There are four international airports in Bulgaria, located in the cities of Sofia, Varna, Burgas and Plovdiv, but the traditional national airlines (such as Lufthansa, British Airways, Turkish Airways, etc.) only serve Sofia International Airport. However, there are numerous offers for charter and last-minute flights to Varna or Burgas from Western Europe (especially Germany and the UK). With these, you can fly from German airports to Bulgaria and back for less than 100 euros, if you are lucky.
Recently, some low-cost airlines have also started offering regular flights to Bulgaria.
- Wizz Air offers direct scheduled flights between Sofia and Barcelona, Brussels, Budapest, Dortmund, Eindhoven, Frankfurt Hahn, Froli, Larnaca, London Luton, Madrid, Milan, Paris, Rome, Valencia and Venice. The airline also offers weekly direct flights between Burgas and Budapest, Katowice, London Luton, Poznan, Prague, Warsaw-Chopin, Warsaw-Modlin, as well as flights to and from Varna to Budapest and London Luton.
- germanwings offers flights to various European destinations.
- EasyJet connects Sofia with Berlin, London Gatwick, London Stansted and Manchester.
- Ryanair flies between Plovdiv and London Stansted, and Frankfurt Hahn.
In summer, charter flights can be offered at very good prices to the Black Sea airports of Varna and Burgas from many European cities (e.g..: Thomas Cook, Thomsonfly, Balkan Holidays Air [www], Bulgarian Air Charter, Monarch, Condor, Transaero, Utair and many others).
From the United States, the major airlines offer excellent connections to Bulgaria via Europe. The airports you can fly to with a major airline are Sofia and Varna.
There are also domestic flights between Sofia and Varna and between Sofia and Burgas with the national airline Bulgaria Air [www].
International trains offer a large number of connections to Bulgaria, including Sofia and Varna, from Kiev, Istanbul, Vienna and other cities.
The main trains from Bucharest to Sofia and back pass through the border town of Rousse twice a day. For example, trains from Bucharest to Sofia have recently started running during the day from 11.35 am/arrival at 9.30 pm and a night train from 7.35 pm/arrival at 6.10 am. Romanian passport control is at Giurgiu and Bulgarian passport control is at Rousse, both about halfway. Check local stations for up-to-date information.
The Flexipass for the Balkans could be a cheap way to travel to or from Bulgaria.
From 2011 to 2014, Greece suspended all international trains, including the train from Sofia to Thessaloniki. However, these have been restored.
If you want to reach Bulgaria by car from Western Europe, you have to drive through Serbia or Romania, or you can take a ferry from Italy to Greece.
The shortest route from Western Europe to Bulgaria is via Serbia. However, you should make sure you have a green card with you, as Serbia is not part of the EU. The most used Serbian route to Bulgaria (via Nis), on the other hand, is a narrow mountain road that can be exhausting due to heavy traffic. Recently, the construction of a motorway has started in Serbia to connect the eastern part of the country with Bulgaria and the traffic in the country should be relieved in the near future.
The other route, which only goes to Bulgaria and passes through Romania, is longer but can take much less time because Romania has motorways connecting its borders with Western Europe to Bulgaria, and as an EU member, EU citizens have fewer formalities at the Romanian borders. The route is also very suitable for people coming from northern Europe.
When crossing Greece, after passing through Thessaloniki, you can choose between three routes, depending on your final destination. If you are heading towards Sofia, western Bulgaria or the north, the fastest and shortest route is the one that leads to Serres and then to the Promahonas – Kulata border. If your destination is somewhere in the Rhodope Mountains (Smolyan, Pamporovo, Kurdzhali) or near Plovdiv, the shortest route is to Xanti (past Kavala) and then to the Thermal Baths – Zlatograd border. However, this route still needs to be rebuilt in Greece. Finally, if you are going to the Bugarian Sea, the fastest route is towards Komotini (past Kavala and Xanti) and then to the Ormenio – Captain Petko Voyvoda border.
In Bulgaria you have to pay the road tax at the border (approx. 5 euros for 7 days). You will receive a special sticker to put on your car. There are no toll booths on Bulgarian roads.
In addition to the vignette, you may have to pay the Bulgarian authorities’ health insurance (2 euros per person for 3 days, slightly more for more days). Be sure to get a receipt! Expect long queues on certain days that coincide with some Bulgarian public holidays.
Buses to and from Sofia go to most major cities in Europe. Bulgarian bus companies are cheaper (and usually offer less comfort), but tickets are hard to get when travelling to Bulgaria, so you can always take the Eurolines buses. Don’t be surprised if the bus driver charges each traveller an extra “right of way” – this way you can cross the border faster. Most buses from Western Europe pass through Serbia. So check beforehand if you need a transit visa (Serbian visas for EU citizens were recently abolished).
There are no regular boats to Bulgaria. There are sometimes cruise ships that dock in Varna and Burgas.