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Instanbul to Sofia - safe for a girl traveling alone?

Sydney, Australia
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Instanbul to Sofia - safe for a girl traveling alone?

Hi Guys,

I am looking to travel from Instanbul to Sofia in June and have been reading mixed reviews about the best way to get there and also am staring to question if its safe for a girl on her own to be traveling around this area?

I was only planning on staying in Sofia for a night or two to break up the travel to Budapest from Turkey.

Any tips/ recommendations would be much appreciated!

Singapore, Singapore
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1. Re: Instanbul to Sofia - safe for a girl traveling alone?

Hi there,

I am a female solo traveller who travelled to Turkey & Bulgaria last year. I took the night bus (company Metro) from Istanbul to Sofia which costs 60TL. The bus was not crowded at all. There is a bus stewardess on the night bus who gave drinks and a snack at the beginning of the trip.

There is a stop at a duty free shop where many people would buy cigarettes and liquor. You can go for a toilet break there which costs 1-2 TL entry fee. Note: A Turkish lady did hand me some cigarettes to carry on her behalf as I guess there is a limit on the number of cigarettes can carry. It is up to your discretion whether you want to help these people in the event if you are being approached.

At the Turkish-Bulgarian border check and I was being checked as I left my hostel printout in my backpack which was stowed as luggage in the bus. I guess Singaporeans travelling to Bulgaria via land is a rarity, that could be the reason why I was being questioned. The border guards asked to see my return air ticket, proof of finance eg credit cards and hostel booking. I was even taken to a room where I had to sign a documentation disclaiming I am entering Bulgaria as a tourist and not for other purposes. I noticed you are from Australia so I doubt you will encounter the same situation as me if you have an Australian passport. Perhaps you may want to have these documentation available just in case.

After the border check, the bus left and I arrived in Sofia at 5.30am. At the hostel, I met a group of British travellers and they told me they were stuck at the border check as their bus was being checked and everyone had to alight the bus and take all the belongings to check and they only arrived in Sofia at 11am. I guess it depends on one's luck if the bus you are travelling in was picked to have a strict check.

Travelling in the bus is safe. Carry your valuables and belongings close with you at all times. I always wear a money belt. Even when I go for toilet break, I would bring my bag with me. There is a bus attendant in the night bus and if you encountered any situation, you can always alert them. Most of the other travellers in the bus are mainly locals like Turkish or Bulgarian travelling for work and they kept to themselves. As long as you take the necessary travel precautions, it is safe.

At Sofia bus station, there is a taxi call booth where I got the taxi dispatcher to call a taxi for me to the hostel (they speak English but the taxi driver do not). I did not expect to reach Sofia so early. The taxi fare was cheap and I recommend to call instead of flagging a taxi.

I had a translation book with me (just in case) and I learn the Cyrillic alphabets prior to the trip bulgarianlanguage.org/bulgarian-alphabet/

Bulgarians are much nicer than I thought, although not all speak English, you can always ask the younger people for help.

Despite trying to learn some Bulgarian in youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrpuX2Sd7gw and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nspjodV6elE, I only managed to learn 2 words Hello – Zdrasti and Thank You – Blagodarya The translation book comes in handy when I took a tram and did not know when to stop. I had to ask an elderly lady for help and pointed to the translation book and she pointed to me the correct stop to alight.

To confuse and challenge a traveller to Bulgaria, Bulgarians shake their head for a “yes” and nod their head for a “no” The best way to avoid confusion is to say “da” for a “yes” and “ne” for a “no”

In Sofia, I recommend the Free Sofia Tour http://www.freesofiatour.com/ is an excellent tour which I took and highly recommended for a tour of the city. Do take the usual travel safety precautions such as pickpockets as I encountered a female pickpocket in Sofia who tried to unzip the front zip of my daypack

If you have more time, I also suggest visiting other places like Plovdiv and Veliko Tarnovo.

Hope the above helps!

regards

voxz

Staffs
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for Bulgaria, Sunny Beach
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2. Re: Instanbul to Sofia - safe for a girl traveling alone?

Great post Voxz....

You should be OK - I traveled the same route by train and had no problems. I recommend looking up the Hostel Mostel in Sofia. It's a good place to stay and they arrange collection from airport etc.

Be careful with taxis in Sofia - they may try and rip you off. I suggest getting your hotel to book one for you.

Best,

Paul

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for Bulgaria, Sunny Beach
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3. Re: Instanbul to Sofia - safe for a girl traveling alone?

Sorry Brittany N - I misread your post. I have not traveled that route by train. Doh !

I was however in Budapest a few weeks ago. What a great City and the people are so friendly. If you want somewhere to stay PM me and I will give you the details of where I stayed.

Have a great trip

Best,

Paul

Gloucester...
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4. Re: Instanbul to Sofia - safe for a girl traveling alone?

I just did the trip by train and do not recommend it. The train does not depart from central Ist and is very difficult to reach by bus. The train is slow and the Bulgarian passport control/customs comes at the middle of the night. No food on board. Train leaves at 22:30 from a deserted train station.

Take a bus by a private company EUR75, same as the train and faster.

JDM

Edited: 7:14 pm, March 11, 2013
Sofia, Bulgaria
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5. Re: Instanbul to Sofia - safe for a girl traveling alone?

It is safe, the bus ticket price is 25 Euro-for Metro bus company -from Istanbul to Sofia and less for the other companies. No need to book a ticket. You go to the: Main Bus Terminal (Coach Station, Büyük Otogar)-it is one place with different names, ask someone and they will help you to buy a ticket and will show you the bus.

Edited: 10:17 am, March 16, 2013
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6. Re: Instanbul to Sofia - safe for a girl traveling alone?

Great detailed description by voxz!

I can concur wif voxz, I too took the metro bus from Istanbul into Bulgaria via Erdine. And the border guards and immigration were surprised to see our Singaporean passports. We were detained by the Bulgarian side for a short time (at ard 2 in the morning in 6 degrees rain!) while they processed the Turk and Bulgarian travellers.

The trip was relatively safe and Sofia is indeed a beautiful city, and had joined the free Sofia tour. It was an excellent walking tour with good friendly guides :)

I guess Bulgaria, at least in the main cities are safe to travel as a foreigner. Probably can't say the same when we travelled further north into Romania...

PS

Good to know there are such adventurous Singaporeans as voxz! :)

Sydney, Australia
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7. Re: Instanbul to Sofia - safe for a girl traveling alone?

Thanks guys! This is such a HUGE help!!

Wish me luck!!

Singapore, Singapore
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8. Re: Instanbul to Sofia - safe for a girl traveling alone?

i'm thrilled to find two singaporeans posting in this thread. :D

thanks for the info because i'm planning a similar trip in september.

your stories at the border control reminded me of my own experience in croatia and serbia.

i've got a question though: if i'm going in the opposite direction (sofia to istanbul), is it as straightforward?

Singapore, Singapore
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9. Re: Instanbul to Sofia - safe for a girl traveling alone?

Hi kevuthemusafir,

I returned to Istanbul from Veliko Tarnovo instead of Sofia.

The bus steward is Turkish and speak no English. No issues exiting from Bulgaria, no checks from the Bulgarian border. My passport was collected from the bus steward and at the Bulgaria-Turkish border, we had to alight and then the Turkish border stamped the passports and the passport was then returned.

At the Bulgaria-Turkish border, I did noticed a bus (i guess was selected to be checked) where all the passengers had to alight and brought all their belongings out from the bus.

While in the bus, I noticed the bus driver asked a female passenger (I think she is Bulgarian) to carry some liquor (I guess there is a limit amount of alcohol that one can carry) This time, no one asked me to help them carry any cigarettes or liquor.

For solo female travellers out there Bulgaria and Turkey are safe are females. As long as you take note of the usual travel precautions of keeping your money safe, beware of pickpockets etc, there is nothing to worry much. Most locals are helpful and Bulgaria and Turkey are both fantastic countries which are worth visiting! Have fun!

rgds

voxz

10. Re: Instanbul to Sofia - safe for a girl traveling alone?

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Removed on: 11:05 am, August 09, 2013
Edited: 11:05 am, August 09, 2013