Backpacking Bulgaria

Are you looking for an affordable backpacking destination where you can explore undiscovered treasures, far away from masses of tourists? Are you looking for an adventure that takes you from the mountains, through small towns, and to the sea? Then look no further, for Bulgaria is the best kept secret of Eastern Europe.

At the moment, traveling in and around Bulgaria is really cheap. Thanks to the further development of the flight routes to Sofia, the journey is uncomplicated and fast. The public transport connections within the country are also well developed and reliable: a taxi ride costs just under 50 cents per kilometers. Just try not to get too irritated by the Cyrillic street signs!



With an area of 110,000 km2, Bulgaria has a lot to offer in terms of landscape. After all, the country stretches from the Balkan Mountains in the west to the Black Sea in the east. The landscape is varied and full of surprises. Who would have thought, for example, that Bulgaria produces a lot of wine? This means that the mountainous landscape also turns into gentle hills covered with vines. It is said that in Bulgaria you are never further than 60 kilometers away from a mountain.

But the rural areas are not the only places worth a visit. The larger cities are surprisingly cosmopolitan and modern. Here you can find everything from culture, cuisine, and parties. Above all, the capital Sofia is a magnet for the country's young people, who hope for a better life and want to make their dreams come true with creative business ideas. That is why there are many hip restaurants, trendy clothes shops, and chic bars.



But of course, the traditional Bulgarian cuisine is not to be neglected either. It contains elements of the cuisine of the Balkan countries, but also the cuisine of other Eastern European countries. A classic snack is Banitza, a round filo pastry filled with cheese, which can be bought in any cafe or snack bar. For the main course you should order Meshana Skara. This is an incredibly rich grill plate, where the vegetables seem to only be for decoration.

Bulgaria's culture is strongly influenced by folklore and traditions. With the rise to power of the Romans, Ottomans and Persians throughout history, Bulgarian culture has been influenced by many other cultures and is therefore very unique. One of the most unusual customs of the country is the fire dance (Bulgarian: Nestinarstov). It is even a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you have any chance to see the dances live during your stay, do not miss out on them.



See below for the perfect Bulgaria itinerary for an unforgettable journey:


Important Basics

Official Language

Bulgarian

Basic Vocabulary
EnglishBulgarian
YesDa
NoNe
ThanksBlagodarya
HelloZdravey
GoodbyeTshao; Doviydane
Capital City

Sofia

Form of Government

Parliamentary Republic

Phone Country Code

+359

Currency

Lew

Climate

Highest temperature by day: 5 to 30 degrees Celsius

Highest temperature at night: -2 to 16 degrees Celsius

Summer is from June to September, winter is from December to February

Fun Fact

The Cyrillic script originated in Bulgaria

Cities

Sofia

Your trip starts in the capital Sofia, which has developed into a unique and amazing city, especially in the last few years; it combines Eastern European charm with modern street art and innovative shops as you know them from the capitals of Western Europe.

The construction of the important buildings is very elegant so you cannot miss the Parliament, the National Palace of Culture, and the National Theatre Ivan Vasov while strolling through the city.

The city itself is very green and there are countless parks where you can mingle with local students on warm spring and summer days. Reading a book or listening to a podcast in the shade of the trees, even in a big city, immediately gets you into the holiday mood. In order to get yourself a coffee and some sweets (for example Garash, a layer cake made of chocolate and walnuts) in the afternoon, you should walk to the pedestrian zone, the Witschwa Boulevard, named after the mountain range that you look down on from there.

In the evening, the city center really comes to life, because the young people of Sofia also like to party. The mixture of relaxed bars, pubs and clubs ensures that everyone gets their money's worth.

At Hostel Mostel Hub you will be right in the middle of the action but still be able to sleep without being disturbed. A bed in the six bed dorm costs 10 euros.

Bansko

After Sofia, you will be continuing towards the south. The destination is the city of Bansko, which lies between the Pirin National Park and the Rila National Park. With the public bus, the journey takes about 2 hours and costs €5.

Bansko is a dream for everyone who loves outdoor activities and likes to spend time in nature. In winter, the mountain Todoprka above Bansko turns into a popular skiing area for winter sports enthusiasts from all over the world. Compared to winter sports resorts in Switzerland or France, a skiing holiday in Bulgaria is very affordable. Therefore, the number of winter tourists has increased steadily in recent years.

Bansko is definitely worth a visit in summer, too, even if it is a much quieter in the town with only 10,000 inhabitants. Due to its unique location in the middle of several mountains and national parks, it is the ideal starting point for shorter or even longer hikes. In summer, the old town of Bansko even hosts an open-air jazz festival. There are also events focusing on culinary delights, such as the local wine festival. So, there is something for everyone here.

You can get cheap accommodation at the Elida Family Hotel. A double room is available for €20.

Plovdiv

Your trip continues to the city with the unpronounceable name, Plovdiv. Despite the difficult name, the city is very popular, as many locals say that if you haven't seen Plovdiv, you haven't seen Bulgaria. So let's get going!

The city is built on six hills and the streets are cobbled throughout. In the old town, the charming colorful little houses in typical Bulgarian style are lined up close together. The new part of the city has been made much more modern, there are many green areas, parks, and water installations. At the Stefan Stambolov Square you should definitely make a stop in one of the small cafes. It is the perfect place to people-watch and write down your travel memories.

While you spend a few days in the city, you will definitely see the beautiful handmade pottery. This is what the region is known for, and they are ideal souvenirs for friends and family.

You can get a good night's sleep in the dorm of the Pijama Hostel for €11 a night.

Burgas

After Plovdiv, keep traveling east until you reach the end of the land. The next destination is Burgas, the city on the Black Sea. By train, it takes only 4 hours (without changes) and you can enjoy the landscape to the fullest.

There has always been a discussion about which is the most beautiful city on the Black Sea in Bulgaria: Burgas or Varna. Our choice is clearly Burgas, due to its beautiful location on the coast of the Black Sea. The city has developed into a resort and can score with a beautiful and lively old town and a clean, well-kept beach. An absolute must for everyone who bathes at the Black Sea for the first time is of course to test if you really do not sink. P.S. Yes, it really works.

The A16 Hostel offers Dorms with ten beds and all necessities for the ridiculous price of only €9 per night.

Goldstrand

As your journey progresses, you will pass the rival city of Varna and settle north of it in Goldstrand. The bus costs about 8€.

The name suggests a seaside resort with a beautiful sandy beach, and you will not be disappointed. As soon as you see the beach for the first time, you will forget that you are at the very edge of Europe and you will feel like you’re suddenly in the Caribbean.

If you are looking for an empty beach for peace and quiet, avoid the summer months at all costs, as the golden beach (and generally the coast around Varna) is a popular holiday destination for Bulgarians. They are also known to be very hard drinkers and can get a little rowdy.

Apart from that, there are a lot of restaurants and beach bars in the village, and you can safely melt into your deck chair for a while. With outside temperatures of up to 30 degrees and a water temperature of 25 degrees in summer, this is also the only way to do it.

There is plenty of cheap accommodation in Goldstrand. In the Yo Ho Hostel, you will be in good hands and you are not directly on the party strip. For €9 there is a bed in a four person dorm.

Tarnowo

Now you can wind down from the beach party with a last taste culture. The city of Tarnowo is about 5 hours’ drive by bus into the interior of the country. This costs around 10€.

The city is particularly famous for its medieval city wall, the fortress Tsarevets, and the cobbled streets. Like many medieval towns, it is built on a hill and once looked down threateningly on its enemies. Nowadays, the city exudes a romantic charm rather than a threatening one. Thus, when exploring the narrow alleys, you’ll get a nice warm and cosy feeling. Here you can relax once more before you reach the end of your journey.

You will find a pleasant place to sleep in the Rooster Hostel. A bed in a four-bed dorm costs €12.

From Tarnowo you will then drive back to the capital to catch your flight back home.


Sofia

Sofia

Your trip starts in the capital Sofia, which has developed into a unique and amazing city, especially in the last few years; it combines Eastern European charm with modern street art and innovative shops as you know them from the capitals of Western Europe.

The construction of the important buildings is very elegant so you cannot miss the Parliament, the National Palace of Culture, and the National Theatre Ivan Vasov while strolling through the city.

The city itself is very green and there are countless parks where you can mingle with local students on warm spring and summer days. Reading a book or listening to a podcast in the shade of the trees, even in a big city, immediately gets you into the holiday mood. In order to get yourself a coffee and some sweets (for example Garash, a layer cake made of chocolate and walnuts) in the afternoon, you should walk to the pedestrian zone, the Witschwa Boulevard, named after the mountain range that you look down on from there.

In the evening, the city center really comes to life, because the young people of Sofia also like to party. The mixture of relaxed bars, pubs and clubs ensures that everyone gets their money's worth.

At Hostel Mostel Hub you will be right in the middle of the action but still be able to sleep without being disturbed. A bed in the six bed dorm costs 10 euros.

Bansko

Bansko

After Sofia, you will be continuing towards the south. The destination is the city of Bansko, which lies between the Pirin National Park and the Rila National Park. With the public bus, the journey takes about 2 hours and costs €5.

Bansko is a dream for everyone who loves outdoor activities and likes to spend time in nature. In winter, the mountain Todoprka above Bansko turns into a popular skiing area for winter sports enthusiasts from all over the world. Compared to winter sports resorts in Switzerland or France, a skiing holiday in Bulgaria is very affordable. Therefore, the number of winter tourists has increased steadily in recent years.

Bansko is definitely worth a visit in summer, too, even if it is a much quieter in the town with only 10,000 inhabitants. Due to its unique location in the middle of several mountains and national parks, it is the ideal starting point for shorter or even longer hikes. In summer, the old town of Bansko even hosts an open-air jazz festival. There are also events focusing on culinary delights, such as the local wine festival. So, there is something for everyone here.

You can get cheap accommodation at the Elida Family Hotel. A double room is available for €20.

Plovdiv

Plovdiv

Your trip continues to the city with the unpronounceable name, Plovdiv. Despite the difficult name, the city is very popular, as many locals say that if you haven't seen Plovdiv, you haven't seen Bulgaria. So let's get going!

The city is built on six hills and the streets are cobbled throughout. In the old town, the charming colorful little houses in typical Bulgarian style are lined up close together. The new part of the city has been made much more modern, there are many green areas, parks, and water installations. At the Stefan Stambolov Square you should definitely make a stop in one of the small cafes. It is the perfect place to people-watch and write down your travel memories.

While you spend a few days in the city, you will definitely see the beautiful handmade pottery. This is what the region is known for, and they are ideal souvenirs for friends and family.

You can get a good night's sleep in the dorm of the Pijama Hostel for €11 a night.

Burgas

Burgas

After Plovdiv, keep traveling east until you reach the end of the land. The next destination is Burgas, the city on the Black Sea. By train, it takes only 4 hours (without changes) and you can enjoy the landscape to the fullest.

There has always been a discussion about which is the most beautiful city on the Black Sea in Bulgaria: Burgas or Varna. Our choice is clearly Burgas, due to its beautiful location on the coast of the Black Sea. The city has developed into a resort and can score with a beautiful and lively old town and a clean, well-kept beach. An absolute must for everyone who bathes at the Black Sea for the first time is of course to test if you really do not sink. P.S. Yes, it really works.

The A16 Hostel offers Dorms with ten beds and all necessities for the ridiculous price of only €9 per night.

Goldstrand

Goldstrand

As your journey progresses, you will pass the rival city of Varna and settle north of it in Goldstrand. The bus costs about 8€.

The name suggests a seaside resort with a beautiful sandy beach, and you will not be disappointed. As soon as you see the beach for the first time, you will forget that you are at the very edge of Europe and you will feel like you’re suddenly in the Caribbean.

If you are looking for an empty beach for peace and quiet, avoid the summer months at all costs, as the golden beach (and generally the coast around Varna) is a popular holiday destination for Bulgarians. They are also known to be very hard drinkers and can get a little rowdy.

Apart from that, there are a lot of restaurants and beach bars in the village, and you can safely melt into your deck chair for a while. With outside temperatures of up to 30 degrees and a water temperature of 25 degrees in summer, this is also the only way to do it.

There is plenty of cheap accommodation in Goldstrand. In the Yo Ho Hostel, you will be in good hands and you are not directly on the party strip. For €9 there is a bed in a four person dorm.

Tarnowo

Tarnowo

Now you can wind down from the beach party with a last taste culture. The city of Tarnowo is about 5 hours’ drive by bus into the interior of the country. This costs around 10€.

The city is particularly famous for its medieval city wall, the fortress Tsarevets, and the cobbled streets. Like many medieval towns, it is built on a hill and once looked down threateningly on its enemies. Nowadays, the city exudes a romantic charm rather than a threatening one. Thus, when exploring the narrow alleys, you’ll get a nice warm and cosy feeling. Here you can relax once more before you reach the end of your journey.

You will find a pleasant place to sleep in the Rooster Hostel. A bed in a four-bed dorm costs €12.

From Tarnowo you will then drive back to the capital to catch your flight back home.

Bulgaria Route Map

Itinerary and Stops.

Tag
Route/Station
Transport
Unterkunft
1. Home- Sofia
Home- Sofia
Flight
50
Six-bed dorm
10
2. Sofia
Sofia
-
Six-bed dorm
10
3. Sofia
Sofia
-
Six-bed dorm
10
4. Sofia- Bansko
Sofia- Bansko
Bus
5
double room
20
5. Bansko
Bansko
-
double room
20
6. Bansko
Bansko
-
double room
20
7. Bansko
Bansko
-
double room
20
8. Bansko- Plowdiw
Bansko- Plowdiw
Bus
10
single room
11
9. Plowdiw
Plowdiw
-
single room
11
10. Plowdiw
Plowdiw
-
single room
11
11. Plowdiw- Burgas
Plowdiw- Burgas
train
8
Ten-bed dorm
9
12. Burgas
Burgas
-
Ten-bed dorm
9
13. Burgas
Burgas
-
Ten-bed dorm
9
14. Burgas- Goldstrand
Burgas- Goldstrand
Bus
8
four-bed dorm
9
15. Goldstrand
Goldstrand
-
four-bed dorm
9
16. Goldstrand
Goldstrand
-
four-bed dorm
9
17. Goldstrand- Tarnowo
Goldstrand- Tarnowo
Bus
10
Four-bed dorm
12
18. Tarnowo
Tarnowo
-
Four-bed dorm
12
19. Tarnowo
Tarnowo
-
Four-bed dorm
12
20. Tarnowo- Sofia
Tarnowo- Sofia
Bus
9
six-bed dorm
10
21. Sofia- Home
Sofia- Home
Flight
50

Total price.

Flights 100,00
Transportation 50,00
Tours 0,00
Accommodations 243,00
Total393,00

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Dos and Donts, Food & Drinks, Costs.

Breakfast

Puff pastries: breakfast in Bulgaria is not very special, mostly puff pastry is used.

Soups

Schkembe-Tschorba:  this soup is also called the Bulgarian tripe soup, which consists of beans and various spices.

Tarator: this is a cold soup with cucumber and yogurt.

Main courses

Bob Tschorba:  this is the national dish of the country and is a stew, which is usually prepared in a large pot over the fire. It consists of lentils, tomatoes and meat, usually accompanied by bread.

Shopska salad: the shopska salad is the basis of every meal in Bulgaria. It is a mixed salad with regional fruits and lots of cheese.

Stuffed mushrooms: if you like mushrooms, then you will definitely love stuffed mushrooms! They are served with cheese and a hot chili sauce.

Losowi sarmi: these are stuffed vine leaves. Usually with meat or potatoes and a delicious dip.

 Kebatsche: the minced meat rolls are a real specialty that you cannot miss. Depending on your choice, they are served with potatoes or a spicy vegetable pan.

Drinks & Snacks

Baklava: these sweet pastries are made from puff pastry and are usually served with syrup. Simply delicious.

Bulgarian wine: Did you know that Bulgaria is considered one of the largest producers of wine? Probably not, so you should just try a few glasses on your trip.

Bulgaria

The exchange rate for 1 Bulgarian lev is around 0.51 euro (as of March 2020). You can see the prices for certain products as well as the cost of living below.

Cost of Living

Food

Free time

Personal hygiene

Dos

Off the beaten track: Bulgaria is not a typical tourist destination! That's a great reason for you to see it for yourself and see what it has to offer.

Explore the unknown: the nature of Bulgaria surprises backpackers, so venture into the mountains and rural areas, you will be surprised.

Be patient: especially in the countryside, it can take a while to get a room or information. Just be patient and you will have no problems.

Don'ts

Driving: in Bulgaria driving a car is no easy task. The roads are bad and the drivers themselves drive by different rules from the ones you are used to. It's best to just leave it alone.

Say no to alcohol: the Bulgarians are very proud of their own wine, but especially when you are invited, they might try to persuade you to drink large quantities. If this is too much for you, simply refuse politely.

Don't compare it with other countries: the Bulgarians don't like it at all when you compare their country, and they might take it badly. So always try to be respectful towards the country.

Visa, Visa, Passport & Vaccinations

Passport

Yes

Temporary passport

Yes

National ID

Yes

Temporary national ID

Yes

Child’s pass

Yes

Visa

(Not necessary)

Vaccine

Robert Koch Instituts

Additional Remarks.

All travel documents must be valid at time of arrival and departure. Expired documents can be grounds for refusal of entry/exit by the Bulgarian border police.

The team at Backpacker Trail wishes you lots of fun and an unforgettable trip!

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