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Driving in Bulgaria

In early October we will be in Bulgaria for 12 nights and will have a car for 7 days. Has anyone driven in Bulgaria? We'll be driving from Veliko Tarnovo to Plovdiv then to Sofia where we will drop off our car before going to our hotel. We may take a couple of day trips from Plovdiv. We generally use google maps on our phone and may print out maps before we leave home. Are the road signs in English as well as Bulgarian? Will we have any problems finding our way?

Thanks in advance for any help.

Posted by
1137 posts

Thanks for your information! We plan to make this a slow and restful trip in Bulgaria as we will have spent 18 nights in Romania before arriving in Veliko Tarnovo. Our day trips will be short as we want time to get to know each town. We will have a car for the last day in Veliko Tarnovo and may visit Krusuna Waterfalls. Before we get the car we plan to visit Arbanasi by bus. We hope to stop at Etara on the way to Plovdiv and while in Plovdiv we may take a day trip to Assens Fortress and Bachkovo Monastery. From Sofia we'll take a bus trip to Rilski Monastery and Boyana Church. I checked Rhodopi Mountains but it would be a full day round trip from Plovdiv so it won't be possible for us. I checked the sights mentioned in your blog to see if we can fit them in. Looks like we will be driving by Dryanovo Monastery, Etara (already on our plans), and Shipka Monument and Russian Memorial Church. They're now in our plans. Thanks for the link!

As usual, with all the trips we plan we have many more sights and places than we have time to visit. We have just begun to accept that at our ages (75 and 71) we are travelling slower and have to plan accordingly. Taking that into consideration, we're still planning to enjoy the beautiful sights, good food, and great people that we expect to experience.

Thanks again.

Posted by
627 posts

While road signs in Bulgaria are frequently posted in both Bulgarian and English - especially in the regions near larger population centers - Bulgarian is written with the Cyrillic (not Roman) alphabet.
A little familiarity with that will go a long way in keeping your trip on track.
The roads I've seen in Bulgaria are quite good.
When you are in Romania, I can recommend an excellent tour guide in Bucharest - Ana Adamoae. She also can assist you with regions north of Bucharest.
Guides in both Romania and Bulgaria are very helpful in making your visit complete.
My tour guide recommendation in Bulgaria is Stefan Bozadzhiev.
Both Stefan and Ana are mentioned in the RS "Eastern Europe" guidebook (2017 edition).
You are visiting two of my absolute favorite countries.
I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Posted by
1137 posts

Blue439 - Thanks for your information. We're looking forward to a great trip!

Posted by
1137 posts

Kaeleku - That was my original plan but in checking the driving times it would take about 3.5 hrs to get from Plovdiv to Rila Monastery and another 2 hrs to get from Rila to Sofia. We'd have to do that in two days. It's more driving than we (Mr., who does the driving, I do the planning) car to do in two consecutive days. Although we dislike tours and the constant checking of our watches, I thought a tour might be a better alternative.

Posted by
546 posts

I will be in Bulgaria for a month with a rental car soon and while It is one of the few countries I have not driven in I think I can offer some helpful advice: I have driven all over Europe as well as countries in Asia Africa and the Middle East so I can say with some experience that the reality of the drives rarely matches the pre trip anxiety over them. They almost always go smoother and faster than you had thought.

So I am with K on this. I too think you will really regret returning your car before going to Rila.
Since it is at the end of your trip add a day to your rental and after all that driving in Bulgaria see how you feel. Then either go in the car or return it a day early.
Have fun

Posted by
1137 posts

aarthurperry - we currently have the car for the extra day as driving to Rila was our original plan. When we discussed the driving I then added one night to our apartment in Sofia but did not change the car rental. Will have to discuss with Mr. to see if he wants to do the driving and if so will then get to Sofia one day later. We (he) have also driven in many countries in Europe and South America so it's not the driving but just the time and physical and mental stress. We will be 75 and 71 when we go and he no longer wants to do as much driving, anywhere, so the 14 days of driving in Romania is already a lot before we even get to Bulgaria. We'll look at google street view and then decide which option to choose. As usual, so many sights but so little time and energy.

Thanks for your added suggestions!

Posted by
546 posts

I get your point completely. I am not as keen to drive as much as when I was younger either.

either way I am sure you will have a great trip.

Posted by
1137 posts

Kaeleku: Thanks for your suggestions. I have checked into the sights you suggested as they are new to me. We had planned to mostly enjoy the three towns without too much driving. I think Sveshtari and Demir Baba Teki are too far from VT. We have only 4 nights/3 days there and had thought to have one day trip to Krushuna Waterfalls. But now we may visit Madara Horseman and Ivanovo instead. That would be at least 5 hours of driving before adding time to tour the sights; quite a long day but surely worth it.

Thanks again for your ideas!

Posted by
1137 posts

aarthurperry and Kaeleku: Well, while going over our plans one more time, we looked at our driving times again and weighed those against taking a day trip to Rila Monastery and Boyana Church from Sofia and we have changed our minds. We now plan to drive to Rila from Plovdiv, as you both suggested, and spend one night there then visit Boyana Church the next day before returning our car. After thinking about again Mr. (the driver) decided it was better to drive ourselves than to take a tour, which as I mentioned previously we generally prefer not to. We leave on Sept 10, still a while to go. Hope there are no more changes to our plans!

Thanks for your help and gentle nudging on this!

Posted by
1137 posts

Thanks for the recommendations - will check into them! Thanks for all your help!