Bulgaria - Abbey Travel, Ireland

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Welcome to Bulgaria


Bulgaria is a beautiful country, with a sprinkling of mountains, it is small in size but rich in ancient culture, scenic splendour, friendly people and old-fashioned warmth and hospitality.

Situated in the south east of Europe on the Balkan Peninsula, Bulgaria is not as much a tourist destination as its Greek and Turkish neighbours to the south are. This despite the popularity of its Black Sea resorts, which are scenically captivating with their fine sandy beaches, sunny climate and safe seas and wonderfully inexpensive too.

Although better known for its sea resorts, the essential character of the country is to be found in its spectacular mountainous regions. The six very different ranges vary from high, snow-covered peaks to gentle green slopes and forests, harbouring thermal springs and mineral spas, and valleys where the air bears the fragrance of flowers and herbs. The Valley of Roses lies in the heart of the country and is one of the largest producers of rose oil in the world, giving root to Bulgaria's soubriquet, 'Land of Roses'. At the foot of the Vitosha Mountains lies the laid back capital city, Sofia, boasting a great number of architectural monuments and museums. The rugged heights of the Rila and Pirin mountains form a spectacular setting for ski resorts, as well as the famous Rila Monastery and the majestic landscape of the Pirin National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Crossing the entire country is the Balkan Range, a 329-mile (530km) chain that offers some of the best hiking in Europe.

As varied as the different mountain ranges are the people who dwell in them, with distinctive customs, crafts and colourful festivals, folklore, religious beliefs and speech. Small picturesque villages welcome guests with typical warm-hearted Bulgarian hospitality, sharing age-old traditions and traditional cooking, and a delight in their pastoral environment.

Bulgaria's history is displayed across the country in its old towns, ancient Thracian relics and treasures, decorated churches and monasteries, and in the rustic settlements that have preserved the traditional beliefs of its people. One of the country's biggest assets for visitors is its variety, but whatever aspect one chooses to explore, there is always the assurance of a warm welcome.

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 cities.


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 confusion.

Duty Free

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 medical treatment.

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.

Passport Visa

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.

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