Once you’ve made your way through the gates of the plane, took a bunch of elbows in the ribs on your way to border control, avoided some very persistent taxi drivers and jumped into the first bus maybe you are already safe and sound in Sofia city center. Maybe you were lucky enough to land at Terminal 2 and took advantage of the shiny new metro. If so – congratulations and welcome to Bulgaria! You saved yourself some time and a potentially overwhelming culture shock trying to deal with bus tickets and communicating with drivers in this strange Bulgarian language.
Ah, ok! You read our blogpost on how to go from Sofia airport to the city center… then everything went smoothly!
If you finished exploring the capital city and you wish to dive into the deep and wander around the countryside, it is time for you to learn how to get around Bulgaria. If you didn’t come to Bulgaria by plane, you are already a high-level (and eco) traveler here and have an idea about how things work.
If you want to be independent and spontaneous – renting a car is the best option for you. Prices start from around 25 euro per day and allow drop offs in different cities. There are some pretty cool sites to see (like the big UFO looking communist monument on top of mount Buzludza) that are difficult or almost impossible to reach by public transport.
If you are not the type that will give away your comfort – having a car is a pretty good option. Just one thing to keep in mind: although the gas is cheap and the independence liberating, it’s all paid for by the environment in the end. Sofia has recently seen some alarming air pollution (like many European cities nowadays). We appreciate the tourists who want to keep Bulgaria green.
If you want to go fast between some major cities, are on a budget, and don’t want to guzzle gas all on your own – there is an appealing option for you – car sharing. This way of traveling is quite popular in Bulgaria. It emerged from the needs of the students that wanted to go to their homes during the weekends or university holidays. That’s why you shouldn’t be surprised if most of the drivers are in their student years.
There is one more bonus to this type of travel. You will meet the locals and get precious advice on where to go or what to do in their home towns! Where can you find car share in Bulgaria? Simply search on Facebook and you will find plenty of them. Type the name of the two major cities on the route and “пътуващи”, to start off. If you can’t find anything, ask another local youngster for help.
Good news for the adventurous travelers – hitchhiking in Bulgaria is a piece of cake! Especially in the summer season, you can find plenty of likeminded people on the road. Average time for waiting – 10-15 minutes. People in Bulgaria are so friendly and helpful they will happily pick up a traveler or two, or even three if they have space in the car. You can see people from all ages trying to hitch a ride. High school students trying to get to the seaside or the mountains, middle-aged people trying to escape from the boring work like, grandfathers trying to reach the nearby village or even mothers with kids.
During the socialist years, hitchhiking was really popular, perhaps due to people trusting each other more, the slower pace of life or a combination of these. You can easily hear a story from your driver how they used to hitch rides to their schools daily when they were kids.
If you choose this alternative way of transportation, it is really likely to experience it in an alternative vehicle. Do not get surprised if you get picked up by a legendary socialist brand of cars. Or even a horse and a carriage between the villages.
Unarguably, traveling by train is an adventure itself. One of the most preferred ways of traveling of all times. On the plus side – beautiful landscapes, slow (maybe a little too slow) pace, interesting encounters and people with stories. Depending on the country that you are coming from – you might consider the train as the fastest way of traveling. Well, in Bulgaria it is quite the opposite, just like our nodding habits. Did you know that for a ‘Yes’ we shake our heads and for a ‘No’ we nod?
In other words, if you are not in a hurry – consider the trains as a good traveling option. If you want to get to the seaside, it is worth getting a sleeper in the overnight train. This way, you will not only have a comfortable trip and save a day for exploring but you will also save some money on a hostel.
Do not get frustrated if the train does not leave on time, stops numerous times on the way and does not arrive on time either. This is simply the way we do it here – ‘leka poleka’ (slowly, slowly).
Here’s a more detailed guide.
The network of bus companies is really good and prices are not that high. The price of the tickets is more expensive than the train fare though. You can pretty much reach every big city and little village by bus. Buses are the preferred transport between cities if one does not have a car and is in a hurry. If you are leaving from Sofia, there are two main bus terminals:
Bulgarian drivers are quite understanding. Want to stop somewhere in between the main stops? Simply ask the driver if they can drop you off en route.
There are planes that fly from Sofia to the main seaside cities – Varna and Bourgas. However, considering all the time that you spend for check-in and security at the airport, traveling by plane is questionable. Firstly, the plane fare is usually much higher than the other types of transport. Secondly, the environmental impact from flying is incomparable to getting the train or the bus.
Whichever way of getting around suits you, one thing is sure – you will definitely find your piece of Bulgaria somewhere there. And as we like to say as a good wishing before someone is heading on a trip – ‘Da ti varvi po voda!’ or ‘Let it walk on water’, meaning ‘Good luck!’
Author: Kristina Arnaudova