The official currency in Bulgaria is the Bulgarian lev, abbreviated as BGN or LV (ЛВ in Cyrillic). The lev’s sub-unit is called stotinka, 100 stotinki equal 1 lev.
Bulgarian lev has a fixed rate to the euro. Simply put, one lev equals 0.50 euros. It’s comfortable for visitors as dividing prices by 2 will practically give the Euro equivalent, but that’s just a rounded amount. The lev is officially pegged to the euro at the exchange rate of 1 EUR = 1.95583 BGN. That’s because in 1999 the exchange rate of the lev was fixed to the German mark at 1 lev = 1 mark. After the euro was introduced, the exchange rate remained fixed, but was adjusted to the euro at the ratio above, thus replacing the mark. This rate will be in place until Bulgaria joins the eurozone within a few years.
The name of the currency comes from the archaic Bulgarian word ‘lev’ (BG: лев) meaning lion.
The following banknotes are currently (2020) in use: 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100. The banknotes are increasing in size in the order of their nominal value.
Coins in use are: 1, 2 levs; 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 stotinki (BG: стотинки, this is the plural form, the singular is stotinka)
Please note that the 2-lev coin and the 2-lev banknote are currently in use simultaneously and both are legal tender. 1-lev notes are no longer in use and are not accepted since 2016 as they have been replaced by the 1-lev coin.
It is advised to have some levs upon arriving in Bulgaria. However, buying most of the levs for your trip in Bulgaria can save you some money. You will get much better rates in Bulgaria, especially if you have euros, British pounds or US dollars.
Exchanging your currency in Bulgaria can be done in licensed exchange bureaus and local banks. Both are safe and charge no commission, however, exchange bureaus have slightly better rates.
Make sure you see both exchange rates (buy and sell) before you change money. Some offices try to trick tourists by hiding the buy rates and only show the sell prices. That can be attractive as sell rates are always better, but you’re looking for the buy price, that’s the amount you get for your currency in levs. Unless otherwise stated, prices are meant per 1 unit of the foreign currency.
There might be people approaching you to offer money exchange but they are almost always scammers. Do not ever try to exchange money on the streets because you will probably end up with empty pockets. Official exchange bureaus and local banks are perfectly fine for currency exchange and have good rates. You’ll find those in every city center, for example on Vitosha boulevard in Sofia.
Some stores and hotels accept euros but don’t expect that everywhere, it is not the official currency in the country. Be aware of the exchange rate as well. Private accommodations will simply ask for half of the BGN amount in euros which is absolutely fine. Actually, it is even better for you than the official exchange rate.
The common debit cards are widely accepted but we’d recommend to always have some cash with you as small restaurants or shops might only accept that form of payment.