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Country Guides for Europe

Bulgaria

Bulgaria

Bulgaria is a country of green, rolling hills, friendly people, and thousands of years of history. Founded in 6th century BC, the peninsula town of Nessebur has been home to Thracians, Hellenes, Romans, Slavs, Byzantines and Bulgarians. Here ancient cathedrals and stone and wood Revival houses share the narrow, cobbled lanes. Rila Monastery houses over a thousand vibrantly colored frescos, and was responsible for much of the preservation of Bulgarian culture during the Ottoman rule. Old Town Plovdiv with its National Revival houses, churches, mosques and good restaurants is a wonderful place to explore on foot, and if you need a bit of a rest, the thermal springs of Velingrad and the Black Sea beach resorts are made for relaxation.

Language: Bulgarian, secondary languages closely correspond to ethnic breakdown

Major International Airports:

City

Airport
Airport
Code
Distance
From City
SofiaSofia Int'lSOF6 miles W
VarnaVarna Int'lVAR5 miles E

The preventive measures you need to take while traveling to Eastern Europe depend on the areas you visit and the length of time you stay. You should observe the precautions listed in this document in most areas of this region.

Food and Waterborne Diseases

Make sure your food and drinking water are safe. Food and waterborne diseases are the primary cause of illness in travelers. Travelers' diarrhea can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites, which are found throughout Eastern Europe and can contaminate food or water. Infections may cause diarrhea and vomiting (E. coli, Salmonella, cholera, and parasites), fever (typhoid fever and toxoplasmosis), or liver damage ( hepatitis). The risk of hepatitis A can be high in parts of the region.

Diseases found in Eastern Europe and Northern Asia (risk can vary by country and region within a country; quality of in-country surveillance also varies)

Malaria
Malaria is always a serious disease and may be a deadly illness.

Humans get malaria from the bite of a mosquito infected with the parasite. Prevent this serious disease by seeing your health care provider for a prescription antimalarial drug and by protecting yourself against mosquito bites.

All travelers to malaria-risk areas in Eastern Europe, including infants, children, and former residents of Eastern Europe, are at risk for malaria. Parts of the countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan , Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan have malaria risk. Travelers to malaria-risk areas in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan should take the antimalarial drug chloroquine to prevent malaria. In Uzbekistan, the risk of malaria is low and varies along its border with Tajikistan; travelers to Uzbekistan or their health care provider should contact CDC (Malaria Hotline, 770-488-7788) for risk and prevention advice.

There is no risk for malaria in Albania, Belarus, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia/Montenegro, Slovakia (Slovak Republic), Slovenia, and Ukraine.

Yellow Fever
There is no risk for yellow fever in Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. A certificate of yellow fever vaccination may be required for entry into certain of these countries if you are coming from countries in South America or sub-Saharan Africa. For detailed information, see Comprehensive Yellow Fever Vaccination Requirements. Also, find the nearest authorized U.S. yellow fever vaccine center.

Other Disease Risks
Tickborne encephalitis, a viral infection of the central nervous system occurs in the southern part of the nontropical forest belt in Europe and Asia (to Pacific Ocean). Most intense transmission has been reported in Russia, Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia. Travelers are at risk who visit or work in forested areas during the summer months and who consume unpasteurized dairy products. Vaccine for this disease is not available in the United States at this time. A number of rickettsial infections also occur in this region. To prevent tickborne infections travelers should take precautions to prevent tick bites.

Other infections that tend to occur more often in longer-term travelers (or in immigrants from the region) include tuberculosis, hepatitis B, hepatitis C (especially in Romania), and cutaneous and visceral leishmaniasis in parts of Azerbaijan and Tajikistan.

Outbreaks of diphtheria have been reported in states of the former Soviet Union. There is a vaccine available to prevent diphtheria.

Other Health Risks

Injuries
Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of injury among travelers. Protect yourself from motor vehicle injuries: avoid drinking and driving; wear your safety belt and place children in age-appropriate restraints in the back seat; follow the local customs and laws regarding pedestrian safety and vehicle speed; obey the rules of the road; and use helmets on bikes, motorcycles, and motor bikes. Avoid boarding an overloaded bus or mini-bus. Where possible, hire a local driver.

Routine Vaccinations

Check with your healthcare provider: you and your family may need routine as well as recommended vaccinations.

Before travel, be sure you and your children are up to date on all routine immunizations according to schedules approved by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice (ACIP). See the schedule for adults and the schedule for infants and children. Some schedules can be accelerated for travel.

See your doctor at least 4-6 weeks before your trip to allow time for shots to take effect. If it is less than 4 weeks before you leave, you should still see your doctor. It might not be too late to get your shots or medications as well as other information about how to protect yourself from illness and injury while traveling.

Recommended Vaccinations

The following vaccines may be recommended for your travel to The Caribbean. Discuss your travel plans and personal health with a health-care provider to determine which vaccines you will need.

  • hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG).Transmission of hepatitis A virus can occur through direct person-to-person contact; through exposure to contaminated water, ice, or shellfish harvested in contaminated water; or from fruits, vegetables, or other foods that are eaten uncooked and that were contaminated during harvesting or subsequent handling.
  • hepatitis B, especially if you might be exposed to blood or body fluids (for example, health-care workers), have sexual contact with the local population, or be exposed through medical treatment. hepatitis B vaccine is now recommended for all infants and for children ages 11-12 years who did not receive the series as infants.
  • rabies, if you might have extensive unprotected outdoor exposure in rural areas, such as might occur during camping, hiking, or bicycling, or engaging in certain occupational activities.
  • typhoid, particularly if you are visiting developing countries in this region. typhoid fever can be contracted through contaminated drinking water or food, or by eating food or drinking beverages that have been handled by a person who is infected. Large outbreaks are most often related to fecal contamination of water supplies or foods sold by street vendors
  • As needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria and measles. Outbreaks of diphtheria have been reported in states of the former Soviet Union. Travelers to these areas should be sure that their diphtheria immunization is up to date.

Required Vaccinations

  • None.
  • All travelers should take the following precautions, no matter the destination:

    • When using repellent on a child, apply it to your own hands and then rub them on your child. Avoid children's eyes and mouth and use it sparingly around their ears.
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water or, if hands are not visibly soiled, use a waterless, alcohol-based hand rub to remove potentially infectious materials from your skin and help prevent disease transmission.
    • In developing countries, drink only bottled or boiled water, or carbonated (bubbly) drinks in cans or bottles. Avoid tap water, fountain drinks, and ice cubes. If this is not possible, learn how to make water safer to drink.
    • Take your malaria prevention medication before, during, and after travel, as directed. (See your health care provider for a prescription.)
    • To prevent fungal and parasitic infections, keep feet clean and dry, and do not go barefoot, even on beaches.
    • Always use latex condoms to reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
    • Protect yourself from mosquito and insect bites.
    • Do not eat food purchased from street vendors or food that is not well cooked to reduce risk of infection (i.e., hepatitis A and typhoid fever).
    • Do not drink beverages with ice.
    • Avoid dairy products, unless you know they have been pasteurized.
    • Do not swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to certain water-borne diseases such as schistosomiasis.
    • Do not handle animals, especially monkeys, dogs, and cats, to avoid bites and serious diseases (including rabies and plague). Consider pre-exposure rabies vaccination if you might have extensive unprotected outdoor exposure in rural areas.
    • Do not share needles for tattoos, body piercing or injections to prevent infections such as HIV and hepatitis B.

    After You Return Home

    If you have visited a malaria-risk area in Haiti or the Dominican Republic, continue taking your chloroquine for 4 weeks after leaving the risk area.

    Malaria is always a serious disease and may be a deadly illness. If you become ill with a fever or flu-like illness either while traveling in a malaria-risk area or after you return home (for up to1 year), you should seek immediate medical attention and should tell the physician your travel history.



    Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    Ticks are the primary source of insect-borne disease in Bulgaria, often carrying Lyme disease and encephalitis. Travelers should use topical insect repellent and wear insecticide-treated clothing in rural areas.

    Download Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by CountryDownload Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by Country

    With the exception of some first-class hotels, the water supply in Bulgaria can be contaminated with viruses, bacteria and protozoa. Travelers should treat water before drinking to avoid potentially serious health problems.

    Download Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by CountryDownload Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by Country

    A series of bombings and shootouts have occurred in public places in Sofia. It is believed these shootings are the result of turf wars among organized crime groups. These groups often travel in convoys of late-model SUVs and luxury sedans, accompanied by armed men, and frequent expensive restaurants, hotels, and nightclubs. Travelers should use caution when near such groups.

    For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found.

    Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

    The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.

    CRIME: Persons with dark complexions have complained of being the recipients of hostile attitudes or ethnic slurs solely because of their skin color. Recently the Embassy has received an increasing number of such reports, including reports of racially motivated verbal and even physical assaults. Petty street crime, much of which is directed against persons who appear to have money or to be foreign, continues to be a problem. Pick-pocketing and purse-snatching are frequent occurrences, especially in crowded markets and on shopping streets. Con artists operate on public transportation and in bus and train stations. Credit cards and ATMs should be used with caution; see Special Circumstances below. Travelers should be suspicious of "instant friends" and should also require persons claiming to be government officials to show identification. There have been incidents in which tourists have been drugged or assaulted and robbed after accepting offers of coffee or alcoholic beverages from "friendly" individuals met by "chance" at hotels, the airport, or at bus or train stations. Travelers should be wary of unfamiliar individuals who encourage them to drink or eat products as these may be tainted with strong tranquilizers (such as valium) that can lead rapidly to unconsciousness. Reporting a crime immediately to the police has helped recover money and valuables on more than one occasion and is recommended. To avoid becoming a victim of more serious crimes, including sexual assault, travelers should use the same personal safety precautions that they would use in the United States.

    Taxi drivers often overcharge unwary travelers, particularly at Sofia Airport and the Central Train Station. We recommend travelers use reputable taxi companies whose cars are clearly marked with a sticker on the passenger side of the windshield indicating the rate and have meters. Travelers should be aware that there is no official commission that sets taxi cab rates. At the airport, there is a clearly marked booth within the arrivals terminal, which arranges for metered taxis at a fair rate. Finding reputable taxis at the Central Train Station is more difficult. We recommend trying to pre-negotiate a fare to avoid excessive payment if a metered taxi cannot be found. Because pilferage of checked baggage may occur at Sofia Airport, travelers should not include items of value in checked luggage.

    Automobile theft is also a frequent problem, with four-wheel drive vehicles and late model European sedans the most popular targets. Very few vehicles are recovered. Thieves also sometimes smash vehicle windows to steal valuables left in sight. Break-ins at residential apartments occur frequently. Persons who plan to reside in Bulgaria on a long-term basis should take measures to protect their dwellings. Long-term residents should consider installation of window grills, steel doors with well-functioning locks, and an alarm system that alerts an armed response team. Potential travelers should also be cautious about making credit card charges over the Internet as recent experience has shown that some offers come from scam artists posing as legitimate businesses. Travelers should also be careful about making credit card payments to Bulgarian tour operators over the Internet before coming to Bulgaria because some listed entities do not actually exist.

    INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.



    Source: U.S. Department of State

    The climate of Bulgaria is temperate, with four distinct seasons. In the north, summers are hot and fairly dry with comfortably low humidity, and winters are cold and wet, becoming more extreme with altitude. The southern and coastal regions are milder in both summer and winter due to the influence of the Mediterranean, although occasional summer thunderstorms do occur. Some precipitation can be expected throughout the country year round.


    City
    Annual
    Precip. Days
    Annual
    Precip. Totals
    Sofia12122"
    Varna9619"

    Bulgaria's electrical current is 220/50 (volts/hz) and uses the plug adaptors listed to the right under Related Items. Many North American appliances are designed to operate only within the 100-125 volt range. These appliances will suffer damage if plugged into 220-250 volts without the proper transformer or converter.

    To determine which plug adaptors you'll need and if you'll require a transformer or converter, use our Electrical Connection Wizard.

    For a detailed discussion of international electrical standards, see our related article on Electrical and Phone Adaptation.

    Download Magellan's Guide to World Electrical ConnectionsDownload Magellan's Guide to World Electrical Connections

    A United States passport is required for U.S. citizens who are not also Bulgarian nationals. U.S. citizens who enter the country on regular passports without a Bulgarian visa are authorized to stay for a total of 30 days within a six-month period. This law is strictly enforced, and many travelers are refused entry when their aggregate stays over the prior six months total more than 30 days. An application to extend one's stay for up to two months beyond the original 30 days can be filed, but must be submitted to regional police authorities no later than five days prior to the end of the original thirty-day period. For travelers who intend to stay more than 30 days, we recommend securing a Bulgarian visa from a Bulgarian Embassy or Consulate prior to arrival. Travelers using official or diplomatic passports must also secure visas prior to arrival.

    U.S. citizens who intend to stay and live or work in Bulgaria must obtain a "D" visa prior to arrival. Once in Bulgaria, U.S. citizens may apply for a long-term residence permit on the basis of this visa. Travelers who have a one-year multiple-entry visa for Bulgaria may stay for a total of 90 days within a six-month period. If a traveler comes to Bulgaria on a one-year multiple-entry visa, stays in the country 90 days, and then leaves, he/she will not be able to enter the country for 90 days.

    For further information concerning entry requirements, travelers should contact the Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria at 1621 22nd St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008; http://www.bulgaria-embassy.org; tel. (202) 483-5885 (main switchboard (202) 387-7969), or the Bulgarian Consulate in New York City.



    Source: U.S. Department of State

    The time zone for Bulgaria is 2 hours offset from GMT, which means that if it is 12:00 noon in New York, the time in Bulgaria would be 7:00 pm

    The unit of currency in Bulgaria is the lev (BGL).

    Look up the current exchange rate using XE.com's Universal Currency Converter

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    Other Travelers' Experiences in Bulgaria

    "If you stay at the Radisson SAS be on the front side and look out over Parliament Square and on to the Alexander Nevski Cathedral, the Museum, and the University buildings. The restoration of St. Sophia's Church (for which the city is named)is proceeding and is worth seeing as the oldest church in Sofia. If you are driving, try to see suburban monasteries such as Kemikovtsi and Zemen. The range food in Sofia now is excellent, both Bulgarian food and international. There are fine places to dine in Plovdiv. The wine on sale in Bulgaria now is nearly all labelled in English and is just as fine as when there were only labels in Cyrillac. If you go to the Black Sea Coast at Varna go north to Balchik and see the wonderful summer palace of Queen Marie of Romania. It's wonderful."
    - James Jewell, San Francisco, CA,