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“Life shrinks or expands in proportion with one’s courage.” Anaïs Nin’s words might well be a life motto of all solo travelers. If you enjoy traveling by yourself and Bulgaria is your next destination, here are a few tips and tricks to make your trip even better.
There are two ways to fully savor Bulgaria while traveling alone. The first one is to go to the major tourist cities (Plovdiv, Veliko Tarnovo, the Black Sea shore in the summer, and Bansko and Borovets in the winter) where you will find many other travelers and locals with whom to mingle. The second one is to choose lesser-known destinations, such as mountain villages, architectural gems, or small towns, where you will be showered with the attention of the locals. The drawback of the latter choice is that probably very few people will speak English, but isn’t that the best way to immerse in the local culture?
Similar to many other countries, the best places to stay if you are a solo traveler are hostels, where you can socialize with other people. In Sofia, Plovdiv, and Veliko Tarnovo, many of the hostels organize live concerts, art exhibitions, and other events to bring locals and tourists together.
If you want to visit only the main destinations in Bulgaria (Sofia, Plovdiv, Bansko, etc.), you can do it by public transportation – buses and trains, but most of the off-the-beaten-track destinations might be quite hard to get to if you don’t speak Bulgarian. However, traveling by rental car can be a lonely activity, so you can either pick up hitchhikers or ask a Bulgarian friend to help you post in some of the carpooling Facebook groups. There are a few carpooling websites, but they aren’t really active yet since this way of traveling is still gaining popularity in Bulgaria.
In Plovdiv or Sofia, you can join a free tour where you will not only understand better the local culture and history, but also meet many other visitors of the city. The walking tour will take you around the major attractions and tell you about the main historical events. At the end, you are encouraged to leave a tip for the guide if you are happy with the tour.
Middle-aged and elder people in Bulgaria speak mostly Russian, but most of the young people in big cities are likely to speak decent English, so don’t be afraid to start a conversation. Bulgarians are curious about foreigners and their reasons for visiting Bulgaria, and they will probably have a thousand questions to ask you.
In general, Bulgaria is a safe country for solo female travelers. If men like you, they will probably express their feelings in a loud manner by whistling or throwing out compliments, but this is part of Balkan macho culture and you don’t have to feel intimidated by it.