Guide to Driving In Bulgaria - Drive Safe in Bulgaria

Driving in Bulgaria

Are there any special requirements for driving or hiring a car in Bulgaria?

Driving in Bulgaria is on the right with overtaking on the left. You may not turn right on a red light. In Bulgaria signs are shown in Latin with the Cyrillic alphabet so it is good to have an understanding of the language.

There are various dangers to watch out for when driving in Bulgaria. The roads are generally in poor condition, and lanes often do not have markings. You are advised to drive defensively as driving standards and etiquette may not be what you are used to.

Particularly bad is the cross border road between the capital Sofia and Greece. Expect long delays. Ongoing road works make drivers even more impatient. There are also a number of heavy goods vehicles to watch out for. Driving in the countryside is beautiful but the roads are unpredictable. There can be potholes in certain areas and there is a risk of landslides. Watch out for animals in the road, especially when the harvest is taking place. Parts of Bulgaria can experience severe winter weather conditions so ask our rental staff about fitting winter tyres and snow chains to your vehicle.

Bulgaria-Winter

The police in Bulgaria generally do not bother tourists, but there have been some reports of fines for imagined offences. Do not pull over for anyone unless they have a white patrol car with POLICE marked across it in blue letters. There have been reports of criminals pretending to be law officers. It is not a legal requirement to pull over if you are in doubt as to the authenticity police. Do not try to bribe police officers, whilst it is consdiered not uncommon for locals, it is very unwise to suggest doing so as could lead to severe punishment beyond the initial offence.

Driving Laws

Seat Belt Laws

Seatbelts are required to be worn by all passengers in the car, front and rear. Rear seat passengers were only recently required by law to wear seatbelts (2014). On the spot fines of between 25-50 EUR are issues per person not wearing a seatbelt.

Drinking and Driving

The drinking limit is virtually zero tolerance and you could be fined for having a blood alcohol limit of as little as 0.05%. You should avoid drinking and driving at all costs as the penalties are very steep and can involve a long prison sentence. Otherwise there are on the spot fines for drink-driving.

Police are increasingly carrying our drug testing at the road side.

Must Have Documents

You should have a copy of your passport, domestic license and international driving permit. You must have proof of insurance. Police in Bulgaria can find you are not having the correct documents. You can use your domestic license but to be on the safe side you should also have an international driving permit.

Speed Limits

50 kilometres per hour in built up areas.
90 kilometres per hour on open roads.
140 kilometres per hour on highways.

Police in Bulgaria can give you an on the spot fine for exceeding the speed limit.

Minimum Driving Age

To drive in Bulgaria you should be 18 though most rental companies require you to be over 21 with a minimum of one year of driving experience.

Safety Camera Warning Devices

Audible warning devices are not allowed in Bulgaria and fines can be given if you are caught using them. Where speed camera warning signs were once in place, since 2017, these are no longer required by law and most have been removed.

On the Spot Fines

Police can and will impose on the spot fines for offences such as speeding or any other that goes against traffic regulations. 

Child Safety Rules

Children under the age of three must have a suitable car seat. Children over the age of three or at least 150cm tall do not have to be in a car seat but must be sat in the back of the car. It is the parent/guardian or the car renter’s responsibility to ensure a child is secured safely. 

Insurance

You must ensure you have proof of insurance with you at all times. This must be third party insurance or fully comprehensive. 

Rules of the Road

  • A difference to the UK is that it is compulsory to have your headlights on during the day -time.
  • You drive on the right and overtake on the left
  • Be aware of trams. Trams have right of way over other road users.
  • Use of the horn is forbidden (since 1960's) excpet where used in attempt to prevent an accident. Using your horn in anger is very unwise as likely to cause offence and likely an unwanted reaction from other drivers as seen as a sign of aggression, unlike many other parts of Europe where horn use is commonplace.

Towing Regulations

If you are planning on using a caravan, camper van or luggage trailer alongside your vehicle then you will be able to do so temporarily without a customs document. 

Speed Cameras

Speed cameras are used in Bulgaria and additional traffic patrol cars are often placed on the side of main roads, especially during the peak summer months. Take extra care when entering a small town or village as the speed limit will have changed and this is a common place for speed cameras to be placed. 

Using Mobile Phones when driving

The use of mobile phones while driving is prohibited in Bulgaria. A hands-free system can be used but you should still avoid touching the phone at anytime. 

Parking

There are many options for parking in Bulgaria and they should all be explored if you want to leave your car in a safe place. The best bet is to stay in a hotel and make use of their guarded parking. Even if you stay at a bed and breakfast then they may have a parking spot available so you should ask the owners about this.

Although it might be okay to park your car anywhere in the countryside, you should stick to parking lots or parking spaces on main streets in the city for safety. Parking is quite cheap costing 2 Leva an hour up to 6 Leva a day. Long-term parking spaces can be rented for around 60 Leva a month.

Bulgaria parking

Although you may see locals parking wherever they want, should follow the parking regulations. The Sofia City Council will clamp and tow your vehicle away if it is parked illegally. If they do so you can retrieve the car from the parking lot behind the National Palace of Culture. 

Motor Way Signs

Motorways have a blue background with white writing. The main motorways go between Chirpan - Dimitrovgrad and Sofia - Plovdiv and have up to three lanes.

Phrases

Hello -   Здравей/ zdravej
Goodbye  - Довиждане/ doviʒdane
Please  - Моля / molja
Thank you - Благодаря/ blagodarja
Excuse me - Извинете/ izvinete
Yes / No  -   Да / Не /  da / ne
I don’t understand  - Не разбирам / ne razbiram
I don’t know - Не знам / ne znam
Do you speak English - Говорите ли английски / govorite li anglijski

Traffic Lights

Toll Roads

There are a number of toll roads in Bulgaria and they provide a better driving experience with smooth and safe roads. Have some Leva handy.

Bulgaria Toll Road50 kilometres per hour in built up areas.
 

Emergency

Do not move your car unless it is in a dangerous position, and wait for the police to arrive. In case of emergency, Bulgaria has adopte the EU standard, call 112.

In the meantime swap insurance information and addresses with the other driver. If you have a camera take pictures of the accident for police and insurance purposes. You should give a copy of the police report to your insurance company.

What to do in an emergency

In case of emergency, drivers can contact the emergency services on the EU standard 112 and request the required emergency service.

The Embassy of the United States of America in Bulgaria is at 16, Kozyak Street, Sofia 1407, and can be contacted on + 359 2 937 5100. Their website is http://bulgaria.usembassy.gov

The Embassy of the United Kingdom in Bulgaria is at 9 Moskovska Street
Sofia 1000, and can be contacted on + 359 2 933 9222. Their website is http://ukinbulgaria.fco.gov.uk/en/

Fuel Costs

1.04 Euros for unleaded, 1.12 for super unleaded, and 1 Euro per litre for diesel. It is advisable to use fuel from one of the global brands for quality purposes. Petrol stations can be few and far between in the countryside.

Comments

Bochko
Everyone in the car should wear seatbelts (changed since 2014 I think). If not, ticket for the driver (25-50EUR), ticket for each passenger without seatbelt (25-50EUR). 

Explained as "If someone has not put the seatbelt on, the driver should not start moving the car at all. If someone removes the seatbelt during travels, the driver should stop at the first place and wait for the passenger to put it back on or leave the car”. 

Speed limit on highways raised to 140km/h. (first raised to 130, a year later to 140). Emergency phones are removed(166, 160 and 150 - socialist style system).Instead the EU standard 112 phone is used (for all cases). 
Speed cameras do not have a warning sign any more(e.g. there is a camera in the bushes or a patrol car hiding - now this is legal) since mid 2017. – You should drive with DRL or if your car does not have DRL - you should turn on your headlights. 50-250 EUR ticket if you don`t. 

Do not use your horn between the hours of 22:00 and 06:00 (up to 09:00 during public holidays) is completely wrong. 
Since 1960s horn use in Bulgaria is forbidden, except it is being used in attempt(s) to prevent an accident. 
It may be used at all times if it fits this description. Just keep in mind that when someone cuts you off, using your horn may lead to an aggressive reaction. 

Police is testing you both for drugs and alcohol. Drugs tests are catching at least 60 days backwards if you have used any drug. If you refuse test for drug and/or alcohol, you will be treated as if you have shown positive results on all tests. 
12/09/2017 1:40:51 PM
 

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Hiring a Car

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