So you’ve decided to experience Bansko for yourself? But you first need to get there, which sometimes can be harder than one would think. But fear not, for we got you covered with information and tips on everything you may need to know. Here we will cover the different ways to get to Bansko and you decide by yourself which is the best way for you to transfer to Bansko.
Bansko is a small ski town located 160km south of Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. Getting there from abroad can be done through two airports in Bulgaria – Sofia and Plovdiv, or through Thessaloniki (Greece) and Skopje (North Macedonia). After you’ve landed you have a few options to finish the journey to Bansko.
In this article we will be focusing on getting to Bansko from the airport in Sofia. The standard ways (excluding an option by train (very long) or hitchhiking (unsafe and hard during winter) include:
> AIRPORT SHUTLLES (shared/private service; either way door-to-door)
> PUBLIC TRANSPORT
AIRPORT SHUTLLES (SHARED / PRIVATE)
Probably the safest, easiest and most hassle-free way to travel is by hiring a private or shared shuttle to transfer you from the airport straight to your hotel. These can only be booked in advance and will be waiting for you at the airport to drive you directly to your destination. With the new E-79 highway expansion it is even faster to get there than ever before and the majority of the trip is now over first class roads. The total travel time by car/van is approx. 2:10 hours from Sofia Airport, out of rush hour and with good road conditions.
+++ PROS +++
> CHEAP (if shared)! Prices can be as low as 11 Euros per person each way, depending on the group size and the transfer provider.
> Some companies offer free wi-fi for the whole trip, which will definitely make the trip seem like less than 2 hours.
> Professional drivers who speak some English.
> Direct drive from Airport to Hotel.
> Enough room for luggage and skis (if you are carrying your own).
> Saves you the stress from driving in Bulgaria with a hired car, especially if it’s snowing.
> Most companies offer personalized transport services upon request.
> Some transport companies often offer special discounted packages for ski school & equipment rental (for example www.skibansko.bg).
– – – CONS – – –
> Advertised low prices per person are often valid for groups of 12-17 people. You need to check exact rate and conditions prior booking.
> Not all companies that offer such services are legally licensed to do so (if something goes wrong, good luck getting your money back or raising a claim with your insurance company, which won’t cover anything if you have engaged with illegal business). Always book with licensed tour operators (many of these will try to fool you showing their registration number, which has nothing to do with the transportation services license number)!
> You may have to wait at the airport for other flights and passengers to arrive before starting the ride (if the service is shared).
Another way to get to Bansko is by hiring a normal cab from the airport. This is also an easy way to ruin your trip from day one, as cab drivers can sometimes not be what you were expecting, overcharge you or decline the service if you have too much luggage. Note that almost all taxi cabs in Bulgaria have an LPG or Methane bottle in their boots, so even less space for luggage, let alone ski bags if you’re bringing your own. The price offered by OK Supertrans is appr. 120 Euro per direction (as of 2017). They have an office in the airport terminal itself with English-speaking staff that will assist you to your car. If you do decide to go by taxi from Sofia, we suggest you go with OK Supertrans (“OK Супертранс” in Bulgarian), as they are the most reliable.
+++ PROS +++
> Personal service straight from the airport to your hotel.
> You can stop anywhere you want along the way, such as a low commission change bureau (this may cost you extra).
> Arguably slightly faster than the shuttle (which doesn’t mean safer).
– – – CONS – – –
> Drivers in most cases will not speak English and may not know exactly where to drop you off in Bansko.
> Small space for luggage (if you’re a group of 3 be ready for a tight fit).
> It’s not impossible for the driver to charge you extra (you will never know the amount you will pay until you get there unless this is something you have agreed upon before the ride).
> A lot of taxi drivers don’t buy new tires every season, which is very risky if it’s snowing.
> There is a big chance to be grabbed by fake taxi drivers with cars, very similar in terms of logos to the OK Supertrans cabs (i.e. CK Supertrans, OK Supershans etc.)
> If the car breaks in the middle of the road no substitute vehicle will be secured to finish the journey with you.
For the travelers who prefer to be more self-reliant, another option is renting your own car from the airport. This is often а more expensive option and you will be left driving yourself the whole trip, something you probably do enough of at home. Car rental is defiantly not for inexperienced drivers either, as traffic in Bulgaria can be unpleasant and even the smallest of auto troubles can stop your good time dead in its tracks. Prices vary depending on when you want to travel and how long in advance you book your car. We would suggest renting out a 4WD car, as road conditions can be very bad if it’s snowing. Also always check how reputable is the car hire company (trying to find TripAdvisor reviews of it) before making a reservation.
+++ PROS +++
> Full freedom to go where and when you please.
> Privacy during the trip.
> Well serviced cars with good winter tires.
– – – CONS – – –
> Expensive, considering the fact you will only be driving there and back, but not for the rest of your stay in Bansko (say 5-6 more days).
> Some car hire companies (even the big ones) have many hidden charges.
> Parking in Bansko isn’t regulated very well. The city administration lifts cars that are parked in the wrong place, even if there is no sign. This will result in a hefty fine.
> Even with the new highway from Sofia, road conditions can be bad if it’s snowing. In severe snow storms it is even possible for the road to Bansko to be closed for hours at a time. If you lack experience driving in snow conditions, better waive the car hire as an option.
> Street parking in the center of Bansko and close to the ski lifts is not free. Many hotels do not have parking places for their customers.
Bulgaria does have a public transportation system, which can take you to Bansko. You can catch the bus from one of two bus stations – Central Bus Station or Ovcha Kupel Bus station. The average price per ticket is 8 Euros, depending on which company you will be using.
You can find the most accurate detailed information on buses, prices and time tables HERE . This is the official site for bus transfers in Bulgaria and is updated accordingly. Just enter your starting point and ending point (it has to be in Bulgarian, so just copy/paste “София” for Sofia and “Банско” for Bansko). Once you see the list of buses you can click on “more” to see exactly when it will arrive in Bansko. Usually the final destination shown there isn’t Bansko. This is the best source for this information as any changes are taken into consideration. Google Translate works well on the site, so try that. Other sites may show this information on one of their own webpages but it is not guaranteed to be up to date, as someone has to manually check from time to time if there are any changes.
+++ PROS +++
> Different experience.
– – – CONS – – –
> Longer travel time!. The bus is slower and stops at different stations along its path.
> Getting to the bus station after your flight can be troublesome.
> Don’t expect the driver to speak any English.
> Theft: keep an eye on all your luggage at the various stops.
> You will arrive at the bus station in Bansko and will have to make your own way to your hotel.
> You may be denied boarding in case you bring your own skis/boards, which take too much space in the bus luggage room.
Unlike most of the companies, offering airport transfers to Bansko, Traventuria Ltd. is fully bonded and licensed tour operator, with transportation service license as an addition, transferring thousands of clients each season to and from Bansko. People who have bought ski packs from us receive further discount on our transfer rates. For more details see HERE.
Ski & Board Traventuria is a leading provider of lift passes, equipment rental, airport transfers, and ski school for the Bansko area. To book your ski vacation in Bansko with us, please check our website – www.skibansko.bg