From Belgrade and Skopje to Thessaloniki by Train With the Hellas Express to Greece

The Hellas Express leaves Belgrade.

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The railway line from Belgrade to Thessaloniki via Skopje is the most important rail link from central Europe to Greece. Due to the political and economical situation in Greece, passenger services had been suspended for several years but luckily since spring 2014 there is once again a direct train connecting these cities. If you are heading to Greece from central Europe this normally is the best connection (you could also take the train from Sofia to Thessaloniki or one of the ferries from Italy to Greece). In Belgrade there are direct connections from Budapest as well as from Zagreb and Ljubljana, however I would strongly recommend to stay overnight in Belgrade: on the one hand you then do not have to worry about missing the connection due to delays and on the other hand Belgrade is a fantastic city and not to be missed.

IMPORTANT NOTICES:

The night train is cancelled once again from October 1 2018 and will not run during the winter months. It is said to resume service only for the summer season 2019. This means that there is no train connection at all between Belgrade, Skopje and Thessaloniki.

Due to ongoing construction works the train currently departs at Topcider station (not Belgrade Centar!).

It is now confirmed that from July 1 2018 the train departs from Belgrade Centar station. Timings below have been updated.

According to latest information from May 2018 the train will run only from Belgrade to Gevgelija until further notice (at least during the summer). Between Gevgelija and Thessaloniki a replacement bus service operates.
Also, the train is said to depart from the “new” Belgrade Centar station from a yet unknown date in June. Please ask locally if the train still departs from the old main station or from the new station already.

Information from May 2017 suggests that the night train will run again from June 1 between Belgrade and Gevgelija on the Macedonian/Greek border. From there a replacement bus shuttle operated to Thessaloniki. This should last until September 2017.

Both the Belgrade – Skopje day train as well as the Belgrade – Skopje – Thessaloniki night train are cancelled again from 11 September 2016! Work is scheduled to last until May 2017 and the night train will run again from mid/end of May. The day train won’t run in 2017 at all. There is no bus replacement service, we recommend to use either regular long distance buses or travel by train via Sofia.

The Hellas Express leaves Belgrade station.
The Hellas Express leaves Belgrade station.

 

Trains and Schedules from Belgrade to Thessaloniki

The Hellas Express runs once daily from Belgrade via Skopje to Thessaloniki (and vice versa, of course). The train leaves Belgrade in the late afternoon, reaches Skopje in the early hours of the following morning and is scheduled to arrive in Thessaloniki shortly after ten o’clock. Normally it consists of up to three 2nd class coaches of OSE (Greek Railways), MZ (Macedonian Railways) and ZS (Serbian Railways) and a MZ couchette car as well as a car-carrying wagon. There is no regular sleeping car on this service however there are occasional reports of one running in addition or replacing the couchette car.

Best thing about old coaches: You can still open the windows!
Best thing about old coaches: You can still open the windows!

335 “Hellas Express” 334 “Hellas Express”
Beograd dep 1821 Thessaloniki dep 1823
Niš dep 2319 Idomeni (Greek border station) dep |
Preševo (Serbian border station) arr 0232 Gevgelija (Macedonian border station) dep 1948
Tabanovici (Macedonian border station) arr 0310 Skopje dep 2219
Skopje arr 0425 Tabanovici (Macedonian border station) dep 2329
Gevgelija (Macedonian border station) arr 0651 Preševo (Serbian border station) dep 0018
Idomeni (Greek border station) arr | Niš arr 0326
Thessaloniki arr 1008 Beograd arr 0800

 

Video

 

Tickets and Reservations

If you are travelling with Interrail or a Balkan Flexi Pass you do not need a seat reservation. If you want to travel in the couchette car, a reservation for one berth is 8€. If you are travelling with Eurail keep in mind that Eurail passes are not valid in Serbia and Macedonia.

Regular tickets are quite cheap when bought locally: A single ticket from Belgrade to Thessaloniki (2nd class – there is no 1st class on the train) is 33,80€, a return is 54€.

Vardar Gorge in Macedonia - the good thing about our delay in 2015 was that the train ran through here during daytime.
Vardar Gorge in Macedonia – the good thing about our delay in 2015 was that the train ran through here during daytime.

 

Good to Know

I have been travelling with this train twice in 2014 and 2015 and have travelled in the couchette car on both occasions. In general the coaches are definitely not the newest – do not expect western or central European standard, also regarding the toilets! Anyway, a trip on the train certainly will be a memorable experience. Personally, I recommend to travel in the couchette, as you can lie down overnight and also get clean sheets for the beds (at least that was the case when I travelled with the train). As the door locking mechanism might not work properly I recommend to bring a steel cable and a padlock with you to lock the compartment door overnight.

The Hellas Express has arrived in Thessaloniki.
The Hellas Express has arrived in Thessaloniki.

There is no bistro or buffet car on the train but theoretically the conductor of the couchette car sells coffee, water and beer – however this seems to depend on the conductor and his mood. When I was travelling from Belgrade to Thessaloniki with Pete we could get cold beer in the evening and hot Serbian/Greek/Turkish coffee in the morning (the way the coffee was prepared would be a nightmare for every western European health and safety organisation…). This year though, when I was travelling on the same route with a couple of friends the conductor didn’t sell anything so we had to get enough supplies from the kiosk at the Belgrade station.

The Hellas Express currently is the only train across the border between Macedonia and Greece – unfortunately the departure time at Skopje if you want to go to Thessaloniki is very early. If you don’t want to get up that early you have several options:
a) Take a bus from Skopje to Thessaloniki
b) Travel to Bitola by train, then cross the border by taxi and go to Florina from where you can get a train to Thessaloniki
c) Rearrange your route and travel in the opposite direction.

There will be passport controls at both borders, which means you will have to show your passport four times. Serbia and Macedonia aren’t members of EU and Schengen; for EU/Schengen residents a passport or national ID card is enough to enter each country. Unfortunately the southbound train crosses the border between Serbia and Macedonia in the middle of the night so prepare to get up early at around 2am for the checks.

Remember that Greece is in another time zone (EET) than Serbia and Macedonia (CET) and you have to set your clocks one hour forward when travelling to Thessaloniki.

The train can suffer considerably from delays – I recommend not to plan with very tight connections. In 2014 we arrived in Thessaloniki two and a half hours late, in 2015 the train arrived almost five hours late!

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or make a post in the railcc forum.

 
Update: October 2018

Flo Weber
I like to travel by train. https://www.instagram.com/raildudeflow/
Flo Weber
- 3 days ago
Flo Weber
Flo Weber
f _at_ rail.cc

38 Comments

  1. Hi! Thank you for all your information, it’s really usefull. I have an interrail pass and I read that the train from Beograd to Thessaloniki via Skopje will run this summer until september. I saw that the Night train from Ljubliana to Beograd has changed, but there is one that departures at 08:25 am (but in this page it sais there is no train, only from Villach. It is that true?). Where can I check the exactly schedules for the 2019 summer night trains? Beograd – Skopje, and Skopje – Thessaloniki. Thank you

    • Hi!

      During summer (June 22 to September 15) there will be a daily night train from Ljubljana via Zagreb to Belgrade. Dep Ljubljana 2105, arr Belgrade 0602.
      Also, the Belgrade – Skopje – Thessaloniki night train should run again from about mid June, as soon as we know more this blog post will be updated accordingly.
      Keep in mind that there will be only one single train Belgrade – Skopje – Thessaloniki (running overnight from Belrade to Skopje, arriving in Skopje in the very early morning) and there will be no additional trains running between Belgrade and Skopje or Skopje and Thessaloniki.

      Flo

  2. Dear Flo,

    I am looking for Train from Belgrade to Skopje, for the 11th March 2019. I see the news that the night train is not working, but still, I can’t find any information online for the day schedule timetable (and reservation/prices). Can you tell me if this trainline is working during this time? And if so, where can I buy the tickents online?

    If this trainline is not working, can I kindlyu ask you suggestions to reach Skopje from Belgrade on 11th/12th ?

    Thanks in advance for your dedication.

    Best regards,
    Luís Costa

  3. Hi,
    will Belgrade to Thessaloniki direct night train (Hellas express) be working by 2019 summer?? Where will it departure from (I mean which station)?

    • Hi Maria,

      yes the night train will operate approximately from June to September. Departure station in Belgrade will be Topcider station.

      Flo

  4. Hi, I’m travelling with an Interrail ticket with my girlfriend. We are currently in Vienna, Austria. We plan to go to Budapest then Thessaloniki.

    I saw you booked the Beograd – Thessaloniki connection in Austria, if the Budapest – Beograd train is delayed and we miss the second one, can we get the money back or a reservation on the next train without paying again ?

    I saw a lot of different answer on where we should get the second train, are they both in Beograd central station now or do we need to go to another station ? Is Budapest – Beograd – Thessaloniki doable or is the Budapest – Beograd train often late ?

    Best regards and thank you,

    • Hi Jérémie,

      sorry for the late answer, I hope your trip worked fine nonetheless. For what its worth (and for future travellers), my take on this:

      If you would miss the connection in Belgrade you would have to argue with either (or both) the staff at Belgrade station and/or ÖBB (or the train company where you bought the reservation) to get a refund for the reservation and/or a “free” reservation for the next train.
      Budapest – Belgrade – Thessaloniki is usually doable, as trains from Budapest wont be delayed that much; in the oppposite direction I would calculate with at least two hours of delay coming from Thessaloniki.
      The train currently starts at Topcider and also calls at Rakovica (both stations are in Belgrade and can be reached by public transport).
      Flo

  5. Are you sure the train for Thessaloniki departs from Beograd Centar station?
    Last week, Srbija Voz e-mailed me the train leaves from Topcider station.

  6. With the replacement bus you will get to Thessaloniki at 12.30pm! Also there are separate checks for passport and tickets so essentially there are 8 different checks for papers – it’s not the best thing for night trains. There’s also no charging points so make sure they are prepared to not have a charger for 18 hours. Please mention this to your blog so people are aware of how long and tiring this journey is. Even if it’s a night train there will be no sleeping. If I had known this I would have made other plans, but from your blog it makes it sound doable.

    • Hi Maja,

      thanks for your up to date impressions!
      Passport checks at each border have been mentioned in the blog already; when travelling in the couchette car (as I did) you give your tickets to the steward who deals with all ticket inspections along the way (and you get your tickets back when you leave the train). When travelling in seated accomodation you have to show your tickets several times since conductors change in each country.
      I will add the information about missing chargers – most trains in southeastern Europe do not have chargers yet.
      As mentioned in the blog already delays of several hours can occur on that route. Anyway, this train still is the only option to get from Serbia to Macedonia to Greece directly (without having to negotiate more complicated border crossings (Bitola – Florina) or having to go through Kosovo or even Bulgaria (both options would take even more time).

      Flo

  7. Hi there,

    Does taking the Hellas express mean it’s going to take two travel days?

    Thank you in advance!

    • Hi Maja,

      yes, two travel days are needed. If you want, you could locally buy a ticket from Belgrade to the first stop of the train after 19:00 and then use the 19:00 rule so you would need only one travel day.

      Flo

  8. Hi! I am planning to travel from Thessaloniki to Skopje and then on to Belgrade this August, and I just wanted to be sure that the train is working? Also, is the timetable in this article still up to date?

    Thank you in advance!

    • Hi Kirana!

      The train is operating; however the train is now leaving from Beograd Centar station since the old main station has closed. You will find the link to the station and its location in the blog post. I have updated the departure/arrival times in Belgrad accordingly.
      In Greece, there is a rail replacement service by bus from Gevgelija to Thessaloniki as mentioned in the blog.

      Flo

  9. hello, I have an interrail pass and am planning to make the overnight journey using the hellas express. Eventhough it is free for interrailers is there any way that I can reserve a seat because I’m scared that there will be no seats left?

    • Hi Jess,

      you can simply make a seat reservation at the ticket desks of a train station during your travel. Anyway, I would recommend to book a bed in a couchette so that you can properly lie down and sleep. Reservation should cost 8€ and is also available from stations in other countries than Serbia (I bought my reservations in Austria). Where are you staying before visiting Belgrade?

      Flo

      • Hi, we’re planning to travel from Athens back to the Netherlands this summer. If I understand this imformation correctly, I can make a reservation from Thessaloniki to Belgrade just about any train Station? I would prefer to get a couchette, so I think I need to be early. What would your recommendation be?

        • Hi!
          Reservations are available at (larger) railway stations in the countries where the train runs; reservations should also be available in a number of other countries too (I always bought my reservations Belgrade – Thessaloniki in Austria; however I am not sure if the reservation in the other direction is available in other countries).
          Depending on your route, I would try to get the reservation at larger stations, but it shouldnt be a problem if you buy it as soon as you arrive in Thessaloniki.
          Flo

      • we are in budapest before belgrade so i guess we can reserve a couchette there? Also our train gets to belgrade at 16:26pm from budapest so will this be early enough to get the hellas express at 18:20pm cosnidering possible delays?

        • Hi!

          Two hours should be fine in Belgrade to change trains when travelling from north to south (in the other direction I would plan with more time).
          Please note that both trains (from Budapest and to Thessaloniki now depart from Beograd Centar station since the old main station is closed). Timings are slightly different.

          Flo

  10. Hi,
    I am willing to take a trip across all Europe to go see my family in Greece. I live in France and I really would have like to travel there by train. I would love to do this route with an Interrail ticket and I saw that the Hellas Express is currently working so I was wondering : is it safe to travel alone as a woman in this train ?
    Is there some women only compartments ?

    • Hi Alexia!
      There are no women only compartments. Still, especially during the summer season there are many Interrailers on this train so if you are on your own it is easy to meet up other (young, female) travellers and travel together.
      Flo

  11. Hi Flo, great information! I’m planning to take the nighttrain from Belgrade to Thessaloniki this May, but I noticed that the departure of the train in Belgrade is just before 7pm (meaning the 7pm rule of interrail does not work)… For your travels, did you indeed use 2 traveldays for the nighttrain? Thanks for sharing your experience!

    • Hi Milou!
      You would need two travel days. Unfortunately I have received information that the night train will not run until the summer; from April to about mid June. 🙁
      This means that there will be no international train connection on this route.
      Flo

  12. Thanks a lot for this. Just stopped by out of nostalgia, as my wife and I took this route for our honeymoon back in 1996, when there was a non-stop service from Budapest to Thessaloniki. Good to see that they’re working on the line and hopefully things will improve.

    We “slipped through” after the Bosnian War and before the Kosovo war, passing over the bridge at Nis that was later destroyed (along with a train full of civilians) by a US air attack less than 3 years later.

    • Very interesting!
      Sadly, much of the rail network in the former Yugoslavian countries still is in a very bad shape – also due to the aftermath of the several conflicts and wars of the past decades. 🙁
      Still, there are some small improvements from time to time – Serbia has a fleet of new swiss-built EMU for local and regional traffic and in Bosnia-Herzegowina you can travel comfortably with spanish Talgo trainsets: https://blog.rail.cc/sarajevo-mostar-train/

  13. Flo: I’ve just found these writings and they are very interesting, well written, and helpful. The updates about temporary schedule changes are very important to me. I have traveled a lot in these countries but have not gotten my fill. On previous trips I considered buying a Balkan Flexipass but never quite got around to it and it wouldn’t have helped a lot. However, I want to make another trip that begins in Crete. Previously, the Balkan Flexipass was good for ferry passage to Italy from Greece and for a ferry discount within Greece. I haven’t seen that information yet but I’ve only begun digging. But that brings me to my problem: how to buy the pass before leaving Crete in order to begin using it on that ferry. Buying the pass on the internet from home costs double or more the price in a rail station.
    Do you have any ideas?
    Jojo

    • Hi Jojo,
      thanks for the kind words! 🙂
      On the quick I don’t have a solution (I am currently in Rome) but I would like to invite you to write your travel plans in the forum https://rail.cc/en/forum where we could have a look and think about the best options ticketwise. Regarding the Balkan Flexi Pass the only option I could think of would be to buy it through a travel agency in Crete but I dont know if that is possible/if there is a travel agency selling the pass…
      Flo

  14. Hi Flo! Thanks for the useful article. Just as other people I was wondering where to check if the line is working again. I’m planning the Interrail from Athens back home to Italy, around 7-8 of June, and the Thessaloníki-Belgrad is fundamental to get there. Do you know where we can find informations or where the announcements about re-opening will be?
    Thank you!
    Noemi

  15. Hi Flo, Thank you for your very helpful post. We have arranged a trip around Europe ending in Athens however it relies on the fact that we can make this journey between Belgrade and Thessalonika using the Hellas Express. Our trip is in August, how likely is it that this will be back running then? I haven’t seen anything on the train lines website regarding the Hellas Express and no times are coming up for August. Were is the best place to keep an eye for updates?

    Failing this do you have a suggested alternative route short of trying to get a cheap flight?

    Thanks again for your help.
    Mark

    • Hi Mark,

      the Hellas Express will run again when the construction works on the Nis – Presevo line in the south of Serbia are finished. This is currently scheduled towards the end of May but no exact date has been announced yet. The train almost certainly will run during the summer months (June to September) however in autumn it is likely that it will be withdrawn again due to ongoing construction works.
      Anyway, I’m pretty confident that you can travel as planned in August.

      What “train lines website” do you mean? This one: https://rail.shop/trainline/ is good for booking tickets in Western Europe but you shouldnt search schedules in central/eastern Europe with it.
      In that case the best option is to either ask us here at rail.cc or check on the website of Serbian Railways: http://srbvoz.rs/

      The only alternative route by train would be to go from Belgrade to Sofia via Nis; then take the train to Thessaloniki the following day. During the summer months there will also be a once weekly night train from Bucharest to Thessaloniki via Sofia allowing you to make the trip Belgrade – Sofia – Thessaloniki in “just” about 24 hours… 😉

      Flo

  16. Hi! We’re hoping to go to Athens via Thessaloniki, from either Montenegro, Belgrade or Skopje – whatever is possible 🙂 do you know the current conditions regarding this trip? It would be around 23rd of September if possible. It’s difficult to find concrete information about this, as the rail planner service just plainly refuses to find any connections with Greece involved. Thank you so much in advance!

    • Hi,
      the night train Belgrade – Skopje – Thessaloniki runs only during the summer season until 4 September. From then construction works in Serbia will resume and there will be no train services from Belgrade to Skopje and Thessaloniki and no rail replacement services! This means that you will have to rely on buses instead. If you want to travel by train you would have to go from Belgrade to Sofia, then travel from Sofia to Thessaloniki. This is possible within one day if you take the night train from Belgrade, then continue the following afternoon from Skopje to Thessaloniki. This would leave enough time for a quick trip around Sofia too.
      For schedules within Greece check http://trainose.gr/ and also the blog https://blog.rail.cc/train-ferry-greece/
      Have a nice trip nonetheless
      Flo

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