Sofia is proud of it’s new Centralna Avtogara/Central Bus Station (Централна Автогара), claiming that it is a modern facility that has cut down on chaos. But it is actually a nightmare to navigate, even if you speak Bulgarian! I suspect that it’s easier to get to a major destination than a small town, of course, so the following instructions are likely more applicable to the latter.
While trying to get home the other day, I discovered that the Centralna Avtogara website is where you need to go to get information. It’s really not very user friendly, but the salient information is there. You really don’t need much more than two screens and also how to spell the name of your destination in Cyrillic.
This is the homepage for the website. Don’t worry about anything I haven’t highlighted.
This home page gives you the next few departures, but they only list the termination points. If you want to go somewhere like Teteven that isn’t usually a termination point, you have to go deeper into the website, as per my note at the bottom.
You get to this screen:
There are two ways you can navigate it. The slowest is to just scroll down and scan the destination names until you see your destination. The better way if you have the Bulgarian Cyrillic keyboard on your device (easy to add to iOS and OS X), do a search on the page for your city name.
In the example above, I was looking for a departure for Teteven. What I highlighted in the left column is the name Ribaritsa. That’s the destination I’m looking for. Next, I highlighted the time the bus leaves, the gate, and the cost. I only paid 7BGN for my trip, so that is the maximum amount you can expect to pay and it may be less if you’re not going the whole way.
If I kept scrolling and looking for Teteven, I would have found one more at a different time, gate, and price.
So now, you have a departure time and gate, but still don’t know where to buy a ticket. All I can say at this point is do what I did. Go to each wicket and scan the list for your termination point and destination. If you don’t see either, just go to the gate and hope that you can buy a ticket from the driver!
Monday morning, I brought up this screen and was able to determine that there would be two Teteven-bound buses that day. Well, what if I was looking for another day? The little green squares represent the days that route operates. In the above example, all have seven green squares. So that means that there’s a 12:30 bus to Ribaritsa every day. If a day (usually Sunday) is greyed out, then the route doesn’t run that day.
I was warned that buses are delayed and canceled without notice, but hopefully this information will be enough to get you to your destination at some point, if not the exact time you wanted!