Although Bulgaria has been an member of the EU since 2007, and there are plans to join the EURO, at present it still uses its own currency, the Bulgarian Lev (BGN). Since it is tied to the EURO via a currency board, there is a constant exchange rate of 1 EUR = 1.96 BGN, which makes local prices easy to keep track of.
All Bulgarian businesses are required by law to accept only BGN for cash payments, so you may need some local currency. You can exchange EURO, USD or GBP at any bank office, or withdrawn from an ATM with a VISA, MasterCard or Maestro card. All prices listed by businesses include VAT, making that the final price owed by the customer.
Credit and debit cards are accepted in most stores and a lot of restaurants, but ask in advance just in case.
Languange and Alphabet
Bulgaria uses the Bulgarian Cyrillic alphabet. This can occasionally lead to some confusion, as some symbols are the same as in the Latin script, but correspond to different sounds. In Sofia, street and landmark names are usually written in both Cyrillic and Latin script.
A lot of the younger Bulgarians are fluent or proficient in English, and one can usually make themselves understood in English in business establishments. A lot of restaurants will provide a menu in English on request.
One peculiarity to keep in mind – Bulgarians nod for no, and shake or rotate their head laterally for yes. This can be even more confusing since a lot of people subconsciously switch to the European way of nodding when they switch languages, or when they realize they are speaking with a non-Bulgarian.
While as a rule restaurants do not include a service fee in the bill, tipping is appreciated, but not required. For small sums, such as in a coffee, people usually round up to the nearest lev, and to the nearest 5 leva for a meal at a restaurant. A 10% tip is generous and appreciated, more than that is unusual. A small tip may be left to your taxi driver if you are happy with the service.
As an EU member, the phone number to dial in case of emergency in 112, where you can request service in English.
Sofia’s (and Bulgaria’s) largest Medical Emergency Center is Pirogov