Travel guide from Bulgaria to the Greek islands by car

Borders, regulations, ports, and ferries

Getting ready for a road trip to Greece from Bulgaria? Are you planning a trip to the Greek islands by car and wondering how you can reach the connecting ports by car? Welcome to the only guide you’ll need to plan your visit from Bulgaria to the Greek islands!

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Ferry at the port of Skiathos

The port of Skiathos island in the Sporades

Bulgaria - Greece border: crossing points

There are 6 border crossing points between Bulgaria and Greece. All crossing points are open 24/7 throughout the year and passenger vehicles are allowed to pass with no restrictions. You can easily cross the border with a car, camper van or motorcycle.

Here’s the list of Bulgaria - Greece border crossing points:

  1. Kulatа - Promachonas: Kulata is a village near the town of Petrich, Blagoevgrad Province, in southwestern Bulgaria. The village is a major border checkpoint to the Greek village of Promachonas in the region of Serres.
  2. Ilinden - Exochi: this crossing point is also known as Gotse Delchev - Drama. The checkpoint is close to the Bulgarian village of Ilinden in the Gotse Delchev municipality and the Greek village of Exochi.
  3. Makaza - Nymfaia: Makaza is a pass in the Eastern Rhodope Mountains connecting southernmost central Bulgaria with north-easternmost Greece. The checkpoint connects the Bulgarian village of Strizhba in Kirkovo with the Greek town of Komotini.
  4. Zlatograd - Thermes: Zlatograd is a town in southern-central Bulgaria. The crossing point connects Bulgaria with Xanthi in Greece.
  5. Ivaylovgrad - Kyprinos: Ivaylovgrad is a town in the province of Haskovo in the south of Bulgaria. The border is approximately 4 km from the town center and connects Ivaylovgrad with the Greek town of Didymoteicho.
  6. Svilengrad - Ormenio: Svilengrad is a town in south-central Bulgaria, close to the border between Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece. Ormenio village is on the other part of the border in Greece. The checkpoint is also known as “Kapitan Petko Voyvoda - Ormenio”.

How to drive to the Bulgaria - Greece border crossings

Here’s more information on how to drive to the Bulgaria - Greece border crossing points:

  • If traveling to the Kulata - Promachonas checkpoint, you can take international road E79 (Vidin - Kulata). There are several cafes and restaurants just before the border in Bulgaria.
  • To reach the Ilinden - Exochi crossing on the Bulgarian side, you can take road 19 (Simitli - Ilinden).
  • The Makaza - Nymfaia checkpoint can be accessed by driving on Republic road 1 (Ruse - Makaza).
  • Travelers driving to the crossing point at Zlatograd can take road 867, which passes through the district.
  • If you want to cross the border at the Ivaylovgrad - Kyprinos checkpoint, you can drive on Republic road 59 (Momchilgrad - Ivaylovgrad - Kyprinos).
  • The best way to reach the Svilengrad - Ormenio checkpoint is to drive on road 80 from the Kapitan Petko Voyvoda neighborhood in Svilengrad to Ormenio.

Keep reading to see which border crossing point suits your itinerary and how to approach the Greek ports after crossing the border.

Getting to the Greek islands from Bulgaria with a vehicle

Driving to ports in the north, west and center of Greece from Bulgaria is easy and fast. There are several border crossing points close to major Greek ports with ferries departing regularly year-round.

Ferry routes are more frequent during peak season from May to October and during the holidays, but there are ferries to popular destinations throughout the year. See useful information on how to reach the Greek ports with a car or motorcycle below and find details about ferry routes to the Greek islands.

Good to know: most ferries to the Greek islands have car decks for vehicle transportation. We recommend that you check about car deck availability on Ferryhopper’s search engine and book your car deck space well in advance as they tend to sell out.

How to drive from Bulgaria to Thessaloniki port in Greece

The port of Thessaloniki is in the city center. You can easily reach the port by car or motorcycle through the border checkpoints at Kulata and Ilinden in Bulgaria. 

Thessaloniki port is 113 km from the Kulatа - Promachonas border crossing and it takes around 90 minutes to get there with your own vehicle. The distance between the port of Thessaloniki and the Ilinden - Exochi crossing is 150 km and the trip takes 2 hours 30 minutes.

Which Greek islands can I reach from Thessaloniki port?

The port of Thessaloniki in northern Greece is one of the most important ports as it connects the northern part of the country with several islands in the North Aegean Sea, the Sporades and the Cyclades.

From the port of Thessaloniki, there are year-round ferry crossings to the North Aegean Sea islands such as Lemnos, Lesbos, Ikaria, Chios, Fourni, and Samos. You can also catch seasonal ferries from Thessaloniki to Skiathos, Skopelos and Alonissos in the Sporades, as well as Syros and Mykonos in the Cyclades.

See all Thessaloniki ferry schedules to plan your trip and check availability on our live search engine.

How to drive from Bulgaria to Kavala port in Greece

There are 2 ports in Kavala: Kavala city center and Keramoti. Keramoti is approximately 40 km east of downtown Kavala. You can reach both ports from 3 Bulgaria - Greece crossing points: Ilinden - Exochi, Kulatа - Promachonas and Zlatograd - Thermes.

The closest checkpoint to the ports of Kavala is Ilinden - Exochi, 106 km on average depending on the port of departure in the region of Kavala. The Kulata - Promachonas crossing point is 140 km away and the Zlatograd - Thermes checkpoint is 108 km away.

Which Greek islands can I reach from Kavala port?

From the port of Kavala in Macedonia, you can catch a ferry to the Greek islands throughout the year. There are both standard ferries and high-speed vessels traveling to the islands of the North Aegean and the Cyclades.

Similarly to the Thessaloniki port, there are ferries to Lemnos, Lesbos, Ikaria, Fourni, Chios, and Samos, Mykonos and Syros. What is more, the port of Kavala offers ferry connections to Thassos and Agios Efstratios. The route Kavala - Thassos and Kavala - Agios Efstratios are the only way to reach the islands from northern Greece.

How to drive from Bulgaria to Alexandroupolis port in Greece

The port city of Alexandroupolis is close to the Greece - Turkey border to the east of the country. Alexandroupolis port is in the city center. 

There are 4 crossing points between Bulgaria and Greece that may suit you in reaching Alexandroupoli: Makaza - Nymfaia, Zlatograd - Thermes, Ivaylovgrad - Kyprinos, and  Svilengrad - Ormenio. The closest checkpoint is  Makaza - Nymfaia less than 1 hour driving from the border (76 km).

Zlatograd - Thermes is 127 km from Alexandroupolis, Ivaylovgrad - Kyprinos is 135 km from Alexandroupolis and Svilengrad - Ormenio is around 170 km away.

Which Greek islands can I reach from Alexandroupolis port?

The port of Alexandroupolis is an important hub in northern Greece as it connects the mainland with the island of Samothrace throughout the year. Ferries from Alexandroupolis to Samothrace are available at least 7 times per week both off-season and during the summer, so it’s an ideal route for a quick trip!

The Egnatia Odos national road in Greece

The new Greek national road “Egnatia Odos” passing by Alexandroupolis

How to drive from Bulgaria to Volos port in Greece

The port of Volos in the region of Thessaly is closer to the Kulatа - Promachonas checkpoint. You can reach the port city in 3 hours 30 minutes by car or motorcycle. 

You can also drive through the Ilinden - Exochi checkpoint, which adds 1 hour to the total driving time. 

Tip: although Volos is not that close to the Bulgaria - Greece border, you can drive there instead of Thessaloniki to save time on the ferry crossing.

Which Greek islands can I reach from Volos port?

The port of Volos in Thessaly is the main departure point for ferries to the Sporades. Its proximity to Skiathos, Skopelos and Alonissos make it a popular starting point for trips to the islands during the weekend or throughout the summer season. There are mainly fast ferries operating on the routes, which make the crossing really quick.

Find more information about routes from Volos:

How to drive from Bulgaria to Igoumenitsa port in Greece

The ferry port of Igoumenitsa is the furthest port from Bulgaria in the northern part of Greece. If you wish to travel to the Ionian Sea, this is your best bet, as the alternative Astakos, Patras and Kyllini ports are further away.

To reach the port of Igoumenitsa, we recommend that you cross the border at the Kulatа - Promachonas checkpoint. It takes 4 hours 30 minutes to reach the Greek port from Bulgaria.

Which Greek islands can I reach from Igoumenitsa port?

The Greek port of Igoumenitsa is in Epirus, Western Greece. Although it’s not that close to the Bulgaria-Greece border, it is the most convenient port to reach the islands of the Ionian Sea.

From Igoumenitsa, you can travel by ferry directly to Corfu, Paxi and Kefalonia. There are normally more than 10 daily crossings to Corfu and 2 daily crossings to Paxi during high season and regular routes throughout the year. In the summer, there are also occasional ferries to the island of Kefalonia.

Good to know: there are of course more mainland ports in Greece you can reach by car from Bulgaria, such as Piraeus, Rafina and Lavrion in Athens, Patras and Kyllini in the Peloponnese, Kymi and Mantoudi in Evia, and many more! See all Greek ferry schedules on Ferryhopper.

Green hills surrounding the port of Igoumenitsa in Greece

Ferries docked at the port of Igoumenitsa in Western Greece

Driving from Bulgaria to Greece: regulations

Here are some useful reminders about regulations regarding crossing the Bulgaria - Greece border with your own vehicle:

  • All visitors need to have a valid ID or passport to travel between the two countries. Checks are performed both on the Bulgarian and the Greek side of the border.
  • For children traveling with only one parent, there needs to be an official written confirmation of consent to travel authorized by an attorney. The document can be in Bugarian as checks are performed only on the Bulgarian side.
  • You need to have the green document necessary foir insurance purposes outside of your country of residence, as well as valid vehicle insurance and the registration documents.
  • The import of fuel from Bulgaria to Greece is prohibited. Also make sure to be aware of limits on goods such as tobacco and alcohol products.
  • We recommend that EU citizens including Bulgarian citizens have a valid European health insurance card when traveling to Greece.
  • Bear in mind that you will be asked to pay any unpaid traffic fines on the Bulgarian side of the border for traffic violations in Bulgaria.

All regulations about driving through the Bulgaria - Greece border can be found on the official website of the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We recommend that you always consult official sources before your trip and get all the info you need about necessary documents, transfer of goods and vehicle documentation.

Tips for drivers visiting Greece and the Greek islands

Apart from abiding by all regulations regarding driving from Bulgaria to Greece by car or motorcycle, Ferryhopper suggests that you become familiar with local driving rules. 

Remember that driving is on the right-hand side of the road in Greece and that you are required to wear a seatbelt at all times. Similarly, motorcycle riders are required to wear a helmet.

EU driving license holders can freely drive in Greece, but you need to have your license and vehicle registration with you to present during random checks throughout the country.

Tip: unlike many European countries, if you have already entered a roundabout in Greece, you need to stop and give way to traffic entering the roundabout.

Check our complete guide to driving in the Greek islands for more information!

The castle of Myrina in Lemnos and the island port

The castle of Myrina in Lemnos overlooking the island port

Book ferry tickets to the Greek islands online

On Ferryhopper, you can find ferry routes to the Greek islands and book ferry tickets easily with no extra fees! Check our Map of ferries to find the port that suits your itinerary and off you go!

Tip: have a look at the latest offers for Greek ferries to find the cheapest tickets!