Top tips for visiting Bulgaria

If hiring a car at Sofia airport make sure you know where to pick it up as there are two terminals some distance apart. Change your money in Bulgaria as you will get a much better rate. There are plenty of exchanges at Sofia airport, in the cities and in larger towns.

Remember that a nod of the head means no and shaking your head means yes!

Investigate the western region of the country around the town of Kyustendil with its mountains, interesting villages and beautiful scenery. It is very attractive and not that popular with tourists.

BulgariaTry out some of the excellent cheese salads or stews that are on offer. Bulgarians often enjoy potato and cabbage-based meals. Fish is also very good. Do taste some of the local wines, beers and regional variations. There are plenty of really good Bulgarian dishes such as mish-mash which is made from scrambled egg, peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic and cheese. It is often served at breakfast or lunchtime.

The Rila Monastery is quite spectacular and one of Bulgaria’s most popular attractions. There is a very good café selling trout just outside the monastery.

If you are looking for something to bring back, then look out for ‘Lev’ shops where you can pick up some real bargains.   

Local transport can sometimes be a bit erratic but gets you there in the end. It is great way of meeting the locals.

Eating out can be very cheap but take note that the menus will probably be written in the Cyrillic alphabet! Meals also sometimes come in the wrong order.

Rila Monastery, BulgariaRemember to always carry your documents with you (e.g. passport, car documents etc) as they may be asked for if you are stopped by the police. There are often checks along main roads so keep to the speed limit and obey the signs otherwise you may be subject to an ‘on the spot’ fine.

Bulgarian markets are great fun with lots of bargains. Bartering is not always the norm and although you might be able to negotiate a small discount prices are normally fixed. You should be able to pick up some excellent regional products such as honey fruit, or wine whilst you are there. When in season cherries are a really good buy. 

The beer is cheap but also strong so you should never drink and drive. There are plenty of local breweries but do beware of the rakia( fruit brandy) which if brewed on a small scale can be very potent. Bulgarians are very hospitable and often quickly bring out the rakia to toast their guests. But be warned it can be very strong.

If you are with Bulgarian friends wait until everyone has been served as there will usually be a toast before people ‘down’ their drink. Bulgarians love singing and dancing.

BulgariaDon’t be surprised if there is a television on in the corner of a bar or restaurant as this is the norm.

Try to learn a few Bulgarian words such as thank you and please. This is really appreciated and often you will get a big smile! Take a good quality phrase book with you as it can be a bonus if you are out of reach of a mobile signal.  

Go with the flow and if you have to wait for things to happen just experience the moment! Bulgarians can be extremely friendly and like to make guests feel welcome. Events in the home can often go on for a long time so if you get an invite don’t plan too much else for the rest of the day! 

For further information go to www.bulgariatravel.org

Images courtesy of Godfrey Hall.

Silver Travel Advisor recommends Balkan Holidays.

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Godfrey Hall

Award-winning travel writer

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