Bulgaria is generally a safe, tourist-friendly country. It ranks among the top 30-40 safest countries in the world and is considered a low-risk destination. Violent crime rates are low and civil unrest is uncommon, security and emergency services are relatively effective.
The U.S. Department of State lists Bulgaria as Level 1 (the lowest risk category) country where “exercising normal precautions” is advised. According to the latest (2019) results of the Global Peace Index, Bulgaria ranks 26th globally, which is very good.
Risks and precautions
Of course, there are some risks, but you can completely avoid them if you follow the tips below.
Just like anywhere else, pick-pocketing and purse snatching may occur in crowded places and touristic areas. However, as mentioned above, exercising normal precautions should be enough to avoid such crimes. Also, car theft and break-ins are still common. Do not leave any valuables or bags in plain sight when leaving your vehicle.
Unfortunately, where there are tourists, there will be scammers as well. Be cautious at ATMs. There might be people who approach you at an ATM and offer their help. Do not ever give your PIN to anyone. In general, ignore anyone approaching you to offer their assistance for no clear reason.
There have been reports about bars and night clubs overcharging tourists and using force to get the payment. Pay attention to prices and conditions in such places. As a best practice, it is safer to pay for your drinks right after each round.
Taxi drivers may overcharge as well, especially at airports and bigger stations. Use only licensed taxis with clearly marked rates and inquire about the fare before you get in the taxi.
Official exchange bureaus and local banks are perfectly fine for money exchange with good rates. Do not ever try to exchange money on streets because you will most probably end up with empty pockets. People offering that kind of “service” are usually con artists who intend to swindle unsuspecting tourists.
Refrain from drug use as penalties for possessing or using illegal drugs in Bulgaria are heavy. Keep in mind that marijuana is illegal too.
It is unlikely to happen, but be aware that authorities may take you in for questioning if you take photos of some government buildings or military facilities. But don’t worry, you will probably not act suspicious when visiting the Largo for example, so feel free to take as many pics as you want 🙂
The emergency telephone number in Bulgaria is 112 for police, fire and ambulance services. If you are arrested or detained for any reason, ask officials to notify your country’s embassy immediately.
When driving in Bulgaria, be prepared for some aggressive drivers who make risky overtakes. Excessive speeding is also a common issue in the country. The best thing to do is to stay away as possible and let go such drivers in order to avoid any road rage incident. According to the European Commission, Bulgaria had the second-worst road fatality rate in the EU in 2018, so be careful.
A maximum of 0.05 % Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level is allowed when driving in Bulgaria. However, as a general rule, we strongly recommend not drinking any alcohol before driving in a foreign country. The BAC level is hard to calculate as it depends on many factors like sex, age, weight, food consumption etc.
Police can randomly impose speed checks, alcohol and drug tests on roadsides anytime, anywhere. Make sure you are always within the speed limits as there are fixed cameras all across the country.