Safety and security

Crime

Some tourists have been victims of overcharging in strip clubs in Sofia and in some ski resorts, particularly Bansko. Overcharging can amount to hundreds of pounds and victims have been threatened with violence if they don’t pay.

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. Obtaining a police report of anything lost and stolen can be a slow and frustrating process. Organised criminal groups are active in casinos, nightclubs, prostitution and throughout the night-time economy. Serious crime is rare and people unconnected with these groups are rarely affected. Tourists have sometimes been subject to overcharging in some late night bars and clubs.

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, badly lit areas and areas with bushes and trees. Stick to main routes and avoid alleys and short cuts in Sunny Beach

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.

Local travel

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.

At Sofia airport you should use a taxi from OK Supertrans at the official rank by booking at their desk in the arrivals hall.

Road travel

If you enter Bulgaria in a private vehicle, you must have your driving licence, all original registration and ownership documents (including logbook) 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.

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.

In 2012 there were 605 road deaths in Bulgaria [(source: DfT)] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/245387/rrcgb-2012-complete.pdf). This equates to 8.3 road deaths per 100,000 of population compared to the UK average of 2.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2012.

See the AA and RAC guides on driving in Bulgaria.

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

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.

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