The pandemic and the skyrocketing fuel prices have changed the transportation landscape in Bulgaria, probably, forever! Here is an up-to-date guide (as of December 2022) on the different options to reach Bansko from Sofia Airport. The analysis below is based on my experience and knowledge as a travel expert in Bulgaria.
Every contemporary tourist planning his/hers trip from Bulgaria’s busiest airport to the country’s premier ski resort – Bansko should be considering the following criteria:
- efficiency (time-saving)
- online booking possibilities
- as small as possible carbon footprint
A problematic journey to the Bansko and back can ruin your and your family’s entire holiday. My straightforward advice is to choose wisely! Don’t put the low price as your main indicated of choice. Place the transfer company’s reputation at the top of your priority while researching transfer options.
The alternatives are:
- Taking a bus
- Board on Traventuria’s scheduled shared transfers
- Shared transfer
- Private transfer
- Train (not covered as an option in this blog post as it is more of an adventure than an effective way to reach Bansko)
GETTING FROM SOFIA AIRPORT TO BANSKO BY BUS
At the moment (December 12, 2022), the situation with Bulgarian public transport could be considered, to say the least – tricky, even for Bulgarian citizens. In the last few months, some transportation companies were forced to cancel some of their bus lines as not profitable. Roughly, half of the bus lines between Sofia and Bansko that were operational a year ago are now suspended. Bus station timetables can be misleading.
The Central and Ovcha Kupel are the bus stations from where coaches are charted from the city of Sofia to the town of Bansko. To reach Ovcha Kupel from Sofia Airport, you must cross the whole Bulgarian capital. This is the reason, I will be reflecting the option of taking a bus from the Central Bus Station as the only reasonable one.
Sofia Airport => Sofia Central Bus Station
Using the Metro
The easiest and cheapest way to get from Sofia Airport to Sofia Central Bus Station is by metro (underground/subway). If you’ve landed at Terminal 1 you have to take the shuttle to Terminal 2 (which runs every 30 mins from 5 am to 9 pm) There is only one metro line leading out of Terminal 2 and you can’t make a mistake taking a wrong train. Note that you have to change metro lines at Serdica Metro Station. When there, board the metro train to the Central Train Station. The Central Bus Station is next to the Central Tain Station. You can use Google Maps for navigation. The ticket costs 1.6 leva (0.82 euro).
Taking a taxi to the Central Bus Station
On Terminal 2 there is a stand of OK Supertrans, from which you can order a taxi. I use the Yellow Taxi app and find it very reliable. In most of the Yellow taxis, you can pay by credit/debit card for the ride. I recommend using them to avoid taxi scams. The taxi transfer from the airport to the Central Bus Station should cost about 20-25 leva depending on the traffic and time of the day. Timewise, the trip can take between 15 and 30-40 minutes (even more if there is very heavy traffic.) Note that there is no Uber in Bulgaria.
Getting from Sofia’s Central Bus Station to Bansko
Two bus companies are transporting passengers between Sofia Central Bus Station and Bansko. They are Union Ivkoni and Popov. I’ve used both companies and my preferences strongly fall on Popov in terms of comfort and friendliness of the drivers. You can buy your ticket online at: https://www.busexpress.bg/en or on spot. My advice is to prebook your ticket as the bus station can be somewhat confusing. The ticket price is about 20 leva. The bus journey takes a little over 3 hours with a 15 minutes rest in the town of Blagoevgrad. When you are finally in Bansko, you most probably will need a taxi ride to your hotel. Better negotiate the price before hopping in.
> Price: can be as cheap as 21.6 leva (11 euros) per person
> Convenience: low compared to the other means of transport
> Environmental impact: in theory, it should be low, but in practice, it is difficult for me to estimate as some of the coaches by the bus companies are old and pollute significantly.
SOFIA AIRPORT TO BANSKO: SHARED JOURNEYS WITH SCHEDULED DEPARTURE TIMES
This flagship service of Traventuria’s transport department was started in the winter season of 2021/2022 after a customer survey, careful research and detailed analysis. You can book it online at https://www.skibansko.bg/transfers-sofia-plovdiv-airports/ and just with a few clicks reserve a seat and have your confirmation in your mailbox. Our buses pick up the passengers from terminals 1 and 2. There are 3 guaranteed departures every day. Our buses leave Terminal 2 at 11:30; 13:30 and 17:30. The price is 40 leva per person.
KINDLY NOTE: for this service no flight monitoring is carried out from our side! Due to potential delays (flight/luggage pick up), we advise you NOT to use it if your flight is scheduled to land within an hour of the fixed departure time. If you fail to board the bus you are booked for, you will be allowed to board the next one in case there are free seats and against full payment for the new ticket.
> Price: 40 leva (20 euros) per person
> Convenience: trouble-free online booking; only modern vehicles are used.
> Environmental impact: low. Most vehicles are with Euro 6 engines.
SHARED TRANSFERS FROM SOFIA AIRPORT TO BANSKO
The shared transfer suppliers in Sofia, including Traventuria, provide door-to-door services as well as meet and greet by a professional driver at the arrivals halls of Sofia airport. This is a budgeted option for private transfers. A setback of this service is that you may be asked to wait up to an hour at the airport for the other passengers booked on the same bus as you. With climate change in mind, this should be your preferred option over private transfers.
Kindly note that Traventuria offers semi-private transfers, which in essence are shared transfers, but you will share the ride only with the other passengers arriving on your flight. This equals to less waiting time (no need to wait for customers from other flights) at the airport and usually small groups in the vehicle.
> Price: varies depending on the vehicle size and the transfer supplier, but shared transfers are considerably cheaper. However, the price should not be your only guiding light. Consider the reputation (by reading customers’ reviews) of the company offering these services.
> Convenience: These are door-to-door services. There are plenty of options to book these services online. Private transfers are in most cases more comfortable
Environmental impact: low. You share the ride and the overall carbon emission with the other passengers.
PRIVATE TRANSFERS FROM SOFIA AIRPORT TO BANSKO
Private transfers used to be the most popular way of getting to Bansko as they were relatively cheap, with unmatched convenience and no waiting at all. They are still favoured, but the prices have increased and they are no longer so affordable. I believe all environmentally conscious travellers should be aware that this choice has a big carbon footprint.
Check if your transfer company is monitoring the flights and if they can transport your skis/snowboard and at what charge.
Warning! If you opt for a private transfer do research on the company that will be doing it. There are a lot of illegal and without reputation companies that offer very cheap private transfers. If you travel with them you are putting yourself at risk.
- IN A NUTSHELL: Private transfers from Sofia Airport to Bansko
- > Travel time: 2:30 – 2:45 hours depending on the location of your hotel in Bansko.
>Price: varies depending on the vehicle size and the transfer supplier, but shared transfers are considerably cheaper. However, the price should not be your only guiding light. Consider the reputation (by reading customers’ reviews) of the company offering these services.
> Convenience: These are door-to-door services. There are plenty of options to book these services online. Private transfers are with unequalled convenience and are the rational choice for families with a baby or small children as well as for large groups.
> Environmental impact: Very high carbon footprint in many cases. Please, consider the environment when travelling!
GETTING FROM SOFIA TO BANSKO TAKING A TAXI FROM THE AIRPORT
Frankly speaking, I haven’t used a cab to take me from Sofia to Bansko. The taxi businesses in Bulgaria have also been hit hard by the pandemic and the high prices of methane (the main fuel used by the taxi cabs in Sofia). This is reflected in the quality of the services they provide, which range from pleasant to complete disaster. However, if you wish to travel by taxi, I can recommend using some of the biggest taxi companies in Sofia, which try to sustain some kind of standard during the transfers. They are Yellow Taxi Sofia and O.K. Supertrans. Note that the latter has many false clone companies that have similar names and have deluded many gullible clients.
The daily rate (06:00 – 220:00) per km of the above-mentioned companies is 1.07 lv, and the night rate is 1.24 lv. However, there is an extra cost for the waiting time in the traffic. Depending on the time of the day the ride should be around 100 euros. If you have a lot of luggage (especially skis or snowboard) I strongly recommend booking a shared or private transfer. Most taxis have small luggage compartments.
TRAVELLING FROM SOFIA AIRPORT TO BANSKO BY RENT-A-CAR
This clearly is a choice for self-reliant travellers, who appreciate having great flexibility while on a holiday and in our case, who also would like to explore Bulgaria beyond the town of Bansko. If you are accommodated in a hotel that is far from the ski area and is not providing a shuttle to the gondola, then hiring a car seems more than a reasonable choice. The road between Sofia and Bansko is kept in good condition and is relatively easy for experienced drivers. Do keep in mind that Bulgarian drivers (with a dose of sorrow I have to admit) are notoriously aggressive and risky drivers. Well, not all, but some. Prices for car hire vary greatly depending on the rental company of your choice. Mind that many have hidden charges. I highly suggest that you book at least a full collision damage weaver (CDW) as part of the car hire package. The few parking lots around the bottom Gondola Station are expensive and sometimes it is difficult to find a free place in them. Hiring a car can also be time-consuming. Just imagine cleaning the snow from your rented car in the morning just before heading to the ski runs or to the airport.
My travel tips are:
– Families with babies and small children should strongly consider booking a private transfer.
– Choose semi-private, shared or shared transfers with scheduled departures to save carbon emission, time and cash.
– Always research the company you are booking from, as reliability is extremely important in difficult situations.
Unlike some of the companies, offering airport transfers to Bansko, Traventuria Ltd. is a fully bonded tour operator, transferring thousands of clients each season to and from Bansko. People who have bought ski packs from us receive a further discount on our transfer rates.
Ski & Board Traventuria is a leading provider of lift passes, equipment rental, airport transfers, and ski school for the Bansko area. To book your next ski vacation in Bansko with us, please check our website – www.skibansko.bg