More and more people in search of new locations for outdoor adventure are choosing Bulgaria as their top destination. And we are not surprised why.
With its beautiful and unspoiled landscape and breath-taking mountain ranges, the country is increasingly becoming popular for a good reason.
Most of the time, people who travel to Bulgaria don’t know what to expect. Perhaps that’s the reason why when visiting Bulgaria; they would spend their trip around the country’s capital, Sofia. Although Sofia is a wonderful city to explore, Bulgaria has more than what its capital can offer.
The country will amaze you because of its scenic views, ancient archaeological sites, and stunning landscape. It is also home to some of UNESCO’s treasures so there are a lot of spots that travelers like you can explore. Bulgaria is a small country which makes it accessible. On top of that, traveling to Bulgaria is not only safe but also affordable!
If you want to explore the country, especially if you plan to visit some of its remote villages, national parks, famous monuments, and other sightseeing attractions, then traveling by car is the most convenient option for you.
For a more comfortable and pleasant experience, you may choose to rent a car in Bulgaria. Renting a car will allow you to take charge of your own time and travel schedule. It wouldn’t be much of a problem since there are a lot of car rental services available in the country.
Researching for the best car rental service can be a time-consuming and pesky task for some. If you share the same sentiment, then hiring a personal assistant will be best for you. There are a lot of virtual assistant services existing in the market that specialize in getting these kinds of tasks done. Deciding to hire someone who can provide some of the best virtual assistant services may be helpful for a hassle-free travel experience.
Are you excited to take a vacation in Bulgaria anytime soon? If your answer is yes, then this article is written just for you.
But before you go and pack your suitcase, it may be practical to read on for some useful suggestions when traveling to Bulgaria. With that, it is likewise important to learn some of the best tips in getting around the place by car.
Hopefully, this article will be helpful to you. Please hop in and fasten your seatbelts. Let’s get ready for your first Bulgarian road trip!
Basic Driving Rules in Bulgaria
In Bulgaria, the legal driving age is 18 years old. However, to be able to rent a car there, you need to be at least 21. Aside from that, you must also have a driving license for at least a year.
Just like in most European countries, you must also drive on the right side of the road in Bulgaria. It means that you may overtake only from the left side.
Some of the most basic driving rules in Bulgaria include that all car passengers should wear seatbelts whether they are seated in the front or at the back. The country also implements safety precautions for passengers who travel within the area. Children who are 12 years old and below are not allowed to seat in front. They can only sit at the back.
The driver may also not use his mobile phone if it is without a hands-free system. Using of car horns is prohibited and may only be permitted in case of avoiding traffic accidents on the road.
Aside from these things, when traveling to Bulgaria by car, you need to keep these driving rules in mind:
Travel with the required driving documentation and vehicle equipment
When driving around Bulgaria, you need to have the necessary documentation which includes the registration and the annual inspection cards. You will also need to get a third party liability insurance.
All vehicles in Bulgaria must also have the following equipment: a first aid kit, warning triangle, reflective jacket, spare tire, lifting tool, and a fire extinguisher.
Always remember to turn your lights on
One of the most important things that you have to remember when driving in Bulgaria is to turn your headlights on – all of the time.
Bulgaria has recently imposed a law which makes it mandatory to have the headlights on all year round, and even during the day. The law should be followed, whether you are driving outside or within urban centers.
It doesn’t seem to be much of a concern since the country is incorporating some of the most modern passenger cars sold in the market today.
Comply with the country’s speed limits
Unless indicated otherwise, Bulgaria has the following speed limits:
- 50 km/h (30 mph) when driving within the city
- 90 km/h (55 mph) outside the cities
- 140 km/h (75 mph) in the highways
There is a fine for over-speeding depending on the speed limit you have violated and the area where you drove in. For example, if you drive 10 km/h more than what is allowed, then you will have to pay a fine of at least 20 Bulgarian leva. The country imposes a higher fine for greater violations of the speed limit.
Use a vignette sticker when driving outside of the city
The country imposes a road tax when driving outside of the cities and it comes in the form of vignettes. Thus, a vignette sticker is required when you drive outside of the cities in Bulgaria.
The vignette sticker should be placed on the bottom-right corner of the windscreen. Remember to keep the plastic sheet and the receipt of your vignette sticker.
Usually, vignette stickers for regular cars cost around 15 BGN. The sticker is good for a week. For a vignette sticker to last you for a month, you will need to spend 30 BGN and 97 BGN for a sticker which is good for a year.
Renting a car in Bulgaria commonly includes the price of these vignette stickers.
When staying in Sofia, keep the parking zones in mind
When you’re driving around Sofia, you have to know that you can’t just park anywhere. Parking spots in Sofia are not easy to find. Aside from that, you should be aware of the parking zones in the city.
Parking zones in Sofia are either blue or green. These parking zones are marked with road signs.
The maximum parking time for the blue zone is 2 hours. The price per hour is at 2 BGN. Its operating hours are from 8:30 AM to 7:30 PM from Monday to Friday and from 8:30 AM to 6 PM on Saturdays.
Meanwhile, the maximum parking time for the green zone is 4 hours. The price per hour is only at 1 BGN. Its operation hours run from 8:30 AM to 7:30 PM from Monday to Friday. It is free on the weekends.
5 Most Helpful Driving Tips in Bulgaria
Know where you are heading
When traveling around Bulgaria, it is important to know where you are going.
To do this, you may bring with you a map, a GPS, or any location device that will help you get to your destination. However, most of the route signs in Bulgaria are written either in Cyrillic or Latin Alphabets, so this might be a bit of a challenge.
It’s a good thing that people in Bulgaria are usually warm and helpful people. They are willing to assist travelers in getting around the area. But some of them do not speak English so you may need to write down the Bulgarian name of the place you are visiting before you go on your road trip.
Rent a car to visit some of the best sites in the country
Some of the most stunning places in Bulgaria are only accessible by car, so the best way to get around the country is by renting a car.
To travel from one place to another in Bulgaria, you will have to change several means of transportation to get to your destination. Just imagine the amount of stress you’ll get yourself into when this happens.
If you want to visit remote places and national parks, the most convenient way to get there is by car. Getting to places by bus or by train may not be the best option for you. Renting a car allows you to explore the country more and appreciate its impressive sites and rare beauty better.
Watch out for the bumps on the road
The roads in Bulgaria may not be perfect. Many of the roads are bumpy, and some even have missing markings. However, we can say that the country is slowly improving on this aspect.
It is helpful to be extra careful when you drive around the place. Pay attention for occasional bumps and potholes, especially if you are traveling during the night time. To protect yourself from unexpected troubles, you can get yourself car insurance.
Give priority to pedestrians
You may say that this is rather an obvious tip, but it doesn’t mean this is not worth the mention.
In Bulgaria, as in other countries around the world, you must stop and give priority to pedestrians as they cross the road. At present, the country fines drivers who do not stop once someone has stepped on the pedestrian lines. Thus, you should keep this tip in mind.
There is a blood alcohol limit in Bulgaria
The blood alcohol limit in Bulgaria is 0.05%. Thus, you can get a fine or even lose your license for six months to a year if you go above that limit. What’s worse is that you may go to jail for a bigger trace of alcohol found in your blood.
So if you want to go out by car, and you are planning to have some drinks with your friends, then you better call for a drink and drive service. These kind of services are available in some of the major cities like Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna, and Burgas. Otherwise, you may get a taxi and get the car back a day after.
An important tip: In case of accidents, you must wait with the car. You can also contact the authorities if you have other concerns that you want to report. You can contact the police by dialing 166. The official Bulgarian emergency hotline is 112.
Top Destinations to Visit in Bulgaria by Car
Now that you already have an idea of the most important tips when traveling to Bulgaria, the next step is choosing your top destinations for your Bulgarian road trip adventure.
Where do you go when you travel around Bulgaria by car? Here are some of the best places to visit in Bulgaria by car.
Plovdiv is the melting pot of different cultures and influences. The coming together of these different culture makes Plovdiv the unique place that it is today.
If you are looking for a place that has an incredible tradition, extraordinary food, and tasteful art, then Plovdiv is the ultimate destination for you. A walk around the Old Town and central alley will most likely make you feel the classic ambiance of the oldest cities in Europe.
The best part is that the historical monasteries are only a short trip away! Plovdiv has around 10 active monasteries in the area, including Bachkovo, the second largest monastery in Bulgaria. Aside from that, Rila Monastery, the breathtaking UNESCO treasure is just a few distances away.
These are some reasons why you should spend a day (or more) in Plovdiv.
The Buzludzha Monument
One of the places that can’t be reached by public transport in Bulgaria is the Buzludzha Monument.
The Buzludzha Monument is considered as one of the greatest abandoned buildings in the world. It is located right at the heart of the Balkan Mountains and is famed as the Bulgarian UFO.
However, it is officially known as the House-Monument of the Bulgarian Communist Party. The monument has been attracting curious travelers since its abandonment in 1989.
Even if the monument is inaccessible through public transport, there are many ways to get there. One of the most convenient ways is to rent a car. It may be hard to get to the place, but the experience will be worth it.
The Seven Rila Lakes
When it comes to hiking in Bulgaria, trekking in the Seven Rila Lakes should be your top choice.
Each of the lakes is named according to its shape and peculiar characteristic. They are The Lower Lake, The Fish Lake, The Trefoil Lake, Twin Lake, The Kidney Lake, The Eye Lake, and The Tear Lake.
The Seven Rila Lakes is only a two-hour drive south from Sofia. The lakes are popular to tourists and locals alike. They are situated in Rila National Park and is famed as one of the most stunning features of Bulgaria!
The trail is perfect not only for seasoned hikers but also for nature lovers with less hiking experience.
One useful tip: The hiking route is moderate in terms of difficulty. It consists of brief individual paths and steep inclines so you might want to consider bringing with you your comfortable walking boots. You may also not be allowed to wear sandals and flip-flops. During the summer, bring a rain jacket as heavy showers sometimes occur in the afternoon.
Located at the foot of the Sredna Gora Mountain range in central Bulgaria is the beautiful town of Stara Zagora.
Famous as the fifth largest city in Bulgaria, Stara Zagora may also be one of the most underestimated cities when it comes to tourism in Bulgaria.
The city is rich in history and culture which can be seen in its many ancient Roman buildings and ruins. Most of these historical structures are preserved in the city’s center and surrounding places. These ruins serve as a stunning reminder of Europe’s old settlements.
When in Stara Zagora, you shouldn’t miss the chance to visit the Regional History Museum, The Neolithic Dwellings Museum, the Zagorka Brewery, the Balgarsko Opalchenie Park, the Ayazmoto Park, the Stara Zagora Zoo, and the pre-Bulgarian survival school Baga-Tur, among others.
Rising at 2,925 meters above sea level is Bulgaria’s Musala Peak.
Musala Peak is the highest peak in all of Bulgaria and the Balkanian Peninsula. It may be considered as the country’s highest peak, but it is not hard to conquer it. Although the hike involves trekking the trail for at least five or six hours, it doesn’t require extraordinary physical training. It is a popular activity for both tourists and locals, especially during the summer.
The prize for the entire hike in Musala Peak is getting to see the outstanding view from its summit. From there, you will be able to admire some of Bulgaria’s most stunning mountain ranges including the Rila, Vitosha, Pirin, Sredna Gora, the Rodopi Mountains, as well as the Balkan Mountains.
Hiking in Musala Peak is also a great way to escape from the crowds for a while and take some time to appreciate the wonderful gift that nature has to offer.
Additional location: Do not forget to explore the Rhodope region. It is a beautiful place of natural and historical wonders. While in the region, consider visiting the following places: the Smolyan city, Pamporovo, Shiroka Luka, Belintash, Kosovo, Momchil fortress, The Canyon of Waterfalls, The Wonderful Bridges, Uhlovitsa Cave, Ygodinska Cave, and The Devil’s Throat Cave. The typical foods of the Rhodope region is also a must-try.
Author Bio: Karstine Mae Sanchez is a content marketer at OkayRelax. She loves writing content on business and work management, food and nutrition, and travel lifestyle. When she is not busy, you can find her at the beach, exploring different islands, seeing beautiful waves and walking in the sand.