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State Department: Bulgaria - Consular Information Sheet, February 14, 1997


Bulgaria - Consular Information Sheet
February 14, 1997

Country Description: Bulgaria is a moderately developed European nation undergoing profound political and economic changes. Tourist facilities are widely available, but conditions vary considerably and some facilities are not up to western standards. Goods and services taken for granted in other European countries are still not available in many areas of Bulgaria.

Entry Requirements: For information concerning entry requirements, travelers can contact the Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria at 1621 22nd Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, Tel. (202) 483-5885, (main switchboard) (202) 387-7969 or the Bulgarian Consulate in New York City.

Medical Facilities: Although Bulgarian physicians are trained to a very high standard, hospitals and clinics are generally not equipped and maintained at U.S. or West European levels. Basic medical supplies are widely available, but specialized treatments may not be. Visitors must pay cash for medical and health services. U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. Travelers have found that in some cases, supplemental medical insurance with specific overseas coverage, including provision for medical evacuation, has proven to be useful. Further information on health matters can be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international travelers hotline at (404) 332-4559, or by visiting CDC's Internet home page at http://www.cdc.gov.

Crime Information: There has been a recent rise in street crime, much of which is directed against foreigners. Pickpocketing and purse snatching are frequent occurrences, as is theft from automobiles, where thieves smash windows to remove valuables left in sight. There have been a number of incidents in which tourists have accepted offers of help or coffee from "friendly people" met by chance at the airport, bus stations or train stations and have been drugged or assaulted and robbed. Incidents of pilferage of checked baggage at Sofia airport are common; items of value in checked luggage are at risk. To avoid being overcharged, travelers at Sofia Airport should insist on a pre-agreed fare with taxi drivers before entering the vehicle. Automobile theft is also a frequent problem, with four wheel drive vehicles and late model European sedans the most popular targets. Very few vehicles are recovered.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. The Department of State's pamphlet "A Safe Trip Abroad" is available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402. It provides information on protecting personal security while traveling abroad.

Road Safety Information: The Bulgarian road system is underdeveloped. There are only a few sections of limited-access divided highway. Some roads are in bad repair and full of potholes. Heavy truck traffic along the two-lane routes from the Greek border at Kulata to Sofia and from the Turkish border at Kapitan Andreevo to Plovdiv creates numerous hazards. Motorists should expect long delays at border crossings. A U.S. state driver's license is not considered valid for Bulgaria; only an international driver's license is accepted. Persons operating vehicles with foreign license plates frequently complain of being stopped by police and fined on the spot for offenses that are not clear.

Currency Regulations: Bulgaria is largely a cash-only economy. Most shops, hotels and restaurants still do not accept travelers' checks or credit cards. Visitors can exchange money at change bureaus. People on the street who offer high rates of exchange are confidence tricksters intent on swindling the unwary traveler. There are currently no Western Union representatives in Bulgaria to provide direct transfer of money to travelers in need.

Drug Penalties: U.S. citizens are subject to the laws of the country in which they are traveling. Persons convicted of possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs are subject to imprisonment and fines.

Aviation Oversight: In November 1992, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration assessed Bulgaria's civil aviation authority as being in compliance with international aviation safety oversight standards for Bulgaria's carriers operating to and from the U.S. The same level of safety oversight would typically be applied to operations to other destinations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation at 1-800-322-7873.

Registration and Embassy Location: U.S. citizens are encouraged to register in the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy, and obtain updated information on travel and security within Bulgaria.

The U.S. Embassy in Sofia is located at 1 Suborna (formerly 1 A. Stamboliski Boulevard); telephone (359) (2) 980-5241 through 48. The Consular Section of the Embassy is located at 1 Kapitan Andreev Street in Sofia; telephone (359) (2) 963-2022.

No. 97-023

This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated December 14, 1995, to update information on the crime situation, currency regulations and to provide information concerning road safety.

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Wednesday, 19 February 1997