Bulgaria - Consular Information Sheet
April 20, 2001
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Bulgaria is a moderately developed
European nation undergoing significant economic changes. Tourist
facilities are widely available although conditions vary and some
facilities may not be 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
not required for U.S. Citizen visitors using regular passports
for stays up to 30 days. Travelers who intend to stay more than
30 days, or travelers using official or diplomatic passports,
must secure a Bulgarian visa. The fees connected with the extension
of a visitor's 30-day stay in the country are much higher than
the visa fees. All travelers are required to register with the
regional passport office for foreigners of the police within 48
hours after their arrival in the country and to inform the office
about any change in their address. Registration is taken care
of by the proprietor for those staying at a hotel, a private boarding
house or an apartment rented through an accomodation company.
The Bulgarian authorities do not consider a copy of the passport
sufficient. Visitors should carry their passport with them at
all times. For further information concerning entry requirements,
travelers should contact
the Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria at 1621 22nd St.,
NW., Washington, DC. 20008, Internet http://www.bulgaria-embassy.org,
tel: (202) 483-5885 (main switchboard 202-387-7969) or the Bulgarian
Consulate in New York City.
In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments
have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include
requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission
for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not
present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required,
may facilitate entry/departure.
CRIME: Petty street crime, much of which is directed against
foreigners or others who appear to have money, continues to be
a problem. Pickpocketing and purse snatching are frequent occurrences,
especially in crowded markets and on shopping streets. Con artists
operate on public transportation and in bus and train stations.
Travelers should be suspicious of instant friends and should also
require persons claiming to be government officials to show identification.
There have been a number of incidents in which tourists have accepted
offers of coffee or alcoholic beverages from "friendly people"
met by chance at the airport, bus stations, hotels or train stations
and have been drugged or assaulted and robbed. Travelers should
be wary of unfamiliar individuals who encourage them to drink
or eat products that may be tainted with strong tranquilizers
(such as Valium) that can lead rapidly to unconsciousness.
Taxi drivers at Sofia airport often overcharge unwary travelers.
Travelers who pre-negotiate a fare may avoid excessive payment.
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 recovered. Thieves also sometimes
smash vehicle windows to steal valuables left in sight.
Break-ins at residential apartments occur frequently. Persons
who plan to reside in Bulgaria on a long-term basis should take
measures to protect their dwellings. Long-term residents should
consider installation of window grilles, steel doors with well-functioning
locks, and an alarm system alerts an armed response team. Potential
travelers should also be cautious about making credit card charges
over the Internet as recent experience has shown that some offers
come from scam artists posing as legitimate businesses. Travelers
should also be careful about making credit card payments to Bulgarian
tour operators over the Internet before coming to Bulgaria, because
some entities listed thereon do not actually exist.
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. After a passport has been replaced, travelers must
inform the respective passport office for foreigners in order
to be able to leave the country. The Department of State's pamphlet
A Safe Trip Abroad is
the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office,
Washington, D.C. 20402 and via Internet at http://www/access.gpo.gov/su_docs.
It provides information on protecting personal security while
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Although Bulgarian physicians are
trained to a very high standard, most hospitals and clinics are
generally not equipped or maintained at U.S. or Western European
levels. Basic medical supplies are widely available, but specialized
treatment may not be obtainable. Doctors and hospitals often expect
immediate cash payment for services.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges
Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior
to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas
and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical
evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs
incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage
is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do
not provide payment for medical services outside the United States.
However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance
plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including
emergency services such as medical evacuations.
When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans
should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require
payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical
evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured
travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme
difficulties, whereas travelers who have purchased overseas medical
insurance have, when a medical emergency occurs, found it life-saving.
When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain
whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider
or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur.
Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric
treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas
insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau
of Consular Affairs brochure Medical
Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available
via the Bureau
of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations
and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international
travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX
(1-888-232-3299), or via CDC's
Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign
country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that 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: fair
Urban road conditions/maintenance: fair
Rural road conditions/maintenance: poor to fair
Availability of roadside assistance: poor
The Bulgarian road system is underdeveloped. There are few sections
of limited-access divided highway. Some rural roads are in poor
repair and full of potholes. Rockslides and landslides may be
encountered on roads in mountainous areas. Livestock and animal-drawn
carts present road hazards throughout the country, especially
during the active agricultural season. 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. Some roads lack
pavement markings and lights, and motorists often drive with dim
or missing headlights.
During the last few years there has been a distinct increase
in the number of road accidents resulting in casualties. The total
number of road accidents in 1997 was 6,018 with 7,922 persons
killed or injured; for 1998 the figures were respectively 6,905
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
driving permit 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, trams, and trolleys are inexpensive but are often crowded
and of widely varying quality. Passengers on the busiest lines
have reported incidents of pick-pocketing, purse-slashing, and
The use of seat belts is mandatory in Bulgaria. Child car seats
are allowed by law but only on the back seats. Speed limits are
50 km/h in the cities/towns, 90 km/h out of town, and 120 km/h
on the highways. The same speed limits apply for motorcycles;
motorcyclists must drive with helmets and with lights on at all
times. At crossings that are not regulated, the right of way is
for the driver who is on the right; however, this rule is frequently
ignored. Drivers may be charged with driving under the influence
of alcohol with a blood level as low as 0.05. Right turns on red
lights are not permitted unless specifically authorized. The penalties
for drivers involved in an accident resulting in injury or death
range from twenty-five U.S. dollars up to life imprisonment.
The most generally encountered local traffic custom is a driver
flashing high beams, which generally means that a traffic police
post may be ahead.
Motorists should avoid confrontations with aggressive drivers
in Bulgaria. Late model sedans (BMW, Mercedes) are known to speed
and be driven dangerously. Motorists should exercise caution and
not engage in altercations with the drivers of such vehicles as
some are armed organized crime figures.
In case of emergency, drivers should contact the police at telephone
number 166 and/or the roadside assistance at telephone number
146. For an ambulance, call 150.
For additional general information
about road safety, including links to foreign government sites,
see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page
at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. For specific information
concerning Bulgaria driving permits, vehicle inspection, road
tax and mandatory insurance, contact the
Bulgarian Embassy via the Internet at http://www.bulgaria-embassy.org.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration
(FAA) has assessed Bulgaria's Civil Aviation authority as Category
One, in compliance with the international aviation safety standards
for the oversight of Bulgarian air carrier operations. For further
information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation
at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the
FAA Internet home page at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa. 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 DOD at (618) 229-4801.
CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Travelers carrying cash equivalent
to 5,000 Bulgarian Lev (about 2,200 dollars) or more must declare
the amount they are carrying on a customs declaration upon arrival
or departure. Travelers who have with them the equivalent of 20,000
Bulgarian lev or more upon departure must have a permit to export
the money issued by the Bulgarian National Bank's headquarters,
if they had less than the equivalent of 20,000 Bulgarian lev upon
entry in the country. Travelers should also declare jewelry, cameras,
computers and other valuables to avoid difficulties on departure.
Contact the Embassy of Bulgaria in Washington or Bulgaria's Consulate
General in New York for specific information regarding customs
Bulgaria's customs authorities encourage the use of an ATA (admission
temporaire/temporary admission) carnet for the temporary admission
of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for
exhibitions and fair purposes. ATA Carnet headquarters, located
at the U.S.
Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas,
New York, NY 10036, issues and guarantees the
ATA Carnet in the United States. For additional information
call (212) 354-4480, send e-mail to email@example.com, or visit
http://www.uscib.org for details.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: while in a foreign country, a U.S.
Citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which
sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States
and may not afford the protections available under U.S. Law. Penalties
for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States
for similar offenses. Persons violating Bulgarian law, even unknowingly,
may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession,
use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Bulgaria are strict and
convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Bulgaria is still largely a cash
economy. Visitors should exchange cash at banks or change bureaus.
Some change bureaus charge commissions on both cash and travelers
check transactions which are not clearly posted. People on the
street who offer high rates of exchange are usually con artists
intent on swindling the unwary traveler. Old, dirty or very worn
U.S. dollar bank notes are often not accepted at banks or change
bureaus. Major branches of the following Bulgarian banks will
cash travelers checks on the spot for lev, the Bulgarian currency,
or other desired currency: Bulbank, Bulgarian Postbank, Biochim,
First Investment Bank and United Bulgarian Bank (UBB). UBB also
serves as a Western Union agent and provides direct transfer of
money to travelers in need. ATMs are increasing in number in Sofia
and other major cities. Most shops, hotels and restaurants, with
the exception of the major hotels, still do not accept travelers
checks or credit cards. Due to the potential for fraud and other
criminal activity, credit cards and automatic teller machines
should be used with caution.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For
information on international adoption of children and international
parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site
at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone
(202) 736-7000. Approximately 150 U.S. Families per year adopt
Bulgarian orphans. For more information on international adoptions
in Bulgaria, please contact the Department of State's Office of
Children's Issues, the Consular Section of the Embassy, or the
U.S. Embassy web site at http://www.usembassy.bg
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATION: American
citizens living in or visiting Bulgaria are encouraged to register
at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Bulgaria and obtain
updated information on travel and security within Bulgaria. The
U.S. Embassy in Sofia is located at 1 Saborna St. (formerly 1
a. Stamboliyski boulevard); tel. (359)(2) 937-5100; fax: (359)(2)
981-8977. The Consular Section
of the Embassy is located at 1 Kapitan Andreev St. In Sofia;
tel. (359)(2) 963-2022; fax (359)(2) 963-2859. The
Embassy's web site address is http://www.usembassy.bg. Questions
regarding consular services may be directed via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org,
email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated September
15, 1999, to update the sections on entry requirements, crime,
medical insurance, traffic safety and road conditions, aviation
safety oversight, children's issues, registration/embassy and
consulate location, and to delete Y2K information.