Train routes in the Balkans

  • 7 December 2022
  • 3 replies

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?



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:
  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: 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.