Driving Guide

Bulgaria Driving Guide

Explore Bulgaria by driving with International Driving Permit

2021-04-09 · 9min read

A Balkan nation nested near the Black Sea, Bulgaria is a country that is a melting pot of various cultures, seen in its surroundings and culture from the music they play to the infrastructures that proudly decorate the country. It isn’t a wonder why this is so since Bulgaria is landlocked by the countries that have had the most significant impact on them, such as Greece, Romania, Turkey, North Macedonia, and Serbia. If you’re up to experience a wide variety of cultures in one country, then traveling to Bulgaria is for you.

Bulgaria’s capital is Sofia, and Bulgarian is its primary language. This nation has been a member of the European Union since the 1st of January 2007. Their lands comprise mostly plains and mountains with nearby bodies of water, such as the Black Sea. As of 2020, Bulgaria has a population of 6,925,678 people.

How Can This Guide Help You?

Travels should be comfortable, convenient, and easy to help you make the most of your journey. This informative guide tells you all that you need to know about Bulgaria, from the necessary information to the tips in driving in Bulgaria that could help you drive yourself. Included are border status, entry requirements, tourist destinations, and residency conditions and information, so you can plan ahead of time.

Driving in Bulgaria can be a breeze thanks to the driving etiquette, road conditions, car rental information, and driving rules in Bulgaria that you would need to follow. Read below to know more.

General Information about Bulgaria

Bulgaria is a Balkan nation that is considered the oldest European country—having been discovered in the 7th century, with Roman, Greek, and Byzantine civilizations playing a massive role in their formation and being under the Ottoman rule for a significant period until 1877. Its capital is Sofia, which sits in the center of the Balkan Region. Bulgaria is noted for its mountainous landscapes and fantastic water bodies, such as the Black Sea to its east and the Danube River serving as the border between it and Romania.

Geographic Location

Bulgaria is a European country located in the continent’s southeastern part and part of the Balkan Peninsula. The capital of Bulgaria is Sofia, which is in the west-central part of Bulgaria. This Balkan nation, which has an area of 110,910 sq km and 330km from north to south and 520 km east to west, is bordered by the Black Sea on the East, Turkey on the Southeast, Romania on the North, Greece on the South, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro on the west.

Languages Spoken

The language being spoken in Bulgaria is chiefly Bulgarian, with 85% of the population using this as their communication medium. A smaller population is also speaking other languages such as Macedonian, Turkish, Albanian, Romani, Gagauz, and Tatar. In terms of the writing system, the Cyrillic Alphabet is used when writing in Bulgarian.

Land Area

This Balkan nation, which has an area of 110,910 sq km and 330 km from north to south and 520 km east to west. Bulgaria is noted to be larger than Iceland. Bulgaria’s ranking in terms of size is 105th largest in the world.

History

The Thracians are responsible for starting Bulgarian history, as they were a cultural group that resided in the Balkans. The Thracians had a thriving culture as evidenced by archaeological finds. They thrived this way until the arrival of the Romans who were flourishing in ancient times. After Roman rule, the Slavs came to Bulgaria and extended their power until the arrival of the Bulgars, establishing themselves as the first Bulgarians.

The Ottomans came to Bulgaria in the 1400s which brought about a troubled rule, with more than half of the population of Bulgars wiped out. Bulgaria stayed under Ottoman rule, having uprising after uprising until its liberation in 1877. The 20th century’s world wars also put Bulgaria in a great state of unrest and economic trouble, eventually being freed in 1944.

Government

Bulgaria established a parliamentary government in 1991 that entailed direct presidential elections, free speech, and separation of powers. Its governing body is the Council of Ministers, which comprises the prime minister, the deputy prime minister, and ministers who oversee the policy implementation. Boyko Borissov is the current prime minister of Bulgaria and has been since 2017.

Tourists

Tourists love visiting Bulgaria for various reasons, be it an adventure, nightlife, a gastronomic tour, or museum hopping, but the main reasons for them coming back are the nation’s majestic topography from the snowy mountain of Bansko to the pristine beaches of Nessebar. The architecture which shines of Ottoman, Roman, Byzantine, Greek and Romanian influence from the Old Towns to the cathedrals is also a hit amongst tourists and the country’s rich bounties of food wine.

You will never run out of things to do in the majestic Balkan nation of Bulgaria!

Renting a Car in Bulgaria

The best way to travel and explore the country of Bulgaria is by driving. Driving gives you more control over your itinerary and time and makes you more familiar with the inroad’s s and outs and the driving conditions in Bulgaria. Before you rent a car, consider these tips to make renting hassle-free.

Car Rental Companies

Many rental companies cater to tourists who are seeking to rent a car for driving in Bulgaria. Popular car rental services in the country include Bulgaria Car Rental, Ltd., Hertz Car Rental, Europcar, and Top Rent A Car is among the companies that cater to rental services. For your convenience, you can book online for a faster transaction though walk-ins are also permitted.

The top cars available for renting vary depending on your destination and the agency. According to Top Rent A Car, most of their vehicles are economy and compact sizes fit for tourists driving in the cities. Europcar is popular amongst tourists due to its availability at airports, making them more accessible with other amenities such as child seats and GPS. Perks and prices vary from company to company.

Documents Needed

To rent a car in Bulgaria, you must have a valid driver’s license, passport, and car rental insurance. If your license isn’t a Bulgarian one or a recognized EU driving license, then you would need to obtain an International Driving Permit for Bulgaria as it is required by most car rental companies. You can get an International Driver’s Permit online or in person.

Vehicle Types

The types of vehicles vary from company to company, as well as your itinerary. If you’re driving in the city, a mini or a compact would be ideal for squeezing into more congested spaces. Driving in Bulgaria in winter would require you to have a bigger, sturdier car with extra tires, shovel, and reflectors. Should you want to go camping in Nessebar, an SUV with a lot of room for your belongings is ideal.

Car Rental Costs

The cost of cars in Bulgaria varies depending on the model and the agency. While some car rental companies provide specific amenities such as GPS, child seats, and first aid kits, some car rental companies do not have these, so you might have to spend a little extra providing for your amenities. Kayak lists the typical prices for specific models of vehicles in Bulgaria:

  • Economy-$6/day
  • Compact-$6/day
  • Mini-$6/day
  • Compact SUV-$7/day
  • Intermediate-$10/day
  • Standard-$23/day
  • Convertible-$25/day
  • Luxury-$58/day

You must allocate a budget for expenses that you might have outside of the car rental, such as toll fees, gas, and others. Make sure to follow the driving laws in Bulgaria to avoid additional penalties as on spot fines are implemented and could spell additional costs for you.

Age Requirements

To rent a car in Bulgaria, you must be at least twenty years old and a holder of a valid driver’s license. Drivers under the age of twenty-five may be subject to pay a young driver surcharge or a fee that car rental companies set on young drivers. Individuals aged twenty-five and below can rent any vehicles except for larger vehicles, luxury, and sports cars.

When renting a car as a young driver, remember that the essential documents will still be required of you. Before renting, always bring your valid driver’s license, car insurance, and passport. For those with non-EU driving licenses, you need an International Driver’s Permit. Obtaining one is relatively easy and can be done by people as young as 18 years old. You don’t need to take a driving lesson in Bulgaria for you to get your IDP.

Car Insurance Cost

Traveling alone can already be costly, from your place to stay to food, to things that you might need and want to buy, and renting a car just sounds like a whole lot more money to spend. Here are some tips on saving on rental costs to get the most out of your trip. A piece of good advice is not to be lured by a cheap car rental since those cars might not even have GPS, insurance, etc., and you might just find yourself paying extra just obtaining those other additional tools.

Aside from these usual costs when traveling, you still have to spend on insurance. Depending on your insurance plan, you can purchase a plan for 48.49 BGN per day covering 8,082BGN. Some insurance policies can give you coverage that lowers your costs all the way to zero for the same price, depending on the extent of the damage. Regardless, it is important to have car insurance when traveling and driving in Bulgaria to ensure your safety and make it cost-friendly.

Car Insurance Policy

While driving in a foreign country might sound intimidating at first, thoughts of not only getting lost but getting into accidents. If you’ve ever wondered, “is driving in Bulgaria safe?” accidents are unpredictable. Luckily enough, there is insurance required when renting a car that will cover you in the event of an accident.

According to RentalCover, their car insurance offers coverage for Collision Damage Waiver and Loss Damage Waiver, which can help lessen the costs of accident damages and theft. They also offer Super Collision Damage Waiver and Personal Accident Insurance for injuries sustained during the accident. Roadside Assistance Cover for getting locked out or having your vehicle towed is also available.

Bulgaria phot by Deniz Fuchidzhiev

The Road Rules in Bulgaria

Driving in a foreign country can seem both exciting and daunting but before you head out on the Bulgarian roads, consider the driving laws in Bulgaria to make the most of your Balkan adventure and avoid having any inconvenient run-ins with the law that could lead to fines and arrests. Most rules are necessary and applicable in any country, while some are particular to Bulgaria. Nonetheless, all of these driving tips for Bulgaria must be heeded to make driving in Bulgaria safe, fun, and worry-free.

Important Regulations

Like anywhere else in the world, there are driving standards that everyone driving in Bulgaria must follow to ensure their safety. These are general driving standards that hold true for all making them easy but essential to follow.

Before Driving

Before heading out to drive in Bulgaria, make sure that your car is in good condition. Check the tires if they aren’t soft or flat as unstable tires can pose a danger, especially when driving in Bulgaria in winter where more force would be needed. Also, make sure that the mirrors, windshields, and windshield wipers are in good condition. Don’t forget to pack in your driving items that are now mandated by Bulgarian law, such as deflectors, warning triangles reflective jackets, and fire extinguishers.

Apart from all these, remember to always bring the essential documents with you in an inspection or border security check event. Documents for identification such as passport, valid native driver’s license, and IDP are must-haves. Car insurance is now considered essential when driving rented cars, so carry this along with the documents mentioned above.

During Driving

When driving in Bulgaria, remember to wear your seatbelt at all times and follow the traffic signs and avoid overspeeding as fines will be placed on those who go beyond the limit. If you feel tired before driving, get some rest or some sleep before heading out, as it can be dangerous to fall asleep behind the wheel. Most importantly, do not drink and drive. Alcohol drink driving in Bulgaria is prohibited. The blood alcohol limit in Bulgaria is at 0.05ml, so if you know you will be going the next day or the next hour, you better not have any alcohol.

Parking

When parking, only park at designated areas to avoid blocking traffic. Blocking traffic can result in towing your car. Park on the left for one-way streets and be aware of parking zones, namely the Blue and Green Zones, as the parking here is limited only for 30 minutes to an hour where the date and time must be written and placed windshield.

Seatbelts

Bulgarian road safety laws have made it compulsory always to wear seatbelts when driving. The driver and their passengers must all wear seatbelts. According to the UNECE, child restraint seats are now required. Those children aged three and below must have child restraint seats. There are hefty fines implemented for those who won’t abide by the rules. Fifty leva is the fine for getting caught not wearing a seatbelt and not having a child seat.

Remember always to wear your seatbelt. The importance of fastening seatbelts cannot be stressed enough for your and your passengers’ security. Abiding by this simple law is key to making driving in Bulgaria safe.

Drunk Driving Laws in Bulgaria

Alcohol drink driving in Bulgaria is illegal since it endangers the driver and passengers of the vehicle and those in their surroundings. The legal blood alcohol limit in Bulgaria is 0.05%, and going above it will get your license confiscated. If you go way beyond the blood alcohol limit, it could spell jail time for you. If you want to avoid trouble, it’s best to follow the drunk driving laws in Bulgaria.

Penalties

Penalties for infraction of road rules in Bulgaria vary depending on the nature and severity of the deed. Corresponding fines are implemented depending on the speed limit broken.

  • Twenty leva for going above 10 km/h, 50 leva for beyond 20 kph, and
  • 100 leva for going above 30 kph.
  • Taking up a handicapped parking space would result in a 200 leva fee.
  • For driving without a seatbelt, 25 leva will be charged
  • 50 leva is for those traveling without a child seat.
  • 50 leva for using phone while driving instead of hands-free system
  • 500-1000 leva for drunk driving and 2000 leva for repeat offenders.

Speed Limits

Bulgaria’s speed limit varies depending on the location if driving within towns, a speed limit of 30 mph must be followed and 55 mph in rural areas. For pedestrian areas where more people are bound to be walking and crossing, the speed limit is much lower at 20kph. When driving on expressways, keep a speed limit of 120 kph and 140 kph on the motorways.

There are on-the-spot penalties implemented in Bulgaria, so remember always to keep your speed in check. Fines spell additional costs and so much trouble that you wouldn’t want to have on your trip.

Driving Directions

Bulgaria is a nation surrounded by various countries; it is possible to drive from Bulgaria to these neighboring nations. Here are some driving in Bulgaria tips for going to nearby countries where you will find directions, possible checkpoints, and constant reminders of what to bring with you. Regardless of the zip code, driving in Bulgaria with an IDP if you are a tourist is an urgency, so always have it with you.

Remember who has priority when driving in Bulgaria, especially when entering roundabouts. If you are about to enter, you do not have priority, rather those who are already in the roundabout have right of way.

Driving to Greece via Bulgaria

Greece is another country that you can drive to via Bulgaria, with it being geographically close. A drive to Greece takes 8 hours, and you would need to head west on Todor Alexandrov boulevard towards Princess Maria Louise boulevard. Continue on A3. Take Route 1, A25, and A / D PAThE to Leof. Kifisou / Par. Leoforou Kifisou in Peristeri, Hellas. Take the exit toward PERISTERI from A / D PAThE / A1 / E75. Afterward, take Lenorman to PI Omonias in Athena. The entire trip would take approximately 8 hours.

If a checkpoint is present, remember that the authorities are usually only checking for drugs, drunk driving, or the corresponding documents. Always bring with you your passport, valid ID, an International Driver's Permit as these will serve as your identification.

Traffic Road Signs

The primary three-light system followed all over the world is also observed in Bulgaria. The red light for stop, amber or yellow for yield, and the green for go. This vital sign should be easy for anyone familiar with driving to follow. There are road signs that EU countries have shared since 1978 with the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals. They are classified as warning signs, priority road signs, mandatory signs, restrictive signs, direction, position and indication signs, additional panels, and unique regulation signs.

Danger signs include:

  • Road narrowing
  • Intersection with train tracks
  • Approaching high foot traffic area
  • Hazard turn
  • The road ahead has winding roads
  • Approaching overpass has maximum height allowance.

Priority signs are:

  • Give way
  • Yield to give way
  • Stop
  • Road is a priority at intersections while other routes yield.
  • Road is no longer a priority.

Mandatory signs are:

  • Winter equipment like snow tires and chains are a must-have. Anyone not in possession of these will be subjected to fines.
  • Passing a work zone
  • Pedestrians and bicycles only.
  • No passing or overtaking of vehicles

Restrictive signs are:

  • Minimum speed limit (indicated by a number)
  • End of the minimum speed limit
  • Vehicles are not allowed in the area.
  • No entry due to one way traffic
  • No parking
  • No stopping, parking, or standing

Informative signs include:

  • Filling station
  • Restaurants
  • Sidewalk parking
  • Bathroom
  • Tourist information

More signs are used in Bulgaria related to the road, but these are the most common ones. It is vital to keep them in mind to avoid accidents and abide by traffic laws.

Right of Way

Sure, traffic signs indicate the right of way in Bulgaria. Unless noted in a particular road sign, a vehicle coming from the right has a priority. In roundabouts, those who are already on the roundabout have the right of way. Pedestrians and cars on the rails also have a priority.

Bulgaria’s legal driving age is 18 years old, which is just about the age they can apply for an IDP. While rentals place the age to rent at 21, drivers below 25 would incur a young driver’s surcharge. Any car can be rented by those around this age except larger vehicles and luxury cars or sports cars

One must be 16 years old to operate on motorcycles and 18 for cars. A driving test in Bulgaria would be required of you before obtaining your Bulgarian driving license, including theoretical and practical lessons. After undergoing the said driving lesson in Bulgaria, taking a driving test in Bulgaria and passing it is a must before obtaining your license.

Law

When driving in Bulgaria, remember that you must always overtake on the left side but do so with extreme caution and adherence to the speed limit. Some drivers can be reckless, so make sure to survey your surroundings before overtaking. A fine will be placed upon anyone who surpasses carelessly and on the wrong side.

Driving Side

Like most EU nations, Bulgarians have the wheel on the right-hand side, meaning that they use the left side of the road, so remember that overtaking occurs on the left. This set-up can get confusing, especially for tourists who are more used to driving on the left-hand side like U.S. tourists. Driving in Bulgaria can get a little challenging and may take more time to master.

Driving Etiquette in Bulgaria

Driving in Bulgaria can be a memorable learning and traveling experience, but one can never erase the idea that driving in a foreign country can seem daunting and confusing. Your car can break down, you can get lost, or you can get stopped at checkpoints. Here are some of the things you have to remember when you encounter any of these in Bulgaria.

Car Breakdown

Car breakdowns can happen at the most unexpected times. Even if your rented car seems well-maintained and operational, you can never tell when it’ll falter. This can be a disastrous turn to an otherwise idyllic holiday drive. If this happens to you, though, remember not to panic. Pull over at an emergency lane at a safe distance from traffic.

In Bulgaria, it is required by law for drivers to have reflective jackets and warning triangles. Place the warning triangle 30 m away from your vehicle and turn on your hazard lights to signal an emergency. Most car insurances have car breakdown coverages, so you can save up on costs if this happens.

Police Stops

When police stop drivers, it is usually due to a violation of the law or checks for documents. If it is the latter, always have your documents ready such as passports, driver’s license, International Driver’s Permit, and car insurance. It is illegal to drive in Bulgaria without proper documents, so it’s best to have them with you at all times.

If you have violated a law and the police stop you, pull over and obey the rules. Ask the officer again about your violation and comply with the procedure. Listen to the penalties that you will be facing. Do not bribe or argue your way out of a breach, as another case will be filed against you for resisting arrest.

Asking Directions

It is inevitable to get lost in Bulgaria when driving especially when you aren’t familiar with the roads yet. A map while driving in Bulgaria can be handy, but when things get confusing, sometimes the best option is to ask the locals for help. While you don’t have to be extremely fluent in Bulgaria to travel, there are some basic terms that you can use to get around if you should ever lose your way.

  • hello-здравейте
  • Excuse me-извинете
  • Thank you very much-Благодаря много
  • to the right-надясно
  • to the left-наляво

A fact about Bulgarian language customs is their yes and no system. If you shake your head, this means yes, and a nod means no. This elementary yet very confusing custom is something tourists must always keep apart from the typical phrases. These are phrases you can use to greet, ask or find your way around Bulgaria. Remember to ask the people politely and gratefully.

Checkpoints

Border checkpoints usually exist to inspect whether a person has their corresponding documents or has been driving under the influence. To avoid any untoward incident at the border, stay prepared and remember always to have your necessary documents such as an IDP, a valid driver's license, passport, and car insurance.

When inspected, greet the border officer and comply with what is asked. Be alert and wary and lower your window only for legitimate police and border patrollers. If coerced or dealt with forcefully, remember the names of the individuals and have the incident reported.

Driving Situations and Conditions in Bulgaria

Apart from understanding the driving rules in Bulgaria and the etiquette for getting around, it is essential to understand the road conditions to mentally prepare yourself for what you might be facing when you start to drive in Bulgaria. Knowing how frequent accidents occur when driving in Bulgaria in winter can give you some kind of idea on how to navigate your way around the country by car.

Accident Statistics

Before renting your car, and maybe when you were thinking about driving in Bulgaria, you probably wondered, “is it safe to drive in Bulgaria?” According to a recent report dated 2020, 333 people had died in road-related accidents for the first nine months. The fatalities were brought in at 59, which was higher than the previous year’s 56 tally, while the accident toll was 634, fewer than last year’s 656. Even injuries were lower at 776 compared to the last 833.

Common Vehicles

The most common vehicles driven in Bulgaria are the compact and SUV types. Smaller cars are reputed to be quite popular since they make it easy to navigate in more cramped and congested areas like cities, while SUVs are ideal for driving in the snow. It was reported that in 2019, there was an increase in car registration of 9.9% compared to 2016-2017, meaning that more and more Bulgarians are buying cars.

Toll Roads

Vignettes are now required for all motorways in Bulgaria for all vehicles except motorcycles.The e-Vignette can be purchased online with prices varying depending on the size of the vehicle. If you plan on driving in Bulgarian zip codes that requires motorway usage, purchase an e-Vignette now to make your journey smoother.

Road Situations

There has been a long-standing reputation that Bulgaria’s roads have potholes, poorly constructed, narrow, and often challenging terrain to navigate during the wintertime. Drivers are cautioned about hairpin bends that are too curved and sharp, as well as animals that may abruptly cross the road.

Driving in Bulgaria is especially challenging in the winter. Hence, if you’re visiting in snowy weather, the best tip for driving in Bulgaria is always to bring winter tires and have your headlights on at all times. Remember to go slowly during the winter as the road tends to get slippery, and if you speed up, you could be setting yourself up for an accident.

Driving Culture in Bulgaria

Bulgarians, most of the time, are quite aggressive on the road despite the hefty fines that are implemented strictly for each offense. Though aggressive drivers are everywhere, it is still best for a tourist to adhere to the country’s driving rules as a courtesy and stay safe and out of trouble. Remember, you are in a foreign place; try as much as you can to remain polite and not get into altercations with locals to avoid untoward incidents.

Does Bulgaria Use Kph or Mph

Kilometers per Hour or Miles per Hour are units of measurement used to tell a car’s speed and be seen on your speedometer. However, the unit varies from nation to nation, with most adopting the metric unit, which measures kph. Only 9% of the world use mph while all the rest use kph.

Bulgaria is one of the countries that use kph. If you are an American tourist, you might feel a little bit confused with the speed. Some rented cars have digital speedometers which tell you the speed in kph, making it easier for you to track your speed and avoid overspeeding. Otherwise, bear in mind that one mile=1.609 km, so the numbers might be bigger than they appear.

Is Driving in Bulgaria Safe?

Driving in Bulgaria at night might seem like a fun idea but take note that some Bulgarian roads have been under construction for a long time and still are, hence the potholes that litter the streets. These potholes could be hard to spot at night, but if you’re willing to try, make sure your headlights, brakes and windshield wipers are working perfectly to help you see your way.

Bulgaria is quite a safe country, except for the occasional pickpocketing and theft that occurs. Incidents as such are true anywhere else in the world so it’s better to be safe than sorry. Keep your valuables hidden and with you at all times and park your car in well-lit areas.

Things to Do in Bulgaria

The idea of driving in Bulgaria or any foreign country, for that matter, appeals to many. Still, before you can begin driving in Bulgaria as a foreigner, there are many things to consider. While it is entirely possible to operate as a tourist and to get a job as a driver, some requirements are still needed before it could be done. Here are some of the things that you can do with your driving skills in Bulgaria.

Drive As A Tourist

Driving as a Bulgarian tourist is entirely possible as long as you have a valid driver’s license. Tourists from the EU/EEA/Switzerland and the UK can use their driving license in Bulgaria. Other tourists from other countries may drive for one year and then exchange their foreign driving license for a Bulgarian license. Moreover, taking a driving test in Bulgaria is another option to obtain the permit depending on the agreement.

It is also recommended that tourists get an International Driver's Permit for Bulgaria. While it is valid for only three months in Bulgaria, some other options and validities are year-long suited for business people who could use it for convenience, especially in renting cars. The requirements and information needed are just your name, address, contact number, and zip code to get your IDP and drive in Bulgaria.

Work As A Driver

Foreigners can apply in Bulgaria provided that there are no particular rules in the job description strictly calling for Bulgarian citizenship and has been a legal resident for Bulgaria. Those who cannot be employed in Bulgaria are those who have a short stay visa and those who have been granted long-term residence permit with the ability to support themselves.

If you wish to drive your car in Bulgaria to make money, you first have to have a professional driver’s license and register your business. You can also work as a driver under individual companies hiring taxi drivers, truck drivers, and other driving-related jobs where you would also be required to have a professional driver’s license.

Work as a Travel Guide

Most travel and job hunt websites post openings for travel guides in Bulgaria. This is the perfect opportunity for anyone seeking to make money from their passion for traveling and educating people about the wonders of Bulgaria. According to SalaryExplorer, a travel guide in Bulgaria stands to make around 1070 BGN to 3140 BGN. Before partaking in any occupation as a tourist, ensure that you have a residence permit and a work permit ready.

Apply for Residency

If you are yearning to work as a driver in Bulgaria, applying for a residency is a plus, as with any other occupation in Bulgaria. Foreigners who wish to have a business in Bulgaria, especially if they want to operate drivers by their own account, are recommended to apply for residency. The benefits of a temporary Bulgarian residency are having your temporary residence ID that enables you multiple entries in Bulgarian territory.

The Bulgarian temporary residence ID is valid for 6 to 12 months which can be renewed for five years. Having a residency can also give you legality to stay in Romania, Croatia, and Cyprus for 90 days. If you have a Bulgarian residence for five years, you become eligible for permanent residency in Bulgaria.

Do I Need to Convert My License in Bulgaria?

As mentioned above, citizens of the EU/EEA/Switzerland can use their driver’s license in Bulgaria. Depending on the agreement, citizens of the UK may still drive in Bulgaria via a UK license until the end of the year where an agreement is expected to be met. An IDP is necessary for those who aren’t from the EU/EEA/Switzerland since your driver’s license won’t be valid in Bulgaria.

As far as exchanging a foreign driver’s license for a driving license in Bulgaria is concerned, residents can only be done at the local traffic offices.

Do tourists need to get a Bulgarian license?

To get a driving license for foreigners in Bulgaria, they must first apply for residency and then have a residency permit. Their high school diplomas must be certified and legalized by the board of education, and then they must obtain a medical exam as proof of good health. They must then take a driving lesson in Bulgaria and pass the driving test. After passing the driving test in Bulgaria along with other tests, they may now obtain their driving license in Bulgaria.

Top Road Trip Destinations in Bulgaria

Now that you’ve learned most that there is to learn about driving in Bulgaria, it’s time for you to know the top road trip destinations in Bulgaria that tourists love to visit. Bulgaria is a melting pot of culture, with this nation being heavily influenced by the countries. As hard as it is to choose from all the sites, if you’re bent on going on a road trip, here are some of the best road trip destinations that Bulgaria has to offer.

Plovdiv-Bulgaria photo by Deniz Fuchidzhiev

Plovdiv

Bulgaria’s second-largest city is home to architectural marvels perfect for those with an artistic eye to gaze upon while driving. The Ancient Theatre is a landmark that is quite coliseum in appearance but with a different twist. This was where operas were being performed, with marbled benches surrounding the center. Bulgaria truly is a place for culture.

If you're yearning to experience what Plovdiv’s life is like, then visit the Kapana area, where it is teeming with galleries, restaurants, shops, and all things reflective of Bulgarian culture. The drive to Plovdiv from Sofia takes only nine minutes, but as a tourist, to avoid delays, try driving in Bulgaria with a map for a quicker, hassle-free journey.

  1. Head west on Oborishte Street towards Ilio Voyvoda Street.
  2. Slight left onto Pobeda Street.
  3. Continue onto Ruski Blvd.
  4. Turn left onto Gladstone Street.
  5. Make a right turn onto Avksentiy Veleshki Street.
  6. Turn right onto 862 Hristo Botev Blvd.

If you're yearning to experience what Plovdiv’s life is like, then visit the Kapana area, where it is teeming with galleries, restaurants, shops, and all things reflective of Bulgarian culture. The drive to Plovdiv from Sofia takes only nine minutes, but as a tourist, to avoid delays, try driving in Bulgaria with a map for a quicker, hassle-free journey.

1. Marvel at the Ancient Theatre

This 2000 year old Bulgarian marvel is still standing and functional. After having been re-discovered in the 70s, this 7000 seater theatre manages to draw in the crowds who come to admire its one of a kind structure.

2. Stroll at the Old Town

The Plovdiv Old Town is a sight you don’t want to miss! This little cobblestone city has some houses that you can visit and picture yourself going back in time. The old town is car-free and ideal for walking in the beautiful Bulgarian weather.

3. Visit the Museums

Museums are a way of displaying history and art, depicting creativity and a way of living. Bulgaria’s famous museums located in Plovdiv are the Plovdiv Aviation Museum and the Regional Ethnographic Museum.

4. Journey to the Churches and Mosques

Plovdiv is notable for its architecture that is deeply influenced by other cultures and faiths. Churches such as the Bachkovo Monastery which is the second largest Eastern religious structure and the Church of St. Elena and Constantin which has been around since the 4th century are not only solemn places of worship, but architectural marvels, as well. The Dzhumaya Mosque built by the Ottomans in the 1300s, a testament of their influence.

5. Walk Along Plovdiv Hills

Climb the Plovdiv Hills that are lined with lush forests and old town homes. The hills are best climbed with the intent of viewing the gorgeous sunset atop them

Burgas-Bahamas photo by Miglena Georgieva

Burgas

Burgas, a seaside town that blossomed in the late 20th century, serves as a port for trade industries and navy activities, making it an industrial area. If you're looking for relaxing quiet time by the waters, then Burgas is for you. Despite having just blossomed in the past century, Burgas is proving to have amenities and accommodation tourists will surely love.

  1. Driving from Sofia, the capital, to Burgas takes approximately three minutes. Head northwest on Rodopi Street towards Bitola Street.
  2. Turn left onto Bitola Street.
  3. Then you turn left onto Drin Street.
  4. After that, turn right onto Struma Street.
  5. Lastly, turn right onto Odrin Street.

Since Burgas is located near the waters, water activities are expected to be popular in the area. However, there’s more to Burgas than just making a splash. Here are some of the top destinations in Burgas. Before heading out, be sure to have an IDP with you for a smooth and hassle free driving experience

1. Go Swimming in Sozopol

Known as Bulgaria’s oldest town with its beginnings going back to Grecian times in 610 BC, Sozopol is renowned for its architecture, specifically Old Town, which is a hit amongst those seeking to appreciate the ancient city feel. Beaches are also a hit amongst tourists, especially those looking for picturesque sceneries and relaxing fun under the sun. Beaches like Kavatzi and Smokinya are located in Sozopol.

Swimming, tanning, and architecture marveling aren’t the only things you can do in Sozopol. If you’re into camping and being one with nature, then this place is the place for you.

2. Enjoy the Summery Ambiance of Nessebar

Nessebar is the ideal place to be if you’re looking for a little fun under the sun, hence its nickname, Pearl in the Black Sea. Beaches aren’t the only attraction in this place as Nessebar is also home to 5th-century brick churches that have been certified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. History comes alive with the Ethnographic Museum, which shows the way of living of Nessebar’s people.

3. Marvel at the Sand Festival

The Sand Festival in Burgas occurs every summer from June to September. Here, talented locals sculpt images from sand, perfect for any photo opportunity.

4. Enjoy Expo Center Flora

From the name itself, Expo Center Flora is a diverse flora sanctuary where plant lovers can indulge. This flower sanctuary was twice voted Building of the Year where one can not only enjoy the lovely blooming flowers, but indulge in a book cafe within the premises.

5. Visit the Poda Protected Area

If you’re into bird-watching, head straight to the Poda Protected area where plenty of bird species are protected and cared for.

Bansko-Bahamas photo by Rat Ski

Bansko

Bansko is known for being a winter wonderland in Bulgaria and a favorite of tourist skiers. This city sits at the base of the Pirin Mountains and is home to Bansko Ski Resorts at par with other ski resorts across Europe but boasts lower prices. This snowy town is more than just its reputation for being a ski paradise. Bansko holds jazz festivals and has a booming nightlife perfect for anyone looking for some music and fun.

  • This two-hour drive from the Sofia International Airport to Bansko would take two hours. From your starting point, take the Brussels Boulevard and Alexander Malinov Boulevard to Ring Road/Route 1/Route 18/ Route 6.
  • Follow Route 1/ Route 6 and A3/E79 to Route 19 in Blagoevgrad. Exit from Route 1.
  • Follow Route 19 to Glazne Street in Bansko.

If you’re up for some winter fun in Bulgaria, then Bansko is the right place to be. Apart from winter sports, there are plenty of other sights one can see and activities to do in Bansko that will make your trip truly memorable. Don’t forget your important documents when driving in Bulgaria, such as an IDP.

Visit and Dine in Bansko’s Old Town

Bansko might have an old town in its name but it merges the classic with the contemporary. Stroll around this cobblestone area and you can find good restaurants where you can try classic Bulgarian favorites. Mehanas or traditional dishes are popular in Bansko and you can have a taste of this together with a performance of classical dance and music.

2. Try Bulgarian Wine at Bansko

Try the best wine the country has to offer at wine tasting events. Wine Bar 25 is notable for its exquisite and affordable wine. Indulge in the region’s wine tasting events where servers share some information about Bulgaria’s best wines.

3. Enjoy Relaxation at Bansko’s Spas

If you try and visit any of Bansko’s top resorts, you will find excellent service in their spas. Quality relaxation overlooking a majestic view is guaranteed.

4. Climb the Razlog Tower

Bansko isn’t a tourist favorite for nothing. Its majestic views are picture worthy, which is why it is highly recommended that you give the Razlog Tower a try. Climb up the Razlog Tower to get a better view and a wider scope of the area.

5. Drop by the Neofit Rilski

The Neofit Rilski honors the Bulgarian pioneer of secular education. This house museum proudly displays his life and works open for the appreciation of many.

Varna-Bulgaria photo by Presentsquare

Varna

Varna is located on a port in the Black Sea that is a hotspot for tourists due to several destinations that are just impossible to bypass. The Sea Garden Park showcases a floral landscape that catches the eye. If architectural visits and a look back in time is your kind of trip, then drop by the Varna Cathedral and the Varna Roman Baths, whose stature will have you thinking you’ve gone back in olden times.

The Archaeological Museum, a treat for museum lovers, actually houses the oldest gold in the world, known as the Gold of Varna.

  • Driving from Sofia, the capital, to Varna takes approximately five hours. Continue to Brussels Blvd/ E871.
  • Continue driving onto Hemus Highway, Republic Road I-4 and Route 4, and E70 to Varna.
  • Take Bregalnitsa Street and Todor Dimov Street to Selilou Street.

One can experience both culture and nature in Varna, in the form of its parks, landscapes and museums. There’s more to Varna than just its beaches and nightlife. You will never run out of things to do in Varna. Just remember to drive safely and always have your IDP with you.

1. Explore the Sea Garden

The Sea Garden welcomes guests with its wide landscaped gardens and activity centers. Children can enjoy animal sightings at the zoo while adults can take their chances at the casino. The Sea Garden has something for everyone regardless of age.

2. Visit the Archaeological Museum

The Archaeological Museum displays Varna’s Roman heritage through the artifacts found inside but perhaps the Archaeological Museum’s most remarkable resident artifact is the Gold of Varna.

3. Visit the Varna Roman Baths

What looks like abandoned ruins from olden years is actually a marvel when lit up at night. The Varna Roman Baths are among the oldest and the few to survive the centuries.

4. Check out the University Botanical Garden

If you’re up for a tour of Varna’s plants, visit the University Botanical Garden. This 30-hectare park is perfect for a cool stroll or a family picnic. Plant enthusiasts wouldn’t want to miss the University Botanical Garden and its 300 species of plants.

5. Learn at the Museum of the History of Medicine

Apart from its summery reputation, Varna is known to be the home of the museum of medicine history, the only one in the Balkan area at that. Anyone can enter and appreciate how far the people of Bulgaria, from Romans and Greeks right down to the present era, have come in terms of medicinal sciences.

Sofia-Bulgaria photo by Jack Krier

Sofia

Of course, whoever could miss the capital of Bulgaria? While this bustling city might be as modern as it gets, Sofia still houses remnants of Bulgaria’s rich history that bleeds its neighboring countries’ influence. From the St. Alexander Nevski Cathedral, which is the second-largest cathedral in the Balkan region, to the fashionable Vitosha Boulevard. Of course, if you’re looking for something more natural, you can always gaze upon Vitosha Mountain and its lovely snow caps.

Sofia has no shortage of tourist destinations for whatever your fancy is. If you’re more of a museum person, the capital has it as well. From the National Institute of Archaeology, which houses items from classical civilizations to Thracian gold. If you’re still bent on getting your history fixed, scoot on over to the National Historical Museum, where everything about Bulgarian history, from the past to the present space exploration equipment is present.

1. Try Sofia’s Renowned Golf Courses

Golfers are in for a treat when they visit Sofia as Sofia’s golf courses boast one of the best driving ranges in Bulgaria. Pravets Golf Club has a lighted driving range that is suitable for night golfing. This parkland-style golf course stretches at 6470 m in length with varying levels. This genuinely unique driving range in Bulgaria is also set beside a mountain and lake view perfect for photo-ops.

2. Explore Sofia’s Stellar Architecture

Bulgaria’s capital is home to some of history’s most noteworthy architecture, from cathedrals to buildings to churches. Drive to the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral which can house ten thousand people and is the 2nd largest Balkan cathedral. The St. George Rotunda is a red brick church standing for centuries, untouched by all the chaos gone by. St. Sofia’s Church is reminiscent of Byzantine era Bulgaria due to its architecture and was once upon a time a mosque.

3. Vitosha Mountain Hike

Hike at the Vitosha Mountain in Sofia if you’re adventurous. This mountain is miles away from the urban landscapes of the capital, whose peak is in a nature park. If you’re up for some winter adventure, try skiing at the mountains and enjoy more walks to appreciate Sofia’s natural side.

4. Appreciate the National Institute of Archaeology

The National Institute of Archaeology houses all archaeological artifacts that are telling of Bulgaria’s history. This museum’s halls include Prehistory, Medieval Section, Treasure, and the main Hall. Admire the Thracian Gold that is on full proud display in the area.

5. Learn at the National Historical Museum

Another museum worth dropping by in Sofia is the National Historical Museum. Once upon a time dictator Todor Zhikov’s home, the National Museum has around 65,000 artifacts for viewing ranging from space equipment to treasures. Learning more about the country you’re touring makes you appreciate it more, so drop by at the National Historical Museum in Sofia now!

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