Bulgaria travel guide
Bulgaria's spectacular mountains, golden beaches and vibrant cities have begun attracting hordes of eager-eyed tourists over the past few years. As a result, beautiful ski and beach resorts are expanding quickly.
The main cities have shrugged off the weary Communist-era image and have become vibrant and attractive, with a string of cultural attractions, varied shopping and lively nightlife keeping visitors entertained. In contrast, many towns and villages have preserved the authentic Bulgarian spirit and hospitality - the country is especially proud of its rich folklore traditions.
Hikers will find a variety of mountain ranges covering much of the country, with plenty of extraordinary wildlife to be glimpsed along the way. The walking trails are well mapped, taking hikers through forests, past lakes and waterfalls, with the chance to spot bears, wolves and lynx. Those keen on caving and kayaking will also find plenty to entertain them, while skiing and snowshoeing are also popular here.
Of course, the attraction that brings most visitors to Bulgaria is its remarkably unspoiled beaches strewn along the Black Sea coast. Less-visited, less-developed and with lots of facilities for water sports, Bulgaria's sandy beaches are the equal to almost any of the more popular coastal spots in the Mediterranean. What's more, you'll find many aged seaside towns complete with cobbled streets and historic buildings.
Bulgaria is home to seven UNESCO World Heritage cultural sites including:
• Ancient city of Nessebar, a 3,000-year-old site which was originally a Thracian settlement and became a Greek colony in the 6th century.
• Boyana Church, a medieval Bulgarian Orthodox church on the outskirts of Sofia.
• Madara Rider, a large rock relief depicting a knight triumphing over a lion in Madara.
• Rila Monastery, the largest and most famous Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria.
• Rock-hewn churches of Ivanovo, a series of chapels, churches and monasteries within the Rusenski Lom Nature Park.
• Thracian tomb of Kazanlak, a richly decorated burial chamber from the Hellenistic period.
• Thracian tomb of Sveshtari, an amazing historical site reflecting the fundamental structural principles of Thracian cult buildings.
In addition, Bulgaria also has three natural sites that are also UNESCO-listed including ancient and primeval beech forest of the Carpathians, Pirin National Park and Srebarna Nature Reserve.
110,994 sq km (42,855 sq miles).
64.8 per sq km.
President Rumen Radev since 2017.
Kiril Petkov since December 2021.
Coronavirus travel health
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Bulgaria on the TravelHealthPro website.
See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Direct commercial flights between the UK and Bulgaria continue to operate, but at a reduced level. There are a small number of indirect flights with connections between Sofia and UK airports.
Entry and borders
See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Bulgaria.
Returning to the UK
Travelling from and returning to the UK
Check what you must do to travel abroad and return to England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
If you plan to pass through another country to return to the UK, check the travel advice for the country you’re transiting. If you will pass through a red list country, book your hotel quarantine package before travelling to the UK.
You are responsible for organising your own COVID-19 test which is consistent with the published guidelines. You should check that the certificate is available in one of the languages specified in the guidance. The Bulgarian authorities have issued a list of COVID-19 test centres in locations across Bulgaria (only available in Bulgarian).
Be prepared for your plans to change
No travel is risk-free during COVID. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.
If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.
Plan ahead and make sure you:
- can access money
- understand what your insurance will cover
- can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned
Public spaces and services
An Emergency Epidemic situation is in place until 31 March 2022. Various coronavirus measures and restrictions remain in force during this time.
The police are strictly enforcing measures and failure to comply could result in a fine.
If you test positive for COVID-19, you will be required to self-isolate for 10 days. Additionally, there is a mandatory 7-day self-isolation requirement (starting from the date of last contact with the infected person) for anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status. During self-isolation you are not permitted to leave Bulgaria.
The 7-day mandatory self-isolation period for close contacts may be revoked for close contacts who are vaccinated with a booster dose and who present a negative PCR test taken 72 hours after the mandatory self-isolation period commenced. You must submit the negative PCR test result by e-mail to the relevant Regional Health Inspectorate. You should await their decision before taking action; this is usually received within around 24 hours from submission.
Wearing a face mask is mandatory in all indoor public spaces and all outdoor spaces where it is not possible to maintain a social distance of at least 1.5 metres. Face shields, scarfs or other face coverings are not permitted in place of a face mask.
Exceptions to this measure include:
- those exercising outdoors/indoors;
- children under six years old;
- customers at dining and drinking establishments; and
- speakers at conferences, congresses, etc
You are required to present a COVID-19 certificate in order to visit the following indoor venues:
- restaurants and bars;
- cinemas, theatres, museums, concerts, galleries;
- conferences, seminars, training;
- universities, language centres;
- gyms, swimming pools, SPA centres, sports competitions;
- hotels, organised tours; and
- shopping malls and shops with a retail area of over 300 sq.m, with the exception of grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, pet stores, postal and courier service providers, insurers, payment service providers and telecommunications operators’ offices
Visitors must present one of the following COVID-19 documents:
- a vaccination certificate (Bulgaria will accept either certificate of completion of a two dose vaccine course (Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Covishield, Sinopharm, Sinovac, Sputnik) or a certificate of receipt of a one dose vaccine (Janssen, Johnson & Johnson). In both cases immunization must have been completed 14 days prior to arrival; or
- a certificate of recovery from COVID-19 (either PCR or rapid antigen test dated at least 11 days, but no more than 365 days, before arrival into Bulgaria, in English) or an antibody test performed in Bulgaria. See here for further details; or
- a negative PCR test certificate performed within 72 hours before entry to the venue - this should include name, date of birth, details of the medical institution and date and time of the sample in English.
Children under 18 are exempt from the requirement to present any of the above mentioned documents.
Bulgaria will accept the UK’s proof of COVID-19 recovery and vaccination record and proof of COVID-19 vaccination issued in the Crown Dependencies. Your final vaccine dose must have been administered at least 14 days prior to travel. Your NHS appointment card from vaccination centres is not designed to be used as proof of vaccination and should not be used to demonstrate your vaccine status.
The additional following measures are currently in force:
- mass events such as festivals, fairs, concerts, and team buildings will be suspended
- private gatherings and celebrations, including weddings, baptisms and funerals, can be attended by no more than 15 people indoors and 30 people outdoors
- indoor team sports are suspended, with the exception of training and competitions for registered athletes at licensed sports federations
- sports competitions for all age groups can be held without spectators. Spectators can attend if they present the required COVID-19 documentation
- parks and gardens remain open, visitors must maintain a social distance of 1.5 metres, not use alcohol and follow any other instructions from local authorities
- visits to national parks and mountains are now permitted as long as visitors can maintain a social distance of 1.5 metres.
Children’s nurseries and kindergartens are open. Schools will switch to online learning in areas where COVID-19 cases exceed an incidence rate of 750 per 100,000 over a 14 day period. University attendance requires demonstration of the required COVID-19 documentation.
In-person classes for adults in language and training centres will be suspended. In-person classes for children in language and training centres will be allowed with a limited capacity of maximum 5 people. Visitors must maintain a distance of at least 1.5 metres and wear a face mask. However, visits to children’s centres and clubs will be suspended. Visiting children’s playgrounds and facilities both indoors and outdoors is permitted.
Travel in Bulgaria
Travel to/from airport or other port of arrival
There are no restrictions on travel between cities. There are no longer any police checkpoints and it is not necessary to present a declaration giving the reason(s) for travelling between cities or to the airport.
Restrictions apply at many European land borders, including with Bulgaria, which affect road and rail travel. You should check the travel advice for any countries through which you are considering travel before you depart.
Healthcare in Bulgaria
For contact details for English speaking doctors visit our list of healthcare providers.
Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health
View Health for further details on healthcare in Bulgaria
See also the guidance on healthcare if you’re waiting to return to the UK.
COVID-19 vaccines if you live in Bulgaria
Wherever possible British nationals should aim to be vaccinated in the country where they live. We will update this page when the Government of Bulgaria announces new information on the national vaccination programme. You can sign up to get email notifications when this page is updated.
The Bulgarian national vaccination programme started in January 2021 and is using the AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech and Janssen (Johnson and Johnson) vaccines. British nationals resident in Bulgaria are eligible for vaccination. There are two parts to the Bulgarian rollout programme:
- the National Vaccination Plan, which is proceeding to vaccinate the population according to priority groups; and
- the Mass Vaccination Scheme “green corridor”, which operates intermittently, as supplies allow.
UK nationals resident in Bulgaria will be offered a vaccination against COVID-19 at the same time as Bulgarian citizens under the provisions of the National Vaccination Plan. They can also put themselves forward as part of the “green corridor” scheme that allows hospitals and clinics to vaccinate all those who wish to come forward, regardless of age or priority grouping. Mobile vaccination buses are also being deployed in a number of areas around the country for ease of access under the ‘green corridor’ scheme.
The Bulgarian Ministry of Health has recommended the administration of a booster dose to the following risk groups of the population:
- immunocompromised persons:
- persons in care homes
- medical staff with a high risk of infection
- persons over 65 years of age
- persons who have not developed sufficient immunity one month after the completion of the vaccination.
Booster jabs are available through the Bulgarian public health system and can be administered to all citizens at their discretion, not only the above-mentioned risk groups, at least 3 months after the completion of the vaccination, and for persons who have not developed sufficient immunity – one month after the completion of the vaccination.
Details of these and official information on the Bulgarian vaccination programme is available on Bulgaria’s coronavirus website (in Bulgarian).
Bulgarian Health authorities have announced that the AstraZeneca vaccine will not be administered to women under the age of 60 who are at risk of thrombosis, at the discretion of their GPs. Those who have received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine will be able to either receive a second dose of the same vaccine or receive a second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, but not earlier than 84 days after the first shot. Those who have received a first dose, but in the meantime became infected with the coronavirus, can receive the second dose no earlier than 6 months after the laboratory confirmation the diagnosis. Those who have recovered from coronavirus, can be vaccinated no earlier than 3 months after the laboratory confirmation of the diagnosis.
On 18 May 2021, Bulgaria’s Health Ministry outlined the procedure to fix inaccuracies in COVID-19 vaccination certificates. Citizens who find discrepancies in their issued certificates (wrong name, date of vaccination, identification number, address, etc.) must send a formal request to the vaccination centre where they received the jab or to the relevant Regional Health Inspectorate, for the region where the vaccination centre is located. The request can be freely worded and should contain the vaccine recipient’s full name, contact details, information about the vaccines administered, as well as a detailed description of the error. If necessary, copies of relevant documentation can be attached. See here for a full list of the Regional Health Inspectorates and their contact details. In cases where the names in the vaccination certificate are misspelled, the errors can also be reported directly to the Ministry of Health by sending an email to email@example.com with an attached copy of the vaccination certificate and the correct spelling of the names.
Bulgaria has approved the use of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for anyone 12 years and above, which are available through the ‘green corridor’ scheme. Bulgaria has approved a reduced dose version of Pfizer-BioNTech for 5 -11 year olds. Not all vaccination centres in Bulgaria are able to vaccinate 5 -11 year olds, a list of centres where this is possible is available online. If you are considering a vaccination for somebody in this age group, you should seek medical advice from their local healthcare provider.
Bulgaria’s Health Ministry has approved the EU Digital COVID certificate. From 4 June 2021, all citizens who have already received their certificate will be able to download the document in the new European format on the National Health Information System website without the need to present an electronic signature. In order to obtain the certificate, citizens need to enter their personal identification number, ID card number and the reference number of one of the two vaccines they received. The vaccine reference numbers can be found in the lower left corner on the existing certificates. Foreign citizens will have to fill in their personal number and the number of their permanent residence document, respectively.
Citizens who haven’t received their certificate yet, can obtain it either through the National Health Information System with an electronic signature, at the vaccination centre where they received their jabs, or through their GP. The document can also be saved as a PDF file, which allows it to be printed later or stored on a mobile device.
The process for correcting any errors on the EU compliant versions is still though the Regional Health Inspectorates as detailed above. There is an agreed six week grace period where older versions can be used within the EU, but it is advised that travellers check the current travel advice for their chosen destination before arriving.
Residence can be demonstrated by using either your Bulgarian residence permit or passport along with another form of documentation showing that you are legally resident in Bulgaria, such as a tenancy agreement, S1 social security document or similar.
National Vaccination Plan
To participate in the national vaccination plan, you should make sure that you are registered with a GP/family doctor and ensure that they are aware that you wish to be vaccinated. The family doctor can let you know when the vaccine will be provided under the relevant phase.
Mass Vaccination Scheme (‘green corridor’)
The ‘green corridor’ scheme is designed to facilitate mass vaccination when vaccine supply permits. To participate, check the list of all participating medical establishments.
If you would like to participate in the scheme, visit Bulgaria’s coronavirus website to register. Currently, the platform is available only in Bulgarian. The registration process requires users enter their personal identification data, to select their preferred vaccine, vaccination centre and time slot. Permanent and long-term residents in Bulgaria can use their ‘personal number of a foreign national’ (ЛНЧ – личен номер на чужденец) in order to register.
Find out more, including about vaccines that are authorised in the UK or approved by the World Health Organisation, on the COVID-19 vaccines if you live abroad. If you’re a British national living in Bulgaria, you should seek medical advice from your local healthcare provider. Information about COVID-19 vaccines used in the national programme where you live, including regulatory status, should be available from local authorities.
For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.
The Bulgarian Ministry of Health has published information (in Bulgarian) and has set up a hotline +359 2 807 87 57.
If you need urgent consular assistance, contact your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.
Crime levels are low and violent crime is rare. However, you should take care of yourself and your belongings in the same way as you would do in the UK. Take sensible precautions to protect yourself from street crime, particularly in larger cities. Watch out for pickpockets and bag thefts in tourist areas and major public transport hubs, including airports. Be vigilant at all times, particularly late at night. If you wish to report a crime, call the local police on 112 and make sure you get a crime report.
Tourists are targeted by thieves and pickpockets in Sunny Beach and other larger cities and resorts. Don’t take valuables to the beach and be wary of poorly lit roads around the resort at night. There has been an increase in thefts on the bus from Nessebar to Sunny Beach. Burglaries have been reported from hotel rooms in Sunny Beach. Make sure you lock your room (including windows and balcony doors) and keep your valuables locked in a safe. Don’t change money on the streets in Sunny Beach, only at licensed exchange points, banks or hotels.
Some tourists have been victims of overcharging in strip clubs in Sofia and in some resorts like Bansko, Borovets and Sunny Beach. Overcharging can amount to hundreds of pounds and victims have been threatened with violence if they don’t pay.
Stun guns, torch stun guns and other weapons like knives, pepper spray and CS gas can be bought in shops in and around Burgas and Sunny Beach. Many of these weapons are illegal in the UK and importing them could result in a prison sentence.
There have been reports of car tyres being deliberately punctured across Bulgaria. While investigating the puncture, someone distracts the driver and personal belongings and documents are stolen from the vehicle. Be vigilant if you have to stop in these circumstances and make sure your belongings are secure.
Break-ins have occurred in properties in the residential areas of cities and rural areas. Seek local advice on security for your home.
For all types of emergency (fire, ambulance, police) you can dial 112.
Taxis are plentiful and cheap by UK standards, although vehicles may not be in very good condition. Most taxis are on a meter and yellow taxis are generally considered reliable. Avoid taxis parked outside hotels or in tourist areas. Ask your hotel to call a taxi or flag down a passing taxi with a green ‘available’ light in the window. Check the licence sticker and the tariffs on the window before getting in as they can vary considerably.
There are regular reports of robberies and threatening behaviour by taxi drivers in Sunny Beach. Use a taxi recommended by your tour operator or accommodation provider.
There has also been an increase in the number of unlicensed taxis from Sofia airport overcharging passengers. If you’re travelling from the airport, make sure you take an official, licensed taxi. There is an official taxi rank in the arrivals hall.
In 2019, there were 628 road deaths in Bulgaria (source: Department for Transport). This equates to 9 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.6 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2019.
If you are planning to drive in Bulgaria, see information on Driving Abroad.
Licences and documents
If you enter Bulgaria in a private vehicle, you must have your driving licence, all original registration and ownership documents as well as evidence of insurance valid in Bulgaria. If you have hired a car, you must have the original contract document, which should state that the vehicle can be brought into Bulgaria. Border officials will impound your vehicle if they are not satisfied that you own it or have permission to use it in Bulgaria.
Under Bulgarian law, vehicles that are registered outside the EU are considered to be ‘temporarily imported’ when driven inside Bulgaria. If they are stolen on Bulgarian soil, the owners will be liable for import duty and related taxes. Cars registered in the UK, Channel Islands and the Isles of Man are subject to this legislation.
If you’re living in Bulgaria, check the Living in Guide for information on requirements for residents.
Driving a British car abroad
You may need a GB sticker or a UK sticker to drive your car outside the UK. From 28 September UK stickers will replace GB stickers. Check the GOV.UK Displaying number plates website for more information on what to do if you are driving outside the UK before, on or after 28 September 2021.
Take care when driving, particularly at night. Many roads are in poor condition and road works are often unlit or unmarked. Driving standards are generally poor. Avoid confrontations with aggressive drivers. Stick to the speed limit and make sure your vehicle is roadworthy. On the spot fines are charged for minor violations. For more information about speed limits and spot fines, check the RAC website.
You’ll need to buy a vignette (sticker) to drive on motorways and main roads outside towns. You can buy one at the border, or from post offices, large petrol stations and DZI bank offices and online from BG Toll. Rates are much higher for freight vehicles and coaches carrying 8 or more passengers. You’ll be fined if you don’t have a vignette.
You must drive with running lights or dipped beam headlights throughout the year, even during the daytime. It’s compulsory to carry the following equipment in your vehicle: fire extinguisher (not required for 2-wheeled vehicles), a first-aid kit and a warning triangle (not required for 2-wheeled vehicles). A reflective jacket must be used by anyone who steps on to the road in a breakdown or emergency. Snow chains must be carried from 1 November until 1 March and used when the relevant sign is displayed. Winter tyres are compulsory for vehicles registered in Bulgaria during wintry road conditions.
Rail and bus travel
If you travel by train, check the availability of sleeping compartments and whether bicycles can be taken on board. This may vary between regions, and there may be additional charges. Thieves operate on trains, so take particular care that documents and other valuables are safe. The train system is very poor by European standards. There have been several fires on Bulgarian trains.
Train services and inter-city coach services are operating normally.
Stray dogs are common and dangerous. Avoid getting too close to stray dogs, especially if they are in a pack. Take any animal bites seriously and seek immediate medical advice as rabies and other animal borne diseases are present in Bulgaria.
Terrorist attacks in Bulgaria can’t be ruled out. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners.
On 30 December 2016, the Bulgarian Minister of Interior, announced heightened security measures in all cities, winter ski resorts, and places where large gatherings are expected.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Bulgaria set and enforce entry rules. For further information contact their embassy, high commission or consulate. You may also check with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and travel documents meet their requirements.
If you are travelling to Bulgaria for work, read the guidance on visas and permits as the rules have changed since 1 January 2021.
Entry rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)
Entry to Bulgaria
Bulgaria has a system for classifying travellers arriving in the country based on travel from green, orange and red zones. The UK has been categorised as a ‘red zone’ country.
UK nationals (and their family members) travelling directly from the UK, a European Union member state, a European Economic Area country or Switzerland (even if that country is also in the red zone) are eligible to enter Bulgaria, but you must provide the following pieces of COVID-19 documentation in order to be allowed entry:
- a vaccination certificate (Bulgaria will accept either certificate of completion of a two dose vaccine course (Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Novavax, Moderna, Covishield, Sinopharm, Sinovac, Sputnik) or a certificate of receipt of a one dose vaccine (Janssen, Johnson & Johnson). In both cases immunization must have been completed 14 days prior to arrival; or
- evidence of past COVID-19 infection (a test result certificate, in English, showing a positive test result from either a PCR or rapid antigen test dated at least 11 days, but no more than 180 days, before arrival in Bulgaria).
You must also provide:
- a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours before entry - this should include name, date of birth, details of the medical institution and date and time of the sample, and should be in English.
Children under 12 are exempt from quarantine and the requirement to present COVID-19 documents upon their arrival in Bulgaria, regardless of what colour zone they have travelled from.
From 19 January 2022, children aged 12 to 18 must either:
- Present a negative PCR test taken up to 72 hours before entering Bulgaria. This is regardless of nationality and/or residence or colour zone of the country they are travelling from.
- Or, if they do not have a negative PCR test, they must self-isolate upon arrival for 10 days. This 10-day self-isolation period can be shortened if they take a PCR test no earlier than 72 hours after their arrival in Bulgaria and the result is negative. The self-isolation requirement will be lifted the day following the registration of the negative result.The self-isolation requirement will be lifted the day following the registration of the negative result.
Bulgarian nationals and permanent and long-term residents, as well as their family members who present only one of the above listed documents – a certificate of vaccination or recovery or a negative PCR test, are allowed to travel but, must self-isolate for 10 days upon arrival. This 10-day quarantine period can be shortened if they perform a PCR test no earlier than 72 hours after their arrival in Bulgaria. If the result is negative, quarantine will be lifted from the day following the registration of the result.
Bulgarian nationals and permanent and long-term residents, as well as their family members who do not present any of the above listed documents – a certificate of vaccination or recovery or a negative PCR test, will be allowed to enter Bulgaria. However, they will be required to complete a mandatory 10-day quarantine which cannot be ended early through testing.
Only Bulgarian nationals and permanent and long-term residents, as well as their family members, will be allowed to enter from the following countries: South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Eswatini and Zimbabwe. They will be subject to a mandatory 10-day self-isolation and a mandatory antigen testing upon entry.
Foreign students holding a type ‘D’ visa for long-term residence for study purposes are eligible to enter Bulgaria from any country, subject to holding the COVID-19 documentation detailed above.
Family members are defined by Bulgaria’s immigration rules, depending on whether the UK nationals are beneficiaries of the Withdrawal Agreement or not.
Family members of a UK national, legally resident in Bulgaria before 31 December 2020, are considered to be:
- Husband, Wife or common law partner
- Children under 18. This includes stepchildren of either parent and those adopted. Can also include older children up to 21 years old who are in full time education
- There are also provisions under the rules for other family members who are normally part of the household who are reliant on the resident or Bulgarian national for care and/or accommodation
Family members of a UK national, legally resident in Bulgaria after 31 December 2020 and therefore not a beneficiary of the Withdrawal Agreement, are considered to be:
- Husband / Wife
- Children of either parent under 18, who are not married, including adopted children
It is advisable to bring documentation to demonstrate the family relationship. Family members travelling separately may be turned away without documentary proof.
The measures are in force at all air, road, rail and sea border crossings into Bulgaria.
Exemptions, regardless of nationality, to the entry restrictions in Bulgaria for travellers from UK (and other red list countries) include medical workers, state officials and diplomats, persons traveling for humanitarian reasons, seasonal and tourist workers etc. Other categories of people who can enter Bulgaria without the need to submit documents for COVID-19 include: bus and lorry drivers, crews of vessels and aircraft, border workers, those transiting through the country, students who live in Greece, Turkey, Serbia, Romania or The Republic of North Macedonia and travel daily or at least once a week to Bulgaria for training purposes, travellers between Bulgaria and Romania and between Bulgaria and Czech Republic.
Further information on the full range of exemptions, and the list of countries falling into the green, orange and red zones, is available on the following Bulgarian Government web site (in Bulgarian). If you fall into one of the exempted categories, you should contact your travel operator in advance of travel for further information on how to demonstrate your exemption from the travel ban.
Many land borders crossings in the region are restricted or closed for passenger traffic. Furthermore, neighbouring countries are implementing additional health requirements for entry to or departure from Bulgaria including declarations and COVID-19 tests. You should check the relevant FCDO Travel Advice.
If you need to travel, plan ahead and before you travel check border information published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before you travel.
Demonstrating your COVID-19 status
Bulgaria will accept the UK’s NHS vaccination record and proof of COVID-19 recovery issued in the Crown Dependencies. Your final vaccine dose must have been administered at least 14 days prior to travel. Your NHS appointment card from vaccination centres is not designed to be used as proof of vaccination and should not be used to demonstrate your vaccine status.
If you need to self-isolate on arrival to Bulgaria and are eligible to shorten this, please check the list of places offering PCR testing in Bulgaria. It is available here in Bulgarian.
You should submit the document showing a negative result of the PCR test to the respective Regional Health Inspectorate.
Regular entry requirements
From 1 January 2021, the rules for travelling or working in European countries changed:
you can travel to Bulgaria for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa. This applies if you travel as a tourist, to visit for family or friends, to attend business meetings, cultural or sports events, or for short-term studies or training
visits to other EU or Schengen countries do not count towards your 90-day limit in Bulgaria as it is not in the Schengen area. Visits to Bulgaria do not count towards your 90-day visa-free limit in the Schengen area
to stay longer, to work or study, for business travel or for other reasons, you will need to meet the Bulgarian government’s entry requirements. Check with the Bulgarian Embassy what type of visa and/or work permit you may need
if you stay in Bulgaria with a residence permit or long-stay visa, this does not count towards your 90-day visa-free limit
*any time you spent in Bulgaria before 1 January 2021 does not count towards the 90-day visa-free limit.
At Bulgarian border control, you may need to use separate lanes from EU, EEA and Swiss citizens when queueing. Your passport may be stamped on entry and exit. You may also need to:
- show a return or onward ticket
- show you have enough money for your stay
If you are planning to travel to an EU country (except Ireland), or Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino or Vatican City, you must meet the Schengen area rules.
Your passport must meet 2 requirements. It must be:
- less than 10 years old on the day you enter (check the ‘date of issue’)
- valid for at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave (check the ‘expiry date’)
We are asking the European Commission to clarify the 10-year rule. Their guidance for Schengen border guards may not be updated until the spring of 2022. Until then, for some Schengen countries your passport may need to be less than 10 years old during your whole visit, and the 3 months at the end of your visit may need to be within 10 years of your passport’s issue date.
Check both the issue date and the expiry date in your passport. If you renewed your passport early, extra months may have been added to its expiry date. This could affect the requirement for your passport to be less than 10 years old.
There are separate requirements for those who are resident in Bulgaria. If you are resident in Bulgaria, you should carry proof of residence as well as your valid passport when you travel. For further information on these requirements, see our Living in Bulgaria guide.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Bulgaria.
The Bulgarian authorities treat all drug-related and sex offences very seriously. Custodial sentences can be expected for any foreigners convicted of such offences. Offences relating to drunken, disorderly behaviour and hooliganism may also be treated more seriously than in the UK.
Homosexuality is not illegal, but public attitudes are less tolerant than in the UK and the LGBT+ community generally keeps a low profile. There are a few gay bars and clubs in Sofia; the city has also held the annual Sofia Pride since 2008. Sofia Pride and accompanying LGBT+ events are growing in popularity and were attended by over 10,000 people in 2021. However, it also attracts some negative attention locally and is held with a heightened police presence and security measures. Should you wish to join the parade, please read carefully the safety rules issued by the organisers. Attitudes outside Sofia tend to be more conservative, and there have been isolated cases of hostility towards people perceived to be from LGBT+ communities. You can find local information on LGBT+ issues in Bulgaria on the website of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee. See our information and advice page for the LGBT+ community before you travel.
Avoid taking photographs near potentially sensitive areas like military establishments. If in doubt, ask permission.
Covering your face with garments (such as a burka or similar head covering) in public places, including governmental buildings, streets, parks, gardens, restaurants, shops and on public transport is illegal in Bulgaria. There is a fine for covering your face in public places.
There have been numerous reports of buyers being defrauded while purchasing property. Be cautious and seek comprehensive legal advice before making any purchase. Only deal with established and reputable real estate agents or with other contacts that you know to be reliable and genuine. See the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office guide to buying property in Bulgaria.
Taking food and drink into the EU
You cannot take meat, milk or products containing them into EU countries. There are some exceptions for medical reasons, for example certain amounts of powdered infant milk, infant food, or pet food required for medical reasons. Check the rules about taking food and drink into the EU on the European Commission website.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Bulgaria on the TravelHealthPro website See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in Bulgaria.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).
You should get a free UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) or European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. If you already have an EHIC it will still be valid as long as it remains in date.
The GHIC or EHIC entitles you to state provided medical treatment that may become necessary during your trip. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as Bulgarian nationals. If you don’t have your EHIC with you or you’ve lost it, you can call the NHS Overseas Healthcare Team on +44 191 218 1999 to get a Provisional Replacement Certificate.
It’s important to take out appropriate travel insurance for your needs. A GHIC or EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance and you should have both before you travel. It does not cover all health-related costs, for example, medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment and non-urgent treatment.
Read more about what your travel insurance should cover.
If you’re living in Bulgaria, you can also find more information on healthcare for residents in the Living In Bulgaria guide.
Facilities in most Bulgarian hospitals are basic and old-fashioned compared to those in the UK. Standards of medical care are good, although specialised equipment and treatment may not be available. Hospital staff rarely speak English.
Private clinics and hospitals are generally well equipped and not expensive in comparison with the UK. Some private hospitals will not accept the EHIC. Check with hospital administrators.
There have been reports of overcharging of foreign tourists in private medical clinics in tourist resorts. If you decide to use the services, agree a price in advance.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 112 and ask for an ambulance. If you are referred to a medical facility for treatment you should contact your insurance/medical assistance company immediately.
Earthquakes and small tremors are recorded throughout the year, usually without consequences. The last significant series of earthquakes was in 1928.
To learn more about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, see this advice from the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Many parts of Bulgaria are subject to flooding following heavy rains. Flooding is usually localised but can occasionally be widespread and has resulted in fatalities. Follow the weather forecast on the National Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology website which provides detailed information and severe weather warnings for Bulgaria.
Throughout the summer and early autumn period, Bulgaria is on a regular alert for wildfires. There is a danger of large-scale and quick spreading fires in forests and fields. Follow media reports and the advice of the local authorities if wildfires occur in your area.
You can buy Leva from banks and foreign exchange offices in the UK. There are many exchange bureaux in Bulgaria that normally accept sterling and other major currencies. Check the rates of exchange before making a transaction. Where possible, change money in banks, large hotels, or exchange bureaux. Don’t use sellers on the street. You may not be able to exchange Scottish and Northern Irish notes.
There is a large network of ATMs that accept standard international credit and debit cards. Check with your UK card provider whether you will be able to use these machines to withdraw Leva.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCDO travel advice
If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team a request.
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.