Safety and security
Crime levels are low and violent crime is rare. However, you should take care of yourself and your belongings in the same way as you would do in the UK. Take sensible precautions to protect yourself from street crime, particularly in larger cities. Watch out for pickpockets in tourist areas and major public transport hubs, including airports. Be vigilant at all times, particularly late at night. Report all incidents of crime to the local police and make sure you get a crime report.
Tourists are targeted by thieves and pickpockets in Sunny Beach and other resorts. Don’t take valuables to the beach and be wary of poorly lit roads around the resort at night. There has been an increase in burglaries from hotel rooms in Sunny Beach. Make sure you lock your room (including windows and balcony doors) and keep your valuables locked in a safe. Don’t change money on the streets in Sunny Beach, only at licensed exchange points, banks or hotels.
Prostitution is not illegal in Bulgaria. However, we have received numerous reports of pickpocketing, muggings and assaults of British nationals by prostitutes and their minders. Avoid areas where prostitutes operate especially late at night, including car parks, the beach, badly lit areas and areas with bushes and trees. Stick to main routes and avoid alleys and short cuts in Sunny Beach.
Some tourists have been victims of overcharging in strip clubs in Sofia and in some resorts like Bansko, Borovets and Sunny Beach. Overcharging can amount to hundreds of pounds and victims have been threatened with violence if they don’t pay.
Stun guns, torch stun guns and other weapons like knives, pepper spray and CS gas can be bought in shops in and around Bourgas and Sunny Beach. Many of these weapons are illegal in the UK and importing them could result in a prison sentence.
There have been reports of car tyres being deliberately punctured across Bulgaria. While investigating the puncture, someone distracts the driver and personal belongings and documents are stolen from the vehicle. Be vigilant if you have to stop in these circumstances and make sure your belongings are secure.
Break-ins have occurred in properties in the residential areas of cities and rural areas. Seek local advice on security for your home.
For all types of emergency (fire, ambulance, police) you can dial 112.
Taxis are plentiful and cheap by UK standards, although vehicles may not be in very good condition. Most taxis are metered and yellow taxis are generally considered reliable. Avoid taxis parked outside hotels or in tourist areas. Ask your hotel to call a taxi or flag down a passing taxi with a green ‘available’ light in the window. Check the tariffs on the window before getting in as they can vary considerably.
Disruptions or delays are possible at border crossings with Greece due to regular strikes of Greek farmers who continue to block a number of roads across Greece. Strikes are sometimes called at short notice and can cause disruption to public transport in and out of Greece (including air travel and ports). Updates on the situation at the Greek border can be found at the Ministry of Transport website.
There are regular reports of robberies and threatening behaviour by taxi drivers in Sunny Beach. Use a taxi recommended by your tour operator or accommodation provider.
At Sofia airport you should use a taxi from OK Supertrans at the official rank by booking at their desk in the arrivals hall.
Take care when driving, particularly at night. Many roads are in poor condition and road works are often unlit or unmarked. Driving standards are generally poor. Avoid confrontations with aggressive drivers. Stick to the speed limit and make sure your vehicle is roadworthy. On the spot fines are charged for minor violations. For more information about speed limits and spot fines, please check RAC website.
In 2015 there were 708 road deaths in Bulgaria (source: Department for Transport). This equates to 9.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2015.
If you enter Bulgaria in a private vehicle, you must have your driving licence, all original registration and ownership documents as well as evidence of insurance valid in Bulgaria. If you have hired a car you must have the original contract document, which should state that the vehicle can be brought into Bulgaria. Border officials will impound your vehicle if they are not satisfied that you own it or have permission to use it in Bulgaria.
You’ll need to buy a vignette (sticker) to drive on motorways and main roads outside towns. You can buy one at the border, or from post offices, large petrol stations and DZI bank offices. Rates are much higher for freight vehicles and coaches carrying 8 or more passengers. You’ll be fined if you don’t have a vignette.
Under Bulgarian law, vehicles that are registered outside the EU are considered to be ‘temporarily imported’ when driven inside Bulgaria. If they are stolen on Bulgarian soil, the owners will be liable for import duty and related taxes. Cars registered in the Channel Islands and the Isles of Man are subject to this legislation.
You must drive with running lights or dipped beam headlights throughout the year, even during the daytime. It’s compulsory to carry the following equipment in your vehicle: fire extinguisher (not required for 2-wheeled vehicles), a first-aid kit and a warning triangle (not required for 2-wheeled vehicles). A reflective jacket must be used by anyone who steps on to the road in a breakdown or emergency. Snow chains must be carried from 1 November until 1 March and used when the relevant sign is displayed. Winter tyres are compulsory for vehicles registered in Bulgaria during wintry road conditions.
Rail and bus travel
If you travel by train, check the availability of sleeping compartments and whether bicycles can be taken on board. This may vary between regions, and there may be additional charges. Thieves operate on trains, so take particular care that documents and other valuables are safe. The train system is very poor by European standards. There have been several fires on Bulgarian trains.
Inter-city buses are frequent, relatively fast and comfortable, but crashes do occur.
Stray dogs are common and dangerous. Avoid getting too close to stray dogs, especially if they are in a pack. Take any animal bites seriously and seek immediate medical advice as rabies and other animal borne diseases are present in Bulgaria.