Traveling to Bulgaria nowadays might seem quite complicated but actually, it is not if you know these simple things about entry conditions in this country.
In this article, I will tell you all you need to know about visa requirements, COVID-19 testing, and some useful tips for visiting this amazing country from the Balkan Peninsula.
As the rules are constantly changing we advise you to check the latest updates about entry requirements on official government sites owned by the Bulgarian Republic.
Let’s start with the beginning and discuss the visa requirements for entering Bulgaria, no matter where you are coming from.
Visa requirement for Bulgaria
When traveling in Bulgaria from other European Union countries members of the Schengen area are allowed to enter the country with no visa.
Traveling to Bulgaria
The citizens from other Schengen areas are allowed to enter and reside in Bulgaria for 90 days in a period of 6 months from the date of the first entry.
In 2014, the Bulgarian authorities adopted a law according to which the citizens from Romania, Croatia, and Cyprus are allowed to enter Bulgaria without any visa and stay for up to 90 days.
You don’t need to have a valid passport to enter Bulgaria, but a valid ID card is required by the border authorities.
For citizens from any other country from the whole world, there are 3 types of visas:
- visa A for airport transit
- visa C for a short stay
- visa D for long stay
In order to get your visa for traveling to Bulgaria, you need to have a passport valid for at least 3 months after the date of the last scheduled date of departure from the Bulgarian territory.
The passport should have at least 2 blank pages for visa purposes and the issue date should not the more than 10 years.
In order to get your visa for Bulgaria, you need to submit a form no earlier than 3 months from the date of entering the country and should be accompanied by:
- Photocopy after the 1st page of your travel document
- Medical insurance is valid for the EU member states for the whole period of your trip
- Tickets or ticket booking confirmation
- a copy after your last Schengen or Bulgarian visas for US and UK citizens if any
- a full-color photograph with the following dimensions: 3.5 cm x 4.5 cm
- copy of the technical passport of the car of the trip
- if you travel with minor children without their parents make sure you have with you a copy of the birth certificate and an original and photocopy of a legalized document that proves that parents agree to let their kid travel without being accompanied by them.
Travel insurance for travel Bulgaria
If you apply for a visa then you need to know that the Bulgarian authorities ask for medical insurance that covers medical expenses up to 30,000 Euro and the validity of the policy should be at least the same as the time spends in Bulgaria.
The COVID-19 related expenses will not be covered by most of the travel insurance companies if you travel to Bulgaria against the advice of the World Health Organization or the advice of the government of the country you are a resident of or the Bulgarian authorities.
Travel without worries during COVID-19
- trip interruption -up to $5.000
- medical assistance including COVID-19
- travel delay - up to $100/day
- emergency medical evacuation
- medical safety abroad
COVID 19 and Bulgaria Travel restrictions
Traveling to Bulgaria during these times full of uncertainty might prove to be challenging and complicated and you definitely have to follow some rules to be allowed to enter Bulgaria and the requirements to present the documents mentioned below.
So, if you come from other European countries you are allowed to enter Bulgaria if you have an EU Digital COVID Certificate that states one of the following:
- the proof of COVID-19 vaccine valid from 14 days after the second dose or after the first dose if you take a one-shot vaccine
- the proof that you recovered from COVID-19 valid for 180 days
- negative result of a PCR or rapid antigen test. The negative PCR test should be 72 hours prior to arrival, while for rapid antigen test is 48 hours prior to arrival.
But sometimes the EU vaccination certificate is not enough to enter the country; you have to know that Bulgarians have adopted their own red, orange and green list of the countries.
The classification is made based on the number of COVID-19 cases recorded in that country in the last month.
So, if you are traveling from an “Orange” country or “Green” country then your EU Digital COVID certificate is enough to enter the country as per entry requirements, while arriving from a red list country requires not just the COVID certificate but also a negative PCR test made 72 hours before entering the country.
Can I travel to Bulgaria from non-EU countries?
If you are traveling to Bulgaria from outside the European Union and if you are traveling from Bulgaria from UK then you have to obey the following rules (Bulgaria travel restrictions):
- if you come from an Orange list or a Green list country then you need a rapid antigen test 48 hours prior to entering the country
- if you travel from a Red list country you need a PCR test 72 hours before you enter Bulgaria.
There is one exception to these rules and here I am talking about Romania; there is a mutual agreement between these two countries based on which the citizens of these countries can visit them without showing any proof of vaccination, PCR test or rapid antigen test result.
All they need is their ID card and some money to spend during their holiday and all the formalities related to COVID 19 are history.
Bulgaria travel advice for a great holiday
1. Get Leva to pay your expenses
The official currency of the country is the leva, but dollars and euros are widely accepted even though the exchange rate used is not the best for you.
You can get leva from the bank or exchange offices or you can withdraw money from ATMs available all across the country.
We strongly advise you not to exchange money in the airport or at the exchange offices from the borders as the rates used are poor for you.
The best way to get Leva is to withdraw money from ATMs especially if you have debit or credit cards with 0 commission or to go to the bank offices.
The main downside of going to the bank to get Leva is the time you lose waiting in the queue and the fact that not all bank employees speak English so communication might be a little difficult sometimes.
Most of the shops, restaurants, museums and bars accept the euro or dollar but the exchange rate is poor and you will end up losing money, so that is why we strongly recommend you to get leva.
The good news is that most of the tourist attractions, restaurants, and bars accept card payments so you don’t have to withdraw a large amount of money if you plan to stay in the tourist places.
2. Always carry some cash with you
It’s good to have cash with you especially if you want to buy souvenirs, or if you plan to explore the country on your own and go to less touristy places.
Not all villages have ATMs and definitely not all shops and restaurants have POS so it is good to have some cash with you when traveling to Bulgaria.
If you want to buy a magnet or a glass of water you definitely need to have some cash because no shop from Bulgaria accepts your card for small amounts.
3. Leave a tip to waiters, bartenders, and taxi drivers
While speaking about money, don’t forget to tip when in Bulgaria as locals wait for tips at restaurants, taxi drivers, bartenders or tour guides.
For restaurants, it is OK to tip around 10% of the total value of the bill, while taxi drivers expect to round up the price of your trip.
As for tour guides, you can tip them depending on the length of the tour, the expertise of the person, and the difficulty of the tour.
And you might be surprised, but every person that helps you with something expect to receive a tip including the guy from the gas station who helps you fill your tank.
4. Rent a car to explore the area
Bulgaria has many beautiful places and a lot of things to do and the best way to get to each of these places is by car, as public transport is not very reliable.
There are trains and buses that connect the most important cities from the whole country, but if you want to get to small towns and villages you need to change trains and buses which is not very comfortable and easy sometimes.
It is true that public transport is extremely cheap, but it is not very comfortable and reliable as delays are quite frequent.
Rented cars offer you the freedom and mobility needed for exploring the country and the prices are quite affordable.
The road conditions are quite good, but be careful and follow the rules as most of the roads across villages and towns so extra caution is needed.
Get the best price for your car rental today
5. Try local dishes as they are delicious
The food is extremely tasty, but never ask for the origin of the dishes as you might end up in a tough conversation about the origins of food.
You definitely have to try the salads and the pita bread with cheese, as well as mish-mash, mousaka, pulneni chushki or sarmi, some of the tastiest dishes from Bulgaria with arguable origins.
Besides the main dishes and the salads, there is a wide range of soups and desserts which to try to refresh your spirit.
The food is plentiful and delicious and generally, there are quite big portions so don’t order many dishes unless you are extremely hungry.
6. Drinks are cheap and tasty- try them all
There are many types of local drinks to try when in Bulgaria and the good news is that not just food but also drinks are extremely cheap for Europeans.
The most popular drink to try when in Bulgaria is definitely rakia which can be made from grapes, plums, figs or other sweet fruits.
Rakia is extremely strong, and generally, homemade rakia might have up to 90% alcohol, while the ones from the stores have around 40% alcohol.
There are many local craft beers to try when in Bulgaria and you can even visit some distilleries on your Bulgarian tour.
7. Take a tour of the most beautiful cities in Bulgaria
There are many beautiful places to see in Bulgaria including cities, monasteries, natural attractions, rivers, mountains, and Black Sea Coast.
The most popular city is Sofia, the capital of the country and probably your starting point for your expedition across the country.
Book a free guided tour to discover the beauty of the city, its amazing architecture and beautiful restaurants, as well as the impressive churches and amazing plazas where to relax and enjoy your time spent abroad.
Traveling to Bulgaria should also include a stop to Plovdiv, Melnik, Koprivshtitsa, Veliko Tarnovo, Bansko Sozopol, and Burgas.
These towns are spread all across the country but they are representative of the culture and the history of the country.
8. Learn some basics about the Bulgarian language
Wherever you go it is good to know a few words in the local language so we strongly encourage you to learn some elementary words in Bulgarian before you go.
Most of the young generation speak English, while the elder ones know only Bulgarian and some of them know Russian.
Bulgaria has the Cyrillic alphabet and in schools, people were taught Russian so finding elder people speaking English might prove to be a complicated thing.
9. Buy some rose oil products souvenirs
Bulgaria is the main producer of rose oil from the whole world, producing more than 75% of total rose oil production.
If you are passionate about roses then we recommend you to head to Rose Valley from the Kanalak region.
Soap, hand cream, or body cream with rose oil as well as Turkish delight with roses are the most common gifts to buy as souvenirs.
All souvenir shops and markets from the country sell rose oil products so you definitely have to buy some for your friends and family and even for you to remind you about the moments spend in this country.
10. Sleep in a 5-star hotel as it is cheap
Food, drinks, hotels, and souvenirs are extremely cheap in Bulgaria, so this country is suitable for every budget because of its great price-quality ratio.
You definitely have to sleep in a 5-star hotel as here you will find the best rates from entire Europe, friendly staff and amazing facilities, not to mention the good quality of the toiletries, foods, and drinks you get at all-inclusive option.
For the complete list of the best-rated hotels from Bulgaria where to spend at least one night check our article 7 amazing resorts for the perfect beach holidays to Bulgaria and pick the one you like most.
Bulgaria is a beautiful country from Eastern Europe suitable for every budget that hides many interesting attractions and beautiful places.
The best way to explore this country is with a rented car and a designated tour across the country that includes not just the beach but also the mountains, the lakes, and the canyons.
Book at least 10 days for exploring this country as it is cheap, beautiful, and extremely close to the main European countries.
Logistical tips and tricks for your trip
Book your accommodation
We always use Booking.com as they have the best price-quality ratio and they offer a wide range of hotels, guesthouses, apartments, and villas to choose from.
You will find here all types of accommodations, from the cheapest ones to the most luxurious.
Don't forget travel insurance
Travel insurance will always protect you against unexpected events and cost like illness, COVID, injury, theft, or travel cancellation.
We never go on any trip without travel insurance and there were many cases when we had to use it.
Renting a car
We like to explore a country on our own and a car gives us the mobility and freedom to do that.
We always rent our car from Discovercars as they have free cancellation 48 hours prior to starting date and a wide range of car rental companies and options to choose from all over the world.
Tours and attractions
When we are looking for some adventure or we simply want to break up the monotony and discover new places, we always use GetYourGuide.
We love it because we always find the most amazing experiences, with free cancellation and a large variety of activities and tours to choose from.
Airplane tickets and holiday packages
Expedia is our ally when searching for the best price for airplane tickets as it works as an aggregator for a huge number of airlines and we always find the best price for our flights.
Travel tip: use Expedia when you are searching for holiday packages as they have many last-minute offers and great discounts for hotels, flights, and even the whole holiday packages.