5 Surprising Reasons To Visit Bulgaria Right Now
Why go to Bulgaria, you might ask yourself?
It has never been easier or more rewarding to visit Bulgaria than it is right now.
The accessibility of the small Eastern European country with over 1,300 years of existence, the most affordable prices in Europe, the abundance of tourist attractions, as well as the vibrant cultural and religious traditions make Bulgaria an all-year-round perfect tourist destination.
In the past 12 years, I’ve lived outside of Bulgaria. The changes I’ve noticed during my brief visits haven’t all been positive. While the increasing number of tourists visiting Bulgaria is good for the local economy, it also means that the authenticity is being slowly lost to mass tourism.
Moreover, while the traditions and the tourist attractions aren’t going anywhere, I can’t say the same about the constantly increasing prices.
If you’re searching for an authentic experience at an affordable price, now is the right time to visit Bulgaria.
1. Since Bulgaria Entered EU, Prices Are Rapidly Going Up
Since 2007, when Bulgaria became a member of the European Union, prices are steadily increasing.
Bulgaria is still a very affordable destination. In fact, it is the most budget-friendly place to visit in Europe but the trend is quite noticeable.
For example, in 2004, a 0.5 l of draught local beer cost around 1.00 – 1.20 lv (0.50 – 0.60€ or $0.60 – 0.70). Nowadays, you can hardly order the same drink for less than 2.50 lv, more than twice the price several years ago. The same goes for food, accommodation, transportation, and cost of living.
Prices will jump even higher the moment the Euro replaces the national currency, Lev.
Therefore, if you’re looking for a bargain, now is the perfect moment to visit Bulgaria. Come before another huge price increase happens.
I guess all of us are looking for the best value for money destination. Bulgaria is still at the top of the list, especially in Europe, but not for long.
Don’t miss an excellent opportunity to travel to Bulgaria and make great memories for pennies. Pack your bags and book a flight already!
2. Visiting Bulgaria Is Easy From All Continents
Most national carriers and low-budget airlines offer direct flights to Sofia and some other cities in Bulgaria from numerous destinations in the world.
The problem is, your perfect connecting flight might get cancelled next season.
So if you’ve found an affordable ticket, go ahead and book it now!
It’s never been easier to reach Bulgaria, but you never know what game the airlines will play next season. Don’t gamble with their moods and simply hop on the next flight to Bulgaria.
EU citizens don’t even need a passport, just a national ID, to enter Bulgaria. Holders of Schengen Visas can also visit Bulgaria without additional bureaucracy involved.
You don’t want to fly? If you’re, for example, already visiting Eastern Europe, catch one of the regular bus lines to Bulgaria. The trips are offered in comfortable vehicles and at low prices.
It is, in fact, easier and cheaper to travel to Bulgaria for a weekend getaway or a short vacation, than to go partying on a Saturday night in your neighbouring town!
3. The Bulgarian Capital Sofia Is One Of The Few Walkable Big Cities In The World
Very few capital cities in the world are so compact that you can visit the whole city centre and tourist highlights on foot.
Still, the number and variety of sights to visit in the centre of Sofia, Bulgaria is countless.
Temples of most major religions are located just a few metres away from each other.
Visit huge East Orthodox and Catholic cathedrals, Bulgaria’s biggest mosque, and the second largest synagogue in Europe all on a single afternoon!
Churches and basilicas, dating back to 4th – 5th century, archaeological sites from the Roman Empire, magnificent monuments and lush parks, museums and galleries with enormous collections offer something for every taste possible.
Not to mention concert halls and the world-renowned Sofia Opera with an astounding interior and incredible singers.
For the night owls and the party crowd, Sofia offers a myriad of magnificent bar hopping and pub crawling possibilities.
If you don’t want to explore the Bulgarian capital on your own, you can join a group of like-minded people on one of the great walking, food, graffiti, or alternative tours!
4. Bulgarian Food Is Surprisingly Delectable And Rich In Flavours
Bulgarian food isn’t as famous as other cuisines from the region, such as Turkish or Greek.
However, Bulgaria’s rich history is the reason the dishes and the traditions are all an abundant reflection of the different influences of peoples who passed through her lands.
When you sit to eat somewhere in Bulgaria, you get at least a couple of national dishes on the menu, a few international meals, and several creations from the chef of the house. You can mix them all up with any salad or side dish possible to end up with (almost) endless possibilities to devour.
The ingredients are so fresh, that my husband even found a cute little snail in his green salad once! If a baby snail can eat it, imagine how healthy and gentle on the palate it is ;-)
Vegetarians can order at least half of the menu. Meat lovers have the hard choice of deciding which juicy meat goes into their dish. Moreover, the spices used to prepare the food complement the rest of the ingredients in such a way that even the most fastidious tastes will climax.
Beverages, anyone? There’s plenty!
From incredibly tasty but affordable local wines to expensive whiskeys, from the national drink rakia to beers from all over the world and home-made soft drinks, you have countless choices to accompany your Bulgarian food.
5. Visit Bulgaria For The Diversity Of The Tourist Attractions
Although Bulgaria’s size makes her look like a dwarf in comparison with the majority of countries worldwide, you can find a mind-boggling variety of natural, historical, and cultural attractions.
To sum it up, Bulgaria offers a wide range of:
- Cities with a long history and an abundance of attractions: Sofia, Plovdiv, Veliko Tarnovo, or Varna;
- Mountains and trails of different difficulty levels, the most popular being the hike to the 7 Rila Lakes;
- Natural phenomenon such as the Belogradchik Cliffs, the Prohodna Cave (also known as The Eyes Of God) or the Marvellous Bridges;
- Fine-sand beaches and rugged cliffs on the Black Sea coast;
- Cultural and rural tourism possibilities;
- Mineral water SPA resorts to help your body rejuvenate and revitalise;
- Historical, religious, and archaeological sites from the Thracian civilisation, Roman Empire, Christianity and the Communist era.
Because of the small area of the country (around 111,000 km2), all of the tourist attractions of Bulgaria are quite easy to reach, making her a perfect road trip destination. Even hitchhiking has its own twist here.
The best part is, that even the most popular tourist attractions are still not as crowded as other touristic sites you’ve seen.
In addition, you can find authentic vacation souvenirs in case you want to bring something else besides great memories and amazing pictures back home.
For example, my husband still shows very proudly his hand-made knife with a horn handle, which he bought at the open-air ethnographic museum Etar.
Practical Tips For Your Visit To Bulgaria
If your visit to Bulgaria starts at Sofia Airport and you want to use public transportation to get to your accommodation, remember to buy a ticket before you hop on the bus or subway.
Tourists have reported that they caught the bus from the airport without tickets and the driver refused to sell them because they didn’t have exact money. Moments after the bus departed, they were fined for not having valid tickets.
Tickets for the subway are only valid at the time and from the station of purchase. Alternatively, you can buy a magnetic rechargeable card for 10 rides.
The subway from Sofia Airport will take you to the Central Railway Station and Central Bus Station. From there, you can hop on a train or bus to various domestic and international destinations.
Bulgaria is largely a cash economy and outside of the capital Sofia, only major chains accept card payments. Don’t exchange money outside banks as you can be scammed. The Bulgarian currency Lev is tied to the Euro and the official exchange rate is 1.95 leva = 1.00 €.
Another fair warning is to never, ever, for no reason whatsoever, give money to beggars! No matter how miserable, poor, young or old they appear to be, they are actually earning more money than you do out of the goodness of people.
Visit Bulgaria Before She Loses Her Authenticity
The reasons to visit Bulgaria are countless.
This list only aims at giving you an idea of why you should hurry up and come to the small Eastern European gem as soon as possible.
I don’t want to be pushy, so before you make up your mind, expand your knowledge with this list of facts about Bulgaria and get the answer to the question is Bulgaria safe?.
Just be warned, that easy access and low prices are all great news for tourists. However, they also mean places lose their authenticity faster than ever.
If you value authentic experiences, affordable travel destinations, and an abundance of touristic sites, then you should visit Bulgaria right now.
I hope you’re no longer asking yourself “why go to Bulgaria“, but booking your ticket already!
Have you already visited Bulgaria? Did she blow your mind?
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Great post. The food sounds more interesting than I expected. But what about vegetarian food? I just wondered if it is readily available. Thanks, Amanda
there are a lot of vegetarian options.
Since Bulgarians are primarily East Ortodox Christians, fasting is a part of the traditions. In fact, on Christmas Eve we traditionally serve vegeterian food only. Check the photo with the food, the bottom middle pic is from one of the Christmas Eve celebrations at my parents’ place :)
Typical dishes are for example peppers filled with rice and rasins and herbs; bean soups or baked beans; vine leaves rolls; lots of potatos, cabage, eggplant or zuccini dishes, you name it :)
Hope this answers your question.
Brilliant piece of content. Thanks a ton for sharing.
Great article, N.! There are so many interesting things we can show to the world!
Glad you liked it, Milica :)
I had to restrain myself to make the list that short ;)
браво на българия! I have lived for a few years in Bulgaria and ever since I have been spreading my joy all around world.
Beautiful people, outstanding local food and stunning places. All the best, thanks for the nice article.
Hi Kristina, thank you for your kind words about Bulgaria and for spreading the word!
Best of luck to you wherever you’re located now :)
Love your post, thank you. Very enlightening.
For first timer with 3.5 days to spend in Spring, would you recommend staying in Sofia and discovering the things around it, or Plovdiv??? And which must sees do you reccomend? I would imagine nature is beautiful in April.
Hey N., thanks for your kind words!
For a first visit to Bulgaria and only 3.5 days, I definitely recommend staying in Sofia. You’ll need about a week to visit both Sofia and Plovdiv.
You can visit the biggest landmarks which are very conveniently situated in the city centre in about two days and have a day for shopping, partying, chilling in the cafes or parks.
I highly recommend going inside Alexander Nevski cathedral, then visiting St. Sofia church and going down in the underground museum. Then checking the Russian Church, continuing to the Serdica excavation site, seeing the Mosque at one end of the excavation site, visiting the Sofia Museum of History in the former building of the city bath, going inside the Central Hali (covered market), then visiting Sofia Synagogue. Afterwards go back to the Serdica ruins and check St. George Rotonda and the Museum of Archeology. These are more or less the main historical landmarks :)
For shopping, I recommend the little boutiques in Pirotska street just opposite from the mosque. For coffee drinking and people watching – the pedestrian area of Vitosha Boulevard and the park of the National Theatre Ivan Vazov. For partying – Tsar Shishman Str.
For transportation, the best way is to take the subway or hire a taxi. Taxi rates are under 1 lv currently but you should check the sticker with the rates before you hop in as many have inflated prices.
Let me know if you have more questions, I’m currently working on a travel guide for Sofia but I doubt it I’ll be ready in time for your trip :)
Thank you so much for the quick and super informative response! I’m looking forward to checking out as much as I can!
Do you have any recommendations on where to stay? is there a charming area, central but not too industrial/concrete jungle/modern…? More of an old town, picturesque, charm and feel? I’ve read good things about places in on Tsar Osvoboditel Blvd overlooking Alexander Nevski Cathedral..
I’d really appreciate your thoughts on this :)
I would suggest staying in the city centre near the landmarks which you want to visit. This way you can walk around and see a lot in just a few days. Not sure about your budget, and I haven’t stayed myself in a hotel in Sofia I must admit, but you can check reviews before booking.
A couple of hotels I can think of with great locations are: Radisson Blu (that is by far the best possible location for everything you might want to do!); Arena di Serdica (also very central and with ruins from the city walls in the lobby, very beautiful sight); Crystal Palace Boutique (next to Sofia University, a nice artistic neighbourhood); Hostel Mostel (a few minutes away from the city centre, loved by low-budget travellers). Tsar Osvoboditel Blvd is a great location and there are a few hotels there, incl. above mentioned Radisson.
You can maybe make a rough plan of places you want to see and use Google Maps for finding a hotel in the area you’re most going to visit. There are also a lot of restaurant recommendations and you can rely on reviews as they seem to be genuine most of the time.
Hope this helps :)
You are truly wonderful, thank you for all your time and wonderful help :) :)
You’re welcome! No trouble at all :) I wish you have a great time in Bulgaria and come back for more!
Great article. You also gave many useful tips. I will add that the public transport ticket for one trip costs 1.60 leva or 80 cents. And as NTripping wrote, it’s really good to have exact money when you get in the bus.
As regards to climate, Bulgaria is extremely favorable for tourism in all seasons. Just keep in mind that the beginning of spring and autumn is quite rainy.
Thank you, Albena! Great tips, thanks for adding those :)
Well you’ve definitely convinced me to visit. I definitely want to get there whilst it’s still nice and cheap, and I love the fact you said it’s walkable. That is something that I find quite important when visiting a destination as I love being able to just walk around and explore. The food also looks very fresh and delicious.
Hey Mike, hope to see you in Bulgaria real soon!
Let me know if I can help you plan an unforgettable trip :)
Now I am ready to go! Can you travel from place to place on public transport or do you recommend renting a car or getting a driver?
I’m happy to have inspired you to travel to Bulgaria!
Of course, hiring a driver or arranging some sort of a private/tailor-made/small group tour is the easiest way to explore any destination, including Bulgaria. But it’s also the priciest.
Renting a car is also a good option but it’s hard to navigate on your own. Also, some drivers can be reckless making driving quite dangerous. But you’ll have the best flexibility.
There are also quite comfortable and reliable bus companies, which run between most towns. I believe Etap is one of the most reputable ones. Trains I can’t really recommend, except for the awesome train ride on the narrow gauge train in the Rhodope Mountains (check the video in this post: https://ntripping.com/velingrad/).
Since I’ve been asked a few times already about transportation in Bulgaria, I’m gathering information and will put up a guide soon. So check the blog for updates :)