Local laws and customs
The Bulgarian authorities treat all drug-related and sex offences very seriously. Custodial sentences can be expected for any foreigners convicted of such offences. Offences relating to drunken, disorderly behaviour and hooliganism may also be treated more seriously than in the UK.
Homosexuality is not illegal, but public attitudes are less tolerant than in the UK and the LGBT community generally keeps a low profile. There are a few gay bars and clubs in Sofia; the city has also held the annual Sofia Pride since 2008. Sofia Pride and accompanying LGBT events are growing in popularity and were attended by over 6,000 people in 2019. However, it also attracts some negative attention locally and is held with a heightened police presence and security measures. Should you wish to join the parade, please read carefully the safety rules issued by the organisers. You can find local information on LGBT issues in Bulgaria on the website of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
Avoid taking photographs near potentially sensitive areas like military establishments. If in doubt, ask permission.
Covering your face with garments (such as a burka or similar head covering) in public places, including governmental buildings, streets, parks, gardens, restaurants, shops and on public transport is illegal in Bulgaria. There is a fine for covering your face in public places.
There have been numerous reports of buyers being defrauded while purchasing property. Be cautious and seek comprehensive legal advice before making any purchase. Only deal with established and reputable real estate agents or with other contacts that you know to be reliable and genuine. See the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office guide to buying property in Bulgaria.
Taking food and drink into the EU
You cannot take meat, milk or products containing them into EU countries. There are some exceptions for medical reasons, for example certain amounts of powdered infant milk, infant food, or pet food required for medical reasons.
Customs valuation is based on the dutiable, transaction value based on:
purchase price + transportation costs + loading/unloading + insurance charges + commissions + royalties + license fees + a 20 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) levied at the time of customs clearance. Some commodities are subject to excise duties.
- Importation processes include:
- A customs declaration document
- A post-clearance examination of relevant documents or data
- Submission of an invoice or pro forma invoice, a certificate of origin or a certificate of the movement of the goods in order to take advantage of preferential customs treatment, transport documents, an insurance policy, a specification, an Economic Operators Registration and Identification number (EORI) and a packing list
- A veterinary or physio-sanitary certificate for goods of animal or plant origin
- Other documents or laboratory analyses
- An EC Safety & Security regulation and the Advance Cargo Declaration are mandatory for all goods leaving, arriving or moving through the EC
- Permits and Licenses
- A Bulgarian decree is required for non-automatic license of nuclear materials, explosives, arms, dual-use commodities, plant protection products, and pharmaceuticals for human medicine
- Bulgarian Customs exercises control over the export, import, re-export and transit of arms and dual-use goods and technologies. Bulgarian regulations follow the EU list of dual-use goods, which includes goods and technologies in the nuclear weapon, chemical and biological warfare and missile areas. See Bulgaria’s export control information Export control
Special Import/Export Requirements and Certifications
- REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) – a major reform of the EU chemicals policy – became law in all EU countries in 2006. REACH affects virtually every industrial sector, from automobiles to textiles and requires chemicals produced or imported into the EU in volumes above 1 ton per year be registered with a central European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). See : Candidate list table.
- WEEE & RoHS: EU rules on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) entails a financial obligation for U.S. exporters and requires U.S. exporters (or their local partner) to register products with a national WEEE authority. WEEE restricts the Use of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) including lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium, PBBs, and PBDEs. U.S. exporters may be asked to enforce RoHS and provide evidence of due diligence and compliance with substance bans on a case-by-case basis. See: WEEE
- Products for human consumption should be analyzed in approved local laboratories in cooperation with local authorities. The State Agency for Standards and Metrology strictly enforces Bulgarian quality standards, which do not always coincide with generally accepted international standards. Foreign certificates may or may not be considered adequate. After an approval is issued, the commodities may be sold on the local market. See: Government
Used Household Goods and Personal Effects
- Copy of passport
- Copy of local ID / residence permit
- Declaration of value / pro-forma invoice
- Packing list
- List of electronic items (must include serial numbers and model)
- Letter of employment (must be for a minimum of 12 months)
- Copy of residential rental contract (must be for a minimum of 12 months)
- Copy of plane tickets showing return to Bulgaria
- Original bill of lading (OBL) / air waybill (AWB)
- Copy of diplomatic passport (diplomats)
- Power of attorney (returning citizens)
- Diplomatic ID (diplomats)
- Letter of assignment (diplomats only – issued by the embassy stating the position and duties of owner of the goods)
- Declaration for temporary import (diplomats)
- Original T2L (issued by Customs at country of origin)
- The declaration for temporary import must be prepared by the embassy and approved by the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
- Baggage clearance occurs at the first airport of entry in Bulgaria.
- Non-prohibited items may be imported on a temporary basis for a period 6 months or less; Customs duties will not be charged with a letter of guarantee from a Bulgarian organization stating that the goods will be returned or duties will be paid.
Note: The movement of household goods imported by natural persons transferring their normal place of residence from a third country to the EU are admitted free of import duties and value added tax by the criterion set out in Articles 3 to 11 of Council Regulation (EC) No 1186 / 2009.
Since joining the EU in 2007 Bulgaria has been a member of the EU Customs Union. Most Bulgarian customs provisions were replaced with EU regulations. EU products enter Bulgaria free of tariffs which is why U.S. products are often not competitive. Tariff rates for imports from countries outside the EU range from 4 percent to 45 percent
- Guns and ammunition (permission must be obtained)
- Personal home computers as well as new electrical items are subject to Customs duties and taxes and purchases are required
- Precious metal, precious stones must be declared in writing.
- Medications for personal use can be imported but may not be expired.
- Tobacco may qualify for free import within the limits indicated:
- Cigarettes (200)
- Cigarillos (100)
- Cigars (50)
- Tobacco for smoking (250 grams)
- Alcohol may qualify for free import within the limits indicated:
- Wine (2 L)
- Sparkling or fortified wine (2 L)
- Spirits over 22% volume alcohol content (1 L)
- Coffee (500 g), coffee extract (200 g )
- Tea (100 g), tea extract (40 g)
- Perfume (50 g), eau de toilette (250 ml)
- Currency (cash sums greater than 8000 levs require the completion of a Customs declaration prior to import)
- Home computers are not accepted as personal effects and will be subject to customs duties and import taxes
• New electrical items and furniture are subject to duties and taxes
• Alcohol and other spirits are subject to customs duties
• Up to 60g in jewellery and accessories from alloys of gold and platinum total without
• Silver, unprocessed or half-processed, and coins, as well as jewellery and accessories from alloys of silver up to 300 g in total without regard to the content of the silver;
• Embedded precious stones.One must declare in writing the precious metals, precious stones, and the articles with and from them over the above-mentioned amounts, as well as the articles from precious metals and precious stones carried in the form of powder or another form which have not been mentioned above.
Free import to passengers arriving with goods purchased within the EU which are for personal use only:
Tobacco products for passengers aged 17 and older:
- 800 cigarettes;
- 400 cigarillos (max. 3g each);
- 200 cigars;
- 1kilogram smoking tobacco;
Alcoholic beverages, for passengers aged 17 and older:
- 10 liters of spirits over 22% and ethyl alcohol;
- 20 liters of alcoholic beverages less than 22%;
- 90 liters of wine (though no more than 60 liters of sparkling wine);
- 110 liters of beer;
Free import to passengers arriving from non-EU Member States (incl. Canary Islands, Channel Islands and other similar territories):
Tobacco products, for passengers aged 17 and older:
- 200 cigarettes; or
- 100 cigarillos (max. 3 grams each); or
- 50 cigars; or
- 250 grams of smoking tobacco; or
- proportional assortment;
Alcoholic beverages, for passengers aged 17 and older:
- 1 liter of spirits over 22% volume, or non-denatured ethyl alcohol with more than 80% volume; or
- 2 liters of spirits or aperitifs made of wine or similar beverages less than 22% volume, or sparkling wines or liquor wines; or
- a proportional mix of these products; and in addition
- 4 liters still wine; and
- 16 liters of beer;
Other goods up to a total value of EUR 430.-.
Products of animal origin, not originating from an EU Member State, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Norway, San Marino or Switzerland, are not permitted to be imported into an EU Member State, with the exception of limited amounts from Andorra, Faroe Isl., Greenland, Iceland and small amounts of specific products from other countries.
- Illegal drugs
- Guns and Ammunition – unless permission has been obtained
- Knives and deadly weapons
- Dangerous chemicals
- Substances which damage the ozone layer
- Quarantined pets
- Pornographic Material
Miscellaneous (Pets, Motors, and others.)
- Pet passport
- Vaccination record
- Veterinary health record / certificate
- Identification chip
- Veterinary health record must be issued by an authorized vet, identifying the origin and health status of the pet and made within 24 hours of its export.
- Pets under 3 months old must have lived indoors since birth.
- Rabies vaccination must not exceed 6 months prior.
- Animals are examined by personnel upon arrival.
- Original vehicle title / registration
- Purchase invoice
- Technical data (model, make, year of production, first year of registration, kilowatts of the engine, color, etc.)
- The kilowatts of the engine must be indicated as per the European system DIN or American system SAE.
- Vehicle included in the HHG container may cause delays of shipment as vehicles are only cleared at specific Customs offices.
Currency Import regulations:
Same regulations as for export apply.
Currency Export regulations:
Local currency (Bulgarian Lev – BGN) and foreign currencies:
- No restrictions if arriving from or traveling to another EU Member State .
- If arriving directly from or traveling to a country outside the EU: amounts exceeding EUR 10,000.- or more or the equivalent in another currency (incl. banker’s draft and cheques of any kind) must be declared.