Country profile

Travel and accommodation in Bulgaria

There are three international airports in Bulgaria.  The main airport is the Sofia International Airport which is located 10km east from the city centre.  Getting to and from the airport is straightforward.  Airport buses run approximately every 10 minutes to the centre during the day and every 20 minutes between 9pm and 12.30am, with a journey time of around 20 minutes.  There are also plenty of taxis available and vying for tourists’ custom outside Arrivals, but it is advisable to take one of the meter run ‘OK SUPERTRANS’ taxis from the line in front of Arrivals as some drivers try to get away with not using their meters, in which case the fare should be agreed in advance.  As a guideline the average taxi fare from Sofia Airport to the city centre is 6 leva or €3.

There is also a regular public bus from Sofia Airport to the city centre (Bus No 84 to Sofia University) and the bus stop is just outside Arrivals.  The line operates between 5am and 11pm all year round and a single ticket costs 0.50 leva or €0.25.  Hotel shuttles and scheduled coach services also depart to the city centre and coaches are available through tour operators.  

The international airport at Varna is located 7.5 km from the centre and charter airlines and some scheduled airlines use this airport during the summer months.  It also serves regular internal flights to and from Sofia, with a journey time of less than an hour (compared to six hours by car!).  Most tourists going on holiday on the south-east coast of the Black Sea arrive at Bourgas Airport which serves only charter flights.  Passengers arriving in and departing from Bourgas Airport are transferred mainly via bus by their tour operator but there is a bus (Number 15) departing into the centre and there are also taxis parked in front of the Departure Terminal.

Arriving by road or rail

The main European railway routes pass through Bulgaria and international trains link Sofia with many European capital cities.  Travelling to Bulgaria from London by train is possible, contact Rail Europe regarding information on train journeys and prices.  If you arrive via international train you'll go through passport control and customs at the border and the relevant officials will board the train and wake passengers in the middle of the night to check passports. 

Bulgaria can also be entered by car through any one of the many border checkpoints.  The usual international car rental companies are at the airport and foreign driving licenses are valid in Bulgaria.  The speed limit is 60 km/h in populated areas, 80 km/h outside populated areas and 120 km/h on motorways, and there are petrol stations located every 30 to 50 km. 

Getting around the country

As in most former communist countries Bulgaria has a good railway network connecting even very small villages with big cities and you can get almost anywhere by train, but trains are very old and slow, though some new trains are running the Sofia-Varna line, and the journey is considerably shorter. 

Getting around the centre of Sofia is best done by public transport, rather than by car due to the shortage of parking spaces.  Public transport is efficient, there are trams, buses, and trolley buses and public transport runs from 5am till midnight for buses and trolley buses, and until 1am for trams.  Single trip tickets can be purchased at shop kiosks, newsstands or in the driver's cabin and the ticket must be punched on the vehicle.  A fresh ticket must be punched if you transfer bus/tram as tickets are regularly inspected by conductors. 

The major tram lines include routes 1 and 7 which pass through the Central Railway Station, Sheraton Hotel, and Vitosha Blvd.  Routes 2, 12 and 19 pass through the Central Railway Station, Graf Ignatiev St, Zhurnalish Square in Losetets, routes 6 and 9 through the Central Railway Station, the National Palace of Culture underpass, Losenets area and route 5 runs from the National History Museum down Tsar Boris 3rd Blvd to the Knyazhevo area.  

Major buses include number 84 which runs from the Airport to Sofia University and 213 and 313 from the Central Railway Station through Lavov Most (Lion's Bridge) down Tsarigradsko Shousse Blvd to Mladost area.  The 280 runs from Sofia University down Tsarigradsko Shousse Blvd to Darvenitsa area and Student Town and number 94 runs from Sofia University through Losenets area to Darvenitsa area and Student Town.

Central Railway Station (Tzentralna Gara in Bulgarian) is the main railway station located to the north of the city centre which is well connected for all public transport and has recently had a bit of a makeover.  Yellow taxis are readily available outside the station, but again be wary of taxi drivers who try to overcharge tourist.

Since 1989 and the fall of Communism, hotel accommodation in Sofia has improved greatly and you can now find a good choice of quality accommodation, whatever your taste and budget.  A double room in a four star hotel in Sofia is generally priced around €90, and a double in a three star costs from approximately €50.  Apartments are also available to rent from €30 a night to provide that ‘home-from-home’ touch. 

The currency is the Bulgarian Leva and 1 Bulgarian Leva (BGN) and roughly equivalent to €0.50.

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