- We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in Bulgaria. You should exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia. Monitor the media and other sources of information for changes to local travelling conditions.
- There has been a significant influx of asylum seekers into Europe, causing localised disruption to cross-border road and train transport services. Travellers should be aware of the possibility of further disruptions, make appropriate contingency plans and follow the instructions of local authorities. See Local travel.
- Pickpocketing and purse snatching are frequent occurrences. See Safety and Security.
- If you intend to hire cars, quad bikes, motorcycles, jet skis or engage in “adventure sports” such as bungee jumping, talk to your travel insurer to check if these activities are covered by your insurance policy, and seek advice on any restrictions that may apply (such as if you are not licensed for those vehicles in Australia). Read more at our Travel insurance page.
- Rabies is endemic in Bulgaria. If bitten by a dog, seek immediate medical assistance. See Health.
- There is an ongoing threat of terrorism in Europe. In the past, terrorist attacks have occurred in a number of European cities.
- Australia has a Consulate in Sofia, headed by an Honorary Consul, which can provide limited consular services (not including the issue of passports). Full consular services are available from the Australian Embassy in Athens.
- See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.
- Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
- organise comprehensive travel insurance and check what circumstances and activities are not covered by your policy
- register your travel and contact details, so we can contact you in an emergency
- subscribe to this travel advice to receive an email update each time it's reissued
- follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Entry and exit
Australians do not need a visa to enter Bulgaria for stays up to 90 days within a six month period.
Bulgaria is not yet a Schengen member country. Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as, customs and quarantine regulations) may change as they are realigned during the Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen zone. You should contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Bulgaria for the most up to date information, or visit the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
Bulgaria is part of the European Union and complies with EU currency regulations. People travelling directly to or from a country outside the EU carrying 10,000 Euros or more in cash (or the equivalent amount in another currency) are required to declare the cash at the place of arrival or departure from the EU. Travellers failing to declare the cash or providing incomplete or incorrect information will incur a fine. There is no requirement to declare cash when travelling from one EU country to another.
Make sure your passport has at least six months’ validity from your planned date of departure from Bulgaria.
Safety and security
Pick-pocketing and purse snatching are frequent occurrences, especially in crowded markets, on shopping streets, and aboard the busiest tram and bus lines.
ATM skimming and credit card fraud are also common issues encountered when travelling in Bulgaria. Credit cards and ATMs should be used with caution. It is recommended you use ATMs in controlled areas such as within banks, shops and shopping centres and avoid ATMs that open onto the street, especially at night.
Never leave food or drinks unattended. Travellers should be alert to the possible occurrence of ‘drink spiking’ at popular night spots, heightening the risk of theft and sexual assault.
Organized criminal groups are active in casinos and nightclubs and are involved in prostitution. Although rare, violent crime, which includes bombings and shootouts generally attributed to turf wars between rival gangs, can occur.
Automobile theft is common, and very few vehicles are recovered. Automobile break-ins are also common in residential areas or near parks, especially when valuables are left in plain sight.
Internet fraud also occurs in Bulgaria. For more information see our Scams page.
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.
There is an ongoing threat of terrorism in Europe. In the past, terrorist attacks have occurred in a number of European cities, including Paris, Copenhagen, Glasgow, London, Madrid, Moscow, Oslo and Volgograd. Targets have included public transport and transport hubs, and public places frequented by foreigners. In addition, a number of planned attacks have been disrupted by European security services in recent years.
Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Worldwide bulletin.
Civil unrest/political tension
Protests and demonstrations should be avoided as they may turn violent. Bulgarians regularly hold demonstrations to protest or advocate specific causes; however, the anti-government protest movement from 2013 has largely disappeared. Protests, demonstrations and rallies can form with little prior notice and have resulted in minor injuries.
Money and valuables
Bulgaria is predominantly a cash economy, although the use of credit/debit cards is increasing. Where possible, change money in banks, large hotels, or exchange bureaux, and avoid unofficial or street sellers.
Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.
There has been a significant influx of asylum seekers into Europe. In some cases, police have been deployed to prevent asylum seekers from crossing borders and accessing transport. As a result, there has been localised disruption to some cross-border road and rail transport services. You should be aware of the possibility of further disruption to transport services and monitor the local media and other information from transport providers for up to date information. If travelling by road or train, you should allow additional time to cover any disruption, remain vigilant and follow the instructions of local authorities. Australians travelling across affected borders, either by road or rail, should make appropriate contingency plans to cover any disruption to travel plans.
Road and rail travel
While major city streets and inter-city highways are generally in good condition, most secondary roads are poorly maintained, badly lit and narrow. Additional driving hazards include poor driving standards, wandering livestock and horse-drawn carts on the roads. An Australian driver’s license is only valid in Bulgaria when accompanied by a valid International Driving Permit. For further advice, see our Road travel page.
Traffic laws are strictly enforced and police conduct frequent checks, including radar speed checks. The use of seat belts is mandatory in Bulgaria for all passengers, except pregnant women. Headlights must be on at all times throughout the year when driving, even during the day. The use of a mobile phone while driving is prohibited, unless it is fitted with a hands-free device. Children under 10 years of age may ride in the front seat only if seated in a child car seat and the air-bag has been disabled. It is essential you observe road rules, including purchasing and displaying a valid vignette (sticker) to drive on motorways and main roads outside towns.
The train system is poor by European standards. There have been several fires on Bulgarian trains. Thieves operate on trains, so particular care should be taken to keep documents and other valuables safe.
If you intend to hire cars, quad bikes, motorcycles, jet skis or engage in “adventure sports” such as bungee jumping, talk to your travel insurer to check if these activities are covered by your insurance policy, and seek advice on any restrictions that may apply (such as if you are not licensed for those vehicles in Australia). Read more at our Travel insurance page.
Taxi drivers occasionally overcharge unwary travellers, 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.
Accessibility for travellers with disabilities is difficult in some parts of Bulgaria. Public transportation and building access facilities for the disabled are better in Sofia and other large cities, international airports and large hotels.
The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Bulgaria.
Please also refer to our general Air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.
You are subject to the local laws of Bulgaria, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.
While in Bulgaria, original photographic identification should be carried at all times.
Drivers may be charged with driving under the influence of alcohol with a blood alcohol level of 0.05 per cent or greater. The penalties for drivers involved in an accident resulting in injury or death range from a A$30 fine to life imprisonment. Breathalyser tests may be conducted on the scene for all drivers involved in an accident. Refusing to take a breathalyser test may result in criminal penalties.
Smoking is prohibited in enclosed public places and can result in fines of up to 500 Euros.
Penalties for possession or trafficking of drugs can be severe, and include heavy fines and prison sentences. See our Drugs page.
Taking photographs of military installations and other secure locations is not permitted.
Homosexual activity is not illegal but is not widely accepted in Bulgarian society. While violence against LGBTI travellers is rare, in general, public displays of affection should be avoided throughout Bulgaria. See our LGBTI travellers page.
Prostitution is not illegal in Bulgaria, however any sexual conduct with a minor (under the age of 18 years), or using or disseminating child pornography, is punishable with up to 20 years imprisonment.
Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.
Information for dual nationals
Bulgaria recognises dual nationality. However, Australian officials may be limited in their ability to provide consular services if local authorities consider you a Bulgarian citizen.
Our Dual nationals page provides further information for dual nationals.
We strongly recommend that Australians take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before departing from Australia. Confirm that your travel insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not covered by your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.
It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our Health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.
Medical facilities are generally well below Australian standards and the availability of medical supplies is limited, particularly outside major cities.
There are a number of private medical clinics and private hospitals available to tourists, that are well equipped and staffed, however treatment can be expensive and up-front payment is often required. In the case of serious illness or accident, medical evacuation to another European country may be required. Medical evacuation costs could be considerable.
Rabies is endemic in Bulgaria. Feral dogs roam city streets, often in packs, and can be vicious. Dog attacks are not uncommon. You should seek medical help immediately if bitten. You should also consider consulting your travel doctor on vaccination against rabies prior to your travel. See the World Health Organization’s (WHO) factsheet on Rabies.
Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including tuberculosis, typhoid, measles and hepatitis) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. In January 2014 there were two outbreaks of trichinosis in the Plovdiv area. Trichinosis is a parasitic disease caused by eating undercooked or raw infected pork or wild game. We recommend that you avoid raw and undercooked food. In rural areas, it is recommended that all drinking water be boiled or that you drink bottled water, and that you avoid ice cubes. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.
Travel in forested areas brings the risk of exposure to tick-borne encephalitis. Ticks are very common in country areas and are active from spring to autumn.
Where to get help
Depending on the nature of your enquiry, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider in the first instance. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.
For criminal issues, contact the local police at the nearest police station. The emergency assistance number is 112. English speaking operators are available. You should always obtain a police report when reporting a crime.
The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and cannot do to assist Australians overseas. Australia has a Consulate in Sofia, headed by an Honorary Consul. The Consulate provides limited consular services and does not issue passports.
Australian Consulate, Sofia
37 Trakia Street
Telephone: +359 2946 1334
Facsimile: +359 2946 1704
The Australian Embassy in Greece, provides full consular assistance to Australians in Bulgaria. Contact details are:
Australian Embassy, Athens
Thon Building, Level 6
Cnr. Kifisias and Alexandras Ave
Athens 115 23 GREECE
Telephone: +30 210 870 4000
Facsimile: +30 210 870 4055
Facebook: Australia in Greece
See the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.
If you are travelling to Bulgaria, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.
In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy or Consulate, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.
Natural disasters, severe weather and climate
Bulgaria is subject to earthquakes, and while serious earthquakes are rare, earth tremors are common.
There is a risk of avalanches in mountainous regions when rapidly warming temperatures follow a harsh winter.
Extreme weather can cause landslides and flooding. Follow the weather forecast on the National Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology website, which provides detailed information and severe weather warnings for Bulgaria.
Throughout summer and in early autumn, there are regular alerts and warnings for wildfires. Large-scale and quickly spreading fires in forests and fields are a danger.
If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.