State Department: Bulgaria - Consular Information Sheet, May 8, 1998
Bulgaria - Consular Information Sheet
May 8, 1998
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: A passport is required. A visa is generally
not required for U.S. citizen visitors for stays of up to 30 days,
although a modest entry fee must be paid in cash upon arrival.
Travelers should carry their passport with them at all times.
Travelers are subject to arbitrary document checks by the police,
and persons traveling without proper identification may be detained
while their right to be in the country is verified. For further
information concerning entry requirements, travelers should 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 treatment may not be
obtainable. 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. For
further information, travelers may contact the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention's international travelers' hotline at
1-888-232-3228, or their autofax service at 1-888-232-3299, or their
Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.
Crime Information: Street crime, much of which is directed against
foreigners, continues to increase. Pickpocketing and purse
snatching are frequent occurrences, as is theft from automobiles,
where thieves smash windows to remove valuables left in sight. Taxi
drivers at Sofia Airport often refuse to run their meters and charge
arbitrary fees. Travelers who pre-negotiate a fare can avoid the
more outrageous overcharging. Because, incidents of pilferage of
checked baggage at Sofia Airport are common, travelers should not
include items of value in checked luggage. 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
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.
Ground Transportation: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens
may encounter road conditions which differ significantly from those
in the United States. The information below concerning Bulgaria is
provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate
in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor
The Bulgarian road system is underdeveloped. There are few
sections of limited-access divided highway. Some roads are in poor
repair and full of potholes. Rockslides and landslides are common
on roads in mountain areas. Livestock and animal-drawn carts
present road hazards throughout the country. Travel conditions
deteriorate during the winter as roads become icy and potholes
proliferate. The U.S. Embassy in Sofia advises against night
driving because road conditions are more dangerous in the dark and
because there have been many reports of travelers being stopped for
shakedowns by bandits clad in police uniforms after nightfall.
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.
Buses are inexpensive but crowded and deteriorating in quality.
Pickpocketing, purse-slashing, and backside-pinching have been
reported on the buses.
Currency Regulations: Bulgaria is largely a cash economy. Most
shops, hotels and restaurants still do not accept travelers' checks
or credit cards. Where credit cards are accepted, their use is not
recommended because of pervasive fraud. Visitors should 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,
but funds may be transferred in one to two days through the
Bulgarian Foreign Trade Bank (Bulbank).
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 in Bulgaria are
subject to imprisonment and fines.
Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Bulgaria's civil
aviation authority as Category 1 -- in compliance with international
aviation safety standards for oversight of Bulgaria's air carrier
operations. For further information, travelers may contact the
Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or
visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa.htm.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some
foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air
services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific
carriers, travelers may contact the Pentagon at (703) 697-7288.
Registration and Embassy Location: U.S. citizens may 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 Saborna (formerly 1 A.
Stamboliyski Boulevard); telephone (359) (2) 980-5241. The Consular
Section of the Embassy is located at 1 Kapitan Andreev Street in
Sofia; telephone (359) (2) 963-2022. The Embassy's website address
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated February 14,
1997, to update the sections on Entry Requirements, Medical
Facilities, Ground Transportation, Currency Regulations, Aviation
Safety Oversight, and Registration and Embassy Location.