Probably the most independent way of traveling around Bulgaria is by car hire. Public transport is cheap enough to travel from one city to the next but if you need to go off the beaten track you may spend most of your holiday waiting for that one bus a day.
If you are not bringing your own car then a rental ones are readily available from airports, train and bus stations.
To rent a car in Bulgaria you must be over 21 years of age and have held a licence for at least one year. Prices vary per day dependent on the size of car and how long a rental period is needed and will generally include insurance . Major credit cards are usually accepted, depending on where you travel to at peak holiday periods it is sometimes a good idea to book before you arrive to ensure you are not left car less.
Ensure you bring your drivers license with you
Driving in Bulgaria
Because the population of Bulgaria is only around 7.5 million there are not a lot of cars on the highways and it is a rarity to come across traffic jams. Once you venture off the main highways however ,caution must be taken as the roads are sometimes in a poor condition, particulary through villages. Drivers must cope with potholes, roads under reconstruction, slow-moving vehicles, horses, carts and other erratic driving by motorists. Slow down if the road is bad so the rented car does not become damaged, or you don’t become hurt.
When Travelling around Bulgaria you will notice many of signs for towns, cities and villages are written in Cyrillic and have the Latin written underneath, but not always. Road signs will not always be clean, clear and concise (or be there at all) , so be aware and if in doubt stop, look, and look again before proceeding. Apart from that, I think travelling around Bulgaria is easier and more enjoyable because of the lack of traffic on the roads. When travelling around Bulgaria by car buy a decent map and stick to the main routes as best you can avoid the very minor ‘thin’ roads on the map, some of them don’t lead anywhere. I know I have done it!
Speed limits and Traffic are enforced by traffic police and speed cameras have been installed on main routes so be aware. You may be travelling along a lovely stretch of road when the speed limit drops from 90km/h to 40km/h and you will wonder why, it may be because there is a garage ahead and it is these places the police will wait for speeders.
If you should see other motorists coming towards you with headlights flashing, it may be the police are further down the road, either with a speed gun or doing document spot checks.
- Built-up areas– 50km/h
- Main roads– 90km/h
- Motorways– 120km/h
- Drivers and passengers in the front must wear seat belts.
- Headlights must be on all the time
- The blood-alcohol limit is 0.05%.
- Children under 12 years are not allowed to sit in the front seat.
- Mobile phones may only be used with a ‘hands-free’ system.
- If you have an accident, you must wait with your vehicle and have someone call the local traffic police.
You may have heard stories about corrupt police offices asking for payments as bribes for violations. If you are stopped and you don’t understand the situation, you are entitled to have the police call an interpreter for you.
Perhaps the easiest and least stressful way of travelling around Bulgaria is by Private taxi. This way you don’t have to worry about a thing as everything can be arranged before you arrive.
Private taxi companies usually are more client oriented and unlike public taxi companies, provide price estimates, accept all kinds of payments in different currencies and charge fixed prices.
Main benefits of using a Private Taxi Company
– English speaking staff
– Online payments, payment in any currencies,
– Invoice and other documents provided
– You can get a price estimate, prices are all inclusive and fixed
– You can book multi day tours or a van.
– They also have local knowledge and of course can help with translation
Taxi’s are cheap enough to get from A-B or if you wish to travel a great distance you can always check with the driver to his charges and negotiate fair deal.
Taxi’s in Bulgaria are yellow and can be flagged down on most streets of every city.
All Taxi drivers must clearly display their rates on the taxi’s windows.
Always ensure that the meter is on when you get into a taxi, some drivers will give you a price which is double the normal fare.
Public taxi drivers usually won’t speak English and won’t accept online payments.
Travelling around Bulgaria by Coach
If you wish to travel from city to city then coach is the way to go, it is far quicker than the train and more comfortable than most other forms of public transport
A ticket from Sofia to Veliko Tarnovo 250kms distance cost about 24 BGN leva (12 euro) per person and the schedule keeping is usually excellent. You can buy tickets at the bus stations from the kiosks in the foyers. On rural routes, tickets are often sold by the driver.
On the main routes, for example Sofia to Varna, stopping at (Veliko Tarnovo) there will be a bus running every hour everyday of the week..
Toilet facilities although en borde are not usually in service but if you are desperate, let the driver know, if he doesn’t understand there is a good chance someone on the bus will speak English, It happens so don’t worry if nature calls.
Here are three main services linking the cities.
www.union-ivkoni.com) Links most major towns and many smaller ones, including Sofia, Burgas, Varna, Plovdiv, Pleven, Ruse, Sliven and Shumen.
www.biomet.bg) Runs between Sofia and Veliko Târnovo, Varna, Burgas and Stara Zagora.
www.etapgroup.com) Another extensive intercity network, with buses between Sofia, Burgas, Varna, Ruse and Veliko Târnovo as well as routes between Sofia and Sozopol, Primorsko, Tsarevo and Pomorie.
If you wish to travel to other countries then Coaches leave the main cities on a very regular basis.
Coaches to Istanbul for example leave everyday from Sofia Plovdiv Ruse, Veliko Tarnovo Bourgas and Varna plus others.
Travelling around Bulgaria by the rule of’thumb’ is against the law in Bulgaria. I know you see people all the time hitch hiking here and everywhere, it is not for me to say if the police turn a blind eye to it or not. Just to let you know for your personal information. If you are a seasoned hitchhiker or not always be vigilant and think safe wherever in the world.