Is it possible to go from Istanbul to Sofia by train? This link suggests there is a train connection between the two cities: https://rail.cc/en/train/sofia-to-istanbul but I can't find it on the official Turkish State Railway websites. Any help?
An express bus operated by the Turkish railways connects the Sirkeci station of Istanbul to the Turkish railway border checkpoint at Kapikule - besides this, a Turkish train runs from the Istanbul suburb of Halkali to Kapikule, calling at Cerkezköy, Alpullu and Edirne en route.
At Kapikule, after clearing immigration, you board a small Bulgarian train which will then take you to Sofia.
I used Bahn.de to search for train journeys between Istanbul and Sofia.
Starting in Istanbul there is a direct connection to Sofia. It leaves daily at 22:00 and arrives in Sofia at 9:10. The journey notes indicate that this is not a train that runs daily, but it is unclear when it runs.
In the opposite direction, starting in Sofia, there is no direct train. Instead there is a 20:40 train to the border town of Kapikule, and then a train from Kapikule to Istanbul. The train arrives in Istanbul at 07:50.
- 20:40 - Sofia to Kapikule (arr. 02:05)
- 02:55 - Kapikule to Istanbul (arr. 07:50)
This connection is also indicated as not being available every day, but without indication of when it does (or does not) run.
For thus particular journey, most people take the bus. There are many buses between Sofia and Istanbul leaving around the clock as there is a highway connecting them directly.
According to Seat61.com, there is a new train running from 2017-02-20:
The Istanbul-Sofia Express links Istanbul with Sofia every night, leaving Istanbul Halkali station at 22:40 and arriving Sofia's impressive communist-era central station at 08:45 next morning. This new sleeper train started running from 20 February 2017. The train has with two safe & comfortable Turkish air-conditioned sleeping-cars, one Turkish air-conditioned 4-berth couchette car and a non-air-con Bulgarian 6-berth couchette car. There's no catering, so bring some snacks and a bottle of wine. You need to get off the train briefly at the Turkish border at Kapikule (02:52-03:20) to have your passport stamped.
And the price is:
The fare from Istanbul to Sofia is €18.48 for the travel ticket + either €9.40 supplement for a couchette in 6-berth compartment, €10 for a couchette in 4-berth compartment or €15 for a bed in a 2-bed sleeper.
How to buy tickets...
You cannot book this train online, but you can easily buy tickets at Istanbul Sirkeci station window 4, even on the day of travel. There are always plenty of spare places, even up to departure, so no worries...
It leaves from Halkali station (in Istanbul) and arrives at central station (in Sofia).