Here's a little list of tips we've compiled for living on the road in Bulgaria.
Bulgaria’s official national language is Bulgarian.
Bulgaria’s official currency is the Lev. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted. Be prepared to use cash in smaller towns and some petrol stations.
Drinking water is relatively easy to find, as taps along main roads will usually be marked with blue signs before them. It is also not uncommon to find drinking water in mountainous areas or outside restaurants. The water will not usually be marked as drinking or otherwise, but if it’s in a picnic area it will more than likely be fine.
“питейна вода” or “Piteĭna voda” means drinking water. Check out our map of water points here.
You can get post delivered to BGpost post offices in Romania by addressing it as До поискване or Poste Restante. Typically the post office will hold your package for between 20 - 40 days before returning it, and the Bulgarian customs will open and reseal every international package they receive. You must show ID such as your passport on collection.
The address format is as follows:
Street name, number
До поискване * / Poste Restante
* Until requested
Post office addresses should be written in Cyrillic although Latin letters are understood. If you opt to write the address in Latin letters you can alternately write Post Restante on the package. Addresses can be found on bgpost.bg which is available in English, although to find the address in Cyrillic you’ll have to switch to the Bulgarian site.
Diesel: Дизел (Dizel)
Petrol: A95 / A98
LPG: LPG, автогаз, Пропан бутан
There are is little infrastructure in Bulgaria, few supermarkets and sometimes no petrol stations for miles. There is little to no difference in fuel prices although the pricier garages tend to be Shell and Lukoil.
fuelo.net can be used to check fuel prices in Bulgaria. It uses your phone’s location services to find you the nearest fuel stations, is quick and easy to use and reasonably accurate although not always up to date.
Usually an attendant will come and serve your fuel for you, you just tell them in your best Bulgarian how much you want.
Bottled gas can be found at all petrol stations, but these will have Bulgarian fittings on them. Although is it technically prohibited (and slightly dangerous in case of overfilling), most LPG stations will happily refill your gas bottles for you, and many Bulgarian stations also have the correct sized adapter for English gas bottles.
It is important to calculate how much LPG you will need for your gas bottle before filling up, to let the attendant know the correct amount. Gas bottles must only be filled to 80% capacity, any more than this and you can risk explosion due to gas expansion in cases of high heat or vigorous movement. To figure this out, look at your bottle’s capacity- e.g. 4.5kg. 1kg of gas = 1.96 litres. So 4.5kg of gas = 8.82 litres. Take 20% off this amount and you will get 7.06 litres. This is the amount you should tell the attendant to fill your bottle up by.
It has also been said that the bottle’s capacity already includes this 20% buffer, but as refilling gas bottles with LPG is not common practice it is better to be on the safe side.
Butane and Propane are both classified as LPG; while these are sold separately in the UK, in other parts of the world they are sold as the same thing. There is little difference between the two types of gas apart from Propane burns hotter than Butane, and works better in cold weather.
It is also advisable if you plan to get your gas bottles refilled while abroad that you purchase your own adapter for your type of gas bottle. These can be found on eBay.
Rubbish bins and recycling facilities are not always easy to find but are generally on the streets around houses.
Built-up areas 31 mph (50 km/h)
Outside built-up areas 55 mph (90 km/h)
Motorways 80 mph (130 km/h)
You must use dipped headlights during the day.
The general condition of the roads in Bulgaria is poor, with even the national toll roads being extremely uneven and potholey.
A vignette must be purchased in order to use all national roads and motorways. It is impossible to avoid these.
The vignette can be purchased at the border crossing, or from petrol stations such as OMV, Shell and Lukoil. The vignette will be valid from the day it is purchased and stamped, and can be picked up by cameras and traffic police. The prices for vehicles up to 3.5T with up to 8 seats are as follows:
- 7 days €8
- 30 days €15
- 1 year €50
The vignette can be purchased with either Euros or Lev.
Most road signs are written in Latin letters as well as Cyrillic.
Yellow diamond signs after junctions indicate that you have priority (you will need to look beyond the junction as you drive to check).
Yellow diamond signs after junctions with a red line through them mean that you do not have priority.
A warning triangle with an X in it tells you to beware of hazards on the right.
Priority to the right automatically applies where there are no road signs.
Speeding is considered normal, as is using your phone while driving, despite it being illegal. Most Bulgarian drivers are calm and sensible, but every 1 in 20 drivers is an absolute nutter. Overtaking is commonplace.
Roadside police controls are frequent; local drivers will usually flash you to warn of police ahead. The Bulgarian police do not specifically target foreign vehicles, but if they do stop you they’ll simply want to see your documents and check your vignette is valid.
Speed cameras come in the form of a grey box on a stick, but they are not overly common. Vignette cameras usually appear on gantries overhead and are marked with a blue sign beforehand.
Compulsory items to carry in your vehicle always:
First aid kit
Red warning triangle
Snow chains must be carried from 1st November until 1st March and used wherever the relevant sign is displayed.
Wild camping in Bulgaria is officially forbidden, but it is tolerated as long as you are discreet and respectful to the environment. Many hundreds of families camp along the Black Sea coast during the summer, in protest of the government’s aggressive land grabbing. Most coastal spots are prone to having large slabs of concrete dumped on them by the government, buildings left half-constructed.
As a general rule if you are out of the way, not on private property or in densely populated tourist areas you will be okay to stay in your van overnight. Just look out for signs and restrictions. Police tend to look differently at the situation if you have chairs out and awning up etc., so just keep it discreet and move on regularly and you should be fine.
Bulgaria is an interesting yet largely empty country in the Central Balkans, with a wild coastline and rugged mountains. It has hot summers, making it a popular tourist destination, but harsh, cold winters.
The people there are naturally suspicious, due to the many cons they've faced from their former communist government.
Apart from the beaches, many of which are wild, remote and perfect for swimming, the Central Balkan mountains and the Rila and Pirin National Parks all offer stunning landscapes. Wild camping is easy, and there are parties on the coast in the summer.
The Buzludzah communist monument is truly something to behold, as are the views from the mountain on which it's built. The Stone Forest is also an interesting natural phenomenon, just West of Varna on the coast.
Roadside police patrols are frequent, but the most annoying thing is the fact that you have to pay an €8 a week vignette to use the bumpy, potholey national roads, which seems like a bit of a joke. There is also quite a bit of litter around, although not as much as neighbouring Romania. Supermarkets are hard to find outside of cities.