You saw the cheapest flight, booked your trip, you even convinced a friend to join you for the 3 days in July, and said to yourself “Well, Sofia shouldn’t be that bad”. But the truth is, you have no idea what Sofia will be.
Then the hardest part of your trip is actually getting ready to visit the mysterious Bulgarian capital. After our talk a few months ago, we realized that tourists actually don’t come with any expectations when visiting Sofia. Even though that is partly a good thing, it doesn’t hurt to be informed about what’s waiting for you here.
While riding the metro with some foreign friends a few months ago (yes, Sofia has whole 2 metro lines), they told me they were surprised by how modern the metro stations are and I should write about that. Well, extending the idea, I decided to give you a full list of tips for getting around Sofia. And here they are.
My travel guide to Sofia consists of practical tips for visiting the Bulgarian capital – from transportation, through where to eat and what to do to weather you will survive as a vegetarian in Sofia.
Getting around in Sofia
● Public Transport in Sofia
We have buses, trams, trolleys, city shuttles and a metro. The most practical one is the metro system. It connects most parts of the city with the center. It even has a direct line from the airport. The price for 1 ticket for every type of transportation (except the shuttles) is 1,60 BGN.
Official website of Sofia’s Urban Mobility Center: https://www.sofiatraffic.bg/en/common
List of types of transportation document and their prices: https://www.sofiatraffic.bg/en/transport/tarifa-i-prevozni-dokumenti/702/tarifa
● Get the 3-day card for all lines
If you know that you will use the public transport often in Sofia, know the package offers. A common choice for visitors of the city is the 3-day card for all the lines. The price is only 10 BGN (Bulgarian Levs) or around 5 Euros.
List of locations where you can buy the card (or other cards): https://www.sofiatraffic.bg/en/transport/punktove-za-prodazhba-na-prevozni/p/1
● Apps for getting around in Sofia
If Google Maps is not showing you the best way to get from A to B with public transport, try the official urban mobility center’s website: https://www.sofiatraffic.bg/en/common. If that doesn’t work too, download MoveIt app – I’ve used it in several occasions and it always shows me a good itinerary.
If neither of those options work, try the old school way – just ask someone on the streets and hope they speak English.
● Getting from Sofia airport to the city center
Sofia is an easily accessible destination. Flights from almost every European capitals are available. You have 3 options to get to Sofia from the airport: by metro, bus, and taxi. Here’s the full post with tips and directions: How to Get From Sofia Airport to The City Center.
● Using a taxi in Sofia
Taxis in Sofia operate in yellow vehicles. The approximate price, for example, from the airport to the city center should be around 12 BGN (6 EUR) – around 20 minutes.
Uber does not operate in Bulgaria. However, you can download the local app – Taxi Me, which offers the same service. A recommended taxi company I prefer to use in Sofia is Mega Taxi (number 91999, operates 24/7).
● Tips for driving in Sofia
Driving in Bulgaria is on the right hand side of the road. Therefore, the overtaking is on the left hand side. The legal driving age in Bulgaria is above 18 years old. It is absolutely mandatory to drive with car headlights on during day and night throughout the whole year. The speed limit is 50km/h (30 mph) inside the city limits. A trusted rent-a-car company in Bulgaria is Top Rent A Car.
Read more: Top tips for driving in Bulgaria
● Parking in Sofia
If you drive around Sofia and want to park somewhere, you have to keep in mind that the city has green and blue parking zones marked with road signs. You have to pay hourly rate by sending an SMS with your car’s license plate to 1302 for the Blue zone and 1303 for the Green zone.
Blue zone specifics: maximum parking time – 2 hours, price for 1 hour – 2 BGN, you are only charged between 08:00 and 19:00 on working days and on Saturday between 08:00 and 14:00.
Green zone specifics: maximum parking time – 4 hours, price for 1 hour – 1 BGN, you are only charged between 08:00 and 19:00 on working days. It’s free on the weekends.
Tourist information in Sofia
● Tourist info centers in Sofia
If you want to get informed of what to see in Sofia during your stay, or have another specific question, you can do it in 3 tourist info centers in the city.
- 22 Tsar Osvoboditel Blvd. (in the underpass of St Kliment Ohridski Sofia University)
- Metrostation Serdica 2
- Info Point Chitalnyata (The reading room), In the City garden
The working hours of the first two are 9:30-18:00 (open Mon-Fri), and the last one – 10:00-20:00 (open Mon-Sun).
● Tourist info website for Sofia
The official website for tourist information about Sofia is www.visitsofia.bg. You will find current events, tips for visiting the city, accommodation ideas, sightseeing information, etc.
Other practical tips for visiting Sofia
● Luggage lockers in Sofia
If you want to store your luggage while exploring Sofia, go to GIFTED shop on 24 Ivan Denkoglu street. They offer luggage lockers in 4 sizes: S = 4 BGN/day; M = 8 BGN/day; L = 12 BGN/day; XL = 20 BGN/day.
● Free tours in Sofia
There are plenty of free tours in Sofia. There is the Free Sofia Walking Tour, Balkan Bites – Free food tour, Sofia Graffiti Tour, Sofia Communist Trabant Tour and more.
Full list and more details, see here: List of all free tours in Bulgaria.
● Eating out in Sofia
There are variety of options to eat out in Sofia. From fast food, quality burger places, traditional restaurants, or big chain restaurants, the choice is huge. My tip is to join the Balkan Bites free food tour on your first day in Sofia to check the visited places for future visit.
Or just check out my list of my 7 favourite restaurants in Sofia.
● Is Sofia vegetarian/vegan friendly?
Absolutely! There is no need to worry. Even though all Balkan countries love to eat meat, there are plenty of vegetarian and vegan options out there. Some restaurants to check are Soul Kitchen, Made in Home, Sunmoon…
● Shopping for food in Sofia
…is very convenient. Supermarkets are full with variety of options – one thing that I really miss in many European cities. You can find everything in the supermarkets or food markets. And the prices are more than reasonable. The other great thing about the stores in Sofia is that they are actually open even on Sundays. You will also find some that are open 24 hours.
● Is Sofia safe?
I find Sofia pretty safe. I felt even safer than in many developed European cities. Of course, you should always be cautious no matter how safe it may seem. But, as already a local, my judgement may be compromised. That’s why I asked some expats in Sofia to share their views:
“I never felt unsafe in Sofia. People are so helpful and genuinely friendly. Right after my arrival on the bus an elderly local man offered to help with getting of at the right stop and he gave me directions as well to make sure I didn’t get lost. I walked in several different areas and never encountered anything unsettling or suspicious. I highly recommend Sofia to solo travellers”, said Annemarie from the blog Travel on the Brain.
“One of the things I love most about Sofia is how safe it feels. I never experience street harassment in Sofia, even when I walk late at night – totally different to my experiences in U.S. cities”, said Allison from the blog Eternal Arrival.
● Coworking spaces
If you want to visit a coworking space while in Sofia, there are plenty of options too. Some good places are Betahaus, Cosmos and Soho. My friend Sianna wrote a comprehensive Digital Nomad Guide to Sofia to help you get to know the city’s coworking atmosphere better.
● Currency exchange
The currency in Bulgaria is Bulgarian Lev (BGN). The coins are called “stotinki”. We have 1 BGN only in coins and 2 BGN in coins and paper. BGN is tied to the Euro currency. One Euro is 1,95 BGN. Besides using banks to exchange currency in Sofia, you will easily find exchange offices in the city center and the shopping malls.
● Important phrases to know in Bulgarian
In Bulgaria we use the Cyrillic alphabet. This makes it very confusing for most foreigners to get around in the country and still in Sofia too. Many people talk English in the capital, especially in the tourist sector. However, it is useful to know some basic words in Bulgarian:
Yes = Da (shaking the head rather than nodding… but not always)
No = Ne (nodding the head rather than shaking… but not always)
Hello = Zdraveyte
Good morning = Dobro utro
Good afternoon = Dobar den
Good evening = Dobar vecher
How are you? = Kak si?
Thank you = Blagodarya (But we use Merci)
Excuse me… = Izvinete
Where is…? = Kade e…?
I don’t speak Bulgarian. = Ne govorya Bulgarski.
I don’t understand = Ne razbiram
Help = Pomosht
How much? = Kolko?
Bye = Chao
● Emergency number
The national emergency number for Bulgaria is 112.
● Day trips from Sofia
If you are staying for more than 4 days in Sofia, you’ll probably want to see something more of the country. I made a list of 10 ideas of single day trips from Sofia awhile ago that can help you.
Get 5% discount for Rila Shuttle day trips from Sofia to Rila Monastery, 7 Rila Lakes or Plovdiv with code: TravBuzz15.
My top recommendations include:
- Plovdiv and Koprivshtitsa;
- Rila Monastery;
- A hike to the Seven Rila Lakes;
- Prohodna Cave;
- Roadtrip to Rhodope Mountains.
● Best low cost flights from Sofia
Sofia is well connected with low cost flights to many European destinations. You can often find deals for as less as 10 Euros. Here is my list of 12 destinations with best low-cost flights from Sofia.
● Save on accommodation with Airbnb coupon
As regular user of Airbnb accommodation options in many European cities, I often sleep for free thanks to their coupon system. If you want to save on accommodation, get $41 free credit for your first booking on Airbnb.
|Travel resources for your trip to Sofia: |
► I usually use the search engine at Skyscanner to look for the cheapest flights to any destination in Europe.
► When I travel, I prefer to stay in an Airbnb appartment at a local’s house. If you sign up through my affiliate link, you will get up to $41 to use for your first trip.
Are you ready to visit Sofia now? Do you have any other question you want to ask?
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