Full country name: Republic of Bulgaria
Area: 110,910 sq km
Population: 7.35 million
Capital City: Sofia
People: 88% Bulgarian, 8% Turkish, 3% Roma, 1% Armenians & Russians
Language: Bulgarian, Russian, English, French
Religion: 85% Bulgarian Orthodox, 13% Muslim
Government: parliamentary democracy
GDP: EUR 19.5 billion
GDP per capita: EUR 2650
Annual Growth: 3.0%
Major Industries: Tourism, Food processing, Information Technology, Chemicals, Ferrous and nonferrous metals
Major Trading Partners: Italy, Germany, Turkey, Greece, Russia, USA
Member of EU: yes
Member of NATO: yes
Bulgaria is located in the Balkan peninsula and has 385 kilometers (240 miles) coastline on the Black sea. The area is 110,910 sq km (42,855 sq miles), the climate is temperate, with nice summer and snowy winter. Amplitude in summer to winter temperature averages is -15 to 30 C (41 F to 86 F). Bulgaria boarders the Black sea, Turkey, Greece, Romania, Macedonia, and Serbia and Montenegro.
Having achieved social and political stability and located at crossroads of trade routes to Western Europe, Russia and the Middle East Bulgaria is a suitabIe stepping-stone for distributing operations.
ARRIVING IN BULGARIA
EU nationals, Schengen Area nationals, US and Canadian citizens, as well as citizens of a number of other nations can enter the country without a visa and stay for up to 90 days. Please, check the current travel regime that applies to you with the Bulgarian embassy/consulate in your country.
When you arrive, take notice of the customs regulations and items that need to be declared. Usually thresholds for declaring money, alcohol, cigarettes and other declarable goods with are posted at the customs checkpoint. If any apply to you, fill in a customs declaration form and keep it.
The currency in Bulgaria is the lev (plural: leva). A lev consists of 100 stotinki. At present the exchange rate is pegged to the Euro at a rate of 1.95583 leva for 1 Euro. Exchange bureaus are plentiful and generally offer fair rates, but there are also cheats. It’s best to exchange money in banks until you find an exchanger you can trust. Banking hours are 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM on weekdays.
ATMs are quite widespread especially in cities, and most international cards can be used. Paying with credit cards is not as easy, and only a few stores accept them, so always bring cash.
HOUSING IN BULGARIA
Accommodation is mostly in apartment buildings. Detached and semi-detached houses are also available, mainly in the suburbs.
Commuting means 5-10 kilometers from suburbia to downtown. Rents are moderate. The highest are in the capital city of Sofia. Furnished and unfurnished flats are available both short and long term. Bear in mind that legal proceedings and liabilities may differ from those at home. You should take independent legal advice when signing contracts and buying real estate.
TRAVELING IN BULGARIA
The main international gateway to Bulgaria is the Sofia airport. It also services the two and only domestic lines – to the seashore cities of Varna and Bourgas. Both cities are international sea-ports.
Bulgaria has an extensive, although obsolete railway system. There are trains to almost every town in the country, and fares are quite reasonable. Private bus lines link the major cities.
Though roads are not always in good condition most Bulgarians prefer car travel. Speed limits are 50 km/h in cities, and between 90 and 120 km/h on intercity roads. Foreigners are expected to carry the driving license they have obtained in their home country. Gas stations are plentiful, and fuel is slightly cheaper than in most European countries.
Foreigners must obtain a work permit. Exempt are aliens owning a Bulgaria-registered company. Aliens must obtain work permits from the National Employment Office before applying for a job in Bulgaria.
The Bulgarian tax system is complicated. Taxation depends on individual case and independent advice should be sought. However, for the past years the Personal Income tax is fixed to flat 15 per cent, not depending on the yearly size of income. VAT is 20%. Customer prices in stores, restaurants etc. should include VAT. Business to business or bulk prices, are usually quoted before VAT.
Power is single phase, 220-240 volts, 50Hz. Some electrical appliances will need transformers/adapters if not provided with built-in switches. There is no central gas supply system in Bulgaria. Gas is available in only a few areas, or by delivery of gas barrels.
MAIL AND COMMUNICATIONS
The Bulgarian Posts are generally reliable, but sending valuables or sensitive materials is not recommended. There are a number of private courier services, which deliver countrywide. Fees are reasonable.
Fixed telephone lines could be obtained from various providers. There are three GSM operators – MTel, Globul and BTC operating at GSM 900/1800 frequencies.
International calls can be made trough all operators directly by dialing “00″ followed by the country and area codes, and the telephone number. Independent VoIP operators offer lower cost International calls.
Quality of access to the Internet will depend largely on your location. In the capital Sofia, and in larger cities Internet connectivity can be obtained trough optics and cable. In the rest of the country 4G operators, mobile phone operators (with both both prepaid and post-paid service) could be a viable solution. Some companies offer ADSL.
Overall, Bulgaria is one of the countries with fastest Internet on the Planet.
Business hours are generally 9 AM to 6 PM, Mondays to Fridays. On Saturdays most shops are open until noon or 2 PM. In major cities there are several non-stop retailers, shops, department stores and drugstores.
Most towns have a shopping centers or a mall(s). Food and drink is generally purchased from supermarkets, but there is also a wide variety of smaller shops and delicatessen.
Aliens planing to stay longer than 6 months have to apply for residence permit. We do offer immigration services, so. for more details contact us.
Government run hospitals offer healthcare to locals and foreigners. A number of private clinics are also available. Should you need a dentist, contacting a private dental office or clinic is recommendable. Quality of dental services in private clinics is good to excellent, and prices are several times lower when compared to Western Europe or the USA.
IMPORT OF GOODS/HHE
Your local Allied Pickfords Office will organize all aspects of the packing and shipping of your goods and effects to Bulgaria. This includes advising you what documents have to be obtained, assistance with Customs clearance and final delivery to your door. If delivery has to be delayed, then Allied Pickfords can arrange temporary storage in our warehouses.
ANIMALS AND PETS
Most pets, including dogs, cats, birds etc., can be brought if an original signed and stamped veterinary health certificate is presented, stating that the animal has been vaccinated against rabies not more than 1 year before arrival. Pets have go through medical check-up with local veterinary authorities.
HOLIDAYS AND FESTIVALS
Schools, government offices, and most businesses close for the religious and national holidays.
In addition, there are celebrations on Islamic holidays, local and regional festivals, and patron saints’ days. Stores and businesses usually remain open on these days.
If you are traveling to Bulgaria for business, the best months for doing business are September through May. Try to avoid June, July, and August, when businesspeople take their vacations.
Bulgaria’s national holidays
On New Year’s Day, known as St. Basil’s Day, Bulgarian children go from house to house offering New Year’s wishes to their neighbors by slapping them on the back with brightly decorated bunches of twigs, or survaknitsa. In some western areas there are processions of villagers wearing animal masks.
On Bulgarian Culture Day, May 24, Saints Cyril and Methodius are honored for developing the Cyrillic alphabet. Bulgaria’s accomplishments in science and culture are also celebrated.
At Christmas young men of the village may go around from house to house singing carols. They take with them on their rounds especially baked and decorated loaves of bread. At Christmas Eve dinner only products of the soil, no meat, are eaten as a recognition of a good harvest the previous fall, and wishes for a good one in the coming year.
Other religious and cultural festivals
Muslim religious festivals
While Muslim religious days are not considered national holidays, they are widely observed by Bulgaria’s Muslim minority. The most important Muslim celebration is Ramadan, which ends with the three-day Sheker Bayram, or Sugar Holiday.
There are fewer festivals in Bulgaria than in the past because the government has curtailed state funding for the arts. There are, however, four important festivals to be noted: the Koprivshitsa Folklore Festival of traditional musicians and singers held every five years; the International Folk Festival held in Burgas every August; the Varnensko Lyato, or Varna Summer – a summer-long festival of classical music, folklore and jazz; and Kazaniak’s Festival of the Roses in early June.
Most other Bulgarian festivals stem from the country’s agricultural heritage and are related to a specific season. One of the most important of these is held on March 1 to celebrate the coming of spring. Village households start their spring cleaning and present each other with martenitsa, good luck charms made of white woolen threads with tassels at the end.
Since the fall of Communism, Bulgarian villages have also reinstated many of the church festivals and patron saints’ days that have been traditional in the Orthodox Church.