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I've done parts of both the routes here, although I wasn't in such a hurry....
Couple of points - Italian motorways and then the ferry are going to be much quicker than the alternatives. Italy and Greece have had EU money to spend on roads for ages - Bulgaria hasn't - and its very easy to tell the difference !
Theft in Bulgaria shouldn't be a huge problem as it isn't that big a country and you may not even have to spend the night... EXCEPT that the roads there are quite bad, and I saw more police and more speedtraps in Bulgaria than every other country put together. Also, depending on your land route to Bulgaria, ex-Yugoslavia will slow you down too and Serbia can be an insurance problem. When I left Bulgaria, which was just before they joined the EU, the border crossings were clogged with heavy trucks - even though you can filter through, there wasn't much room and it will slow you down a lot.
If speed matters, play safe and boring..... The ferry will also give you sleep time, which you will need badly by then.
I've just been reading all the advice you've been given. I live in southern Bulgaria, and run a small camping and caravan park there. (look at Home)
There is no reason for you to worry about traveling through Bulgaria, the risk of theft is minimal,and the road from Sofia to the Turkish border is good and easy to navigate.
Be extremely careful when traveling through Serbia. Only let border guards and toll road attendants see that you are carrying a small amount of cash, roughly equivalent to the amount you will need to pay them. Do not show any credit or debit cards, and certainly do not pay for anything with, especially, a debit card.
There is one camp site on the road through Serbia, which looked ok to me, and from there you can reach our place in a day, without too much trouble.
We can also put you up for the night in a house if you've not got a tent.
If I can be of any more help you can contact me through our website.
Martin T. Jeffes.
Sakar Hills Touring Park. Harmanli. Bulgaria.
Thanks for all the replies - from all the info I think i may try both routes so I'm not covering old ground so to speak. From istambul, I'd assume go to ankara then on to Antalya for the quality of road.
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