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Facts at a Glance
 Full country name: Republic of Bulgaria

Area: 110,912 sq km

Population: 8.3 million

Capital city: Sofia (pop 1.1 million)

People: 85% Bulgarian, 8.5% Turkish, 2.6% Roma, 2.5% Macedonian

Language: Bulgarian. Turkish and Romany are spoken by minorities.

Religion: 85% Bulgarian Orthodox, 13% Muslim

Government: Democracy

President: Georgi Parvanov

Prime Minister: Simeon Saxe-Coburgotski


Bulgaria sits at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, right in the belly of the Balkans. Any journey of length showcases the country's amazing variety of landforms. From the banks of the Danube, a windswept plain slopes up to the rounded summits of the Stara Planina. This east-west range runs right across the northern half of the country from the Black Sea to Serbia. Southern Bulgaria is even more mountainous.

As in many post-communist countries, the lure of fast cash outweighs economically sustainable development. Logging and animal poaching occur in protected areas, endangering birds such as the white stork and the black vulture. Bulgaria's bear population, temporarily boosted by 'bear refugees' from war-torn Yugoslavia, is again declining. Deer, bunnies and sneaky tree-loppers are the only furry critters likely to scram out of your way as you tramp the Bulgarian forests.

The Kozloduj nuclear power plant 200km (124mi) north of Sofia is one of the world's most dangerous nuclear facilities. Since the plant opened in 1974, periodic minor accidents and safety scares have forced partial shutdowns and caused power cuts across the country. Despite Western aid allocated to close the facility, no moves have been made to shut it down.

Economic Profile
 GDP: US$34.9 billion

GDP per head: US$1510

Annual growth: 2.5%

Inflation: 11.4%

Major industries: Food processing, machine and metal building, electronics, chemicals, textiles, ferrous and nonferrous metals

Major trading partners: Italy, Germany, Turkey, Greece, Russia, USA

Member of EU: no

Facts for the Traveler
 Visas: Nationals of some 30 countries - including the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the UK and other EU countries - are admitted without a visa for stays of less than 30 days. Alternatively, a 90-day visa costs between US$30-60 depending on which country you apply from. Visitors of most other nationalities are issued visas on a shifting fee scale depending on the type of visa sought - transit, tourist or business.

Health risks: No particular risks, but you're advised to stick to private clinics if you require medical treatment in Bulgaria.

Time: GMT/UTC plus two hours

Electricity: 220V, 50Hz

Weights & measures: Metric

Tourism: 8 million visitors annually

Money & Costs
 Currency:Bulgarian leva
Relative Costs:

  • Budget: US$1-4
  • Mid-range: US$4-10
  • Top-end: US$10 and upwards

  • Lodging

  • Budget: US$8-16
  • Mid-range: US$16-40
  • Top-end: US$40 and upwards
  • Despite a 22% value-added tax, you'll probably find that souvenirs, admission prices, food and drink, and all forms of transport (including taxis) are cheap. Anything you can get for the same price as a Bulgarian will be cheap, but when there's a higher tourist price (as there is for almost all accommodation) things can get expensive. You can get by on a budget of US$20-40 a day, depending on the level of comfort you require.

    Cash is easily changed at numerous small exchange offices, usually for no commission. Travellers' cheques are more of a hassle as many banks do not accept them, and those that do will charge a commission of around 5%. ATMs are a common sight in Sofia and at Black Sea resorts, and cash advances on credit cards are also available in these areas. Still, it's best to bring plenty of cash to Bulgaria.

    Waiters and taxi-drivers expect the bill to be rounded up to the nearest convenient figure. With non-metered taxis you needn't add a tip to the fare you agreed on beforehand.

    When to Go

    Bulgaria has a temperate climate, with cold damp winters and hot dry summers. Spring (April to mid-June) is a good time to visit, with mild and pleasant weather and a host of cultural events taking place. Summer (mid-June to September) has reliable weather, perfect for hiking and outdoor festivals but the beaches on the Black Sea coast can get insanely crowded, and accommodation and camping grounds in coastal resorts tend to fill up. The coast is virtually deserted from mid-September to mid-May. The ski season begins in mid-December and can last until April.

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