Visas for Bulgaria

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Visas for Bulgaria

For EU and EFTA (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland) citizens, an officially approved ID card (or a passport) is sufficient for entry. In no case will they need a visa for a stay of any length. Others will generally need a passport for entry.

Travel to/from any other country (Schengen or not) from/to Bulgaria will (as of now) result in the normal immigration checks, but travelling to/from another EU country you will not have to pass customs.

Inquire at your travel agent, call the local consulate or embassy of Bulgaria.

The visa list is already consistent with those of the Schengen countries fully implementing the agreement.

Only the nationals of the following non-EU/EFTA countries do not need a visa for entry into the Schengen Area: Albania*, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia and Herzegovina*, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Japan, Macedonia*, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro*, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Serbia*/**, Seychelles, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan*** (Republic of China), United States, Uruguay, Vatican City, Venezuela, additionally persons holding British National (Overseas), Hong Kong SAR or Macau SAR passports.

These non-EU/EFTA visa-free visitors may not stay more than 90 days in a 180 day period in the Schengen Area as a whole and, in general, may not work during their stay (although some Schengen countries do allow certain nationalities to work - see below). The counter begins once you enter any country in the Schengen Area and is not reset by leaving a specific Schengen country for another Schengen country, or vice-versa. However, New Zealand citizens may be able to stay for more than 90 days if they only visit particular Schengen countries.

If you are a non-EU/EFTA national (even if you are visa-exempt, unless you are Andorran, Monégasque or San Marinese), make sure that your passport is stamped both when you enter and leave the Schengen Area. Without an entry stamp, you may be treated as an overstayer when you try to leave the Schengen Area; without an exit stamp, you may be denied entry the next time you seek to enter the Schengen Area as you may be deemed to have overstayed on your previous visit. If you cannot obtain a passport stamp, make sure that you retain documents such as boarding passes, transport tickets and ATM slips which may help to convince border inspection staff that you have stayed in the Schengen Area legally.

Note that:

  • while British subjects with the right of abode in the United Kingdom and British Overseas Territories citizens connected to Gibraltar are considered "United Kingdom nationals for European Union purposes" and therefore eligible for unlimited access to the Schengen Area,
  • British Overseas Territories citizens without the right of abode in the United Kingdom and British subjects without the right of abode in the United Kingdom as well as British Overseas citizens and British protected persons in general do require visas.

However, all British Overseas Territories citizens except those solely connected to the Cyprus Sovereign Base Areas are eligible for British citizenship and thereafter unlimited access to the Schengen Area.

Further note that:

(*) nationals of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia need a biometric passport to enjoy visa-free travel,

(**) Serbian nationals with passports issued by the Serbian Coordination Directorate (residents of Kosovo with Serbian passports) do need a visa and

(***) Taiwan nationals need their ID number to be stipulated in their passport to enjoy visa-free travel.

Getting to Bulgaria

By Plane

There are four international airports: Sofia, Varna, Bourgas, and Plovdiv. There are a lot of charter and last-minute flight offers to Varna or Bourgas leaving from Western Europe (especially Germany and Great Britain). You can go from German airports to Bulgaria and back for less than €100, if you are lucky.

Recently, several low-cost airlines have also started offering regular flights to Bulgaria. Wizz Air flies directly between Sofia and London, Rome, Milan, Barcelona, Valencia, Brussels and Dortmund. Wizz Air flies directly between London Luton Airport and Burgas, Varna airport - the flies are every week all around the year. EasyJet flies between Sofia and London Gatwick, Manchester and Berlin. Flights by Niki from/to Vienna has been canceled.

Charter flights can offer very good prices to the black sea airports from a large variety of European cities in summer (such as: Thomas Cook, Thomsonfly, Balkan Holidays Air, Bulgarian Air Charter, Monarch, Condor, Transaero, Utair and many others).

From the USA, major airlines offer excellent connections to Bulgaria via Europe. Lufthansa, United, Delta, American, British Airways, Continental Airlines, Alitalia and Air France are the most popular airlines. The airports that you can get with major airline are Sofia and Varna. They are flights to Bourgas as well, but only with Bulgaria air from Sofia.

By Train

International trains provide a large number of routes to Bulgaria, notably Sofia and Varna, arriving from such places as Kiev, Istanbul, Vienna, and other common cities.

The primary trains from Bucharest to Sofia, and back, run twice daily through the border city of Rousse. For example, recent trains are scheduled from Bucharest to Sofia in the daytime departing 11:35/arriving 21:30 and a night train departing 19:35/arriving 06:10. Romanian passport control occurs in Giurgiu and Bulgarian passport control takes place in Rousse, both approximately mid-trip. Check local train stations for updated information.

There is a daily overnight train Belgrade, departing Sofia around 8 pm. Please watch your belongings, as usual on long distance night trains. Single female travellers should take extra care. The fare costs around €20. It is also possible to buy a ticket to Dimitrovgrad (first city in Serbia) for 9 BGN and then buy a ticket from Dimitrovgrad to Belgrade for around 1000 Serbian dinars from the station if you have enough time (check the schedule well and mind the time zone change) or from the conductor. This way you save a few euros. In the other direction, buy a ticket from Belgrade to Dimitrovgrad, where the Serbian conductors leave the train. Stay on the train during passport and customs control (they will not ask for a ticket). When the Bulgarian conductor comes around, give him 2 EUR/4 BGN/200 Serbian dinars (say nothing and don't expect to get a ticket!). There is no direct bus connection to Belgrade. You can change buses in Nis twice daily.

There is no railway connection to the Republic of Macedonia (it is being built at the moment). There are a few daily buses (around 5 hrs, around 35 BGN one way) from the main bus station in Sofia or from the square outside the main train station. You can take the train to Skopje, with a change in Nis but that takes forever, it is more expensive and you will have to wait at the train station in Nis for two hours in the middle of the night.

A cheap way of traveling to or from Bulgaria might be the Balkan Flexipass.

As of February 2011 Greece suspended all international trains, including the one from Sofia to Thessaloniki.

By Car

If you want to reach Bulgaria from Western Europe by car, you either can take a ferry from Italy to Greece, or you will have to pass through either Serbia (make sure you take a green card from your car insurance company) or Romania.

Travelling from Greece you have to go from Thessaloniki towards Serres and then to Promahonas.

In Bulgaria you have to pay road tax at the border (around €5 for 7 days). You will get a special sticker that you have to place on your car. There are no tolls on Bulgarian roads.

Besides the sticker, you may need to pay the Bulgarian authorities health insurance (2 euros per person for 3 days, slightly more for more days). Make sure you get a receipt! Expect long queues on certain days.

By Bus

Buses to and from Sofia go to most major cities in Europe - while Bulgarian bus companies will be cheaper (and mostly offer less comfort), the tickets are hard to get by if you are travelling to Bulgaria, so you can always take Eurolines buses. Don't be surprised if an extra "border fee" is asked from each traveller by the bus driver - it makes your border passing quicker. Most buses from Western Europe will pass through Serbia, so be sure to check if you need a transit visa beforehand (Serbian visas for citizens of the EU have recently been abolished).

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