A Solo Female Traveler's Experiences On And Off The Beaten Path

The Bus From Varna To Vama Veche: ‘It’s Never Easy’

I am big on research before I plan my travel. I scour the Internet looking for all the information I can find to make things easier when I arrive. I did just that when I decided to fly into Varna, Bulgaria, instead of Bucharest, Romania, to make my way to Vama Veche, Romania. The total travel time by bus was hours fewer this way and the cost much less, too. It would also mean I could get to Vama Veche on the same day as when my flight arrived—a rarity with a flight into Bucharest because you can’t get to Mangalia, where you catch the bus to Vama Veche, in time for the last bus of the night. That means you have to find a taxi at around midnight—it is possible, but not ideal.

I had read that there were buses from the church in Varna to Vama Veche running during the day. The Autogari website even said as much. This is not what I discovered upon arrival in Varna. After making my way to town and speaking with many locals I was told you had to catch the bus from Varna to Vama Veche at the bus station. No problem, I thought. Until I arrived at the bus station. I do not speak Bulgarian—an important thing to note here. Nor do I read Bulgarian—another important note as all the posted signs are in Bulgarian. It uses the Cyrillic alphabet which is nothing like what I am used to. I knew this as I’ve traveled here before. That did not make it any easier. Luckily, there are a few cities at the bus station where they print the name in Bulgarian and the Latin/Roman equivalent. That helps, kind of.

The trick is that you cannot get a bus from Varna to Vama Veche. You have to find a bus that is passing through on its way to Constanta, Odessa, or even Chișinău. Going to Ruse, Romania, will not help you because the bus enters Romania from a different border check point far from the coast. Do not ask for a bus to Bucharest because they will put you on the Ruse bus.

There are only a few buses per day that go to Constanta and most are mini buses. I missed the morning buses and was told only one was left after 2:00 p.m.—the 6:00 p.m.

“Can I buy a ticket now? Just to Vama Veche?” I asked the lady at the counter.

“No. It does not go to Vama Veche. Only Constanta,” she replied by writing down the bus destination and fare cost (she did not speak English).

Constanta is two+ hours from Vama Veche and you have to pass through Vama Veche to get there. That means I would have to go to Constanta only to turn around and go back to Vama Veche.

“Can the driver stop in Vama Veche to let me off?” I asked.

“Talk to the driver at 6:00 p.m.” her friend responded in English from the next counter over.

That does it, really. I can’t buy a ticket in advance, even if I wanted to go all the way to Constanta, and I will have no idea whether I will get dropped off in Vama Veche until 6:00 p.m.

I did manage to find a travel agency that was more helpful. The first one outside the back doors of the station, near stall 8, speak very good English. The woman told me that at 6 her bus was coming for travel to Odessa and that she would speak with the driver for me to find out if he could drop me off in Vama Veche. This was much better than me trying to talk to him as I soon discovered when meeting the bus driver he did not speak any English. I had written down what I needed just in case that happened—it was really just a note with Vama Veche printed on it and a picture of a bus stop. You do what you have to, right?

For four hours I hung out at the cafe at the gas station next door to the station. Surprisingly, they make a very good Mediterranean sandwich. At 6:40 p.m. the bus to Odessa arrived. The agency personnel spoke with the driver and he agreed to drop me in Vama Veche for 20 Bulgarian Lev (about 10 Euros). The price to Constanta is 35 Bulgarian Lev so I did get a decent price. This of course included the border transfer and the driver handling all of the paperwork. He was a bit stumped at my U.S. passport and how to complete the forms but he must have managed because I got through without issue.

I am now In Vama Veche, happy as can be that I do not have to get on a bus for another few weeks.

So, if you plan to travel by bus from Varna to Vama Veche there are options but you will have to be patient. A cab was offered to me for 50 Euros but that was beyond my budget and he would only take me to the border–which means a few kilometers walk from there to Vama Veche. I did watch over the bus stop where Constanta buses were to arrive and did not see one the entire time I was there, nor at 6 p.m. That makes me feel better for going with the Odessa bus and the travel agency versus the woman at the window.

I would love to know if anyone has ever done the trip via the church since all the locals told me that would not work. Maybe next time I’ll sit there for four hours and see what happens.

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