Bulgaria Travel Information
Local time is GMT +2 (GMT +3 during daylight savings).
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. European two-pin plugs and schuko plugs are in use.
Bulgarian is the official language, which uses the Cyrillic alphabet, but English, German and French are spoken in resorts, hotels, and restaurants.
Bulgaria poses few health risks and there are no vaccinations required for entry. Vaccinations for hepatitis A and hepatitis B are always recommended for travellers, though. Similarly, a rabies vaccination is recommended for travellers who will be spending a lot of time outdoors or who will be exposed to animals.
Travellers should note that medical treatment can be expensive and payment is expected immediately. Facilities in local hospitals are basic and specialised treatment or equipment may not be freely available. Medical insurance, with provision for emergency evacuation, is therefore vital. Travellers from the UK should also hold a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which replaced the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for UK citizens. The GHIC allows UK citizens access to state healthcare during visits to the EU. The GHIC is not valid in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, nor is it an alternative to travel insurance.
Tips of 10 percent of the bill are customary for most services, including restaurants, while hotel porters and taxi drivers expect visitors to round up the bill for good service.
Most visits to Bulgaria are trouble-free. Violent crime is rare, but criminal groups target casinos and nightclubs and groups of young pickpockets are active in city centres and the Black Sea holiday resorts. Car theft is also relatively common.
Foreigners should be aware that traditionally a shake of the head means 'yes' and a nod means 'no', although allowances are often made for visitors. It's useful to clarify the answer verbally to avoid confusion. Family values are extremely important in Bulgaria, so treating seniors with deference is important. Visitors should remember that covering their faces with garments such as burkas is illegal in public places, including governmental buildings, streets, parks, and on public transport. Though not illegal, homosexuality is less tolerated than in the UK, and the LGBT community keeps a low profile. Visitors should avoid taking photos of potentially sensitive areas such as military bases; authorities treat all drug-related offenses very seriously.
Relationship building is important in Bulgaria, and initial meetings may be used as an introduction, after which more business-related meetings can be planned. Face-to-face meetings are therefore preferred over communication by email, fax or phone. The use of English in business is increasing, however the services of a translator might be required, and presentations should include the use of visuals where possible. Introductions include firm handshakes, and the exchange of business cards. Dress should be conservative business attire and punctuality is expected. Business hours are generally 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday.
The country dialling code for Bulgaria is +359. Travellers can purchase local SIM cards for their phones; free WiFi is available in major cities such as Sofia, Varna, Nessebar and Plovdiv.
Travellers from non-EU member states, aged 17 and older, do not need to pay customs duty on 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars, or 250g of tobacco; 1 litre of spirits and 2 litres of wine. Visitors arriving with goods purchased within the EU who are older than 17 do not need to pay customs duty on 800 cigarettes or 200 cigars, or 1 kilogram of tobacco; 10 litres of spirits and 90 litres of wine, though no more than 60 litres of sparkling wine.
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