Passports and Visas
All passengers require a machine-readable passport valid for six months beyond the conclusion of their trip, with appropriate visas. You should carry your passport with you at all times to ensure against its loss or theft in hotels. Check with the Bulgarian Consulate to determine if any visas are needed. This information is a guide only and it is essential that you check all current passport and visa rules with your travel agent before departure.
Bulgaria uses the Bulgarian lev, which is equal to 100 stotinki. You can change US dollars at banks and currency exchange agencies for the best rates, hotels and some shops can also change them for you, but the rate will likely be much higher. ATMs, available in most cities, are also an efficient way to get money in the local currency. Credit cards are generally accepted in the major cities, but transactions in rural Bulgaria are usually done in cash.
Bulgaria has 230 V at 50 Hz, with a type C or F socket. America's electrical currents are 120 V at 60 Hz, with a type A or B socket, so you'll need a converter and an adapter.
Wireless and wired Internet access is widely available in major cities throughout Bulgaria. Some of the hotels we use offer this service free or at a small charge. Internet cafés in the main cities will allow you access, usually for a small charge. Wi-fi access is on the rise in Bulgaria, where it is often available in public areas, parks, cafes, pubs and restaurants in the urban centers.
Phoning home from another country can be expensive. All hotels will add a service charge to the cost of any phone calls you make from your room. This charge can be very high. It is always cheaper for you to use public telephones (payphones) if your cell phone is not set for international calls. Your Travel Director can explain how to dial internationally if you are unsure.
In the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, shopping is an art form. Wander through the eye-catching multilevel shopping malls or roam the markets that are filled with old-fashioned souvenirs. Bulgarian handicrafts often showcase national pride. Look for fine examples of wood crafts, colorful embroidered tablecloths, silver jewelry, leather goods, musical instruments and dolls dressed up in national costumes.
For Bulgarian fashion to wear at home, the shops in Varna and along the Black Sea coast are famous for their well-priced designer labels and high style. Bulgarian wine, especially from Melnik, and fruit brandies called rakia are always appreciated gifts to bring back, or to keep on hand and serve for special occasions.
We suggest the following tipping rates: Taxis 10-15% of the fare on the meter, Restaurants and bars 10-15% of the total bill. If a service charge has already been added there is no need to tip as much or at all.
As with most of Europe, traveling within cities and towns can be easily done on foot, by bus, train or taxi. If your travel plans include two or more cities, bus and rail networks will get you to and from quickly and efficiently. Domestic flights are another affordable alternative, as are boat and hydrofoil services along the River Danube and the Black Sea coast. Poor road quality and questionable driving standards make rental cars more of a last-resort option.
Generally, casual jeans or slacks, shirts, sweaters, a jacket and comfortable walking shoes are all you'll need. If you plan on an evening at a nicer venue, dressier clothes may be called for.