I'm considering traveling Budapest-Brasov (Sinaia/Peles)-Veliko Tarnovo-Istanbul-Sofia by train in mid-April. Where, along that route, would be the smartest place for me to book the train with sleeper (not couchette) TO Istanbul FROM VT and then FROM Istanbul TO Sofia (again, with sleeper not couchette)? I already have a one-month Eurail Global Pass, so I'd need tickets for the Turkish portions each way but strictly speaking not for any other portion of it. Smartest for me means I can do a complex itinerary like the above all at once, and I can get by with no local language capability at all beyond trying to be polite and looking like a dumb American tourist! Hey, one outta two ain't bad! Other than the question about language capability, my real question is: is it logical to expect I could book the entire open jaw trip, incl sleepers, while outside Turkey? Or would I have to be IN Istanbul to book the return trip out of Turkey into Sofia (or anywhere else, for that matter)?
I can't give you a direct answer but can describe my experiences form 5-6 years ago. We were traveling from VT to Bucharest and I bought the tickets in Sofia. I was glad because some of the folks in the the ticket office in Sofia spoke English and I was able to book my tickets with ease. There is also a small train ticket office in the center of VT that deals with tourists and is probably the best place to book your tickets if they are able to do so. Since you are traveling in April I would wait till you get to VT and then book the ticket. The only other alternative that I can suggest is to contact a travel agency and have them book the ticket. This is probably the easy way for the IST-Sofia trip. My travel experience was that I had to travel to a town about 8 km away from VT to catch my train since not all the long distance trains stop at VT. I think the sleeper train that you intend to catch does stop at VT. When we were there, the train we were on was running 3 hrs late as was the sleeper train. I couldn't find anyone on the station that could speak English to try to switch to the sleeper train which arrived while we were at the station. Hence, my family and I just jumped on the sleeper train as it was about to depart, even though we didn't have any reservations, and the conductor just charged us 5 euros for each adult for the sleeper car. Have you checked out seat61.com to see if you can get onto the Turkish railways website to book these tickets now?
Thx Arnold. I haven't tried the turk site yet but I will. And the Romanian one.