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Bulgaria- The Cheapest Country in Europe
Bulgaria is often dubbed "the cheapest country in Europe" for the affordability of consumer goods and services. Besides cost-efficiency, there are numerous reasons to move here, and I will tell you 10 of my favorites!
I've tried to give you a brief overview of the advantages of coming to Bulgaria. This article is just scratching the surface, and if you want to explore the country in more depth, there is one best thing you can do: just come and try for yourself.
Here are the 10 Reasons you should move to Bulgaria:
What Are Essential Itineraries?
These bite-sized guides focus on the Top Sights to See and Best Things to Do for New Expats.
Written in collaboration with my network of expats and experienced travelers, you get up-to-date first hand knowledge and local tips.
Perfect for short trips, these overviews for visiting a new city are available for download.
INSIDER TIP : : I lived in Sofia, Bulgaria, for three months, and I agree with Georgi. You need to come to Bulgaria. My number one reason for recommending Bulgaria that Georgi doesn't bring up here is the people. Locals I met were always eager to show me around and hang out.
I had the making of a fun social circle. There was a lively Acroyoga community that met three times a week. Twice a week, I was meeting people for Capoeira classes. I met friends who took me camping in the mountains and road trips to hidden beaches by the sea.
Come to Bulgaria because it's a super cheap European country to live in. But plan to stay because you will enjoy the folks you meet living here.
"Bulgaria's capital Sofia is one of Europe's most architecturally beautiful cities, where Roman, Ottoman, and Byzantine buildings line wide boulevards that lead to urban parks and pretty courtyards."
1) U.S. citizens can travel visa-free
If you've got a regular tourist passport, you can spend in Bulgaria up to 90 days within 6 months (90/180 rule). The only requirements are a valid passport for at least 3 months after your expected departure date, a blank passport page for the entry and exit stamps, and proof of medical insurance. More details are on the U.S. Department of State website.
Bulgaria is not part of the Schengen Area, which shares a common visa policy. However, visiting the Schengen Area (comprising 26 European countries) follows the same 90/180 rule. To keep track of the length of your stay, you can use this visa calculator that will help you avoid any issues at border control.
INSIDER TIP : Aside from getting a retirement visa for Spain, Bulgaria is one of the easiest ways around the Schengen Visa 90/180 restriction. After first spending, your 90 days inside the Schengen Area, move to Bulgaria (which is out of Schengen) for 90 more days. After your time in Bulgaria, your Schengen days "reset," and you get 90 more days anywhere in the Schengen zone.
For example, you can spend 90 days in Greece, then go to Bulgaria for 90 days, then back to Greece (or any other Schengen country) for 90 more days. Rinse and Repeat for as long as you want to live in Europe.
2) There is something for everyone
The country is becoming increasingly popular with expats from different ages. The country's affordable life is attractive to young professionals who move for work or digital nomads taking advantage of geo arbitrage. Many also choose to retire here as the low cost of living allows them a lifestyle they could not get on a pension in their home countries. The experience you are looking for will give you an idea of the best place for you to live in Bulgaria.
Bansko is a popular "expat hub" as digital nomads come here to enjoy a sense of community and the lovely nature surrounding the town. Co-working Bansko hosts remote workers from across the world. You can socialize with fellow travelers and have fun at some of the events they organize here. Bansko sits at the foot of the Pirin Mountains, which makes it a perfect spot to explore if you're into winter sports or if you enjoy nature hikes during any time of the year.
The capital Sofia is hands-down the most cosmopolitan city in Bulgaria, boasting over 20 co-working spaces. The most highly-recommended spaces are Puzl, CO&WO Coworking café, and Networking Premium.
There is also a variety of social events where you can meet new people. For example, language exchange events are usually held in bars after working hours, with many locals and foreigners attending them. There are diverse Facebook groups that cater to different interests, such as board games or acro yoga.
Located on the north coast of the Black Sea, Varna is a lively party town in the summer. Take a stroll in the Sea Garden, a park that spans for 2.5 miles, with lovely views towards the sea. The center's pedestrian streets feature many beautiful examples of Bulgaria's late 19th and early 20th-century architecture. Close to the iconic Opera House, you can find a space where many cool events are held. The Social Teahouse gives children from social institutions the chance to gain their first work experience and develop professional skills.
Plovdiv is one of Bulgaria's most beloved cities, known for its rich history. Walking across the cobbled streets of Plovdiv's historic center, you'll see many traditional Bulgarian houses, and you might also stumble upon a very-well preserved Roman theater.
If you don't feel like going to a co-working space, you can also take your laptop to one of the cute cafés in the craftsman quarter Kapana. Back in the 17th century, there were almost 900 stalls in Kapana, offering a variety of locally-made goods. Now it's more of an artistic quarter, featuring hipster cafés and a few galleries.
Veliko Tarnovo is one of Bulgaria's historic capitals. The city is a tourists' favorite with its atmosphere and eventful past. What is more, the countryside around Veliko Tarnovo is extremely popular for retirement. Houses in the area are affordable, and there is already an international community, mostly made up of Brits.
Perfect for first time visitors, this Moving to Bulgaria guide is available for download.
3) Lowest Cost of Living In Europe
The cost of living in Bulgaria will largely depend on the location you choose. For reference, I will give you some details about prices in Sofia. Excluding resorts, most places across the country will be cheaper than the capital. Prices in smaller towns, especially for services, can be half the prices you get in Sofia.
Renting a furnished studio apartment can cost between $300 and $500 a month, depending on location.
Rent for a three-bedroom apartment starts at around $450, up to $900 in a more central location. If you're sharing a flat, this means your room can cost you $150.
INSIDER TIP : In Sofia, the market mostly caters to long term rentals > 12 months. Each place we looked at in our price range and desired location charged a premium for month-to-month renters like ourselves. If we wanted to stay in Lozenets (a trendy neighborhood near a gym we love), the best we could do was a shared 2-bedroom, 1-bath for $350 per month. The price includes all utilities and wifi.
Eating out is becoming increasingly more expensive, but it's still a bargain compared to restaurants in other European countries. A three-course meal in a mid-range restaurant would cost you around $20. Side note, the menus in Bulgaria usually come with details about the portion size, which is helpful if you're on a diet or want to avoid food waste.
Sofia has a fantastic public transportation with a metro, tram, bus, and trolley lines. A one-way ticket on public transport costs under a dollar, while a monthly pass for all types of public transport is $30. The monthly pass only for the city's expanding subway network is around $20. Three or six-month passes offer even better discounts on transportation. Buses between cities are also inexpensive. A bus from Sofia to Plovdiv is roughly $5.
INSIDER TIP : Watch out for taxis. Technically, riding a cab costs about $1/mile, but there are many "fake cabs," which will try to rip you off. Be careful if you're getting a cab from a tourist-busy spot such as the railway station or the airport. To avoid the risks and get a cost estimate of your ride up front, download the TaxiMe app. It saves a ton of headaches.
Another app that can help you get around the city is "SPARK car sharing." You can rent an electric car to drive around with prices starting at $2.60 for the first 15 minutes. Afterward, each minute of driving will cost you an additional $0.18. Plus, you can drop your car off anywhere around the city as electric vehicles are exempt from parking fees.
A 10GB data plan for your phone would cost you around $20, while unlimited high-speed internet at home starts at $9.
Prices for a hot desk in a central co-working space average at around $100/month while a fixed desk would be $150-200. Some of the co-working spaces hold events that can be attended by anyone, even if you're not renting a desk there, giving you another opportunity to make new contacts.
4) All Four Seasons of Weather
If you're a fan of the fun and excitement that comes with having four seasons, you will have a blast in Bulgaria's diverse nature. Be it in the mountains or at the beach; there are lots of options to enjoy the weather.
INSIDER TIP : Nature here is STUNNING. Even living in the heart of Sofia, hiking in the mountains was a short hop away. Or if snow sports are your thing, you could be on a ski lift one hour after fresh powder hits.
5) Convenient location for international travel.
There are cheap flights to many places across Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. Flying out to France, Italy, Egypt, Jordan or the UAE takes only a few hours, making Bulgaria the perfect starting point for many more trips. It also does not take long if you want to travel by bus, train, or car to Turkey, Greece, Romania, etc.
6) Balkan cuisine
The food here can be reminiscent of the cuisine of Greece or Turkey as Bulgaria shares a lot of shared history with these countries. It's often hard to track the roots of a specific dish as there has been a lot of intercultural exchange between Balkan nations. Bulgaria is known for its flavorful fruits and vegetables, healthy yogurt, and the white cheese, which most locals adore.
7) English is widely spoken.
While this might not be true for a large chunk of the population, most people who are currently in their 20s or 30s have been learning English since primary school. Since 2007, when Bulgaria joined the European Union, there have been more and more foreign companies opening up offices across the country, chiefly in Sofia. Frequently, the "official company language" is English, meaning many professionals are fluent in it.
8) Diving into fun activities.
There are countless new things you can try out: be it rafting down the Struma river or taking a panoramic flight over the picturesque Seven Rila Lakes. You can go mountain climbing in Vratsa or dolphin watching near Tyulenovo.
Are you into dances? Try out Bulgaria's folk dances, which involve a group of people holding hands and moving to the beat of a folk song. The traditional dance "horo" has many varieties coming from many different regions. Some might have you break a sweat in a minute, others can be slow-paced and relaxed. Furthermore, there is a lively swing and salsa dance scene in Sofia. There are several weekly events in central parks in the city where you can dance to folk, jazz, or Latin American music.
9) It's Still An Undiscovered Gem of Europe
INSIDER TIP : I lived in Prague back in 1998 (yes, that was ages ago). Back then, the Czech Republic was an unknown travel destination. When you walked the streets in smaller towns, you still felt like you were exploring before the hordes of tour buses came. Bulgaria has that same feeling. It's a beautiful country off-the-beaten-path. In 10 years or less, Plovdiv or Sofia will be the next Budapest or Prague. Get here before others do.
10) History is Everywhere
Another historical attraction is less than two hours from Sofia. The black and white architecturally stunning Rila Monastery is a UNESCO heritage site built in the 10th century.
INSIDER TIP : Plovdiv, my choice as the best city to live in Bulgaria, is literally the oldest city in Europe. People have been living in this city since 700 BC. That is B-C. As in BEFORE CHRIST. It makes Athens seem like a teenager by comparison.
Fast forward a few centuries and explore a different kind of ruin. This one is about three hours from Sofia in the heart of the Bulgarian mountains. A bumpy potholed road leads up to the Buzludzha Monument- technically called the "House-Monument of the Bulgarian Communist Party." But most folks call it the "Bulgarian UFO."
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