Bulgaria travel advice
Latest updates: The Health section was updated - travel health information (Public Health Agency of Canada)
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- Risk level
- Safety and security
- Entry and exit requirements
- Laws and culture
- Natural disasters and climate
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Bulgaria - Take normal security precautions
Take normal security precautions in Bulgaria.
Safety and security
- Pay particular attention at train and bus stations, tourist sites and crowded areas
- Ensure that your personal belongings, including your passport and other travel documents, are secure at all times
- Avoid showing signs of affluence and carrying large sums of cash
Some tourists have been victims of overcharging in bars and clubs. Discussions about overcharging may lead to threats of violence by security guards, who may force you to pay.
- Be particularly vigilant at tourist resorts along the Black Sea, where this practice is most common
Vehicle thefts and break-ins occur frequently.
- Park in a guarded location whenever possible
- Store your valuables safely out of sight
Always be suspicious if someone offers to help you with a flat tire. These individuals may have punctured the tire themselves. They may seize the opportunity to steal your purse or other valuable objects while you’re distracted.
Organized criminal groups are active in casinos and nightclubs. Violent crime may occur, and includes bombings and shootouts between rival gangs.
Credit card and ATM fraud occurs. ATMs fitted with fraudulent card readers are common, particularly in Sofia, Burgas and Varna. Be cautious when using debit or credit cards:
- pay careful attention when your cards are being handled by others
- use ATMs located in well-lit public areas or inside a bank or business
- avoid using card readers with an irregular or unusual feature
- cover the keypad with one hand when entering your PIN
- check for any unauthorized transactions on your account statements
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. These items may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.
There is a threat of terrorism in Europe. Terrorist attacks have occurred in a number of European cities. There is a potential for other violent incidents.
Targets could include:
- government buildings, including schools
- places of worship
- airports and other transportation hubs and networks
- public areas such as tourist attractions, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, shopping centres, markets, hotels and other sites frequented by foreigners
Always be aware of your surroundings when in public places.
Keep in mind, however, that even the most secure locations aren’t completely free of risk.
In response to terrorist attacks in other European cities, Bulgarian authorities have strengthened their security measures in all cities, particularly where large crowds gather.
Demonstrations may occur. Even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent at any time. They can also lead to disruptions to traffic and public transportation.
- Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place
- Follow the instructions of local authorities
- Monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations
Road conditions and road safety can vary greatly throughout the country. Driving conditions may be hazardous due to aggressive drivers, excessive speeds, poor lighting and a lack of traffic signs and lane markings. Potholes and wandering animals are common on rural roads.
- Avoid confronting aggressive drivers, as they may be armed
- Avoid driving after dark outside of major cities
- Be especially cautious when driving during winter, as roads may not be plowed or salted
Be cautious when crossing streets. Drivers don’t always give pedestrians the right of way.
Police occasionally solicit bribes. They may delay you if you refuse to pay the bribe, but you’re unlikely to experience additional problems beyond inconvenience.
- Use only licensed taxis with meters
- Verify the tariffs on the taxi’s window before entering, as taxi drivers sometime overcharge
- At Sofia Airport, visit the taxi booth in the arrivals terminal to obtain a fair rate
Rail services are generally poor. It’s preferable to travel via inter-city buses.
Public transportation systems
Most cities and larger towns have public transportation systems. Inter-city buses are frequent, comfortable and relatively fast. Regular bus service exists between most of Bulgaria’s major cities and towns.
Disruptions and delays to public transportation services, including at ferry ports, railway stations and border crossings, may occur.
We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.
Beware of stray dogs, especially those travelling in packs. They can be dangerous and could expose you to disease if they bite you.
Entry and exit requirements
Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Government of Canada cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.
We have obtained the information on this page from the Bulgarian authorities. It can, however, change at any time.
Verify this information with the Foreign Representatives in Canada.
Entry requirements vary depending on the type of passport you use for travel.
Before you travel, check with your transportation company about passport requirements. Its rules on passport validity may be more stringent than the country’s entry rules.
Regular Canadian passport
Your passport must be valid 3 months beyond the date you expect to leave Bulgaria.
Passport for official travel
Different entry rules may apply.
Passport with “X” gender identifier
While the Government of Canada issues passports with an “X” gender identifier, it cannot guarantee your entry or transit through other countries. You might face entry restrictions in countries that do not recognize the “X” gender identifier. Before you leave, check with the closest foreign representative for your destination.
Other travel documents
Different entry rules may apply when travelling with a temporary passport or an emergency travel document. Before you leave, check with the closest foreign representative for your destination.
This section contains information on possible health risks and restrictions regularly found or ongoing in the destination. Follow this advice to lower your risk of becoming ill while travelling. Not all risks are listed below.
Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic preferably 6 weeks before you travel to get personalized health advice and recommendations.
Some of these vaccinations include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, varicella (chickenpox), influenza and others.
Pre-travel vaccines and medications
You may be at risk for preventable diseases while travelling in this destination. Talk to a travel health professional about which medications or vaccines may be right for you, based on your destination and itinerary.
Yellow Fever - Country Entry Requirements
Yellow fever is a disease caused by a flavivirus from the bite of an infected mosquito.
Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.
- There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
- Proof of vaccination is not required to enter this country.
- Vaccination is not recommended.
* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread through contaminated food and water or contact with an infected person. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.
Tick-borne encephalitis is present in some areas of this country.
It is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord).
It is spread to humans by the bite of infected ticks or when you consume unpasteurized milk products.
Vaccination should be considered for those who may be exposed to ticks during outdoor activities.
A vaccine against TBE does exist but is only available in countries where the disease is present.
Learn more on what you can do to prevent tick-borne encephalitis (TBE)
Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.
Rabies is a deadly illness spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from an infected animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (e.g., are children, have an occupational risk, or in close contact with animals, including free roaming dogs in communities).
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease. It can spread quickly from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air..
Anyone who is not protected against measles is at risk of being infected with it when travelling internationally.
Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are fully protected against measles.
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious viral disease. It can spread from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air.
It is recommended that all eligible travellers complete a COVID-19 vaccine series along with any additional recommended doses in Canada before travelling. Evidence shows that vaccines are very effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. While vaccination provides better protection against serious illness, you may still be at risk of infection from the virus that causes COVID-19. Anyone who has not completed a vaccine series is at increased risk of being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and is at greater risk for severe disease when travelling internationally.
For destination entry and exit requirements, including for COVID-19 vaccination requirements, please check the Entry/exit requirements section.
Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are adequately protected against COVID-19.
Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Get the flu shot.
Safe food and water precautions
Many illnesses can be caused by eating food or drinking beverages contaminated by bacteria, parasites, toxins, or viruses, or by swimming or bathing in contaminated water.
- Learn more about food and water precautions to take to avoid getting sick by visiting our eat and drink safely abroad page. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
- Avoid getting water into your eyes, mouth or nose when swimming or participating in activities in freshwater (streams, canals, lakes), particularly after flooding or heavy rain. Water may look clean but could still be polluted or contaminated.
- Avoid inhaling or swallowing water while bathing, showering, or swimming in pools or hot tubs.
Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
Risk of developing travellers' diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor standards of hygiene and sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.
Insect bite prevention
Many diseases are spread by the bites of infected insects such as mosquitoes, ticks, fleas or flies. When travelling to areas where infected insects may be present:
- Use insect repellent (bug spray) on exposed skin
- Cover up with light-coloured, loose clothes made of tightly woven materials such as nylon or polyester
- Minimize exposure to insects
- Use mosquito netting when sleeping outdoors or in buildings that are not fully enclosed
To learn more about how you can reduce your risk of infection and disease caused by bites, both at home and abroad, visit our insect bite prevention page.
Find out what types of insects are present where you’re travelling, when they’re most active, and the symptoms of the diseases they spread.
Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever
Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever is a viral disease that can cause fever, pain and bleeding under the skin. In some cases, it can be fatal. It spreads to humans through contact with infected animal blood or tissues, or from the bite of an infected tick. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Protect yourself from tick bites and avoid animals, particularly livestock. There is no vaccine available for Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever.
Some infections, such as rabies and influenza, can be shared between humans and animals. Certain types of activities may put you at higher risk of contact with animals, such as travelling in rural or forested areas, camping, hiking, and visiting wet markets (places where live animals are slaughtered and sold) or caves.
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, livestock (pigs, cows), monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats, and to avoid eating undercooked wild game.
Closely supervise children, as they’re more likely to come in contact with animals.
Stay home if you’re sick and practise proper cough and sneeze etiquette, which includes coughing or sneezing into a tissue or the bend of your arm, not your hand. Reduce your risk of colds, the flu and other illnesses by:
- washing your hands often
- avoiding or limiting the amount of time spent in closed spaces, crowded places, or at large-scale events (concerts, sporting events, rallies)
- avoiding close physical contact with people who may be showing symptoms of illness
Medical services and facilities
Health care is inadequate. Private hospitals and clinics located in cities are often better staffed and equipped than public or rural facilities. Cash payment is required at time of service.
Medical evacuation can be very expensive and you may need it in case of serious illness or injury.
Make sure you get travel insurance that includes coverage for medical evacuation and hospital stays.
Keep in Mind...
The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.
Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.
Laws and culture
You must abide by local laws.
Learn about what you should do and how we can help if you are arrested or detained abroad.
Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons
Canada and Bulgaria are signatories to the 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. This process can take a long time, and there is no guarantee that the transfer will be approved by either or both sides.
- Always carry photo identification, such as a passport
- Keep a photocopy in a safe location in case of loss or seizure.
Dual citizenship is legally recognized in Bulgaria.
If you are a Canadian citizen, but also a citizen of Bulgaria, our ability to offer you consular services may be limited while you're there. You may also be subject to different entry/exit requirements.
International Child Abduction
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is an international treaty. It can help parents with the return of children who have been removed to or retained in certain countries in violation of custody rights. The convention applies between Canada and Bulgaria.
If your child was wrongfully taken to, or is being held in Bulgaria, and if the applicable conditions are met, you may apply for the return of your child to the Bulgarian court.
If you are in this situation:
- act as quickly as you can
- contact the Central Authority for your province or territory of residence for information on starting an application under The Hague Convention
- consult a lawyer in Canada and in Bulgaria to explore all the legal options for the return of your child
- report the situation to the nearest Canadian government office abroad or to the Vulnerable Children’s Consular Unit at Global Affairs Canada by calling the Emergency Watch and Response Centre
If your child was removed from a country other than Canada, consult a lawyer to determine if The Hague Convention applies.
Be aware that Canadian consular officials cannot interfere in private legal matters or in another country’s judicial affairs.
- List of Canadian Central Authorities for the Hague Convention
- International Child Abduction: A Guidebook for Left-Behind Parents
- Travelling with children
- The Hague Convention - Hague Conference on Private International Law
- Canadian embassies and consulates by destination
- Emergency Watch and Response Centre
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe. Convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.
It’s illegal to wear clothing or masks that partially or completely cover the face in public places. Failure to comply can result in arrest and heavy fines.
It’s illegal to photograph military installations.
Drinking and driving
Penalties for drinking and driving are severe.
The legal blood alcohol limit is 0.05%. If a police officer suspects you of drinking and driving, they could confiscate your driver’s licence on the spot and detain you. If you’re convicted, you can expect heavy fines and a possible jail sentence.
You can drive with a Canadian driver’s licence for up to 90 days after your arrival. You must carry an international driving permit for longer stays.
Driving laws in Bulgaria
- You must possess a vignette or highway permit to travel on Bulgarian roads. You can purchase this electronic vignette at ports, border points, post offices and large gas stations
- Always drive with your headlights on
- Winter tires are mandatory during winter months
- All vehicle occupants must wear a seatbelt
- Children under 10 may ride in the front passenger seat if they’re secured in a child car seat and the airbag has been disabled
- It’s illegal to use a cellular telephone while driving, unless the phone includes a hands-free device
- You must carry a fire extinguisher, first aid kit and warning triangle in your car, as well as a reflective vest. You must always wear this vest when leaving a vehicle that is stranded or involved in an accident
- Carry all related documents, such as ownership, registration and proof of Bulgarian car insurance, in your vehicle
Follow speed limits on all roads. Police conduct frequent checks and may collect fines on the spot. Depending on the offence, they may also confiscate your driver’s licence at the scene.
Although the laws of Bulgaria don’t prohibit sexual acts between individuals of the same sex, homosexuality isn’t socially tolerated.
The currency in Bulgaria is the lev (BGN).
Bulgaria’s economy is primarily cash-based. Most businesses also accept euros and major credit cards. ATMs are widely available. The United Bulgarian Bank in Sofia can process international money transfers.
If you are carrying €10,000 or more, or the equivalent in other currencies, you must make a declaration to customs when you enter or leave the European Union. It includes sums in:
- banknotes and coins
- bearer negotiable instruments such as cheques, travellers’ cheques, promissory notes and money orders
- bonds, shares
- gold coins with a gold content of at least 90 %
- gold bars, nuggets or clumps with a gold content of at least 99.5 %
- any other convertible asset
This does not apply if you are travelling within the European Union or in transit to a non-EU country.
EU cash controls - European Commission
Natural disasters and climate
Bulgaria is located in an active seismic zone.
Bulgaria is prone to flooding after heavy rains. Flooding is often localized, but widespread flooding has occurred in the past. Consult Bulgaria’s National Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology for information and flooding alerts.
In winter, there’s a risk of avalanches in mountainous regions. This risk increases when temperatures rise rapidly after a particularly harsh winter. Extreme weather can also cause landslides.
In the summer and early fall, there’s a risk of wildfires.
For emergency assistance, dial 112.
Sofia - Consulate of Canada
Bucharest - Embassy of Canada
Bulgaria, MoldovaAppointment Book your appointment online
For emergency consular assistance, call the Embassy of Canada to Romania in Bucharest and follow the instructions. At any time, you may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.
The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. We take the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provide credible and timely information in our Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad.
The content on this page is provided for information only. While we make every effort to give you correct information, it is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, expressed or implied. The Government of Canada does not assume responsibility and will not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided.
If you need consular assistance while abroad, we will make every effort to help you. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.
Learn more about consular services.
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