The quality of healthcare in Bulgaria does not meet the standards of most Western European countries. Although Bulgarian doctors and medical staff are highly trained, Bulgaria’s health infrastructure has been poorly funded and many hospital facilities are in poor condition. The low number of nurses relative to the number of patients also means that certain services, such as administered meals, might not be available.
A public health insurance scheme primarily funds healthcare in Bulgaria and provides access to medical care through public hospitals and clinics.
Public healthcare in Bulgaria
Public healthcare is managed by the Ministry of Health. Although medical staff in Bulgaria are highly trained, many new arrivals may find the facilities in public hospitals to be relatively poor, especially in rural areas. Expats will also find that English is not widely spoken in public hospitals.
EU and EEA citizens can use their European Health Insurance cards at Bulgarian public hospitals until they become residents of Bulgaria. Once officially registered as citizens, foreign residents will have their healthcare provided for under Bulgaria’s compulsory healthcare insurance scheme.
Private healthcare in Bulgaria
Many new arrivals choose to use private healthcare in Bulgaria. The general healthcare standards and facilities of the private sector are typically superior to public healthcare services.
Private healthcare in Bulgaria is comparatively cheaper than in Western Europe, and most private doctors are bilingual, which limits language barrier issues for expats. Bulgaria has also grown as a destination for medical tourism, as people travel to the country for cosmetic and dental procedures.
Health insurance in Bulgaria
Expats living and working in Bulgaria are given access to free or subsidised healthcare through the Bulgarian public health insurance system. Contributing to this system is compulsory for all residents in Bulgaria. When granted a residence permit, foreigners contribute to their health insurance through their Bulgarian social security number.
Workers in the country are generally enrolled in Bulgaria’s public healthcare system by their employers and healthcare fees are deducted from employees’ salaries.
Many retirees are not eligible for public health insurance. They must secure private insurance to ensure that their healthcare needs are covered.
Pharmacies in Bulgaria
Pharmacies can easily be found in Bulgaria’s urban centres, and some hospitals also have a pharmacy attached. Some 24-hour pharmacies are available in larger cities such as Sofia.
Many prescription medicines can be bought over the counter. Pharmaceuticals in Bulgaria are relatively cheaper compared to the prices in other European countries. As brand names change from country to country, it is advisable that expats take note of the generic names of their medications.
Health risks in Bulgaria
New arrivals will experience few health risks when living in Bulgaria.
Despite this, those exploring Bulgaria’s famed landscapes should be careful of tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease and encephalitis. Tick bites can be avoided by using appropriate insect repellent and wearing long trousers.
Emergency services in Bulgaria
Emergency care in life-threatening situations is free of charge in Bulgaria. Emergency rooms are required to treat every patient regardless of health insurance status, nationality or ability to pay.
Public ambulance services are free if urgent care is required but patients must pay if their condition isn't serious. Bulgaria's government has committed to increasing the effectiveness of the country's emergency services to combat slow response times.
Foreign residents should enquire after ambulance response times in their area, as it might be quicker for expats to make their own way to a hospital in the event of an emergency. Some private hospitals operate their own ambulance services, which foreigners with private insurance should consider investigating.
• EU emergency line: 112
• Ambulance: 150
• Fire department: 160
• Police: 166