Situated at the eastern edge of the Balkans, Bulgaria has a richly preserved history and vibrant culture just waiting to be explored. Religous art, architecture and iconography feature prominently in the picturesque towns and cities of Bulgaria, while old fortresses and crumbling ruins paint a picture of the nation’s storied past. Discover a land of architectural beauty and charming natural scenery as you uncover the hidden secrets of this remarkable country.
Odyssey travels by coach and occasionally uses local transport, including trains and ferries. Specifics are always outlined in your tour itinerary. Buses are usually the most efficient way of getting between major towns and cities. Trains link most sizeable towns and cities, though if travelling by train, be sure to take an ekspressen (express) or bârz (fast) train, as the pâtnicheski (slow passenger) trains can take a very long time to cover the length of their journeys. Taxis are available in most cities and towns, although rates can vary.
In major cities, Odyssey stays in centrally located 3-4 star hotels, with easy access to public transport. In smaller towns or rural areas, we usually stay in family-run hotels or guesthouses. On our longstay tours, during which you spend the length of the tour in a single location, we use serviced apartments.
Odyssey always engages local guides with regional knowledge to ensure an authentic experience during which you can learn as much as possible about the history and culture of places you visit.
Geography environment and weather
Bulgaria is situated in the south-east of Europe, and covers 110,879 square kilometres. The geography of Bulgaria is diverse, featuring mountain ranges, river valleys, open plains, and dense forests. Mountains and hills characterise the west and centre of the country, though the terrain flattens out towards the Black Sea to the east and the Danubian Plain to the north.
Bulgaria has a continental climate, with warm summers and cold winters. Depending on the time of year you intend to travel, check the weather reports and prepare accordingly.
World Heritage sites
Bulgaria has 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You can view the official list of the sites here (https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/bg). A few notable heritage sites include:
Boyana Church, a medieval church containing stunning religious frescoes and medieval paintings
Srebarna Nature Reserve, a freshwater lake extending over 600 hectares with nearly 100 different species of birds
Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari, which showcases the striking architectural decor and styles of the former Thracian peoples who inhabited the region.
Festivals and events
A Concise History of Bulgaria, by R. Crampton
Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe, by Kapka Kassabova
Under the Yoke, by Ivan Vazov
Imagining the Balkans, by Maria Todorova
Eating and Drinking
Meat and dairy are central to Bulgarian cuisine. Many dishes are served with a side of kiselo mlyako (yoghurt), while cheese is a commonly used ingredient in Bulgarian dishes, including Gyuvech (beef stew), shopska salad and banista pastries. Meat-based dishes include kebache (grilled mince meat), lukanka (Bulgarian salami) and meshana skara (mixed grill). Bulgaria is home to many unique beverages, including boza (a fermented beverage made of wheat, rye or millet), rakia (fruit brandy), aryan (a yoghurt based drink) and menta (spearmint oil-based liquor).
Health and safety
Generally speaking, Bulgaria is safe to travel around in, though always exercise common sense when travelling. Be advised however that pickpocketing and purse snatching is common, so pay attention to your personal security.
Whenever you travel overseas, it’s always wise to take an appropriate travel adaptor. Bulgaria’s electricity supply runs at 230V and 50Hz. Bulgaria uses both the Type C and Type F electric plugs, so make sure you have the right travel adaptor with you.
St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
Bulgaria has a single time zone, Eastern European Time (UTC+2). Daylight savings commences on the last Sunday of March and ends on the last Sunday of October.
If you’re on an Odyssey tour, we take care of tipping so you don’t need to give it a second thought. However, in your free time, or if travelling independently, it’s essential that you tip an appropriate amount for services. Tipping has become increasingly widespread in tourist areas, with a tip of between 5 and 10% common for taxi drivers, tour guides, and hotel and restaurant staff.
Wifi should be availabe in most hotels, cafes and restaurants when travelling in Bulgaria.
Check with your cell phone provider to see whether you’re able to make calls and use data while in Bulgaria. Many providers will allow you to pay a daily fee that allows you to make calls and check the internet while only being charged your regular rates. However, be certain to inform your provider that you’re heading overseas, because just like a bank they can turn off your service as a result of unusual activity.
Responsible travel tips for Bulgaria
- Learn at least the local greetings to break the ice. Although many locals speak English, the more you know of the native language, the greater your experience of the country will be.
- Carry a business card in your wallet or purse from your local hotel, to assist you with the return journey if you do become lost.
- Always ensure that you are covered by travel insurance. If you need advice on this feel free to contact Odyssey and we’ll be able to help.
- When travelling independently, make sure you check the opening hours of shops and museums so that you don’t miss out! Museums and galleries are often closed on Mondays. Also be certain to check whether your trip coincides with any public holidays, so you can plan accordingly.
- Consider contacting your bank to inform them that you may be making purchases overseas. Otherwise, they may flag any activity on your account as suspicious. Also, check which ATMs and banks are compatible with your cards, to ensure you can withdraw cash with minimal fees.
- Before departing, make sure you have a number of leva in a range of denominations. You don’t want to be carrying around enormous amounts of cash, but take enough to make it easy to pay in locations that might not accept credit card. It will also help you avoid card transaction fees, and it makes tipping a breeze.