When it comes to transport and driving in Bulgaria, road and rail travel dominate the long-distance travel options. Expats living in Bulgaria's cities usually get around via bus and trolleybus networks. The capital, Sofia, also has a metro system.
Apart from Plovdiv, the cycling paths inside most cities are non-existent. Despite this, the number of cyclists is increasing, and the state has promised to promote local biking culture by investing in cycling infrastructure.
Expats thinking of living in rural areas should consider buying a car, as these areas are generally not well covered by public transport networks.
Public transport in Bulgaria
Expats living in Bulgaria will be able to make use of its affordable and relatively efficient public transport network. Despite the extensive train and bus routes, public transport is often inefficient.
Rail networks connect most of the cities in Bulgaria. Most trains are operated by the state-owned Bulgarian State Railways (BDZ). The country's trains are somewhat outdated, and they may move at a pace that can frustrate expats used to faster services.
International trains connect Bulgaria to the adjacent countries of Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Turkey and Serbia, with some coaches travelling to European countries further afield.
International and inter-city train tickets can be bought both online and at train stations. See BDZ Passenger Services for timetables and tickets.
Buses are a safe, reasonably priced and comfortable means of getting around. There are many bus routes serviced by a variety of bus companies. Long-distance buses are a common means of domestic travel, and international bus routes travel to cities such as Skopje, Belgrad and Istanbul.
Bus tickets can be bought at bus stations, at bus company offices and, depending on the company, online. Expats may also be able to buy tickets once on the bus, but buying the ticket in advance is recommended. Bus schedules and routes are typically displayed in Cyrillic, which can be challenging for expats who can't read the alphabet.
While metros may not be available in the rest of Bulgaria, expats in the capital city of Sofia will benefit from the convenience of the Sofia Metro. There are four lines offering a swift and cost-effective way to traverse the city. The metro system is relatively straightforward to navigate, with modern trains and stations equipped with bilingual signs in both Bulgarian and English.
Metro tickets can be purchased at station kiosks, with options for single rides, daily passes and monthly passes catering for various commuting needs.
Taxis in Bulgaria
Taxi companies operate in most cities but can be scarce in rural areas. New arrivals should be careful of taxis that offer fixed rates and don't use a meter. These drivers may be overcharging for their service.
Rideshare apps such as Uber do not operate in Bulgaria, but local taxi services can be booked via apps such as TaxiMe, Taxi Maxim and Taxistars. The destination is selected on the app, which allows expats to bypass the language barrier.
Driving in Bulgaria
Foreign residents who don't live near public transport might need to consider buying a car. The country has a sizeable second-hand car market, and a variety of car makes are available at a cheaper cost than in most EU countries.
Finding parking in cities like Sofia can be challenging, and expats might need to rent a parking space, which can be expensive.
To drive in Bulgaria, expats will need a translation of their driving licence or, ideally, an International Driving Permit. This will be valid for one year, after which it's necessary to obtain a Bulgarian driving licence.
Cycling in Bulgaria
Although cycling on highways can be dangerous, Bulgaria is famed for its cross-country cycling routes. Despite not having a widespread cycling culture, cycling is becoming increasingly popular with the state pledging to make cycling safer in urban centres. In recent years, some improvements have been made to the cycling infrastructure in Sofia, and Plovdiv is somewhat cycle-friendly, but the rest of the country is lacking.
Air travel in Bulgaria
Air travel in Bulgaria has grown significantly in recent years, offering expats a wide range of options for domestic and international flights. With three primary airports — Sofia, Burgas and Varna — serving as the country's main aviation hubs, passengers can take advantage of numerous connections to destinations across Europe and beyond.
Several low-cost carriers operate in Bulgaria, making it an affordable choice for budget-conscious travellers. The domestic air network is well-connected, ensuring easy accessibility to key cities and attractions within the country.
►Cost of Living in Bulgaria provides an overview of expenses in the country.
►Healthcare in Bulgaria has information about medical treatment and health concerns.
"You absolutely need a car if you're living in a Bulgarian village.
"Bulgaria has a good network of coaches and minibuses that run across the country. We regularly leave the car at home and get the bus down to Sofia. In Sofia itself, public transport is just as you'd expect in any capital city. It has a metro, buses and trams and taxis are plentiful."
Read about Claire's experience of life in Bulgaria in her interview with Expat Arrivals.
Are you an expat living in Bulgaria?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Bulgaria. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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