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I would like to travel by train to Istanbul via Budapest and Bucharest along the road recommended by the Man in Seat 61.

According to that description, there should be a daily direct train between Bucharest and Istanbul, leaving Gara de Nord at 12h30 and arriving at Sirkeci at 07h50 the next day. Currently, due to engineering works in Istanbul, the train is limited at Kapikule, on the border between Bulgaria and Turkey. A bus shuttle organised by the Turkish State Railways is supposed to bring the travelers from Kapikule to Istanbul.

All this looks fine. However, if I have a look the the DB Travel planner, such a service does not seem to exist. So as to be sure, I checked the site of the Romanian railways. To no avail.

Note that I found on the DB site a direct night train from Sofia to Istanbul. And a direct night train from Bucharest to Sofia. But this involves a stopover in Sofia of nearly 10 hours. I am aware of other (indirect) train connections and other means of transport.

Does the daily direct train between Bucharest and Istanbul still exist? If yes, what is the schedule? If no, has it been suspended temporarily or permanently?

  • 1
    There was a train from Sofia that would merge with the one from Bucharest in Eastern Bulgaria. I took it in 2011. I met someone a few weeks ago who told me that there is currently no train from Bulgaria to Turkey due to construction work on the tracks. – Peter Hahndorf Apr 12 '13 at 21:58
  • Thanks for your feedback! I have added some more information in my question. – anon Apr 12 '13 at 22:05
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It's the Bosphorus Express, the only train between Europe and Turkey. So there is nothing else. Here is a very detailed description with part two which seems to be from March this year.

It's not that easy to find on the different national rail websites, since the number changes twice and most national train websites do not care about where a wagon coming from one foreign country that goes to another foreign country.

The only end-to-end schedules are on the website of the Turkish rail and Raildude.

For the part in Romania, you can go to the live schedule of the Bucharest Nord website you can see train 461 going to Giurgiu Nord, arriving there 14:27. On the Bulgarian state rail website (enter the train numbers into the blue box in the middle of the page), you can see that train 461 leaves in Ruse (РУСЕ) at 15:25, then heading for Sofia. On the way there, it goes through GORNA ORYAHOVITSA (ГОРНА ОРЯХОВИЦА) arriving at 18:01. If you check train number 465, you will see it departing in GORNA ORYAHOVITSA at 18:58, arriving at DIMITROVGRAD NORTH (ДИМИТРОВГРАД СЕВЕР) at 23:00. They attach the train there. According to the schedule on the Bulgarian website, it does NOT seem to go until Svilengrad (Свиленград) on the Turkish border however. This might be since the train is then joined with number 81031 which comes from Beograd. Here you can see how the train is built from many different elements of trains connecting to each other.

The only issue is that the train stops in Halkali, a suburb of Istanbul, since there are constructions on the rail. You need to take a bus from there.

But anyhow, according to Turkeytravelplanner.com, it's expensive, not comfortable and sometimes even dangerous. You might be better off finding a bus service.

  • Why is it dangerous? – Maître Peseur Apr 13 '13 at 6:56
  • @MarcelC. I guess there is a likelyhood that your luggage gets robbed when you exit the train for the border control to Turkey... please note I completely revised my answer! – uncovery Apr 13 '13 at 8:00
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I took the train in 2009 from Bratislava to Budapest, then to Bucharest, then to Istanbul. Even then, it stopped for several hours in Bulgaria, while it changed engines (mildly concerning to see it detach and leave us without any announcement that we could understand). There was also only one train per day from Bucharest to Istanbul.

Rome2Rio seems to line up with other answers/comments, that there are a variety of connections on the way down, however you still have to take a vehicle from Halkali to Istanbul.

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