Bulgaria - Exercise a high degree of caution
There is no nationwide advisory in effect for Bulgaria. However, you should exercise a high degree of caution due to frequent protests and the risk of robbery.
The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.
Petty crime is less widespread in Sofia than in most Western European cities. Nevertheless, petty crimes (pickpocketing, mugging and purse snatching) do occur, particularly at the railway and bus stations, and at tourist sites and crowded areas. Be especially vigilant at tourist resorts along the Black Sea coast, such as Sunny Beach, the biggest sea resort in Bulgaria.
Vehicle theft occurs as well, particularly of these types: vehicles of prestige, four-wheel-drive vehicles and late-model European sedans. Be aware that you will have to pay customs duties for your stolen vehicle before you will be allowed to leave the country. Try to park in a guarded location, and always keep valuable belongings out of sight in cars.
Organized criminal groups are active in casinos and nightclubs and are involved in prostitution. Although rare, violent crime occurs, which includes bombings and shootouts generally attributed to turf wars between rival gangs.
Demonstrations, mainly to protest socio-economic conditions, occur and have the potential to suddenly turn violent. They can lead to significant disruptions to traffic and public transportation.
Daily anti-government demonstrations have been occurring since June 2013, particularly in Sofia's downtown, near Independence Square. There are calls for these protests to continue until the new government steps down.
Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media.
Driving can be hazardous due to poor road conditions and a lack of traffic signs and lane markings. Do not drive after dark and be very cautious in winter. Animals on roads are common in rural areas, posing a risk.
Confronting aggressive drivers is not recommended, as they may be armed.
Carjackings occur, and criminals have been known to pose as traffic officers in order to stop vehicles. These criminal operate especially on the Black Sea coast or on the road to Greece and Macedonia near Dupnitsa and Kyustendil.
Use only licensed taxis with meters. Verify the tariffs on the taxi’s window before boarding. At the Sofia Airport, there is a booth within the arrivals terminal that coordinates taxis at a fair rate.
Rail services are generally poor by Western standards, and it is therefore preferable to travel by inter-city buses, which are frequent, comfortable and relatively fast.
Most cities and larger towns have public transportation systems. There are regular bus services between most major towns in the country.
Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.
Spiked food and drinks
Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances, as they may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.
General safety information
Exercise a high degree of caution. Ensure that your personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure at all times. Valuables and important documents should be stored in a hotel safe. Avoid showing signs of affluence and carrying large sums of cash.
Dial 112 for emergency assistance.
It is the sole prerogative of each country or region to determine who is allowed to enter. Canadian consular officials cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet entry requirements. The following information on entry and exit requirements has been obtained from the Bulgarian authorities. However, these requirements are subject to change at any time. It is your responsibility to check with the Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria or one of its consulates for up-to-date information.
Official (special and diplomatic) passport holders must consult the Official Travel page, as they may be subject to different entry requirements.
Canadians must present a passport to visit Bulgaria, which must be valid for at least three months beyond the date of expected departure from that country. Before you leave, ask your transportation company about its requirements related to passport validity, which may be more stringent than the country's entry rules.
Customs officials may ask you to show them a return ticket and proof of sufficient funds for your stay (minimum 50 euros per day). You must also present proof of medical insurance (minimum 30,000 euros coverage) that is valid in the European Union and covers the costs of emergency medical care and repatriation.
If you are not staying in hotels, you must register with local police within 48 hours of your arrival in the country.
Tourist visa: Not required for stays up to 90 days per six-month period
Business visa: Not required for stays up to 90 days per six-month period
Student visa: Not required for stays up to 90 days per six-month period
You must obtain a visa prior to travel if you plan to stay in Bulgaria for more than 90 days. Extensions are not granted once you are in the country except in cases of emergency or marriage to a Bulgarian citizen.
When transiting Bulgaria, you must have the necessary visa for your destination country.
Children and travel
Children need special documentation to visit certain countries. Please consult our Children page for more information.
Some countries require proof of yellow fever vaccination before allowing entry. Consult the World Health Organization’s country list to obtain information on this country’s requirements.
The Agency strongly recommends that you consult with a travel medicine clinic or health care provider preferably six weeks before departure.
The Agency publishes travel health advice for Bulgaria.
Medical care is not up to Western standards. Shortages of prescription medicine are common outside major cities. Private hospitals and clinics are generally well equipped. Physicians and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services.
Laws & Culture
You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention FAQ for more information.
Canada and Bulgaria are signatories to the European Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons. This enables a Canadian imprisoned in Bulgaria to request a transfer to a Canadian prison to complete a sentence. The transfer requires the agreement of both Canadian and Bulgarian authorities.
Carry adequate identification at all times. Keep a photocopy of your passport in case of loss or seizure.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict. Convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.
Photography of military installations is prohibited.
Homosexuality is not widely accepted in Bulgaria.
You can drive with a Canadian driver’s licence up to 90 days from your arrival in the country. An International Driving Permit is recommended for longer stays. Carry all related documents, such as ownership, registration and proof of Bulgarian car insurance.
A highway permit (“vignette”) is required to travel on Bulgarian roads. You can purchase this vignette at ports, border points, post offices and large gas stations.
The use of a cellular telephone while driving is prohibited, unless it is fitted with a hands-free device.
Penalties for drinking and driving are strict; the legal blood alcohol limit is 0.05 percent. Follow speed limits on all roads. Police conduct frequent checks.
The currency is the Bulgarian lev (BGN).
The economy is primarily cash-based. U.S. dollars and euros are accepted. Automated banking machines (ABMs) are widely available and credit cards are widely accepted. Major hotels accept foreign-currency traveller’s cheques. The United Bulgarian Bank in Sofia can process money transfers from abroad.
When crossing one of the external border control points of the European Union (EU), you must make a declaration to customs upon entry or exit if you have at least €10,000 or the equivalent in other currencies. The sum can be in cash, cheques, money orders, traveller’s cheques or any other convertible assets. This does not apply if you are travelling within the EU or in transit to a non-EU country. For more information on the EU legislation and links to EU countries’ sites, visit the web page of the European Commission on cash controls.
Natural Disasters & Climate
Bulgaria is located in an active seismic zone.
There is a risk of avalanches in mountainous regions due to the rapidly warming temperatures following a particularly harsh winter. Exercise caution, monitor local news and weather reports and follow the advice of local authorities.
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