Cost of Living in Varna Bulgaria- Black Sea Beaches, Fun, and Sun for $1000

09/25

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QUICK SUMMARY- COst Of Living In Varna Bulgaria

  • Monthly budget in Varna = $1,000 <skip to budget details>.
  • Bulgaria is one of the cheapest countries in Europe.
  • Varna is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts.
  • Beach vibe and atmosphere at a fraction of the cost of similar cities on the Mediterranean.

Bulgaria is a criminally underrated beach destination. I am a Bulgarian citizen, so there may be a smidge of bias, but I lived and worked in France and the Netherlands for over five years. I moved back to Varna two years ago to spend time with my husband, enjoying the Black Sea beaches and sunshine.

After grinding away in expensive cities and cold climates, the warm coasts, relaxed quality of life, and the low cost of living in Varna called me home.

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Other Guides On Living In Bulgaria

25 Dos and Don’ts in Bulgaria- Culture and Communication Mistakes To Avoid
Bulgaria- 10 Reasons To Move To The Cheapest Country In Europe
Cost of Living in Sofia, Bulgaria- The Cheapest Capital In The EU

Bulgaria is ideal for outdoorsy types and nature lovers, and there are numerous benefits to living in Varna. Still, I know for expat retirees and digital nomads, affordable living cost is the main attraction. With inexpensive al-fresco dining, discount summer opera, and no-cost fitness options, I don't blame them.

Beaches on the Black Sea can be enjoyed for a fraction of the cost of the Mediterranean

Opera Theater of Varna- A ticket (translated into ENG during the Summer) starts at 20 BGN/ $13 USD

Why I Choose To Move To Varna?

Varna is not a megapolis, but it's the 3rd largest city (after Sofia and Plovdiv) with 500,000 inhabitants. The city, sitting on the Black Sea's coast, is locally dubbed the Sea Capital of Bulgaria. There are four well-known universities in Varna - Technical University, University of Economy, Medical University, and Varna Free University. The schools attract loads of international students through affordable fees and high-quality curriculums.

Another advantage for expats living in Varna is the many international companies and outsourcing businesses that have chosen Varna as a hub. These multinational corporations welcome native speakers looking for career opportunities. If you speak a foreign language, you will easily find a job.

Finally, as the weather is sunny and warm in Varna, beautiful weather allows you to spend more time outdoors, and that a tremendous difference compared to the deary Netherlands.

Let's go through the lifestyle you can afford in Varna, then breakdown the examples and details of Varna's cost of living.

The local currency is the Bulgaria Lev (BGN). At the time of this writing, the exchange rate is 1 US Dollar = 1.6 BGN, and 1 BGN converts to .21 Euros.  

What Is The Cost Of Living In Varna?


$1000- Cost of Living in Varna Bulgaria Details [HIDE]

Total Monthly Expense$1001
COST PER MONTH
Rent- Furnished two-bedroom apartment365
Water/Sewer/Management/Electricity85
High-Speed Internet/Cable TVINCLUDED
Cell Phone- 15 GB Internet Per Month13
Total Housing Expense463
Home Cooked Meals 10 times per week119
Light Breakfast with Coffee 5 times per week41
Hot Stands Take Away 5 times per Week82
Mid-Priced Restaurant w/ wine 2 times per Month36
Total Food Expense277
Movie Theater 2 tickets once per Month16
Budget Night Out- 3 beers once per Week52
Exercising and Jogging Outdoors- FREE-
Total Entertainment68
Monthly Pass Bus, Tram, Trolley14
Monthly Pass Subway18
Uber/Taxi 1 time per Week21.66666667
Total Transportation Expense53
Travel Health Insurance50
Health Care Expense50
60 minute massage 1 time per month20
Personal Care (Shampoo, etc.) & Household Items (Soap, etc.)20
Beautician Services for Facials50
Total Personal Care and Misc Expense90
Exchange Rate to $1 USD to Lev (BGN)1.6

 EDITOR'S NOTE : Looking for more information on Bulgaria?

How do costs in Varna compare to the United States?

Let's add some context to the $1,000. Let's compare a medium-cost US city (Portland) to a city in Bulgaria (Varna).

The Top 4 essential costs in the US are housing, food, transportation, and healthcare. The lower cost of living in Varna could save you almost $20,000 per year.

Major Expenses

US-

Portland

BG-

Varna

HOUSING

$962

$463

FOOD

$313

$277

TRANSPORTATION

$862

$53

HEALTHCARE

$353

$50

Total Average Per Month

$2,490

$843

Save 66% on Major Monthly Expenses

Varna offers a high quality of life at tremendous value. With low real estate prices, cheap fresh produce, and affordable entertainment, Varna offers expats plenty of geoarbitrage opportunities to maximize their money.

What Kind of Lifestyle Can I Afford On $1000 Per Month?

Lounging in the sun with fresh fruits and Bulgarian white cheese epitomizes summer in Varna

How Much Is Rent In Varna?

Housing Costs

$463

Real Estate prices are a crucial factor of your monthly budget and maybe the most important thing on your to-do list after moving abroad.

In European countries like the Netherlands it's near impossible to find decent accommodation at reasonable prices in the major cities. As an example, my experience looking for a one-bedroom apartment in Utrecht took me four months. I scavenaged a 70 sq.m. apartment a 20-minute walk from the city center for 900 EUR/ $1100 USD per month. I was thrilled when I moved in until I discovered my apartment was located in a sketchy neighborhood.

Fortunately, that is not the case in Varna. Accommodation costs are reasonable, with average prices for a decent two-bedroom apartment ( 70 and 100 sq.m. ) between 500 - 700 BGN/ $300 to $430 USD.

Your monthly costs will increase if you are looking for luxury housing or property close to the seaside. Compared to living on the beach in Western Europe (Greece, Italy, Spain, etc.), you will still find tremendous value with lower housing costs.

If you rent an apartment in Varna, very often, there is already electricity, water, internet connection in the accommodation. You will have to pay for them separately every month, as your monthly rental costs rarely include utilities.

For a rough estimate, I pay around 200 BGN/ $120 USD per month for electricity, water, internet, mobile, and Netflix for a household of two living in a 70 sq.m. apartment. Depending on your household, your monthly expenses may vary.

 INSIDER TIP : Apartment Hunting- There are many websites with advertising accomodations in English.

  • Bulgarian Properties is dedicated to expats/ foreigners
  • Imot.bg is the biggest real estate website in Bulgaria, but will require Google translate.

What are the best neighborhoods for expats?

From a personal perspective, the city center is not the ideal area to live in even if it's close to the sea. There are not enough parking slots in the central neighborhoods, and the infrastructure is terrible. The most international areas remain "Chataldzha" and "Briz."

Chataldzha neighborhood is close to the Medical University and the city center with proper infrastructure and many cute restaurants and cafes around to eat.

Briz is located a little bit further but is closer to the coast with a lovely sea

I live in a neighborhood between the airport and the city center and take a bus to work. It only takes me only 30 minutes to get to the city center, and I can even walk it.

With practical expenses like housing, electric bills, and transportation out of the way, it's time to jump to my favorite topic about living in Varna - food!

How Much Do Meals Cost In Varna?

An All-You-Can-Eat steak lunch can be found for $6

Food Costs

$277

First, you need to understand that the climate here allows Bulgaria to grown an abundance of delicious seasonal fruit and vegetables during the warm months of the year.

You also have the luxury of specialized markets for meat, dairy products, fruit and vegetable shops where you can buy high-quality products. No matter if you are vegetarian, vegan, or a meat lover, you will enjoy delicious food at affordable prices in Varna. If you prefer grocery shopping and cooking at home, you can set up your monthly budget at 800BGN/ 500USD per month for three meals a day.

If you prefer doing your groceries at one go, there are big supermarkets like Lidl and Kaufland. I go to Lidl once or twice per week and cook over the weekend. During the week, I buy cooked food from the local supermarket. Bulgarian supermarkets usually have what locals called "hot stands" where you can buy cooked food to take away. Hot stands save you time, and they are cheaper than the restaurant. Cheap, tasty, and ready-made meals are a life changer for expats and busy people like me.

When I work from the office, I have breakfast and lunch outside. A coffee and a croissant outside will cost about 3BGN/ 2USD. Lunch at an inexpensive restaurant is around 6BGN/ 4USD. For the first two meals of the day, I only spent 9BGN/ 6USD.

Banitsa $1- Buttery pastry filled with salted white cheese is a classic breakfast

Mussels in white wine and lemon $5- The Black Sea provides a daily supply of treats

Fresh Berries and Crepes $3- Taking full advantage of cheap summer fruits

Let's talk about eating outside (al fresco) in Varna. As the seaside weather warms up between April and October, Bulgarians love going out for dinner and eating al fresco. The Port of Varna has become a symbolic place for dinner with all the lovely restaurants where you can hang out with friends and family and have good food. Keep in mind that eating outside in Bulgaria is relatively cheap compared to Western Europe. However, if you do it regularly, it will have a significant impact on your monthly budget. A dinner outside, including one glass of wine, costs around 30 BGN/ $18 USD per person in a mid-range restaurant. Depending on the number of glasses of wine, your mileage may vary.

expats enjoying outdoor dining with the low cost of living in varna bulgaria

Dining Al Fresco in the main pedestrian area

How Much Should I Budget For Entertainment?

Beach clubs are ideal for beers during the day with friends or cocktails and dancing at night

Entertainment and Sports

$68

If you like working out and job outdoors, the Morskata Gradina (translated to Sea Garden) in Varna is the place for you. There are 850 acres of tree-covered walkways and running paths, and a seaside promenade stretching along the coast.

The moderate temps in the city allow you to exercise outdoors all year long. The city embraces outdoor fitness; you'll see locals getting their sweat on in nearly every schoolyard. You don't need a monthly budget for fitness here; you can have it all for free!

Relax in the sun and sand during the summer or stroll by the sea in the winter. Enjoy the vibe only comes from living on a beach, 

  • Gym Membership $25-  If you prefer having a monthly subscription to a gym, fees average between 40 - 100 BGN/ 25 - 60 USD per month.
  • Beers $1- Large bottles of Kamenitza (a local beer) can be picked up at stores for less than a dollar. Grab a few bottles and enjoy the beach with friends. 
  • Beach Club Night Out $5- In the mood for a party night out? Cubo Beach Club is has cheap drinks, a sea breeze, and a wild atmosphere. Havana Club cocktails are just 8 lev/$5. The crowd leans a bit young and music a bit loud, but if you are in the mood to boogie until the early morning, Cubo is hard to beat.

You'll find spots all around the city for FREE year-round workouts

Bring your exercise indoors for less than $25 a month

What Does Transportation Cost?

Public buses all over town run roughly every 20 minutes and only cost 0.60 cents

Transportation

$53

Varna looks big on the map, but actually, it's very compact. You can easily reach every corner of the city by public transportation. No matter your commute, it will not take you more than 30 minutes to get to your destination. A car will save you some time on your commute, but if you don't drive, it's not a big deal. Varna's public transport is extensive. You can reach the farthest areas in Varna by bus with only a single connection. The public transport options between different cities and villages are well developed. Getting around is efficient and cheap; a bus ticket in Varna costs 1BGN/ 0.60USD.

Another plus when comparing Varna to Western Europe is that taxis are cheap. If you need a faster way of transportation, book a taxi. Affordable legal taxis are one of the main reasons why Uber is not more popular in the country.

 INSIDER TIP :   Taxi Scams- Like many cities in Europe, it is not unheard of for taxi scammers to prey on visiting foreigners. When I was living in Varna, I used the TaxiMe app on my phone in situations where a bus wasn't an option.  

International Flights

For traveling abroad, the city has an international airport (VAR). Low-cost airlines Wizz, Easyjet, and Ryanair, fly out of VAR. Several of the biggest European cities are a two-hour ($20) flight away. There are a train and bus station with regular connections to Sofia as well.

Flight Connections Map

 INSIDER TIP :   Cost of Weekend Trips From Varna-This country has it all: golden sands beaches (we literally have towns called Golden Sands and Sunny Beach), gorgeous mountains and ski resorts, mystical historical sites, and many natural wonders to discover.

If you live in Varna, you can easily explore the Black Sea coast by public transport. However, if you are a hiking addict, all the mountains and ski resorts are closer to Sofia. Fortunately, there are several agencies organizing tours over the weekends. Your tour guides might explain everything in Bulgarian, but it's a simple transportation option if you don't have a car.

Other Miscellaneous Costs


Affordable Luxuries In Varna

Here are examples of the inexpensive prices for hobbies and activities in the city:

  • Glass of wine - 5 BGN/ 3 USD
  • Lesson at a yoga studio/ gym - 8 BGN/ 5 USD
  • Swimming pool fee - 5 BGN/ 3 USD
  • Opera/ theatre ticket (translated into ENG when the performance is at the Summer Theatre) - 20 BGN/ 13 USD
  • Cinema ticket - between 10 and 15 BGN/ 6 - 9 USD
  • Museum ticket - 10 BGN/ 6 USD
  • Haircut men/ women 10 - 20 BGN/ 6 - 12 USD
  • Massage 25 - 50 BGN/ 15 - 30 USD
  • Facial treatment - 50 BGN/ 30 USD
  • Nails 25 BGN/ 15 USD
  • For readers, there is a public library with an international book section. Annual fees are around 10 BGN/ 6 USD. 

Important Information About Moving To Bulgaria


Healthcare

$50

Healthcare In Bulgaria

Bulgaria has grown into a medical tourism destination. While the public system is lower than typical European standards, the private health care system is advanced, well equipped, and cheaper than countries in Western Europe. Many doctors and staff at private hospitals are bilingual, so communication is not a significant issue.

  • The Bulgarian healthcare system is a heritage from the communist era. Every member of society contributes a little bit, as low as $16 per month. The remaining medical costs are covered by the government and the employers.
  • You can easily get an appointment with a doctor/ specialist (I am comparing with Netherlands where I had to wait for months to get an appointment with a doctor.)
  • There are very good and knowledgeable specialists in Bulgaria that can really help you and give you a good piece of advice

The downside of healthcare in Bulgaria are the hospitals - many of them are in very bad shape. The equipment they do possess is old and there are not enough resources to buy new beds and make the patients' rooms comfortable. (I've been to the hospital twice last year, I know from first hand).

I've been to the hospital twice last year (for surgery). I've been operated by two very good specialists and I paid peanuts as I am covered by my employer. However, the hospitals I was in were terrible - old beds, bad food etc.

 EDITOR'S NOTE : Mandatory Medical insurance for Foreigners- Expats with Bulgarian residence permits must have Bulgarian Health Insurance. The price for expat health insurance varies on age and coverage level (minimum coverage required is 60 000 leva/ $37,000). A local insurance quoted me $200/ 320 BGN per year for insurance with "high risk" sports coverage included (boxing, gymnastics, snowboarding). Since Bulgarian health insurance does not cover me outside the country, I included an international health insurance plan. My travel medical insurance costs $50 per month and covers me anywhere in the world outside of the US.

Will My Home Country Health Insurance Cover Me?

Most likely no. Most health insurance will not cover you for any injuries sustained outside your home country. To get protection while living abroad, there are two options:

  • Travel Health Insurance- This will cover you for unexpected medical issues while overseas. However, the coverage requires you maintain insurance in the United States or your respective home country. I pay roughly $50 per month for complete coverage with no deductible.
  • Expat Medical Insurance- If you retire abroad, expat health insurance is a more complete option. Expat Medical Insurance is the "normal" insurance you are familiar with to from home. Coverage is built for people who live in a country versus traveling. While more expensive than Travel Medical Insurance, premiums are still cheaper than the US. 

Will I Have To Pay Taxes Living In Bulgaria?

If Bulgaria classifies you as a tax resident, you will be taxed on your worldwide income. Non-residents are taxed only on their Bulgarian-source income, which has a very broad legal definition. This definition includes work performed in Bulgaria or real estate (rental or sale) income. 

Note to Digital Nomads, any income from rendering services in the territory of Bulgaria is deemed Bulgarian-source income, regardless of from where or by whom it is paid.

You are considered a Bulgarian tax resident if one or more of the following apply:

  • You are in the country more than 183 days in any 12-month period.
  • You have a permanent address in Bulgaria (but only if their centre of vital interests is also in Bulgaria, please see below).
  • Your "center of vital interests" (personal and economic ties) is in Bulgaria

Bulgaria has a double taxation treaty with the US. To understand how to minimize your expat tax liability, speak with a tax advisor for details. 

What Is Not Included In The Monthly Budget?

Expat Taxes

If you stay longer than 183 days, many countries will consider you a tax resident. Being an expat may help you save money on your taxes. Talk to a tax professional to see how tax residency applies to you. I partnered with a firm specializing in expat taxes to secure a special deal for Nomadic FIRE readers.


Use the promotion code "Nomadic25Consultation" for $25 off a tax consultation to get you started. 


Even better, use their experts to prepare your tax return, and the entire consultation is FREE.

Moving Costs

Between customs, freight, packing costs, and ground transportation, figuring out how to move your stuff overseas can become complicated.  Partner with a certified international moving expert to ensure competitive rates and no hidden fees. 

What Are The Visa Requirements For Bulgaria?


Being in the European Union, Bulgaria does not charge US citizens to enter the country. Americans can stay in Bulgaria up to 90 days out of 180 days visa-free.

For other nationalities, you can look up specific visa requirements here.

Bulgaria is in the EU but not currently a part of the Schengen agreement. They have applied to be part of the treaty, but as of 2020, they are still outside the Schengen zone.

Being outside the Schengen zone makes Bulgaria, along with Croatia, Romania, and Cyprus, a great way to refresh your 90-day allowance for Schengen while staying in the EU.

 EDITOR'S NOTE : How can I stay long-term in Bulgaria? - If you have a government pension or social security, Bulgaria has a retirement visa for non-EU/EEA citizens (that's you, United States, UK, and Canada folks). The first step in a retirement visa is to apply for a "Visa Type-D" in the consulate of your country of residence (Visa D costs $118 and takes ~35 business days to process). This visa allows you to live in Bulgaria for 6-months and allow you to complete the application process for the long-term residence permit. You will need to renew every year, but after five years, you can apply for a permanent residency permit.

I will have a complete article detailing the requirements, documents, and step-by-step process for the visa Type-D and the long-term residence permit. Sign up below to get notified when the article is published.

Compare Cost Of Living In Varna

Still researching the best cities for retirement? Check out our extensive Cost of Living collection for the best expat destinations. Get insider information and real examples of expat life from people who have spent years living abroad. I've compiled all the information you need: cost breakdowns, insider tips to save money, and detailed examples of the quality of lifestyle you can enjoy. 

Final Thoughts: What Are The Drawbacks To living in Varna?

The biggest disadvantage of moving to Bulgaria is the health system. Healthcare is public, and it's very cheap when your employer covers your insurance. However, the medical treatment comes from private clinics, where if you don't have insurance, the expensive treatment costs become your responsibility.

Expats may have issues with the language barrier when communicating with doctors or hospital administrations.  Ask a local friend for help if you need medical assistance. Bulgarians are very hospitable, and anyone in your social circle would be willing to assist.

Another con is the administrative paperwork. Non-EU Citizens require long-term residence permits. Again, you may need a local to give you a hand navigating that bureaucracy as well.

But, finding local friends or international communities will not be a problem in Varna. Local hospitality lets foreigners feel at home living here.

If you are a digital nomad or expat retiree looking for a low-cost destination in Europe, do not hesitate to buy a one-way ticket to Varna.

Resources for Working and Living Abroad

Start Speaking A New Language In 30 days

Pimsleur is the best method I have found to get to "Survival-Level" quickly when learning a new language. With Pimsleur, I can ease the stress of arriving in a new country and start speaking with people in my neighborhood. Ordering food, getting directions, haggling prices, and making friends is 10X easier when you can communicate in the local language.

Achieve better results using Pimsleur's short classes and organic learning methodology vs. the mindless repetition, endless verb conjugations, and tedious memorization of other language courses. 

Transfer Money Internationally

For expats and nomads, Wise offers an International Bank account for your money transfers. It's an easier and cheaper alternative for paying your bills while overseas.

Looking to buy property abroad, Wise has a Large Transfer Rate for even bigger savings. 

An International Mover You Can Trust

Suddath® simplifies overseas moving as a one-stop-shop for all your international moving needs. You will be supported by a professional, dedicated move counselor every step of the way. With an easier international relocation, you’re free to focus more on your new destination, while worrying less about the move.

Request a FREE international moving quote below.

Get Your US Expat Tax Questions Answered

US Expat taxes are the most complex in the world. However, living abroad comes with potential tax advantages, but mistakes are very easy to make. It is no wonder many expats are frustrated. 

Avoid complications, penalties, and fines, Taxes For Expats is here to help.

Protect Your Health While Abroad

Your home health insurance is unlikely to provide coverage for you while overseas. Get premium health insurance designed for expats and digital nomads that protects you anywhere you are in the world, even during a pandemic.

Use A Virtual Mailbox To Keep A Permanent US Address And Receive Important Documents and Packages

Get a US street address you can use while you are overseas. Use a digital mailbox with a REAL physical location to receive mail from USPS, FedEx, and UPS.

A virtual mailbox can receive and forward all your important documents and packages, replace credit cards, maintain state residency, get checks deposited, or file business and tax applications. Prices start at $6. 

Travel Tools and Resources

Skyscanner- My favorite airline search tool to find all the cheapest flights in one place.
Airport Pick-Up Service- Arrive at your destination stress-free with a private car cheaper than most taxis. 

Loctote- My favorite day pack. Secure your belongings while walking around town.

EXPAT INSIGHTS

I have traveled to over 40 countries to give you the best ways to save, invest, and live overseas for less cost than in the US. After five years of traveling, my list of places to live keeps getting longer. To give you more information on the best places to live abroad, I partner with experts from the expat community.

You want insider information from people with feet in the street? I only work with expats with real-life experience living in countries you want to know about. Together you get updated info on the best neighborhoods, detailed Cost of Living examples, money-saving advice, and recommendations on the local places to eat, drink, and see.

Are you a travel blogger with information you can share on living in another country? Contact me and let's talk about collaborating on a guest post. 

EXPAT CONTRIBUTION BY: Julia Dimova

My name is Julia, nice to meet you! I currently live and work in Varna, Bulgaria. I am a travel blogger, copywriter, and polyglot. I love traveling and discovering new places, meeting new people and cultures, and tasting local food. After having lived in France and The Netherlands for several years, I decided to come back home to enjoy the sun, the sea, and the relaxed lifestyle. Not to mention Bulgarian nature and diverse culture that I enjoy every weekend. I write a lot about Bulgaria and Varna in my blog www.orpheeway.com and will be glad to meet you in my homeland.



About the author

Hi, That's me. I'm Marco Sison. I am a survivor of the corporate rat race. I started Nomad FIRE to show you an alternative to the stress and grind of 70-hour weeks to pay off a mortgage, student loans, and countless bills. After getting laid off in 2015, I said screw it all and retired early at 41 years old. I have traveled the last five years to over 40 countries to show you the best ways to save, invest, and live in amazing countries for 70% less cost than the US. I have been featured in: US News & World Reports, Huffington Post, MSN Money, USA Today, ABC Network, Yahoo Finance, Best Life, CW Network, Dr. Wealth, and others. [view press...]

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