I am hoping to travel to Istanbul from Athens and then on to Sofia. I was planning on taking the train, but I have noticed on www.bahn.de (thanks Herr Bert!) that it will take over 24 hours to get to Turkey from Greece and then over 12 hours to get to Sofia from Istanbul. This seems like an extensive amount of time to travel and my time is limited. Has anyone done the route, or would recommend it? Does anyone have any other suggestions of how to get from one place to the other? I visited ryanair and esayjet, but they do not service these particular routes. I'd really appreciate any help.
Bus might be faster. But not much. The distance is 560 km (348 miles) as the crow flies, but the mountains and the ocean you need to get around make the journey difficult.
If you want to go directly to Bulgaria from Greece, take the Transbalkan from Thessaloniki. (source: http://www.seat61.com/Greece.htm)
Bulgaria - Greece
Last update: 18 September 2006.
(Sofija -) Svilengrad BDŽ - Ormenio OSE (- Dikaia): [D] Some sources show no passenger service over this line. However, travellers report that there is a connecting service out of train 602 (from Athens) at Dikaia via Ormenio arriving Svilengrad at 09:00; the same train then forms a 09:55 return working to Dikaia. Border formalities are carried out at Dikaia and Svilengrad.
(Sofija -) Kulata BDŽ - Promachon OSE (- Strimon - Thessaloniki): [D] The "Transbalkan" train pair, between Budapest and Thessaloniki, operates via this route.
[ Edit: Edited on Feb 17, 2007, at 7:28 PM by t_maia ]
U can get from Istanbul, to Sofia, with condor airlines.
Book a few months in advance, to get the best prices.
U can book online.
Their web site is www.condor.com
For Athens to to Istanbul, u could do a search on www.billigflug.com
They advertise flights, for a number of airlines, and it is often possible to get bargin prices there.
Mel's idea is good - fly from Athens to a coutry in the rest of Europe (say Germany) and from there to Istanbul. With a bit of searching you could make it in six hours or less.
I'd certainly try and fly Athens to Istanbul if on a limited time frame, as the nature of the terrain and politics mean that this isn't a quick journey (Quite a pleasant one though!).
From Istanbul to Sofia, there are a couple of trains plus several bus companies. However, you have to accept that the roads aren't the quickest, and also that the border can take a chunk of time to get across. The arrival times are more or less entirely notional, as it's usual to be delayed at the border [all you need is one person to have a slight issue, and everybody is delayed] and for your arrival to thus be later than timetabled.
I've done it a few times by train, and only once been about on time. At borders like this, I consider arriving anything under an hour late to be good, and I refuse to even consider any connections within 2 hours of arrival time.
If you go with Mel's option, than I think that using Düsseldorf or Cologne airport will give you a big chance of finding flight from Istanbul and to Athens. (check LTU, Germanwings, and Jetair). Make sure that you enough time (and maybe some extra time, to anticipate on a possible delay) to make the connection.