If you want to get around Bulgaria using the public transport, this is not that difficult. Plus, public transport is quite cheap. Have in mind, however, these few tips when looking for public transportation:
- The bus transport between cities is faster than the state railways (BDZ), but it’s a bit more expensive. It is mostly private transport companies, comfortable (air-condition in most, movies in some), reliable.
- The bus transport between villages is done by both private shuttles and state buses. Opt for the private shuttle where possible – faster and newer, pricing is usually the same.
- Bigger cities (Sofia, Veliko Tarnovo, etc) have several bus stations. One is usually for inter-city buses. The others for local transport (in between villages in the area). So make sure to inquire which bus stop your bus will depart from.
- The railways have delays now and then and might be pretty full, especially around public holidays and in the summer (trains to the seaside). In this case you may book a first-class ticket, not much more expensive, but at least will ensure a comfortable trip.
- For night travel with the railways opt for a sleeping wagon, your travel will be way more comfortable. Sleeping wagons better be booked in advance, especially throughout the summer.
- If you buy tickets online – it’s best that you also print them, not just have them on your phone, tablet, etc
Booking bus and railway tickets online:
Union Ivkoni (online tickets with discount, but interface is in Bulgarian)
Transport on the Black seaside
If you’ve headed to the Black seaside, you’d probably want to move around in between the resorts (check out also Ravadinovo castle near Sozopol). Do not take taxis – they overcharge quite a lot! Go to the bus station and you are bound to find many private shuttles departing for your desired destination – mostly private bus companies. Cost is times less than a taxi.
Have in mind that Burgas and Varna are the main hubs for the shuttles. So, if you want to travel from a resort 1 south of Burgas to a resort 2 north of Varna lets say, take a shuttle first from resort 1 to Burgas bus station, in Burgas take a shuttle to Varna (it stops at all major resorts between Burgas and Varna), then from Varna bus station take a shuttle northwards of Varna, to your resort 2.
Shuttles are very frequent throughout the summer season. Drivers speak enough English, so don’t hesitate to ask them where they stop, if you are hesitating.
If you are a party – you may as well rent a car to go around. In any resort there are for sure free parking places, if not in the resort center, then a bit outside of the resort center.
About transport using taxis
Taxis are of course not public transport but since often they are the most convenient transport, especially for transport in the cities, here are some tips:
- Many taxis will overcharge, especially if they see you are a foreign tourist. If staying in a hotel, better ask the reception to call a trusted taxi company rather than catch a taxi on the street
- Upon entering the taxi, monitor the bill. If you see it gets increased pretty fast – just get off at some point.
- The taxi overcharge issue is particularly observed in the capital Sofia. For Sofia I would advise to just install the mobile app TaxiMe (Play store and App store) and call a taxi using it (you may enter a promo code GREETBG for 2 leva off your first bill). The rates are fair and everything is tracked via the mobile app. You can also pay via a credit / debit card. See also my article on how to avoid being overcharged for taxi at Sofia airport
Transport using private drivers
Private drivers are another convenient option for travelling around Bulgaria, if don’t feel like using the public transport or renting a car. They will help you make the most of your vacation, being familiar with how to approach and make the most of the major tourist sights in the country.
You can book a fixed rate taxi with an English speaking driver. There are some companies with good reviews and transparent terms. Check out Around Bulgaria which has pretty good reviews on TripAdvisor (see also their website and Facebook page).