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How Much Does It Really Cost to Live in Bulgaria?

cost of living in Bulgaria

Back in 2014, I published a guest post from Bulgaria native and blogger Maria Stoynova. It laid out the cost of living in Bulgaria at that point, but of course things change over time. So I pulled in a few other locals this time to provide an update on what locals and expats are actually paying.

This is still one of Europe’s cheapest travel destinations and one of the bargain spots to move to in the world, a real bargain by European continent standards. It has a starring role in two of my books. But don’t just take my word for it. Here’s the prices in Bulgaria scoop from Bulgarian residents, with Maria’s original intro below.

“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 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 will convince you to stay longer—or maybe even move here.”

Live in Bulgaria Accommodation

The minimum wage in Bulgaria has climbed from 170 euros when we did this post originally to 261 per month today. That’s still quite low, but the actual average wage has finally climbed above 500 Euros a month at least. Bearing that in mind it is obvious that the accommodation costs should not exceed that amount, keeping the Bulgaria cost of living low.

A decent two-bedroom apartment near the Sofia city center would cost at least 300€,” says Todor Bozhinov of Kashkaval Tourist, “more like upwards of 350€ these days.”

The cost of living in Bulgaria, one of the cheapest countries in Europe for expats “Utilities are still about the same as four years ago, under 50€ for electric, heating, and water, though in winter it could be a bit more. he says.” Home internet service is 10-15€ per month.

Outside of the center the rent decreases by around 50€ and if you venture further out the accommodation is even cheaper. It’s still possible to find a one-bedroom apartment under 200 euros on the edge of the city and you can get a house for that amount in some villages. To buy a place in Sofia averages under 100€ per square foot.

While most working expats settle in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, many expatriate bargain hunters head elsewhere. They go to the second city of Plovdiv, where rents drop by 1/4 to 1/3, the ski area of Bansko, or into smaller towns that are downright cheap. If you want to live in Bulgaria permanently, you can buy a house in many towns for under 50K euros, though don’t expect a lot of English speakers in those areas like you have in the capital.

Sarah Carter and her husband own a 400 square-foot studio in Bansko that they bought “at the top of the market unfortunately” for €40,000, but it’s right by the ski gondola and the complex has an indoor pool, sauna, whirlpool, outdoor pool, garden, and security. “If you’re willing to buy in an older building or a little further of a walk,” she says, “You could probably buy a studio condo for less than €20,000 right now.” We found listings of one-bedroom places for €20,000 to €30,000 doing a quick search online. If you’re in the market to buy, Bulgaria has some of the cheapest real estate in Europe.

Bulgarian Transportation

TetevanIn the big cities there are plenty of transportation options to choose from. “One-way tickets in Sofia are now 0.80 EUR, though a day ticket for all lines is still €2 and a great deal,” says Todor.

“They also recently invented a 3-day Sofia Pass,” adds Bilyana Petrova, “which costs 10€ and besides for the transportation, it can be used for getting a discount in some places.” For transportation alone this is not a great deal, but for three sightseeing days it can save some money. See details here.

Taxis prices haven’t changed much, usually 3-4 euros around Sofia, up to 10 for a ride out to the airport.

To get to another city, there’s the romantic but rather slow Bulgarian train system, or a series of private bus companies that can get you there faster in air-conditioned or heated comfort. Both are comparably priced and cheap: you can get from one side of the country to another for less than 15 euros, with an upgrade to first class or a sleeper berth on the train being a paltry 3 or 4 euros on top the base fare. A three-hour bus ride will generally run 6 to 10€, so it’s not going to cost you much to take excursions. You can go all the way from Sofia to Bucharest, Romania for 14.50.

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€. Here are some tips from Bilyana on traveling in Bulgaria by car.

There’s now a sort of toll-by-plate system where you buy an annual “vignette” pass that covers highways in the whole country of Bulgaria. It’s around €50 for a whole year.

Don’t forget the real sharing economy says Bilyana. “For traveling to other cities in Bulgaria such as Plovdiv, Veliko Turnovo, and Varna, there are groups on Facebook that offer shared rides—it’s usually cheaper and faster than taking the bus or the train.”

Eating Out and Buying Groceries in Bulgaria

“If you’re coming to live in Bulgaria make sure you pack some bigger jeans because for really reasonable prices you’ll get a lot of food,” says Maria. “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 8-12 euros so you can be wined and dined for very little money.”

shopska salad, a staple when living in Bulgaria

The famous “shopska” salad will cost you around 2€. “Most of the restaurants in Sofia offer lunch menus,” says Bilyana. “You can get only a main dish from the menu or have a 3-course lunch. For a 3-course lunch, expect to pay around 5-8 euros.

Seasonal fruit, vegetables, yogurt, and meat are a fraction of the price of western European prices, which helps keep the cost of living in Bulgaria low. They’re often organic and local because that’s the way it’s always been done. You can pick up two kilos of some items for a euro. “Weekly groceries for me hover around 20 euros,” says Todor. See his article here on Bulgarian food.

“Fresh produce is abundant and cheap,” says Sarah, “and the sun-ripened tomatoes here taste better than any tomato I’ve ever had anywhere. The yogurt is fantastic too.”

If you like to drink at home or are having people over, a 500-ml beer (about a pint) in a store will run half a euro. In a locals’ bar outside of the capital, you can still find €1 beers and your order house wine by the liter with dinner. Vodka and brandy are very cheap.

Social Life Costs in Sofia

“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,” says Maria. If you’re feeling like doing something a little fancier a ticket to the theater can be found for 5 to 10 euros.

“There are a lot of night clubs in Bulgaria simply because Bulgarians know how to party,” she adds. “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.”

One-euro beers are increasingly rare in Sofia restaurants, €1.50 is more like it these days,” says Todor. “At a night club, a beer would cost more like 2-2.50 EUR, 50ml of liquor would also be 2.50-3 EUR. Cocktails around 4-5 EUR. Coffee at a café is about 1 EUR.”

live in Bulgaria and go to the Sofia theater for cheap

 

A Monthly Cost of Living Budget for Bulgaria

So is Bulgaria cheap if you’re looking for a bargain place to live? Compared to the rest of Europe, it’s a great value.

Going back to that 500 euros per month average salary, imagine how you look in comparison if you’re getting two social security checks for $1,200 each. Or think how absolutely loaded you are if your online business is netting €3,000 per month. In London or New York on that amount, you’re next to broke. In Sofia, you’re the rich guy (or gal) at the party.

You won’t have to second-guess your health care in Bulgaria. A visit to the doctor will generally run between €15 and €50, the high end being for a specialist who speaks English. Dental care is a tiny fraction of what it costs in the USA. You can also get a maid to clean your place regularly for well under €5-8 per hour. A guy will spend €7-8 for a haircut in a nice business neighborhood in Sofia, less in a working-class one or in a small town.

So how much will it cost you per month to live in Bulgaria? That depends a lot on how you live, but add a nice 2BR apartment in the city center of Sofia, utilities, groceries, two doctor visits, and eating out three times a week and you’re probably still well under €1,200 for two. Or under 900€/US$1,000 if you’re single and reasonably frugal. Even less in smaller cities. To live in Europe! Just bring a heavy coat for those winters…

Special thanks to Maria, who provided the original post on what it costs to live in Bulgaria and provided some of the photos. See her site at Travelling Buzz. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Are you interested in cutting your expenses in half just by changing your address? Get on the Cheap Living Abroad E-mail list.

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Ron G.

Thursday 8th of April 2021

I’m getting mixed reviews about Bulgaria. We are wanting to take a vacation and enjoy the culture but we are black Americans. I’m really trying to enjoy different places in the world but I’m old enough to not go where I’m not wanted. Please help me with this. Why Bulgaria, why not May I ask?

Tim Leffel

Saturday 10th of April 2021

There haven't traditionally been many black people in the countries that were part of the Soviet Union and you won't find many north of there either. So there could be discomfort and uneasiness just from that. I'm not the guy to ask though. Poke around on expat message boards and see if you can find other people of color to ask about their experiences. Or just do a trial run when things open up and see. In most of the world, bigger cities and tourist areas are usually going to be more liberal and less bigoted than rural areas.

rebvar

Monday 7th of September 2020

hi, I need some help because I want to go to bulgaria a few month later and if you give me some advise i'll be very appreciated, I have just €4,000, how much can i leave there with this money?I'm a low-income person and I can live in hardships, so any advise?

Martin K.

Wednesday 10th of February 2021

Hi, Bulgarian here. 4000 euro is about 8000 BGN, which should be enough for about 5 months. It really depends on the place you intend to move to. Sofia (the capital) is the most expensive and you can barely survive there with 800-1000 euro per month. The big cities like Varna, Plovdiv and Burgas should be about 20% cheaper. The smaller towns and villages are significantly cheaper and you can survive longer time with these money.

Anon

Friday 19th of June 2020

Hi - Can you please advise on schools , I see the fees are quite steep for international schools.

Tim Leffel

Monday 22nd of June 2020

Accredited international schools are expensive almost anywhere in the world because it's where the rich and elite send their kids. So if being at a top one is a requirement, you may spend as much on schooling as you spend on rent. You may discover another tier on a scouting trip though, a school where lessons are in English but it's not priced like a University. Waldorf and Montessori schools, for example, are usually much more reasonable. I'm not sure what the situation is in Bulgarian cities though.

S. Kane

Sunday 12th of April 2020

Bulgaria is extremely racist if you are not white. If you are from Western Europe or USA ( white) , you will be respected and people will look up to you, if not people are extremely prejudice... You need between €1600 or € 2000 per month there to live well. Nothing luxury just like a normal person. If you compare it to New York for example, you will need at least $ 6000 per month there and that’s outside of Manhattan. My calculations are for 2 people. Take it from someone who has lived both in US and Bulgaria.

Martin K.

Wednesday 10th of February 2021

I can partly and politely disagree. Bulgaria has not been a colonial country and have never had intensive contact with other races. However, especially in the larger cities people are pretty well educated and open minded to accept and communicated with all sorts of foreigners. Furthermore, big university centers like Sofia, Varna, Plovdiv are visited by thousands of university students of all races every year, so it is not uncommon to meet people of different races there. Smaller towns and villages are a different story. People are suspicious and may seem unfriendly, but I don't think they are openly hostile. There are exceptions though, like anywhere. So, no, Bulgaria is deifintely NOT a racist country.

Christopher

Tuesday 18th of August 2020

He is right ! An African has about as much chance of living here as a transvestite they won’t even grant your visa. Neither will trump for that matter. Sad but true

Tim Leffel

Friday 17th of April 2020

Yes, unfortunately this is true for much of Eastern Europe, especially Hungary. On the money amount, I think you would find it extremely difficult to live in the UK, Australia, or most parts of the USA on just €2,000 per month and even that is at the high end for Bulgaria. I'm doing interviews for the next edition of my book and the amounts you quote are at the top end of what anyone I have talked to is spending each month for life like "a normal person." I believe the average local salary is less than 600 euros, which is 1/4 that of the UK, 1/5 that of the US.

Hans Jurgen Jones

Wednesday 27th of November 2019

can I live with a wife and one son having pension of 35oo.- euro thank jurgen

Christopher

Tuesday 18th of August 2020

Very well! That’s about 7000 bgn/ Mo. People live on 1000bgn /mo you would live great. 2 of us live on $2400 or about 4500 bgn / mo and live gr3at. You will be upper middle class here

Angel

Thursday 2nd of April 2020

Like a king, indeed. 3500 euro/month will get you a luxury and comfortable lifestile for three anywhere in BG. I was born in Sofia, lived and worked for the past 30 years in South Africa and I am due to retire soon. I will definitely retire in BG, my money will go much, much further there, for sure.

Madan Mohan

Sunday 15th of December 2019

Yes with this amount you can live like a king. I live in Belgium, I go to Bulgaria often few years ago I bought a house in Vratza region. Taxi’s are very cheap they run on lpg. Eating out is cheap, Divaka restaurants have very good food and not expensive compared to Belgium you can expect to pay around 15€ for 3. The country is beautiful offering mountains and sea people are nice except few taxi driver, always use yellow taxis. If you love opera in Sofia it’s cheap and world renowned ( price 10€ against 150€ in Belgium) People are out going.