Bulgaria Transport: What to Know

By Sara | July 22, 2016

In Western Europe, transportation is pretty easy to figure out. With plenty of busses, trains, and flights, there are many ways to get around. Bulgaria transport is a bit of a different story and is not always as simple to navigate.

Both Apple and Google maps are severely lacking in Bulgaria, and many places aren’t searchable. Our hope is that this post can help other travelers figure out Bulgaria transport services with ease.

Getting In

The best way to arrive in Bulgaria varies depending on which country you’re traveling from. Those coming from Western Europe and beyond should fly for simplicity. Flight service RyanAir has regular flights from London.

Bussing is an option, but expect to switch services several times. Eastern and Western bus services run to different places. The service Flixbus is a great option for traveling Western Europe, and will take travelers as far as Romania. From there, the border crossing isn’t too difficult or pricey, and there are several bus options into Bulgaria.

Bulgaria Transport

Option 1: Train

Train travel is the cheapest Bulgaria transport method, but is not the most efficient or comfortable. Most Bulgarian transport services do not allow online booking, so you need to go to the actual station. Finding a ticket worker that speaks English can be difficult, so bring a translation app along. Booking a ticket days in advance will not save you money, and many times is not even allowed.

To purchase a ticket, first find out your departure day and time. Then, on your day of travel purchase a ticket at the station. Not all trains have snacks and toilet paper, so be prepared to bring your own. Also, don’t overdress; most trains lack air-conditioning. If you haven’t guessed yet, this isn’t our favorite method of Bulgaria transport.

Option 2: Bus

Bussing in Bulgaria is great if you don’t need to be somewhere by a certain time. Busses run on a loose schedule, so find out what time the bus should leave, then show up 30 minutes early. We’ve had busses scheduled for 11:30 that left at 11:10, and busses scheduled for 5:00 that left at 5:20. Busses are only slightly more expensive than trains in Bulgaria, and range $3-$15.

Option 3: Carpool

Bulgaria is the first country that we’ve carpooled in, and now it’s our favorite way to save money on transportation. A great resource is BlaBlaCar which is a ride sharing app used throughout Europe. It has regular rides from one end of Bulgaria to the other as well as rides that cross country borders. Be sure to check every day for your ride. This service works best if your dates are flexible.

Another option is to join a Facebook carpool group. You’ll likely need to translate the page from Bulgarian, but there are many groups that post rides throughout Bulgaria. The benefit of this approach is that you get to meet a local and get to your destination much faster. A carpool from one end of the country to the other cost us about $10 USD each.

Option 4: Fly

Flying in between cities is always an option, but is the most expensive choice. No special tips here, just catch a cab to the airport and board your flight. For tips on how to find cheap flights, check out this post.

Getting Out

To leave Bulgaria, there are similar options to getting in. On our trip, we found a carpool from Sofia to Vienna for €40 per person. Considering the amount of borders crossed on the 14 hour ride, it was a great deal! There are other options as well including:

Flying: Fastest option but will be more expensive

Trains: From the capital Sofia, the farthest north a train will get you is Bratislava, for €80 per person. Prices range from €60-120 depending on the type of train and distance of the ride. The trains don’t go farther than Slovakia, so you’ll need to switch back to Western Europe services after that point.

Busses: To get accurate information head to the actual bus station. Many busses can take you to neighboring countries from which travelers can switch to Western European services.

Bulgaria is a unique country and a provides different experience than other places in Europe. Don’t let the Bulgaria transport trickiness dissuade you from visiting, but plan ahead and be flexible! Have any other Bulgaria transport tips? Comment below!

How to Travel Europe for More Than 90 Days

By Sara | March 22, 2016

For many, traveling Europe is a dream. For those who turn that dream into a reality, you’ll soon find that Europe is a broad, amazing place to travel through. We sure did, and began extending our stays in each city. However, we soon encountered a problem: the Schengen Agreement.

The Schengen Area was formed in 1985 in Schengen, Luxembourg. The gist of the agreement was to make several countries in Europe “borderless,” thus treating them as one country in regards to travel. It abolished border checks at common borders of all countries involved, making travel between countries seamless for European residents.

While this works well for residents of the EU, non-residents are limited to 90 days of Schengen Area travel within every 180-day period. Once day 91 occurs, travelers must exit the Schengen area for 90 days before re-entering or risk fines and deportation.

For most vacationers, this is not a problem. For frequent travelers who want to stay longer, there are some work around options.

Option 1: Leave the Schengen Area

This is the simplest choice. There are still countries in Europe that are not part of the agreement. These include the UK, Ireland, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Cyprus, Belarus, Moldova, Turkey, Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia, Macedonia and Croatia. See the up to date map of the Schengen Area for updated information.

The easiest option is to leave the Schengen Area and explore parts of Europe that are not in the agreement. With the countries listed above to choose from, three months won’t be enough time!

Option 2: Get a Long-Term Visa

Germany: Germany has an appealing option of a self-employment visa. If you can prove that you make sufficient income from your own business or by freelancing, make an appointment at the consulate office to get a one or two year European visa.

France: France offers a long-term visitor visa for a period of up to one year, a visa “D”. This visa allows you to stay in France for up to 12 months. To get this visa, you must set up an appointment at a French consulate office and show necessary documents.

Italy: Italy offers a one year visa for those who promise not to work whilst in the country. You’ll have to prove proof of sufficient funds to support yourself before this visa is granted.

Sweden: Sweden offers a one year visitor visa as well. Make an appointment at the consulate and bring the necessary forms. If you are approved, you’ll have to pass an interview on why you want to stay for a year before getting your visa.

Obtaining any one of these visas will allow you travel anywhere in Europe for the duration of that visa.

Option 3: Study Abroad

If you take courses at a University in Europe, the school will usually take care of all of this for you. The visa you get that allows you to study in your country abroad will allow you to travel to European countries as well during your stay.

Option 4: Get Married

While not the most practical option, it’s still an option. If you get engaged to a European national, you can then apply for a marriage visa.

Conclusion:

It’s not impossible to stay longer than 90 days in Europe, but it is a process. Be sure to plan well in advance should you wish to use any of these options, or just leave every 90 days for 90 days and then come back. There’s a lot of world to explore, so go see it!

NOTE: This post is mainly aimed at citizens of the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand since the visa policies are similar. Be sure to check if you need a Schengen visa before traveling to Europe or whether you can travel with just a passport.