Is Bulgaria Safe? Overall, tourists visit Bulgaria more frequently than its Balkan counterparts. Despite that, people often underrate the country when it comes to tourism. However, this was not always the case.
Back in the Soviet Union times, it was the key touristic location for travelers from the Soviet Union. Since none of the usual vacation destinations like Spain, Greece, or Portugal were available, Bulgaria was the place to be!
“Bulgaria was among the most hard-hit by the crime wave accompanying the transformation of the totalitarian state”– Center of the Study of Democracy / From: Organized Crime in Bulgaria: Markets and Trends
However, after the fall of Communism, this changed drastically. People started to perceive Bulgaria as a rather unsafe country to travel to. Back in the early 90s, the Mafia began to corrupt and take over the country. This of course also led to a lot of violent criminal activity.
The report on the Organized Crime in Bulgaria indicates that street crime increased four times. While some specific types increased from 10 to 20 times. At the time, Bulgaria was only surpassed by Romania and East Germany in terms of crime rates. Furthermore, various criminal networks were established across the country. The main ones are the following:
- The Drug Market
- Prostitution and Human Trafficking
- The Vehicle Theft Market
- The Illegal Antiquities Trade
So, What Changed?
So, is Bulgaria safe today? Nowadays, Bulgaria is far from what it used to be back in the 90s. Although, the country was literally crushed by corruption and organized crime, the situation has significantly improved. After entering the EU in 2007, a lot of changes were and continue to be implemented to reduce crime.
Aside from Croatia and Romania, Bulgaria is currently having the lowest corruption rates of all the other Post-Soviet countries. However, corruption is still a very big problem in the country.
The Corruption Perceptions Index shows that, out of all members of the EU, Bulgaria classifies as the most corrupted country. This sad fact is also the reason for the ongoing since 9th of July 2020 Bulgarian protests.
Light at The End of The Tunnel
Nevertheless, aside from the corruption and organized crime problem, Bulgaria is in fact a very safe country to visit. Although these problems are damaging for Bulgarians, it is not really affecting tourists. Bulgarians are known for their hospitality. Tourism is very important for the country, so locals usually take good care of tourists.
Based on the Global Peace Index, Bulgaria is currently holding a score of 1.628. This makes it safer than many of the most popular European tourist destinations. Some of these include the United Kingdom, Spain, Greece, Italy, and France!
Regardless, just like almost any other country, there are things that you need to keep in mind when visiting. For tips on what to do to avoid getting in trouble during your visit, simply keep on reading this article. Next, we’re going to break down the five most common forms of crime in Bulgaria.
Petty Crime in Bulgaria
When it comes to street crime, the chances of witnessing or falling victim of a violent crime is extremely rare. What is rather common when it comes to tourists is petty crime. However, this ususally only occurs either in big cities like Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna and Burgas or in tourist resorts. Smaller towns, villages and resorts that mostly host Bulgarian tourists are very rarely linked to petty crime.
Are you planning to go in one of Bulgaria’s main party resorts like Golden Sands or Sunny Beach? If yes, then you are more likely to be targeted. If not, then using your common sense is enough to keep you safe from pickpockets.
What you can do is to first of all always keep your belongings close in crowded areas or public transport. Secondly, you should consider carrying a photocopy of your passport if you are not in possession of an ID. Losing your only passport is dangerous, so you should consider keeping it safe in the place where you stay.
Public Transport, Taxis and Renting Cars
When it comes to transport, the major cities have very good links, especially Sofia! The capital city has it all – bus, tram, metro, and even trolleybus. Even if taxis are often the preferred choice for tourists due to their rather low prices, this is one of the most common ways you might get scammed.
Upon hearing English or foreign speech, some taxi drivers might charge you more. So, before traveling, you need to do your research and check which are the high rated taxi companies in Bulgaria.
One thing is to never go in a taxi where there is no price meter or it is “broken”. The second is to decline rides offered by people at the bus or train stations. The third is to look up a local taxi app that displays the correct price at the end of a ride. Similar to Uber, which Bulgaria doesn’t have yet.
However, the taxi network in Bulgaria is nowadays very ordered and you can order a taxi online through these said apps in almost all cities. Don’t worry about getting a taxi at the Bulgarian airports, because only licensed companies are allowed to enter there.
“Be careful where you park and never leave anything valuable out in display in your parked car.”
However, if you are considering to rent or come with a car, there are some things you should know. Be careful where you park and never leave anything valuable out in display in your parked car. Cars with foreign registration plates are more likely to get stolen or broken into.
Stray Animals in Bulgaria
Bulgaria has unfortunately a big problem with stray dogs and cats. In 9 out of 10 of the cases, they are harmless and usually vaccinated against rabies. However, you should still always keep your guard on when approaching a pack of dogs. Although they might look cute, it’s best to refrain from petting them.
ATM and Exchange Desk Frauds
Although Bulgaria is in the European Union, the accepted currency is Bulgarian Leva (BGN). If possible, try to exchange your money in your home country before traveling. An alternative would be to use international bank cards like Revolut or TransferWise. However, if you decide to withdraw or exchange your money here, be wary of possible frauds.
In order to avoid getting scammed, only use the ATMs located in banks or shopping centers. Furthermore, be wary of the exchange desks around the central areas. Before exchanging your money, make sure that you calculate the right amount based on the daily currency rate.
Moreover, keep in mind that while cards are widely accepted, that is not always the case. If you are heading to a bar for a drink, make sure you have cash, because cards are rarely accepted. This is especially true in smaller Bulgarian towns and villages.
So Is Bulgaria Safe?
So, is Bulgaria safe? All in all, Bulgaria is a very safe country with very hospitable people and a lot to offer. As long as you use your common sense, you will not get into any trouble.
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Bulgaria is an unbelievably beautiful country. Home to a wealth of attractions and food, it’s one that is definitely worth exploring. From breathtaking nature to various historical sides, you will not get bored!