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Bulgaria
Official Name:

Republic of Bulgaria

Last Updated: October 3, 2017

Embassy Messages

Sofia

 

Further Safety and Security Information

Travel Warnings: Issued when Protracted situations make a country dangerous or unstable. Defer or reconsider travel.

Travel Alerts: Issued when short-term conditions pose imminent threats. Defer or reconsider travel.

Embassy Messages: Issued when local security issues arise.

Assistance for U.S. Citizens

Assistance for U.S. Citizens

U.S. Embassy Sofia

16, Kozyak Street
Sofia 1408, Bulgaria

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Quick Facts
PASSPORT VALIDITY:

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Three months beyond tentative departure date. We recommend a minimum of six months validity after entry date. 

BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:

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One page per stamp.

TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:

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No for stays under 90 days.

VACCINATIONS:

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None.

CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:

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10,000 Euros or equivalent.

CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:

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10,000 Euros or equivalent.

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U.S. Embassy Sofia

16, Kozyak Street
Sofia 1408, Bulgaria

Telephone: +(359) (2) 937-5100

Emergency After-HoursTelephone: +(359) (2) 937-5101

Fax: +(359) (2) 937-5209

See the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Bulgaria for information on U.S. - Bulgaria relations. 

A valid U.S. passport is required for U.S. citizens. Your U.S. passport must be valid for at least three (3) months from the expected date of departure from Bulgaria. U.S. citizens may stay in Bulgaria for a total of 90 days within any six-month period without a Bulgarian visa. This law is strictly enforced. 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.

  • Visit the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs or Bulgarian Embassy website for the most current visa information.
  • Carry your U.S. passport at all times or a Bulgarian residence permit, known in Bulgaria as 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 are required to maintain medical insurance for the duration of stay in Bulgaria. You may be required to present proof of medical insurance at the port of entry. Medical evacuation insurance is recommended.

Traveling with Children Under 18 Years Old: Regulations apply to Bulgarian minors, Bulgarian-U.S. dual citizen minors, and U.S. citizen minors when one or both parents are Bulgarian.

  • If a Bulgarian or dual U.S. citizen-Bulgarian child is traveling out of Bulgaria with only one or no parent, the absent parent(s) must sign a declaration authorizing temporary custody for travel purposes. The declaration must be certified by a Bulgarian notary public. See more information on Bulgaria’s Border Police website.  While not required, some travelers have been asked to produce a child’s birth certificate.
  • If the declaration is signed in the U.S., it must be certified by a U.S. notary public and the court in the jurisdiction where the notary is licensed, have an apostille, and be translated into Bulgarian by a licensed translation company.
  • If you fail to present the properly notarized and/or apostilled declaration, Bulgarian authorities will not allow you to depart the country with the child. The U.S. Embassy is unable to intervene in such circumstances.  

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Bulgaria.

Find information on dual nationality, prevention of international child abduction and customs regulations on our websites. 

Credible information indicates terrorist groups continue to plot possible attacks in Europe. European governments are taking action to guard against terrorist attacks; however, all European countries remain potentially vulnerable to attacks from transnational terrorist organizations. 

When traveling or living in Bulgaria, you should:

  • Be aware of the local security situation and take appropriate steps to bolster your personal security.
  • Monitor media and local information sources, and factor updated information into personal travel plans and activities.
  • Address specific safety concerns to Bulgarian law enforcement authorities.
  • Avoid demonstrations and exercise caution in the vicinity of large gatherings. Even events intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational.

Crime: ATM skimming, credit card fraud, and traffic incidents remain the most common threats to U.S. citizens in Bulgaria. The majority of incidents involving U.S. citizens are monetary in nature, though incidents of racism, ethnic slurs, and harassment of African-Americans and religious minorities have occurred. Report crimes to the police by dialing 112.

  • Pick-pocketing and purse snatching are frequent occurrences, especially in crowded markets, on shopping streets, and aboard the busy tram and bus lines. Con artists operate on public transportation and in bus and train stations.
  • Use caution at ATMs. Be wary of people who approach you at an ATM and offer assistance. Do not give your PIN to anyone under any circumstances.
  • Travelers should be suspicious of "instant friends" and should also ask persons claiming to be government officials to provide identification.
  • Police stations should provide translators for anyone who needs to report a crime, but will often require the victim to return at a later time or bring his/her own translator.
  • 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 used force to secure payment.
  • Use taxis with meters and clearly marked rates displayed on a sticker on the passenger side of the windshield. Taxi drivers are known to overcharge unwary travelers particularly at Sofia Airport, the Central Train Station, and at Black Sea resort areas. The airport has 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. 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.
  • Automobile theft and break-ins are common in residential areas or in parks. Four-wheel-drive vehicles and late-model European sedans are the most popular targets.
  • Burglary is a common crime. If you plan to reside in Bulgaria on a long-term basis, take measures to protect your home and consider installing window grilles, steel doors with well-functioning locks, and an alarm system.

See the Department of State and the FBI pages for information on scams.

Victims of Crime:

Report crimes to the local police and contact the U.S. Embassy at + (359) (2) 937-5101.

Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency telephone line in Bulgaria is 112 for police, fire, or ambulance services.

See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.

We can:

  • help you find appropriate medical care
  • assist you in reporting a crime to the police
  • contact relatives or friends with your written consent
  • explain the local criminal justice process in general terms
  • provide a list of local attorneys
  • provide our information on victim’s compensation programs in the U.S.
  • provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution
  • help you find accommodation and arrange flights home
  • replace a stolen or lost passport.

Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Embassy for assistance.

For further information:

We do not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare does not apply overseas.

Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.

Visitors are required to maintain medical insurance for the duration of their stay in Bulgaria. You may be required to show proof of medical insurance at the port of entry.

Bulgarian medical personnel are knowledgeable, however most hospitals and clinics are not equipped with appropriate medical supplies and are not maintained to Western standards.  

  • Basic medical supplies, over-the-counter and prescription medications are widely available, but highly specialized medication and/or treatment regimens may not be.
  • Not every hospital/clinic is equipped for pediatric care. If you are in need of emergency services for an infant/child, please call ahead to ensure those services are available.
  • Response times for an ambulance can take up to an hour or longer. Taxi or a personal vehicle is a faster option.  
  • Hospitalization and or medical evacuation may cost thousands of dollars. Since Bulgaria is a cash-based economy, make sure you have access to cash to cover a medical emergency. Most hospitals expect immediate cash payment for service rendered.

You can find a list of hospitals and physicians in Bulgaria on the U.S. Embassy’s website.

If traveling with prescription medication, check with Bulgaria’s Customs Agency to ensure the medication is legal. Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging with your doctor’s prescription.

Tuberculosis continues to be a health concern in Bulgaria.

Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Further health information:

World Health Organization

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.

Furthermore, some laws are also prosecutable in the U.S., regardless of local law. For examples, see our website on crimes against minors abroad and the Department of Justice website.

Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. See our webpage for further information.

  • Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Bulgaria are severe; convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
  • Driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail.
  • 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 take pictures of certain buildings.

Special Circumstances: Bulgaria is still largely a cash economy.

  • You may exchange money at local banks or exchange bureaus. Be wary of people on streets who offer higher rates of exchange, they are usually con artists who intend to swindle unsuspecting travelers.
  • Damaged or worn U.S. dollar bank notes are often rejected at banks or exchange bureaus.
  • Most shops, hotels, and restaurants do not accept travelers’ checks or credit cards. Local banks such as Unicredit, Bulbank, Bulgarian Postbank, and United Bulgarian Bank (UBB) can cash travelers’ checks.

Corruption remains an important concern of the Bulgarian government. You may refer complaints of public corruption by e-mail to the Ministry of Justice at anticorruption@justice.government.bg or by phone to +359 2 987 0697. All grievances must be submitted in the Bulgarian language.

If you plan to import an automobile to Bulgaria, be aware that customs duties on personal vehicles can be high. All documents must be originals or certified copies and contain an apostille. See more information on the Bulgarian Customs Agency website

Faith-Based Travelers: See our following webpages for details:

LGBTI Travelers: There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI events in Bulgaria. LGBTI individuals are stigmatized by society in Bulgaria and societal discrimination against LGBTI individuals is widespread. LGBTI individuals engaging in public displays of affection may attract unwelcome attention or harassment.  

While there is no legal barrier to organize an LGBTI event, pride event participants were attacked in the past. Some pride parades were also postponed on police request due to concerns that they could not effectively protect those participating in a LGBTI event.  

See our LGBTI Travel Information page and section 6 of the Department of State's Human Rights report for further details.

Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: 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, and access to health care. Societal discrimination persists against persons with disabilities.

Commuting in Bulgaria is nearly impossible for disabled individuals. Buses, trams, and trolleys are generally old, extremely crowded, and lack accommodation for disabled travelers. Even in newer public vehicles access is extremely limited and disabled travelers rely on fellow passengers to help them on and off the vehicle.

  • 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.

Students: See our Students Abroad page and FBI travel tips.

Women Travelers: See our travel tips for Women Travelers.

Road Conditions and Safety: The Bulgarian road system is largely underdeveloped.

  • Roads are in poor repair and full of potholes.
  • Rockslides and landslides are common on mountainous roads.
  • Livestock and animal-drawn carts are common on roads, especially during agricultural seasons.
  • In winter, roads are icy and potholes proliferate.
  • Some roads lack pavement markings and lights.
  • Motorists often drive with dim or missing headlights.

Traffic Laws: Driving in Bulgaria is dangerous. Aggressive driving habits, 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.

  • Avoid confrontations with aggressive local drivers. Drivers are known to speed, swerve into oncoming traffic or go the wrong way on divided highways.
  • 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. 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, be aware that under Bulgarian law the police officers may not collect fines on the spot, but may confiscate your driver’s license depending on the offense.
  • Right turns on red lights are not permitted.
  • Keep your headlights 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.
  • 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.
  • Check out Bulgaria’s Ministry of Interior’s road rules guide.

Public Transportation: Sofia’s metro system and the extensive bus network are reliable modes of transportation. Taxi cabs are also plentiful but are known to overcharge passengers. Do insist on use of the meter when using a taxi cab.

For specific information concerning Bulgarian driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance, please visit the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Visit the European Commission site for latest information on speed limits, traffic fines and regulations.

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.

Maritime Travel: Mariners planning travel to Bulgaria should also check for U.S. maritime advisories and alerts at www.marad.dot.gov/msci. Information may also be posted to the U.S. Coast Guard homeport website (https:homeport.uscg.mil), and the NGA broadcast warnings website https://msi.nga.mil/NGAPortal/MSI.portal select “broadcast warnings”.

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