Eastern Europe has garnered quite an amount of attention in the past few years due to its great pricing and scintillating sights. For this particular reason, we are going to explore the subtle nuances of Bulgaria, the secret gem on the coast of the Black Sea. And yes, there is much more to Bulgaria than its coast; so without further ado, let us take a peek at the top six things to know about it!
1. The passport practice:
First and foremost, travelling to Bulgaria is not difficult in spite of the fact that it is not yet part of the Schengen Area of Europe. What this means is that you might require an entry visa depending on where you are coming from. If you are travelling from Australia, New Zealand, the United States of America, Canada or most of Europe, you might not need a visa – provided that you are staying for 90 days or less – but we highly encourage you to Google the specifics that pertain to your country. Additionally, know that if you are travelling by coach, there is this practice that you should become accustomed to in Eastern Europe: the border police is bound to board the coach, take your passports/IDs and waltz away with them for a few minutes. Though this is considered queer in most modern countries, it is fairly common in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, etc. Do not fret, though, for you are going to get your belongings back in no time!
And here we are again, discussing the basics of the basics: the tipping customs. Bulgarian waiters and bartenders are usually paid minimum wage, so it is highly recommended that you leave a 10% tip or more. This is customary and your generosity will directly influence your future experiences at those establishments. Of course, leaving more than 10% is also possible though not necessary. It is considered impolite to not tip at all though, so consider your manners when visiting public places.
3. The nods:
And this is quite possibly the most interesting cultural aspect of Bulgaria: the backwards nods. What do we mean by backwards? Well, it means that you nod for no and shake your head for yes. If you are new to this whole thing, you are going to mess this up all the time but we assure you that it can get quite fun after a while. Here’s a challenge for you: train your mind to work upside down and when you leave the country, switch back instantaneously – near impossible, we know, but it is fun. If you are travelling in groups, this challenge can be upped a bit by talking to your friends/colleagues with your conventional nods and then trying to switch when you are talking to locals. Be sure to tell us all about what you’ve accomplished in terms of these nods, because we are sure that each and every experience is going to be humorous (wink)!
Well, this is quite a nasty one: roads in Bulgaria are terrible. While this may not be directly visible from your coach (you might experience it to some degree nonetheless), it will be beyond obvious when you get off the beaten path on your own. Rural areas are far more affected than conventional highways and their lighting is often dim as well. Always be fully aware when you are driving and keep yourself as awake as possible if you are travelling by night. Holes from insignificant to huge can be found in rural roads and they can damage your car if you do not dodge them properly. Oh, and here’s the interesting part: the locals got so good at dodging that they hardly even notice them. If you want to survive the roads in Bulgaria, be like them, the local veterans (wink)!
And here is the good news for budget-savvy travellers: Bulgaria is one of the most pocket-friendly countries in the world. Eastern European standards hold up well there but one should keep an eye on how close one is to the Black Sea – the closer you are, the more expensive things will get. But do not fret for prices shall never get close to western standards – they are merely more expensive in local terms. Housing is also fairly cheap so find yourself a nice place to stay at and let fate take you where it has to (wink)! Oh, and restaurants are perfectly affordable for backpackers as well so you do not have to stick to only supermarkets and fast-foods!
6. Language barriers:
Alright, so here’s another thing to consider beyond one’s proximity to the Black Sea: the proximity to rural areas. Why? Because if you happen to find yourself in rural Bulgaria, you are not likely to meet people who speak English. Though the youth tends to defy this statement, the older generations will be far harder to converse with (not to mention the backwards nods). Popular tourist-areas such as Sofia are more English-friendly, so you need not fear getting lost. We do recommend that you brush up on your Cyrillic, though (wink)!
Did you enjoy our list? What experiences have you had in Bulgaria and how have they shaped your overall feel of the place? Tell us all about it in the comment section below and be sure to check back from time to time! Safe travels!