This article is from the Bulgaria FAQ, by Dragomir R. Radev email@example.com with numerous contributions by others.
(by US Department of State), last updated: 17-Jul-1920
Bulgaria - Consular Information Sheet
September 14, 1999
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Bulgaria is a moderately developed European nation
undergoing significant economic changes. Tourist facilities are widely
available although conditions vary and some facilities may not up to
Western standards. Goods and services taken for granted in other European
countries are still not available in many areas of Bulgaria.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport is required. A visa is not required for U.S.
citizen visitors for stays of up to 30 days. Travelers who intend to stay
more than 30 days should secure a Bulgarian visa as the fees connected with
the extension of their stay in the country are much higher than the visa
fees. Visitors should carry their passport with them at all times. For
further information concerning entry requirements, travelers should contact
the Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria at 1621 22nd St. N.W., Washington,
D.C. 20008; tel: (202) 483-5885 (main switchboard (202) 387-7969) or the
Bulgarian Consulate in New York City.
CRIME INFORMATION: Petty street crime, much of which is directed against
foreigners or others who appear to have money, continues to be a problem.
Pickpocketing and purse snatching are frequent occurrences, especially in
crowded markets and on shopping streets. Confidence artists operate on
public transportation and in bus and train stations, and travelers should
be suspicious of "instant friends" and should also require persons claiming
to be officials to show identification. Taxi drivers at Sofia Airport often
gouge unwary travelers, and even if they agree to run their meters, the
amounts to be paid are much higher than normal. Travelers who pre-negotiate
a fare can avoid the more outrageous overcharging. Because incidents of
pilferage of checked baggage at Sofia Airport are common, travelers should
not include items of value in checked luggage. Automobile theft is also a
frequent problem, with four-wheel drive vehicles and late model European
sedans the most popular targets. Very few vehicles are recovered. Thieves
also sometimes smash vehicle windows to steal valuables left in sight. The
loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to
the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. U.S. citizens
may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad for ways
to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail
from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office,
Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at
http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs
home page at http://travel.state.gov.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Although Bulgarian physicians are trained to a very
high standard, most hospitals and clinics are generally not equipped and
maintained at U.S. or Western European levels. Basic medical supplies are
widely available, but specialized treatment may not be obtainable. Serious
medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the
United States can cost thousands of dollars or more. Doctors and hospitals
often expect immediate cash payment for health services.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the
United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment
for medical services outside the United States. Uninsured travelers who
require medical care overseas may face extreme difficulties. Check with
your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas,
including provision for medical evacuation. Ascertain whether payment will
be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you will be
reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also
include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains
in the event of death. Useful information on medical emergencies abroad,
including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of
States Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure Medical Information for
Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs
home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health
precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP
(1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via their
Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S.
citizens may encounter road conditions which differ significantly from
those in the United States. The information below concerning Bulgaria is
provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a
particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: Fair
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor to Fair
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor
The Bulgarian road system is underdeveloped. There are few sections of
limited-access divided highway. Some roads are in poor repair and full of
potholes. Rockslides and landslides are common on roads in mountain areas.
Livestock and animal-drawn carts present road hazards throughout the
country. Travel conditions deteriorate during the winter as roads become
icy and potholes proliferate. The U.S. Embassy in Sofia advises against
night driving because road conditions are more dangerous in the dark. Many
roads lack pavement markings and lights, and motorists often drive with dim
or missing headlights.
Heavy truck traffic along the two-lane routes from the Greek border at
Kulata to Sofia and from the Turkish border at Kapitan Andreevo to Plovdiv
creates numerous hazards. Motorists should expect long delays at border
crossings. A U.S. state driver's license is not considered valid for
Bulgaria; only an international driver's license is accepted. Persons
operating vehicles with foreign license plates frequently complain of being
stopped by police and being fined on the spot for offenses that are not
Buses, trams, and trolleys are inexpensive but often crowded and of widely
varying quality. Passengers on the busiest lines have reported
pickpocketing, purse-slashing, and backside-pinching.
For specific information concerning Bulgaria driver's permits, vehicle
inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Bulgarian
National Tourist Organization.