There are more and more tourists coming to Bulgaria and bringing a bike with them. Many choose to use the Bulgarian railway (BDZ) and trying to make use of the scarce information on the BDZ website. Others are trying to get information while purchasing their ticket and meeting officers that barely speak any decent english.
Still, despite the difficulties, most travelers (and their bikes) make it to their destination in Bulgaria. Not everyone, however 🙂 And after transporting a bike myself several times, and then helping an American couple find their e-bike which ended in Romania rather than in Sofia, decided to author a short how-to for transporting a bike on the Bulgarian railways.
So, here are just a few simple tips that would ensure you have a safe bike travel on the Bulgarian railway:
Transporting a bike on the Bulgarian railways
It costs only 2 leva to transport your bike on the train
No matter what your railway route is – it costs mere 2 leva (as of Dec 2022) to transport your bike on the Bulgarian railways. Just buy the ticket from the ticket office.
You are obliged to keep the bike in the last train car
The trains in Bulgaria are usually full, especially during weekends. So, the rule to keep the bikes in the last car is because otherwise the bikes obstruct the passage for getting on and off the train, and also in case of potential incidents, may create evacuation issues. This is of course fine and common in other countries as well, however! Make sure to follow the next rule to ensure peace of mind!!
No matter what train seat you were given, travel in the last train car!
The truth is – if you are not keeping an eye on your bike during your entire train trip, you run the chances of having it stolen, of misplacing it in a train car whose destination is somewhere else, etc. So, always make sure to travel in the same train car as your bike and keep an eye on it!
At the ticket office they don’t know which train car is the last one and hence, cannot give you a passenger ticket for the last car even if you ask. But so long as you have a ticket, it is not a problem to stay in another train car and especially if you explain your want to be keeping an eye on your bike, they will understand. In 99% of the cases the last train car will have spare seats so you can choose some place with a view on your bike. In the 1% chance there is no seat, just stay next to your bike until a free one shows up.
Why stay with your bike, particularly if you are a foreigner?
I see that many foreigners do not realize that one train may have train cars to more than one destination. This is common for international destinations like trains to Bucharest, Istanbul, etc. The train may be departing from Varna and having Sofia as destination, but it may be bringing train cars that get detached and then attached to another train, travelling to Bucharest or Istanbul. In this case, if you didn’t read the sign on the last train car, and just left your bike there, and went to sit someplace else in the train – your bike would travel to a destination different than yours!
Make sure you have photos and bike ID number (if any) available
When searching for the bike that travelled to Bucharest earlier that year, I must admin I was kind of pessimist whether or not someone from the Bulgarian and Romanian railway officers would care to look for it. However, I was pleasantly surprised with all the effort they all made, calling their colleagues from the border police and getting back to me with status. One thing that helped identify the lost bike was: the bike ID and the photos which the owner had and managed to send to the border police. So, always make sure to keep photos of bike and its ID somewhere handy, just in case.
Biking Bulgaria using the railway is great!
If you follow the simple rules above, you will surely enjoy biking in Bulgaria. And don’t forget that the highest railway station on the Balkans – Avramovo – is in Bulgaria. Why not visit it with your bike?
Enjoy your bike travels in Bulgaria!