Information & Facts
Relationship building is important in Bulgaria, and initial
meetings may be used as an introduction, after which more
business-related meetings can be planned. Face-to-face meetings are
therefore preferred over communication by email, fax or phone. The
use of English in business is increasing, however the services of a
translator might be required, and presentations should include the
use of visuals where possible. Introductions include firm
handshakes, and the exchange of business cards; dress should be
conservative business attire and punctuality is expected. Business
hours are generally 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday.
The weather in Bulgaria is not too extreme. Unless you visit for
skiing, summer is the most comfortable time in Bulgaria, with low
humidity and temperatures averaging 75°F (24°C); winter
temperatures average around 32°F (0°C).
The country dialling code for Bulgaria is +359, followed by the
relevant city code. The city code for Sofia is (0)2. Bulgaria
offers a direct dialling service to 58 countries, which can be
reached by adding the prefix 00 to the country code (e.g. 0044 for
the United Kingdom). Calls to countries that cannot be accessed by
direct dialling must be placed through an operator at 0123. Betcom
or Bulgarian Telecommunication Company phone booths require a
special card available from kiosks. Telephone offices are also
available and are attached to post offices. Bulgaria is one of the
few countries in Europe that has no peak or off-peak call times.
The country has mobile GSM operators, and several Internet Service
Providers. Internet cafes are on the increase in the big
Foreigners should be aware that a shake of the head means 'yes'
and a nod means 'no', although allowances are often made for
visitors; it is useful to clarify the answer verbally to avoid
Travellers to Bulgaria, aged 17 and older, do not need to pay
customs duty on 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco; 1
litre of spirits and 2 litres of wine; 50g of perfume or 100g of
eau de toilette; and gifts. Allowances are larger for goods
purchased within the EU. Prohibited items include arms and
ammunition, narcotics and pornography.
Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. European
two-pin plugs and schuko plugs are in use.
Bulgaria poses few health risks and there are no vaccinations
required for entry. Travellers to Bulgaria are not at risk of
contracting bird flu, although close contact with caged, wild and
domestic birds should be avoided and all poultry and egg dishes
well cooked as a precaution. Medical treatment can be expensive and
payment is expected immediately. Facilities in local hospitals are
basic and specialised treatment or equipment may not be freely
available. Medical insurance, with provision for emergency
evacuation, is therefore vital. Travellers from the UK should also
hold a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) in case of emergency
Bulgarian is the official language, which uses the
Cyrillic alphabet, but English, German and French is spoken in
resorts, hotels and restaurants.
The official currency is the Lev (BGN), which is divided into
100 stotinki. The Lev is tied to the Euro at a fixed rate of EUR1 =
1.955 lev. Bulgaria has strict currency regulations. If you enter
Bulgaria with cash of any currency amounting to the equivalent of
8,000 leva or more, you must declare it to customs officials.
Foreign currency may be exchanged in banks, hotels or at one of the
numerous bureaux de change, however due to a common practice of
misleading rates of exchange it is better to go to banks or hotels
to change money. A receipt called a
bordereauxis issued when exchanging currency, indicating
the amount that will be given, and it must be kept until departure.
Not all banks accept travellers cheques and those that do usually
charge a 5% commission. Major international credit cards are
increasingly becoming accepted by tourist hotels, upmarket shops
and restaurants, travel agents and car rental agents, but Bulgaria
is still largely a cash economy. There are ATMs in the main cities
and at Black Sea resorts.
Visitors must have proof of sufficient funds or onward or return
tickets in addition to other documents needed for the next
destination. Valid health insurance is required. All visitors to
Bulgaria, other than EU nationals, must register as foreigners at a
local police station within five days of arrival. This registration
is usually done as a matter of course through the hotel or
accommodation establishment. Visitors are advised to check this, as
a dated registration slip has to be submitted when leaving the
country. Immigration and entry regulations are very strictly
enforced. Passports of all visitors should be valid for at least
three months after leaving Bulgaria for those requiring a visa, and
three months on entry for visa exempt nationals other than those
from EU countries, whose passports must be valid for period of
stay. Visitors should be prepared to show proof of valid medical
insurance upon request.
Most visits to Bulgaria are trouble-free. Violent crime is rare,
but criminal groups target casinos and nightclubs and groups of
young pickpockets are active in city centres and the Black Sea
holiday resorts. Car theft is common.
Local time is GMT +2 (GMT +3 from last Sunday in March to
last Sunday in October).
Tips of 10% of the bill are customary in restaurants, while
hotel porters and taxi drivers expect the change to round up the
bill. With non-metered taxis you needn't add a tip to the fare you
agreed on beforehand.