Bulgaria turned out to be one of my favorite countries in the world. I went without any expectations and was blown away by the country’s affordability, amiable locals, incredible history, scenery, beaches, and nightlife. Everything about this country was a win. This travel guide can help you plan your trip to one of the most underrated countries on the continent. You should definitely plan to visit this country – you won’t be disappointed!
Destination Guides for Bulgaria
Accommodation – Hostel dorms range in price from 12-18 BGN, while privates are generally between 27-36 BGN for a single or double room. A budget hotel really varies depending on what you’re looking for and the location, 36-70 BGN. Renting a room in a private home is your best value for as cheap as 26 PGN for a pretty legit spot.
Food – You can buy a hamburger for about 2.5 BGN or have a Mac menu for 9 BGN. If you want to eat something more local, try banica (made of dough, cheese and butter) for just 1.3 BGN or a little bread with weenie named krenvirshka. There are a lot of street pavilions where you can buy a döner, a Turkish sandwich with chicken, vegetables and sauces, for 5.4 BGN. There are also many places where you can buy a slice of pizza for just a dollar or less.
Transportation – Public transportation in Bulgaria is extremely affordable. A local bus will cost between .45-1.3 BGN. Rail transport ranges in prices – for example, it would cost around 12.5 BGN to travel from Borgas to Sofia. Taxis have a starting price of 1.25 BGN, and are an affordable way to get around in a pinch.
Activities – Bulgaria is a very inexpensive country to visit. Many museums and attractions offer one free day of entry during the week, but even regular entrance prices around normally between 7-18 BGN.
Money Saving Tips
Avoid Sunny Beach – I don’t understand the appeal of a beach that’s so expensive and crowded with tourists. There are more beach chairs here than sand and it is expensive. Hit up one of the other coastal beaches instead.
Stay at Hostel Mostel – Staying at this hostel can lower your costs because not only do they offer free breakfast, but they also have free dinner (which also comes with a free beer). Basically, staying here gets you two meals a day. They have locations in Sofia, Plovdiv, and Veliko Tarnovo.
Eat at the bakeries – Bakeries in Bulgaria have a great, inexpensive range of pastries and foods which will fill you up in the morning. Two of my favorite snacks there are banica and krenvirshka.
Top Things to See and Do in Bulgaria
Hike in Rusenski Lom Nature Park and Ivanovo – This park has a nice hiking area and also contains a Rock Monastery with ancient frescoes, as well as a quaint village to explore.
Cross the Marvelous Bridges – The Marvelous Bridges are natural marble bridges that were formed by erosion in the Rhodope Mountains. The two bridges can be crossed on secure trails, and two tourist huts are located nearby. The site can be reached by an asphalt road and is about 20 miles from the closest town, Chepelare.
Visit Melnik and the Rozhen Monastery – The Rozhen monastery is a medieval Bulgarian monastery nearby, dating from 1259, with many intact frescos to view. Nearby, you can find a hiking area with sandstone ‘pyramids’ (rock formations from erosion). The region is also known for outstanding wine, wine that was preferred by Winston Churchill.
Step back in time in Old Plovdiv – This is a small, well-preserved area where visitors can take walks through different historical ages, see ancient buildings adapted to the modern way of life, and feel the spirit of this town dating back to Bulgarian Revival Period.
Relax in a Roman spa – This is a well-preserved ancient site, situated in the contemporary city of Varna. The Roman spa is the biggest social historical building discovered in Bulgaria to date.
Check out the Museum of Socialist Art – This is a new museum which showcases art from the socialist period (1944-1989). A large outdoor sculpture park contains everything from the giant statue of Lenin that once stood in the center of the city, to the red star that topped the socialist party headquarters. Smaller pieces reveal a gentler side to the socialist ideals. The gallery inside has some excellent examples of 20th century modern art as well as the socialist realism genre we know from the period.
Walk through Slaveikov Square – Here you can find a book market, and a special museum dedicated to Petko and Pencho Slaveikov, Bulgaria’s most famous poets.
Hike the Balkan Mountains – This mountain chain lends its name to the Balkan Peninsula. It stretches all along the country and is popular among the fans of the long-distance hiking trips. One of the famous European Long Distance Routes (E3) follows its main ridge all the way from the western border of the country to the seaside. One of the three national parks in Bulgaria, Central Balkan National Park, is situated here.
Hike the Rila Mountains – The highest point of the Balkans, Mount Musala (almost 10,000 feet), is situated in Rila. Beside it, the northwestern section of the mountain are a popular hiking destination, rich with nature, and cultural sights as the Seven Lakes Cirque, Skakavitsa Waterfall (the highest in Rila), Rila Monastery, and the area of Malyovitsa. Rila National Park, the biggest national park in Bulgaria, can be found here.
Visit Veliko Tarnovo – Once the capital of the medieval Bulgarian empire, Veliko Tarnovo is now a charming university town located in the mountains.
Explore Sofia – Sofia is Bulgaria’s dynamic capital city, an interesting mix of East and West. Come here for some good museums, beautiful Eastern Orthodox churches, and a splash of communist architecture.
Hit the beaches on the Black Sea – A 250 mile stretch of Bulgarian land lies along the Black Sea, and around a third of this is covered in nice sandy beaches. This is a very popular spot for resort packages, and can be crawling with tourists. I’m not a fan of Sunny Beach, but there are other more secluded beaches to check out as well.
Explore Nessebar – Nessebar is one of the oldest towns in Europe and is a recognized UNESCO Heritage Site. Tour the medieval churches, and wander amongst the wooden buildings that date back to the 19th-century revival period.
Unwind in Balchik – This is a quaint town on the coast of the Black Sea. It’s not a great beach location, but the area used to serve as the summer residence for the Queen of Romania. You can tour her palace and the botanical gardens which lie on the grounds.
Go skiing – If you come during the winter months, use the cold weather to your advantage, and hit the ski slopes. Bansko is one of the newer resorts in Bulgaria. Come to Bulgaria expecting an inexpensive ski holiday, not the quality of the Alps.