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Moving to Bulgaria

The oldest country in Europe, founded in 681 AD, Bulgaria boasts rich natural diversity and a storied history. The country's gorgeous countryside is made up of mountains, plains, rivers, lakes, beautiful hot springs, and an extensive coastline along the Black Sea.

Property is the driving force that brings expats from Western Europe to this Balkan state. Expats looking to purchase holiday homes on the Black Sea coast or for investment purposes head to Bulgaria thanks to its low cost of living, scenic countryside and proximity to the rest of Europe.

Living in Bulgaria as an expat

Although the use of English is growing throughout the country, expats will find it beneficial to hire a dedicated relocation specialist to assist in navigating Bulgaria's complicated bureaucratic procedures. Those planning on settling down in Bulgaria should also consider taking a language course.

In terms of jobs for expats in Bulgaria, there is a particularly high demand for English teachers. Other thriving industries include agriculture, tourism, IT and construction, but salaries in Bulgaria tend to be low compared to other EU states. 

Transport in Bulgaria, although extensive, is limited to buses and trains. While those moving to the capital, Sofia, or other major cities in Bulgaria may be able to get by without a car, expats relocating to a coastal town or rural area will find having their own car is essential.

The quality of healthcare in Bulgaria is mixed. Medical staff are generally extremely well trained, but many expats find public healthcare facilities aren't up to the standards of Western Europe or North America. Private hospitals are of a much higher standard, and Bulgaria is fast becoming a popular destination for medical tourism because the cost of top-quality facilities is comparatively low. 

Cost of living in Bulgaria

The cost of living in Bulgaria is low and, as a result, it is popular for foreign investment in property and business. Housing and international school fees will be the biggest expenses for expats living in Bulgaria, with other everyday costs being extremely affordable. While salaries aren't as high as other countries in the EU, the cost of living is low enough for people to enjoy a high standard of living. 

Expat families and children

Although the quality of public education in Bulgaria is of a high standard, the language of instruction is Bulgarian and many expats therefore opt to send their children to one of the several international schools in the country. While the fees at these schools tend to be exorbitant, children are taught in an international language of their choice.  

Skiing and water sports are popular pastimes for the whole family to enjoy in Bulgaria. Expats who are more interested in shopping and nightlife will need to head to Sofia, as entertainment facilities elsewhere tend to be somewhat minimal.

Climate in Bulgaria

While the climate along the coastline of the Black Sea is Mediterranean, the rest of Bulgaria has a continental climate typical of Central Europe. With warm summers and cold snowy winters, expats can really experience the best of both seasons in Bulgaria. While thunderstorms are common in the warmer months, the colder seasons are populated with clear but crisp sunny days. 

Ultimately, expats moving to Bulgaria will need to be open-minded and have a sense of adventure. Bulgaria’s infrastructure has improved markedly over recent years, but expats should be prepared to leave their comfort zone and initially give up a few luxuries in return for a bright future in a country filled with potential.


Fast facts

Population: Just under 7 million

Capital city: Sofia

Other major cities: Plovdiv, Varna, Burgas and Ruse.  

Neighbouring countries: Greece, Turkey, Romania, Macedonia and Serbia. 

Geography: Bulgaria has a widely varied topography, including the Balkan Mountains in the east, the Danubian and Thracian plains, as well as a long stretch of coastline along the Black Sea. 

Political system: Parliamentary democracy. 

Major religions: Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Sunni Islam. 

Main languages: Bulgarian, Turkish and Roma. 

Money: The Lev (BGN) is divided into 100 stotinki.  

Tipping: Tips of 10 percent of the bill are customary in restaurants. Hotel porters and taxi drivers expect visitors to round up the bill for good service. With non-metered taxis, expats needn't add a tip to the fare agreed upon beforehand.

Time: GMT+2. Daylight saving is observed from the last Sunday in March until the last Sunday in October.

Electricity: 220 volts, 50Hz. Plug types C and F are used in Bulgaria. Plug type C has two round pins and plug type F has two round pins with two earth clips on the side.

Internet domain: .bg

International dialling code: +359

Emergency contacts: Dial 112 for all emergencies (multiple language options are available including English). Additionally, dial 150 for medical emergencies, 160 for fire emergencies and 166 for the police. 

Transport and driving: Driving is on the right-hand side road. Drivers from EU countries can use their national licences while drivers from non-EU countries can't use their licences for longer than a year. The driving age is 18 and seat belts are compulsory. Bulgaria has a low-cost rail system, as well as a relatively fast bus system. Be aware that many tellers, drivers and operators will only speak Bulgarian. 

Weather in Bulgaria

Bulgaria has a temperate continental climate typical of Central Europe, but for its coastline along the Black Sea which has a Mediterranean climate. The weather is moderate and the seasons are distinct, with long, hot summers and relatively mild winters. 

Springtime may be foggy and unpredictable in early March, but temperatures become warmer by June, rising to about 70°F (20°C). That said, the high altitude mountain areas remain snowy well into July, when the summer heat arrives.  

Summer in Bulgaria starts in June and finishes towards the middle of September. Temperatures hover around 77°F (25°C) but can rise to 104°F (40°C) on a sunny and clear day. While the interior of Bulgaria can be extremely hot, the coastal areas offer a refreshing breeze and averages around a comfortable 70°F (20°C). Expats should note that violent summer thunderstorms and dangerous hailstorms can occur on occasion. 

Temperatures don't often drop below 50°F (10°C) during the short autumn from mid-September to October. While rainfall increases, it is dry compared to the rest of Europe. As the season progresses, winter brings more snow than rain. 

Winter lasts from late October through to mid-March and offers great skiing opportunities because of the abundant snowfall. Expats can expect temperatures as low as 23°F (-5°C) or 5°F (-15°C) in the coldest regions. That said, it is often clear and sunny, softening the effect of the biting cold and making the thick snow enjoyable.

There have been several devastating floods in this region of Europe. While these are infrequent, violent storms and heavy snowfall are common and should be considered as part of the climate. 

 

Embassy contacts for Bulgaria


Bulgarian embassies

  • Bulgarian Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 387 0174

  • Bulgarian Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7581 3144

  • Bulgarian Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 789 3215

  • Bulgarian Embassy, Canberra, Australia (also responsible for New Zealand): +61 2 6286 9700

  • Bulgarian Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 342 3720

  • Bulgarian Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 660 3293


Foreign embassies in Bulgaria

  • United States Embassy, Sofia: +359 2 937 5100

  • British Embassy, Sofia: +359 2 933 9222

  • Canadian Consulate, Sofia: +359 2 969 9710

  • Australian Consulate, Sofia: +359 2 946 1334

  • South African Embassy, Sofia: + 359 2 939 5015

  • Irish Embassy, Sofia: +359 2 985 3425

  • New Zealand Embassy, Brussels, Belgium (also responsible for Bulgaria): +32 2 512 1040

Public Holidays in Bulgaria

 

2021

2022

New Year's Day

1 January

1 January

Liberation Day

3 March

3 March

Orthodox Good Friday

30 April

22 April

Orthodox Easter Monday

3 May

25 April

Labour Day

4 May

1 May

St George's Day

6 May

6 May

Culture and Literacy Day

24 May

24 May

Unification Day

6 September

6 September

Independence Day

22 September

22 September

Bulgarian Enlighteners' Day 

1 November

1 November

Christmas Eve

24 December

24 December

Christmas Day

25 December

25 December

Boxing Day

26 December

26 December

Working in Bulgaria

Bulgaria is one of the poorest countries in the EU and is dependent on its EU partners for both investment and trade. Despite this, Bulgaria’s economy has displayed steady annual growth, while significantly decreasing its unemployment rate over the last few years. Although coronavirus has negatively impacted the country's GDP, it is once again seeing positive growth and it seems the economy is back on track. 

Bulgaria’s main industries include energy, mining, metallurgy and tourism, while finance and IT are growing sectors. Salaries in Bulgaria are lower than in many other EU countries, but this is offset by a low cost of living. Expats may find it difficult to get a job in Bulgaria, as companies tend to hire Bulgarian graduates over foreigners. 
 
Expats from the EU or the EEA can work in Bulgaria without a work permit, but non-EU expats must secure a work permit before arriving in the country. Work permits are requested by an employer, who must justify their reasons for employing a foreigner over a Bulgarian.


Job market in Bulgaria

Expats looking for employment in Bulgaria will find the most opportunities in the urban centres of Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna, working within multinational companies as well as in the IT, finance and engineering industries. Teaching English in Bulgaria is another opportunity for expats to find employment.

Those with multilingual proficiencies, specifically in key European languages such as Russian, English, French and German, are in demand in Bulgaria and are therefore more likely to find a job. This is because many European companies outsource their labour to Bulgaria. Knowledge of Bulgarian will be useful in securing employment with a local company.  


Finding a job in Bulgaria

Many expats move to Bulgaria with an employment contract already in place. Otherwise, multinational companies will post listings of job offerings on their websites. There are also numerous online job portals which list employment opportunities for expats in Bulgaria.

Expats can also contact the several English-speaking recruitment agencies operating in Bulgaria that will assist them in finding a job.


Work culture in Bulgaria

Expats working in Bulgaria will discover that fostering and maintaining relationships are key elements of Bulgarian work culture. Trust is extremely important in work environments. Relationships may form slowly, as Bulgarians tend to take their time getting to know new colleagues.

Although Bulgarians tend to be direct and cooperative, deference is given to age and seniority. Otherwise, the work culture in Bulgaria is not overtly different from the work culture in other EU nations. 

A factor that many expats may find confusing in Bulgaria, however, is the opposite meaning of head shaking and nodding in the country. While a head shake indicates 'yes', a nod indicates 'no'. Expats should keep this in mind when conducting business, as well as in day to day life in Bulgaria. 

Doing Business in Bulgaria

Bulgaria ranked 61st out of 190 economies in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2020. Bulgaria scored well in the areas of trading across borders (21), protecting minority investors (25) and enforcing contracts (42). That said, it achieved an unsatisfactory score for ease of starting a business (113) and getting electricity (151).

Bulgaria has become a promising country for foreign investment since its assertion into the EU in 2007. The low corporate income taxes, low costs of doing business and fast internet also make it an attractive country for expats to start a business. 


Business culture in Bulgaria

Business culture in Bulgaria is informed both by the societal importance placed on relationships and by the historical collectivism of Bulgarian society, which has traditionally prioritised the group over the individual. Relationships built on trust are central to succeeding in local business, but these can take time to develop. Networking is therefore an important part of doing business in the country.

In line with the importance of forming relationships, face-to-face meetings are highly valued in Bulgarian working culture and meetings are often prolonged affairs. Bulgarians often make their points directly, or they rely on body language to convey their meaning.

Many new arrivals are initially confused, as head shaking and nodding have opposite meanings – in Bulgaria, head shaking indicates a positive, ‘yes’, while head nodding indicates a negative, ‘no’. 


Fast facts

Business hours

Business hours are Monday to Friday 8am or 9am to 5:30pm.

Business language

Bulgarian is the official language. English is increasingly used in business circles, especially within multinational companies.

Business dress

Business attire is generally formal and conservative, but business casual and other less formal attire may be accepted in some industries. 

Greetings 

A firm handshake, direct eye contact and addressing people by their titles is appropriate.

Gifts

Gifts are only given on special occasions and, due to a history of corruption, gift-giving can be a sensitive affair. It’s therefore best to present a thoughtful gift as opposed to an expensive one. When invited to a colleague’s home, it’s customary to bring a gift for the host. Chocolates, wine or flowers are acceptable.  

Gender equality 

Gender equality in the workplace has been a priority of the government for a number of years. The gender pay gap is lower than the EU average and Bulgaria is among the EU countries with the highest number of women in management positions. That said, he share is still not yet equal, although women and men are considered equal in the workplace. 

Business structure

Businesses follow a hierarchical structure whereby seniors make decisions, but the consensus of everyone involved is sought beforehand. Business hierarchy is also impacted by Bulgarian society, in which older people are given more respect. 

Communication

Communication is formal and importance is given to using correct titles. First names are reserved for family and close friends. Face-to-face meetings are preferred and communication is direct. Despite this directness, many meanings are communicated through gestures and facial expressions.  

Corruption

Bulgaria struggles with a legacy of corruption. Although visible progress has been made in battling corruption, nepotism and bribery are still perceived as being prevalent in Bulgaria’s public sector. The country's adopted EU recommended legislature to help curb corruption. 


Dos and don'ts of business in Bulgaria

  • Do be punctual

  • Do organise meetings in advance and confirm the meeting the day before. 

  • Do address business colleagues by their titles, as first names are reserved for close friends and families. 

  • Don't try to rush things. Business decisions can take time as associates get to know a person to determine whether they are trustworthy

  • Do remember that head shaking means yes, while head nodding means no.

  • Do make personal, face-to-face meetings instead of meeting online. 

Culture Shock in Bulgaria

Bulgaria’s cultural heritage is a product of a diverse and ancient history. This, as well as the period of instability which followed the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, have profoundly influenced Bulgarian culture. As a result, expats will undoubtedly experience some degree of culture shock in Bulgaria. 

Bulgarian culture is typically characterised as nature-loving, family-orientated and collectivist. Bulgarians typically prioritise the group over the individual. Age also tends to demand greater levels of respect in Bulgarian culture. 

Expats from the developed world will need to adjust to the general state of infrastructure in Bulgaria, which is often in need of repair. Although this is improving, bureaucracy in Bulgaria has historically been inefficient and corrupt. Many expats learn to overlook these issues in order to enjoy Bulgaria’s beautiful landscapes, warm people and low cost of living. 


Communication in Bulgaria

Bulgarians tend to be formal and polite upon first meetings. Greetings are often initiated with a handshake, while close friends might kiss each other on the cheek.  

Bulgarians are known to be direct and may express their views vividly. Bulgarians also convey a lot of meaning in their hand gestures and facial expressions. Expats may experience some initial confusion, as head shaking in Bulgaria may convey the opposite meaning than what expats might expect. In Bulgaria, nodding the head indicates ‘no’, while shaking the head indicates ‘yes’. 


Language barrier in Bulgaria

Although English is increasingly spoken, especially by Bulgaria’s younger generations, the majority of Bulgarians don’t speak English. Some Bulgarians can speak Russian, French or German, which is advantageous for expats with knowledge of these languages. 

Knowing some Bulgarian will be useful to expats as many bus drivers, police officers and government officials don’t speak English. 


Bureaucracy and corruption in Bulgaria

In line with EU recommendations, Bulgaria has been actively fighting corruption in the public sector. Despite this, corruption is still prevalent in the country and can manifest as civil servants asking for bribes, or doctors expecting a bribe for better care.

Bulgaria’s administrative system is also hampered by bloated and inefficient bureaucracy, with different policies often operating for different areas. As immigrating to Bulgaria involves a lot of paperwork, especially if expats plan on opening a business, navigating Bulgaria’s complex bureaucracy can be difficult for expats.


Food in Bulgaria

Bulgarian food is influenced by Turkish, Russian, Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine. Dairy features prominently in Bulgarian cuisine, while stews are traditional main courses. Although Bulgarians typically use meat in most meals, the prevalence of fresh produce means that vegetable dishes are also common. 

Accommodation in Bulgaria

The standard of accommodation in Bulgaria varies, and expats will quite easily be able to find something that suits their needs and budget. Property prices have been rising in recent years, despite covid-19, but as they are still some of the lowest in the EU, many expats are buying property in the country. Those looking to rent will also be able to find affordable options. 

There are many things to consider when deciding where to live in Bulgaria. Many expats prefer to live on the outskirts of Bulgarian cities as this provides greater access to the country’s famed landscapes. This can be seen outside of Sofia, where expats have invested in luxurious modern villas. 

Expats with cars will discover that parking can be scarce in the cities and finding accommodation with parking bays is therefore an important consideration. Those hoping to use Bulgaria’s public transport should ensure that their homes are close to the public transport network.


Types of accommodation in Bulgaria

Expats can find luxury homes on the outskirts of Bulgaria’s urban centres, while apartments are common throughout most cities. Accommodation options vary and both furnished and unfurnished houses and apartments are available. Shared accommodation does exist and is especially popular in cities such as Sofia, due to its large student population. 
      
Apartment styles range from communist-era blocks to apartments in historical buildings. As labour is relatively cheap in Bulgaria, many expats purchase ‘fixer-uppers’, which they then renovate over time.  


Finding accommodation in Bulgaria

Expats can find accommodation online, but expats are advised to look out for property scammers who exploit the expat property market. Language barriers might also affect accommodation negotiations and, for these reasons, many expats prefer to find their accommodation through accredited real-estate agents.  

In Bulgaria, many real-estate agents speak English and many agencies specialise in catering to the expat market. Tenants should be aware that they must pay agency fees for securing a rental, which is typically equal to half a month's rent, but can be up to one and a half month's rent. For buying a property, however, tenants are responsible for an agency fee which ranges from three to 10 percent of the property price. 


Renting property in Bulgaria

Depending on the area, expats looking to rent in Bulgaria will be able to find a variety of accommodation options. 

Furnished or unfurnished

Apartments for rent in Bulgaria are generally fully or partially furnished, but there are also listings for unfurnished flats. 'Furnished' may mean various things in Bulgaria, but usually large appliances would be included.

The rental process

Expats typically make use of real-estate agents to find accommodation in Bulgaria. It is recommended that expats narrow their preferred neighbourhoods down based on budget. Once they have chosen their ideal neighbourhood or area, they can schedule an appointment with an agent to view the available properties.

Once a suitable property has been found, and an agreement has been made with the landlord, the estate agent will draw up the contact. To ensure that expats know exactly what’s expected of them, it’s imperative to have the lease translated directly into English.

Lease 

Rental contracts in Bulgaria usually last 12 months, but this can be negotiated depending on the landlord. Landlords and tenants can legally terminate the contract early if the other party doesn’t comply with the terms set out in the lease agreement. Prior notice needs to be given before the lease can be terminated.

Deposits and fees

Initial rental costs generally include paying a deposit equal to one month of rent, as well as paying at least the first month’s rent in advance. Many apartment buildings charge additional fees for building cleaning and maintenance. Some leases may also include a parking bay at an additional cost. 

Utilities

Utility bills are seldom included in the lease price. The tenant is generally responsible for paying bills such as water and electricity. The registration of utility meters aren't usually transferred to the tenant's name. The deposit paid when signing the lease will be used if the tenant falls behind on paying utilities.


Buying property in Bulgaria

Attracted by competitive property prices and a low cost of living, many expats are buying homes in Bulgaria. Property scammers have tried to exploit this trend by requiring deposits for non-existent properties or by hiding exorbitant costs within property agreements. Expats should, therefore, rely on established real-estate agents to secure their home.

A further challenge that expats from certain countries face is the restriction placed on purchasing both land and property in Bulgaria. All EU and EEA citizens are allowed to purchase property as well as the accompanying land that the property is situated on. Conversely, expats who are not EU or EEA citizens are able to purchase buildings but they are not allowed to own the land that the property sits on.

Many expats who don't have EU or EEA citizenship have managed to buy property, as well as its corresponding land, by purchasing property under the name of a company that they have registered in Bulgaria. The property and land are then owned by the company, with expats holding ownership of the company and its assets. Many real-estate agencies offer their services in establishing a Bulgarian company with the intent to purchase a property. Although this process is common, expats should explore the implications of owning property through a company as opposed to owning property in their name.

Healthcare in Bulgaria

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. 

Emergency numbers

    • EU emergency line: 112
    • Ambulance: 150
    • Fire department: 160
    • Police: 166

Education and Schools in Bulgaria

Bulgarian society has traditionally highlighted the importance of education. Educational reforms over the years have improved the schooling system and increased the standard of education in the country dramatically. 

Despite this, most expats send their children to international schools as Bulgarian is the language of instruction in the public schooling system. 


Public schools in Bulgaria

Public schools in Bulgaria are relatively inexpensive, and EU and EEA citizens have the right to attend public schools for free. This, as well as the quality of Bulgarian public schools, means that most local children go through the public schooling system. 

The Bulgarian legislature mandates that children must attend two years of preschool education. This makes schooling in Bulgaria compulsory from the ages of five to 16. There are four stages of schooling in Bulgaria – preschool, primary school, pre-secondary school and upper secondary school.


Private schools in Bulgaria

Increasingly, more private and specialist schools are being established in Bulgaria. 

The curriculum in Bulgaria’s private schools is influenced by the state, which mandates that certain core courses be taught. A handful of Bulgarian private schools offer bilingual education, while most private schools only offer lessons in Bulgarian. 


International schools in Bulgaria

Expats sending their children to international schools in Bulgaria will find that school fees are their highest expense. There are a few international schools in Bulgaria, most of which can be found in Sofia. 

International schools allow many expat students to continue learning from the curriculum that they studied in their home countries. International schools catering for German, American, French, British and Spanish curricula, as well as the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum can be found in Bulgaria.


Special-needs schools in Bulgaria 

Many laws have been put in place in Bulgaria to assist disabled children with their education. A committee evaluates the children to assess the degree of their needs, after which a decision is made whether the child will go to a mainstream or special-needs school.

Special-needs schools are generally for children with multiple learning disabilities, as these schools are more equipped to assist these children with their educational needs. All mainstream schools are required by the law to have facilities and teachers available to educate and accommodate disabled children. Children with less severe disabilities are therefore integrated into the mainstream schooling system in Bulgaria. 


Tutoring in Bulgaria 

There are many websites that register and advertise tutors in Bulgaria. Verbling, ApprentUs and TeachMe2 are three such websites on which expat parents are able to apply for a tutor. 

These private tutors can teach children online or at home, depending on what expats would prefer. They are able to assist children with learning the language, or any subjects in school in which the child may be struggling. Tutors can also be helpful in assisting children to adjust to their new curriculum, or language of instruction, if attending Bulgarian language schools. 

Transport and Driving in Bulgaria

Public transport in Bulgaria is dependent on rail and road services, which connect most of the country. Expats living in Bulgaria's cities will generally get around via bus and trolleybus networks. The capital, Sofia, also has a metro system.     

Apart from Plovdiv, the cycling paths in most cities are non-existent. Despite this, the number of cyclists is increasing and the state has promised to promote local biking culture by investing in cycling infrastructure.

Expats thinking of living in rural areas should consider buying a car, as these areas are generally not covered by public transport networks. 


Public transport in Bulgaria

Expats living in Bulgaria will be able to make use of its affordable and relatively efficient public transport network. Despite how extensive train and bus routes are, public transport is often slow moving.  

Trains

Rail networks connect most of the cities in Bulgaria. Most trains are operated by the state-owned Bulgarian State Railways. The country's trains are outdated by Western European standards and they may move at a pace that can frustrate expats used to faster services. 

International trains connect Bulgaria to the adjacent countries of Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Turkey and Serbia, with some coaches travelling to European countries farther afield.

International and inter-city train tickets can be bought both online and at train stations.

Buses

Buses are a safe, reasonably-priced and comfortable means of getting around. There are many bus routes serviced by a variety of bus companies. Long-distance buses are a common means of internal travel and international bus routes travel to cities such as Skopje, Belgrad and Istanbul. 

Bus tickets can be bought at bus stations, at bus company offices and, depending on the company, online. Expats may also be able to buy tickets once on the bus, but it is recommended to buy the ticket in advance. Bus schedules and routes are typically displayed in Cyrillic, which can be challenging for expats who can't read the alphabet. 


Taxis in Bulgaria

Taxi companies operate in most cities but can be scarce in rural areas. New arrivals should be careful of taxis that offer fixed rates and don’t use a taximeter. These drivers may be overcharging for their service. 

Rideshare apps such as Uber and Lyft do not operate in Bulgaria, but taxi apps such as TaxiMe, Maxim and Taxistars enable expats to book a taxi service through their phones. As expats can set their routes through these apps, they allow travellers to bypass any language issues, while also providing an estimate of fare costs. 


Driving in Bulgaria

Foreign residents who don't live near public transport might need to consider buying a car. The country has a large second-hand car market, and a variety of car makes are available at a cheaper cost than in most EU countries.  

Finding parking in cities like Sofia can be challenging and expats might need to rent a parking space, which can be expensive. 

To drive in Bulgaria, expats will need a translation of their driver’s licence or, ideally, an International Driving Permit. This will be valid for one year, after which it’s necessary to obtain a Bulgarian driver’s licence.


Cycling in Bulgaria

Although cycling on highways can be dangerous, Bulgaria is famed for its cross-country cycling routes. 

Despite not having a widespread cycling culture, cycling is becoming increasingly popular. The state has pledged to make cycling safer in urban centres. Currently, most cities, except Plovdiv, lack key cycling infrastructure.

Banking, Money and Taxes in Bulgaria

While banks are relatively sophisticated and offer an array of services, Bulgaria is infamous for its paperwork-intensive bureaucracy. This, as well as the lack of English translation and services, are some of the challenges that expats may face when it comes to banking and paying taxes in Bulgaria. 


Money in Bulgaria

Bulgaria’s official currency is the Bulgarian lev, which is abbreviated as BGN. Despite being a part of the EU, Bulgaria is not part of the Eurozone, which is the group of countries that use the Euro currency, and it therefore has its own currency.   

The lev is subdivided into 100 stotinki. The value of the lev is pegged to the Euro at a rate of around 1.96 to 1. Bulgaria’s banking system and currency is regulated by the Bulgarian National Bank.

  • Notes: 1 BGN, 2 BGN, 5 BGN, 10 BGN, 20 BGN, 50 BGN and 100 BGN
  • Coins: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 stotinki; 1 BGN and 2 BGN

Banking in Bulgaria

Although there aren't many international banks operating in Bulgaria, local banks are run efficiently and with a focus on customer service. Reliable Bulgarian banks include Raiffeisen, UniCredit Bulbank, DSK and Postbank. Banks are typically open from Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm. All four of these banks offer mobile and online banking services. 

Opening a bank account

Both residents and non-residents of Bulgaria can open a bank account. As most documents aren’t available in English, completing the paperwork required to open a bank account can be a challenge.

Expats opening a bank account in Bulgaria will need their passport or national ID card, an address to send correspondence to and a minimum deposit amount. Bank cards can be collected or delivered to the specified address, typically within one week of opening an account.  

ATMs and credit cards

ATMs are common in Bulgarian cities, but they may be limited in rural areas and villages. Expats can use any ATM, irrespective of which bank they belong to, but withdrawal fees will be higher from other banks’ ATMs.

Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted in Bulgarian cities, but this is not the case in smaller villages, in which cash payments are the norm. Currency can be exchanged at banks and bureaux de change are widely available in cities. 


Taxes in Bulgaria

The Bulgarian tax year follows the calendar year. Expats will be considered Bulgarian tax residents if they have been in the country for more than 183 days in any 12-month period. Tax residents in Bulgaria will have their worldwide personal income taxed at a flat rate of 10 percent.

Bulgarian companies often automatically deduct taxes from their employees’ salaries every month, saving their employees the hassle of paying taxes themselves.

Expat Experiences in Bulgaria

When considering a move to a new country, there is nothing more useful than hearing real-life stories and experiences from other expats who have lived there. We'd love to hear about your expat experiences. Please contact us if you live or have lived in Bulgaria and would like to share your story.


Claire, a British expat living in a village outside of Sofia, moved to Bulgaria to purchase property in 2011. Claire works from home and enjoys 'fixing-up' her home and growing vegetables with her partner. Read her insights into expat life in Bulgaria.

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Lorraine King is a British expat who moved to a Bulgarian village with her husband a few years ago. They moved there to retire and Lorraine says the key to settling in well is to do your research before relocating. Read more about her experiences of moving to Bulgaria.