Things to see and do - Bulgaria
Leaving for Bulgaria
Practical A to Z
Practical A to Z
- Eating out
- Embassies and consulates
- Public holidays
Restaurants are open daily from 11am-midnight. Bulgarians traditionally eat their evening meal around 7pm; but restaurants are generally busy around 8pm.
Where to eat
Bulgaria’s traditions and customs are upheld in its taverns, often located in traditional, beautifully maintained houses.
Bakeries and stands selling sandwiches, cakes and cheese rolls, such as banici, kifli, milinki, piroški, mekici, kozunak, etc, are ideal for a snack.
Tips and bills
Service is included but it is customary to leave a tip (10%). Everything in a meal is billed separately, including bread and side dishes.
Tap water is drinkable but doesn’t taste very good. Restaurants serve bottled sparkling and still water.
It is customary to sit wherever you like without waiting to be seated. Most restaurant menus are in Cyrillic, but some are translated into English and even illustrated, although this is rarely the case. Dishes are brought to the table as soon as they are ready, so it is better to specify which order you would like your dishes to be served!
The voltage in Bulgaria is 220V, but plugs are standard two-pin continental plugs, so you will probably need an adaptor.
Embassies and consulates
British Embassy –9 Moskovska Street, Sofia 1000 – t 02 933 9222 – http://ukinbulgaria.fco.gov.uk/en/
Irish Embassy – Platinum Business Centre, 26-30 Bacho Kiro Street, Sofia 1000 – t 02 985 3425 – http://www.embassyofireland.bg/home/index.aspx?id=35054
Also see Know before you go.
Universal European emergency number: t 112.
Police: t 166. Fire brigade: t 160. Medical emergencies: t 150.
Doctors and hospitals
All the major towns are equipped with state and private hospitals and dental surgeries. Health care is payable in cash and in Leva.
There is no shortage of chemists, but it can be difficult to make yourself understood.
The currency of Bulgaria is the Lev, plural Leva (shortened locally to Lv).
Banks / exchange
Exchange offices are widespread, but some offices charge fraudulent rates. Even if the rate seems less attractive, it is safer to change money in banks.
Although dying out, the black market has far from disappeared. Changing money on the black market is illegal and the rate offered is inevitably less attractive for the visitor, when you do not end up with Leva that were discontinued over eight years ago.
Credit cards and traveller’s cheques
Credit cards are accepted in very few establishments, except for large hotels, luxury shops, some restaurants and a few petrol stations. ATMs are available in most towns, often in the pedestrian city centre. You can withdraw up to Lv400 at a time, which is sufficient to live in Bulgaria for several days. Remember that ATMs in Bulgaria often “take their time”.
Avoid traveller’s cheques, because many foreign exchange offices do not accept them and commissions can be very high.
Small notes and coins are few and far between and obtaining change from a purchase is a constant problem, often solved by rounding up or down the bill. Getting change from a Lv50 note will inevitably require the good-natured contribution of all the shopkeepers in the vicinity. ATMs, which deliver Lv20 notes, are a useful option.
Budget / cost of living
Bulgaria remains good value for money for Western visitors.
Although prices in Sofia are higher than in the rest of the country (€75 minimum for a comfortable double room), elsewhere hotel accommodation ranges from €30-40. On the coast, rates are subject to seasonal fluctuations and can vary spectacularly. Guesthouses rarely cost more than €20-25 and a night in a bed and breakfast will cost between €10-25.
A three-course meal will cost between Lv10-20 (€5-10) and a bottle of decent local wine around Lv15 (€7.50).
Opening hours can be haphazard, particularly out of season and in less touristy areas. Be bold and knock on the door: you may be greeted by the caretaker, who will be surprised and delighted that someone is interested in the collections!
Post offices are open on weekdays from 8am-5pm and on Saturday mornings. Postage stamps can be purchased from the Bulpost counter, which is sometimes located on a stand outside the branch itself. Postage rates, within the Europe zone, are Lv1 for a standard letter or postcard.
3 March – National holiday
Between 30 March and 8 May – Orthodox Easter
24 May – Feast of Letters or the Cyrillic Alphabet
6 September – Reunification Day
22 September – Independence Day (1908)
24, 25 and 26 December
Shops are open on weekdays from 9am to 6-7pm, with a break at lunchtime and on Saturdays until 2pm.
Calling Bulgaria from abroad
00 + 359 (country code for Bulgaria) + area code without the 0 + number of the person.
Calling home from Bulgaria
00 + country code. For the United Kingdom: 44; for Ireland: 353.
In the same region, dial the number without the area code. From one region to another, dial the area code (including the 0).