Last modified: November 23, 2021

Useful tips Bulgaria

You will find some useful tips Bulgaria for visiting Bulgaria below. The outlined useful tips you need to know once you start planning a visit to Bulgaria.

Covid-19 outbreak

At first, Bulgaria introduced a state of emergency due to Covid-19 pandemic on March 13,2020. It lasted until May 13, followed by an emergency epidemiological situation from May 14th to June 14th. The second state of emergency will last until November 30,2021.

In other words, Bulgarian hospitality business is adapting to crisis. Despite the controversial news from different medical authorities, we hope to survive this medical emergency. We plan to stay solvent, healthy and happy and carry on, as soon as life gets back to normal for safe travels. Please feel free to contact us with queries when planning your future visit to the Balkans.

Please check updated status prior to planning your travel  https://reopen.europa.eu/en/map/BGR

How to practise responsible tourism during COVID-19: https://www.loveholidays.com/holidays/responsible-tourism-during-covid-19/

Bulgarian currency

The national currency is Bulgarian Lev (BGN), or Leva (plural) one lev is made up of 100 ‘stotinki’.

The following coins are available: 1, 2, 5,10,20,50 stotinki and 1, 2 leva.

The following notes are available: 2,5,10, 20, 50, 100 leva (BGN).

Although Bulgaria is part of the EU, it is not part of the Eurozone. Eurozone is the group of counties that use the euro as their currency. Some prices are often published in euro, but this is simply to make things easier for visiting foreigners. Transactions are always done in Leva/BGN/. Hotels, restaurants, taxi drivers and shops accept payments in Bulgarian Leva only. It is easy to make a calculation, because the local currency is pegged to the EURO at a fixed rate 1 EUR = 1,95 BGN

Money Exchange Useful Tip

Cash machines are easily accessible in the big cities and larger towns. You can get up to 400 BGN at a time from one cash machine.

All major European, North American and Japanese debit and credit cards are accepted. Money can also be exchanged safely at exchange bureaus, or at most banks.  We would advise you to use banks first, or reputable exchange bureau, which must display clearly exchange rates on large tables, with the sign “No Commission”.  Exchange bureau are no longer allowed to charge a commission for money exchange, so it is always better to check first. Airports and hotels also offer money exchange, but they usually tend to give less favorable rates.

NEVER change money with anyone who stops you in the street, offering a better rate. Although money exchange scams are not as common as they were before, we would advise you to exchange money only in reputable places. It is always better to familiarize yourself with the local currency prior to arrival to Bulgaria. Please use the link to the Bulgarian National Bank official site.

Bulgarian Currency

Bulgarian Lev is pegged to the Euro and the exchange rate is fixed at 1 EUR = 1, 95 BGN. For orientation purposes you can assume the following:  1 US Dollar = 1.62 BGN, Pound Sterling = 2.24 BGN, but please note exchange rates fluctuate on a daily basis.(August, 2021)

Credit Cards: Better hotels, shops and restaurants in Sofia accept credit cards, but this is not so in smaller villages in the country. Cash is widely accepted form of payment in Bulgaria and it is always better to keep some bills on you. Don’t forget to call your credit card companies to let them know you’ll be using your cards in Bulgaria. Sometimes a card company will see charges on your card in a different place and freeze your account.

Travellers’ cheques: We would advise you to go to a bank for cashing your cheques. Banks charge a small commission. (min.1%).

Useful Tips re: Safety

Bulgaria, in general, is a safe country. To many foreigners, used to European countries, Bulgaria appears to be safe. Most frequent crimes to be mentioned are – pickpocketing, mugging and car theft.  We would advise to carry all valuables close to your body, or leave them in a hotel safe. If you use the public transportation, be extremely cautious, because pickpockets are very active there. They usually hang around in the places most popular with foreigners. Be careful if a group of well-dressed women crowd you in the street. They often are
Roma pickpockets.

Bulgarian National Holidays 2021

January 1st – New Year’s Day

March 3rd – National Holiday

Easter – changes every year, in 2021 on May 02,2021

May 1st – Labour Day

May 6thSt. George’s Day Bulgaria’s Valour Day

May 24th – Day of the Cyrillic Alphabet and Bulgarian Culture

September 6th – Day of Reunification (1885)

September 22nd – Bulgarian Independence Day

December 24th, 25th,26th – Christmas

December 31st – New Year’s Eve

Body Language

Although strange, traditionally we shake our heads side-to-side for “Yes”, showing agreement, and nod to indicate a “No”. This creates a great deal of misunderstandings, so you should bear this in mind during your first visit.

Internet and Free Wi-Fi in Bulgaria

Bulgarian Internet speed is one of the fastest in the world. Most of the visitors to Bulgaria are surprised by the speed of local Internet. Yes, Bulgaria enjoys an excellent, speedy and free Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi is available everywhere. Hotels, restaurants and coffee-shops have their own networks, password protected. The only thing you need to do is to ask them to provide the password.

Free Wi-Fi is available at some public spaces like Sofia airport, Sofia Central Bus Station, shopping malls, most of the underground “Metro” stations and even some of the central parks downtown Sofia. You just have to bring your own device.

Tipping

Tipping in Bulgaria is expected for services at hotels, restaurants, taxis, hairdressers’ with an average figure of 10-15%.

Porters at 4/5-star hotels expect BGN 2. per bag, hotel housekeepers – BGN 1,50-2. per day.

In fact, 10% tip is considered common for taxi drivers. In reality, the tip can be higher if the taxi driver helped carrying bags or they were polite, informative and friendly. Summing up, for a short ride, a tip of BGN 2-3 is considered normal.

Tipping in restaurants is a normal practice,too. For example, tips start from 10% on the restaurant bill. But you could tip 20%+, depending on the quality of service. Nice small restaurants have been mushrooming lately in Bulgaria. And the quality of food is exquisite!Equally important is the service – it is so friendly, that you will be glad to tip the waiter higher than the average.

To summarize, tips are welcomed also by people working in the travel industry. It is a custom in Bulgaria for drivers and tour guides to be given a tip after the trip, usually a 5-10%. Avoid tipping coins, it is considered as an insult.

Taxis

There are several reputable companies in Sofia, offering modern cars and reliable service. The tariffs are almost identical. We would recommend OK Supertrans, or Yes-Yellow taxis. The table of fares is visible on the front panel of the cab. Normal rates vary between BGN 0,79– 0,90 per km (Jamuary, 2020) From the airport to downtown Sofia hotel a reasonable rate is between 10-12 EUR, excluding the tip (10-20%), from Central bus terminal to Sofia downtown – 5-7 EUR. Unfortunately, there are taxis, which are avoided by the locals. And the reason is they have very high rates. Such cabs wait in front of hotels, or embassies, sometimes at the new airport terminal and central bus station. For this reason please, always check the tariff before you get on. You may ask your hotel receptionist to call a cab for you.

Visas

EU passport holders, as well as those of USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel and some other countries with reciprocal agreements, are visa-free for a stay up to 30 days in Bulgaria.

You can get a consular information at the site of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria.

Reading List

  • The History of the First Bulgarian Empire by Steven Runciman, G.BELL&SONS Ltd London, 1930;
  • A Short History of Modern Bulgaria by R.J.Crampton, Cambridge University Press;
  • Travels in the Slavonic provinces of Turkey in Europe by Georgina Mary Muir (Mackenzie) & Irby, Adelina Paulina.
  • Mission on the Balkans by Noel and Charles “Roden” Buxton, http://berberian11.tripod.com/ilchev_buxton.htm ;
  • History of the Balkans by Barbara Jelavich,Cambridge University Press, 1983;
  • The Balkans 1804-1999 by Misha Glenny, Granta Books, London, 1999;

Reading List Fiction:

• Street without a Name by author Kapka Kassabova; https://kapka-kassabova.net/books/

• Solo – by author Rana Dasgupta – http://www.ranadasgupta.com/notes.asp

• Life According to Lubka – by author Laurie Graham. Quercus Publishing Plc, http://www.lauriegraham.com/lgraham-lubka.htm

  • Angelology – by author Danielle Trussoni, Viking Press 2010,
  • The Historian – by author Elizabeth Kostova, Time Warner Book Group
  • Contemporary Bulgarian Writers  http://www.contemporarybulgarianwriters.com/category/2-texts/

Museums in Sofia

Archaeological-Museum-Sofia

Free Entrance Days

NATIONAL HISTORY MUSEUM  Vitoshko lale 16 St, Sofia 1618  

Free entrance: For all visitors – every last Monday of the month;  – For people with special needs and for children up to 7 years old. Individual visits: Entrance fee for individual visitors – 10 BGN and for students – 1. BGN. For visitors with children – 3 BGN, Children over 7 years 0 1 BGN.

Boyana-Church-UNESCO-with-BRILL-Travel

Free Entrance Days

Boyana Church address: 3,Boyansko ezero St; Free admission: Disabled people;  Children under school age;  Every Monday after 15:00 o’clock Individual visits: Entrance fee for individual visitors – 10 BGN; School and university students – 2 BGN

NATIONAL ART GALLERY

1, Knyaz Alexander I Blvd., Sofia 1000

Free admission: children aged up to 12, physically disabled visitors, pupils and students of art schools, employees of museums and galleries, journalists, members of the Union of Bulgarian Artists (UBA), ICOM, ICOMOS, AIAP, AICA.

Tickets: 6 BGN
Pupils, students and pensioners: 3 BGN
Thursdays: 2 BGN

MUSEUM OF CHRISTIAN ART  

St Alexander Nevsky Sq., Sofia 1000

Tickets: 6 BGN
Pupils, students and pensioners: 3 BGN
Thursdays: 2 BGN

MUSEUM OF TOTALITARIAN ART

7, Lazar Stanchev St., Sofia 1756

Tickets: 6 BGN
Pupils, students and pensioners: 3 BGN
Thursdays: 2 BGN

Sofia Pass

1. What is Sofia Card? To start with, Sofia Pass is a new transportation document – an electronic smart card for travelling in all public transport lines in Sofia. It is valid for three days and entitling also to discounts in many tourists and commercial sites within the city of Sofia.

2. Where can I buy Sofia Pass? You can buy Sofia Pass from 18 ticket offices of Sofia Urban Mobility Centre.

Please make sure that the period you have selected is correct on the pass.

3. What are the benefits of Sofia Pass?

Sofia Pass allows you to save money on transport, entrance fees, entertainment and gifts. It gives you discounts in over 30 sites within the city of Sofia: museums, galleries, bookstores,shops and restaurants.

4. What is the validity of Sofia Pass?

Sofia Pass is valid for three consecutive days. You will find the validity period on the front of the pass at the moment of its issuance.

5. What is the price of Sofia Pass?

The price of Sofia Pass is 20 (twenty) BGN.

6. Which are the sites where I can use Sofia Pass?

Most importantly, you will find the full list of the sites where you can use your Sofia Pass here: www.sofiatraffic.bg. And in order to use your discount you have to present your valid Sofia Pass.

7. How to use my Sofia Pass in public transport?

All in all, you can use your Sofia Pass in Sofia Metro. Please note to validate your pass at the turnstiles at the entrances of metro stations. In ground transport – validate your card at the closest validator immediately after boarding.