From Bulgaria to Turkey: An Overland Adventure Featuring Beautiful Scenery, Duty Free Shopping and Armed Guards!

From Bulgaria to Turkey: An Overland Adventure Featuring Beautiful Scenery, Duty Free Shopping and Armed Guards!

Ahoy, fellow adventurers! Today, I’m going to spill the beans on my epic overland crossing from Bulgaria to Turkey. Trust me; this journey is a rollercoaster ride of landscapes, cultures, and border crossings. So, fasten your seatbelts, and let’s dive right into this wild escapade!

The Highway to New Horizons

Picture this: one main highway stretching from Bulgaria to Turkey, connecting the vibrant Sofia to the charming Plovdiv and finally leading to the bustling metropolis of Istanbul. It’s like a traveler’s lifeline! We’re talking about loads of folks crossing this border daily, whether they’re off to explore Turkey’s wonders or returning to Bulgaria’s hidden gems.

Overnight Buses and the 4 AM Wake-Up Call

Oh, the thrill of overnight journeys! Most buses and the lone train from Bulgaria to Istanbul operate during the nocturnal hours, and trust me, they come with a surprise wake-up call at 4 AM for some good old immigration fun. But hey, there’s a silver lining – a few day buses do exist, whisking you away from Bulgaria and dropping you in Istanbul just in time for the evening extravaganza!

Metro Bus Company: The Timetable Shuffle

Picture this: the Metro Bus Company’s departure and arrival times from Sofia to Istanbul. Let’s be real – take those arrival times with a grain of salt! Border control and traffic delays might throw you a curveball, leaving you with a dash of suspense about when you’ll actually reach Istanbul. But hey, that’s all part of the adventure, right?

Current Time according to the the Metro website from Sofia to Istanbul are:-

17:00pm to 01.15am

17:00pm to 02:00am

20:30pm to 06:00am

23:00pm to 07:00am

23:00pm to 08:30am

My Hilarious Bus Experience

Alright, time for some laughter! I had been a seasoned traveler of overnight buses across Europe, but this time I decided to switch things up. Let’s face it; trying to catch some z’s during a midnight border crossing is no joke! So, I opted for the earliest day bus to Istanbul, ensuring I don’t end up like a sleep-deprived zombie in the city.

As I hopped on the bus from Sofia to Plovdiv to Istanbul, it seemed like everyone and their grandma had decided to join the party. The luggage storage was bursting at the seams with travelers hauling three or four massive bags each. It was like a game of Tetris down there!

The bus was comfy enough, but let’s just say, I had my share of “Are we there yet?” moments. Ten hours on the road can feel like a lifetime, especially when your playlist mysteriously ends after the first two hours.

Where Cultures Collide

You won’t believe the cultural kaleidoscope awaiting us on this overland odyssey. In Bulgaria, quaint churches and overgrown cemeteries dot the landscape, and you’ll spot crosses as far as the eye can see. But once we hit Turkish territory, get ready for a skyline dominated by towering mosques and elegant minarets. Talk about a culture shock – in the best possible way!

Border Shenanigans: Bulgaria to Turkey

Hold your breath – the Bulgarian immigration was surprisingly smooth, with two open lanes and no lines. Knowing the Bulgarian love for paperwork and double checking, I was amazed I tell you! But just across the border, things got serious. Big metal gates, armed guards on plastic chairs with even bigger guns – we’re in for a show!

After some waiting, we entered the free-zone between Bulgaria and Turkey, where our bus made a quick stop next to a multi-story duty-free store. Gotta love those shopping enthusiasts!

Turkish Immigration: The Final Hurdle

Now, it’s time to face the Turkish immigration. We lined up, passports and printed Turkish E-visas in hand, ready for the scrutiny. Oh, the tension! When my turn came, the immigration officer glanced at my Irish passport and after a couple of double takes just waved me on. A nod of approval, a stamp, and I was officially in Turkey!

After a quick bag scan, it was time to board the bus again. But hold on, a couple travelling together in line had some problem with their Turkish E-visa. A bit of panic, but no worries – As fortunately you can buy an E-visa on the spot at the Turkish border! Crisis averted, and we are back on track.

Embracing Istanbul with a Smile

As we crossed into Turkey, the sight of a towering mosque welcomed us. The barren landscape gave way to distant minarets, marking the presence of small villages. The journey continued until dusk, when we entered the vibrant suburbs of Istanbul. Hills upon hills, concrete apartment complexes, and more mosques greeted us – a sight to behold!

Finally, we arrived at the Otogar Coach Station, a bustling hive of buses and travelers.

I was very impressed with Istanbul’s modern, clean, and uber-organised metro and tram system. And guess what? There is a nifty little card that’ll have you scanning your way through this magnificent city – the IstanbulKart!

A Metro Mission: Escaping the Taxi Touts

As I disembarked from the bus with my trusty luggage in tow, I was swarmed by eager locals offering me the best taxi ride to town. But hey, I’m a seasoned traveler, not falling for any tourist traps! So, with my head down and determination in my stride, I made a beeline for the grand building opposite. Metro and tram await!

The Tale of Two Buildings

Now, picture this – the first large building I entered was a hub of tour offices and restaurants. Not quite the metro station I was seeking! But fear not, my fellow adventurers, there’s a twist in the tale. I navigated my way through the maze of tour brochures and tantalising aromas to emerge on the other side. Lo and behold, a local whispered the secret – the real metro station lies in the second identical massive building!

Shop, Eat, and Metro On!

As I ventured into the second building, I couldn’t help but notice the vibrant local shops tucked away inside. Clothes, shoes, watches – the whole nine yards! Oh, and let’s not forget the delectable local fast food tempting my taste buds. It’s like a mini bazaar within the metro station – retail therapy and a bite to eat, all in one place!

The IstanbulKart: Your Ticket to Metro Mayhem

And now, let’s talk about our magic ticket – the IstanbulKart! Picture this – ATM-like machines scattered across all metro stations, waiting to bestow this little gem upon you. For a mere 10 Lira ($0.37), you get a snazzy, plastic card that’ll be your travel companion. Talk about a bargain!

Embrace the IstanbulKart Magic

Fellow adventurers, take my word for it – the IstanbulKart is your golden ticket to explore Istanbul with ease. No fumbling for change, no awkward exchanges with ticket vendors – just scan and go! And with the city’s incredible metro and tram network, you’ll be zipping around like a pro, soaking in the sights and sounds of this mesmerizing city.

So, my friends, when in Istanbul, embrace the metro madness, navigate like a boss with the IstanbulKart, and bid adieu to taxi touts with a smile. With a little humor and the IstanbulKart in hand, you’re all set to conquer this enchanting city, one metro ride at a time. Happy exploring, and remember – keep scanning, keep laughing, and keep discovering the wonders of Istanbul!

And there you have it – my hilarious and enlightening overland journey from Bulgaria to Turkey! Whether you choose the bus or the train, remember to expect the unexpected and embrace it all with a smile. Now, get out there and experience the magic of crossing borders and immersing yourself in the wonders of Istanbul! Happy travels, my friends!

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