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Smart Tips for Your Holiday

Weather

Before you pack anything, check the local weather forecast before you go. You may also want to find an online version of a local news station or newspaper since their forecasts are usually a little more accurate.
http://www.weatheronline.co.uk

Currency

The currency of Bulgaria is the lev (plural leva), which is divided into 100 stotinka. Banknotes come in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 leva notes as well as coins of 1 lev and 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 stotinka.

Currency Exchange

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Cash machines are widespread throughout the cities and larger towns and make local currency conveniently accessible. All major European and North American debit cards are accepted. Money can also be exchanged safely at most banks as well as at reputable exchange bureaux. Hotels and airports usually give less favourable rates. Exchange bureaux are no longer permitted to charge a commission for money exchange, so this should be checked first. All bureaux are required to clearly display the exact exchange rates. The number of moneychangers has gone down in recent years but some can still be found hanging around the resorts in high season. Do not exchange currency with anyone who may stop you on the street, offering a ‘better’ rate.

Currency Restrictions

There are no currency import or export restrictions between European Union countries. Local currency can be exchanged at the airport by showing a bordereaux.

Customs

The following goods can be taken into Bulgaria by all individuals regardless of age without being subject to customs duty: 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco; one litre of spirits and two litres of wine; 50g of perfume and 100g eau de toilette; a reasonable amount of gifts. Due to the outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease in the UK in 2001, any produce which originates from cloven-footed animals is prohibited.

Electricity

220 volts AC, 50Hz. Two-pin plugs are used.

vegetables

Health

Most food is quite safe to eat, but food that is obviously not very clean should be avoided. Tap water in Bulgaria is safe to drink. However, as natural mineral water is beneficial for your health, it is a good idea to drink the cheap and commonly available bottled water. Additionally, as Bulgaria has many mountains, natural springs are quite plentiful and springs with clean water can be found in most villages. Well stocked chemist’s shops can really only be found in the big cities so when going to smaller towns and rural areas, you should take with you what you need. Well qualified doctors can be found in all towns and villages, but make sure that you have emergency insurance cover for unforeseen incidences.

Language

Bulgarian is a Southern Slavic language (the first to be written) that is also spoken in Ukraine, Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey, Greece and Romania.

Safety

Pick pocketing and purse snatching occur frequently, particularly in busy markets and on shopping streets. Con artists ply their trade on public transportation and in bus and train stations. Travellers should be wary of ‘instant friends’ and should also ask for identification from persons who claim to be government officials.

Social Conventions

Usual good manners should be followed and handshaking is the standard form of greeting. Dress should be conventional but casual. If invited to a home, a small gift from your home country is a suitable gift. Do not give money. When Bulgarians nod their heads up and down, they mean no and when they move their heads from side to side, they mean yes. Wedding bands are worn on the right hand, not the left as in the West. As of 1 January 2005, Bulgarian restaurants, cafés, nightclubs and other entertainment venues have smoking and non-smoking zones. Smoking in public places is banned.

When drinking liquor, it is almost obligatory to make a toast. If you want to propose a toast, you should raise your glass and lightly clink it with all the others at the table while looking each one in the eye and saying ‘Na zdrave’ (good health to you).

Tax and Tipping

Waiting staff in restaurants, cafés and bars commonly expect a 10 per cent tip. Some restaurants automatically add a service charge, so check the bill before tipping. Tax-free shopping is available at all three of Bulgaria’s international airports.

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Visa and Passports

As Bulgaria is now a member of the European Union, nationals of other EU countries do not require a visa, regardless of how long they intend to stay. Nationals of some countries, including the USA, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, are admitted without a visa for stays of less than 30 days. Alternatively, a 90-day visa can be applied for at your local Bulgarian embassy or consulate. Visitors are required to hold sufficient funds or return/onward tickets and valid health insurance.