Please sign in to post.

Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania

I just returned from a package tour of Bulgaria, Serbia, and Romania. It was scheduled through Gate 1 Tours (a great company in my opinion), then subbed out to Kompas and then farmed out to a freelance guide.... so with these 3 degrees of separation - we did not get the good quality that Gate 1 usually has. BUT, It was an interesting trip, beautiful scenery, large modern hotels, most meals provided, new modern comfortable bus. My favorite places were the small towns - though we were not offered more than a few minutes of free time to explore these great places. The speed of the whole trip was hectic (up at 6:00AM, bags out in hall by 7:00AM, bus departed soon after..... hectic pace all day and arrival at new hotels as late as 7:30PM , so dinners were usually very very late.) It was a large group of 44 so there were not any empty seats (as we enjoy on Rick Steves Tours). The group consisted of very experienced travelers who have been to many countries, most continents, and off the beaten path places. Our trip was 3 countries, so 3 different currencies.... not exchangeable between each other (had to convert to Euros -then convert to new currency in the new country.) NOTE: could not get these currencies before my trip, because currency exchange companies I looked into did not carry them ....they are considered "lesser currencies". Our Guide a Romanian didn't think much of Bulgarians or Serbians - and didn't hesitate to share his opinions on the trip - it got old after the first few comments. I would like to go back to these countries in the future with time to actually visit places and not just drive past. I did learn more about these previously communist countries and would like to learn even more at a slower pace.
If you have any questions or would like more info - just send me an email.

Posted by
6215 posts

Hi Frances, could you post which were your favorite towns/sites in each of the three countries? Also, how long was the trip (minus travel days)? I'm surprised you got Euros you had to convert first - none of the three use Euros, so why not just get currency on the ground through an ATM? This is just my take, but I don't worry about having any cash beforehand - I've never had an issue getting money in any country.

Posted by
1539 posts

Here is a link to the tour I took, with details on how long we stayed at each place. Link to Gate 1 Site I liked Timiisoara Romania, Nis Serbia, Sibiu Romania and Brasov Romania the most - smaller places and more charm than the big cities. But we were not given any free time in Nis, and only about 1 hour or less in the other places mentioned. The reason I had to change my Serbian money to Euros (or could have done US dollars) was because we were told it was the only way to convert to Romanian.
Romania does not accept Serbian money and I didn't want to come one with cash that I would probably not be able to use and I knew I could not convert when I got home. This is what we were told by the guide. You asked about getting currency on the ground from ATM - that is what I did in Bulgaria upon arrival, when we reached Serbia and then in Romania I converted the Euros to Romanian. Hope this additional info helps.

Posted by
12040 posts

How did you find Sofia? I visited about 12 year ago, and it looked like it was an up-an-coming city at the time. "Our Guide a Romanian didn't think much of Bulgarians or Serbians" You hear a lot of that in western Europe... Romanians aren't necessarily the most popular ethnic group either.

Posted by
1539 posts

I enjoyed Sofia. It was graduation time for the teens and there was partying and dancing in the streets. At first I thought they were weddings with photos being taken at he big church (Nevsky)..... but found that it was "proms" for graduations .......all over the city. Of course they partied until the wee hours of the mornings. But, it was fun to see them having such a good time. Parts of the city looked like they were doing well - nice parks, new statues, not many new buildings.....and the many churches were lovely. Glad you explained about the Romanian's attitude about neighboring countries... I thought it was just my guide. LOL

Posted by
11 posts

Frances, My wife and I will be taking a tour of Bulgaria next year. We were thinking of flying into Belgrade, Serbia first. Did you enjoy Belgrade and were there sites between Belgrade and Sofia that were worth seeing?

Posted by
1539 posts

Paul, I was on a tour with Gate 1, so didn't have a lot of freedom. I loved Belgrade - lots to see there. There is a nice small town we stopped in Nis (pronounced Niche) looked like there were things to see there - including an old WWII concentration camp. Birth spot of Constantine....sorry I don't have more info on it I did get a Serbia travel book from the library and found some interesting stuff there.
But I did enjoy Belgrade - beautiful along the Danube and Sava Rivers.