Bulgaria - US Consular Information Sheet

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 it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: Good
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor to Fair
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Fair
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 may be encountered on roads in mountainous areas. Livestock and animal-drawn carts present road hazards throughout the country, especially during the active agricultural season. 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. Some roads lack pavement markings and lights, and motorists often drive with dim or missing headlights.
During the last few years there has been a distinct increase in the number of road accidents resulting in casualties. In 1998, the total number of road accidents was 6,905 in which 8,983 persons were killed or injured. In 1999, there were 7,586 accidents in which 1,047 persons were killed. In 2000, there were 6,886 accidents in which 1,012 persons were killed.
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 they have not committed.
Buses, trams, and trolleys are inexpensive, but they are often crowded and of widely varying quality. Passengers on the busiest lines have reported pick-pocketing, purse-slashing, and pinching.
The use of seat belts is mandatory in Bulgaria. Child car seats are allowed by law, but only on the back seats. Speed limits are 50 KM/H in the cities/towns, 90 KM/H out of town and 120 KM/H on the highways. The same speed limits apply for motorcycles; motorcyclists must drive with helmets and with lights on at all times. At crossings that are not regulated, the right of way is for the driver who is on the right, however, this rule is frequently ignored. Drivers may be charged with driving under the influence of alcohol with a blood level as low as 0.05%. Right turns on red lights are not permitted unless specifically authorized. The penalties for drivers involved in an accident resulting in injury or death range from a fine of twenty-five dollars (US) to imprisonment for life.
The most generally encountered local traffic custom is a driver flashing high beams, which generally means that a traffic police post may be ahead.
Motorists should avoid confrontations with aggressive drivers in Bulgaria. Late model sedans (BMW, Mercedes, Audi) are known to speed and to be driven dangerously. Motorists should exercise caution and not engage in altercations with the drivers of such vehicles, as some are armed organized crime figures.
In case of emergency, drivers should contact the police at telephone number 166 and/or the Roadside Assistance at telephone number 145. For an ambulance, call 150.
For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road-safety.html. For specific information concerning Bulgarian driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the Bulgarian Embassy via the Internet at http://www.bulgaria-embassy.org.