FOOD: In general, the food in Bulgaria (both as part of the tour and on my own) was very good. Fish, salad with super-fresh ingredients, and yummy bread are what I remember most. I only had a couple of dishes that I didn’t particularly care for (most likely because I’m a picky eater). If you like cucumbers but don’t tend to eat them because they don’t like you, at least try to eat them in Bulgaria. I didn’t have any trouble at all with the cucumbers, which are often served at breakfast and in the ubiquitous and delicious shopska salad. Be aware that fish is usually served as a whole fish (minus the head), not in filets. I didn’t have much luck trying to eat fish that was served like that, but the little bit I managed to scrape out was tasty.
WATER: Tap water was fine, and I would regularly refill my store-bought bottle from the tap. The only place our guide warned us off tap water was at the Black Sea (Nesebar and Varna), and this was only because it tasted strange not because it would likely give us Traveler’s Tummy. It was absolutely fine for brushing teeth and no problem to eat washed vegetables/fruit.
HOTELS: The tour hotels were all perfectly fine. There were a couple of chain-style hotels (Sofia and Plovdiv) and a couple of smaller hotels with some character (Nesebar and Veliko Tarnovo). The room at the Rila Monastery was expectedly Spartan, and the shower was … well, let’s just say that you may find yourself taking a two-minute shower just to quickly wash your important bits. I didn’t wash my hair (gasp! horror!) because I wouldn’t even contemplate plugging in a hair dryer (and my head of frizz isn’t exactly air-dry friendly). All in all, though, the monastery stay was my favorite of the whole trip: it was surprisingly comfortable and oh so quiet and peaceful. I probably got the best night’s sleep of the trip there.
TOILETS: On a couple of our walking tours, toilet access was difficult. While traveling on the coach, we mostly stopped at filling stations that had free, clean toilets and the usual coffee bar/shop. On a couple of occasions, we had to pay for the toilet, but I don’t think it was ever more than 50 or 60 stotinki; the attendants can give change. There was only one hole-in-the-ground sort of toilet. Do carry a packet of Kleenex in your day bag to use as toilet paper, and be prepared to wipe your hands dry on your pants when the hand dryer doesn’t work.