The night train from Sofia to Varna

I took the night train from Sofia to Varna. I'd read good things (it's amazing, super clean and comfortable, friendly staff) and heard bad things (you'll get robbed, Bulgarian trains are awful). One thing I was sure of is that it's slower than the bus. But overnight, that just meant I actually had the potential get enough sleep before I arrived.

I ended up with the help of a local to buy the ticket, which I left til the last minute. She strongly suggested that I buy business class so I would have a sleeper cabin to myself. Otherwise, they're a three-bunk deal shared with strangers. The price was the same as a bus ticket (~€25) so what the heck.

There are also first and second class seats for sale. Through the window I saw them and they looked plenty comfortable enough for me, tiny person, expert bus sleeper, to have been more than happy with. But having a cabin to myself was nice too.

I bought the ticket online at bdz.bg which was fairly painless. The later train I wanted said it was sold out of business class tickets, so I got a slightly earlier one. The site gives you 15 minutes to fill in all the details and pay. I timed out a few times, and when I went round again it said business class was sold out on the other train too.. I just let it time out again and try again and eventually it worked. My new local friend printed the ticket for me. The instructions about that are ambiguous, so better to be on the safe side.

I got to Sofia Central station about 40 minutes before departure (not on purpose, I was just extra efficient). The station has clear signs (as long as you can recognise Bulgarian place names in Cyrillic) and I found my train already on platform 6. The ticket had my coach and berth number on. When I boarded a member of staff took my paper ticket, cross checked some lists, and told me to go to berth 81 (which is not what my ticket said). She didn't speak much English, but was very friendly and enthusiastic with the words she did know.

The train wasn't super busy, but it wasn't deserted either. Plenty of people from all walks of life seemed to be entering sleeper cabins or settling into seats.

Berth 81 turned out to be a triple bunk room. There was a sink, and various different lights, and temperature control, and high up storage, and a little cupboard. I wasn't sure if this meant other people would be joining me after all. Oh well. I settled into the bottom bunk (as instructed) with my kindle.

A narrow bottom bunk in a train cabin with a backpack next to it Two narrow bunks in a train cabin View from a train window onto a platform, with a blurry person walking by and a red and yellow train on the opposite track

About ten minutes later the train lady knocked on the door and I got out of the way from the bunk. She hoisted the middle bunk against the wall, so I could now sit upright on the lower one. "Business!" she beamed, and left. I see.

Two pillows on a small bed in a train cabin, with a kindle A kindle held from the perspective of someone lying in bed reading

The train trundled along throughout the night. There were lots of stops, some very short, and some where it sat in a station for a while. There were no announcements. The bed was comfortable, and I slept well in between being woken up by irregular train movements, or sudden station light. Every time I woke up and looked out of the window at the passing night, and felt the rumble of the train, I was filled with joy and a feeling of adventure; this is exactly what I want my life to be like. The feeling encapsulated by night trains.

We arrived in Varna about half an hour late. Fifteen minutes or so before arrival, the train lady knocked on my door again (I was already up, having heard knocking on the doors of my neighbouring berths getting closer and closer). She told me "Varna!" and returned my printed ticket. As we pulled into the station, and the sun was rising, there was finally a tannoy announcement, presumably because the train was terminating.

View from a train window onto tracks, with pale sunrise in the distance

🏷 Sofia, Bulgaria Bulgaria life train travel varna