Typical Costs When Traveling
The currency is the Bulgarian lev/leva (singular/plural), and it’s abbreviated to lv. Exchange rates are subject to fluctuations, so be sure to check this as your trip approaches. On average, 1 lev is equal to about £.45 British Pounds, $.55 U.S., €,50, and 3.90 Chinese Yuan.
A hostel room is around 20 lv a night (£9, $11.25, €10,25, 78 Yuan), and a budget hotel is between 25-50 lv a night (£11-22, $14-28.50, €12,75-25,50, 97.50-195 Yuan). A mid-range hotel will be about 80 lv a night (£35, $45, €41, 312 Yuan). Higher-end accommodations start at 150 lv a night (£67, $84.50, €76,50, 585.50 Yuan) and go up from there.
Airbnb prices average around 75 lv a night (£33, $42, €38,50, 293 Yuan).
Meals from markets or street stalls are relatively cheap between 5-10 lv (£2.25-4.50, $2.80-5.50, €2,55-5,10, 19.50-39 Yuan). Lunch or dinner at a quality restaurant will be around 25 lv (£11, $14, €12,50, 97.50 Yuan). And a three-course meal at a top-end restaurant will start at 50 lv (£22, $28.50, €25,50, 195 Yuan) and go up from there.
Bulgaria has relatively low alcoholic drink prices for the EU. Budget around 2 lv for a local beer (£.90, $1.15, €1, 7.75 Yuan) and 6-10 lv for a bottle of wine or rakia, a famous Bulgarian drink with a high alcohol content made of grapes or other fruits, (£2.60-4.50, $3.50-5.50, €3-5, 23.50-39 Yuan).
Sofia has trams, trolleys, buses, and two metro lines for navigating the city. Most other cities and towns, even the smaller ones, will have at least one (and most have a combination of) trams, trolleys, and buses. The fare is about 1.60 lv (£.75, $.90, €,80, 6.24 Yuan) for a one-way ticket or 12 lv for a card with ten trips (£5.30, $6.75, €6,15, 47 Yuan).
The Bulgarian State Railway operates to and from the larger cities and most of the mid-size towns. An intercity train ride should be between 25-35 lv (£11, $11.50-23, €10,50-21, 80-159 Yuan) depending on if you buy a first or second-class ticket.
Buses are the best way to visit smaller and more rural towns, travel between the coastal cities, and get to ski resorts. There are private and public bus companies with trips that average about 30 lv (£13, $17, €15,50, 117 Yuan) depending on where you’re going and how far in advance you purchase your ticket. You can reserve bus and train tickets here.
Renting a car usually costs around 24 lv a day (£10.50, $5.50, €5, 37 Yuan). I drove here and loved the freedom of stopping whenever I saw something exciting.
Taxis are relatively cheap and very reliable. Drivers are required by law to post their rates on a door or window. The price should be around .80 lv (£.35, $.42, €,38, 3.15 Yuan) for the base fee and .75 lv (£.30, $.40, €,35, 2.90 Yuan) per kilometer after that. If a higher fare is posted, or if no fare is posted, then it might be a scam, and you should find a different taxi.
Uber and Lyft don’t operate in Bulgaria.
I’d budget around 25 lv a day (£11, $14, €12,50, 97.50 Yuan) for entrance fees, tours, guides, snacks, tips, and souvenirs.
ATM’s are widely available in the larger cities and mid-sized towns. Visa and MasterCard are the most commonly accepted international bank cards.
Hotels, restaurants, and shops in cities and larger towns should accept credit cards, and Visa and MasterCard are the most commonly accepted cards. In smaller towns and more rural areas, be prepared to pay with cash.
You should tip 10% in restaurants. Tipping isn’t expected at hotels unless it’s a very high-end hotel. For a taxi, you should round up the fare to the nearest lv. For tour or museum guides and hired drivers, you should tip around 10% per person. Serving staff at bars don’t expect tips per round, but leaving a small tip when you leave is standard.
Suggested Daily Costs
These budget estimates include eating and drinking out at least once a day and a couple of train, plane, or bus rides between cities.
Lower End: 85 lv a day (£38, $48, €44, 332 Yuan). Midrange: 150 lv a day (£67, $84, €77, 585 Yuan). Higher End: 200 lv a day and up (£88, $112, €102, 780 Yuan).