Bulgaria Travel, on the train part 2

Bulgaria Rail map.

It should be mentioned that travel to many Westerners is “visa-free” to Bulgaria. EU countries which are part of the Schengen agreement generally do not need a visa. Generally is the operative word because Bulgaria has been slow in implementing the agreement. But citizens of Schengen countries are generally safe to travel.

Travelers from the USA and Canada are free to enter without a visa, however western travelers coming to Bulgaria from a country such as Russia must have a dual or multi entry visa to re-enter Russia otherwise you would be stopped at the border when attempting to return. When traveling in Eastern Europe make sure to carry your passport at all times. There will be times when you must present your passport and not always just when crossing borders.

Welcome to the Bulgarian State Railways (Български държавни железници), abbreviated as БДЖ (B-D-Zh). Bulgarian rail passes are cheap and there is no need to order them via internet before your trip. Purchase a Balkans FlexiPass (unlimited rides) if you’ll be traveling great distances for an extended period or select a Eurail Pass depending on your plans. When purchasing tickets remember that travel days are generally counted from midnight to midnight.

No matter how stuffy inside, hanging out the window of a moving train is prohibited. Throwing trash out the window is also against the rules.

Bulgarian is spoken and Russian and English understood in most parts of the  country. The currency of Bulgaria is the Bulgarian Lev denoted with the Cyrillic лв, the initials of Lv. If you have an emergency dial 112 and there are English speaking operators available. Americans should purchase an International travel health plan and make certain that vaccinations are up to date.

Several of the photographs, like this one, come from the amazing artistry of photographer Alan Grant. Alan and his Minolta seem to make magic, a sweet visual form of music.

The Bulgarian scenery is incredible. Trains wind through both rugged and mountainous interior and the Danube plains before arriving at fishing villages and cities along the Black Sea.

Just outside Varna. (Photo: Aleksii)

Rail travel is a strong form of both passenger service and for freight transportation, but with increasing problems with the maintenance of the infrastructure and lowering speeds, highways have begun to carry a larger share of traffic.

No smoking.

Smoking is still “in” over most of Eastern Europe. It’s not allowed on the train however, instead there are smoking areas on small platforms between train wagon hitches for those who smoke. Bulgaria’s rail system has not expanded since the 1980s, but there are some upgrade projects underway. For passenger traffic there are 3 types of trains: High speed express between selected cities, regular passenger trains with sleeper cars, and electric trains for short distance travel.

The national transportation focus includes improving road connectors with Turkey and Greece and domestic connections linking Sofia, Plovdiv, and Burgas via train and plane.

(Photo credit: Alan Grant)