We started the morning off by having breakfast in the square closest to our hostel, before walking to the Gara De Norde train station, which is the main train station in Bucharest.
We bought our tickets the day before to give us piece of mind. Neither train we took was very full, so this was probably not necessary, (we travelled November 13th for reference). There is one train per day that takes this route from Bucharest to Sofia and it leaves the Gara de Norde at 12:45 pm.
If you enter the Gara de Norde through the main entrance you will see approximately 8 ticket windows. To purchase international tickets, go to the #1 window (see above). The lady at the booth spoke very good English, but we had written down the date, time and location we wished to go to in Romanian just in case (it doesn’t hurt to be safe, as I learned in China).
After you’ve purchased tickets and enter the main hall, you will see this board (above) that lists every train leaving and departing the station that day.
After you turn right and walk towards the train tracks, you will see a second board that lists the trains arriving and departing the soonest. On this board you will be able to find your train number as well as the track number you train will be arriving and departing at.
The end of each individual track will also display the train destination a few minutes before the train arrives so you can confirm that you have the right track. Our train to Russe (onward to Sofia) arrived at track number 2, although this might not always be the case.
We purchased snacks and beverages the night before to take aboard the train for the 10 hour journey. We would highly recommend bringing food since nothing was available aboard either train.
Fun fact: the train from Bucharest to Russe had most of the windows damaged with shattered glass and holes. My Romanian friend laughed and told me that this was gypsies throwing rocks….. I’m unsure how serious he was.
A small, subway like train takes you to the boarder of Romania, where you stay aboard to clear Romanian customs. The customs guard came aboard and stamped each passanger’s passport before the train continued over the Danube River to Bulgaria.
Once the train crossed the border, we stopped again and a custom’s office came aboard and took everyone’s passport into an office to be stamped into Bulgaria. We waited aboard until everyone had cleared customs and then the train traveled another short distance to arrive in Ruse Bulgaria.
We got off the train in Ruse and had 1 hour to wait before the train to Sofia arrived. Both trains arrived and departed from the same platform, so we didn’t have to go anywhere. There is a sign in the main station that confirms the train location (make sure to know your destination name in Cyrillic. Sofia is София ).
Both the train from Bucharest to Russe and Russe to Sofia have reserved seat numbers. On the train from Bucharest to Russe this was not a problem, but on the train from Russe to Sofia it was definitely an issue. One lady sat in our seats (expelling all her possessions onto every other seat in the compartment) and wouldn’t move, so we had to sit in someone else’s compartment which set off a chain reaction that ended with an incredibly angry Romanian lady screaming at a Chinese tour group.
In the end we had our own compartment, as did every other group of travellers, but if that one lady had sat in her assigned seat, there may not have been an issue at all.
We spent the first hour of the journey worrying about getting yelled at for being in the wrong seats…..
After about an hour, we began to relax and eat our snacks whilst watching an incredible sun set.
Our train arrived in Sofia just before 11pm (scheduled to arrive at 10:20pm). From the train station we walked to our hostel, which was miss marked on our favourite map app, so we spent quite a lot of time lost in Sofia.
The train station in Sofia is fairly close to the city centre, and we were able to walk to the area our hostel was in within 20 minutes.
The entire train journey took about 10 hours and the tickets cost 123.46 RON for two people or $40.50 Canadian dollars. Not a bad price at all.
A video we made about the journey from Bucharest Romania to Sofia Bulgaria: