The cost of living in Sofia Bulgaria is cheap. According to Eurostat in 2017. Alcohol and tobacco are 43% lower in Bulgaria than the E.U average. Transport 54% less. Food 28% less and amazingly housing 69% less. Bulgaria is cheap.
Who can live in Sofia Bulgaria
Bulgaria has been a member of the E.U since the 01st of January 2007. If you are a member of another E.U member you do not need to have a visa. You can stay up to 90 days without reporting it as an E.U citizen. If you stay more than 90 days officially you are required to contact the migration directorate. Unofficially I have stayed in many E.U countries more than 90 days without reporting it. Many E.U countries are relaxed about this with other E.U citizens living in their counties. Countries such as Bulgaria gain much-needed revenue from these type of longer-term visitors. They spend money on rent. Food and leisure and don’t usually use the welfare and health systems of these lower cost countries. That is my experience. Unofficially.
If you are not an E.U citizen check with your own country foreign affairs department.
When I lived in Sofia city I used AIRBNB. I know this is not ideal in the long term but for shorter stays of less than 6 months, it has its advantages. As Sofia city is a lot cheaper than the European average AIRBNB is an option. The advantages are that should you have a problem with the apartment/house you can contact AIRBNB customer service. The owner does not get paid from AIRBNB before you arrive. For example, for a 3-month stay, you would need to pay the full amount to AIRBNB but they would only pay the owner each month. That will give you some security in any dealings you might have with the owner. Also, it is flexible in that you don’t pay an extra month deposit. Getting deposits back can always be an issue worldwide. You also don’t have the hassle of getting set up with electricity and wifi accounts as these as usually part of most AIRBB apartments. Flexibility also gives you the freedom to move elsewhere should you want.
Another option can be booking with Airbnb for just the first month. Then if you feel comfortable with the owner you can negotiate to pay directly for other months less the AIRBNB fee and less their original price. Also if an owner receives an Airbnb booking it is officially on the book’s taxable revenue. If you go direct it maybe not. I am only just saying haha.
I paid 400 euro a month for the apartment in Sofia. You can get a lot cheaper but I wanted to be in a central area. Of course, if you are retired and renting your house back home this makes everything more affordable.
Other options for Renting in Sofia City
One practice I became aware of when I lived in Sofia city was fake adverts for apartments and houses for rent in Sofia Bulgaria. There are many of these adverts even on legitimate websites. What happens is a person puts an advert on a website for an apartment that they do not own. Best case scenario for them is that you pay some money over before you arrive in Sofia and of course, you never see or hear from them again. You arrive and the real owner is looking at you confused outside their door with your luggage. It may get as far as them bringing you to as the apartment and make some excuse as to why they cannot gain entry but will ask for some deposit.
This practice is very widespread in Sofia. Another option is to join a local facebook group. I used the Foreigners in Sofia and friends group for asking questions. I did see people offering apartments. You might see a person that other people say is trustworthy. Beware also. If a group has foreigners it will also have people looking to scam foreigners. People fish where the fish are.
Sofia has the normal 4 seasons weather. June/July and August are the warmest months and temperatures can reach the mid 30s C. December/January and February are the coldest months with days below freezing.
Bulgarian time is Eastern Europan time. That is 2 hours more than the U.K and Ireland.
View of Sofia by drone
Buying property in Sofia Bulgaria
Ok, let me say first I am no expert here and I do not want to buy property or live in Bulgaria fulltime but here is what I know. Over 25% of the Bulgarian population has left Bulgaria since 1989 when communism collapsed. It has accelerated since Bulgarians can work and travel in other E.U countries. Unless these trends are reversed it is forecast that Bulgaria will lose 50% of its population by 2050. That means there are a lot of vacant properties in Bulgaria. In the countryside, one of the main people in any town or village is the mayor. They will know the good and bad houses to sell. Also, there are good and bad towns to live in so do your research. Can you trust the mayor may also be a good question?
Sofia city may be more expensive for buying property. House prices in Sofia rose by 10% in 2017. That was one the fastest rises in Europe. Prices are now near 2008 levels before the economic crisis. While many people are leaving Bulgaria many other Bulgarians are coming to Sofia in search of jobs and higher salaries then they can get in the countryside.
My advice on buying property in Bulgaria is to try to find someone you know and trust that has already brought some property in Bulgaria. Estate agents are not regulated in Bulgaria. For example, if an estate agent agrees to sell a house for a Bulgarian for 10,000 and actually sells it for 20,000 they do not need to tell the owner that they have sold it for 20,000. They just need to pay the 10,000.
Another thing to take into consideration if you are looking at an old apartment in a building. There are still a lot of ongoing legal issues as to who owns apartments from the communist days.
Good area to live in Sofia
I lived very near Vitosha Boulevard. It is the centre and full of bars and restaurants. To be honest, as I walked around the city most places looked fine. The area where most of the embassies are based looked like a nice area with lots of bars, parks and restaurants. I am sure it is a bit more expensive. The one area I did not like was around the main bus and train station. It lacked character and looked a bit sleazy but that is just my opinion.
If you like parks you will love Sofia. There are parks everywhere. During the summer most parks have places to eat and drink outside. The 2 biggest parks are Borissova Gradina and Yuzhen Park.
Sofia has a very extensive, efficient and cheap public transport system.
The trams have been around for a long time and were my favourite way to get around Sofia.
Sofia now has 2 metro lines and have quickly become the locals favourite way to travel around their city.
There is also an extensive bus service. Most of the public transport services start from 5 am until midnight.
Sofia Central Bus and Train station
The central station is about 2.5k away from the centre but is served by tram and bus. Bulgarian state railways are quite extensive if not fast. It serves a lot of the country and is very cheap compared to most European cities. You can also get buses to most of Bulgaria from the central bus station across from the train station. Buses to international destinations depart from across from the main central bus station on the train station side.
Don’t get me started. I was told that most taxis drivers in Sofia can barely make a living. This did not stop many of them refusing to take my fare when they thought I was a foreigner going to the airport or somewhere far away. Other times they tried to overcharge me by not using the meter. There are also many dodgy taxis trying to pass themselves off as OK taxis who are a big taxi company in Sofia. They look the same but the logo might have a minor difference of 1 digit different in the phone number. There is a taxi app called Taxime that might be the best option. Save yourself money and hassle and take public transport or walk.
Is Sofia Bulgaria safe
In my time in Sofia, I did feel safe walking around day and night. Street begging which I understand is a necessity in many cases was light compared to other big cities worldwide and never aggressive. Bulgarians can look and act a bit grim and could do with smiling a bit more. That said I found them easy to talk to them and found them friendly when I got to talk to them.
Bulgaria has corruption and an organised crime problem but if you don’t get involved in the system you probably will not experience it.
The Bulgarian Post office does not have the best reputation. When I asked a local about getting something posted to Sofia I was told once they know you’re a foreigner in Bulgaria the post office or your neighbours will take it. I looked this up a bit more and unfortunately, it is a bit more than an urban myth.
The nodding thing. One of the weirdest things I experienced in Bulgaria is how they reverse the yes and no actions with their heads. Nodding up and down is no and side to side is yes. I have walked out of shops thinking I was refused a coffee.
Bulgaria has a long way to go on LGBT rights. I overheard a lot of homophobia when I was in Sofia. I would advise any LGBT person be careful when talking to anyone they do not know. There is a Gay pride march in May each year that is growing. In 2018 it was estimated 5,000 people marched.
Is Sofia city Bulgaria attractive
Contrary to what people may think the city centre is a nice and attractive place to visit. There are many well designed and historic buildings there. The pavements in Sofia are probably the worse I have ever seen but there is an ongoing effort to repair them. Just don’t bring your high heels for now. Ok, guys.
A brief history of Bulgaria
Bulgaria has an extensive history. Its location has meant it has been a passing point by armies and conquerors going from west to east and east to west.
These include the Greeks. Alexander the Great. The Romans. The Byzantines. Russians and of course the Turkish Otterman empire which lasted almost 500 years.
Let’s not forget the communist era which can still be seen in the many Soviet-style apartment buildings in Sofia.
One thing Bulgaria should be proud of. Bulgaria refused to hand over Bulgarian Jews to Nazi Germany during world war 2. This was despite massive pressure from Adolf Hitler. Bulgaria and Germany were allies for most of WW2.
One thing Bulgaria should not be proud of the attempted assimilation of the Turkish minority in 1984. Overnight the Turkish minority were told to change their names to Bulgarian names and not to speak Turkish in public. This continued up to 1989 when the Turkish minority was told the border would be open with Turkey and they should relocate there. It came to an end in 1989 as the biggest problem Bulgaria faced was the collapse of communism.
If you have any questions or I can be of help please let me know. Moving abroad even for a short-term if not as hard as you might think no matter what age you are.
Join me on my journey.
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