Bulgaria Travel Information

Last modified: July 26, 2023
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No airport tax is levied on passengers upon embarkation at the airport.

Crime

Crime levels are low and violent crime is rare. However, you should take care of yourself and your belongings in the same way as you would do in the UK. Take sensible precautions to protect yourself from street crime, particularly in larger cities. Watch out for pickpockets and bag thefts in tourist areas and major public transport hubs, including airports. Be vigilant at all times, particularly late at night. If you wish to report a crime, call the local police on 112 and make sure you get a crime report.

Tourists are targeted by thieves and pickpockets in Sunny Beach and other larger cities and resorts. Don’t take valuables to the beach and be wary of poorly lit roads around the resort at night. There has been an increase in thefts on the bus from Nessebar to Sunny Beach. Burglaries have been reported from hotel rooms in Sunny Beach. Make sure you lock your room (including windows and balcony doors) and keep your valuables locked in a safe. Don’t change money on the streets in Sunny Beach, only at licensed exchange points, banks or hotels.

Some tourists have been victims of overcharging in strip clubs in Sofia and in some resorts like Bansko, Borovets and Sunny Beach. Overcharging can amount to hundreds of pounds and victims have been threatened with violence if they don’t pay.

Stun guns, torch stun guns and other weapons like knives, pepper spray and CS gas can be bought in shops in and around Burgas and Sunny Beach. Many of these weapons are illegal in the UK and importing them could result in a prison sentence.

There have been reports of car tyres being deliberately punctured across Bulgaria. While investigating the puncture, someone distracts the driver and personal belongings and documents are stolen from the vehicle. Be vigilant if you have to stop in these circumstances and make sure your belongings are secure.

Break-ins have occurred in properties in the residential areas of cities and rural areas. Seek local advice on security for your home.

For all types of emergency (fire, ambulance, police) you can dial 112.

Local travel

Taxis are plentiful and cheap by UK standards, although vehicles may not be in very good condition. Most taxis are metered and yellow taxis are generally considered reliable. Avoid taxis parked outside hotels or in tourist areas. Ask your hotel to call a taxi or flag down a passing taxi with a green ‘available’ light in the window. Check the licence sticker and the tariffs on the window before getting in as they can vary considerably.

There are regular reports of robberies and threatening behaviour by taxi drivers in Sunny Beach. Use a taxi recommended by your tour operator or accommodation provider.

There has also been an increase in the number of unlicensed taxis from Sofia airport overcharging passengers. If you’re travelling from the airport, make sure you take an official, licensed taxi. There is an official taxi rank in the arrivals hall.

Road travel

In 2019, there were 628 road deaths in Bulgaria (source: Department for Transport). This equates to 9 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.6 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2019.

Licences and documents

If you enter Bulgaria in a private vehicle, you must have your driving licence, all original registration and ownership documents as well as evidence of insurance valid in Bulgaria. If you have hired a car, you must have the original contract document, which should state that the vehicle can be brought into Bulgaria. Border officials will impound your vehicle if they are not satisfied that you own it or have permission to use it in Bulgaria.

Under Bulgarian law, vehicles that are registered outside the EU are considered to be ‘temporarily imported’ when driven inside Bulgaria. If they are stolen on Bulgarian soil, the owners will be liable for import duty and related taxes. Cars registered in the UK, Channel Islands and the Isles of Man are subject to this legislation.

If you’re living in Bulgaria, check the Living in Guide for information on requirements for residents.

Driving standards

Take care when driving, particularly at night. Many roads are in poor condition and road works are often unlit or unmarked. Driving standards are generally poor. Avoid confrontations with aggressive drivers. Stick to the speed limit and make sure your vehicle is roadworthy. On the spot fines are charged for minor violations. For more information about speed limits and spot fines, check the RAC website.

Driving regulations

You’ll need to buy a vignette (sticker) to drive on motorways and main roads outside towns. You can buy one at the border, or from post offices, large petrol stations and DZI bank offices and online from BG Toll. Rates are much higher for freight vehicles and coaches carrying 8 or more passengers. You’ll be fined if you don’t have a vignette.

You must drive with running lights or dipped beam headlights throughout the year, even during the daytime. It’s compulsory to carry the following equipment in your vehicle: fire extinguisher (not required for 2-wheeled vehicles), a first-aid kit and a warning triangle (not required for 2-wheeled vehicles). A reflective jacket must be used by anyone who steps on to the road in a breakdown or emergency. Snow chains must be carried from 1 November until 1 March and used when the relevant sign is displayed. Winter tyres are compulsory for vehicles registered in Bulgaria during wintry road conditions.

See the European CommissionAA and RAC guides on driving in Bulgaria.

Rail and bus travel

If you travel by train, check the availability of sleeping compartments and whether bicycles can be taken on board. This may vary between regions, and there may be additional charges. Thieves operate on trains, so take particular care that documents and other valuables are safe. The train system is very poor by European standards. There have been several fires on Bulgarian trains.

Train services and inter-city coach services are operating normally.

Stray dogs

Stray dogs are common and dangerous. Avoid getting too close to stray dogs, especially if they are in a pack. Take any animal bites seriously and seek immediate medical advice as rabies and other animal borne diseases are present in Bulgaria.

Entry to Bulgaria

From 29 January 2021, the temporary travel ban on all passengers arriving from the UK, travelling for non-essential purposes, will be lifted. This means that passengers arriving from the UK can now enter Bulgaria without needing to show evidence of residency.

All arrivals to Bulgaria must show evidence of a negative COVID-19 PCR test result upon arrival in Bulgaria (undertaken up to 72 hours before arrival) although some travellers (Bulgarian residents, including foreign citizens with residency permits, and their immediate family members) can opt for a quarantine of 10 days on arrival in lieu of a PCR test. Exemptions include bus and lorry drivers, aircraft or vessel crews, border workers and those transiting through Bulgaria.

Immediate family members are restricted to the following categories: wife, husband, or a person you live with in a relationship akin to marriage; and dependent children under the age of 18 years of age. You will be expected to show documentation to prove relationship status (eg birth or marriage certificate) if you are not in possession of a Bulgarian residence permit.

From 2 February 2021, the option of a 10 day quarantine on arrival, in lieu of a PCR test for people legally resident in Bulgaria, can be shortened if they present a negative PCR test performed within 24 hours of arriving in Bulgaria. The quarantine requirement will be revoked within 24 hours of submitting the document demonstrating the negative PCR test result.

A list of places offering PCR testing in Bulgaria is available from the Bulgarian government (in Bulgarian).

You should submit the document showing a negative result of the PCR test to the respective Regional Health Inspectorate.

For Sofia Health Inspectorate, submit your document to the following email address: [email protected]. Due to an increased amount of inquiries, the health authorities may not have enough capacity to respond to each email individually so you should call them directly to find out if your quarantine has been lifted. Contact numbers are listed here.

The measures are in force at all air, road, rail and sea border crossings into Bulgaria.

Further information on the full range of exemptions is available on the following Bulgarian Government web site (in Bulgarian). If you fall into one of the exempted categories, you should contact your travel operator in advance of travel for further information on how to demonstrate your exemption from the travel ban.

Many land borders crossings in the region are restricted or closed for passenger traffic. Furthermore, neighbouring countries are implementing additional health requirements for entry to or departure from Bulgaria including declarations and COVID-19 tests. You should check the relevant FCDO Travel Advice.

If you need to travel, plan ahead and before you travel check border information published by the Ministry of Interior (English and Bulgarian) before you travel.

Quarantine requirements

From 29 January 2021, arrivals to Bulgaria are not required to quarantine if they have provided a negative PCR test result taken up to 72 hours before arrival. The negative result must specifically mention it was a PCR test to be accepted by Bulgarian authorities.

Check the list of UK private providers of Coronavirus testing and make arrangements for your test in good time. It may not be possible to secure a test at short notice. There is no exemption set out in the Bulgarian Ministry of Health Ordinance for children or infants.

Bulgarian citizens, residents, and their immediate family members may opt to undertake a mandatory 10-day quarantine period upon arrival to Bulgaria in lieu of providing evidence of a negative PCR test result. This quarantine will be overseen by the Regional Health Authority for the region where you reside. You will be required to provide an address where you will stay for the full 10-day period and should expect checks to be made to ensure that you are complying with the terms of the quarantine in full. Fines or a prison sentence can be imposed on those found to have broken the quarantine requirement.

From 2 February 2021, the option of a 10 day quarantine on arrival, in lieu of a PCR test for people legally resident in Bulgaria, can be shortened if they present a negative PCR test performed within 24 hours of arriving in Bulgaria. The quarantine requirement will be revoked within 24 hours of submitting the document demonstrating the negative PCR test result.

A list of places offering PCR testing in Bulgaria is available here in Bulgarian.

You should submit the document showing a negative result of the PCR test to the respective Regional Health Inspectorate.

For Sofia Health Inspectorate, submit your document to the following email address: [email protected]. Due to increased amount of inquiries, the health authorities may not have enough capacity to respond to each email individually so you should call them directly to find out if your quarantine has been lifted. Contact numbers are listed here.

A very small number of travellers are exempted from both the quarantine requirement, and the need to provide evidence of a negative PCR test. These include people transiting through Bulgaria and hauliers and transport crew members of vessels or aircraft who do not remain in Bulgaria following their work-related duties. Check the latest information on the Ministry of Interior website (English and Bulgarian).

Regular entry requirements

Visas

The rules for travelling or working in European countries changed from 1 January 2021:

  • you can travel to Bulgaria for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa. This applies if you travel as a tourist, to visit for family or friends, to attend business meetings, cultural or sports events, or for short-term studies or training
  • visits to other EU or Schengen countries do not count towards your 90-day limit in Bulgaria as it is not in the Schengen area. Visits to Bulgaria do not count towards your 90-day visa-free limit in the Schengen area
  • to stay longer, to work or study, for business travel or for other reasons, you will need to meet the Bulgarian government’s entry requirements. Check with the Bulgarian Embassy what type of visa and/or work permit you may need
  • if you stay in Bulgaria with a visa or permit, your stay does not count towards your 90-day visa-free limit

Any time you spent in Bulgaria before 1 January 2021 does not count towards the 90-day visa-free limit.

At Bulgarian border control, you may need to use separate lanes from EU, EEA and Swiss citizens when queueing. Your passport may be stamped on entry and exit. You may also need to:

  • show a return or onward ticket
  • show you have enough money for your stay

Passport validity

Check your passport is valid for travel before you book your trip, and renew your passport if you do not have enough time left on it.

You must have at least 6 months left on an adult or child passport to travel to most countries in Europe (not including Ireland).

If you renewed your current passport before the previous one expired, extra months may have been added to its expiry date. Any extra months on your passport over 10 years may not count towards the 6 months needed.

There are separate requirements for those who are resident in Bulgaria. If you are resident in Bulgaria, you should carry proof of residence as well as your valid passport when you travel. For further information on these requirements, see our Living in Bulgaria guide.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Bulgaria.

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