Bulgaria //

Getting around

Public transport in Bulgaria is inexpensive but often slow and not always clean or comfortable. Travelling by bus (avtobus) is usually the quickest way of getting between major towns and cities. Generally, you can buy tickets (bileti) at the bus station (avtogara) at least an hour in advance when travelling between towns, but on some routes they’re only sold when the bus arrives. On rural routes, tickets are often sold by the driver.

Bulgarian State Railways (BDZh; w http://www.bdz.bg) can get you to most towns; trains are punctual and fares low. Express services (ekspresen) are restricted to main routes, but on all except the humblest branch lines you’ll find so-called Rapid (burz vlak) trains. Where possible, use these rather than the snail-like patnicheski services. Long-distance or overnight trains have reasonably priced couchettes (kushet) and/or sleepers (spalen vagon). For these, on all expresses and many rapids, you need seat reservations (zapazeni mesta) as well as tickets (bileti). To ensure a seat in a non-smoking carriage (myasto za nepushachi), you will have to specify this when booking. Railway station ticket offices only sell tickets on the day of travel, so at weekends and in the summer it’s wise to purchase an advance ticket from a railway booking office (byuro za bileti). International tickets must be bought in advance from the Rila Agency (w http://www.bdz-rila.com); branches can be found in all major cities. Most stations have left-luggage offices (garderob). InterRail and Balkan Flexipass are valid, although it often works out cheaper to buy rail tickets as you go.

Cycling in Bulgaria’s congested cities, where cycle lanes are few and far between, is best avoided, but the country’s quiet minor roads linking towns and villages are a delight for cyclists. Of the few bike hire outfits in Bulgaria, Zig-Zag Holidays in Sofia (w http://www.zigzagbg.com) is one of the most reliable and also runs organized tours.