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Latest travel advice for Bulgaria including safety and security, entry requirements, travel warnings and health

2017-01-20T15:22:58.464+00:00: Latest update: Summary - from 23 January 2017, there may be disruption or delays at border crossings with Greece due to strike action plans to block border crossings; you should follow the advice of the local authorities

Information and advice for British nationals travelling and living in Europe, following the result of the EU referendum.

There is an underlying threat from terrorism. On 30 December 2016, the Bulgarian authorities announced heightened security measures in all cities, winter ski resorts, and places where large gatherings are expected. See Terrorism

From 23 January 2017, there may be disruption or delays at border crossings with Greece due to strike action plans to block border crossings. You should follow the advice of the local authorities, including guidance at Bulgaria’s Ministry of Transport, Information Technology and Communications website.

Be aware of pickpockets in city centres and tourist resorts especially in crowded areas like buses, trains and busy streets. There has been an increase in burglaries from hotel rooms in Sunny Beach. Keep valuables in a safe. See Crime

Be aware of prostitutes around Burgas and Sunny Beach. See Crime

There may be disruption or delays at border crossings with Greece. See Local travel

There are regular reports of robberies and threatening behaviour by taxi drivers in Sunny Beach. See Local travel

There are sporadic protests across Bulgaria. Avoid all protests, keep up to date with media reports and follow the advice of the local authorities.

If you need to contact the emergency services in Bulgaria call 112. English speaking operators are available. See Health

Carry a copy of the information pages of your passport at all times as proof of identity.

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.

Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.

Safety and security

Crime

Tourists are targeted by thieves and pickpockets in Sunny Beach and other resorts. Don’t take valuables to the beach and be wary of poorly lit roads around the resort at night. There has been an increase in burglaries from hotel rooms in Sunny Beach. Make sure you lock your room (including windows and balcony doors) and keep your valuables locked in a safe. Don’t change money on the streets in Sunny Beach, only at licensed exchange points, banks or hotels.

Prostitution is not illegal in Bulgaria however we have received numerous reports of pickpocketing, muggings and assaults of British nationals by prostitutes and their minders. Avoid areas where prostitutes operate especially late at night, including car parks, the beach, badly lit areas and areas with bushes and trees. Stick to main routes and avoid alleys and short cuts in Sunny Beach.

Some tourists have been victims of overcharging in strip clubs in Sofia and in some resorts like Bansko, Borovets and Sunny Beach. Overcharging can amount to hundreds of pounds and victims have been threatened with violence if they don’t pay.

Stun guns, torch stun guns and other weapons like knives, pepper spray and CS gas can be bought in shops in and around Bourgas and Sunny Beach. Many of these weapons are illegal in the UK and importing them could result in a prison sentence.

There have been reports of car tyres being deliberately punctured across Bulgaria. While investigating the puncture, someone distracts the driver and personal belongings and documents are stolen from the vehicle. Be vigilant if you have to stop in these circumstances and make sure your belongings are secure.

Break-ins have occurred in properties in the residential areas of cities and rural areas. Seek local advice on security for your home.

For all types of emergency (fire, ambulance, police) you can dial 112.

Local travel

Taxis are plentiful and cheap by UK standards, although vehicles may not be in very good condition. Most taxis are metered and yellow taxis are generally considered reliable. Avoid taxis parked outside hotels or in tourist areas. Ask your hotel to call a taxi or flag down a passing taxi with a green ‘available’ light in the window. Check the tariffs on the window before getting in as they can vary considerably.

Disruptions or delays are possible at border crossings with Greece due to regular strikes of Greek farmers who continue to block a number of roads across Greece. Strikes are sometimes called at short notice and can cause disruption to public transport in and out of Greece (including air travel and ports). Updates on the situation at the Greek border can be found at the Ministry of Transport website.

There are regular reports of robberies and threatening behaviour by taxi drivers in Sunny Beach. Use a taxi recommended by your tour operator or accommodation provider.

At Sofia airport you should use a taxi from OK Supertrans at the official rank by booking at their desk in the arrivals hall.

Road travel

Take care when driving, particularly at night. Many roads are in poor condition and road works are often unlit or unmarked. Driving standards are generally poor. Avoid confrontations with aggressive drivers. Stick to the speed limit and make sure your vehicle is roadworthy. On the spot fines are charged for minor violations.

In 2015 there were 708 road deaths in Bulgaria (source: Department for Transport). This equates to 9.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2015.

If you enter Bulgaria in a private vehicle, you must have your driving licence, all original registration and ownership documents (including logbook) as well as evidence of insurance valid in Bulgaria. If you have hired a car you must have the original contract document, which should state that the vehicle can be brought into Bulgaria. Border officials will impound your vehicle if they are not satisfied that you own it or have permission to use it in Bulgaria.

You’ll need to buy a vignette (sticker) to drive on motorways and main roads outside towns. You can buy one at the border, or from post offices, large petrol stations and DZI bank offices. Rates are much higher for freight vehicles and coaches carrying 8 or more passengers. You’ll be fined if you don’t have a vignette.

Under Bulgarian law, vehicles that are registered outside the EU are considered to be ‘temporarily imported’ when driven inside Bulgaria. If they are stolen on Bulgarian soil, the owners will be liable for import duty and related taxes. Cars registered in the Channel Islands and the Isles of Man are subject to this legislation.

You must drive with running lights or dipped beam headlights throughout the year, even during the daytime. It’s compulsory to carry the following equipment in your vehicle: fire extinguisher (not required for 2-wheeled vehicles), a first-aid kit and a warning triangle (not required for 2-wheeled vehicles). A reflective jacket must be used by anyone who steps on to the road in a breakdown or emergency. Snow chains must be carried from 1 November until 1 March and used when the relevant sign is displayed. Winter tyres are compulsory for vehicles registered in Bulgaria during wintry road conditions.

See the European Commission,AA and RAC guides on driving in Bulgaria.

Rail and bus travel

If you travel by train, check the availability of sleeping compartments and whether bicycles can be taken on board. This may vary between regions, and there may be additional charges. Thieves operate on trains, so take particular care that documents and other valuables are safe. The train system is very poor by European standards. There have been several fires on Bulgarian trains.

Inter-city buses are frequent, relatively fast and comfortable, but crashes do occur.

Stray Dogs

Stray dogs are common and dangerous. Avoid getting too close to stray dogs, especially if they are in a pack. Take any animal bites seriously and seek immediate medical advice as rabies and other animal borne diseases are present in Bulgaria.

Terrorism

There is an underlying threat from terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

On 30 December 2016, the Bulgarian Minister of Interior, announced heightened security measures in all cities, winter ski resorts, and places where large gatherings are expected.

There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.

Local laws and customs

The Bulgarian authorities treat all drug-related and sex offences very seriously. Custodial sentences can be expected for any foreigners convicted of such offences. Offences relating to drunken, disorderly behaviour and hooliganism may also be treated more seriously than in the UK.

Homosexuality is not illegal, but Bulgarians tend not to be very open about the subject and the gay community generally keeps a low profile. There are a few gay bars and clubs.

Avoid taking photographs near potentially sensitive areas like military establishments. If in doubt, ask permission.

Covering your face with garments (such as a burka or similar head covering) in public places, including governmental buildings, streets, parks, gardens, restaurants, shops and on public transport is illegal in Bulgaria. There is a fine for covering your face in public places.

There have been numerous reports of buyers being defrauded while purchasing property. Be cautious and seek comprehensive legal advice before making any purchase. Only deal with established and reputable real estate agents or with other contacts that you know to be reliable and genuine. See the Foreign and Commonwealth Office guide to buying property in Bulgaria.

Entry requirements

The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay; you don’t need any additional period of validity on your passport beyond this.

Visas

British citizens don’t need a visa to enter Bulgaria. If you have a different type of British nationality, check entry requirements with the Bulgarian Embassy in London before you travel.

If you want to stay in Bulgaria for longer than 3 months, you will need to register with the police and apply for a residence permit. You can find more information on how to register at the Ministry of Interior website

If you are a dual British-Bulgarian national you should enter and exit Bulgaria on your Bulgarian passport and carry your Bulgarian travel document and British passport with you.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Bulgaria.

Health

Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.

If you’re visiting Bulgaria you should get a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. The EHIC isn’t a substitute for medical and travel insurance, but it entitles you to state provided medical treatment that may become necessary during your trip. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as Bulgarian nationals. If you don’t have your EHIC with you or you’ve lost it, you can call the Department of Health Overseas Healthcare Team (+44 191 218 1999) to get a Provisional Replacement Certificate. The EHIC won’t cover medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment or non-urgent treatment, so you should make sure you have adequate travel insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment and repatriation.

Facilities in most Bulgarian hospitals are basic and old-fashioned compared to those in the UK. 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 UK. Some private hospitals will not accept the EHIC. Check with hospital administrators.

There have been reports of overcharging of foreign tourists in private medical clinics in tourist resorts. If you decide to use the services, agree a price in advance.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 112 and ask for an ambulance. If you are referred to a medical facility for treatment you should contact your insurance/medical assistance company immediately.

Natural disasters

Earthquakes

Earthquakes and small tremors are recorded throughout the year, usually without consequences. The last significant series of earthquakes was in 1928.

To learn more about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, see this advice from the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Flooding

Many parts of Bulgaria are subject to flooding following heavy rains. Flooding is usually localised but can occasionally be widespread and has resulted in fatalities. Follow the weather forecast on the National Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology website which provides detailed information and severe weather warnings for Bulgaria.

Wildfires

Throughout the summer and early autumn period, Bulgaria is on a regular alert for wildfires. There is a danger of large-scale and quickly spreading fires in forests and fields. Follow media reports and the advice of the local authorities if wildfires occur in your area.

Money

You can buy Leva from banks and foreign exchange offices in the UK. There are many exchange bureaux in Bulgaria that normally accept sterling and other major currencies. Check the rates of exchange before making a transaction. Where possible, change money in banks, large hotels, or exchange bureaux. Don’t use sellers on the street. You may not be able to exchange Scottish and Northern Irish notes.

There is a large network of ATMs that accept standard international credit and debit cards. Check with your UK card provider whether you will be able to use these machines to with draw Leva.

Travel advice help and support

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send us a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.

See also

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  • British Embassy Sofia

    Title:British Embassy Sofia
    Email:BritishEmbassySofia@fco.gov.uk
    Address:

    9, Moskovska St
    1000 Sofia
    Bulgaria

    Contact: Telephone: (+359) 2 933 9222
    Fax: (+359) 2 933 9250
    Visiting:For consular assistance (24 hours), please call the British Embassy Bucharest +40 (21) 201 7351 while our phone line is not working.

    Consular e-mail address: consularsection.sofia@fco.gov.uk
    Services:Lost or Stolen Passports (Assistance Services)
  • Department for International Trade Bulgaria

    Title:Department for International Trade Bulgaria
    Email:britishembassysofia@fco.gov.uk
    Address:

    British Embassy
    9 Moskovska Street
    1000 Sofia
    Bulgaria

    Contact: Enquiries: +359 (2) 933 9222
    Visiting:
    Services:

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The latest news, travel advice, and information for Bulgaria, updated regularly for all British travellers by the UK Foreign Office. Including British consulate and embassy addresses in Bulgaria (Sofia).

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