Public transport in Bulgaria is dependent on rail and road services, which connect most of the country. Expats living in Bulgaria's cities will generally get around via bus and trolleybus networks. The capital, Sofia, also has a metro system.
Apart from Plovdiv, the cycling paths in most cities are non-existent. Despite this, the number of cyclists is increasing and the state has promised to promote local biking culture by investing in cycling infrastructure.
Expats thinking of living in rural areas should consider buying a car, as these areas are generally not covered by public transport networks.
Public transport in Bulgaria
Expats living in Bulgaria will be able to make use of its affordable and relatively efficient public transport network. Despite how extensive train and bus routes are, public transport is often slow moving.
Rail networks connect most of the cities in Bulgaria. Most trains are operated by the state-owned Bulgarian State Railways. The country's trains are outdated by Western European standards and they may move at a pace that can frustrate expats used to faster services.
International trains connect Bulgaria to the adjacent countries of Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Turkey and Serbia, with some coaches travelling to European countries farther afield.
International and inter-city train tickets can be bought both online and at train stations.
Buses are a safe, reasonably-priced and comfortable means of getting around. There are many bus routes serviced by a variety of bus companies. Long-distance buses are a common means of internal travel and international bus routes travel to cities such as Skopje, Belgrad and Istanbul.
Bus tickets can be bought at bus stations, at bus company offices and, depending on the company, online. Expats may also be able to buy tickets once on the bus, but it is recommended to buy the ticket in advance. Bus schedules and routes are typically displayed in Cyrillic, which can be challenging for expats who can't read the alphabet.
Taxis in Bulgaria
Taxi companies operate in most cities but can be scarce in rural areas. New arrivals should be careful of taxis that offer fixed rates and don’t use a taximeter. These drivers may be overcharging for their service.
Rideshare apps such as Uber and Lyft do not operate in Bulgaria, but taxi apps such as TaxiMe, Maxim and Taxistars enable expats to book a taxi service through their phones. As expats can set their routes through these apps, they allow travellers to bypass any language issues, while also providing an estimate of fare costs.
Driving in Bulgaria
Foreign residents who don't live near public transport might need to consider buying a car. The country has a large second-hand car market, and a variety of car makes are available at a cheaper cost than in most EU countries.
Finding parking in cities like Sofia can be challenging and expats might need to rent a parking space, which can be expensive.
To drive in Bulgaria, expats will need a translation of their driver’s licence or, ideally, an International Driving Permit. This will be valid for one year, after which it’s necessary to obtain a Bulgarian driver’s licence.
Cycling in Bulgaria
Although cycling on highways can be dangerous, Bulgaria is famed for its cross-country cycling routes.
Despite not having a widespread cycling culture, cycling is becoming increasingly popular. The state has pledged to make cycling safer in urban centres. Currently, most cities, except Plovdiv, lack key cycling infrastructure.