I need help getting to Istanbul from Zagreb.

  • 15 January 2023
  • 8 replies

Hi everybody,

I am currently staying in Zagreb and I am leaving in two days (17-1-2023). I need to get to Istanbul by the end of the month due to a flight I have the on the first of February from Istanbul airport. I was planning to travel there through either Belgrade or Sarajevo and then Sofia. But this morning I found out that it isn’t possible to go to Sofia through Belgrade or Sarajevo. 

I found an alternative route through Budapest, Bucharest, Sofia and then Istanbul (if it’s possible/practicable I could skip Sofia and go to Istanbul directly from Bucharest). But here some problems emerge:

  1. firstly I only have three traveling days left, and I don't think that is enough to cover the entire journey.
  2. secondly I know how to travel from Zagreb to Bucharest. But not the rail planner app doesn’t show any trains from Bucharest to Sofia (in fact Sofia train stations don’t appear at all) or Istanbul.

I am planning to stay a few nights in Budapest. Hopefully I can figure a way out to get to Istanbul from there. Depending on whats practical I will also stay for a few days in either Bucharest or Sofia; but not both. I really hope that somebody could help me 🙏. 

Thank you in advance


Best answer by Hektor 15 January 2023, 14:55

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8 replies

Zagreb to Budapest has a daily direct train at 16.35 (arriving 22.24). Other (slower) options available.

Budapest to Bucuresti has four direct trains (7.10, arrives 23.49 / 15.10, arrives 8.06 / 19.10, arrives 11.19 / 22.45, arrives 15.05). 

Bucuresti to Istanbul is at 10.55 (change in Ruse (arrives 13.45, departs 14.20), Gorna Orjahovica (arrives 16.20, departs 17.25) and Dimitrovgrad (arrives 22.06, departs 22.50)). 

There are other options, but that way it’s possible to go with three travel days.

If you’d like to go to Sofia (same train at 10.55 from Bucuresti, the 14.20 from Ruse goes directly to Sofia, arrives 20.10), you’d need an additional travel day. But if you’d just pay for your ticket from Sofia to Istanbul, it’s just 21,10 €.

Couchette from Sofia / Dimitovgrad to Istanbul is 10 € additional (sleeper available, too).   


Thank you for responding! What are the train numbers from the trains that I will have to take when I go from Bucharest to Istanbul? And can I take this train route only on specific days of the week (mon-fri) or also on the weekend?

1095 from Bucuresti, 463 from Ruse, 465 from Gorna Orjahovica, 493 (Bulgaria) / 12501 (Türkiye) from Dimitrovgrad.

Runs every day.

What would be my ETA? If it’s after midnight than it would mean I need an extra traveling day. But I only have one left when I leave Bucharest.

No, you don’t need an extra travel day. The rule is: When you do enter a night train before midnight (here: 22.50), you are allowed to go until the last station of this train (without changing) without using a new travel day - in your case it’s Istanbul Halkalı.

That’s just not possible on the last day of the overall validity of your pass (so it must be at least a day earlier). Same applies if you’d take one of the night trains from Budapest to Bucuresti (it’s just one travel day, too).

Good to hear! Last question: do you know the ETA? I need to manually add the trip to my mobile pass. 

The official timetable says 5.34. 

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The official timetable says 5.34. 

But a delay of a few hours is normal there.

The timetable can be found here:

It seems Bulgarian railways still haven't sent their timetable (valid from 11/12/2022) to the European Timetable Centre, so no other planner will have it and you'll have to enter Bulgarian trains manually.