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World Travel Guide > Guides > Europe > Bulgaria > Sofia

Sofia Weather

19°C

Local time Sofia

Currency

лв

Getting around Sofia

Public transport

Sofia Urban Mobility Centre (tel: +359 7001 3233; www.sofiatraffic.bg) operates Sofia's trams, buses and trolley buses, which currently have no night service.

Tickets are sold in kiosks at the major bus stops and newsagents, and must be validated on board using the metal punchers near the windows. Passes or transit cards, valid for one day or one month, are also available. Karta (coupons of 10 tickets) are valid on trams, buses, metro and trolley buses. These reloadable smartcards enable users to top up and then swipe the card for each journey at the entrance to the vehicle.

The Metro system (www.metrosofia.com) has two lines and runs until midnight. Line 1 connects Obelya to Tsarigradsko Shose, while Line 2 runs between Obelya in the north and Sofia Airport. Day passes, which are valid on trams, buses and trolley buses, are also available from Metro stations, kiosks and shops.

Taxis

For many years Sofia’s taxi drivers had a reputation for ripping off travellers. While most are now honest, it still pays to be vigilant. Official taxis operate using a meter and are yellow, though there is also a fleet of green, eco-friendly Toyotas driving around the city. Always check the meter is running when you get in a taxi.

Taxi ranks are located at strategic points throughout Sofia, and you can hail one anywhere near the city centre. A tip of 10-15% is common practice.

If you want to book a taxi, the most reputable firm is OK Supertrans (tel: +359 2 973 2121). Alternatively, use Radio CB Travel (tel: +359 2 912 63).

Driving

Negotiating Sofia's interweaving paths of pedestrians, cars, trams and buses during rush hour can be tricky. However, once away from the city centre, traffic runs quite freely along wide, open boulevards. Street names outside the centre are almost exclusively in Cyrillic so, even with a map, orientation can be difficult for drivers who only read Latin script.

Parking in the city centre is limited to two hours in designated Blue Zones, which are found on Ploshtad Narodno Sabranie, Ploshtad Alexander Batenburg and Ploshtad Alexander Nevski. Parking vouchers are usually sold on the spot by parking attendants, though you can also pay in shops or by SMS (tel: 1302) if you are with a local phone operator.

There is also a Green Zone for parking, which charges a low fee for four hours. Unsurprisingly, Green Zone spots are not so centrally placed. The Green Zone SMS number is 1303.

Car hire

Cars can be hired by visiting drivers over 18 years old, on presentation of a passport and valid international driving licence (held for at least one year). A credit card number is requested and a valid international insurance policy is also necessary. Full insurance is advised.

International providers in Sofia include Avis (tel: +359 2 945 9224; www.avis.com), Europcar (tel: +359 2 945 9266; www.europcar.com) and Hertz (tel: +359 2 945 9960; www.hertz.com).

Bicycle hire

Sofia Bike (tel: +359 8855 23630; www.sofiabike.com) rents out bicycles and runs cycling tours of the city from April until November. Bikes can be hired out for three hours or by the day. Discounts are available for longer rentals.

Although Sofia is relatively flat, few cycle paths currently exist. Evlogi Georgiev Boulevard and Vitosha Boulevard both have marked cycle lanes, but more central and suburban routes are due for competition in the coming years.

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A city as beautiful as its name, Sofia boasts onion-domed churches and Soviet-era monuments interspaced with manicured gardens and wide cobblestone avenues plied by rattling trolley buses.

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Holiday Inn Sofia

This spectacular contemporary 5-star hotel nestles under Mount Vitosha and is adjacent to Business Park Sofia, Bulgaria's largest business park. With excellent meeting rooms and conference facilities it attracts business visitors, but its proximity to the mountain region and a luxury spa, treatment and fitness centre means plenty of leisure visitors also. The hotel's shuttle bus takes around 20 minutes to the city centre, 11km to the north.

Sheraton Sofia Hotel Balkan

In a prime location, the imposing Sheraton Sofia Hotel Balkan is a landmark in itself, and the city's leading 5-star hotel with Italian marble and ornate chandeliers. The 184 elegant rooms, including 18 suites, were recently refurbished, with classic furniture and tasteful colours plus a vast new ballroom. All rooms have free Wi-Fi internet access, and there is a small fitness centre and sauna.

Scotty's Boutique Hotel

In a central location, opposite the synagogue, Scotty's Boutique Hotel is built in a graceful four-storey renovated house (no elevator). Its rooms are spacious and modern, each one different in décor but all enjoying a quirky and contemporary look. Rooms are uncluttered and bright, with wooden floorboards, most with a private balcony.

Central Hotel Sofia

This modern hotel with a good central location has 70 well-furnished rooms, each with free Wi-Fi Internet access and most with a balcony. Facilities include spa, sauna, meeting rooms and conference halls, and a large restaurant with a terrace. The 'apartment' (more like a suite) has room for up to four people.

Hotel Cheap

An unfortunate name for a hotel that, while great value for money, doesn’t feel stingy or like a place that prioritises savings over services and good quality. Located near the train station, a ten-minute walk from central Sofia, Hotel Cheap’s 18 rooms offer everything you need for a short or long stay. Free Wi-Fi throughout, breakfast is extra.

Sense Hotel

Billed as Sofia’s first upscale design hotel, Sense, which opened in 2013, offers stylish design and a great location. The hotels 71 rooms and suites come with all mod cons, and feature large windows commanding impressive views out over the city. Together with the hotel’s rooftop bar, it makes for a great place to get a feel for the city below.