Bansko - Bulgaria's “Little Switzerland”

четвъртък, 12 март 2009 г.

The Basics of Bulgaria

Essential reading for those not sure where they are
Basic data, spoken language, social, etc.

Basic data

Territory: Bulgaria takes up 110, 550 km2 of land.

It shares borders with Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and Romania.

The country is bordered to the east by a 354km-long stretch of Black Sea coastline.

Rivers: The main rivers in the country are Danube, Maritsa, Mesta, Strouma, Iskar, Yantra.

There are more than 1000 warm and cold mineral springs. Highest Point: Musala (2925m), south of Sofia in the Rila mountains. Population of Bulgaria: 7,385,367 (July 2006 est.) Population of Sofia: 1,377,531 (July 2006 est.) Local time: Bulgaria is part of the Eastern European Time Zone (GMT +2); when it is noon in Sofia it is 11:00 in Berlin, 10:00 in London and 05:00 in New York City.

Religion: Traditional religion in the Republic of Bulgaria is Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Orthodox 85%, Muslim 8%, others 7%.

Market values

How do costs compare to back home? Here is handy list of local prices to give you an idea. Loaf of white bread # Snickers bar # Litre of vodka # Bottle of local beer # 20 Marlboros. Cost in Leva 0.80 # 0.80 # 20.00 # 1.50 # 5.00 Cost in Euro 0.40 # 0.40 # 10.00 # 0.80 # 2.50

Body language

The first thing that any visitor to Bulgaria needs to know is that ”yes” is indicated by a shake of the head, while “no” is expressed with a nod. It’s a tribute to the resilience of Bulgarian culture over the centuries that such obtuse habits have been preserved. Foreigners have no choice but to practice the correct Bulgarian gestures in front of the mirror every morning before they go out.

Spoken Language
Bulgarian in a nutshell

The official language of Bulgaria is Bulgarian. It's alphabet is called Cyrillic. The script is said to have been created in the 9th century by Saint Climent, a disciple of the Salonica brothers Saints Cyril (hence, Cyrillic alphabet) and Methodius, Bulgarian missionaries commissioned by the Byzantine emperor to translate the New Testament into Old Bulgarian (Old Church Slavonic). The Cyrillic alphabet is based in large part on the Greek alphabet, however, a few letters were created to represent Slavic sounds that didn't have Greek equivalents.

Currently, the Cyrillic alphabet is in use in the following Slavic countries: Macedonia, Serbia, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Belarus and, naturally, Bulgaria. It is also the official writing system in Mongolia.

The Cyrillic alphabet (pronounced /sɨˈrɪlɪk/; also called azbuka, from the old name of the first two letters) is a family of alphabets, subsets of which are used by six Slavic national languages (Belarusian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Russian, Serbian and Ukrainian) as well as non-Slavic (Kazakh, Uzbek, Kyrgyz and Tajik of the former Soviet Union, and Mongolian).

It is also used by many other languages of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Siberia and other languages in the past. Not all letters in the Cyrillic alphabet are used in every language that is written with it.

The alphabet has official status with many organizations. With the accession of Bulgaria to the European Union on 1 January 2007, Cyrillic became the third official alphabet of the EU, along with Latin and Greek.


If you are travelling within the EU those over 18 can now take 10L of spirits, 90L of wine and 110L of beer. Most countries will not allow more than 200 cigarettes from Bulgaria. You’re not allowed to export antiques, artworks or coins of numismatic value unless you have a permit issued by the Ministry of Culture. Due to fears about child trafficking, travellers with small children may be asked for documentary evidence of their parental relationship before being allowed to leave the country.


Bulgaria runs on a 220 volt electricity supply (so some visitors will need to bring a transformer). Standard continental two-prong plugs are used, so others will need to furnish themselves with an adaptor if they want to use their hairdryer/phone/ charger/laptop.


Citizens of the EU, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA can stay in the country visa-free for 90 days. Nationals of other countries should contact the Bulgarian embassies or consulates in their home countries about visa arrangements. Note that visas cannot be obtained at the border. If you wish to extend your stay beyond the 90-day period you should apply for a residence permit from the Immigration Office or Bansko Municipality, B-2 pl. Nikola Vaptsarov, 886 11,

Roads & Traffic police

Most Bulgarians turn into psychopaths as soon as they get behind the wheel of a car, although given the state of the road network one can hardly blame them. Cow-sized potholes, suicidal pedestrians and drunken cyclists riding on the wrong side of the road are just some of the things to look out for – and with hazards like these you need to swerve around like a stunt driver in order to stay in one piece.

In order to drive on Bulgarian roads outside Bansko you’ll need to purchase a vignette which must be glued to the windscreen. You can get these from border crossings, all post offices and OMV and Shell gas stations.

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