BulgariaOfficial Name: Republic of Bulgaria
Must be valid for three (3) months from expected date of departure from Bulgaria
BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:
One page required for entry stamp
TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:
Yes - “D” visa for stays over 90 days within 6 months or over six months within 1 year. Not required for stays for a total of 90 days within a six-month period.
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:
10,000 Euros or equivalent
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:
10,000 Euros or equivalent
Embassies and Consulates
16, Kozyak Street
Sofia 1408, Bulgaria
Telephone: +(359) (2) 937-5100
Emergency After-HoursTelephone: +(359) (2) 937-5101
Fax: +(359) (2) 937-5209
Bulgaria is a member of the European Union. Tourist facilities are widely available, but conditions of some facilities, infrastructure, and services may vary. Read the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Bulgaria for additional information on U.S.-Bulgaria relations.
Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements
A U.S. passport is required for U.S. citizens who are not Bulgarian nationals. The U.S. passport must be valid for at least three (3) months from the expected date of departure from Bulgaria. U.S. citizens are authorized to stay in Bulgaria for a total of 90 days within any six-month period without a Bulgarian visa. This law is strictly enforced. You can file an application to extend your stay beyond the original 90 days for urgent or humanitarian reasons, but the application must be submitted to regional police authorities no later than five days prior to the end of the original 90-day period. Travelers who have been in the country for 90 days and then leave will not be able to re-enter Bulgaria before the six-month period expires. Please plan and apply for your visa early. Upon entering the country, Bulgarian immigration authorities request that all foreigners declare the purpose of their visit and provide their intended address.
Official/Diplomatic Passports: Travelers using official or diplomatic passports must secure visas prior to arrival.
If you intend to live or work in Bulgaria for more than 90 days within a six-month period, or for more than six months within a year, you must obtain a “D” visa prior to arrival. U.S. citizens must apply for a “D” visa at a Bulgarian embassy or consulate in the country in which they legally reside. If you wish to obtain a “D” visa while already present in Bulgaria -- having entered as a tourist, for example -- you must leave Bulgaria and apply at the nearest Bulgarian Embassy or Consulate in the United States. Visit the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs or Bulgarian Embassies/Consulates websites for more information on the entry and exit requirements for Bulgaria.
Bulgarian authorities require original photo identification. Visitors to Bulgaria are required to carry their original passports with them at all times. U.S. citizens with Bulgarian residence permits are not required to carry their passports, but may be required to present their Foreigner ID card, known in Bulgaria as a lichna karta. U.S. passport cards are recognized as proof of citizenship and identity, but are not sufficient for international air travel to and from Bulgaria.
Visitors to Bulgaria are also required to maintain medical insurance for the duration of their stay in Bulgaria. You may be required to present proof of medical insurance at the ports of entry. Please be aware that the hospitals and clinics in Bulgaria are not mandated to accept medical insurance. Visitors are required to pay in cash before they can be released from the doctor’s care. Visitors are advised to ensure they have access to cash should the need arise.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Bulgaria.
Traveling with Bulgarian Citizen Minors: Bulgarian authorities are particularly strict regarding the travel of children under the age of 18. Regulations are applicable to Bulgarian minors, Bulgarian-U.S. dual citizen minors, and U.S. citizen minors when one or both parents are Bulgarian. If a dual or multi-national Bulgarian child is traveling out of Bulgaria with only one or neither parent, the absent parent(s) must sign a certified/legalized declaration authorizing temporary custody for travel purposes. This declaration must be presented to Bulgarian Immigration on departure. If the declaration is signed in Bulgaria, it must be certified by a Bulgarian notary public. If signed in the United States, the declaration must be certified by a notary public and the court in the jurisdiction where the notary is licensed. The declaration must include an apostille issued by the individual state's Secretary of State or Governor’s office, and a Bulgarian translation by a licensed translation company to be certified by the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Please note that Bulgarian authorities do not require such documentation for minors who are not Bulgarian. However, in cases of minor children who do not have Bulgarian citizenship, but one or both parents are Bulgarian citizens, Immigration officials may request a certified/legalized declaration authorizing custody for travel purposes.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
Safety and Security
Bulgaria’s accession to the European Union has enhanced the overall security environment for tourists and business travelers; however, violence related to criminal groups sporadically occurs in public locations.
Bulgaria is a NATO member and occupies a strategic position along a natural transit route for transnational terrorists trying to move by land in Europe. Bulgaria has not been immune from terrorist attacks. On July 18, 2012, Lebanese Hezbollah conducted a bombing against Israeli tourists in Burgas. The attack killed five Israelis and their Bulgarian bus driver, and injured 32 Israelis.
Bulgarians regularly hold demonstrations to protest or advocate specific causes; however, the dynamic and large anti-government protest movement from 2013 has largely disappeared in 2014. Protests, demonstrations, and rallies can form with little prior notice and have resulted in some minor injuries. Traffic disruptions in Bulgaria, particularly in city centers, have occurred as a result of demonstrations. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. Avoid demonstration areas if possible and exercise caution if traveling within the vicinity of any demonstrations. You should monitor media coverage to stay abreast of local events and should be aware of your surroundings at all times. All security messages are published on the Embassy Sofia website. Travelers should register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, mentioned below, to receive these messages as they are published. We also recommend becoming a fan of U.S. Embassy Sofia’s Facebook page and following us on Twitter under the handle @U.S.EmbassySofia for real-time updates.
There are several small political parties and organizations in the country with anti-American rhetoric. Most active are the ultra-nationalists from the political party “ATAKA”, the nationalists from the youth organization “BNS”, and followers of the “Skinheads” sub-culture. Most neo-Nazi and extreme right groups are associated with soccer fan clubs, and publicly demonstrate their associations during soccer games.
To stay connected:
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) so we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements.
- Follow the Bureau of Consular Affairs on Twitter and Facebook.
- Bookmark the Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution.
- Follow the U.S. Embassy Sofia on Facebook and Twitter, and visit U.S. Embassy Sofia’s website.
- In the event of an emergency, contact us at 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the U.S. and Canada, or at 1-202-501-4444 from other countries.
- Take some time before traveling to consider your personal security. Here are some useful tips in our Traveler’s Checklist.
CRIME: Bulgaria is a welcoming country with few specific threats targeting U.S. citizens, businesses or organizations. ATM skimming, credit card fraud, and traffic incidents remain the most common threats to U.S. citizens traveling to Bulgaria. The majority of incidents involving U.S. citizens are monetary in nature, though incidents of racism, ethnic slurs, and harassment of African-Americans have occurred.
Pick-pocketing and purse snatching are frequent occurrences, especially in crowded markets, on shopping streets, and aboard the busiest tram and bus lines. Con artists operate on public transportation and in bus and train stations. Credit cards and ATMs should be used with caution. Be wary of people who approach you at an ATM and offer assistance. Do not give your PIN to anyone under any circumstances (see the Special Circumstances section below).
Travelers should be suspicious of "instant friends" and should also ask persons claiming to be government officials to provide identification.
We recommend that you immediately report any crimes to the police, as they have helped recover money and valuables in the past. To avoid becoming a victim of more serious crimes, use the same personal safety precautions that you would use in any large U.S. city. Police stations are supposed to provide translators for anyone who needs to report a crime. However, many police stations will require the victim to return at a later time or bring his/her own translator.
You should pay special attention to the drink prices at high-end bars and nightclubs. Travelers have been charged exorbitant prices, especially for champagne and hard alcohol. Bills have been as high as several thousand dollars for drinks, and in some establishments, the management may use force to secure payment.
Taxi drivers occasionally overcharge unwary travelers, particularly at Sofia Airport and the Central Train Station. We recommend that you use taxis with meters and clearly marked rates displayed on a sticker on the passenger side of the windshield. The standard rates normally range between BGL 0.79 and 0.90 (approximately 52 U.S. cents at current exchange rates as of February 2015) per kilometer. You will be expected to pay the amount posted, so it is advisable to check the rates before entering the taxi. At the airport, there is a clearly marked exit within the arrival terminal that leads travelers to metered taxis at a fair rate and a booth to assist with obtaining taxi services. Finding reputable taxis at the Central Train Station is more difficult. We recommend that travelers inquire about the fare before entering a taxi and always account for all luggage, packages, and hand-carried items before paying and releasing a taxi. The likelihood of retrieving articles left behind in a taxi is remote.
Automobile theft is common, and very few vehicles are recovered. Four-wheel-drive vehicles and late-model European sedans are the most popular targets. Automobile break-ins are also common in residential areas or near parks, especially when valuables are left in plain sight. Residential burglaries are also a frequent occurrence. If you plan to reside in Bulgaria on a long-term basis, you should take measures to protect your home and consider installing window grilles, steel doors with well-functioning locks, and an alarm system.
Use caution when making credit card charges over the Internet to unfamiliar websites. Recent experience has shown that offers for merchandise and services may be scam artists posing as legitimate businesses. In many cases, the businesses do not exist.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the U.S. embassy. We can:
- Replace a stolen passport.
- Help you find appropriate medical care if you are the victim of violent crimes such as assault or rape.
- Put you in contact with the appropriate police authorities, and if you want us to, contact family members or friends.
- Help you understand the local criminal justice process and direct you to local attorneys, although it is important to remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.
You must also report a lost/stolen passport to Bulgarian immigration authorities located at 48, Maria Luisa in Sofia, or to the local police station if you are outside of the city.
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency telephone line in Bulgaria is 112 for police, fire, or ambulance services.
Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
Local Laws & Special Circumstances
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in Bulgaria, you are subject to its laws and regulations. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different from our own. Persons violating Bulgarian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Bulgaria are severe; convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. In Bulgaria, driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. If you break local laws in Bulgaria, your U.S. passport will not help you avoid arrest or prosecution.
There are some things that might be legal in Bulgaria, but still illegal in the United States. You can be prosecuted in the United States for engaging in sexual conduct with minors or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country regardless of the legality of these activities under that country’s laws. Such activities are illegal in Bulgaria as well. Counterfeit and pirated goods are illegal in the United States and, if you purchase them in a foreign country, you may be breaking local law as well.
Bulgarian law enforcement authorities may take you in for questioning if you do not have your passport, U.S. passport card, or long-term residence card with you, or if you take pictures of certain buildings. It is very important to know what is legal and what is illegal wherever you go.
Arrest notifications in host country: While some countries automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in that country, others may not. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Bulgaria is still largely a cash economy. Due to the potential for fraud and other criminal activity, credit cards should be used sparingly and with extreme caution. Skimming devices, surreptitiously attached to ATMs by criminals, are used to capture cards and PINs for later criminal use, including unauthorized charges or withdrawals, and are common in Bulgaria. If you choose to use credit cards, we recommend you use ATMs located in banks or malls as opposed to the more vulnerable locations on the street. You should check your account status regularly to ensure its integrity. In connection with such scams, be extremely wary of friendly bystanders near ATMs who offer assistance. Any time a card is not returned, you should immediately report the card as lost/stolen to the card-issuing company.
You may exchange cash at banks or exchange bureaus, but should know that exchange bureaus sometimes post misleading rate quotations that confuse travelers. People on the street who offer high rates of exchange are usually con artists intent on swindling unwary travelers.
Damaged or worn U.S. dollar bank notes are often rejected at banks or exchange bureaus.
Major branches of the following Bulgarian banks will cash travelers’ checks on the spot for Leva, the Bulgarian currency, or another desired currency: Unicredit Bulbank, Bulgarian Postbank, First Investment Bank, and United Bulgarian Bank (UBB). UBB also serves as a Western Union agent and provides direct transfer of money. There are many Western Union branches in major towns and cities. Most shops, hotels, and restaurants, with the exception of the major hotels, do not accept travelers’ checks or credit cards. Only some local banks can cash U.S. Treasury checks and the payee may need to wait up to a month to receive funds.
Corruption remains an important concern of the Bulgarian government. The Commission for Coordinating of the Activity for Combating Corruption manages the efforts of each government agency’s internal inspectorate in fighting public corruption and engages in public awareness campaigns. Complaints of public corruption can be made by e-mail to the Ministry of Justice at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone to +359 2 987 0697. All grievances must be made in Bulgarian.
If you are planning to import an automobile to Bulgaria, be aware that customs duties on personal automobiles can be high. Also, all documents must be originals or certified copies containing an apostille.
WOMEN TRAVELER INFORMATION: If you are a woman traveling abroad, please review the US Department of State’s travel tips for Women Travelers.
LGBT RIGHTS: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals are stigmatized by society in Bulgaria. While LGBT individuals are protected by the anti-discrimination law, hate speech and labor discrimination based on sexual orientation are not considered criminal offenses. There are no legal or governmental impediments to the organization of LGBT events; however, in the past, some marchers were attacked upon leaving Pride events. Additionally, in 2013 the scheduled pride parade was postponed due to police concerns that they could not effectively protect marchers, partly due to ongoing anti-government protests. The 2014 Pride parade occurred as scheduled.
LGBT couples do not have the same legal protections as heterosexual couples, and societal discrimination against LGBT individuals is widespread outside of larger cities. While violence against LGBT persons is rare, in general, public displays of affection should be avoided throughout Bulgaria. For more detailed information about LGBT rights in Bulgaria, you may review the State Department’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. For further information on LGBT travel, please read the US Department of State’s LGBT Travel Information page.
ACCESSIBILITY: While in Bulgaria, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States. Local law requires improved access to buildings for persons with disabilities, and new public projects take this requirement into account; however, this law is rarely enforced in older buildings. Bulgarian law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical and mental disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, and the provision of other state services. In practice, however, the government does not effectively enforce these provisions. Societal discrimination persists against persons with disabilities.
Public transportation and general commuting in Sofia and the rest of Bulgaria is nearly impossible for disabled individuals. Buses, trams, and trolleys are generally old, extremely crowded, and lack facilities for disabled travelers. Some newer vehicles claim to have access for disabled individuals, but in practice, access is extremely limited and disabled travelers must rely on fellow passengers to help them on and off the vehicles. The Sofia metro is the most accessible system for disabled individuals, but its reach is limited. Disabled travelers should consider traveling with a friend or family member who can assist them in navigating the transportation systems in Bulgaria.
Bulgarian medical providers are trained to a very high standard, but most hospitals and clinics, especially in village areas, are not equipped or maintained to U.S. or Western European standards. Basic medical supplies, over-the-counter and prescription medications are widely available, but highly specialized medication and/or treatment regimens may be unavailable. Not every hospital/clinic is equipped to care for pediatric patients. If you are in need of emergency services for an infant/child, please call ahead to ensure those services will be available. Additionally, if you are calling the Bulgarian Emergency Services (telephone number 112) and requesting an ambulance, please be aware that response times can take up to one hour (or more). Many times you are better off calling a taxi or using a personal vehicle.
Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States may cost thousands of dollars and Bulgaria is a cash-based economy. It is imperative that you have enough cash (or access to cash) to cover a medical emergency because most doctors and hospitals expect immediate cash payment for services rendered. You can find a list of hospitals and physicians in Bulgaria on the U.S. Embassy’s website.
You can find detailed information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website, which also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information. Tuberculosis continues to be a serious health concern in Bulgaria. For further information, please consult the CDC's information on TB.
Travel & Transportation
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in Bulgaria, you may encounter road conditions that significantly differ from those in the United States. The Bulgarian road system is largely 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 certain agricultural seasons. Travel conditions deteriorate during winter as roads become icy and potholes proliferate. The U.S. Embassy in Sofia advises against driving at night because such road conditions are more dangerous in the dark. Some roads lack pavement markings and lights, and motorists often drive with dim or missing headlights.
Driving in Bulgaria is extremely dangerous. Aggressive driving habits, the lack of safe infrastructure, and a mixture of late model and old model cars on the country’s highways contribute to a high fatality rate in road accidents. Motorists should avoid confrontations with aggressive drivers in Bulgaria. Drivers are known to speed, swerve into oncoming traffic, go the wrong way on divided highways, and participate in other dangerous activities. Motorists should exercise caution and avoid altercations with the drivers of such vehicles, which may be driven by armed organized crime figures. In some cities, traffic lights late at night blink yellow in all directions, leaving the right-of-way unclear and contributing to frequent accidents.
Heavy truck traffic creates numerous hazards along the two-lane routes from the Greek border at Kulata going to Sofia, and from the Turkish border at Kapitan Andreevo to Plovdiv. Motorists should expect long delays at border crossings. A U.S. state driver's license is only valid in Bulgaria when used in conjunction with an International Driving Permit. If pulled over by a police officer, you should be aware that under Bulgarian law, police officers may not collect fines on the spot, but they may confiscate your driver’s license depending upon the offense.
Right turns on red lights are not permitted. All drivers, regardless of the type of motor vehicle, must keep their lights on at all times no matter the time of day or weather. At unregulated crossings, the driver on the right has the legal right-of-way, but this rule is frequently ignored. The use of seat belts is mandatory in Bulgaria for all passengers, except pregnant women. Children under 10 years of age may ride in the front seat only if seated in a child car seat. Please visit European Commission site for latest information on speed limits, traffic fines and regulation.
Drivers may be charged with driving under the influence of alcohol with a blood level as low as 0.05 percent. The penalties for drivers involved in an accident resulting in injury or death range from a US $25 fine to life imprisonment. For specific information concerning Bulgarian driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance, please visit the Bulgarian Embassy website.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Bulgaria’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Bulgaria’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.