SPRING – It’s certainly the most beautiful time of the year to discover the country in its best conditions. In fact, the mild climate, the green, flowering countryside and the lack of tourists allow you to appreciate the authenticity of the villages hidden in the mountains and their exceptional surroundings. It’s the season of the South and of travellers wishing to get away from the crowds, looking for serenity, the beauty of nature, and low-season prices.
- SUMMER – The magnificent fine-sand beaches of the Black Sea and the warm water (25°C and up) are the principal attractions of this season. Yet we strongly advise you not to forget about the mountainous region. Those looking for a bit of fresh air and a more intimate setting will appreciate a short stay here.
- AUTUMN – It’s a season full of charm and melancholy, with a climate even more pleasant and the nature that pushes away the approaching winter. Give your trip a different spin and discover the riches of a country that continues to be within your reach. To fully appreciate this interesting season, however, don’t forget you umbrella.
- WINTER – During this season, this mountainous country is covered with a blanket of snow pleasing to the winter sports enthusiasts. A night in with friends around the fire with a good bottle of Bulgarian wine is a moment of pure pleasure that creates wonderful memories and gives authenticity to your voyage. Don’t forget to bring along snow tires.
Although Bulgaria does not have yet an Office of Tourism in UK, there are a number of information sources to learn about the country.
Tourist guides – There are several guides in English on Bulgaria. Some of the primary ones include:
- The Backpacker's Guide – Hachette edition – www.routard.com
- Le Guide Vert – Michelin edition – www.viamichelin.fr
- Le Petit Futé – New editions of the University. – www.petitfute.com
- Guides Mondeos Bulgarie – édition Comex – www.mondeos.com
- Bulgaria – Lonely Planet Bulgaria - www.lonelyplanet.fr
Organisations and Associations
Embassies and Consulates of Bulgaria Britain186-188 Queen's Gate, South Kensington London, SW7 5HLPhone: +44-20-7584-9400 Ireland 22 Burlington Road Dublin Ireland Phone: +353-1-660-3293 Alliance France-Bulgarie 2, rue Neuve Saint-Pierre 75004 Paris Tél: 01.44.87.17.58 Tél: 01.44.87.17.59 Site web: www.alliancefr.org Student Association Bulgarian 14, Jose Maria de Heredia Street 75007 Paris Website: www.assobg.com Mission Bulgaria 12, Rue Cité Firmin Bourgeois 93350 Le Bourget Tél: 01.74.61.30.00 Tél: 01.48.38.42.82 Site web: www.missionbulgarie.fr
For more information you have selected the best sites about Bulgaria
- www.bulgariatravel.org – The official site of the National Tourist Information Centre of the Bulgarian Ministry of Economy, Energy and Tourism . It includes detailed and practical informations.
- www.ambafrance-bg.org – Very complete, since it is the site of the Embassy of France in Sofia.
- www.bulgarie-france.net – Site qui fournit diverses informations pour promouvoir la culture bulgare. Un grand merci à Françoise qui met tout son cœur pour nous faire partager toute l’actualité franco-bulgare.
Risks and vaccinations –
There are no necessary vaccinations to enter Bulgaria. Nevertheless, it is advisable to be up-to-date on your universal vaccinations (hepatitis B, tetanus, poliomyelitis, diphtheria), but also for hepatitis A and typhoid. As in England, large and medium-sized towns have public and private hospitals and dentist offices.
In rural areas, ticks are fairly widespread. They can transmit serious diseases such as encephalitis. We suggest you get vaccinated at least a month before your departure if you are planning a trip to a rural location. In addition, during the summer be sure to use anti-mosquitoes protection to avoid the transmission of certain diseases and above all the annoyance of their presence.
You can find useful information on the sites:
Assistance – It is advisable to apply for an international insurance plan that covers medical costs and emergency repatriation. Certain credit cards provide these benefits. Contact your bank or credit card companies for more information.
For the disabled – Currently the country is not equipped with specific equipment for those with reduced mobility. For more information, you can contact the Association for the aid of handicapped peoples in Sofia at 00359/2/989.88.57.
Animals – You can bring your furry companion with you to Bulgaria as long as they have an up-to-date international health card. Concerning food and care, you will find everything necessary in Bulgaria. You must not, however, forget that animals are rarely accepted in hotels.
Getting around in Bulgaria
Urban transportation –
It is widespread, inexpensive and most of the time comfortable. The underground and the tramways only exist in Sofia, but other towns have a dense bus system. Taxi companies (always yellow) offer a quality service at a very interesting price. Verify the displayed price before getting in (normally between 0.50 and 0.80 lv/km) and look at the counter once in a while to prevent certain abuses.
Interurban transportation – Airplanes only serve routes from Sofia - Bourgas and Sofia - Varna and continue to be relatively expensive. The train system is dense and a good deal, but slow and uncomfortable. Opt for the first class ticket. It is more comfortable for a price only slightly higher and a sure way to avoid the crowds during the weekend and on holidays. For tighter budgets, coaches are an ideal way to travel across the country. There are several public and private companies that cover the country.
- Personal automobiles – It is without question the best mode of transportation to discover the heart of Bulgaria. See Rent a car.
- Urban transportation –
Driving in Bulgaria
Driving in Bulgaria requires the knowledge of certain information:
o Before taking to the road, it is indispensable to procure a road map of the country in Cyrillic and Latin if possible. Very detailed and easy to use, the Atlas road plan, edited by Globul and sold everywhere, will be extremely useful if you stray from main routes.
o The roads, contrary to popular belief, are generally decent and well cared for. The European funds have largely contributed to the improvement of this network. Nevertheless, the small country roads are still mediocre.
o Several large motorway network projects are being carried out to relieve the traffic of the national roads and to connect the country with its neighbours with rapid, high-quality routes.
o The road signs will certainly pose some difficulties since direction signs are rare and most of the time in Cyrillic wherein lies the interest of having a good map. Don’t hesitate to ask for directions from passer-byes who, in spite of the language barrier, will always be ready to help.
o Weather conditions will influence your driving, particularly in winter. A mountainous country, Bulgaria is very snow covered which makes it difficult, sometimes impossible, to access certain villages.
o In general, don’t count on the kilometres to calculate your voyage time.
Rules of the road
To drive in Bulgaria, you must posses a driving license, car registration papers, and proof of civil responsibility insurance. Cars drive on the right. The wearing of a seat belt is obligatory in the front as well as the back seats. Speed is limited to 50 km/h in town, 90 km/h outside populated areas and 120 km/h on the highways. Beware of consuming alcohol since the alcohol limit is 0.5 g/l.
Several controls are carried out (speed, papers, alcohol consumption). We therefore advise you to respect the rules of the road to avoid useless problems.
Use the numerous parking lots with a guardian. For a little bit of money, you won’t have to worry about your car.
In case of an accident, it is imperative to wait for the police to arrive. You can contact them by calling 982.27.23. It is necessary to contact the police in case of an accident and make an official report since the failure to do so will result in the responsibility for paying the damages. For roadside assistance, call 91.146. Finally, if you travel with your vehicle, be sure to verify that Bulgaria is one of the countries in which you are covered in case of an accident.
You won’t have a single problem finding a service station in Bulgaria. In addition to their large numbers, they are characterized by diverse equipment, interesting prices, quality service; necessary assets for crossing the country in serenity.
Bulgaria is one hour ahead of Western Europe and two hours ahead of United Kingdom time. Time changes take place on the same date as the rest of Europe.
The electrical system works with 220V and the normal plugs are 2 pronged.
The language can be a problem, but thanks to the helpful Bulgarians, you won’t have any major difficulties. It will most certainly be an enriching human experience.
Businesses and administration buildings have open hours similar to those practiced in UK. On the other hand, nocturnal life continues late into the night allowing you to dine or amuse yourself.
Posts are present everywhere. Their services are at your disposition weekdays and Saturday mornings. For a small amount of money you can send your friends a card that they will receive one to two weeks later.
Think about bringing your mobile phone so you can keep in touch while you are in Bulgaria. Ask your phone provider for information regarding prices before you leave. In addition the GSM coverage is excellent for the group of countries.
o To telephone England from Bulgaria, type 00 followed by the country indicator 44 and finally your correspondent’s phone number without the first zero.
o To call within Bulgaria, type only the number of your correspondent without the country code.
o If you wish to call Bulgaria from the UK, type 359 followed by the number you are calling without the first zero.
To check your e-mail, please contact the hotel reception, or, go to one of the many internet cafes, cheap and mostly open 24/7.
The Bulgarian currency is the lev (plural - leva). 1 lev (Lv.) is equal to 0.51 €. Lev is divided into 100 stotinki (st.). Consider changing your currency immediately, as prices are displayed and payable in local currency.
Change bureaus are present everywhere with longer open hours than those of the banks. Pay attention to the exchange rate in order to avoid a bad surprise. For more security, visit a bank.
The names of some of the banks operating in Bulgaria: SG Expressbank, BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank, First Investment Bank, Raiffeisen Bank, UBB, etc..
These are the best method for avoiding theft, but can include a heavy commission. In addition, converting them to cash is not always easy since most change bureaus don’t accept them.
The system is developing quickly and certainly the most practical means to avoid transporting large sums of money. Unfortunately, the commissions attached to each transaction can increase the costs.
Remember to set your trip with your credit card, because many services and insurances associated with them. However, at present few merchants accept this form of payment .
The Balkans have been given a bad image terms of security. These ideas are generally unfounded. In fact, you will have no more problems in Bulgaria than in any other European country as long as you respect the basic rules of comportment.
For example, be vigilant in public places, don’t leave valuable objects in your vehicle and avoid carrying large amounts of money on you. We equally recommend keeping the following emergency numbers with you at all times:
European number of emergency - 112
Police – 166
Firemen – 160
Ambulance – 150
Roadside assistance – 91.146
Traffic police -982.27.23
British embassy – (+359) (2) 933 9222
Uses and Customs
Daily life in Bulgaria is made up of a certain number of customs which are good to know about in order to better understand the Bulgarian people. To begin with, the movement of the head indicating affirmation and negation are inversed in relation to ours. To avoid miscommunication accompany your gestures with the corresponding word: DA for yes and NE for no.
If you are invited to the home of a Bulgarian, think of bringing along a small gift and be sure to take off your shoes at the entrance.
People shake hands upon meeting, even females. In additions, the day is accompanied by an array of superstitions with origins in Pagan traditions. It is expected to leave a tip for waiters and most other service personnel. At the table, to not look your guests in the eyes when you toast is seen as a sign of disrespect.
Bulgarian products, in general, are of decent quality at an interesting price. Don’t hesitate to visit the stores and markets; you might find something that you are missing. The prices are posted and difficult to negotiate. The shopping is agreeable without insistent salespeople bothering you. There exist several typical products, easy to transport and rich in memories. Decorative arts are distinguished by their quality workmanship, a beautiful finish, as well as rich ornamentation.
The superb religious icons that you are sure to admire during your visits to the monasteries and orthodox churches are often reproduced by local artists and are a souvenir full of the Bulgarian spirituality.
Sculpting wood is an ancient art form that continues to this day. The magnificent carved doors, richly decorated ceilings and finely crafted icons are significant examples of the savoir-faire of the Bulgarian artists. You can find small carved objects such as chess pieces, jewellery boxes, toys as well as musical instruments.
The practices of fabric making and embroidery are centuries old. The beauty of traditional costumes and the insides of Bulgarian houses are witnesses to this heritage. Among the works that you can bring home include hand-woven Bulgarian rugs, shirts, tablecloths and napkins meticulously crafted or of course those unrivalled woollen socks.
Pottery is certainly the most ancient occupation in Bulgaria which dates to the 9th century. Today, next to its decorative aspect, it’s above all their usefulness that is appreciated. As a prime example, you can purchase painted pottery and ceramic pieces such as dishware, vases, pots, etc. Make sure not to forget the Bulgarian crystal which, though not well known, is nonetheless extremely attractive.
Leather goods have a use both decorative and practical. Today they hold, as in the past, an important place in the decoration of the home.
Goldsmith’s art is very popular and a good deal. You can find a number of jewellery stores which offer notably a large range of products in gold.
Bulgaria is the number one world exporter of rose extract. In the Valley of Roses, but also throughout the country, you will find it in small bottles or vaporizers. Cosmetic products, jam, rose wine and other products can be purchased...Finally, don’t forget to bring back a bottle of two of a good Bulgarian wine and/or Rakia (eau de vie) to share with your friends. Finally, don’t forget to bring back a bottle of two of a good Bulgarian wine and/or Rakia (eau de vie) to share with your friends.