Bulgaria //

Travel Essentials

Costs

Daily budget Basic €25/occasional treat €40. Drink Beer (0.5l) €1. Food Shopska salad €3. Hostel/Budget hotel €10/€30. Travel Train: Sofia–Plovdiv €5 (2–3hr); bus: €5 .

Crime and personal safety

Petty theft is a danger on the coast, and the Bulgarian police can be slow in filling out insurance reports unless you’re insistent. Foreign tourists are no longer a novelty in much of the country, but women travelling alone can expect to encounter stares, comments and sometimes worse, and clubs on the coast are pretty much seen as meat markets. A firm rebuff should be enough to cope with most situations. Note that everyone is required to carry some form of ID at all times.

Emergencies

For any emergency dial t112

Health

If you need a doctor (doktor) or dentist (zabolekar), go to the nearest hospital (bolnitsa), whose staff might speak English or German. Emergency treatment is free of charge although you must pay for medicines – larger towns will have at least one 24-hour pharmacy.

Information

Bulgaria’s National Tourist Information Centre, located in Sofia at pl. Sveta Nedelya 1 (Mon–Fri 9am–5.30pm; t02/933 5826, whttp://www.bulgariatravel.org), is a smart, modern affair offering free maps and travel advice. Most major towns and cities have local tourist information centres where staff speak several languages and can provide maps, brochures and leaflets although they aren’t usually authorized to make hotel reservations. The best general maps of Bulgaria and Sofia are published by Kartografiya and Domino; both are available in Latin alphabet versions and are sold at street stalls, petrol stations and bookshops.

Phones

Phonecards (fonokarta) for both Bulfon’s orange phones and Betcom’s blue phones are available from post offices and many street kiosks and shops. Cheap SIM cards from Bulgaria’s three main network providers (Mtel, Globul, and Vivacom) are widely available. The operator number for domestic calls is t121, for international calls t123.

Internet

You’ll find that cafés, bars and restaurants generally offer free wi-fi and most hostels have free computer access.

Certain useful websites include:

whttp://www.bulgariatravel.org Comprehensive travel information.

whttp://www.discover-bulgaria.com Travel information and hotel booking.

whttp://www.sofiaecho.com Bulgaria‘s English-language news site.

whttp://www.travel-bulgaria.com Information on history and culture, as well as travel.

whttp://www.programata.bg Up-to-date English-language cultural listings.

Mail

Post offices (poshta) are usually open Mon–Sat 8.30am–5.30pm, longer in big towns.

Money and Banks

Until Bulgaria joins the Eurozone (target date: Jan 1, 2013) the currency remains the lev (Lv), which is divided into 100 stotinki (st). There are notes of 2Lv, 5Lv, 10Lv, 20Lv, 50Lv, and 100Lv and coins of 1st, 2st, 5st, 10st, 20st and 50st, and 1Lv. Pegged to the euro, the lev is stable and although hotels and travel agencies frequently quote prices in euros, you will be expected to pay in the local currency. At the time of writing, €1 was equal to 1.95Lv, $1 to 1.35Lv, and £1 to 2.20Lv. Producing a student ID card at museums and galleries will often get you a discount of between a third and a half.

Banks are open Monday to Friday 9am to 4pm, and there are ATMs in every town. Private exchange bureaux, offering variable rates, are widespread – but beware of hidden commission charges. Also watch out for black market moneychangers who approach unwary foreigners with offers of better rates; if they sound too good to be true, they are. Many smaller banks and offices won’t take traveller’s cheques, and credit cards are generally acceptable only at the more expensive shops, hotels, and restaurants.

Opening hours and holidays

Big-city shops and supermarkets are generally open Monday to Friday 8.30am to 6pm or later; on Saturday they close at 2pm. The massive malls that have sprung up in recent years are usually open daily from 10am to 10pm. In rural areas and small towns, an unofficial siesta may prevail between noon and 3pm. Many shops, offices, banks and museums are closed on the following public holidays: January 1, March 3, Easter Sunday and Monday, May 1, May 24, September 6, September 22, December 25 & December 31. Additional public holidays may occasionally be called by the government.

Read More