Can a visit to a small country in Eastern Europe be of any interest? Yes, unless you are from another Eastern European country (or even then!).
Bulgaria is small and not widely known as backpacking destination. It’s better known as a place of cheap beaches and cheap girls. This sucks, because there is more to see in there. Here are few ideas:
Where to Backpack In Bulgaria:
- In the big cities. Sofia (the Capital) is the usual place to land here. It’s a bit ugly and unorganized city but might be interesting if you come from the Western countries. There are plenty of hostels in Sofia at very good prices – find them at HostelWorld. Great for backpackers. Better looking big cities are Bourgas, Plovdiv and Varna. If you can land there, do it. Otherwise they are relatively easy to reach by train or bus from Sofia. In the big cities you’ll find young people, clubs, shopping centres, cheap food, cinemas, historical monuments etc. Pretty much what you would expect but with a little bit of Eastern taste. Varna and Burgas are on the Black Sea Coast so you’ll see the sea there as well
- In the small towns and villages. If you have the time, take the train or bus and move a little bit outside the big city you landed. Many small towns and villages are less than an hour away of the big cities – so they are excellent for a day trip.
- In the mountains. If you like trekking, go to Vitosha, Pirin, Rila, or Stara Planina. The mountains here are easy to reach and have well developed structure of huts.
How To Reach It
For Europeans the best way to come to Bulgaria is with some of the low cost airlines that operate accross Europe. There are good connections from England, Italy, Denmark, Netherlands, Germany, etc.
If you are from Asia it might be best to land in Istanbul in Turkey and then get the train to Sofia or a bus to Burgas. This may be far cheaper than flying to Sofia.
Coming from USA, Canada, Australia or New Zealand you may either land Istanbul again and get the train, or somewhere in Austria or Germany and take a low cost flight.
For information about visas etc check Wikitravel’s section on getting in Bulgaria.
When to Go
Unless you are keen to ski I would not recommend you to come in the Winter. Winter can be very unpleasant in Bulgarian cities. The sidewalks become wet, muddy or slippery. Public transportation gets crowded and delays are often. It’s cold and the day is short. Sofia looks especially sad in the period Nov – March.
The best time to visit Bulgaria is from May to September. It is usually hot and sunny although you should be prepared for occasional cold days (under 10 – 15 C mean temperature) especially in May, June and September and showers.
However be careful if you plan to visit the sea. In June, July and August the sea resorts are full and the prices of food, accomodation and plane tickets go up.
What Else – Some Random Tips
There is good tasty food in Bulgaria although not all restaurants prepare it well. Check the site I just linked, it will give you good idea where to look for delicious food.
Do try Bulgarian wines, their quality is excellent especially if you count the price. If you drink alcohol try also the famous rakia with some salad.
The people you’ll meet at hostels will most probably speak English well and most of them won’t be Bulgarians.
Many night clubs aren’t the best places to see in the country, be picky and don’t just enter any random one.
Be prepared to have hard time finding your way in Sofia and other big cities because the street signs are not always available in English and many times are confusing.
From Bulgaria you can easily reach Turkey, Greece, Serbia, Macedonia, and Romania by land (train, bus or car).
That’s it for now, if you have questions, feel free to ask. I happen to live here!