Bulgaria— The Basics
Bordering Greece, Turkey, Romania, Serbia, Macedonia, and the Black Sea, Bulgaria lies at a grand cultural intersection. East and west, Europe and Asia, the Balkans and the Black sea — no matter how you look at it, Bulgaria is in the middle of everything! This is great for anyone wishing to travel to Sofia, the nation’s capital. Such a crossroads must be an exciting place! With so much to offer, Bulgaria is among the European destinations for tourists!
Sights and Attractions
You won’t run out of things to do in Bulgaria. The mountains are vast and beautiful. The forests are thick and wild. The beaches are sandy and refreshing, and the cities are grand and ornate. When you travel in Europe, few places offer such a combination of diverse natural and urban beauty.
If you travel to Sofia, you cannot miss out on the Boyana Church . This stunning Orthodox church is a robust testament to the early power of Orthodox Christianity in the region. It is a truly awe-inspiring display of human architectural genius! For lovers of grand architecture and history alike, old Byzantine relics dot the landscape. They are in incredible peek into the history of a long-standing Roman successor state.
The Black sea offers excellent experiences for sunbathers, cruisers, and dolphin lovers alike. The seaside resort city of Varna is a prime destination for ocean lovers. The beautiful beaches are a blast, and cruises sail directly from the city’s port. Black sea cruises tend to be pretty cheap. The food is good, and the booze keeps on coming. The Black Sea wouldn’t be complete without its dense population of bottlenose dolphins. Oftentimes, you can see them swimming merrily near boats and the shoreline, breaking the surface to check out what the land-based friends are up to.
Bulgaria Travel Tips
Bulgaria Currency Considerations
The official Bulgaria currency is the Bulgarian Lev. No other countries will accept the Bulgarian Lev, so you want to be sure not to exchange your money for too many levs! When planning to travel anywhere that uses a different currency, it pays to plan ahead.
Most places, by law, are unable to accept foreign currencies. You’ll have to exchange. As some value is lost in an exchange, you are essentially paying for your own money when exchanging currency . This is unavoidable. What is avoidable is paying too much for your own money. Your local bank or an online currency exchange site or app is the best way to get the fairest rate. It’s your own money, so you really don’t want to pay too much for it.
Make sure you budget. If you have too many levs at the end of your trip, you’re going to convert them back to your currency. You already paid to convert your money to levs. By switching the levs back to your currency, you’re basically paying for your own money two times. For you, no value is gained from that. If you’re not sure how much you will spend, try to be conservative with your estimate. The worst that could happen is that you’d have to exchange more of your currency for levs later.
That won’t be too hard, either. In Bulgaria, you’ll be able to find an exchange near any tourist hotspots, but these can be expensive. If you’re running short on levs, Bulgarian banks tend to offer the best rates in the area. For the sake of your bank account, don’t exchange money at airport kiosks. You will be royally ripped off with a terrible exchange rate. Plan smart, do the math and think ahead so you can get the most bang for your buck at one of the best European destinations.
Hotels, hostels, and homestays are abundant in Bulgaria. Most places run rather cheap compared to much of western Europe. Naturally, you’ll want to adjust your budget if you’re staying in a major city. When you travel to Sofia, expect to pay a little more for a bed than you would in the countryside. Any major city or destination will have a few English speaking hotel staff members on hand.
Make sure you have a few Bulgarian phrases in your pocket outside the popular centers. The words for numbers, days, and cost should be enough to book a hotel last minute.
Flights and Transportation
Bulgaria’s major international airport is located in the capital. If you were already planning to travel to Sofia, then that really works out! If you plan to hit the beaches to the east, you’ll have no problem getting there. If you like to travel in Europe, then you certainly appreciate how well the public transport system is. Bulgaria is no different. Bulgaria has a capable network of modern buses and trains, and they’re almost always on time. As a bonus, they’re pretty cheap too. Leaving Sofia is quick, easy, and inexpensive.
Bulgarians predominantly speak Bulgarian, the national language. Compared to some other European destinations, English is not super widespread. About 25 percent of Bulgarians can speak at least a basic level of English. A similar percentage of Bulgarians can also speak Russian. In major cities, international airports, and popular tourist destinations, finding an English speaker isn’t tricky.
Off the beaten path, you may not be as lucky. Still, someone who speaks English is bound to come along if you wait long enough. If not, pull out that translation app, prep some pictures, and carefully gesticulate! With a little effort, a language barrier can be overcome for basic communication.
Like Russia and many eastern European states, Bulgaria uses the Cyrillic alphabet. Signs can be found in the alphabet in tourist hotspots but not everywhere. If you have the time, learning the Cyrillic alphabet is extremely useful. It doesn’t take more than an hour. It’s definitely a good idea to keep a reference on hand, just in case.
Being able to transliterate Cyrillic letters helps you enter names into search engines or ask a local. You can’t pronounce a bunch of vaguely familiar symbols if you don’t know what they sound like. Here’s a hint to get you started: backwards R does not sound like “R.” It’s more like “yah.”
Things to Keep in Mind
Some countries are completely open to bartering. Bulgaria is not one of them. Bartering comes off as extremely stingy and disrespectful, so just pay the full price. It’s cheap enough anyways! Nodding and headshaking is kind of all over the place here. A lot of the time, a nod in Bulgaria means no. Some people try to imitate the other way of doing for tourists, though. With this being said, you have a hodge-podge of nods with conflicting meanings.
If you’re unsure what someone means, just ask. It beats a big misunderstanding or a missed opportunity. If someone offers you alcohol, turning them down is offensive. Try to say yes if you can, but if you can’t, come up with a good excuse so they can save face. Naturally, alcohol etiquette is a little tricky if you don’t or can’t partake. Try to be courteous and appreciative.
Get your Bulgaria currency needs in order. See the city of Sofia. Hike the mountains. Soak in the rays. Say hi to the dolphins. Visiting Bulgaria, you’ll have quite the exciting itinerary! Go soon, stay for a while, and enjoy your stay in the best place to travel in Europe!
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