Planning a trip to Bulgaria and don’t know where to start? Well, Bulgaria as a seaside destination in the summer is unquestionably a popular choice, but apart from the destinations concentrated along the shore of the Black Sea, Bulgaria is still undiscovered. However, once you give it a chance, you’ll realise that there are also countless fascinating spots throughout the rest of the country. We’ve collected some interesting facts and some useful tips to know before visiting Bulgaria, because this country is not just about chilling on the beach. Don’t worry, you are going to have an amazing time in this exciting country!
1. Entry and Visa
Though Bulgaria is an EU member since 2007, it is not part of the Schengen treaty. This means that if you are coming from the EU, you need a show a passport or a national identity card. In case your stay is less than 90 days, you don’t need a visa for Bulgaria. Otherwise, you’ll have to obtain a residence permit.
If you’re coming from a non-EU country though, you need to have a valid passport with at least six months left until its expiry and in this case you also need to have a return ticket. (Please note, that you don’t need to obtain visa if you’re American, Australian, Canadian or British.) There are over 90 different countries exempt from visa requirements for Bulgaria and travellers of around 150 different nationalities must apply for a visa at an embassy or consulate. So, make sure to consult with your local Bulgarian Embassy/Consulate whether you need a visa or not.
2. Places you should avoid
If you just remember one tip from this whole article, let it be this one: do not go to Sunny Beach! Ten years ago it was a good place, but over the years it became super pricey and incredibly touristic. The booming tourism industry brings in tons of visitors every summer, which makes the place completely unenjoyable. There is nothing special about this place, the beach unfortunately became a victim of overtourism. The same applies to Golden Sands. It is overrated and overcrowded, where people just drink and have parties.
If you want to get to know the “real” Bulgaria and have some authentic experience, go to the mountains. In the mountains, far from the massive waves of tourists, people could preserve their national identity. The areas of Bansko, Koprivshtitsa or Kardjali have an amazing authentic folklore, but if you crave for a holiday at the seaside, we recommend visiting Kavarna, Ravda, Shkorpilovtsi, Primorsko or Pomorie.
3. How to get around
Despite the fact that the railway network is pretty big in the country, it is really slow and there are significant delays. (Not even locals use if often.) We recommend travelling by car if you can, since many of the most beautiful places of Bulgaria are off the beaten track. Getting around by bus is also a great option. Tickets are generally cheap, the network is extensive and most of the time they’re punctual. Just keep in mind skipping the trains!
4. Yes is no here and vice versa
If you don’t speak the language, most probably you’ll rely on English and body language. You just have to be really careful with the gestures you do with your head because Bulgarians shake their heads to indicate “yes” and nod for “no”. You’ll have a really hard time with this one, because learning to do the opposite gesture is extremely difficult. Rely on verbal ineraction rather than watching the gestures and try to be very conscious about not doing automatic gestures while you order for instance.
5. Money matters
Well, you won’t get far with euro in this country. Bulgaria is not part of the Euro zone, the national currency in the country is the Bulgarian lev (BGN). You have to know that the lev doesn’t fluctuate, it has a fixed exchange rate. One euro is approximately 2 lev (1.95583 precisely), so it’s pretty easy to do the conversions. The best way to avoid any type of scam is withdrawing the local currency from an ATM.
6. Restaurant etiquette
The service in the restaurants can be a bit different and might seem strange to you. Dishes are not served at the same time to everybody on the table. So, if you order a cold meal (like a salad that can be prepared relatively fast) and your partner orders a complex meal, just don’t expect to be served at the same time. Therefore, in Bulgaria it’s totally normal to start eating before the rest get their meals.
One of the first things you’ll notice on the menu of a restaurant is that they indicate the weight of each dish in grams. It can be really helpful, when it comes to the portion of the meat. Furthermore, Bulgarians love to share their food, so that’s why you’ll see families and groups of friends eating together. Tipping is not mandatory, but it is very welcome. Depending on your experience, you can leave 5-10%.
7. About the Wifi
Bulgaria stands out in Europe, as it has one of the fastest wifis. Moreover, Bulgaria is among the world’s top twenty countries regarding the best public Wifi. Many hotels, restaurants, cafés, museums, malls and parks offer free Wifi access and in the bigger cities you’ll encounter lots of free hotspots too. So, you don’t have to worry about not having a thorough plan for your stay, you can figure things out on the way.
Traditions occupy a very special place in the Bulgarians’ heart. Live folklore music can be heard on the streets, handcrafted souvenirs fill the shops and traditional style restaurants invade the cities. And yet, one of the most interesting and unique traditions in Bulgaria is wearing a martenitsa bracelet. If you happen to be in Bulgaria in March, you’ll be part of this heart-warming tradition. The martenitsa is a white and red bracelet or a small ornament made of wool or cotton yarn. The colours represent health, vitality, fertility and bravery. People tie it around their wrists or clip on their clothes every year on March 1st. Wearing a martenitsa means wishing health and prosperity for yourself or for the person you are giving it to. People wear these bracelets until they first see a stork, swallow, or blossoming tree and then hang the martenitsa on the tree and make a wish. What a beautiful tradition!
If you want to have more information about visa for Bulgaria, click here for the official website.
Click here to read our article about the best places to visit in November!