Crossing the Bulgaria – Turkey border during the weekend – not a good experience
Recently we visited Edirne for some sightseeing and to try the local food. We went there by car and since we were in Southern Bulgaria for a few days, we hoped that the drive there and the cross the border at Kapitan Andreevo will be quick so we can have time to explore Edirne. Oh boy, were we wrong.
Reaching the border
If you’re in the southern part of Bulgaria, you can easily reach the Turkey border taking the highway. Depending on where you’re traveling from, you may have to take Highway A1 – Trakia and then take the exit for Haskovo / Istanbul, which will get you to Highway A4 – Maritsa. This will be your example route if you are traveling from Plovdiv to Turkey:
The highways in Bulgaria are toll-free, but you have to buy a vignette sticker.
The A4 highway will get you straight to Kapitan Andreevo in 2 hours if you are traveling from Plovdiv. This is the easy part. The fun begins once you arrive at the border.
Why we spent 4 hours waiting on the border?
The queues for TIRs and heavyweight trucks on the Bulgarian-Turkey border are notorious. Some of them spend days (or so it looks) to cross. Since this is the outside border of the European Union, strict checks apply for trucks carrying various goods.
However, tourists and travelers by cars should have it easier, right? No such luck. The checks you have to go through are:
- passport and car documents at Kapitan Andeevo
- passport and car documents check at Kapikule
- luggage / car trunk check at Kapikule
Those are 3 separate queues you have to wait on. That’s right, the Bulgarian patrol checks your passport and there is nowhere else you can go from there besides the Turkish border point Kapikule, however, they check your passport again. And they check your trunk. And sometimes they take their sweet time doing it.
The Bulgarian checkpoint was well-manned when we got there (and back) so the wait there was not so much, maybe around an hour or a bit more. However, the Turkish border point was … well, disorganized, not well-manned and honestly a nightmare. You can see below the lines of cars that were gathered and waiting:
After all this wait, we had almost decided that Turkey’s not worth the trip, however of course you can’t turn back and just go home, you have to stay there and wait. Although some people dared to turn their cars around, not sure if they managed to go back.
Tips to make the border cross easier
If you are determined to get across, here are some tips to make your trip more bearable.
- If you’re traveling to Edirne, which is close, have someone pick you up at the Turkish border. Leave your car at Kapitan Andreevo and cross on foot. I was told that this is possible, but I haven’t tried it and did not see anyone do it. If you try this, please comment below to let me know!
- When you reach the Turkish border, get a coffee or lunch at the duty-free outlet there. Some refreshment will help make your wait more bearable
- Other travelers have shared that crossing the border very early in the morning is quick and takes about an hour total. If you can get to the border before 7 AM, you should be able to get across much faster.
Have you traveled to Turkey by car? What was your experience? Share below!