Bulgaria

Bulgaria tips for tourists – what do you need to know

When we were about to go to Bulgaria for the first time, we found out that there was no useful information on the Internet. Most of the information we found was mostly outdated, or provided only general information that provided little help for us to apply in real-life situations.

Check out the following things to help you prepare and plan your budget for your first-time sojourn to Bulgaria.

General advice about holiday in Bulgaria

In this section, all useful ideas, information and lifehacks that are difficult to attribute to a specific group are collected.

It makes no sense to read reviews on the Internet – they are outdated

As people plan for the holidays, they usually seek out for useful travel advice and reviews about a particular destination country. This was the same thing that we did about Bulgaria, its resorts, sights, beaches and our hotel.

It was disappointing that we found almost no relevant and useful information. Most of them were very outdated. We also encountered seemingly fake advertisements by anyone posing as travel agencies.

Bulgaria tips for tourists - what do you need to know
Beautiful Nessebar

Bulgaria is not the Soviet Union – dispelling the popular myth

Many do not want to go to Bulgaria, fearing to see a kind of a remnant of the past, almost the USSR.

In fact, in the last few years the country has moved very far ahead. It is now part of the European Union, it has modern roads, buildings and other structures that are completely modernized. Up to now, they continue to build new ones.

The only thing left of the USSR is the quality of the products. Even cheap food in the supermarket is much more similar to natural food than in modern Russia.

You can make sure of this yourself by looking at the photos of Bulgaria.

The level of service in Bulgaria is better than we expected

If you have read several reviews on the Internet about Bulgarian hotel service, you are likely to encounter negative ones.

Nothing can be further from the truth! The level of hotel service in Bulgaria actually turned out to be pretty good — excellent, even. In fact, even in the cheapest hotels. the level of service was quite sufficient.

Of course, if you choose a cheaper hotel or any other lodging, do not expect a five-star service. But you are most likely to find all the basic services and comforts — beds, showers, toilets, air conditioning, refrigerator, etc. — in the simplest hotel rooms. There is also a TV there, but most of the programs are mainly in Bulgarian.

No good 5-star hotels in Bulgaria? No “all-inclusive service”? That’s not true!

The level of service of the resorts in Golden Sands and Sunny Beach is almost similar to five-star hotels in Turkey and other “touristy” countries. Only the rates in Bulgaria are much more affordable compared to some of its European neighbors.

If you find this unbelievable, check and compare the price of 5-star hotels with all-inclusive option!

No longer cheap

On the Internet you can read about surprisingly low prices in Bulgaria. Unfortunately, after the country’s accession to the European Union, prices have increased. By foreign standards though, they are still much affordable.

How about the quality of its products? Well, the products in Bulgaria, although it is at a high level, sometimes falls down below compared to European standards (for example, we did not like sweets).

The most important thing to communicate with Bulgarians that you should not forget!

The Bulgarian language uses Cyrillic. Only younger Bulgarians can communicate in English in a conversational level. The restaurant and hotel staff we encountered spoke English quite well.

Signs, directions, price tags, etc., usually come with Bulgarian side-by-side with their English translations.

The only сuriosity is that the Bulgarians nod their disagreement, but agree by shaking their heads from side to side. This is something that you should never, ever forget — or else, you may get into a fight!

The national instrument of Bulgaria – bagpipes

You can listen to it, for example, at the entrance to the Old Nessebar during the evening.

You cannot wait for the leader of the group – just a waste of time

When we were on holiday in Montenegro, we were advised to wait for the leader of the group. But in Bulgaria you can not waste time. And here are the reasons why:

  • In Bulgaria we were accepted by the agency Go2Holiday. Everything described is relevant for other tourists from our group, who stayed in other resorts in Bulgaria. We cannot say the same about other travel agencies.
  • Their representative could not answer any of our questions. We asked, for example, about travel by bus, currency exchange, a cheap supermarket, interesting museums and places.
  • If the representative did answer, the answers were either wrong or would fit only for their purposes. For example: he recommended that we should exchange our own currency with him, although the bank rate was much better.
  • Almost half an hour he persuaded us to buy excursions. But visiting tourists spots through public transport, such as buses, would cost 2-3 times cheaper.

In Montenegro, representatives of the agency each time told us a lot of interesting and useful information, answered questions, and tours that were unique. Besides, their cost was even lower than the independent placement of all listed attractions. It was an absolutely different approach to tourists. Well maybe it’s just that we were not so lucky?

Bulgaria tips for tourists - what do you need to know
Port Burgas at night

Going to Bulgaria – what should we take with us?

Collecting things to Bulgaria is fairly simple. You should take only the essentials so as not to stuff your luggage and end up paying unnecessary extra baggage fees.

You would be interested to check out a related article: What should you take to Bulgaria?

What money should you take to Bulgaria?

There are levs in Bulgaria (their course can be found by clicking on the inscription anywhere on our site). But import and export of Bulgarian currency from the country is prohibited by law.

In exchangers or banks, you will be able to exchange dollars, euros, krones and many other currencies without any problems.

Another related article will be particularly useful: How not to let yourself be deceived in the exchangers of Bulgaria and a short story about the currency of the country.

How much money should I take to rest in Bulgaria?

It depends on how much would you like to spend your money. If you’re the backpacker type of traveler, you probably need less to spend money. But if you’re the type who likes to stay at 5-star hotels and resorts, you know you’re going to take a lot of money with you.

For example, we spent only $200 in 14-day holiday in Bulgaria. This is taking into account food, souvenirs, a large number of self-guided tours and tickets to museums.

If you don’t want to join guided tours and excursions, you will do just fine with $100 if you plan to save money.

Detailed article: How much money should you take to Bulgaria for vacation?

You can take an umbrella to Bulgaria, or you can buy it here

In Bulgaria, most beaches have free zones. The difference is that they do are not equipped with umbrellas and sunbeds, unlike in paid zones which costs about 8 levs for a day’s use.

We advise you to bring your own umbrella with you or buy it at 10 to 12 levs.

Resorts in Bulgaria – choose wisely

Choosing a resort in Bulgaria is not very complicated process. It is enough to decide what you want to get from the rest.

In the review of the most popular resorts of the country we already wrote about the prices at the resorts – from cheap to expensive. Also you can enjoy our selection of photos of different resorts in Bulgaria.

In Bulgaria it is quite possible to go independently, without the help of travel companies. Read an article about going to Bulgaria on your own to help you on how to have a successful and enjoyable holiday even without the need to join excursions.

Bulgaria tips for tourists - what do you need to know
An ancient church in Nessebar

Nessebar is a great place if you want to walk along the ancient streets.

In Bulgaria we stayed in Nessebar. The city is very beautiful and romantic, but is quite expensive. Walking on its old streets and past dozens of small ancient churches and perfectly preserved old buildings will make you feel as if you have stepped back in time.

Check out other articles about Nessebar that you may find helpful:

Pomorie – low-budget but high-quality holiday

If we come to Bulgaria once again, we will definitely live in Pomorie. We liked this city so much because of its pleasant resort atmosphere, fantastic landscapes and interesting sites. Plus, the low prices are another attraction.

Recommended articles about Pomorie:

Varna and Burgas – big cities with affordable shopping and attractions

In our opinion, in this case it is best to go to Burgas or Varna. Both of these cities are quite large and very interesting.

In Varna there are a few more attractions, there is a dolphinarium and a small zoo and many beautiful fountains. Nearby is the Golden Sands resort, the Aladzha Monastery and the Botanical Garden of Balchik.

In Burgas you can walk along the seaside park and visit the exhibition of sand figures. From Burgas it is easy to get to Pomorie or to Nessebar.

bus schedule from Varna
Balchik Botanical Garden

Balchik – famous for its beautiful botanical garden

We did not really like Balchik  very much – it was very shabby especially around the area close to the bus station and further from the sea. There are no special sights in the city and it’s quite expensive to go to other resorts.

But the botanical garden of the city is simply amazingly beautiful, literally, from the first minutes it amazes the imagination with a combination of the beauty of nature and man-made skill and ingenuity. Simply, it is beyond description — you really have to see it by your own eyes!

Sunny Beach for the five-star hotels and great nightlife

Sunny Beach is the most popular resort in Bulgaria, popular especially among the wealthy vacationers.

You could feel how expensive the city really was. Even the price of the ice cream we bought was about twice as expensive.

So as you can see, spending the holidays at Sunny Beach is not for us, but it will definitely appeal to the moneyed vacationers. There’s an article we have made about Sunny Beach, where you will see selection of the best hotels and the best options for air travel. You can also check the beaches of Sunny Beach for those who are interested going there.

Other cities and resorts in Bulgaria

In fact, there are a lot of interesting resorts in Bulgaria. Ravda and Obzor are the highly recommended ones, at least based on our experience. Someone might like Aheloy, where you can see a wooden house 20 meters from a five-star hotel.

Food in Bulgaria – how to save money

In Bulgaria you can eat at several restaurants or buy products from supermarket or open markets.

The prices for food are quite affordable, and the food quality is good.

No need to bring your own water and food — Bulgaria is actually a cheap place to eat, in general

Despite the fact that Bulgaria was recently admitted to the European Union, the prices for food products are quite low compared to other European countries. Even in the more expensive resort towns like Nessebar, the prices were still quite within our reach.

Bulgaria tips for tourists - what do you need to know
Tarator – a cold summer soup

Bulgarian food and drink that you should try

Bulgarian cuisine has a lot of characteristics similar to that of the other Balkan countries. These are only a few that we sampled (and you should try):

  • Tarator – A cold yogurt and cucumber soup, similar to the dip “tatziki.” Strangely enough, the drink turned out very tasty. It is very refreshing in the summer.
  • Kaimak – is a milk product that is popular in the Balkans. To describe its consistency, it is similar between a sour cottage cheese and thick cream.
  • Ayran – Another popular Balkan drink primarily made of milk or yogurt. It is not a sweet drink but rather a sour one. Best served cold.
  • Cheese – both commercial and homemade cheeses are very tasty. We still liked the fused cheese of local production – they have a unique taste.
  • Fruits – most of the Bulgarian fruits are delicious. Thankfully, they are not expensive.

When do you need to take food from home?

The food choices are quite limited; most of the supermarkets we encountered were quite small. If you have a specific food product that you cannot do without, it is better to take it with you.

Duner (or doner) kebab – the Bulgarian version of shawarma

Duner – a local version of shawarma with meat, potatoes and vegetables. On many sites it is advised, but every time we got a lot of vegetables and a very measly portion of meat. In general, I don’t like it, but maybe you will, especially if you’re a fan of Middle Eastern cuisine.

Corn is the most popular fast food in Bulgaria

Literally at every corner they sell boiled corn, which costs from 1 to 2.5 levs . Local people like it very much but foreign tourists buy it less often.

Bulgaria tips for tourists - what do you need to know

Souvenirs and purchases in Bulgaria – what and where to buy?

In Bulgaria, there are very few interesting national souvenirs. Bringing home something that is both decorative and useful at the same time is hard.

You can go to Istanbul for shopping

From Bulgaria to Istanbul you can easily get on the bus. They say that Istanbul is a shopper’s paradise, but we were unable to check the markets out. But at least, the city itself is simply amazing.

Excellent shopping in Burgas is a myth

Burgas is often mentioned on the Internet as a shopping mecca in Bulgaria. But unfortunately, the prices there are quite high, and there is a lot of many fake products of designer goods.

We bought souvenirs in Pomorie — the products are cheaper and their quality is way better.

What should you bring from Bulgaria?

From Bulgaria you can bring to home silver, cosmetics especially made from Bulgarian rose, knitted tablecloths and scarves. If you get to the honey festival in Nessebar, try “manov honey.” It is very good.

Where is the most profitable to buy souvenirs in Bulgaria?

Based on our experience, we found the cheapest souvenirs in Pomorie, and the most expensive we saw is in Sunny Beach. The difference in price was approximately 2 times.

Excursions and attractions – what to see and how to save money?

There are a lot of sights in Bulgaria. Unfortunately, the most interesting sites are located are deep in the country, so it’s rather difficult to get there. But in coastal resorts, there is something to see.

Travel by public transport – it’s 2 times cheaper

You can save a lot more money by choosing public transport. It doesn’t make any much of a difference to going on excursions and guided bus tours, only 2 to 3 times cheaper. And unlike guided tours where there is a time limit to every itinerary, you can have all the time to yourself when you’re traveling on your own — you won’t feel that you have to hurry and you will be able to enjoy all the tourist spots as much as you can.

The buses are very comfortable, with air conditioning and comfortable chairs, they going quite often.

Many attractions you can visit only on guided bus tours or a rented car

But the good thing about going to Bulgaria on guided bus tours or through riding a rented car is that you are able to see the best tourist attractions. Plus, you don’t have the trouble to hail for a public bus or a taxi because there is a bus service as part of a tour package. Travels and tours agencies specifically hand-pick these attractions for their guests.

For example, you will be able to go to specific sights such as Cape Kaliakra, Broken Stones, Aladzha Monastery, Ropotamo, Ravadinovo Castle and many, many others if you go by guided bus tours or by a rented vehicle.

Visit the botanical garden in Balchik – just an amazingly beautiful place

When you will visit the botanical garden in Balchik, be sure to give a whole day for it. There are really many beautiful places to see there. Maybe it will inspire you to take up botany!

Bulgaria tips for tourists - what do you need to know
Pomorie at sunset

Pomorie Lake – famous for its curative mud and birds that live here

About Pomorie Lake, is a one of the good places to go bird-watching. It is a sanctuary for over 200 species of birds that are feared to be nearing extinction. It is highly advisable to bring with you a binocular or a digital camera with a powerful zoom to watch the birds, and take pictures of them.

It is highly advisable to go to the lake during the windy weather; the strong winds will keep you away from the mosquitoes. Do not forget the water and hats – it’s pretty hot here.

If you get to the lake, we advise you to visit the wild beach on the spit.

Ancient Nessebar will please you with the beauty of the ancient city – come here in the evening

Old Nessebar is one of the most beautiful places on the seaside part of Bulgaria. It`s better to come here in the evening – the city becomes surprisingly romantic and mysterious.

It is worth to go to the monastery of St. George, which is a very unusual and peaceful place

In Pomorie there is the monastery of St. George, which preserves the icon of St. George the Victorious. The place is known not only for its holiness and healing power, but also for its beauty.

The entrance to the monastery and the monastery museum is free. You should definitely include this to your bucket list.

Thracian tomb in Pomorie is not worth visiting

For us, at least, visiting the Thracian tomb is simply not worth of your time and money. There is nothing especially interesting there; plus, the entrance fee is high at 4 to 5 levs for a day’s visit. You could have spent that amount on at least three good museums.

On the way to the tomb you can find a kiwi field. Despite the fact that it looks slightly abandoned, it is not advisable to pick fruits as there are dogs guarding around the area.

Visit Burgas for the Seaside Park and an exhibition of sand figures

In Burgas we recommend that you go to the seaside park as well as a thematic exhibition of figures from sand – we advise you to visit it.

Also, come to the central street, next to the monument to Alesha. In the morning a misty curtain of small drops of water is created there.

Bulgaria tips for tourists - what do you need to know
Dolphinarium, one of the most famous tourist attractions in Varna

In Varna there is a dolphinarium and a zoo

In Varna, you can take the children to the dolphinarium or visit the local small zoo. Of course, there are many churches and other interesting places in the city.

Useful articles and interesting tips:

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