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Antiques
 
 
Bulgaria is full of places where you can find antiques. Some of them will be genuine, some of them will actually turn out to be fake. One of the most famous places in Sofia for this kind of trade is in front of the Alexander Nevski cathedral, where there are almost 50 people selling different things - german helmets, lighters, clocks, bulgarian folk instruments, russian hats and badges. You can even find violins and accoridions. Don't hurry to buy the first thing you like - you may find it cheaper on the next booth. And always, always try to decrease the price.

Car accidents

In the event of an accident the traffic police /KAT/ should be called and a report be filed. The process is long, heavyand unpleasant but necessary for any insurance claims. If you use rent-a-car do check with the company about formalities.

Cash machines

Cash machines are widely available in cities and larger towns and provide a convenient access to local currency. All major European and North American debit cards are accepted. However, try not to use cash machines in late hours and dark streets – very often there are thieves that can wait for you to take out the money and then take them from you. Of course this can happen in Bulgaria as well as every other country.

Changing money

Please, use the banks for this. There are so many change bureaus, but they may lie you, offering one course at the label in front and different in the bureau.Never change money with anyone who stops you on the street and offers you a better rate. The best thing to do is to go in a bank and make the exchange there. Otherwise you risk to be cheated in the courses.

Credit cards

Most hotels, shops and restaurants in Sofia accept credit cards, but this doesn’t happen in smaller towns and rural areas. Cash is the accepted form of payment, so bring some cash with you when traveling in the countryside. You may be surprised with common: “Our credit card machine is not working.” And you will still have to pay for the meal, won’t you? :) Cleaning the dishes for paying the food is not the dream-of night spending, isn’t it? :)

Electricity

Electricity is 220 Volts. You’d better buy or bring your adaptor, especially if you come from the USA or the UK, otherwise you risk your electric appliances quite a lot.

Fashion in Bulgaria

Bulgarians, as general, are not so rich, but they spent a lot on new clothes. Young people “charge” their parents for more and more money on expensive, new clothes :) So, you’ll probably find a lot of well dressed people when you walk along the streets. If you want to go shopping, the VItosha blvd. and the malls are the best place – with a lot of world-famous brands and shops.

"Helpers"
 
Never trust those "helpers" - people who offer to help you with the luggage in the bus and train stations. They will be very kind and in the end they may tell you to give them 50-60 euro for their service. If you reject to pay them, you may lose your luggage forever.

Internet

Almost every town has at least one Internet club and rates are exceptionally good, the quality and speed of the connection may vary. Hotels usually provide internet access but at bigger price, but there you need a personal computer…

Newspapers in Bulgaria

There is a large number of newspapers and magazines in Bulgaria, most famous of which are Standart, 24 Chasa, Trud, Novinar among which only Standart offers an English web page version. Economical newspapers are Kapital, Banker. A fully English language newspaper is the Sofia Echo. The sport topics are covered by 7 dni sport and Meridian Match, but again, they are only in Bulgarian. Of course at the newspapers’ stands you’’ find plenty of foreign newspapers that will in no doubt give you all the information you are used to receive every morning.

Parking

Do not park in restricted zones even if everyone else seems to do it. Sooner or later the authorized stuff will come and collect your car. It will be bad if you have to go somewhere fast and you can’t find your car, isn’t it?

Passports & driving license

You’d better bring your passport with you, especially if you are using internal flights. Usually the passport is kept in the hotel you are staying in as a matter of security. If you do intend to drive, never forget your driving license. The Bulgarian traffic police (called KAT) may stop you for identification. And you don’t want to have problems with the traffic police, do you? :) Identification /a valid international passport/ should be carried on you at all times. In case of stolen or lost documents you must go immediately to the nearest police station, where it will be made a protocol of the accident. Be sure to take a copy of it with you otherwise you are not allowed to leave the country.

 

Post offices

Post offices can be found throughout the country, in most villages, towns and tourist resorts, though opening times are unpredictable and many close for lunch. Normally stamps are available where you purchase postcards. For delivery you can either post them at the Post Office or leave them in reception of the hotel. If you are sending parcels abroad – make sure you have packed them very well, usually the post office don’t bother throwing the parcels around.

Public transport

Public transport in Sofia runs daily from 5.30 till 23.30 and covers most of the city. Single trip tickets cost 0.70 leva and are sold at the major stops of the vehicle. If you transfer you must use another ticket. Your luggage must not exceed the size 60x40x40 or you’ll have to punch another ticket. Tickets are inspected by controllers. If they find you unprepared (without a ticket) they will certainly make you pay 7.00 leva. (The inspectors are usually not very pleasant guys or women, that we don’t recommend you to interfere with. And don’t think they speak English or any other foreign language:) The public transport is rather old, and not very pleasant means of transportation. We don't recommend you to use it, unless you don't have any other choice!

Renting a car in Bulgaria

There is a wide number of companies offering car-renting in Bulgaria, especially in the large cities, like Varna, Burgas, Sofia, Plovdiv. Don’t hurry up to rent something at the airport – the biggest companies operate there, they charge more. Go to your hotel (if you have already booked one) with a taxi, and see what the hotel can offer you, they usually have good contacts with car-renting companies. The normal price for a 4-door car, new model, extra condition, is about 30-35 euro per day. If you find cheaper offers on the internet, make sure what will be included in the price (delivery, VAT, gas...)

 

Road map of Bulgaria

Don’t worry about that – there are road maps of Bulgaria in every gas station in the country, offering maps of the biggest cities as well. There are usually maps in Bulgarian and English.

Saying “Cheers!”

When you say “Cheers!” to Bulgarian you’d better look into his/her eyes because the opposite is taken for disrespect. Cheers in Bulgarian is "Nazdrave". You can easily become a “victim” of Bulgarian courtesy – Bulgarians usually suggest toasts very often – remember – you’ll probably have to drive on your way back to home :)

Saying 'yes' and 'no'

One unique feature is that Bulgarians most often nod for ‘no’ and shake their heads for ‘yes’. Watch out! It can lead to great confusion. Of course this is the common word. But there are people who do exactly the opposite, thus making the confusion even bigger. So – you’d better watch for the words they say – “NE” (like in “NEt”) is for “NO” and “DA” (like in BellinDA) is for “YES”.

Shopping

Shops' working hours: 10 a.m. - 8 p.m., 7 days a week. Some supermarkets are opened 24 hours a day. Fresh food products, fruit and vegetables can also be bought from market places open every day in the capital and the country-prices are smaller but you may not be sure of the quality.

Taxi services

There are a lot of taxi companies in Bulgaria. Regarding Sofia the biggest are "O.K. Supertrans", “Taxi-s-express”, „Taxi for 1 euro” – they will charge you normal fares – between 0.44 and 0.50 lv per km. The average fare between Sofia Airport and the city center is 8 leva /4 EUR/. You are kindly advised to avoid other taxis otherwise you may be cheated. Always say in the beginning that you want a receipt in the end (thus the driver can’t lie you, even though he will want to, because he sees you are foreigner and hence, not so familiar with prices). Other common trick is, when the driver “forgets” to turn on his counter, thus nobody knows how much you have to pay him – so pay attention to this. Drivers usually can’t talk English, but sometimes you may be lucky.

The Bulgarian language

The Bulgarian language and the Cyrillic alphabet in particular, are possibly the biggest barriers you will face during your visit. In tourist resorts most signs and menus have translations and the service staff speaks foreign languages. But in the countryside you may experience some difficulties communicating with the locals. Old people have studied Russian in schools, because this was obligatory. But you never know what do they remember from the studies in class, don’t you? :)

 

Tipping

A tip of 10% is generally expected by the waiting staff in restaurants, cafes and bars. Nonetheless, tipping is also recognized as a means of expressing one's satisfaction, so you are in no way obliged to tip if you feel the service did not merit it. Some restaurants automatically add a service charge, so check the bill before tipping. Look carefully in the menu – sometimes it is written in bottom section with small letters. Always try to calculate the bill by yourself, before paying. Usually, mainly in the sea resorts, it is a common practice, the waitress to put something else in the bill – something you have never tasted. Thus the bill is bigger. Please – don’t pay for something you haven’t eaten or drunk :)

 

Traveller's cheques

This is not a typical means of paying in Bulgaria, so don’t be surprised if some of the banks don’t admit them. Traveller’s cheques must be cashed at banks and most of them charge commission. We recommend you to use the world popular banks like Raiffeisen bank or Allianz as secure world famous banks.

 

Washrooms & WC fees

Many places charge small fees /0.20-0.50 leva/ to use their washrooms. Don’t be surprised. This is not true for the big gas stations like Shell and OMV, where you can go and use the WC absolutely free. Unfortunately, if you are traveling by bus, the driver will most likely stop at gas-stations where they DO charge you for this small pleasure :) And, please – don’t judge the stuff for the low level of hygiene in the WC. The waiters are not guilty – you should blame the owners :)

Water in Bulgaria

Tap water is safe to drink all over the country but not always pleasant in taste. In mountain areas, tap water is delicious. Bulgaria's vast supplies of tasty and inexpensive mineral water are widely available in 0.5 and 1.5 l bottles. Some of the best brands are Gorna Banya, Devin and Bankya – with water bottled in the spa resorts.

Bulgaria in labels for information
 
 
 
Last year a unique information system has been started. It opens the possibilites for Bulgarian and foreign tourists to receive more information about some of the most popular historical monuments in the country. By each of them there is a small label that shows a tlephone number you should call to obtain the specific information. The price for this service is 1.20 leva per minute.

Street dogs
 
 
 
Yes, there are a lot of street dogs in Bulgarian towns. Most of them are harmless, they will probably be more scared of you than yourself. Yet some of them can act hostile - if you are bitten by any of them, please find the closest hospital.

The siren
 
Don't fell in panic if you accidently came to be in Bulgaria on the 2nd of June and hear the sound of a siren - this is not a bomb attack, nor enemy's planes are coming :) This is just a siren in the memory of Hristo Botev - a famous Bulgarian poet and revolutionist. He died on 2nd of June and every year the siren plays for about a minute - the people stop at their places for a moment of silence and gratitude.

The Graduation day
 
This is when the students in the high schools graduate. Its a great feast for every pupil and there is a big graduation ball which is the utmost dream of every Bulgarian student.  The students put on expensive clothes, suits, dresses and go to some famous and large restaurants. Some of them wear such clothes for the first and maybe the last time. The period between 20th of May and the beginning of June is very heavy on the streets - the students go to their balls with hired or friends' expensive cars - they shout and count from 1 to 12 - the number of classes they have passed through. The whole thing is a real waste of money - parents pay for clothes, car, restaurant fee, home party with friends and relatives, hair-dresser... If you happen to meet such group - celebrating the graduation in front of the restaurant, you'll hear the terrible noise, coming from everywhere - car hooters, screams of half drunken graduates, local musicians who play their accordions or wind instruments... It's interesting when you see it for the first time, but afterwards you'll find out it's a real mass!

All the advises are 100% checked and true.The point of some of the pictures is only to make you laugh, some really don't have anything in common with Bulgaria. But some of them are funny, aren't they? :)

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