Plovdiv is one of my favorite cities in Bulgaria and of course, it features highly on everyone’s must-sees when crafting their Bulgaria itinerary! Since Plovdiv is just two hours from Sofia by bus, it couldn’t be easier to plan a trip from Sofia to Plovdiv and then back from Plovdiv to Sofia.
I’ve done it as an overnight trip, heading back from Plovdiv to Sofia in the morning, and I’ve also done it as a day trip, leaving Sofia early in the morning, getting to Plovdiv before noon, and leaving Plovdiv to return to Sofia on the last bus home.
There are so many things to do in Plovdiv that staying for a few days is completely warranted! However, while you can certainly see Plovdiv for a few days, it also works well as a day trip. Plovdiv is a small city with a clearly defined center that is easy to see within a day’s worth of sightseeing. There are frequent buses between Sofia and Plovdiv so you can really do whatever you like depending on your Balkans itinerary.
Most people also visit Plovdiv as part of their multi-country Balkans trip and as a result, you may not be doing it as a day trip and are coming from another place like Veliko Tarnovo instead and therefore just need the directions from Plovdiv to Sofia. So, this post will focus all on how to get from Plovdiv to Sofia, but if you also need the reverse directions we have you covered on getting from Sofia to Plovdiv here. They are quite similar but there are a few differences to keep in mind, namely the last bus home!
Where to Buy Bus Tickets in Plovdiv
Whereas Sofia has a handful of bus stations, Plovdiv has two – Yug (South) and Central Railway Station, both of which are close together and within walking distance, about 5 minutes apart.
The first time I went to Plovdiv I came in and out via the Yug bus station; the second time, I came in and out via the Central Railway Station (below), where there are also buses. It depends on what bus company you use, but I prefer Karats.
Why Karats? Well, it is 4.50 leva cheaper than the other company I took the first time when I didn’t know any better, Vitosha Express (which arrives at Yug). And it’s basically the exact same thing.
Karats costs 9.50 leva one way, and Vitosha Express costs 14 leva one way. Neither is that much of a better bus ride (and the bus is short, anyway) so I’d just save your leva for a cab ride when you arrive in Sofia.
Karats has departures leaving from 1 PM onwards, every hour until 8 PM (and that is the last bus, don’t miss as I once did drinking too much beer with my friend in Kapana…)
Meanwhile Vitosha Express has more morning departures so if you need to leave earlier in the morning check with them.
But in that case, you may even want to take a train, as it’ll be even cheaper and not take too much longer (2.5-3.5 hours vs. 2 hours). More on that below!
Getting from Plovdiv to Sofia By Bus
It couldn’t be easier! Since I was visiting Plovdiv on a day trip from Sofia, I just bought my return ticket as soon as I arrived in Plovdiv so that I wouldn’t have to stress it later in the evening. I bought a ticket returning to Sofia for the last departure, 8 PM. You will get a receipt and they will probably write the number of your platform on it. If they don’t, look for the word ‘
When I was ready to return to Sofia, I waited for the bus at the Central Railway Station in
While on the way there, our Kapats bus had a TV playing a Korean pirated version of Jurassic Park – with Bulgarian subtitles, on the way home there wasn’t any entertainment. I recommend bringing your own entertainment (Candy Crush and podcasts are my poison of choice) and of course, bus snacks, as while the trip from Plovdiv to Sofia should only last 2 hours, you never freaking know in the Balkans.
Arriving in Sofia
Congrats, you’re now in one of my favorite cities in the world! Start your trip off on the right foot by refusing to get ripped off by Sofia’s notoriously unscrupulous taxis (you can read our comprehensive guide here).
Luckily, it’s actually quite easy to ensure you won’t get ripped off when you arrive at Sofia because the Central Bus Station is highly regulated and has an official OK Supertrans taxi stand where you will be sure to get a real taxi. Just make sure you ignore anyone who is offering you a taxi and walk to the front of the station, where you will see this sign.
The taxi driver should be waiting in his car, not hustling passengers inside the station. There may or may not be an attendant showing people to their taxis. If not, check the phone number on the taxi. It must match the sign above, 9732121.
Check each digit carefully as many of the fakes are quite close but leave it off by just one or two digits. Scam taxis can fake the logo and write something similar in Cyrillic instead of Supertrans (like Superplus or Cititrans), which foreigners can’t read anyway… but they can’t fake the numbers!
You could also use one of the taxi apps we recommend, TaxiMe or Yellow Taxi. Sofia’s bus station has free WiFi though it can be spotty at times.
However, you are perfectly safe taking any of these taxis granted that you confirm the number and don’t go with a random person who accosts you in the bus station.
Is There a Train From Plovdiv to Sofia?
Yes, there are trains that run between Sofia and Plovdiv! However, it takes longer (between 2.5 hours and 3.5 hours, depending on the train you select and of course a high possibility of delays) which is why more people opt for buses.
On my most recent search, there were trains departing Plovdiv to Sofia at the following times: 3:11 AM, 4:45 AM, 6 AM, 7 AM, 8 AM, 9 AM, 11 AM, 1 PM, 1:45 PM, 3:20 PM, 4:30 PM, 6 PM, and 8 PM. However, don’t take my word for it as these times are subject to change. You can check departure times online here and even buy tickets online. Keep in mind you will likely have to print your ticket though.
I’m not sure of the exact cost but it generally is the same or cheaper than the price by bus. I would estimate a train ticket would cost between 8 and 15 leva, about 4 euro to 7.50 euro, depending on if you take a fast train or a slower local train.
If you want to get to Sofia first thing in the morning a train may be a better option than a bus, but just check if it’s a fast or slow train on the official website (linked above). If you want to leave for Sofia in the afternoon then I recommend a bus instead.
What to Do In Sofia
Of course, there’s a ridiculous amount of things to do in Sofia! (we’ve written about 101 of them here). From checking out the funky street art in Hadzhi Dimitar and the city center to eating in the city’s best restaurants and going out in the coolest bars, you’ll have so much to do in Sofia you’ll want to plan at least a few nights here!
Where to Stay in Sofia
If you haven’t already booked where to stay in Sofia, check out this complete guide to our favorite hotels and hostels in Sofia in every budget category. No time to read the whole post? Here are our top 3 picks.
$ – BUDGET – UNDER $15 A NIGHT FOR A DORM
For a hostel, we always recommend Hostel Mostel. I have never stayed at the Sofia location but several of my friends have and have always spoken highly of it. I stayed at the one in Veliko Tarnovo and it was excellent. Perks include a free vegetarian dinner in addition to breakfast included in your stay! Check rates and availability here. If you are traveling in peak season, be sure to book online, as Hostel Mostel is popular and tends to get booked up.
$$ MID-RANGE – $50-100 A NIGHT FOR A DOUBLE
For a trendy new boutique hotel that is shockingly affordable, we recommend R34 Boutique Hotel. The location is fantastic, near the Ivan Vazov National Theater in central Sofia. It has gorgeous, loft-inspired details like exposed brick, giant windows, and streamlined but modern décor. It’s a great bargain, too – check rates, reviews, photos, and availability here.
$$$ – LUXURY – $100+ A NIGHT
As far as we see it, there’s only one option for the best hotel in town: Sense Hotel. We go to their upscale, beautiful rooftop bar all the time when we have guests in town – it has one of the best views in the entire city and they make fantastic cocktails. With beautiful views over Alexander Nevsky, Sofia’s most iconic landmark, the hotel couldn’t be in a better location. Sense Hotel also boasts a state-of-the-art fitness center, an art gallery in the lobby, an excellent spa with luxe treatments, and an indoor pool. It’s truly the best choice in town. Check rates, reviews, photos, and availability here.
Don’t Leave without Travel Insurance!
Finally, make sure you always travel to Bulgaria with a valid travel insurance policy. The country is a very safe place to travel, but accidents or theft can easily ruin your trip if you don’t have the travel insurance coverage to recover the losses. Recently my aunt fell on a train in France and needed surgery, but luckily her travel insurance covered the costs in full. Thank goodness!
For travel insurance, I use World Nomads. I’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.
Originally from California, Allison has been living in Bulgaria for the last two years and is obsessed with traveling around the Balkans. She has been published in National Geographic, CNN Arabic, Matador Network, and the Huffington Post. She loves befriending dogs, drinking coffee, geeking out about wine, and cooking food from around the world.
I took the bus from Sofia to Plovdiv earlier this week. Using Karats, the entire trip cost 9.80 leva and took approximately 2.5 hours. As a previous post indicated, various parts of the highway from Sofia to Plovdiv is under construction, which lengthened the trip a bit. I would recommend using the restroom prior to boarding as there is no bathroom on the bus.
I also took the morning (8 AM) bus from Plovdiv to Sofia this week because I had a noon flight. I purchased my ticket a day in advance for 9 leva. The train boarded approximately 15 minutes prior to 8:00 and the train left promptly at 8:00. It was a comfortable ride, with 9-10 stops along the way. We arrived at the Sofia central train station, which is located next to the central bus station, at 10:33 AM.
Thank you so much for the confirmation and extra information! I also went to Plovdiv this weekend, and I had pretty much the exact same experience. Not sure about the construction (I slept the whole time). We did get in early to Sofia by about ten minutes.
If travelling from Plovdiv to Sofia Airport by train, consider getting off the train before the central station: instead, Iskarsko Shose which has a metro station (escalator down from train platform). Then it’s just two stops to the airport (terminal 2). No point in spending another 15 minutes on the train only to go all the way into central Sofia.
This will save you about 45 minutes 🙂
Great tip! We were assuming most people would want to come into Sofia center, but your information is very valuable for people coming into the airport!