Travel and visas – Bulgaria

Visas

UK nationals who hold a UK passport endorsed ‘British Citizen’ do not need a visa to visit Bulgaria for a period of up to 90 days in a six-month period. Passports should be valid for the period of the intended stay. Other UK passport holders require a visa and a passport that is valid for at least six months. Once the UK fully leaves the European Union, documentation requirements for UK citizens may change. Check before travelling.

Irish and other EU nationals do not need a visa to visit Bulgaria for a period of up to 90 days within a six-month period. A passport valid for the period of intended stay is required. Citizens of the USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia do not need a visa to visit Bulgaria for a period of up to 90 days within a six-month period. Passports must be valid for at least three months after entry.

South Africans, however, do need a visa to enter Bulgaria. A passport valid for at least six months on entry is required and a visa will be issued only if blank pages are available.

Getting there and away

By air

The main international airport is Sofia Airport. Terminal 2 opened in 2007 and is for international scheduled services. Terminal 1 is used for domestic, budget and charter flights. The three other airports, Plovdiv, Varna and Burgas, mainly operate with charter and budget flights.

There are regular flights between Sofia and Alicante, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Cologne, London, Madrid, Malaga, Manchester, Milan, Moscow, Palma de Mallorca, Paris, Prague, Rome, Tel Aviv, Vienna and Zurich, as well as internal flights to and from Burgas and Varna. There are also international flights to Burgas and Varna, but these are mainly holiday charters and mainly in summer. However, the budget airline WizzAir flies to both coastal airports several times weekly all year round from Luton airport.

There are no direct flights from Australia, New Zealand or Canada, so travellers from there will need to connect via a European hub. STA Travel have information on all these, as well as US connections.

By train

There are trains from Belgrade, Bucharest, Istanbul, Munich, Thessalonika, Venice, Vienna, Zagreb and Zurich. From elsewhere in Europe you need to make a connection via these stations or along the route. Customs formalities and passport control are carried out on the train. For information and timetables, click here

It is worth booking a sleeper, which is both the safest and most comfortable option. Tickets can be booked through any European rail agency. In Bulgaria, train tickets are sold by BDZ Passenger Services Ltd. International train tickets are sold in Sofia’s central railway station and in the central stations of 11 district towns.

By bus

Buses from all the major European cities run to Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna and Burgas. The biggest bus company is Eurolines, and from the UK there is also Balkan Horn.

By car

It is very convenient to have a car in Bulgaria for travelling around the country, as there is a well-developed network of roads, although some are in poor condition. It is, however, a long drive there, so, unless it is part of some extended travelling, it may be easier to hire a car on arrival.

There is a compulsory road tax, which takes the form of an electronic vignette, and costs 10lv for a weekend, 15lv for a week and 30lv for a month. These are available at the border and major service stations, click here for more information. To cross any of the borders, you’ll need your personal documents and those proving ownership of your car, or the contract for your hire car, plus insurance documents.