Bulgaria (EU) – Turkey Border Crossing

Welcome to the jungle

The Kapıkule road border crossing between Bulgaria and Turkey is the busiest in Europe and the second busiest in the world. In other words, it can absolutely chaotic at times and a major headache for travellers.

Travellers can make their way across the border by foot, bicycle, train and bus. The queues at the road crossing can be enormous, and it can be quite overwhelming for anyone who is used to the seamlessly travelling around the European Union. Due to the closure of the railway, currently the most straightforward way to cross is by bus. There are regular connections between Istanbul in Turkey and Plovdiv / Sofia in Bulgaria.

Busiest land crossing in Europe
Open 24 Hours
Toilets, ATMs, food, currency exchange on both sides
No bus services on either side – arrange travel from Istanbul / Plovdiv / Sofia
Plan ahead for possible long delays

Entry Visa

Bulgaria – 90 days (out of 180) visa. Many countries do not require a visa. Others require a Schengen Zone visa. €60 fee.
Turkey – 90 day visas. A mixed bag. Many countries (e.g. Germany) are exempt from visa fees but some (eg Oz) are hit with a mad $60 fee. Others are $20. Costs hereApply here.

The Approach
By Train

Due to large scale engineering works on both sides, there is currently no trains in service – rather a bus replacement service. The Bosphor Express usually runs daily between Bucharest (Romania) and Istanbul (via Sofia & Plovdiv in Bulgaria). Prices begin at €16 for a basic 2nd Class ticket. Currently the train stops at the border and a transfer to a bus is required for the remaining journey to Istanbul – therefore we recommend taking a direct bus.

By Bus

Metro Turizm offers up to 6 daily services (60TL) between Istanbul and Bulgaria (Plovdiv & Sofia) daily. There is also one daily service to Varna (75TL). Check Sofia and Plovdiv bus stations for other services.
Be warned, however!! There is no direct bus from Edirne, the closest Turkish city to the border. So we highly recommend going straight from Istanbul. But if you must go from Edirne, see below.

A hellish journey from Edirne – We wasted an entire day trying to get to Bulgaria from Edirne! We were told that there was no need to book a seat on the bus – but it turns out that travellers must pre-book a seat with Metro at the Edirne bus station. This bus bypasses Edirne city so you must make your way 10Km by dolmus to the Arslanli Hotel on the Bulgaria bound motorway. From here you wait (and wait) and then catch the Metro bus to the border. In the end we were stuck at that dam petrol station for almost an entire day (as each Metro bus that went by was fully booked) until a Bulgarian bus pulled up and happily picked us up….phew!

Traffic Jams and X-Rays

Kapikule Border

Time-wise, expect long delays – especially in summer. Coming from Turkey, there is a small mall where you can relax in the aircon and spend your last Lira on Burger King or some tacky souvenirs.
When you reach the checkpoint, Turkish guards come on board the bus and take your passport. It is returned, with an exit stamp and then you are driven slowly through No-Mans land and get off – the bus has to go through an enormous X-Ray machine (which is pretty awesome). Eventually we’re back on board again, only to stop and get off again while the Bulgarian guards check our passports and rifle through everyone’s massive shopping bags of counterfeit goods (oddly they didn’t confiscate any of it!).

Give yourself plenty of time, and expect the unexpected. Cars, buses and trucks can be checked by border guards up to 6 times. On our journey, the traffic jam into Turkey seems to go on and on and on – we were told delays of up to 8 hours can sometimes occur. If you’re hitch-hiking with a truck driver, you’re much better off walking across the border and picking up a lift at the other side.

Continuing Your Journey

If you are crossing the border by foot or bicycle, ATMs and currency exchange offices are available on both sides of the border. However the Turkish currency offices offer a much better deal so keep an eye out for them,

Into BulgariaPlovdiv

Free Wi-Fi is available at the Shell petrol station on the Bulgarian side. There are no buses from Kapitan Andreevo (the border village) so you need to get to the next town, Svilengrad (Свиленград). From here there are reliable buses and trains to Plovdiv, Sofia and Varna. Hitch hiking to Svilengrad should be OK from the border, but in summer time many cars are already full with holiday makers. Of course if you are totally stranded at the border, taxi drivers will be always be hawking for a fare.

Bus Connections from Svilengrad 
Plovdiv (Пловдив) and Sofia (София) – Depart @ 06:00 and 13:00
Varna (Варна) – Depart at 05:30 (Monday – Friday only)
Bus timetables available @ Avtogari.info

Into Turkey

IstanbulThere is a small mall just past the border post, with shops and fast food –  it’s a good place to get some quick food. As with the Bulgarian side, there are no buses direct from the border. The best option is to hitch-hike to Edirne or further afield. Hitch hiking is incredibly common in Turkey and there are hundreds of cars and trucks passing through. Taxis are also available – but I can only imagine that it’s quite a hefty fee to Edirne.
From Edirne there are frequent buses from the main bus station (Otogar) on the outskirts of town (accessible from the city centre by dolmus).

Bus Connections from Edirne Otogar (MetroTurizm):
Istanbul – 30TL (3-4 hours)
Ankara – 70TL (9 hours)
Izmir  – 70TL (8 Hours)
Cannakale (Gallipoli) – 40TL (4 hours)
Antalya – 95TL (11 hours)
Full timetables from Edirne available @ Otobus.org (Turkish only)

*Due to engineering works there are currently no trains between Edirne and Istanbul.

Cappadocia

 

22 Comments

  1. 27/02/2016 / 2:16 PM

    Hi guys, blog looks awesome!!!
    Do you know if the border is still open?

    • 27/02/2016 / 5:42 PM

      Afternoon Tom, cheers for checking out the blog.

      Border is most definitely still open. I imagine there’s more stringent checks due to the refugee crisis, but you shouldn’t have any major issues as long as your passport is in order. Which direction are you going? It may take a couple of hours entering Bulgaria depending on traffic / visa checks.

  2. 31/05/2016 / 9:34 AM

    Great info Conor, I had no idea it was such a massive operation down there, I think I will fly to Istanbul from BG! Happy travels, love the blog looking forward to reading more.

  3. Abdul
    16/06/2016 / 3:46 PM

    I am visiting Turkey from Ghana soon and i intend going to Germany by train. I would want to know if I will be issued with visa stamp at the various checkpoints to Germany?

      • Abdul
        18/06/2016 / 11:23 AM

        Thanks for your response.
        Can I in any case apply for Schengen visa whilst in Turkey as a foreigner. This is because I am currently busy with academic works and I’m unlikely not to get the visa when I apply here in Ghana due to the limited time I have to leave the country to Turkey. Thanks!

      • Gerard
        07/08/2017 / 3:56 PM

        Do you know if you can walk across any of the borders? Heading from turkey to Bulgaria

        • 07/08/2017 / 6:45 PM

          Hi Gerard, thanks for reading. It’s no problem walking across at Kapikule. You can catch a dolmus out of Edirne to the border and then walk across. Only problem is there is no bus on the Bulgaria side. You will have to hitch hike or get a taxi to Haskovo or further to Plovdiv.
          Easiest option is Metroturizm bus from Edirne bus station direct to Plovdiv or Haskovo.

  4. Tamas
    12/07/2016 / 2:23 PM

    Hi Guys!
    Thanks for the info it is extremely useful as now I am planning to visit Turkey by car from Hungary. So it seems it is a good idea to make a little roundabout to Burgas and then cross the Turkish border at Malko Tarnovo.

    • 12/07/2016 / 4:02 PM

      Hello Tamas!
      Thank you for reading and commenting. Yes I think that’s a good idea, maybe ask in petrol station or something on the way and see if they have any news on the traffic. Especially now it is summer it could be crazy traffic!
      Let me know how you get on, and enjoy the road trip 🙂

  5. Jim Kuhl
    18/07/2016 / 7:35 PM

    i drove to Turkey in a 2000 ford focus and back , however this was in the month of February 2016 returning march 2016 same route…had no wait what so ever. the maximum wait was probably Serbia but only like 40 minutes. it was more inconvenient as i was the only one they were asking to empty contents of my car and i mean everything and i had tools n spare parts, trolley jack bass box etc etc….But Bulgaria Turkey border was lovely no problems no waits no nothing. Make sure u get ur Turkish visa before hand ..this delayed me as i had to reverse from the front of the queue .. apologies for poor grammar – am in isolation for radioactive treatment..once i am out i am going again!!!

  6. Tina
    29/07/2016 / 11:41 AM

    Hello, everyone !
    Can anyone tell me if the crossing borders Kapikule to Bulgaria are open? Planning to travel next week and have to pass this border, however I heard that it is closed :(. Does anyone know if it is right? also I will highly appreciate if somebody can write the contact info (telephone, e-mail) so I can contact those from the border and check it out :). Thank you in advance !

    • 29/07/2016 / 1:12 PM

      Hi Tina, I can assure you the Kapikule crossing is most definitely open! In which direction are you going? It might be busy traffic wise but there will be no problem crossing!

      • Tina
        29/07/2016 / 1:17 PM

        Great ! Thank you for your reply ! Our destination country is Moldova . I contacted those from Bulgarian border Kapitan Andreev and they confirmed that everything is fine .

        • 29/07/2016 / 1:53 PM

          Excellent, glad to hear. Enjoy Moldova, it’s high on my list of places to go 🙂

          • Tina
            29/07/2016 / 1:58 PM

            Hahaha seriously ? Not that much to see out there, maybe just to meet some nice people, enjoy Moldavian food and visit wine basements : Cricova and Milestii Mici (the biggest in the world). Thanks once again for your replies and wish you all the best

  7. Sami
    19/08/2016 / 9:15 PM

    hi, does anybody know that Bulgarian Border Guards have visa facilities (when someone coming from Turkey and he needs visa to enter Bulgaria) ?

    • 22/08/2016 / 12:25 AM

      Hi Sami, thanks for commenting. As far as I am aware you must have a pre-approved Schengen Visa to enter Bulgaria.

  8. JEFF
    07/12/2016 / 1:15 PM

    Nice blog!
    Is Kapikule crossing busy 24/7??

    Also, how long does it take to pass the crossing at the busiest time in both directions??

    • 07/12/2016 / 1:24 PM

      Hello Jeff, thanks for visiting!
      Yes it’s 24/7,its the busiest crossing is open at all times. It took me 30 minutes from Turkey to Bulgaria, and I imagine it is the same from other side. Depends on how you are planning to cross? We took the bus so I reckon a car may take longer as there are random searches etc.

  9. Hasibullah
    01/01/2017 / 10:05 AM

    I am in Turkey with my regular passport i mean in my regular passport i have turkish visa. and i am in Istanbul now for tourism. And I have another service passport which has just Czech Republic Visa not shengen visa on it with type D visa and and can I cross the Bulgaria border with it plz kindly anwer me.
    thanks 🙂

  10. Ernest Azubogu
    07/08/2017 / 11:27 PM

    I am a Nigerian with a Nigerian passport. I have a Bulgarian visa, can i travel to Turkey by road from Bulgaria without any problem at the border?

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