Bulgaria is a member state of the European Union, which makes it in a way predictable in terms of security, food safety, infrastructure. If you plan to travel to Bulgaria for the first time, however, read these travel tips to make your trip a pleasant one.
Bulgaria is a member state of the European Union and most visa rules of the union apply for the country. Most foreign nationals won’t need a visa for a stay up to 90 days, but you should still check if there are any special requirements for your country.
Public transport in Bulgaria is as a whole reliable but can sometimes run late, especially trains. Trains are the cheapest way to travel in the country, even if you choose the first class, while bus companies connect the major cities with smaller towns and villages. The most remote villages are usually reachable by taxi vans that run one or a few times per week.
Driving in Bulgaria
You should be extra cautious when driving in Bulgaria as Bulgarians are notorious for their aggressive and mindless behavior on the road. Another important fact to note is that the roads and streets tend to be covered in potholes. That, and horses, mules or cows can be expected to invade the roads sometimes.
Calling an ambulance for an emergency is free, but if the patient’s condition is not urgent, you will be required to pay. Members of the European Union should bring their European Health Insurance Card (it’s free and you should apply for it in your own country) to receive free or discounted treatment in hospitals. The Bulgarian health care system has been struggling with financial and structural problems for years, so it’s advisable to choose a private hospital to receive quality treatment.
Currency and money exchange
In Bulgaria, you can pay only in the local currency, lev (abbreviated BGN). Paying in euros is not allowed, although some gas stations on the main road arteries and border towns make an exemption. At the time of writing, the Bulgarian lev is fixed to the euro at a rate of 1 BGN = 1.95583 euro. Paying with debit and credit cards is widely accepted, except in small towns where paying cash is more common.
Museums, government institutions, and some shops may be closed on national holidays, but supermarkets and food stores are normally open, although with shorter opening hours. The official holidays in Bulgaria are:
January 1 – New Year’s Day
March 3 – Liberation Day
April or May – Easter (from Good Friday to Easter Monday)
May 1 – International Labor Day
May 6 – Bulgarian Army Day
September 6 – Unification Day
September 22 – Independence Day
December 24, 25 and 26 – Christmas
Hiking in Bulgaria
Bulgaria has beautiful national parks and pristine mountains. Before setting off hiking, however, make sure that your travel insurance covers you for emergency mountain rescue, which can be very expensive if you need to be transported or evacuated from a remote place with no vehicle access.
Food and dining
As a member state of the European Union, Bulgaria follows all the food safety rules, and in general it is safe to eat both street food and meals at restaurants. You should always be handed a receipt together with the bill – by issuing a receipt, the entity pays taxes, while you as a customer get a guarantee in case anything goes wrong.