Bulgaria - Lonely PlanetTravel Tips
There are a few customs in Bulgaria that I had to learn for myself. If you are a woman, never place your purse on the floor, whether it be at home or in a restaurant. It is considered to be bad luck and attracts a few odd glances. If you are trying on rings (whether it be in a marketplace or with exchanging with a friend) do not hand them the ring directly- this means you would like to initiate a fight. Instead, place the ring on the table and slide it towards them.
Aubree Miller, USA (Aug 01)
Beware when travelling in Sofia, as the bus conductors swoop on foreigners and will come up with any excuse to fine you. You have to punch your ticket immediately after getting on the bus - the part of the ticket with the arrow is the part you punch. However, the best bet is to buy a day ticket at a cost of 2levs, as the conductors have no excuse to fine you then. If they do insist that you pay a fine, it should be no more than 4levs and ask for a receipt and make sure that they give you a new ticket in return. If they don't they aren't fining you, but are robbing you.
G. Barton, Bulgaria (May 01)
I travelled north from Sofia to Vidin by train and it took about six hours. The train is slow moving with many stops, no food and very dirty toilets. I was advised to take one of the private luxury buses. I did this on returning and I must say it was a good idea. The buses are quite new and are quicker than the trains.
Christian Claussen, Denmark (March 01)
The book market on Slaviesky square, in Sofia, is pricey but fun. I found one book (in English) which I'd been looking for about 10 years. And what other city anywhere has a 7-day open-air book market, even in the snow? There's a small antiques and souvenirs market in the park next to Alexander Nevsky church. Best on Sundays, and don't bother to get there too early. If there's a state visit, it's moved to one of the adjacent parks. No one knows it's there if this happens, so the stall holders get miserable, and may reduce prices. Prices generally are slightly cheaper than in London, but not enough to provide stunning bargains. There are around a dozen antique shops in Sofia, and rather more in Plovdiv. You can find an (accurate) list of the Sofia ones on the official Bulgarian tourism site. The real flea market in Sofia is on Vladaiska Reka, between Lavov Most and Hristo Botev, on the south side of the dry water course. Entrance is about 100 yards from Lavov Most. Don't try scrambling down. Only when the weather's fine, for obvious reasons. Best on Sundays, but there are a few Roma furtively selling things on any day. Old clothes, electronics, obsolete currencies, militaria and all manner of communist kitsch (key-rings with fraternal greetings from the people of Libya). If it starts to rain, run.
Jane Perry (Oct 00)
Sofia's National History Museum has moved to the site of the presidential palace. Take trolleybus No 2 from the Palace of Culture end of ul Vitosha to the terminus. Buy 0.30 lev ticket from kiosks and punch in the machine on the bus. At the terminus, cross the main road and head through the trees to find the massive museum building. There's free entry and fascinating exhibits, but captions are in Bulgarian only.
Tim Eyre, (Sep 00)
Sofia has a new effective subway network running and expanding to connect all areas of town.
Martin (Feb 00)
As of 1st July, 1999, Bulgaria changed currency and 1000 old levs was converted to 1 new lev. There are new and old notes floating around so beware. The change appears to have gone unnoticed by most of the currency exchange engines on the Internet.
US Dollars and then English Pounds are the only foreign currencies worth taking with you. Trying to change Spanish Pesetas at Sofia airport was not easy!
Bulgaria uses the Cyrillic script (as opposed to the western alphabet) which means that virtually all road signs and street signs on only in Bulgarian and hardly anyone speaks English. It is a daunting task to backpack there.
Plovdiv has some really beautiful old parts: the Stadium shows the remains of a Roman stadium where gladiators fought - this is smack in the middle of the pedestrianised area of the city centre. A Greek amphitheatre is close to the centre. This is still used for open-air concerts and was the focal point of Plovdiv's European Cultural Festival.
David (December 99)