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Train routes in the Balkans

  • 7 December 2022
  • 3 replies
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Hi, I have a few questions on train links in the Balkans that information online continues to give me contradicting advice so I will list all of my questions here to try and sort it out

  1. Is there a functioning direct night train from Budapest to Bucharest - some sites say yes and other say no
  2. Is there a functioning direct train from Bucharest to Sofia - if not, what is advised to do in order to reach Sofia
  3. Is there a route from Sofia to Thessaloniki (for context I am travelling in Summer)
  4. Is there a train line connecting Serbia and Bosnia
  5. Should I generally just skip Serbia and Bosnia as they are too cumbersome to travel with train?
  6. If in Sofia, what is the best way to reach Croatia?

Thanks!

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Best answer by rvdborgt 7 December 2022, 18:20

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  1. There are up to 3 direct night trains per day between Budapest and Bucharest, one of which comes from Vienna. There's also a direct day train. Don't use the Interrail website or rail planner app to plan. They're unreliable.
  2. You currently need to change in Ruse; in summer, this should be a direct train. Also see:
    https://www.bdz.bg/en/a/sofia-bucuresti-sofia
    https://www.seat61.com/international-trains/trains-from-Bucharest.htm#Bucharest_to_Sofia
  3. Look for a direct bus. In Bulgaria, there's a train until Kulata; in Greece, there are trains from Strymonas. I'm not sure if there's any public transport between these 2 stations.
  4. No there currently isn't.
  5. That depends on how much bus you're willing to tolerate…
  6. That depends on your definition of "best”.

Q.5 I personally can handle long bus journeys but the person I’m coming with cannot - on occasion the 1 long bus journey is acceptable if necessary but for the most part it is not a valid option. 

  • Is Sarajevo & Mostar worth a visit? 
  • Is Belgrade worth a visit?

Q.6 By best I mean length of time.

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Q5: Bgr-hardly-certainly not if several other Balkan/East EUR towns are in your list already. Its reputation among young travellers is mostly for its hedonistic summer-nights binge&booze nightlife. It has some brutalist socialist style concrete monster-buildings as being main capital of proud Yugoslavija in Tito´s times-since then the country fell apart in pieces.

But it will be very hard to impossible to avoid it for any of the longer trips you mention

Sj+Ms(thats only that famous bridge); More interesting, but need long (8-9 hrs) BUStrips getting there and away anyway. ( from Bgr, to Zag). Though there is the odd train in Bosnia-forget that for pracitcal reasons-its a minor tiny niche only for dedicated ´onlyonrails’typos.

Re1-first: there are 2 major lines HU-RO: 1 is for some weeks out of use now-or maybe just finished, due to works/repairs, but in summer it should all be back to normal in renovated state. 

Re 3-first: most likely to bridge that gap it is a short sector of the direct bus Sof_Thess-making you loose many hrs in waits on those unattractive minor stops and even finding the stops of bus&train-perhaps KMs apart.

Direct Sof-Hrvatska: fly, WIZZair is the RYAN of East-Eur and in general much, much nicer, but with the same tricks re luggage&extras. (easy to avoid on their app-most often I fly light for <20€, but without bekpek). If willling and able to commit yourself monthes before-probably even cheaper as the 2 long bustrips together.

Using your pass-you have paid for it anyway: be creative and use the 2 ways on train that now exist RO-BG: via the Vidin bridge-into RO (Craiova, once the seat of the DaCia ugly-worse car, now of Renault I think), then to south HU (via Timisoara-inviting you to visit some areas away from those capitals you listed before.

IF still vying for the way via B-gr: as said so many times before: seat61.com is dedicated to as much on trains as can do and with various tips on how to shorten bustrips-and lengthen total trip time by switching to train=voz as soon as can do. But I think doing Bgr->HRvatska even needs a taxi for some 20-30 KM-s-dedicated railfans spare no expense in fulfilling their dreams. (I did it on the through train Greece-Zagreb (train on to MÜnchen) many moons ago without much trouble, thats long ago.

Germans can also in their drive for ´überpünktlich´ be very knowledgeable in such trivial facts, plus that there are so many of them. I read all forums I know of near daily, rian does that too, so together with the others we trust to have enough current knowledge.

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