Travelling Around Bulgaria
Travelling around Bulgaria can often be a minefield of communication difficulties, juggling timetables and taking slow travel too literally sometimes! However, with more money being spent on the country’s infrastructure, using public transport for different ways to get around is one of the best ways of seeing and experiencing the urban and rural landscapes of Bulgaria.
Bulgaria has a good network system when it comes to its national rail services and trains will connect you to all the major towns and cities. However, you might have to change trains more than once on longer trips or for out of the way places. During peak times between popular destinations, it might be advisable to make a reservation but it will only set you back a few stotinki so could be worth you doing if you want to guarantee yourself a seat. Trains have first or second class ticket prices although often there doesn’t appear to be a great deal of difference between the two as many of the trains are outdated. In Sofia, you’ll also find trams and the metro system to help you get around too.
For national train times and prices go to the Bulgarian State Railway site.
Buses & Coaches
Despite sometimes being more expensive than trains, taking a bus in Bulgaria can also take to to your destination much quicker than a train. They’re a popular and an easy way of getting between major towns and cities so it’s advisable to book your ticket in advance before setting off on a journey. Generally, they’re relatively comfortable, have air con and silent movies with Bulgarian subtitles but they don’t have toilet facilities so you might want to go easy on drinking beforehand!
Catching a bus between smaller towns and villages can be a much more confusing experience as timetables can be tricky to track down! This is especially true in rural areas, so you might have to ask a local or head to a tourist office for advice on where you can find a bus stop if it’s not obvious. Mountainous areas aren’t accessible by trains so you will need to rely on local buses for these places. On the plus side, drivers will randomly stop anywhere on their route if you ask them.
The two biggest coach companies are Etap and Biomet
Despite taxi fares being one of the cheapest rates in Europe, it pays to be careful in cities. Sofia, in particular, has a reputation of ruthless taxi drivers over-charging their fares and some taxi’s mimicking the logo of the licensed taxi firm, OK. Make sure that the meter is running at the rate they advertise and try agree on an approximate price beforehand so there’s no confusion at the end of your journey. Having said that, most taxi drivers are honest and you should find their fares very cheap for the distance you travel.
Travelling Around Bulgaria by Road
Hitching is popular both in Bulgaria and her neighbouring countries. You’ll often find local people needing a lift from one village to the next as their own means of transport. Rural areas generally don’t have many buses running frequently throughout the day so hitching can be a preferred method of getting around when visiting a countryside destination. Roadside prostitutes are common on certain routes so it’s probably best not to hitch close by and as with hitching anywhere, use your common sense before accepting a lift.
Hiking and Cycling
With more than a third of Bulgaria covered in mountainous regions there are an abundance of trekking or cycling opportunities, especially within their nature and national parks. Despite an extensive network of trails, not all of them are comprehensively well-maintained so extra care should be taken on certain routes. Choose to go it alone or hire the services of a private company offering guided or self guided tours and take a hike through the ridges of the Balkan Mountains or settle for a shorter journeys through the Rhodope or Pirin mountain ranges.
Check out my post on 10 Tips for Travelling by Coach or Train for more advice on surviving travel in Bulgaria.
For a comprehensive map list of Bulgaria, head to: www.startmaps.com/bulgaria-maps
Have anymore tips I’ve missed? Or any advice you can give to travellers? Feel free to post them below: