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Bulgaria-First Impressions

Bulgaria is just a part of a 4 month long journey through Europe for me and one of the few countries I have not been to. We arrived on the loooong 12 hour train ride from Belgrade and I had booked a hotel that was supposed to be very close to the Train Station. It was but sort of hidden away.

Sofia turned out to be a really interesting place with great buildings and lots to see. We will be back there for a few days again when we have friends coming to visit from England. To my mind Sofia deserves several days. One of the sights I really want to check out is the Museum of Totalitarian Art...sounds like an oxymoron to me but sometimes those offbeat museums turn out better than expected.

We drove from Sofia in our rental car to the middle of Bulgaria to the tiny town of Apriltsi where we have rented a house for a month. The scenery is very beautiful with forest covered mountains rising in every direction cut through by river valleys with fast flowing white water rivers. The towns are small and rural for sure but offer most of what you need.

After 7 AirBnb’s on this trip so far all of which have been better than expected and with really fine hosts this is the first real disappointment. It is a charming rustic house in a very rural area of the foothills of the Stars Planina. But there are some serious deficiencies in this particular property. The hosts unfortunately try to manage it from England. The “White House near Apriltsi” is not up to normal AirBnb standards for sure. And the hosts should find another line of work as they are not cut out for the hospitality industry at all.

But we are not letting this stop us from enjoying Bulgaria. The food is a wonderful mixture of Turkish, Balkan and Greek, the people friendly and helpful and many many of them speak English on some level even in very small places. You will find your waiter from the small town of Troyan in the Bulgarian heartland will have worked in North Carolina and speaks excellent English. We have found this scenario time and again.

While at the Sofia Mall to get a Bulgarian Sim Card for my phone we stopped at a Starbucks-Like coffee place. The young lady who waited on us spoke flawless unaccented American English. We complimented her on it and asked where she learned it. She told us that she had never learned it in school but had picked it up from YouTube, the Net and Movies! We have found this YouTube effect is commmon. And just amazing.

Bulgarian roads are very good, even the smaller rural ones, the signs are mostly in dual script of Cyrillic and Latin but all the major highways are in both. It is easy to get around. But it helps if you look at the Cyrillic name of the town you are going to, they are easy to get a mental picture of and this helps when the odd single alphabet sign appears. Drivers are pretty sedate actually compared to major American cities or Italy.

I will post more as I go along...it’s sad more folks don’t come here. This is one of the MOST economical parts of Europe, very scenic and exceptionally historic.

Posted by
6060 posts

The “White House near Apriltsi” is not up to normal AirBnb standards
for sure.

But it's advertised at only $14 a night, which is probably a competitive rate in rural Bulgaria. What standards are you concerned with? Are they serious infractions or annoyances? Off site management, when not really performed in good faith, is always an issue. How do you ferret that out in Airbnb reviews when the property has only 5 reviews, one of which is in Cyrillic?

As for Bulgaria, no doubt it's beautiful, inexpensive and historic...and I'm sure the food will be great and very fresh, and the people are kind and helpful (and some are surprised to see American tourists). My good friend just went there on her own and really enjoyed it. I've only been to Bosnia and Turkey nearby, they're also under the radar for American tourists (the latter less so).

Posted by
1864 posts

Enjoying your 1st impressions. Sounds incredibly beautiful. Looking forward to more installments!

Posted by
546 posts

Agnes you make some good points.

First the rate is not $14/day. The Airbnb website will often give the low end price until you put in dates and no. Of guests etc. This is costing over $30/night for 27 nights a significant amount.

And I never ding anyplace for insignificant issues. In fact I have given 5 stars to all 7 previous Airbnb's on this trip. They all had great hosts and were better than advertised.
We're there some little issues in many of them? Of course, but I look at the overall experience. I don't dwell on minutiae.

And yes the issues here are serious.

As for the reviews; any not in English I just put through Google Translate. And you are right to point out they have very few reviews. But given their location and the fact they have only been on AirBnb since April 2017 I didn't find that so unusual.
But this is NOT an AirBnb issue. It is an issue of people who are not at all suited to be operating an AirBnb or any other hospitality centered business.

Bulgaria is amazing and entering as we did from Serbia and having come from Bosnia and Montenegro, Bulgaria was an eye opener. So much more modern, active, more industry and business and just a more prosperous feeling all around. It has it's problems for sure but there seems to be a wee bit more enthusiasm here. But that fits with the Bulgarians I met in the states too.

Posted by
6060 posts

And yes the issues here are serious.

Can you share what they are so folks have some sense of what they might encounter? And it would be helpful to learn what kinds of workarounds a guest could do when faced with a similar situation (doesn't matter if it's Airbnb or not). I am guessing you're locked into the month already, so leaving is not a viable option.

If it helps, remove the property name off the post (I would recommend doing that anyway, unless you've already given this feedback to the owner/property manager first).

Posted by
546 posts

@Agnes and Kaeleku My post was really about Bulgaria. The mention of the Airbnb was an aside. I would like to keep this focused on Bulgaria but since you took the time to post your questions I feel they deserve an answer.

Regarding the issues...I do not want to go into them specifically here on this thread. I may at a later date in another. They are really not pertinent to the topic here. Later I will be posting about my experiences with hotels and Airbnb’s and I am sure I will see both of you there.

As well known critics of Airbnb on this site both of you have centered your response to my post on that aspect of my. OP.

At AirBnb you are never locked in to anything and it is quite easy to cancel or change a reservation even after you have checked in (try that with booking.com) In addition there is a formal complaint/refund system when there are serious issues with a property. Leaving is a viable option and if the owner does not accept my more than fair offer (I offered to leave and still pay slightly more than half in exchange for a refund of 12 out of the total of 27 days) And in fact leaving sooner rather than later actually helps my case, not hurt it.

@Kaeleku: I am not sure what being a Brit has to do with this issue. His wife is Bulgarian. And a lack of business acumen and no clue of how to deal with customer issues cuts across all nationalities I am sure.

As for why I chose this place it is simple: It has a great fenced yard for my dog, it is smack in the middle of Bulgaria, allowing me to take day trips and overnight trips to Veliko Tărnovo, Ruse, Varna and Plovdiv easily. It is beautiful. I have two bedrooms a kitchen and the entire rest of the house. But you are right, I could have spent the same per night for a small hotel room in a city somewhere. (This is only a little over 2 hours by car from the Airport in Sofia)

If you actually go to AirBnb you will find this place is priced the same as most and less than many of the same sort of places therefore the price is certainly not extortionate. In fact at the Hotel Apriltsi a few kilometers down the road rooms are more than $30 per night. (This does not mean I think THIS particular property is worth it with it’s problems)

And there is plenty to see right in this immediate area; Lovech, Troyan and it’s monastery and many other things too.

Even though you think I have made some horrible mistake here, keep in mind that I planned a 4 month trip through Europe with me, my friend Mary and my dog down to the exact day of every movement, everything reserved in advance and some of it prepaid (AirBnb’s) with 3 Flights, 8 Countries, 4 Rental Cars in 4 countries, 8 train trips, 8 AirBnb’s, and at least 12 hotels... so far this one thing has been my only serious issue the entire trip. I think that is a pretty good record.

And I am never stuck anywhere...I have my American Express Card, my rental car and can go anywhere in the world I want...today even (as I still have time to make the airport in Sofia)

You are correct Bulgaria is inexpensive for sure. Yesterday we had a delicious lunch in Troyan a really pleasant city, at a very nice Pub/Restaurant, two full meals, 4 beers (two each), bread and water came to all of 15.40 Lev ($9.16) This is for Two People. The waiter spoke great English and was wonderful and friendly. We then went to a really very nice supermarket named LIFE with one of the best assortments of what we would call Deli prepared foods, cheeses, smoked meats, and fresh meat we have seen anywhere. It had a great wine section and full liquor store and everything your neighborhood Safeway has. Filled our full sized rolling cart for about $32.

Cont.

Posted by
546 posts

We have had a remarkable trip so far with very few even minor problems. But you cannot let the problems define your trip. You cannot dwell on the negative, there is always tomorrow and the next day. In travel no matter where you stay in AirBnb’s or hotels there will likely be some issue at some point. On this trip I have had far more issues with the hotels than anything else. And Bulgaria is wonderful.

Posted by
6060 posts

You must have not read my response in a neutral way. I specifically said my question was NOT Airbnb focused. I'm more interested in what someone could expect in a rural Bulgarian accommodation insofar as "significant" issues go, and how to get around that (and maybe ferret it out before accepting the booking). You volunteered all the lodging info so far, so I would hope for more clarification more on the "serious issues" if you're going to provide a negative review on a specific place on a travel forum. Otherwise, why name the place or bother mentioning it, instead of just putting your review out on the Airbnb site later?

Posted by
546 posts

Agnes I apologize if I read your post incorrectly. But I did read it as being Airbnb focused.

And no I am not going to give the details at this time because I am in negotiations with the hosts to resolve the issue and that would not be dealing in good faith. Those are coming to an end soon so you may get your wish at some point to know the details. My mention of it was not a review just a sideline on a bump in the Bulgarian road.

And I think you resolve these thing in Bulgaria the same way as anywhere. And you have pretty much the same recovery options.

Posted by
6060 posts

And no I am not going to give the details at this time because I am in
negotiations with the hosts to resolve the issue and that would not be
dealing in good faith.

I agree with your sentiment. But it's also not in good faith to post select negative things on this forum re: a distinct property before you had a chance to complete your negotiations. It's likely that your own view of the situation can evolve after some time and dialogue had passed, so why not wait to post a balanced review instead of your initial feelings? To me, good faith means you deal with a situation with the party causing the issue first without involving anyone else. As it stands, folks here are getting a biased view of this property because you posted the name and some negative details.

I still look forward to your postings about different towns and sites in Bulgaria, since it sounds like you're staying a while. I want to visit there in a few years and am open to staying in more rural areas to do multi-day hikes (maybe Rhodope Mountains, etc), so it's interesting to read about your rural lodging experience.

Posted by
1498 posts

Well, AirBnB aside, I am enjoying your impressions of Bulgaria, surprised you are finding english spoken, and would love to read more. Onward!

Posted by
546 posts

Diveloonie, I see you are frpm Eagle River. While we were in Alaska all last summer we met many many young Bulgarians who come to work for the season. Denali is full of them as well as others from other countries. We were so taken by their excellent command of English, friendliness and energy to say nothing of their incredible work ethic we just decided we had to come here.

If you get a chance go to dinner at King Salmon restaurant at the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge have a great meal and meet some Bulgarians. And say hi for me to the Hostess named Gay. She's a lot of fun and very sweet.

Posted by
546 posts

Dear Agnes, you have confused me. In one post you urge me to disclose the details in another you take me to task for writing before I tell the hosts.

Well in fact the host had received and answered my complaints well before I mentioned anything here. However negotiations were ongoing about how much was going to be repaid. And I did deal with them in good faith. I am not sure you can come to the conclusions you have without knowing the actual timeline of what has occurred which you were not privy to.

My wording of the mention of the airbnb was deliberate and careful and more than enough to cause anyone thinking of choosing that particular property to look closer and dig deeper before deciding. I think that was more than sufficient and proper.

But your posts always intruige and amuse me and I enjoy reading them. So I look forward to us meeting again soon.

Posted by
1 posts

the foothills of the Stars Planina

The name of the mountain is Stara Planina which means "Old mountain". It's other name is Balkan and there comes the name of the whole peninsula from.