Travel Tips

The following travel tips have been gathered from many sources including personal experience. You should always apply common sense when travelling, whether at home or abroad.

Visitors from all Schengen-Treaty European countries travel to Bulgaria without a visa. A Bulgarian visa (entry or transit) may be obtained at any Bulgarian Embassy or Consular Office in the countries needing such a visa. Citizens of the United States and Canada, the European Union, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Israel, travelling on regular passports, are not required visas for stay in Bulgaria not exceeding 30 days. If planning to stay more than 30 days, or travelling on diplomatic or official passport, a visa is required and must be obtained in advance.

The number of foreign tourists in Bulgaria has gone up by 8.55% for the first nine months year of year 2002, according to the Tourism Department at the Economy Ministry. In September 2002, the number is up by 10.72%. The number of foreigners who have visited Bulgaria as tourists that year is 2,443,296 - almost 20% of them are German. The number of German tourists for the first nine months of the year is up by 27.5 %, British - by 64 %, and Swedish - by 14%. The Economy Ministry projected an increase in tourists of 9% for 2002 in comparison with the previous year. The number of Russian tourists has decreased by 25 %, due to introduction of the visa regime for Russians and by 45 % in the number of Ukrainian tourists. The Tourism Department announced that the government will allot 20 million BGL for promotion of the Bulgarian tourism abroad.

The peak time to visit Bulgaria is late spring, early summer. During this time-period the weather is very stable and warm; the days are long (over 12 hours), and rainfalls are far rarer than in the spring. Temperatures in late summer often reach 30°C (degrees Celsius) and sometimes even higher. Wear light clothes, T-shirts, shorts (more comfortable than long trousers), sandals, sunglasses, and those who wish could bring bathing suits also. To protect from the sun in the mountain elevations, always wear hats and a face cream with very high SPF. It is desirable to have a pair of comfortable walking shoes (again for the mountain areas) as well as a raincoat or a jacket in case of summer showers. Don’t forget a sweatshirt – to cover your shoulders on a colder night.

If you happen to be here in the heat of July and August, remember these points and you will find it is completely possible to be fresh and energetic, in spite of the heat:

  • 36°C (degrees Celsius) is the ideal temperature of water if you want to have a shower when you are hot.
  • Replace the usual daily cream with a liquid one, always with a medium or high sun-protection factor (SPF 30, 40 or even 60).
  • Use deodorant in the morning, when your skin is clean – prefer the dry sticks rather than the sprays (which tend to irritate skin far more).
  • Your clothes should be made of light and natural fabrics - linen, silk, cotton. They help reduce sweating.
  • Put ice pieces on your face if you want to keep your complexion fresh (make-up should be removed in advance).
  • After evening shower, apply a cool compress to your face for 3-4 minutes.

Bulgaria, as the rest of Europe, uses the metric system. Unfamiliarity can cause some confusion.

  • You may find it helpful to remember that 82°F is close to 28°C, and 61°F is close to 16°C - the only two where you can reverse the digits and be close.
  • If you want precise, 10°C is 50°F. 20°C is 68°F and 30°C is 86°F, easy to remember in combination. Also, 40°C is 104°F.
  • Most restaurant menus in Bulgaria will show the weight of a menu item to help you gauge the size of their serving portions. Remember that 500 grams is a bit more than seventeen ounces (1.1023 US pounds). So if you see a menu item weight of 250 grams, consider this a "normal" serving.

As you travel, consider these points:

  • You are on Vacation!! Leave the job at home ... no cell phone ... maybe even no laptop. You can always go to the Internet Cafes; there are plenty of them all around in Plovdiv.
  • Get a drip-dry hairstyle. Guys, grow a beard. No one will know how you are supposed to look anyhow, and you can stand to look at a different "you" in the mirror for three weeks.
  • Don't try to drive. Enjoy the leisure of walking, taxi or train travel.
  • Leave most of your things at home ... enjoy shopping here and there.
  • Don't set a cast-iron schedule; loaf and schmooze.
  • No jewellery, except your wedding rings ... fewer valuable things to lose.
  • Take a tiny or disposable camera., unless you are addicted to zooms and other gadgets.
  • Learn some of the language: "please" -- (‘MOL -YAH) -- and "thank you" -- (BLA -GO -DAR -‘IYA) -- for starts. Bulgarian grammar is complex in comparison to English, but you can get by with some simple words. "Yes" is "Dah"; "No" is "Neh". "Dobre" (stressed on the second syllable - strictly meaning "good") is a rather universal word, acceptable for "OK" or general agreement. In addition to masculine, feminine and neuter, the Bulgarian language has added another ... distant ... somewhat similar to the old formal "thee, thou and thine" in English.
  • Enjoy the difference - you don't need Coca Cola (although every place in Plovdiv has it)! Try fresh juice and a sandwich of local cheese and sausage (or ham or chicken).
  • Go in the off-season; you might just get by with NO reservations anywhere!
  • If you enjoy the economy you could try a room with a shared bath for a night or two.
  • Most of all - go with the determination to have a happy time.
    Bulgarian National Holidays are as follows:
  • New Year's Day is celebrated on January 1st
  • National Day (Liberation from the Turks) is celebrated on March 3rd
  • Easter (not on the same day as in Western Europe – usually a week later; according to the East Orthodox Calendar) – usually 3 days in a row
  • St George’s Day – May 6th
  • Sts. Cyril and Methodius Day is celebrated on May 24th (also Education and Culture Day, Day of the Slavonic Literacy)
  • Christmas is observed on December 25th

Telephones in Bulgaria:

International dialling code for Bulgaria is +359; the Sofia city code is 2, Plovdiv is 32 when dialled from abroad (if you already happen to be in Bulgaria, the city codes all acquire a 0 in front: Sofia 02, Plovdiv 032, etc). Coin and card phones are available both for local and long distance calls at hotels, phone boxes and Post Offices. Direct telephone communication from Bulgaria to all countries is possible through the BTC (Bulgarian Telecommunication Company) phone booths or by phone cards, but not all operators will speak a foreign language. Carry a telephone calling card with you from your long distance carrier. Be certain you know their access code in the countries you will visit, including Bulgaria. Telephone calls, telegram and fax services in the country and abroad are also offered by the Post Offices.

The system is extensive but antiquated, generally due to a low rate of capital infusion and less support to the infrastructure. More than two-thirds of the lines are residential; telephone service is available in most villages; a fairly modern digital cable trunk line now connects switching centres in most of the regions, the others are connected by digital microwave radio relay international: direct dialling is available to 58 countries. Telephone numbers, which may be useful, include:

150 - Emergency Medical Aid
160 - Fire Department
166 - Police
140 - Sending of telegrams
144 - Telephone information service
146 - Emergency Road Service
165 - Traffic Police
175 - Weather forecast
180 - Time service
0123 - Operator for international calls (if no direct-dial phone call is possible)
121 - Operator for long-distance calls within Bulgaria
120 - Wake up call

Regarding your passport:

Hotels in Bulgaria, as well as in parts of the European Union, are entitled to take your passport in order to give your details to police (they like to know who is coming into their country). They hand it back next morning, or when you leave the hotel for shopping, sightseeing, etc.

No one, except at a hotel, bank or a bona fide policeman will normally ask to see it. You should consider keeping a photocopy of the two key pages in some safe place. Such a copy helps your consul issue a new one fast, if a pickpocket steals your passport.
It is not required, but strongly suggested that you register with your country’s Consular Office in Sofia during your stay in Bulgaria (all Embassies and Consular Sections are situated in the capital city Sofia; there are only two consular offices in Plovdiv – of Greece and Turkey). They can also record the essential information from your passport and, in case of loss or theft, can replace the document in a matter of hours.

Regarding pickpockets:

You will always find your journeys more pleasant if you sit back and relax. Remember - pickpockets apart, nobody is out to get you. To protect yourself against pickpockets who will attack you most often in public transportation: try to always carry your money, Ids or other belongings in a string wallet hanging on your neck. It is also advisable to put some Velcro lines on your pockets (both front and rear ones) - If someone attempts to remove your wallet from any pocket, you can feel it and, of course, hear it.


Crime against persons is rare by the standard of cities in the United States. It is possible to walk around late at night and never feel threatened. The only "crime hotspot" to beware of is near the Hotel Pliska in Sofia. Regardless, don't be stupid - don't flash money or jewellery around, etc., keep a low profile - and you should be OK. Property crime is much more common, and auto thefts seems to be a Bulgarian specialty. In downtown, people are pretty much jaded towards visiting foreigners. Many are quite friendly; very few are rude or hostile. The majority of people are merely indifferent. But if you go anywhere smaller, especially the places that Bulgarians think tourists should see, you'll find a lot of people who are still fascinated that a foreigner is kicking around in their country. And most important ... they will do all they can to help you.

Personal Safety:

If you are inexperienced with travelling in this part of Europe, it is recommended that you be in no hurry to drive here, although automobile rental is becoming more popular with tourists who wish to feel free to visit the many "off the travelled path" sights. While walking in the city, be mindful that although there are pedestrian crosswalks, there are also pedestrian tunnels at or quite near every major intersection. As a bonus, many of these tunnels also are the location for some quite wonderful shops, cafes and other attractions. It is often tempting to merely walk across a street at a traffic light, but the drivers usually consider their own need to be in the intersection more important than any pedestrian, and you may have a very long wait just to walk across any street.

Regarding Credit Cards (also see our page on Currency)

Over the past four years the ATM network in Bulgaria has grown considerably, making it relatively easy to obtain cash from the numerous ATMs as in all major cities and resorts. The national credit/debit card operator BORICA (,, to which all ATMs in the country are hooked up, accepts VISA/Plus, Visa Electron, MasterCard/Cirrus, Maestro, American Express, Diners Club, and a number of other cards, including local debit cards*.

ATMs in Sofia, Plovdiv and the other major cities are available at most banks, many Shell and OMV gas stations, and big stores as well as at numerous other locations, mostly in the downtown area. ATM withdrawals are undoubtedly the most reasonable way to bring money to Bulgaria. All withdrawals are received in Bulgarian Leva (BGN), at the inter-bank exchange rate, which is generally better than that of any change bureau. In addition, BORICA does not charge a commission fee whatsoever, which, although quite unusual, is obviously of great advantage.

Furthermore, credit/debit cards do not have to be declared at customs, unlike cash. And last, but not least, credit/debit cards are definitely safer to carry around and use to obtain local currency than any other financial instruments. We strongly advise against "Traveller’s Cheques" as these can be very difficult and expensive to cash. Reasonable "out-of-pocket" expenses per person per day in Bulgaria should not normally exceed 20 USD. Naturally, you are advised to follow some common-sense procedures, such as keeping your cards in a safe place, not sharing the card numbers, expiration dates or PINs with anyone, and abstaining from using badly-lit ATMs alone at night.

Credit or debit cards can be also used to obtain cash from all banks and most change bureaus. Those, however, usually charge commission fees for the withdrawal and/or the currency exchange. The amount of those fees varies, and is often not openly stated, so make sure you inquire about it before requesting a transaction.

Unfortunately, most retailers in Bulgaria, especially those in smaller cities and rural areas, do not accept credit or debit cards yet. Only a few - particularly hotels, gas station chains, restaurants, airlines and some other retailers in bigger cities have been switching to that practice (however, be aware that paying with cards at such places can be a little more risky that obtaining cash from an ATM). It is recommended that you only use your credit/debit cards at locations that you have a reason to trust. For example, you probably should not be concerned about card payments at Sofia Sheraton Hotel, the TZUM Central Department Store, a Shell or OMV gas station, or the Clinique store. Also, remember to keep or carefully destroy any receipts on which the full card number appears.

If you plan to use your credit/debit card(s) in Bulgaria, it is highly recommended that you contact your financial institution in advance, and inform them about your travel plans. Often credit/debit card usage is limited to your home country, so you should ensure that you would be able to use your cards abroad. Informing your financial institution about your travel plans in advance will also prevent the unpleasant event of your cards being cancelled due to extraordinary transactions. U.S. visitors please note that Discover Card is not accepted overseas except for Internet purchases and transactions through US-based institutions.
Bear in mind that you will most likely be unable to obtain your balance from an ATM that uses a currency different than the one in your account. Therefore, when your account is in currency other than the Leva, you should ensure easy telephone or Internet access to your card account, in order to regularly monitor your transactions. Those may also be of vital importance in the unpleasant event of your cards being lost or stolen. As you may know, banks/credit institutions generally waive unauthorized charges made on your card only if you have reported it missing beforehand. Only regular magnetic stripe cards are usable at ATMs in Bulgaria. Smart Card, AMEX Blue and other microchip-only cards are currently not accepted.
Keep in mind that your bank/credit institution may be at liberty to charge you a transaction fee for ATM withdrawals abroad. For more information, please contact your financial institution. To obtain cash from your credit/debit card at an ATM, you will need to use your four-digit Personal Identification Number (PIN). If your PIN consists of more than four digits, or if you do not have a PIN yet, please contact your financial institution for advice.

There is an excellent collection of travel tips - including a list of possible scams - at "Round The World Travel Guide" We highly recommend that you read and put into practice as many travel tips and pieces of advice as possible.

Disclaimer: This information is current as of June 2003. The PlovdivGuide declares that the information above is true and accurate to the best of our knowledge. However, PlovdivGuide does not bear any responsibility for its accuracy. All trademarks mentioned above are the property of their respective owners.

Tourist facilities

Bulgaria is a moderately developed European nation, undergoing significant economic changes. Tourist facilities are widely available. Although not an “exclusive vacation spot”, sometimes your countries’ Bureaus of Consular Affairs draw a rather unfair picture of all the

Balkan nations.

As in every free-market country, Bulgaria's economic marketplace sets prices at affordable levels for the average Bulgarian wage-earner, about 205 USD per month. The urban elderly survive on monthly pensions of 50 USD. To the tourist, this means: The kids want pizza? Head for the nearest Verdi Pizza Place (ask to see their English menu) - a large pizza for three will cost the equivalent of about 4 USD - wash it down with a half-litre of Coca Cola for 0.80 USD (half a litre of beer is 0.60 USD). If you prefer a full dinner for the family - plan on 9-11 USD per person (including drinks) at most of the "very-good-quality" restaurants throughout the city.

A taxi ride almost anywhere in the city? Plan to spend no more than the equivalent of 4-5 USD. Taxis are painted yellow and always have a sign on top of the cars. If you phone-call for a taxi (you could easily spot the phone numbers of the different taxi-agencies written on the car-doors) there is always a discount. A helpful receptionist at the hotel you are staying at might always call for a taxi.

We might give you a good piece of advice – try to use a local tour-guide, a person of knowledge of the city and of course your language, and who could take you to all the key places to see and will make your visit truly unforgettable - instead of the do-it-yourself-method which will definitely deprive you of the pleasure to see the city or the country from a “local point of view”.

If your shoes wear out from walking through the Old Town, a new pair in your size in a quality leather shoe is no more than 20 – 30 USD. Avoid slick-soled shoes; the cobblestone streets can become very slippery.

You get the main idea - Plovdiv is an affordable vacation spot! Bring your camera and take plenty of photos. Enjoy yourself!

If you need any help – please do not hesitate to contact us! There are phone numbers you could find in the Contact Us section, or you could send us e-mail. If there is any additional information you require - read through our message forum by clicking this link. Often, some other website visitor has already asked a similar question and we have not yet updated this "tips" page. For that reason, we are preparing an FAQ list for this web site. You might also want to subscribe to our free Newsletter.

Electrical power (220 V.A.C., 50 Hz) is supplied through a 2-pin connecting plug which is similar to that used in most European countries but it is different from those used in the US, UK and Japan.

DHL, UPS or TNT are all reliable international express freight carriers in Bulgaria. DHL have an express centre inside The Plovdiv Fair administration building, and the main Plovdiv office at 9 Svoboda Boulevard. TNT’s office is also close to the Plovdiv Fair grounds, at 52 Tsar Boris III Obedinitel Blvd. The staffs are extremely courteous and speak good English.

Bulgaria abides by the East-European time, 2 hours ahead of universal GMT time (the time of Greenwich Observatory in Great Britain). Daylight saving time is used from 0 hours on the last Sunday of March, till 24 hours on the last Saturday of October.

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