Bucharest to Istanbul: Experience Turkey Like Never Before!

Turkey dinner

It’s almost Thanksgiving, that peaceful time of year when family and friends gather together to reflect on what they are most thankful for. Of course, as most of us know, the main event of this harmonious day, is feasting on a tantalizing turkey – with all the trimmings!

We thought it would fun to explore another option for turkey this year, today we’re talking about taking a trip to Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey, from Bucharest.

Few thrills match the experience of standing on the deck of a Turkish ferry as it sails into the Bosporus (Bosphorus) Strait at sunrise, as the first rays of light strike the domes and spires of Istanbul’s heart-stopping skyline. It’s a magical sight, made even more dramatic by the haunting sound of the muezzin’s call to prayer echoing through streets dotted with colorful cafés, markets and mosques.

Wait, when did I get to Asia?!

Entering Asian Istanbul
Traveling from the European side of Istanbul to the Asian side. Image courtesy of and © Miklos Szabo

Istanbul is the only city in the world sited on two continents, Europe and Asia. Istanbul blends the cultures of Europe and Asia into a setting as rich and varied as the pattern of any kilim. Water also defines its character: the city stretches along the Bosporus, the channel that links the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara and then narrows into the Golden Horn, a fresh-water inlet intersecting the European side of Istanbul.

Several bridges span the Golden Horn, most notably the Galata Bridge. Here a steady parade of cars, donkey-carts, and pedestrians stream between the old city of Stambul to the south and modern Beyoglu to the north. A great spot to embrace the sights and surroundings of the city.

Must See Palaces, Mosques & Museums in Istanbul

Immerse yourself in Istanbul’s past by exploring its opulent palaces, mosques, and museums, structures evoking the splendors of the Byzantine, Roman, and Ottoman empires that flourished and fell over 3,000-years.

Blue Mosque in Istanbul Turkey
Blue Mosque located in Istanbul, Turkey. Image courtesy of and © Miklos Szabo

The old city is home to dazzling architectural gems from those fabled times, including Topkapi PalaceHagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii  in Turkish), and Süleymaniye Mosque, which houses a priceless array of treasures.

Istanbul is considered one of the world’s greatest shopping centers. Don’t miss the Grand Bazaar, the planet’s largest covered market, a labyrinth of streets containing more than 4,000 shops that sell everything from leather goods to carpets, from jewelry to meerschaum pipes.

Grand Bazaar in Istanbul Turkey
Iconic Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey. Image courtesy of and © Miklos Szabo

Here bargaining is a fine art that proceeds over tulip-shaped glasses of hot tea. Watch craftsmen at work at the Bazaar of Istanbul Arts. Then visit the Spice Bazaar, a delightful throwback to Ottoman times; here you’ll discover such exotic treats as bee pollen, saffron, and lokum (Turkish delight).

You’ll find the cuisine in Istanbul second to none. Meals usually begin with meze, cold appetizers of an infinite variety, and proceed to a meat or fish course, which you choose either right in the kitchen or from offerings brought to table.

Some of the best fish are found in charming little restaurants along the Bosporus, but the streets around the Kumkapi fish market are also packed with dining spots-as well as a lively, music-filled scene.

After the excitement, revive your senses at an incomparable Turkish bath: the soothing massage, warm suds, and body scrub will soothe you.

Bucharest to Istanbul by Train:

Bosfor Express train
Bosfor Express train from Bucharest to Istanbul. Image courtesy of and © Miklos Szabo

A pass is a great side-dish for your Turkey travels! Though reservations must be purchased locally, you can get a jump on your rail travel around Turkey by getting a Balkan Flexipass. Having a flexipass will allow you to travel throughout Turkey as well as Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia.

Another option, for those of you who plan to do extensive travel throughout Europe, would be to get a Eurail Global Pass. This rail pass gives you unlimited travel on the national rail networks of over 20 European countries by train – including Romania & Turkey.

The train trip from Bucharest to Istanbul is a little over 19 hours. Don’t let the travel time discourage you though, the trip is well worth it!

For this route, you will travel on-board the Bosfor Express. The train departs Bucharest at approximately 12:30pm, and will arrive in Istanbul at approximately 7:30am the following day. This train offers 1st and 2nd class sleeping accommodations. We suggest you opt for the 1st class compartment as it provides more comfort and space. In addition, the bathroom in the 1st class carriage provides both a toilet and shower. The supplement for 1st class sleepers is roughly $50 per person.

When you arrive in the border town of Kapikule you will need to exit the train (you can leave your belongings in your sleeper compartment) and visit the visa/passport office for entry into the country. You will then get back on the train. Before the train can depart, passport control is conducted on-board. After, there is the customs inspection. You may be asked to open your luggage for inspection, and the officers may ask some basic questions, typical TSA type questions like what are you transporting, duration/purpose of trip, etc. When this is all complete, the train will depart and you will continue your journey.

Due to track work at the moment, another stop will be made in Cerkezkoy where you will transfer to a motocoach for the remaining hour and a half trip to Istanbul.

NOTE: Americans are required to have both an entry visa and valid passport to enter Turkey. For more information, please visit the US Department of State.

A trip to Istanbul will leave you with fond memories. The variety of things to see and do make Istanbul a destination that truly does have something for everyone. Plus, it’s the only city in the world where you can visit both Europe AND Asia!


  1. Mustafa Olgun

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    | Reply
    • Sol

      Hi, What happen to you was rellay fun and cool. If I’d known you were looking for an ONG in Romania (and if I would have read your blog then) I would have offered our organization’s help. It’s a Cultural local Organization named DTS Flow (in Drobeta Turnu Severin) and for our next project, in September, this year, we have a cultural experience exchange with Cyprus, Macedonia and Serbia, and us, and it’s all happening here, in Romania, Orsova (you’ve pass by on your way to Serbia for your holiday via train). We will talk about cultural differences, music, dance, traditions and anything we think is an issue with people and cultures all over the world. Your blog will help me create some debates about how others view us, but if u have anymore ideas that could help me I’ll be glad to write them down. Again, I like reading you, and I’m glad you are fond of Romania. I hope you will find someday a place that you would wish never to leave it behind, because that place will definitely be the best place in the world considering you have seen everything.

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  2. Kumari

    Hey Nettie Thanks for your comment and I ceilnraty approve any comment that comes my way! As for your question though, I definitely have not lost my adventurous spirit at all. I just returned to Romania after spending over a month in the Balkans, I’m heading to Moldova this weekend, off to Estonia and Finland next month and then off to India in October where I’ll spend two months. I’m not sure I can move around any more than that But yes, so far this year I have spent a significant time in Romania, and to be honest, I’ve done this so that I can work on some new projects that I’ve created and be able to continue earning money. It is not easy to earn money online while constantly moving around and also, to earn money online one needs to constantly be working on new projects and ideas. So I decided to take six months to stay in one place (even though I’ve still traveled quite a bit during this time) and work on these projects I have. I wouldn’t say that’s losing my adventurous spirit at all instead, I’m using that spirit to find a way to continue wandering around the world for as long as I want without having to go home and get an office job.Also, staying in one place for a longer period of time ceilnraty offers a much different, and incredibly rewarding, experience for a traveler as I have been able to connect with Bucharest and its people more than I have ever been able to connect with any other destination I’ve visited. So I see nothing wrong with enjoying all types of travel experiences and I’m quite certain that the overwhelming majority of the readers of this site agree.You ceilnraty can’t blame me for wanting to earn money so that I can continue with this lifestyle and taking 6 months to help my situation is not such a big deal considering that I’ve been on the road for over 13 years!

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