The best way to fully explore Bulgaria is travelling by car. Let’s see what you need to know about driving in the country.
Speed limit for cars
- 50 km/h within built-up areas
- 90 km/h outside built-up areas
- 120 km/h on expressways (dual carriageway without emergency lane)*
- 140 km/h on motorways (dual carriageway with emergency lane)
Please note that many older sections are limited to 130 km/h, these should be signposted
*You won’t find too many of these as most of them are currently under construction or just planned
If you’d like to explore Bulgaria by car, there is simply no way to avoid paying the road toll. Unlike in many other countries, it’s not only the highways that are paid. Basically all roads are tolled except the municipal ones and some small country roads. Fortunately it is not too expensive though. See the price list below for passenger cars in 2020:
From 2019, Bulgaria uses an e-vignette system. Before that, physical stickers were in use but those are not needed anymore. If you enter the country by car (from any direction), you can buy your e-vignette just after passing the border, or you can purchase it online using the official website here: https://web.bgtoll.bg/ (choose English language in the top right corner as the site default is Bulgarian).
TIP: We recommend pre-purchasing the e-vignette online as there can be long waiting times at the border kiosks during peak summer periods. You can buy the e-vignette 30 days before the desired start date.
There are around 300 fixed cameras across the country and many enforcement vehicles that continuosly monitor the payments. The penalty for using the paid road network without an e-vignette is 300 BGN (150 EUR).
There are two bridges between Bulgaria and Romania crossing the Danube that are tolled (using toll booths) separately from the e-vignette system. For passenger vehicles with up to 8+1 seats, New Europe Bridge between Vidin and Calafat (Romania) costs 12 BGN (6 EUR, 27 RON) while Danube Bridge between Ruse and Giurgiu (Romania) costs 6 BGN (3 EUR, 14 RON) per crossing.
Both fixed and mobile cameras (in traffic patrol cars, usually on roadsides) are used for measuring speed in Bulgaria. Be careful when entering urban areas or villages as speed traps are often installed right after the town/village name signs (which automatically limit the speed to 50 km/h). Also, usually there are no warning signs of speed cameras. Traffic violation fines range from 20 to 600+ BGN.
All passenger cars must be equipped with the following items:
- warning triangle
- reflective jacket
- fire extinguisher
- first aid kit
Motorcyclists and their passengers must wear helmets at all times.
Snow chains might be required in the winter in some areas. Road signs will indicate if you have to apply them. The speed limit is 50 km/h when driving with snow chains on.
- All passengers (including in the rear seats) must have their seat belts fastened at all times.
- Low beam headlights or drl must be always on even during daytime, irrespectively of weather conditions.
- Children under the age of 3 must be seated in a car seat.
- Children between 3 and 12 cannot be seated in the front.
- Driving age is 18, but many rental companies require the driver to be at least 21 years old.
Road infrastructure and safety
Motorways in Bulgaria are dual carriageways with emergency lanes. As of 2020, Bulgaria has around 800 km of motorways (BG: Aвтомагистрала, Avtomagistrala) in operation while about 600 km more is planned or already in construction. The only ones being fully complete are A1 (called Trakia) between Sofia and Burgas and A4 (called Maritsa) between Chirpan (A1) and the Turkish border.
There is another defined type of high speed roads called expressways (BG:Скоростен път, Skorosten pat) that have no emergency lanes. These are mostly in the planning phase yet with only a few kilometers being in operation.
Motorways have green road signs, all the other roads use blue. Settlement names and directions are almost always written in both cyrillic and latin, but small roads might have cyrillic-only signs.
In general, the road network is in poorer condition than the western european ones. You can expect very bumpy sections with heavily worn pavement and large potholes appearing out of nowhere. Municipal roads, city streets can also have deep potholes and uneven surface. However, the situation about Bulgarian roads is ofter over-dramatized. Primary roads, that are numbered with one or two digits, are usually ok to drive.
Another thing to be aware of is the driving culture. Motorists are much more aggressive than you might be used to. Risky overtakes and excessive speeding are very common. According to the European Commission, Bulgaria had the second-worst road fatality rate in the EU in 2018, so be careful.
Petrol stations are located quite densely, you can find one every 10-20 kilometers. Fuel prices in Bulgaria are one of the lowest in the European Union. The common auto gas type is LPG and is available almost everywhere. Only a few stations provide CNG.
TIP: Just as a precaution, we recommend using one of the following reliable chains: Lukoil, Shell, OMV, Petrol, EKO or Gazprom. These companies usually have nice shops and clean toilets, while fuel quality is guaranteed as well.