Expats will enjoy a low cost of living in Bulgaria, although the salaries are equally low. Though not the best place for working expats, Bulgaria is a good pick for retirees from Western Europe or the US. Thanks to currency conversions, they can buy property more cheaply while extending the purchasing power of their pensions. Retired expats living in Bulgaria can thus enjoy a European lifestyle at a cheaper cost.

The Mercer Cost of Living Survey for 2023 ranked Sofia, Bulgaria's capital, as the 168th most expensive city in the world out of 227 cities. This places the cost of living somewhere between Budapest, Hungary and Warsaw, Poland.


Cost of accommodation in Bulgaria

The cost of accommodation in Bulgaria is generally inexpensive, especially compared to larger cities in Western Europe or the US. Renting an apartment in the city centre is more affordable than one might expect, and even more so in the suburbs and smaller towns. Expats can choose from various options, including modern apartments, houses, or more traditional homes with a unique Bulgarian charm.

When securing a lease, expats are expected to pay agent fees, the first month's rent in advance, and a refundable security deposit, usually equivalent to one month's rent.


Cost of transport in Bulgaria

The cost of public transport in Bulgaria is affordable, and its general reliability makes it easy for expats to get around the city and the country without spending a fortune. Most Bulgarians in cities commute by bus, which is similarly priced to the tram systems that run in some city centres.

Buses, trams, and metro systems are all available, with tickets costing a fraction of what one might expect in Western Europe or the US. Taxis are also relatively cheap, though it's important to use reputable companies to avoid being overcharged.


Cost of groceries in Bulgaria

The relatively low cost of living in Bulgaria also extends to grocery shopping. Locally produced fruits, vegetables and dairy products are typically inexpensive and of excellent quality, and many expats will find that their weekly shopping bill is significantly lower than in their home country. For the best prices, it's worth visiting local markets, where the produce is not only fresher but also cheaper than in supermarkets. Naturally, imported foods will be pricier than local items.


Cost of entertainment and eating out in Bulgaria

Eating out in Bulgaria is fairly cheap relative to most countries in the EU, making it easy for expats to enjoy a night out without overspending. There are numerous local restaurants serving traditional Bulgarian cuisine at highly reasonable prices. Expats from Western Europe or the US will find that even mid-range and high-end restaurants are more affordable than in their home countries.

The same can be said for entertainment, with cinemas, theatres, and other cultural events being accessible at a lower cost. Alcohol is also affordable, and Bulgaria's cities have an active nightlife scene.


Cost of education in Bulgaria

The cost of public education in Bulgaria is appealing to expats with children. However, it's only really an option if the little ones either already know Bulgarian or are young enough to pick it up, since it's the language of instruction. If this isn't an issue, expat families can enjoy free and compulsory schooling available at public schools until the age of 16.

On the other hand, most expats opt to send their children to private or international schools, which offer education in English or other foreign languages, but at a higher cost. Expats sending their children to international schools will find that school fees are their most significant expense.


Cost of healthcare in Bulgaria

The cost of healthcare in Bulgaria varies depending on whether expats choose to use public or private options. Public healthcare is free for residents, but the quality and waiting times can be inconsistent. Private healthcare offers a higher standard of care but comes with a higher price tag. Even so, private healthcare costs are still lower than in many Western countries, making it a viable option for expats who require regular medical attention or prefer a higher standard of care.


Cost of living chart for Bulgaria

Prices may vary depending on the product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Sofia in August 2023.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

BGN 1,530

Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

BGN 1,050

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

BGN 860

One-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

BGN 660

Food and drink

Dozen eggs

BGN 8

Milk (1 litre)

BGN 3.20

Rice (1kg)

BGN 3.66

Loaf of white bread

BGN 1.88

Chicken breasts (1kg)

BGN 18

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

BGN 6

Eating out

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

BGN 83

Big Mac meal

BGN 15

Coca-Cola (330ml)

BGN 2.53

Cappuccino

BGN 4.01

Bottle of beer (local)

BGN 1.54

Utilities/household

Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

BGN 0.38

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

BGN 16

Basic utilities (average per month for a standard household)

BGN 240

Transportation

Taxi rate/km

BGN 1.22

City-centre public transport fare

BGN 1.60

Gasoline (per litre)

BGN 2.93

Expat Health Insurance

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