at 10am and 10pm.
Buyuk Otogar (Main Bus Station) Office Number No. 107
Istanbul Tel: +90 (212) 658 1050, -1051

Ulusoy:
Ulusoy has buses from Istanbul to Athens about once a week. The journey takes around 20 hours. The English version of Ulusoy’s website doesn’t function well but you can still check.
Büyük Otogar (Main Bus Station) Office No. 127-128
Email: musteri@ulusoy.com.tr
Call centre: +90 (212) 444 1888 / +90 (532) 444 1 888

Derya Tur:
Derya Tur runs buses to Thessaloniki and Athens, as well as to Tirana, Albania.
Büyük Otogar (Main Bus Station) Office No. 57
Tel: +90 (212) 658 0292

By Train

There is a nightly ‘Filia-Dostluk Express’ sleeper train departing at 9pm from Istanbul’s Sirkeci Railway Station for Thessaloniki in Greece. The Filia-Dostluk Expres is a modern, comfortable, air-conditioned train. Tickets can be purchased directly from the International Travel booth at Sirkeci Railway Station. Note that you will have to disembark the train at the border posts. Make sure to have your passport and travel documents on you at all times.

The train from Istanbul to Thessaloniki arrives at 9.20am (55 Euros per person sharing a 2-bed compartment; 88 Euros for private compartment). From Thessaloniki there is a direct train to Athens at 10.21am, arriving in Athens at 3.15pm. You must pay extra for this segment. For more details on train travel between Turkey and Greece, check out Seat 61.

By Plane

Several airlines operate services between Istanbul and Greek cities such as Thessaloniki, Athens, Mykonos and Santorini. Airlines flying between Istanbul and Greece include Turkish Airlines; Aegean Air; Olympic Air; Aeroflot; and Atlas Jet.


Istanbul - Ukraine Travel Info

By Plane

Airlines flying direct between Istanbul and the Ukraine include Turkish Airlines and Aerosvit Airlines.

By Ferry

There is a weekly car and passenger ferry service between Istanbul and Odessa with the UKR Ferry Shipping Company. The journey takes around 36 hours and leaves Istanbul at midnight on a Thursday, returning from Odessa on Mondays. 1st or 2nd class cabins can be booked and prices include 3 meals. There is a restaurant, nightclub, video bar and sundecks on board. Check UKR Ferry's website for further details and up-to-date schedules.

There are also services running between Istanbul and Sevastopol and Yalta. Check out FerryLines.com for up-to-date ferry information to/from Istanbul.

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Istanbul Photos

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    Kadikoy Bazaar ©Helen Simpson

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Norman

"I see my path, but I don't know where it leads. Not knowing where I'm going is what inspires me to travel it" - Rosalia de Castro