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Useful tips, Bulgarian National Holidays

Useful tips you need to know when you plan to travel to Bulgaria.

Bulgarian National Holidays 2017

January 1st – New Year’s Day

March 3rd – National Holiday

Easter – changes every year, in 2017- on April 16,2017

May 1st – Labour Day

May 6thSt. George’s Day Bulgaria’s Valour Day

May 24th – Day of the Cyrillic Alphabet and Bulgarian Culture

September 6th – Day of Reunification (1885)

September 22nd – Bulgarian Independence Day

December 24th, 25th – Christmas

December 31st – New Year’s Eve

Money

The national currency is Bulgarian Lev (BGN), or Leva (plural) one lev is made up of 100 ‘stotinki’.

The following coins are available: 1, 2, 5,10,20,50 stotinki and 1, 2 leva.

The following notes are available: 2,5,10, 20, 50, 100 leva (BGN).

Although Bulgaria is part of the EU, it is not part of the Eurozone (the group of counties that use the euro as their currency). Some prices are often published in euro, but this is simply to make things easier for visiting foreigners. Transactions are always done in Leva/BGN/. Hotels, restaurants, taxi drivers and shops accept payments in Bulgarian Leva only. It is easy to make a calculation, because the local currency is pegged to the EURO at a fixed rate 1 EUR = 1,95 BGN

Money Exchange

Cash machines are easily accessible in the big cities and larger towns. You can get up to 400 BGN at a time from one cash machine.

All major European, North American and Japanese debit and credit cards are accepted. Money can also be exchanged safely at exchange bureaus, or at most banks.  We would advise you to use banks first, or reputable exchange bureau, which must display clearly exchange rates on large tables, with the sign “No Commission”.  Exchange bureau are no longer allowed to charge a commission for money exchange, so it is always better to check first. Airports and hotels also offer money exchange, but they usually tend to give less favorable rates.

NEVER change money with anyone who stops you in the street, offering a better rate. Although money exchange scams are not as common as they were before, we would advise you to exchange money only in reputable places. It is always better to familiarize yourself with the local currency prior to arrival to Bulgaria. Please use the link to the Bulgarian National Bank official site.

Bulgarian Lev is pegged to the Euro and the exchange rate is fixed at 1 EUR = 1, 95 BGN. For orientation purposes you can assume the following:  1 US Dollar = 1.65 BGN, Pound Sterling = 2.11 BGN, but please note exchange rates fluctuate on a daily basis.(August 2017)

Credit Cards: Better hotels, shops and restaurants in Sofia accept credit cards, but this is not so in smaller villages in the country. Cash is widely accepted form of payment in Bulgaria and it is always better to keep some bills on you. Don’t forget to call your credit card companies to let them know you’ll be using your cards in Bulgaria. Sometimes a card company will see charges on your card in a different place and freeze your account.

Travellers’ cheques: We would advise you to go to a bank for cashing your cheques. Banks charge a small commission. (min.1%).

Safety

Bulgaria, in general, is a safe country. To many foreigners, used to European countries, Bulgaria appears to be safe. Most frequent crimes to be mentioned are – pickpocketing, mugging and car theft.  We would advise to carry all valuables close to your body, or leave them in a hotel safe. If you use the public transportation, be extremely cautious, because pickpockets are very active there. They usually hang around in the places most popular with foreigners. Be careful if a group of well-dressed women crowd you in the street. They often are
Roma pickpockets.

Body Language

Although strange, traditionally we shake our heads side-to-side for “Yes”, showing agreement, and nod to indicate a “No”. This creates a great deal of misunderstandings, so you should bear this in mind during your first visit.

Internet

Bulgarian Internet speed is one of the fastest in the world. You will find hotspots everywhere – at your hotel, in most of restaurants and coffee shops, even in the main parks downtown Sophia.

Tipping

Tipping in Bulgaria is expected for services at hotels, restaurants, taxis, hairdressers’ with an average figure of 10-15%.

Porters at 4/5-star hotels expect BGN 2. per bag, hotel housekeepers – BGN 1,50-2. per day.

10% tip is considered common for taxi drivers, although the tip can be higher if the taxi driver helped carying bags or he/she was polite, informative and friendly. For a short ride, a tip of BGN 1-2 is considered normal.

Tipping in restaurants is a normal practive,too. Tips start from 10% on the restaurant bill, but you could tip 20%+, depending on the quality of service. Nice small restaurants have been mushrooming lately in Bulgaria, quality of food is exquisite and the service – so friendly, that you will be glad to tip the waiter higher than the average.

Tips are welcomed also by people working in the travel industry. It is a custom in Bulgaria for drivers and tour guides to be given a tip after the trip, usually a 5-10%. Avoid tipping coins, it is considered as an insult.

Taxis

There are several reputable companies in Sofia, offering modern cars and reliable service. The tariffs are almost identical. We would recommend OK Supertrans, or Yes-Yellow taxis. The table of fares is visible on the front panel of the cab. Normal rates vary between BGN 0,79– 0,90 per km (August, 2017) From the airport to downtown Sofia hotel a reasonable rate is between 10-12 EUR, excluding the tip (10-20%), from Central bus terminal to Sofia downtown – 5-7 EUR. Unfortunately, there are taxis, which are avoided by the locals, because they have very high rates. Such cabs wait in front of hotels, or embassies, sometimes at the new airport terminal and central bus station.  Always check the tariff before you get on. You may ask your hotel receptionist to call a cab for you.

Visas

EU passport holders, as well as those of USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel and some other countries with reciprocal agreements, are visa-free for a stay up to 30 days in Bulgaria.

You can get a consular information at the site of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria.

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