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About Bulgaria

Weather
Dining
Shopping
International Transport
Domestic Transport


bulgaria_map


Bulgaria is located in Eastern Europe and is bordered by the River Danube and Romania to the north, by Turkey and Greece to the south, by the Black Sea to the east and by Serbia and Montenegro and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to the west. The country is traversed by the Balkan Mountains, which extend to the shores of the Black Sea and its golden beaches.

Despite a tumultuous history, Bulgaria is the oldest existing state in Europe to have held on to its original name (since 681 AD) and the majority of the population can trace their ancestors to the Bulgar incursion of the south Danube around that period.

Communist rule ended in 1990, when Bulgaria held its first multi-party election since WWII and began the bumpy process of bringing the country in line with European political values and introducing a market economy. Bulgaria joined the European Union on 1 January 2007.

The popular Black Sea resorts are scenically appealing with their fine sandy beaches, sunny climate and safe seas, providing a woefully inexpensive holiday destination. Bulgaria is also emerging as a new bargain winter sport destination.

Bulgaria can offer an extensive range of accommodation, from luxury five-star to modest two-star hotels, small cosy hotels and private apartment complexes, with facilities catching up to modern standards.

No matter where you decide to stay and how to spend your time, you are sure to be impressed with the beauty of the natural surroundings. From the awe-inspiring Balkan Mountains to the coastline on the Black Sea, the scenery and recreation opportunities should be taken advantage of.

Weather

Bulgaria is located in the temperate climatic zone. The country can be divided into two climatic regions, with the Stara Planina Mountain rising up between them. Northern Bulgarian winters can be harsh, while the southern part of the country is much milder.

Winter temperatures range between 0°C and -7°C. Temperatures can plunge to below -20°C on exceptional occasions. The climate in spring is typically continental and variable. It is especially favourable for the cultivation of fruit trees, for which Bulgaria has been well-known in Europe for centuries. Summers are hot and scorching in northern Bulgaria, particularly along the Danube River.

Mediterranean air currents dominate the climate in southern Bulgaria. Summer temperatures do not soar to the extremes seen in Dobroudzha and along the Danube River and are generally moderate, with an average of about 29°C. The towns of Rousse and Silistra usually see the highest recordings, at times reaching over 35°C. Autumn is a mild and pleasant season in Bulgaria. The colourful forests in autumn further add to the scenic landscape. Rain is generally more frequent than in spring, with May, October and November being the rainiest months.

Dining

Outdoor dining is possible in Bulgaria for at least six months of the year, be it in a lively street in Sofia, Varna or Plovdiv, or a peaceful courtyard in Bansko, taking diners back in time.

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Traditional Bulgarian cuisine is served at a handful of specialised restaurants in the cities. For the real thing, however, you need to visit one of the various ‘museum’ towns or villages (Melnik, Zheravna Koprivshtitsaand and Bozhentsi), where old houses bring back Bulgaria’s late 19th century atmosphere.
One of the tastiest cuisines in Europe, Bulgarian cooking still makes use of fresh, naturally grown ingredients. The delightfully rich Ottoman influence is combined with peasant cooking that uses flavourful vegetables and herbs.

yogurt

Bulgarian specialties include sirene (a white salty cheese) and yoghurt. Local yoghurt excellent and so unique that it’s exported all over the world, simply labelled ‘Bulgarian Yoghurt’. Two dishes use sirene as an ingredient. One is shopska salad, made with chopped tomatoes, cucumber, peppers and onion. The other is banitsa, a flaky savoury pastry sold at street stalls that is often enjoyed with coffee.

For meat lovers, most dishes are based on chicken, pork and lamb. Grilled meat is popular and dishes include kyufteta (spicy meat balls), and kebapchet (lengthened meat balls). Chushki byure are peppers stuffed with cheese and herbs and fried in breadcrumbs, a tasty entrée or a quick meal.

Shopping

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Shoppers will find a vast range of venues to pursue their hobby, with glitzy multilevel shopping malls in Sofia and markets selling old style souvenirs.

The main shopping areas in Sofia are on Vitosha Boulevard, Graf Ignatiev Street, Rakovski Street and the streets branching off from them. The recently opened Central Department Store (TsUM) offers three floors selling everything from souvenirs to household goods.

Great fashion items can be found in many shops in Varna and along the Black Sea coast. Designer labels are plentiful and can be had at a fraction of the cost you would expect to pay in the UK. However, sizing can be somewhat different.

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Melnik wine is a famous and popular drink, which makes for a great souvenir. It is sold in supermarkets all around the country, although it is much more interesting to buy it in Melnik itself. This famous village has a wine producing tradition dating back to the 15th century. Several winegrowers also offer wine tastings in order to promote their wine.

Many stalls or shops in the resorts tend to sell products for much more than in the main towns such as Varna, so it’s a good idea to plan a trip to your nearest town at the start of your holiday so you can see what the prices there are like compared to your resort.

Large supermarkets such as Billa, Hit and Metro offer a broad range of local and imported products. In smaller shops, the service standard and friendliness of staff tends to vary. Many shop assistants are still grappling with the concept of customer service, with varying degrees of success.

When paying for something in a restaurant or shop, do not expect to always get the correct change. ‘Rounding up’ is common practice, and certainly not in your benefit. Credit cards are accepted more and more frequently in upmarket shops but there is still a definite need for cash.

Shopping hours Shops and stores are generally open Mon-Fri 10:00-20:00 and Sat 10:00-14:00. In Sofia, there are several 24-hour food shops in the centre and some private shops are now open on Saturday afternoons.

International Transport

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Air
Bulgaria is home to three international airports: Sofia, which is the biggest, Varna and Bourgas. The national airline is Bulgaria Air, which services local destinations as well as other mainly European cities.

Sofia International Airport is very well equipped with facilities including banks and currency exchange, a post office, duty-free shopping, a nursery, restaurants, a bar and car hire desks.

Buses operate every 10 minutes to the city centre during the day and every 20 minutes between 21:00 and 00:30. The bus station can be found near the Arrivals Hall. Taxis are also on hand, though taxi drivers may not use their meters so it is recommended to agree on the fare in advance. Passengers are advised to only use the airport sponsored taxi company which are called OK Supertrans.

Public parking at Sofia Airport is open around the clock. It is located just in front of the terminal building and includes long and short-term options as well as dedicated spaces for disabled drivers.

FRANCE-AEROPORT-ILLUSTRATION-FILES

Varna International Airport offers domestic and limited European services. Facilities include four duty free shops, four coffee bars and a currency exchange.

Buses operate to the city centre and further on to St Constantine and Golden Sands beach resorts every 15 minutes daily. The bus station is located between Terminal 1 and Terminal 2, in front of the parking lot. The taxi ranks are located in front of Terminal 4, International Arrivals, next to the parking lot.

Ample short-term parking facilities are provided near the main terminal.

bourgas_airport

Bourgas International Airport is near many popular seaside resorts and receives mainly domestic flights and European charter flights during the tourist season from May to October.

Facilities at Bourgas Airport include a cafeteria, snack bar, duty-free shop and currency exchange. There is also an open air terrace on the first floor of the Departure Terminal.

Most flights arriving at Bourgas Airport are part of package holidays and visitors are met by their tour operators. Taxis are available and local buses serve the airport.


Car
The main routes into Bulgaria are from Greece, Romania, Turkey, Serbia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Foreign nationals entering Bulgaria in a motor vehicle must show evidence of their ownership and proof that their motor insurance is valid for Bulgaria.

Rail
Frequent train services are available between Sofia and Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest, Thessaloniki and Istanbul. Sofia is also directly linked with Paris, Moscow, Vienna, Munich and Berlin. Dining cars are available on all routes.

Sea

The main ports to the country are Bourgas and Varna by the Black Sea. There is a service to Varna from Odessa in Ukraine.

Domestic Transport

Air
Daily flights across the country link Sofia, Bourgas, Plovdiv and Varna. Domestic air travel is comparatively cheap. Bulgaria Air operates schedules on trunk routes.

Metro
A Metro has been built in the capital with trains running every six minutes during rush hour and every eight minutes at all other times. A flat fare is charged on all transport and tickets must be bought in advance.

train

Train
Bulgaria has an extensive railway network, connecting most of the country including Varna and Bourgas. Reservations are essential and first-class travel is advised. The EuroDomino pass allows holders from three to eight days’ unrestricted travel within a one-month period on the entire rail network of their chosen country.

bus

Bus
There is a decent network of buses that are inexpensive and convenient but with unreliable timetabling. Buses are the cheapest and fastest way to travel around the country. They depart to and from every big city frequently. However, most bus station agents and drivers will only speak or understand Bulgarian and the destinations will be written solely in Cyrillic script. Private buses compete with government transport on major routes, often making up for slightly higher prices by offering extras such as shock absorbers.

Car
Bulgaria’s road network has over 13,000kms connecting the major centres. Road quality varies and some major roads have big potholes. Driving standards generally leave much to be desired and traffic drives on the right. International road signs are used, though road works are usually not signposted. Poor lighting makes driving at night dangerous. Road tolls are charged on highways and main roads out of town.

taxi

Taxi
Taxis wait at taxi ranks in front of major hotels and can also be hailed on the street.

When hailing one on the street, tourists should stick to the yellow taxis, which use their meters. Taxi tariffs in Bulgaria are not standardised. Most taxi drivers do not speak much English.

boat

Sea / River
Regular boat and hydrofoil services are available along the entire length of the River Danube and the Black Sea coast. There are various types of vessels and classes and timetables are seasonal. Generally, water transport costs twice as much as buses.