Travelling by train to Bulgaria
If you have the time to do so, do travel to Bulgaria by train. It is a by far the mode of kings (and queens). With the possible exception of private jet. Europe by train offers an insight into the different countries on your route that air travel cannot compete with and in this way it becomes part of your holiday experience. There are even relatively cheap ways that you can extend the validity of your ticket so that you can stop off at places along the way.
London – Paris – Munich – Vienna – Sofia
The fastest route to Bulgaria by train takes you from London – Paris – Munich – Vienna – Sofia. This journey takes two days. Take the Eurostar from London to Paris in the evening and then head to the Gare de L’est to get the overnight train to Munich. The next day take a train to Vienna and from then an overnight train to Sofia. This is just an example. There are many routes to choose from; I have travelled the London – Paris – Cologne route several times and I know there is an overnight train from Cologne to Vienna.
If you do plan to extend your journey and do a bit of sightseeing then pick a route that will suit you. There are many websites devoted to keeping up to date timetables of a variety of routes across Europe but it is certainly worth checking with train operators direct. There is usually a selection of trains of varying speeds departing from each leg of your trip so if money is less of an object to you than it is to most and you want to get to Bulgaria fast there are certainly quicker ways than those I have outlined above (private jet?)
The easiest and most stress-free way of extending your journey time to enable you to visit places along the route to Bulgaria is by buying an Interrail pass or some other European rail pass (I write this because I am 95% sure that Interrail is the only provider for UK resident – if you are not a resident of Europe there are other providers so fear not!). This is a pass that lets you travel most routes without any additional fee. Be aware though that you may have to pay extra for booking some seats and surcharges may apply for faster trains, upper class, sleeper cars and any route that is not run by the national rail provider. In days gone by you had to be under 26 to qualify for a rail pass but this is no longer the case (although it is more expensive if you are older). There are different types of tickets for different zones in Europe and for the number of days you plan to travel within a certain period. You can even buy a pass for a single country if you are really only interested in exploring one.
Don’t forget that it is necessary to book seats for some trains, even if it means doing so just before you get on. It is always safer to check. Once I bought the correct ticket but forgot to get it clipped by a little machine before I got on the train (this was in the Netherlands) and were it not for my incredibly charming nature I would have incurred a hefty fine, so beware!
All aboard the night train
Travelling by train overnight doesn’t have to be expensive. You can usually choose your accommodation on a sleeper train. The cheapest is ‘cattle class’ which is just a regular reclining seat (although they don’t recline very far at all). I have slept in one of these and it was absolutely awful! I just couldn’t get comfortable; there was a man in front of me that was snoring very loudly – one of my bugbears, it just grates like fingers on a blackboard – so I basically spent six hours developing a super crick in my neck.
Some sleepers do not offer cattle class, so you have to get a ‘couchette’ (a pan-European phrase, worth remembering) which is a carriage with 4 to 6 beds in bunks so you share with anyone and everyone. The lap of luxury is the sleeper cabin which often has three beds or you could book your own private cabin. Plus you get a sink and there is usually a little wardrobe!! If you are a sociable animal go for the couchette as you will most certainly meet some interesting people.
A good tip is to keep all your valuables close to your person, preferably attached to you somehow, as pick pocketing at night is an occurrence within the realm of possibility unless you have a lock on your door. Certainly from my experience sleeper cabins have bolts and chains on the doors so you can lock it from the inside without it being pick-able from the outside.
You can book your tickets online for some of the route. As you near the end of central Europe you will need to do so by telephone, or just buy your tickets en route. You can buy combined tickets on the Eurostar website to cover your journey through France to whichever adjoining country you choose. It is a question of an online search to find the providers in specific countries (e.g. DeutscheBahn in Germany). There are also booking agents in the UK that will book the whole journey for you. And don’t forget to bring a guide book!
|Last Updated on Monday, 19 October 2009 09:37|