Bulgaria has surprised us in many ways. We originally wanted to cycle through in 10 days but ended up staying for two months! Our time here had been well spent, doing amazing things making our cycling journey so much more meaningful. We have written this report card to summarise our experiences, observations and hopefully give some insight into this small nation in Europe.

Bulgaria

Capital: Sofia
Population: 7 millions
Language: Bulgarian
Currency: Lev (1.10 = $1 NZ)
Region: Balkans, Europe
Province: 28 (12 visited)
Random Fact: Often mistaken as "Russian alphabet", the Cyrillic script was actually developed in Bulgaria.


Bulgaria scored a deserving ★★★★☆

Important Pointers


People & Culture (PC)

  • Natural and organically grown food is important to most Bulgarians. People appreciate the origin of their food, like where the milk came from to make the cheese, or which mountains were the bees producing honey from.
  • For the first time we were in a society living "with" the Roma people. They are commonly discriminated against and unfortunately we didn't have the opportunity to talk to a Roma. Even the term "gypsy" is no longer welcomed but dissatisfied citizens still call them that.
  • Everyone loves to grow a garden. Any piece land available will have some flowers or vegetables growing. This included growing grape vines over the fence and driveway to provide shade and utilize an unused space.
  • Hitchhiking was a fun experience. Many adventures awaited us with every different driver. We got lucky once and had the experience to volunteer at a bird rehabilitation and breeding center.
  • This is the country of festivals! We attended several and they are popular and mostly free. In the summer alone you could travel around Bulgaria attending all the festivals.
  • Shaking and nodding your head means the opposite here!

Infrastructure, Safety and Politics (ISP)

  • There's an inside joke that Bulgarians walk on the road instead of the footpath. They are so poorly maintained we'd prefer the road too!
  • Drivers gave us a lot of space on the side of the road. We felt very comfortable with a one metre gap.
  • Everyone is disappointed about the level of corruption. Everything from building highways to paying for surgery all have hidden "fees" somewhere.
  • Depopulation is a huge problem here as young people seek better opportunities in other parts of Europe. This meant villages are empty and employers are struggling to fill vacancies.
  • We tried hitchhiking for 4 weeks and had the best time... Not a single moment did we felt unsafe about hopping into a strangers car. We even managed to convince some new friends to try lifting their thumbs when we attended the Jazz festival.

Red dots for cycling, Brown for hitchhiking.

Landscape & Nature (LAN)

  • Hiking on the Rila mountains reminded us a lot about New Zealand. Except they have huts which serve tea, cheap food and free WiFi!
  • We met many people who appreciated nature, forest and mountains (tree huggers?). Most people understood and are disappointed at the impact human are doing to the natural environment.
  • It was very refreshing to see a lot of greenery remaining on the mountains. Having recently come from the Middle East, we appreciated seeing every tree we could as they provided shade for the middle of the day.

Value for Money (VM)

  • Bulgarian wages are one of the lowest in Europe so basic commodities were cheap.
  • With the help of everyone, we managed to stay for 2 months without paying a nights accommodation. Our many friends in Sofia helped us a lot during our wait for the UK work visa application.
  • Our favourite snack was Banitsa. It is a cheap buttery pastry filled with white cheese. Big slice of pizzas were cheap too - around $1.50 a slice.
  • Public transport was cheap and easy to use. In Sofia most transport were set price so you could go as far as you like!

Our silk road journey to the west

Camping & Outdoor Living (COL)

  • We stayed with people much more than we camped, partly because we had great friends in Bulgaria before coming here.
  • We met many people who enjoyed the wilderness and nature. There's a popular hiking trail that goes along the middle of the country!
  • Very easy to find a camping spot as the fields outside of villages/towns are quiet and unoccupied.

Return for a Retour?


We've had an amazing time in Bulgaria. As always, we couldn't see everything so saved it for another visit. Our friends also know that we are staying in Europe so chances are high that we reunite.


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