Road Conditions and Safety: The Bulgarian road system is largely underdeveloped.
- Roads are in poor repair and full of potholes.
- Rockslides and landslides are common on mountainous roads.
- Livestock and animal-drawn carts are common on roads, especially during agricultural seasons.
- In winter, roads are icy and potholes proliferate.
- Some roads lack pavement markings and lights.
- Motorists often drive with dim or missing headlights
Traffic Laws: Driving in Bulgaria is dangerous. Aggressive driving habits, lack of safe infrastructure, and a mixture of late model and old model cars on the country?s highways contribute to a high fatality rate in road accidents.
- A U.S. state driver?s license is only valid in Bulgaria when used in conjunction with an International Driving Permit. Such permits must be obtained in the United States prior to travel. Following recent enhanced police enforcement, most rental car companies now require international driving permits to rent cars to U.S. state driver?s license-holders.
- Avoid confrontations with aggressive drivers. Drivers are known to speed, swerve into oncoming traffic or go the wrong way on divided highways.
- Traffic lights late at night blink yellow in all directions, leaving the right-of-way unclear and contributing to frequent accidents.
- Heavy truck traffic creates numerous hazards along the two-lane routes from the Greek border at Kulata going to Sofia, and from the Turkish border at Kapitan Andreevo to Plovdiv. Expect long delays at border crossings.
- If pulled over by a police officer, be aware that under Bulgarian law the police officers may not collect fines on the spot, but may confiscate your driver?s license depending on the offense.
- Right turns on red lights are not permitted.
- Keep your headlights on at all times no matter the time of day or weather.
- At unregulated crossings, the driver on the right has the legal right-of-way, but this rule is frequently ignored.
- The use of seat belts is mandatory in Bulgaria for all passengers.
- Drivers may be charged with driving under the influence of alcohol with a blood level as low as 0.05 percent. The penalties for drivers involved in an accident resulting in injury or death range from a US $25 fine to life imprisonment.
- Check out Bulgaria?s Ministry of Interior?s road rules guide.
Public Transportation: Sofia?s metro system and the extensive bus network are reliable modes of transportation. Taxi cabs are also plentiful but are known to overcharge passengers. Do insist on use of the meter when using a taxi cab.
See our Road Safety page for more information. For specific information concerning Bulgarian driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance, please visit the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Visit the European Commission site for latest information on speed limits, traffic fines and regulations.
Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Bulgaria?s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Bulgaria?s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA?s safety assessment page.
Maritime Travel: Mariners planning travel to Bulgaria should also check for U.S. maritime advisories and alerts. Information may also be posted to the U.S. Coast Guard homeport website, and the NGA broadcast warnings.
- Adequate health facilities are available in major cities, but health care in rural areas may be below U.S. standards.
- Hospitals and doctors require payment ?up front? prior to service or admission. Credit card payment is not always available.
- Medical staff may speak little or no English.
- Not every hospital/clinic in equipped for pediatric care. If you are in need of emergency services for an infant/child, please call ahead to ensure those services are available.
For emergency services in Bulgaria, dial 112.
Ambulance services are widely available but training and availability of emergency responders may be below U.S. standards.
We do not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare/Medicaid does not apply overseas. Most hospitals and doctors overseas do not accept U.S. health insurance.
Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage. Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more information on type of insurance you should consider before you travel overseas.
We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.
Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor?s prescription. Check with Bulgaria?s Customs Agency to ensure the medication is legal in Bulgaria.
Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Further health information:
Air Quality: Visit AirNow Department of State on air quality at U.S. Embassies and Consulates.
- The air quality varies considerably and fluctuates with the seasons. It is typically at its worst in the winter. People at the greatest risk from particle pollution exposure include:
- Infants, children, and teens
- People over 65 years of age
- People with lung disease such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema;
- People with heart disease or diabetes
- People who work or are active outdoors
The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of doctors and hospitals list of hospitals and physicians in Bulgaria.
We do not endorse or recommend any specific medical provider or clinic.
Local laws and Special Circumstances
Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Individuals establishing a business or practicing a profession that requires additional permits or licensing should seek information from the competent local authorities, prior to practicing or operating a business.
Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. See our webpage for further information.
- Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Bulgaria are severe; convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
- Driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail.
- Bulgarian law enforcement authorities may take you in for questioning if you take pictures of certain government buildings, embassies, or military facilities.
Special Circumstances: Bulgaria is still largely a cash economy.
- You may exchange money at local banks or exchange bureaus. Be wary of people on streets offering to exchange money, they are usually con artists who intend to swindle unsuspecting travelers.
- Damaged or worn U.S. dollar bank notes are often rejected at banks or exchange bureaus.
- Most shops, hotels, and restaurants do not accept traveler’s checks or credit cards. Local banks such as Unicredit, Bulbank, Bulgarian Postbank, and United Bulgarian Bank (UBB) can cash travelers? checks.
Corruption remains an important concern of the Bulgarian government. You may refer complaints of public corruption by e-mail to the Ministry of Justice at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone to +359 2 987 0697. All grievances must be submitted in the Bulgarian language.
If you plan to import an automobile to Bulgaria, be aware that customs duties on personal vehicles can be high. All documents must be originals or certified copies and contain an apostille. See more information on the Bulgarian Customs Agency website.
Counterfeit and Pirated Goods: Although counterfeit and pirated goods are prevalent in many countries, they may still be illegal according to local laws. You may also pay fines or have to give them up if you bring them back to the United States. See the U.S. Department of Justice website for more information.
Faith-Based Travelers: See the following webpages for details:
- Faith-Based Travel Information
- International Religious Freedom Report ? see country reports
- Human Rights Report ? see country reports
- Hajj Fact Sheet for Travelers
- Best Practices for Volunteering Abroad
LGBTI Travelers: There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI events in Bulgaria. However, LGBTI individuals are stigmatized by society in Bulgaria and societal discrimination against LGBTI individuals is widespread. LGBTI individuals engaging in public displays of affection may attract unwelcome attention or harassment.
Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: Bulgarian law requires improved access to buildings for persons with disabilities and new public projects take this requirement into account; however, this law is rarely enforced in older buildings.
Bulgarian law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical and mental disabilities in employment, education, and access to health care. Societal discrimination persists against persons with disabilities.
Commuting in Bulgaria is very difficult for disabled individuals. Buses, trams, and trolleys generally lack accommodation for disabled travelers. The Sofia metro is the most accessible system for disabled individuals, but its transportation network is limited. Disabled travelers should consider traveling with a friend or family member who can assist them in navigating the transportation systems in Bulgaria.
Women Travelers: See our travel tips for Women Travelers.
Safety and Security
Terrorism: Terrorist groups and those inspired by such organizations are intent on attacking U.S. citizens abroad. Terrorists are increasingly using less sophisticated methods of attack ? including knives, firearms, and vehicles ? to more effectively target crowds. Frequently, their aim is unprotected or vulnerable targets, such as:
- High-profile public events (sporting contests, political rallies, demonstrations, holiday events, celebratory gatherings, etc.)
- Hotels, clubs, and restaurants frequented by tourists
- Places of worship
- Shopping malls and markets
- Public transportation systems (including subways, buses, trains, and scheduled commercial flights)
For more information, see our Terrorism page.
Crime: ATM skimming, credit card fraud, and traffic incidents remain the most common threats to U.S. citizens in Bulgaria. The majority of incidents involving U.S. citizens are monetary in nature, though incidents of racism, ethnic slurs, and harassment of African Americans and religious minorities have occurred. Report crimes to the police by dialing 112.
- Pick-pocketing and purse snatching are frequent occurrences, especially in crowded markets, on shopping streets, near airport ATMs and aboard the busy tram and bus lines. Con artists often operate on public transportation and in bus and train stations.
- Use caution at ATMs. Be wary of people who approach you at an ATM and offer assistance. Do not give your PIN to anyone under any circumstances.
- Travelers should be suspicious of ?instant friends? and should also ask persons claiming to be government officials to provide identification.
- Police stations should provide translators for anyone who needs to report a crime, but will often require the victim to return at a later time or bring his/her own translator.
- Pay special attention to the drink prices at high-end bars and nightclubs. Travelers have been charged exorbitant prices, especially for champagne and hard alcohol. Bills have been as high as several thousand dollars for drinks, and in some establishments, the management used force to secure payment.
- Use taxis with meters and clearly marked rates displayed on a sticker on the passenger side of the windshield. Taxi drivers are known to overcharge unwary travelers particularly at Sofia Airport, the Central Train Station, and at Black Sea resort areas. The airport has a clearly marked exit within the arrival terminal that leads travelers to metered taxis at a fair rate and a booth to assist with obtaining taxi services. Inquire about the fare before entering a taxi and always account for all luggage, packages, and hand-carried items before paying and releasing a taxi.
- Automobile theft and break-ins are common in residential areas and in parks. Four-wheel-drive vehicles and late-model European sedans are the most popular targets.
- Burglary is a common crime. If you plan to reside in Bulgaria on a long-term basis, take measures to protect your home and consider installing window grilles, steel doors with well-functioning locks, and an alarm system.
The emergency telephone number in Bulgaria is 112 for police, fire, and ambulance services.
Demonstrations may take place in response to political or economic issues, on politically significant holidays, and during international events.
- Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly become violent.
- Avoid areas around protests and demonstrations.
- Check local media for updates and traffic advisories.
Victims of Crime: U.S. citizen victims of sexual assault are encouraged to contact the U.S. Embassy for assistance. Report crimes to the local police at 112 and contact the U.S. Embassy at + (359) (2) 937-5101. Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crime.
See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.
- Help you find appropriate medical care
- Assist you in reporting a crime to the police
- Contact relatives or friends with your written consent
- Provide general information regarding the victim?s role during the local investigation and following its conclusion
- Provide a list of local attorneys
- Provide our information on victim?s compensation programs in the U.S.
- Provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution
- Help you find accommodation and arrange flights home
- Replace a stolen or lost passport
Tourism: The tourism industry is generally regulated and rules with regards to best practices and safety inspections are regularly enforced. Hazardous areas/activities are identified with appropriate signage and professional staff is typically on hand in support of organized activities. In the event of an injury, appropriate medical treatment is widely available throughout the country. Outside of a major metropolitan center, it may take more time for first responders and medical professionals to stabilize a patient and provide life-saving assistance. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase local insurance that covers search and rescue, medical assistance and transportation by helicopter for the following types of sports: hunting, mountain biking, paragliding, rock climbing and alpinism as well as for winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding outside marked ski tracks; trekking expeditions outside established routes; amateur cross country skiing and biathlon competitions; snow kite and similar activities. U.S. citizens are also encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more information about Adventure Travel.
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence are encouraged to contact the Embassy for assistance.
For further information:
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Call us in Washington at 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
- See the State Department’s travel website for the Worldwide Caution, Travel Advisories, and Alerts.
- Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
- See traveling safely abroad for useful travel tips.
Entry exit Requirementsh
A valid U.S. passport is required for U.S. citizens. Your U.S. passport must be valid for at least three (3) months from the expected date of departure from Bulgaria. U.S. citizens traveling on regular tourist passports may stay in Bulgaria for a total of 90 days within 6 months without a Bulgarian visa. This law is strictly enforced. Travelers who have been in the country for 90 days and then leave will not be able to re-enter Bulgaria without a visa before the six-month period expires.
U.S. official and diplomatic passport holders must obtain a Bulgarian visa prior to arrival. If you are traveling on a U.S. official or diplomatic passport, you will not be allowed to enter Bulgaria without a visa. Please plan and apply for your visa early.
- Visit the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs or Bulgarian Embassy website for the most current visa information.
- Carry your U.S. passport at all times or a Bulgarian residence permit, known in Bulgaria as lichna karta. U.S. passport cards are recognized as proof of citizenship and identity but are not sufficient for international air travel to and from Bulgaria.
Visitors are required to maintain medical insurance for the duration of stay in Bulgaria. You may be required to present proof of medical insurance at the port of entry.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Bulgaria.
Bulgaria strictly enforces Bulgarian regulations for minors traveling internationally with only one parent or another adult. Bulgarian parental consent regulations apply to minor children who have Bulgarian citizenship, as well as dual citizen minor children entering and exiting Bulgaria on U.S. passports. Parents should consult the Bulgarian Embassy in the United States for detailed information about the requirements. For further questions, you may also contact the American Citizen Services Unit at the U.S. Embassy in Sofia (ACS_Sofia@state.gov).
See the Department of State?s Fact Sheet on Bulgaria for information on U.S. – Bulgaria relations.