ARRIVING IN THE COUNTRY: British citizens holding full 10 year British passport and entering Bulgaria on pre-booked arrangements and staying 1 month or less do not need a visa. This does not apply to third country nationals residing permanently in the UK. If you plan to stay in Bulgaria for a longer period of time and apply for a long-term residence, you need to obtain visa D from the Bulgarian Embassy in the UK. If you are travelling with a child and the child is registered in the passport of one of the parents, please bear in mind that the child can travel in the country and leave the country only accompanied by the same parent unless the other parent is given power of attorney.
Important: All foreign nationals who are not staying in a hotel must register in the nearest police department within 48 hours after their entry into Bulgaria. They have to notify the authorities of their address of staying. If you are staying in a hotel, the hotel staff will inform the authorities for you – it's a routine procedure of registering all hotel guests.
AIRPORT Although it's international and very busy in the summer season, Varna Airport is only small compared to the UK airports. Arrivals lounge is only small with 2 luggage carousels. There you can also find a Duty-free shop, which is only small and does not offer a big choice; an exchange desk (please note that usually exchange rates at airports are not always favourable) and the Lost and Found Desk. In case of lost or damaged luggage, please see the officer at the desk and fill in a Property Irregularity Report before you leave the airport. Trolleys are sometimes difficult to find especially in the summer when 3 or 4 flights arrive at the same time. If you want to use the toilets, they are located outside the arrivals lounge, downstairs. Outside the arrivals lounge you will also find a small coffee shop where you can buy drinks and snacks; some tourist offices and Rent-a-car desk.
Taxis in front of the main gate are usually expensive – they charge a lot over the standard price. Best thing is call for a taxi from the phones available at the airport. Here are the phone numbers of some local Taxi companies:
You don't need to dial area code if you are calling from a public phone in Varna to a local number. To make a call you need to purchase a phone card for the prepaid phones.
The cheapest transport available is bus 409, which stops in front of the airport; you'll see the bus stop sign. The fare is 0,50 stotinki to the city centre and 1,50 to Golden sands resort. Tickets are purchased on board the bus.
BRITISH EMBASSY The British Embassy in Bulgaria is based in Sofia.
BUSINESS In general, it is wise to leave behind those assumptions you were taught in business school and in business practice if you want to do business in Bulgaria. For example, punctuality, dress code, the use of “ what a reasonable person could expect” as a principle for negotiations and business discussions; or the term “gentlemen's word”. What a laugh!
The official “rules” for doing business in Bulgaria should be taken merely as guidelines for action. Bulgarians have not practiced business in the Western style at least 50 years. Therefore do not be surprised when for example you phone a company and someone picks up the phone and says ‘Hello' as if they are answering their phone at home. Furthermore, the rules written by the government are often irrational and changed often on a regular basis.
Now, don't be discouraged, and don't get pessimistic. All you need to know is that to succeed in business in Bulgaria you have to be flexible, imaginative, original, quick on your feet and fast to change tracks.a sense of humour is also a positive business asset. This is what makes business here so interesting and so much fun. And all this bobbing and weaving will make you feel young, alive and fresh to your senses.
CUSTOMS Import and export of all kinds of narcotic drugs and substances, firearms, explosives and ammunitions in the Republic of Bulgaria is prohibited.
Export of objects with artistic, historical or cultural value out of the country is allowed only with the special permission of the ministry of Culture.
Duty-free allowance per adult:
DRINKS In local pubs and restaurants spirits are served in amounts of 50 grammes (this is the standard small drink in BG) and 100 grammes. The national alcohol drink is called “rakia” and can be produced of grapes, plums or other fruits. It is quite strong and usually goes with a salad or a starter.
There are very good selections of locally produced beers and wines at fraction of the UK prices – certainly worth trying!
The British used totheir favourite cup of tea few times a day will find that in Bulgarian cafes and restaurants do not offer the same kind of drink. What is offered is usually Black tea, fruit flavoured tea or herbs that are not very correctly called tea by all Bulgarians – in most cases not the kind of tea the British like.
Coffee is a drink that the Bulgarians love strong and full of taste. If you order coffee in a bar or a restaurant, you will most probably get a small cup of very strong black coffee or ‘Turkish coffee' as you may call it. When you order, make sure you tell the waiter you want a long coffee with hot milk – this will be more similar to the taste most British prefer.
DRIVING Driving is the best way to explore the country and go beyond the tourist sites. Depending on your confidence and experience as a driver, driving in Bulgaria may seem quite chaotic. There is a popular joke saying that in Bulgaria there are no traffic rules but traffic suggestions J . What you may observe while driving is overtaking on the inside, failing to obey the ‘STOP' and ‘Give Way” signs, not sticking to speed limits, jumping lights and not flashing indicators. Beware of this behaviour especially when you see flash cars. There is however no need to feel daunted as long as you are driving carefully and stick to the rules. Road signs follow international standards and major routes and destinations are spelled in Cyrillic and Latin. Only inconvenience is that some road signs have been stolen for scrap metal and it is quite possible that you miss a turn off.
Speed limits for cars are:
According to Bulgarian law seat belts must be worn by all passengers, mobile phones can only be used with ‘hand-free” sets, and the allowed alcohol limit is 0.5 pro mil. We strongly advise you though not to drink and drive!
You need to carry your driving license and the car documents at all times because the police can stop you to check them. While driving in Bulgaria, only uniformed policemen with white Opel Astra police automobiles may stop you for a check-up. Police officers are instructed to identify themselves. Do not stop in case of signals given by other people in uniforms. Cases of highway robberies have been reported when robbers masquerading as police officers are stopping people for a spot check, or pretend they have troubles with their car and need help. Therefore, avoid traveling at night and do not stop in isolated places.
Usually oncoming drivers will warn you about a police check up point by flashing their headlights.
In general traffic police are friendly and is advisable that you are friendly and polite. If you are fined and the fine is payable on the spot, always ask for a receipt (fiche).
EATING OUT Bulgarian cuisine is delicious and full of taste. You will find plenty of restaurants and fast food places in the cities. In a lot of them you can try typical local dishes and international cuisine. In Bulgaria you will find that food is usually served warm rather than piping hot, as it is considered healthier. In many eating out places you will find that food is served when it is ready regardless of the way it is ordered. That means that one person may have their first or even second course while the other is still looking at an empty plate. Therefore, always make clear when you would like to have your food and point it out to the waiter. Only very few restaurants (not to say almost none) offer non-smoking areas. Nevertheless you can still ask the manager of the place for non-smoking table and show that there is a demand for it.
It is also possible that the English version of the menu in cafes and restaurants has got higher prices. Check the menu in Bulgarian and make sure you are not overcharged. It is always a good idea to check your bill carefully and make sure no extra items have been added especially if you are a bigger group.
Tips should be roughly 10% of the bill. It shows your satisfaction from the service and you are free to leave the respective amount. When handing the money over to the waiter, do not say ‘Thank you' unless you want the waiter to keep all of it. In Bulgaria when you say ‘Thank you' to the waiter it means ‘You can keep the change'. You can either wait till they bring your change and decide how much to leave as a tip or round up the bill and leave the exact amount of money. I know you'll thank us about that one – no problem!J
ELECTRICITY Bulgaria operates on 220 volt. The standard continental two-pin plug is used.
HEALTH In general, doctors and other medical staff are very good and highly qualified but the Health system is slow, chaotic and ineffective. It is still undergoing reforms that even experts cannot explain. Unfortunately in many state hospitals and clinics you might find appalling conditions and brilliant and professional staff. Apart from the state medical institutions, there are also private ones. In general they offer better conditions and often you will find doctors working in both state and private clinics.
Foreign citizens do not pay for life saving operations but all other medical services are paid for here on the spot. If you have a medical emergency it's crucial to contact your Insurance Company as soon as possible.
Foreign citizens who are granted long-term residence permit must compulsory insure themselves as from the date the permit was issued. Parents should pay insurance for their children too. At the moment due to the lack of legislation there is no private health insurance. You can have a Life insurance with a private company and as additional risks to that one you can have coverage for hospitalization.
MEASURES Bulgaria uses the metric system for weights and measures:
MONEY The Bulgarian monetary unit is called Lev (plural Leva). Its official abbreviation is BGN.
1 Lev = 100 stotinki
You can find the following coins: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 stotinki and 1 lev
You can find the following notes: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 leva
We strongly advise you to exchange money in banks or reputable exchange offices. Changing money on the street is illegal and you will definitely be cheated. You will end up with out of date, foreign or forged notes. The best thing to do is to avoid and completely ignore all the accidental people that might approach you and ask you to change money on the street. Some exchange offices do have quite unfair way of advertising their rates and what you see on their boards is not what you'll get in the end.
We advise you to use ATM machines that are located at banks or big shopping malls. Credit cards are not widely acceptable in Bulgaria. You can use them in some high-class hotels, restaurants and supermarkets. Please do not rely on credit cards for local purchases especially in small towns and villages.
POSTAL SERVICES Post offices can be found throughout the country in most towns and villages. You can buy stamps and send mail in smaller offices. If you want to send a parcel abroad, you will need to go to a central post office.
SAFETY Avoid carrying large amounts of money with you. When you are staying in a hotel, it's always advisable to keep your money, valuables, jewelry and passports in a safety deposit box in the hotel.
SMOKING In general, Bulgarians are heavy smokers. There's very little consideration for non-smokers. Very few restaurants, cafes, hotels or public institutions have no smoking areas. Most of the people would light a cigarette without even asking first at meetings or while others are eating.
TELEPHONES Cheapest way to phone abroad is to use the phone boxes in Post offices or some special Phone kiosks offering bargain prices. You can also use the public pay phones. They are either orange Bulfon or blue Mobika prepaid card phones. Cards are available from kiosks, some shops and some hotel receptions.
Currently in Bulgaria has 2 Mobile operators – M-tel and Globul. Both offer prepaid cards.
Important telephone numbers:
The above telephone numbers are dialed free of charge from all types of telephones – landlines, mobile phones and street phones
TOILETS Public toilets can be found in most cities and town but most of them are not to be recommended unless it is an emergency. They are usually the type that to Brits is known as ‘Turkish toilet'. There is usually a small charge for using public toilets (about 20 – 50 stotinki). You may also have to pay for a restaurant toilet although you should not in the reputable ones.
TRANSPORT Public transport in Bulgaria is cheap but you will often find it's overcrowded, not very clean and old. It is often a favourite place for the pickpockets, so be aware. Avoid using a rucksack andyour wallet in your back pocket.
Taxis are a good option if you use a reputable company. Please always check the taxi rates before you go in the car, or make sure you and driver agree on the same price. Avoid getting into an argument with the taxi driver even if you know he is cheating you, or at least be sure to get yourself and your belongings out of the car.
Trains are a cheap way to travel to each part of the country but we would not recommend them because of the cleanliness standards in most of them.
|We've tried to make the information on this web site as accurate as possible, but it is provided 'as is' and we accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained by anyone resulting from this information. You should verify critical information (like visas, health and safety, customs and transportation) with the relevant authorities before you travel.|