The Cheapest Way From Sofia to Bucharest
Journal Entry 24
Let us take you on a journey which we didn’t take ourselves … well, we did … but not all the way as we had originally planned! You’ll get to know our story as we go along, but we want this blog to serve as a helping hand to anyone willing to do this trip (but doesn’t mind breaking up a night worth of rest in exchange for saving a few quid). Here’s the cheapest way from Sofia to Bucharest, a way you wouldn’t easily find online … or anywhere else, to be honest.
What We Found Online
Okay, the ultimate cheapest way (which wouldn’t cost a dime) would be either by doing it on foot, cycling or else hitchhiking. Let’s imagine you’re neither up for those long hours of physical activity, nor for hitchhiking all the way between the two capitals (as it was in our case!). It may be because of COVID-19, but the cheapest alternative option we found was a train journey from Sofia to Bucharest for €34 per person. Not that bad, but what if we could do it for practically just €0.50?! Here’s how it goes …
The Cheapest Way from Sofia to Bucharest: PART 1
The first part of this journey took us on an 8-hour long train ride, split into two.
We started from Sofia Central Station and booked a train ticket to Ruse – a city next to the Bulgaria-Romania border. We had multiple options, but the smartest one (budget-wise, NOT comfort-wise!) for us was definitely the train that left Sofia at 22:40. We settled at the train station at around 18.00. By that time it got dark and there were very few activities we could do around the city due to the cold and all indoors being closed in line with the COVID-19 restrictions. The time went by alright – we found some power outlets and the drama happening around the train station kept us well entertained!
The final destination for the train leaving Sofia was Varna, but we stopped in Gorna Orjahovica at 02:58 in the morning. There, we waited for roughly two hours before catching the next and final train which left at 04:50 and arrived in Ruse at 06:52. The ride can be viewed on the Bulgarian rail website, however, tickets can only be bought in person from the Sofia Central Station.
For the whole ride, we spent €10 per person, but what’s cool about it is that at the same time we were travelling, we actually saved on booking accommodation for the night (that would have been between €15-20 for both of us).
The Cheapest Way from Sofia to Bucharest: PART 2
We arrived in Ruse at around 07:00 in the morning, and at this point, our aim was to get to the actual border. Walking was not an option – well it was, but that would have taken us around two hours. Our best friend, Google Maps, wasn’t of any help regarding public transportation in Ruse, so we had to turn over to another buddy of ours – Moovit.
We took Bus 11 from the bus stop opposite the train station, which passed at exactly 07:45 – costing us 1 Leva (cash only), which is roughly €0.50 each. We then went all the way until its very last stop, which is conveniently right across the border.
Now, here is where it started to get “interesting” for us. The Ruse-Giurgiu border between Bulgaria and Romania is the Danube River, a huge and magnificent water flow which stretches 2,850km of European land. It’s crossed via a bridge, formerly known as the Friendship Bridge. We obviously did our research before going there and through several online blogs and threads, we discovered that it’s possible to walk the 2.5km long bridge as a pedestrian. But as soon as we arrived at the border control – we were told otherwise. Apparently, there was no pedestrian way … the only option to be able to get across was by car.
The Cheapest Way from Sofia to Bucharest: PART 3
This news left us no other choice other than hitchhiking. We asked the guards if it was okay to hitch a ride a few metres away from the gates, and after we got the go-ahead from them – we started trying our lucks.
It was really quiet. Very few cars were passing. HOWEVER, we were somehow picked up by a really nice guy from Germany, just around 30-minutes after our first try. We were told that a high percentage of the cars passing through this border will be either heading to Bucharest themselves or at least passing through it as it’s just an hour-long drive through a directly connecting highway. In our case, our ride was driving all the way to the north of Romania, which was brilliant for us as he agreed to drop us off in Bucharest. Amazing!
That was our whole planned journey sorted … and it would most probably be yours too if we wouldn’t be living through a fuc*king pandemic!
Here is How Our Journey Came To An Abrupt End
Wait for it… So we went through the Bulgarian border control with ease and drove across the bridge feeling successful and really happy to be stepping into a new country after all that happened to us since the start of 2021.
As you can probably notice in the above video, the driver couldn’t speak fluent English, but with his brief knowledge of the language and my broken German, we managed to create some sort of a conversation.
All the fun stopped at the Romanian border control when the border officials took both our passports. Things definitely didn’t start on the right foot. We’re guessing they didn’t know a lot about Malta since they took quite a long time verifying our passports, twisting and turning them up in the air across the sunlight. As the “verification process” looked to be successful, the “COVID-19 process” failed … miserably!
Apparently, 4 days before, Malta had been put on Romania’s “Yellow List”, something which we didn’t even know existed. We had been checking the regulations daily, although we must say, not from the Romanian official source. We had been following the IATA travel map, which in this case failed to update just in time! The official Romanian source was nowhere to be found, the reason being that it’s just in Romanian on a website hidden deep in the web. Here’s the link of the updated lists, just for anyone’s sake.
Therefore, we were naturally denied entry, and long story short, the border officials forcefully ordered our kind driver to drive us back across the bridge into Bulgaria. There, we were left, stranded on the main road’s pavement with no other plan, not even for the following 5 minutes.
After calming down ourselves from the shock, trying to get in terms with what had just happened, we decided to move to the vert far east of Bulgaria and settle there for at least the rest of the week. So, we chose Varna … and that was for two main reasons:
1. There was the cheapest accommodation we could find last-minute.
2. Charlon had been mentioning he wanted to visit since we came to Bulgaria for the first time – around two years ago.
And there we went, on another 4-hour long journey to Varna! Up until this very moment, we’re still not sure of what we’ll be doing next. Chances are that we’ll be either staying the required 14-day period in Bulgaria before crossing to Romania (only if Bulgaria stays off that “yellow list”) or else, we’ll be skipping Romania for good and travel South to North Macedonia. Time will definitely tell!