How Much Does It Really Cost to Live in Bulgaria?

living in Bulgaria

I’ve talked before on this blog about how Bulgaria is one of the cheapest places in the world to travel. It’s also one of the cheapest places to live, a real bargain by European standards. It has a starring role in two of my books. But don’t just take my word for it. Here’s the scoop from Maria Stoynova, a blogger who actually hails from there. Take it away Maria!

Bulgaria is the small Eastern European country you’ve probably never heard of. This is a country with high mountains; great sea resorts, and cute, cozy little towns you will crave to visit once you see them in pictures. This little known Balkan gem has a lot to offer its visitors. There are two main reasons to re-shuffle your travel plans for 2015 and put Bulgaria on the list. #1. It’s unbelievably beautiful and charming and #2. It’s ridiculously affordable. The first one is obvious through the pictures you may have seen. It’s the second that I want to tell you more about.

Accommodation

The minimum wage in Bulgaria is around 170 Euros but the actual average wage is around 400 Euros a month. Bearing that in mind it is obvious that the accommodation costs should not exceed that amount. For a decent one-bedroom apartment in Sofia’s city center you can pay as much as 220 Euros a month. Outside of the center the rent decreases by around 50€ and if you venture further out the accommodation is even cheaper. The average monthly utilities would not exceed 50 Euros which includes electric, heating and water.

Tryavna Bulgaria

Transportation

TetevanIn the big cities there are plenty of transportation options to choose from. One-way tickets usually cost around 1 lev which is around 0.50€. In Sofia, the capital, you can find a metro system which has 2 lines and is again 1 lev. If you’re staying for a while a monthly pass costs around 25€ and you can use it on all means of the transportation system.

Taxis in Bulgaria are also fairly affordable, for a good 15-minute drive they will charge you no more than 5-7 Euros but usually it’s around 3-4 Euros.

If you’re staying a little longer in Bulgaria and plan on buying a vehicle you can find a decent used car for as little as 1500 Euros. The cost of running a car is also fairly cheap by European standards, with one liter of gasoline coming in at around 1,20€.

Eating Out

If you‘re coming to Bulgaria make sure you pack some bigger jeans because for really reasonable prices you’ll get a lot of food. Eating out is very affordable. Bulgarians love having “banichka” and “boza” for breakfast, which costs no more than 1 euro for both. Restaurants, taverns and pubs are not only a local’s favorite place for socializing but are also very easy on the pocket. A nice three course meal in an inexpensive restaurant will cost you around 10 euros and with a large beer in Bulgaria costing only 1-2€ you can be wined and dined for very little money.

shopska salad

And let’s not forget the famous “shopska” salad, which recently topped European Parliament’s campaign “A Taste of Europe” (getting around 20,000 Facebook likes). This will cost you around 2€.

Social Life

Bulgarians love to have long coffee breaks with friends that can sometimes last more than 2 hours. It’s great to catch up and take our time indulging in doing things like going to the cinema which only costs around 3 to 5 euros. If you’re feeling like doing something a little fancier a ticket to the theater can be found for 5 to 10 euros.

Sofia theater

There are a lot of night clubs in Bulgaria simply because Bulgarians know how to party. The clubs are full every night and on Fridays and Saturdays it’s almost impossible to find a seat. If you want to experience the Bulgarian nightlife you should budget around 10-20 euros.

This is a guest post by Maria, a travel blogger from Bulgaria, who also shot the photos. She blogs at Travelling Buzz where she shares her stories, tips and tricks on budget travels and destinations such as her home country Bulgaria. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Comments
  1. Jenny Lens

    I looked into Bulgaria. My webhost is there. Plus one of my fave suppliers of clip art. Young, friendly techies and gorgeous country. I researched online and found very run-down so-called ‘historical’ homes which were not cheap, often without electricity and certainly without the net. I was surprised at what I found. When I have time, I’ll research some more. Plus I’ll reach out to the ppl I know living in Bulgaria, my creative, techie colleagues.

  2. Rana Singh

    I haven’t visited Bulgaria before my friends keep urging me but i always neglected it. But seeing this pics and the article i think that i should visit this place and have some cool great experience. Thanx for the post.

  3. Angelina Shishkova

    I am sorry to say that I disagree on a few things. Based on my 2012/2013 winter stay in Plovdiv, I’d say you should budget some 50% more for rent, utilities and dining and you won’t have to worry. Yes it is affordable but it’s not as cheap. And just to make things clear, the author refers to Sofia, but I don’t think the first couple of pictures are from there.

    • Tim Leffel

      If you read the post Angelina she talks about costs in the capital vs. outside. I was there too and looked at real estate prices in lots of other cities, including Plovdiv. There were lots of choices in that price range. You may have been looking at vacation rentals for tourists, which of course are priced much higher. We are assuming that if you move there, you are spending time looking around locally to get more local rental rates.

    • Gergana

      I am from Sofia Bulgaria and I agree that Angelina. Bulgaria is not cheap and the rent and utilities is about 70% more than what this blogger says. I live in Los Angeles and have a very good job, going to Bulgaria cost me as much as when I go to any other country in Europe except of coarse UK and Switzerland. Sadly the cost of living is not cheap otherwise I will be living back home as it is TRUELY beautiful

      • Tim Leffel

        Here’s what Numbeo says Gergana, so it’s not just one resident’s opinion:
        Consumer Prices in Sofia are 50.47% lower than in Los Angeles, CA
        Consumer Prices Including Rent in Sofia are 64.83% lower than in Los Angeles, CA
        Rent Prices in Sofia are 83.79% lower than in Los Angeles, CA
        Restaurant Prices in Sofia are 60.98% lower than in Los Angeles, CA
        Groceries Prices in Sofia are 57.40% lower than in Los Angeles, CA

        Compare prices to Western Europe yourself and you’ll find an even wider gulf. Maybe you’ve been away too long?

        • Mike Carton

          Who the hell wants to live in Los Angeles ?

          • Tim Leffel

            The person I was replying to.

          • Mark Richey

            UCLA when the smog clears.

      • Rui Lopes

        Hi Gergana,
        I have been inApril in Bulgaria (travel across the country and been in Sofia), beautiful.
        I went in Sofia, to a restaurant, nearby Ivan Vazov Theatre, with a Bulgarian friend, to get in we needed to get a safety pass and the restaurant was at an higher level, overseeing the buildings. I think it was on the back of the theatre.
        May you, please give me a clue about which restaurant this can be…

        Best Regards

      • Donald

        Nothing to show off… Los Angeles is horrible city. Grrhhhhrr…
        Heading now to Sofia and I’m sure I won’t be surprised with my expectations.

      • Abdiel Rivera

        I wanna find out ,the cost of living in Bulgaria in US dollars monthly,Thx!

  4. Angelina Shishkova

    Tim, I am from Bulgaria and stayed in my own apartment. I only tried to help with up-to-date info. Plovdiv is not as expensive as Sofia and I mentioned what my experience in Plovdiv was. You cannot find “a decent” apartment in Sofia’s city center for that price range, you definitely need to budget more. That’s just my opinion. Not trying to argue here, just wanted to help.

    • Tim Leffel

      Angelina, I’m just going by what the expats I’ve interviewed have paid, as well as what I’ve found on local ads when there and local message boards online for what people are paying. Maybe they are all good at sniffing out deals or have good connections, but I doubt it. It’s definitely a renter’s market since there are so many empty places available. Thanks for sharing your own experience though.

  5. Jeremy

    Looks crazy cheap to me in Plovdiv:
    http://www.donatex.com/en/Apartments-in-Plovdiv/link/117
    (And that’s a site in English.)

  6. Nigel J.

    I have a friend who bought a large condo there for what amounted to the price of a car where I live in London. He goes there on holiday and rents it out the rest of the time to pay all the bills. With cheap flights there and back, it seems like an easy way to get a guaranteed return on your meager investment.

  7. chavdar

    In my Dad`s village near the Balkan Mountains an English couple bought a house with a 1200 m2 yard for 4,500 euro.You can buy a small family hotel for around 180,000euro(incl a restaurant,bar and around 8-10 fully furnished rooms) in resorts at the Black Sea or ski resort Bansko. Raynair flies to Plovdiv aiport for around 79 euro rt
    You can actually live in Sofia(western border) and go for the weekend to the Black sea(eastern border) on the recently finished freeway in 3.5 hrs
    I budget around 150-200 euro a month for living expanses(i have my own apartment) but know people who get by with around 80-120 euro mo.

  8. Anna

    It is SO NOT TRUE that the rent for a flat is as much as 50 euro..if you want to live in just one room of a certain house without the compulsory donestic appliances at your dosposal that might be the case,but otherwise-don’t expect that. The rent can be as much as 400 euro per month or more for a decent flat in the centre of the city. And this thing about minimum wages- it is not true that the “real” minimum wage is 400 euro, I am from BG and I know many people who work for the actual minimum wage which is around 190 euro.

  9. Anna

    And one more thing, nobody has a good sniffing about deals, it’s just that so many people cannot afford to rent a whole apartment and they rent only one room for this price.. or they rent 2 rooms – 1 for each family and they live together. So, your survey is deffinitely not accurate, at least not for Sofia, because I have lived here my whole life and I know I am much more aware about my home town than you are.

    • Tim Leffel

      Again, a Bulgarian wrote that article, not me.

      • Darko

        Here we go.
        Bulgarians are getting offers for Bulgarian prices. As an expat, you’ll get much higher offered price.
        I live in Bucharest Romania and spending every weekend in our summer home on Bulgarian Black Sea near Balchik.
        When I need something, I usually ask Bulgarian friends to bargain the deal.
        E.G 50 leva for some service is immediately 50 EUR for me.
        The same things are happening in Romania.

    • Mai

      Anna, you clearly have not read the article with attention. It says that the utilities cost 50, which is water and electricity. And it says ‘actual average wage’ not ‘actual minimum wage’. Please read more carefully before you send such angry replies.

      Ps: Maria who wrote the article is from Bulgaria aswell.

    • M TAQVI

      Anna would you please like to contact with me as I’m about to come to Sofia in next few days?
      I’ll be in need of your help (From your Experience )
      Thamks.

  10. Nelson

    What a good article, very well writren motivates to consider Bulgaria as a possible destinatio. Thanks Blog and thanks Maria. The only thing Id say is to place a date reference..cheers

    • Tim Leffel

      There’s a date in the article and the URL.

  11. tom k

    I’m interested.
    I think it would be smart to budget $1000 usd per month and be happy to discover that you can live on far less. This seems to be the magic number for most of these “cheapest places to live/retire/ hide out for a year”.
    I’ve been reading all over the internet about cheap living worldwide and what I’ve found is that in 2015 there are a number of really wonderful places one can live for max. US$1000 for a single person and about $1500 for a couple. In some places that will afford you luxury (bordering on opulence) and in others it will get you by comfortably but modestly.

    The key here is what sort of environment you want:
    Do you want the old-world charm of a European town? And if so do you want nightlife? Can you handle the winters that most every city in Central/Eastern Europe have?
    Do you imagine yourself in a tropical paradise? Can you handle the vastly different environs of places like SE Asia?
    Do you need fellow expats around you or are you comfortable being a stranger in a strange land?

    Bulgaria is cheap. There’s no way around it. I visited countries all over Europe from west to east and into Turkey recently. Bulgaria was the cheapest and yet a most magical place. Veliko Tarnovo had an expat community despite it being a small town: A British fellow there told me how he was able to purchase a beautiful and ancient home and completely renovate it with modern amenities for 30,000 Euro. Total. He seemed very happy with his life there.

  12. Blez

    Agree with Tom.

    1000 usd will definitely buy you a vety good life in Sofia and elsewhere in Bulgaria.

    Can you live on less-sure you can! However, that would depend on personal lifestyle and preferences.
    One thing is for sure – there is no decent one bedroom in the city centre for 220 pm. More like starting from 300-350, easily up to 1500 euro per month.
    Utilities will be 100-150 eur in the cold months going down to 50 euro in summer.

  13. adrian

    just been looking at property for sale in the small villages,buy a house for approx £2,000 !!! mind you excellent diy skills are required :)

    • Tim Leffel

      Or you could hire someone for another 2,000 and they would work on it for months!

  14. ian

    i am happy because i have never considered Bulgaria as a tourist destination, now i am wondering about is it safe to go there? on the pics and the food it looks like its OK, are they like in Germany that everyone speaks English or maybe that difficult language, cause i am afraid of not being able to ask for help, lol

  15. And

    The language is horrendous to learn. I chose to live in the south, where the climate is better, but it is provincial and very little English is spoken. They love foreigners, no anti British feeling like in certain countries where Brits like to go and live. The living costs are the cheapest in Europe and likely to stay that way for a while. As already observed, setting up home here will usually mean renovating, but again builders, fitted kitchens with all the brand name appliances – all are cheaper. Getting things done, hiring tradespeople, bureaucracy – you have to have the patience of a saint, like one of the ones credited for inventing the language – or were they just drinking lots of Rakia:) Allow yourself two years plus to get established if living there most of the time. It is a beautiful country, just being discovered, with EU money starting to kick in. Look at Portugal’s tourist industry and infrastructure today and compare it with 20 years ago; go figure.

  16. And

    On safety. It isn’t necessarily good to go where there are already a number of expats as there is less compulsion to blend in, although they will have the contacts. Bulgaria still has a strong culture, but in the larger cities that is already quite eroded. There are villages where there are large numbers of gypsies: some are very hard working and some of the younger ones do well in school, but others live in another world and think nothing of siphoning off electricity, and even trashing empty homes, while in the towns they can cause riots. It’s like anywhere: do research, go there with eyes and ears open to look and not to buy, go back home and evaluate, and if you want to make the move more than ever go back and buy.

  17. Naomi

    I am an American retiree , who has been comparing countries in Europe and the EU for settling in for my “golden years”. Having had the fortunate experience of living, working and traveling in a former eastern European country in the past, I am perhaps more comfortable and actually, quite excited to be returning to the Balkans and making Bulgaria my new home.
    After months of combing online websites and using google satellite maps of each town/city in which I was interested I have made my happy decision. Others have discussed the cost of living and I find a helpful guide for this to be the website, numbeo.com It will assist in breaking down all areas which affect your particulare quality of life. Numbeo is an excellent guide and tool, if you are honest about yourself and your expectations.

    Given that, an individual must still take account of all aspects of daily living, traveling , pet’s welfare, food preferences and personal willingness to remain open to new and sometimes, daunting experiences. In order to make an informed decision, ask yourself what will really make me content for a life anywhere?

    For my circumstances at this stage of life and for me, this new life chapter will be Bulgaria. I wish all good luck and insight.

    • Pedro

      Good luck to you too Naomi.
      (I’m moving to Sofia from Portugal next month. Scared as hell but I got a job there and I’m taking a chance.)

      • Paulo

        Hey Pedro! How have you been ? I got offered a job in Sofia, however, still a tad bit apprehensive… Is it true that’s a very cheap country ? I mean I’ve been living in Bucharest, Romania and everyone says the same yet when you get to stay here you realize things are not so cheap anymore. Same goes to accommodation… Obviously you can get a shitty whole and pay 150€ far away from everyone and everything then again to live comfortable in central 250€ it’s definitely not enough for a studio flat. What would it be a decent salary to live in there ? 1.000€ net ? Knowing that I party very weekend on a Friday and Satirday basis, I normally take taxis everywhere as I don’t like to take buses and most important I normally don’t cook… I eat out literally everyday! Diz qualquer coisa se poderes. Dava uma ajuda enorme. E, se poderes, pfv, deixa um contacto para falarmos melhor. Many Thanks, Paulo

        • Nuno

          Hi Paulo, so are you in Sofia now? I got a job offer quite recently and so I would really appreciate if you could give me some feedback on some matters!

          Obrigado! abraço ;)

      • Nuno

        Hi Pedro,

        I am from Portugal as well and I might get a job offer in Sofia very soon.
        Are you still working there? Would be great if I could have some feedback on that.

        Obrigado!

  18. Lynn Gardiner

    Hi Naomi! I would have $1600 Australian / month income. I would need just a furnished room with ( use of ) kitchen and bathroom. Is that realistic in southern Bulgaria? You seem to have done all the in-depth research , so will probably know!
    AND — can anyone tell me about costs living in Katmandu?? ( I can’t figure out how to post a separate blog!!! )
    Regards , Lynn

  19. Mr.Narendra.Patel

    From.Mr.Narendra.Patel.Hi,I’ve been visiting Bulgeria for the past 8Yrs.It’s abeautifull ,woundereus,Organic,Country.I intend to Retire there in Balchik.Good people,good food,Good Music,Culture,Just perfect enviroment like CUBA.Self sustainable.Thankyou U.K.HelloBULGERIA.Reguards.N.P.

    • dol

      Hi I’m planning to stay in Sofia for 3 months how much is going to cost to live in 0ne bedroom apartment in the city centre of Sofia each month thanks

      • Tim Leffel

        A few hundred dollars probably, but you won’t really know until you get there and start looking around. A lot of what you find online in English is geared to tourists and expats.

  20. Selvadass Pillay

    I find these articles very interesting.I intend staring life anew in a country very much like Bulgaria.I hope to find some activity that will supplement my income as my retirement package is being eroded very quickly by mismanagement and corruption in our country.I do not like to leave my country but we are not making headway as a nation.

  21. Wolf Samuelasson

    Is there anyonone who can inform me aboutn the cost of living for three perons in a three bedroom flat in Tryavna

  22. Roger Fisher

    I have been n Bulgaria 3 times my wife is from there we now live in Tennessee in the US but looking at maybe moving to Varna Bulgaria

  23. sajid

    i am from also thinking about move permanent in Plovdiv

  24. Mattia

    Hello Everyone,

    Here’s Mattia from Italy and I could have the chance to move to Sofia soon.
    Would anyone be so kind to tell me how much does it cost to monthly live in Sofia?

    THANK YOU SO MUCH !

  25. And

    I transfer about 350 Euro a month to live on in Bulgaria, that is in addition to outgoings I still have in my home country. I do not live in Sofia, but in a lower cost provincial town. I do not have to pay rent. I don’t eat out very much. My one ”luxury” is running two cars. The 350 Euro may stretch to some small holidays in neighbouring countries. But not to renovation costs, electrical appliances. My understanding of rent in Sofia is it depends where in the city you choose to live: the apartments will inevitably be more expensive, but nicer, in the areas where foreign nationals tend to congregate. It can be great – you have your own mountain for ski runs in winter and hikes in summer, but the city gets hit badly by snowfall. It is possible to eat out cheaply there too, but prices vary. Personally, I would avoid any city unless for work and business, that is not what Bulgaria is about.

  26. Anna

    How about the cost of medical insurance for a single 50 year old from the UK?
    How much would that cost a month?
    Are there any rules on how much money is needed in the bank to live there permanently if I have no income or pension?

  27. Siri

    How about in Varna. My son is to come to a university there next year. What will be the cost for him for a room with facilities without meals. Anybody ?

  28. UK

    Great post, and lovely photos. I know Bulgaria is great, but I didn’t know it was one of the cheapest places to live. Thanks for sharing.

  29. Jacky

    Hello,
    I’m a Bulgarian citizen, but not living in Bulgaria yet.
    I have visited in Bulgaria many time and thinking to move to Sofia
    I own an apartment in Sofia,
    My question is if a budget of 1500€ per month is enough for living comfortably in Sofia
    thanks

    • geshi

      Yes, you should be fine with this money.

  30. Irwin

    Okay so how much could I afford if I visited Bulgaria with 5,000 dollars.

    What could I afford??

  31. ryan chadwick

    hi there all i am hopefully going to sunny beach to work for the summer but also want to stay permantly after the season?? is it easy enough to find accomadation to stay in?? and how much does it actually cost? monthly? and to live in bulgaria. thanks.

  32. Mitchell Amin

    Just toured Sofia,
    With a car I can live in a decent place in Sofia for about $800.00 us per month including eating out and car maintenance…
    My next trip I plan to go to the Black Sea area and look for a house. Budget $15,000.00 including renovations to house and purchase price.

  33. mohammad afzal khan

    I am a doctor from pakistan,want to reside in Bulgaria,as I am retiring next year.How I get the retire permit of residense and how much it cost to require the pension money.thanks

  34. Travel Around The World

    Very unique place to travel. ;) Fantastic city, amazing people.

    Love Bulgaria. I have been there last year and I know I’ll be back someday soon.

  35. Punky Munnky

    Maintenance in Bulgaria for 1 month!
    1 person-500$
    2 people-800$
    3 people-1100$
    4 people-1400$
    Apartment 65Sq.m. – ~200$
    Physician Insurance- 10$
    Bay )

  36. collin

    I was just in Sofia and I’ve looked at rental prices. From what I can tell you can score deals but generally a nice 2 bedroom apartment is going to cost you about 400-500 euros in a nice area. You can get cheaper but that is what I saw. Plovdiv and other areas are less expensive. I haven’t made it to the coast yet but I expect depending on how close you are to the prime resort areas prices are going to go up. Living in places like Pleven or Targoviste I’m sure you could probably find a place for 1/3 of that. Veliko Tarnovo would be another great place to try but would probably only be a little cheaper than Plovdiv.

    If you are a foreigner I would highly recommend renting and living in Sofia for the first year or two to pick up some words, be close to an international airport, and to deal with immigration issues in person if need be. That is my future plan anyway if I decide to one day retire / telecommute from Bulgaria. Then off to Plovdiv or Veliko Tarnovo.

    I like Bulgaria for the following reasons. 1) Food taste great and is healthy, 2) Rich history though not real touristy, 3) Good base to explore the rest of Eastern Europe and beyond, 4) About 60% as expensive as the US (though as an expat to be safe I’d consider it about 75% as expensive as you will pay more). 5) I have a big family connection there now.

    I still would like to check out Prague and a few other areas though. Also I haven’t been though a Bulgarian Winter yet…I hear they can be cold and lot’s of snow. Snow doesn’t bother me but prolonged very cold gets old.

  37. Isabella Clochard

    If you’re thinking about moving to Bulgaria and wondering what it costs to live here, read on. The following figures show my non-discretionary spending over the 12-month period from March 1, 2016 to February 27, 2017.

    groceries: €4,420 49.55%
    rent: €3,070 34.41%
    electricity: €794 8.90%
    cell phone: €161 1.80%
    ISP €145 1.62%
    clothing €142 1.59%
    water €129 1.44%
    health care €60 0.67%
    TOTAL (rounded) €8,920

    NOTES:

    1) I rent a 2-bedroom furnished apartment in a provincial city.
    2) The electricity bill ranged from €27 (July) to €158 (January).
    2) If my clothing expenses seem low, that’s because I buy most of my clothes at Lidl. Hence part of my expenditure on groceries was, in fact, money spent on clothes. Not much, though.
    3) My cell-phone costs are probably abnormally low, too; I use the phone only once a month, to text the landlord to come and collect the rent.
    4) My internet set-up is the usual WiFi, delivered by landline. The deal includes a landline phone number, which I never use.
    5) The figure for health care represents vitamins, antacids and acetominophen, plus the €2.50 I spent on a taxi to the hospital when I fell and broke an arm. The hospital didn’t charge me anything. “Emergency care is free,” they explained

  38. Tushar Patil

    Is a Bulgaria is the cheapest destination to live ?? Or there is better place than this ?
    Please reply.. waiting..

  39. Nicolas Balint

    Hi

    I plan to emigrate to Bulgaria.

    Would someone know a site for cheap
    apartments? (around € 145.-/ month)

    Thanks!

    Nic

  40. Anthony

    ive i lost the plot am 56 single i have been thinking of buying a house with a big garden to grow fruit/veg could i manage on arould 300/400 lev a month for bills.

    • Gillian Disney

      Im also wanting to buy still researching where’s best have you bought yet any tips would be great

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