Bulgaria Travel Advice
Security travel advice for Bulgaria
How safe is Bulgaria?
Threat level: Low
COVID-19 Situation Update in Bulgaria
Due to the pandemic around the world and the sanitary situation in Bulgaria, an emergency epidemic situation has been declared in Bulgaria that will be effective until the 30th of April. As a resulf ot this, a series of measures have been implemented: the use of facemasks is mandatory in enclosed public places and when social distancing rules of 1.5m can't be respected, public venues such as restaurants, bars and cafes must operate at reduced capacity, gatherings of more than 15 people are banned and commercial flights are operating at a reduced level. When travelling to Bulgaria, travellers must present a negative PCR test, taken no more than 72 hours prior to arrival to avoid a 10-day quarantine period. To limit contagion, apply good hygiene precautions, maintain social distancing, avoid travel unless necessary and avoid public gatherings.
Recent Security Risk Events
The general travel advice for Bulgaria is to remain vigilant. Bulgaria has a rather low terror threat but crime rates are rather high in certain parts, including tourist hotspots; the main one being Sunny Beach. There has been an increase in burglaries from hotel rooms in this area and assaults during the night where the majority of the roads are dimly lit.
Bulgaria has some issues with organised crime, muggings often occur in the countries brothels. Young male tourists in particular have recently reported being lured into a sense of false comfort by prostitutes and then being attacked by teams of males, having their valuables stolen from them. Prostitution is not illegal in Bulgaria and the travel advice to avoid these services nevertheless.
Groups of children are often pickpocket gangs, who often operate in the cities of Sofia and Varna. Criminals such as bag slashers, may cut tourists purse straps on public transport to steal their valuables. Petty crime like this, is quite common in Bulgaria and tourists are often prime targets.
Most travellers in Bulgaria should have no trouble if they follow sensible precautions, such as keeping valuables out of the public eye, avoiding busy cramped areas, and locking important travel documents in your hotel safe.
The Gypsy community in Bulgaria represents some security concern in the country. Not all the gypsies in the country are bad news, and the majority of them just want to mind their own business. It is only a small minority of this community who are involved with crimes against tourists. The crimes they commit range vastly, but mainly consist of muggings and trying to sell tourists fake goods, including cheap tickets to various events that are popular among tourists.
Wild dogs are common in Bulgaria and can be vicious. Stay as far away as possible from wild dogs, they are often in packs and can present a serious threat to life.
Bulgaria's International Relations
Bulgaria has good diplomatic relations with its neighbouring countries, such as Romania and Greece. The country is also a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the United Nations (non-permanent member).
Travelling around Bulgaria
When travelling by car in Bulgaria, British nationals do not need an International Driving Permit (IDP) but a motor insurance green card issued by their car insurer is required to drive a UK-registered car in the EU.
Remain vigilant when driving in Bulgaria, as road travel is known to be quite hazardous, due to aggressive road users that are inconsiderate of other drivers, as well as speeding and poor road conditions. In some rural areas, animals are a common cause of many road accidents, so be cautious when driving, especially at night. It is a legal requirement to drive with head lights or dipped beam headlights throughout the year, even during the daytime.
Public transportation is in general poor when compared to Western countries, in particular rail services. Inner-city buses are the most popular form of transport, because they are frequent, comfortable and relatively fast.
Commercial Travel Risk Services
Intelligent Protection International Limited provides companies and organisations with Commercial Travel Risk Services designed to mitigate risks of staff when they travel for business. If you are interested in these services, please see: Commercial Travel Risk Services.
Emergency services in Bulgaria
Police emergency: 166
Fire emergency: 160
Medical emergency: 150
Religion: Christianity (Bulgarian Orthodox)
Currency: Bulgarian Lev (BGN)
Time now in Sofia:
Consular information for Bulgaria
16, Kozyak St,
Telephone: +359 2 937 5100
British Embassy Sofia
9, Moskovska St,
Telephone: +359 2 933 9222
Visa requirements for Bulgaria
British Passport holders do not require a visa to enter Bulgaria. Note that as the UK is no longer part of the EU, British nationals can travel without a visa to countries in the Schengen area for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. However, to stay longer than 90 days in Bulgaria whether for work, study, business travel or any other reasons, a visa will be required. Please note that visits to other Schengen countries within the previous 180 days will be cumulative and will count towards the 90-day limit.
US citizens are required to obtain a visa prior to travel. For stays of longer than 3 months, you will need to register with the police and get a permit.
For further information, see: Bulgaria visa requirements
Healthcare and Immunisations
It is advised that visitors to Bulgaria are up-to-date with primary boosters such as MMR. It is further recommended that most travellers get Tetanus and Hepatitis A vaccinations. You may also want to consider vaccinations for Hepatitis B and Tick-borne Encephalitis. Check with your local health professional prior to travel, if you are unsure.
In January 2014, there were two outbreaks of trichinosis in the Plovdiv area. Trichinosis is a parasitic disease caused by eating undercooked, or raw infected pork, or wild game.
Facilities in most Bulgarian hospitals are basic and old-fashioned, compared to those in the EU and US. Standards of medical care are acceptable, although specialised equipment and treatment may not be available. Hospital staff rarely speak English.
Private clinics and hospitals are generally well-equipped and not expensive, in comparison with the EU and US. Some private hospitals will not accept the EHIC Card. Check with hospital administrators on arrival. Ensure appropriate Travel and Health Insurance is in place before travelling.
If you are a British citizen, your UK EHIC card remains valid when travelling to an EU country until it expires, providing access to state-provided healthcare in Bulgaria. After that, British citizens must apply for a UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) which will cover them for state-provided healthcare in the EU. Nevertheless, you will be required to show proof on arrival that you have travel insurance for your trip.