If you have started planning a trip to Bulgaria, you have probably already found out that you will be arriving in Sofia. The Bulgarian capital is home to the country’s largest air hub so regardless if you will be traveling to another city or not, your fight will likely be landing in Sofia.
While the airport is relatively small, it is always good to know how it works and how to navigate around it. Keep reading as we have prepared the ultimate Sofia airport guide with all the necessary information.
Facts About Sofia Airport
First opened back in 1939, Sofia Airport is a fairly old air hub, which has only seen major developments during the past few years. The new Terminal 2, which was opened in 2006 is the current official terminal and is served by most major airlines, while the old Terminal 1 is mainly operational for charter and low-cost airlines. Even still, there is only one runway with a total length of almost 2500 meters.
With numerous additional airlines and new destinations being added to the airport arrivals and departures lists, the air hub has been receiving a slow but steady increase in the number of passengers served. The peak was in 2019 when more than 7 million passengers when through Sofia Airport. Unfortunately, the years after being heavily hit by the coronavirus pandemic negatively influenced the percentage of both flight arrivals and departures.
Despite being the biggest air hub in Bulgaria, Sofia Airport is a fairly small airport with a relatively old-fashioned feel to it. Even still, tourists can enjoy a quick and smooth transition through both security and passport control, which means that wait times are fairly short, which is always a plus when a hurry to catch a plane!
From Sofia Airport to Sofia City Center
One of the first questions that you will be asking when planning your holiday to Bulgaria is how to get from Sofia Airport to Sofia City Center. There are different ways of transportation – and you will be surprised how easy this journey is.
Getting from Sofia Airport to Sofia City Center By Metro
By far the most convenient, easy and cheap way to reach Sofia city center from Sofia Airport is by metro. If you are arriving at Terminal 2 at Sofia Airport, you can simply follow the blue floor signs, which will take you to the eastern side of the terminal building and straight into the metro station. As you can presume the name of the station is Sofia Airport and it is the last stop on Line 4. It might be a bit confusing at first, but Line 2 and Line 4 follow almost the same route and they both cover the main stations located in the city center. It is important to keep in mind, though, that only Line 4 (marked as yellow on the metro map) will take you to the airport.
The metro journey from Sofia Airport to Sofia City Center is less than 20 minutes, with trains running every 6 – 10 minutes on weekdays and 12 minutes on weekends. It is important to keep in mind that Line 4, covering the airport route to the city center runs only from 5:30 AM until midnight. Before you can jump on the train, you would need to buy a metro ticket. You can either use the vending machines or the cashier’s desk at the station. The ticket price is 1,60 BGN and can only be used once. If you are planning on using public transport multiple times per day, it is best to get a day card, which costs 4 BGN and allows you to use the entire public transport system of the city. Keep in mind that once you get your ticket it is only valid for 30 minutes, so do not stock up on metro tickets for the next day.
For those of you who arrive at Terminal 1, there is a free shuttle bus in between the terminals that leave every 10 minutes.
Note: The Bulgarian capital has an extensive underground system with four lines, which can easily take you across the city in less than 30 minutes and is the best way to get around when exploring Sofia.
Getting from Sofia Airport to Sofia City Center by Taxi
For those of you who will be arriving in Sofia in the early hours of the morning and the metro is not operational, we strongly suggest getting a taxi, as the second-best option for getting from Sofia Airport to Sofia city center. Keep in mind that as with any other large capital in the world, taxi scams are a thing in Sofia as well. OK Supertrans is the official taxi partner of Sofia Airport and you can find their office desks inside the terminal buildings. If this is your first time arriving in Sofia, we strongly recommend using the taxi service inside the airport to avoid the possibility of getting scammed. With a distance of approximately 10 km from Sofia airport to the city center it is important to keep in mind that the taxi fare can be quite pricey, especially during the peak hours with heavy traffic.
Getting from Sofia Airport to Sofia City Center by Car
With quite a large list of rent-a-car companies, car rental services are available at Sofia Airport, however, they are not advisable to use unless you are planning on traveling to another city. Using a rental car in Sofia city center, though, is not a good option, as parking is both difficult and expensive. Traveling by car during the peak hours of the day can also significantly slow down your travel time. If you will road tripping around Bulgaria, renting a car can be an easier and better option, than trying to use the bus and train systems connecting the different Bulgarian cities.
Destinations and Airlines
As the largest airport in Bulgaria, it is highly possible that you will be flying into Sofia Airport, even if you are planning on traveling to another city in Bulgaria after that.
The air hub has two terminals – Terminal 1 being the old one, and Terminal 2 is the newer and slightly more modern building. The airport is served by a large list of airlines, with the low-cost carriers flying from and to Terminal 1. Visitors will be able to find numerous holiday destinations from Sofia Airport operated by airlines such as Ryanair and WizzAir.
As the official country’s airlines, Bulgaria Airlines offers numerous destinations, among the most popular are – Amsterdam, Berlin, London, Saint Petersburg, Barcelona, Vienna, Prague, etc.
In addition to that, Lufthansa opened a massive facility center under the name of Lufthansa Technik at the airport, the main purpose of which is to provide repair and maintenance for various aircraft and plane components. So you should not be surprised that there are numerous flights daily from Sofia to different German cities served by Lufthansa.
Last but not least, Turkish Airlines is a great choice for those arriving from Asia and the Middle East, with connecting flights mainly in Istanbul.
Hotels Near Sofia Airport
Being approximately 10 km away from Sofia city center, the area around Sofia airport can be classified more as an industrial zone and it is not very popular for choosing an accommodation.
If you have a very early morning flight or you have an overnight layover and you would prefer to treat yourself for the night, there are two great options to choose from:
Best Western Premiere Sofia Airport Hotel is a luxurious 4-star hotel that will welcome you with a clean, modern design and friendly staff. If you want a quality experience in a hotel near the airport, this is where to stay. Make your reservation here.
Located 500 meters away from Sofia Airport, Ibis Sofia Airport is a perfect budget-friendly option, which still offers all the necessary facilities and amenities you might ask for. If you want an affordable stay, and if you want to be really close, this hotel will serve your needs. Book your stay with the Ibis hotel here.
Overall, Sofia Airport is a relatively small air hub, which means that going through border or check-in control does not take too long. This is fairly good news for anyone who is always running late and afraid they can miss their flights.
If you are traveling with just a carry-on, it is enough to plan just an hour before your departure time. For those who have to check in their bags first, though, 90 to 120 minutes might be a bit better just to be on the safe side. It is important to have in mind that there are normally only 3-4 check-in counters open per airline and lines can get a bit long.
At terminal 2, you would have to get to the second floor to go through security check, border control, and find your gate. Terminal 1, on the other hand, is a one-story building. Even still, both terminals have multiple signs and are very easy to navigate through. Unfortunately, the duty-free zone and the number of restaurants and cafes are quite limited, but you can still check them out if you have a few minutes to spare.
Terminal 2 is extremely open with lots of seating options. There are quite a lot of gates for such a small air hub, so they rarely get used all at the same time. So you will quickly find out that there is enough space for everyone and it is never too crowded. Terminal 1, though, has very few seating options and you may have to be standing up for quite a while.
Now that you have the ultimate Sofia Airport Guide, are you ready to pack your bags and plan the best holiday to Bulgaria?