Getting Around Bulgaria

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Getting Around Bulgaria

By Bus

Certainly the fastest way to travel around the country is by bus. Buses go from and to every bigger city (you might have to ask or be driven by taxi to the bus station) quite frequently (exact timetables information in English can be found at avtogari.info or BGrazpisanie.com); however, most bus station agents (except at the Black Sea and in Sofia) as well as the drivers will not speak or understand any languages except Bulgarian (and, if you are lucky, Russian) and the destinations will be written exclusively in Cyrillic. You can look up bus schedules for the Sofia New Central at the bus station.

Travelling from Sofia to major cities in Bulgaria by bus is a good value. A one way ticket to the Black Sea from Sofia is around EUR 12-15. Several companies operate regular routes serviced by new and modern buses. Timetables and prices in English for couple of the major companies can be found at GRUP Plus and Biomet.

There are other bus stations in Sofia and also some private buses depart from their own personal station, but for travellers just looking to get out of town with the least amount of confusion - using the New Central Bus Station may be easiest.

Buses and Minibuses go from Varna and Bourgas along the coastline, passing or going to all Bulgarian Black Sea tourist resorts.

By Train

Travelling by train is inexpensive, but also slower than by bus. Trains are most useful when travelling along the two major train routes: Sofia - Varna and Sofia - Bourgas. You can travel both routes overnight, but you should make your reservations early because these night trains are often fully booked.

The official website of the Bulgarian State Railways is user-friendly and offers an easy-to-use online timetable. Another train planner is available on www.bgrazpisanie.com.

Recently, new equipment has appeared on some the trains on routes between main destinations. New rail lines are also under construction but will not operational until 2011.

There is discount for travelling in group.

By Taxi

Many taxi drivers know only limited English so it is useful to write out your destination or carry a map. In winter 2008, a few of the newer taxis in Sofia have GPS units on the dashboard. Taxi tariffs in Bulgaria are standardized in the major cities. One should be extremely careful about using a taxi in Bulgaria. Especially since you are a foreigner, you can definitely become a target of unscrupulous taxi drivers. When in need, get familiar with the most well known taxi operators in your area, your route and expected bill. Generally the safest way of using a taxi is by ordering a taxi by phone. Some fraudalent taxis even mimic others' logos and labels on their cars. Definitely avoid using taxis waiting at airports and railway stations! An exception represent the Sofia and Varna airports as recently both airports contracted with licensed taxi companies. Currently only these companies can enter the airport area and pickup passengers - prices are standard.

By Car

If traveling by car, it would be helpful if you can read the Cyrillic alphabet at least a bit. Most signs have the direction shown in Latin letters, but some don't.

If you are a foreigner, its best to rent a car. If you decide to rent a car note that for any bump, or scrape to the car, whether involving a third party or not, you must immediately call the police to come and notarise the incident, otherwise you will most probably find that your insurance will not cover the damage. Check the Terms & Conditions of your rental agreement closely.

Driving in Bulgaria can be a bit precarious - many roads do not have defined lanes, are not well marked, and are in poor conditions. Locals often do not observe speed limits and do not signal when changing lanes.

When travelling on the road Sofia-Greece, be very careful. There is extensive road reconstruction and you can meet some really dangerous drivers.

From Sofia to Plovdiv, Chirpan and Dimitrovgrad, there is a highway with 2 or 3 lanes per direction.

On all but the major roads, expect to find significant pot holes and uneven surfaces, thorugh to gravel roads with major holes on some routes. Due to the poor road surfaces, you will often find cars driving on the wrong side of the road to avoid these holes, so be cautious when driving around blind bends. Due to the state of many of the roads, it you aren't travelling on new motorway, or other major roads, then expect to travel at an average 30-40km/h when estimating your travelling time.

If you observe the rules, police will not bother you. Bulgarian police have white Opel Astra patrol cars, marked "POLICE" with blue letters - keep that in mind, because in the past there have been several cases of fake police officers stopping cars and robbing travellers. Should you ever doubt the authority stopping you, you have the right to ask them to identify themselves with a certificate issued by the Ministry of Internal Affairs (Министерсво на вътрешните работи - МВР).

Never ever drink and drive in Bulgaria! This is always dangerous, and your first offence will result in a long prison sentence. The once-common practice of bribing a police officer to get out of a speeding or parking ticket is becoming the exception.

Car theft isn't much of a risk, but shouldn't be underestimated. In rural areas leaving your car should be safe, but in the big cities or tourist spots, it is advisable to stay on the safe side by parking either on the major streets or on guarded garages, where fees range from 6 leva a day to 2 leva an hour. If you plan to spend more time in one city, it might be better to rent a parking space, which on the average costs 60 leva a month. Most hotels have their own parking, and even at private lodgings it is often possible to park the car in the garden or so, just ask.

By Plane

Air travel is still not very common in Bulgaria as distances are relatively short.

Bulgaria Air, the national carrier travels everyday from Sofia to Varna and Burgas. Off peak deals can be found for 25eu r/t after taxes

WizzAir travels four times a week between Sofia and Varna. Off peak travel can be as cheap as 20eu r/t after taxes

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