PLEASE NOTE: The currency in Bulgaria is the Lev (I will refer to them as B$s). At the time of writing, US$1 = B$1.75.
We have just spent 1 week living in an apartment in Plovdiv Old Town. Plovdiv is the 6th oldest city in the World boasting over 8,000 years of continuous occupation. There are many sites to see:
It was, now, time to move north to Borovets (en route to Sofia) for some time in the Bulgarian countryside …
I walked the 600 metres from my Plovdiv accommodation to a bus stop on bul. Tsar Borris III Obedinitel. This is where we can catch 1 of 5 different buses going south to the Train Station. It takes 10 minutes to get to the Train Station and costs B$1. For me, it was 10am.
From ‘Bus Station Plovdiv’ we can catch a bus direct to Borovets. The bus leaves at 1pm each day, takes 2:40 hrs, and costs B$10. I didn’t want to wait for 3 hours, so I walked 200 metres to the Train Station to catch the 11:03 train to Kostenets.
The trip takes 45 minutes. The cost is B$4.50. From the drop off, it was a 300 metre walk to my Borovets hotel.
Borovets is a popular Bulgarian mountain resort situated on the northern slopes of the Rila Mountains, at an altitude of 1350 metres. Borovets is 10 kms south of Samokov, 73 kms south of Sofia, and 125 km west Plovdiv.
Borovets is the oldest Bulgarian winter resort with a history that dates back to 1896. Borovets was originally established as a hunting place for the Bulgarian Kings. Borovets gradually developed into a modern ski resort with hotels, restaurants, bars and a network of ski runs and lifts along the slopes of the Rila Mountains … providing for a whole range of winter sports.
Borovets has twice hosted World Cup Alpine Skiing rounds (1981 and 1984) and the Biathlon track is one of the best in the world.
SOUTH OF ROUTE 82:
NORTH OF ROUTE 82:
A very nice ‘off-season country escape’.
However, it looks like they have over-invested … some of the more remote hotels look abandoned / closed.
This is what you can expect to find at short notice in late July:
PLEASE NOTE: HOTELS usually display prices INCLUSIVE of TAXES. But many search sites (like HOTELS) don’t provide a ‘private bathroom’ filter, so be careful with some of the cheap hotels and make sure that you read the room details.
AIRBnB / HOLIDAY RENTALS:
PLEASE NOTE: Other sites (such as Homeaway, FlipKey and VRBO are also worth a look).
Even in ‘Off Season’ (when most of the hotels are almost empty), GRANDPAckers will struggle to get accommodation within the ‘up to US$25 / night’ price range. However, for under US$30 you can find several Self Catering Aparthotel options that do make it financially viable.
I used BOOKING.COM to book a Single Room at Hotel Ela. I paid B$58 / US$34 per night for Half Board.
The Breakfast Buffet was served in the downstairs restaurant. It was a ‘typical’ Bulgarian breakfast. They provided cold meats, cheeses, olives, tomatoes, cucumber, breads, and jams. In addition, they provided a warm option: boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, sausages, and croissants. Fruit, yogurt, and cakes were also available. There were drinks machines providing bottomless tea and coffee. At breakfast I saw, perhaps, 6-10 other people.
It also provides a Sauna at extra cost.
US$34 / night was excellent value for money: my accommodation and meals were both covered (I don’t eat Lunch).
WHERE TO STAY:
Have a look yourself:
EAT & DRINK:
At this time of year about half of the places are closed but there are still plenty to choose from.
There are several minimarts around town where you can buy basic provisions. This makes an ‘aparthotel option’ viable. There are a couple of big minimarts in the eastern streets (see, above Photo Gallery).
There are a couple of Fast Food options where you can get a hot dog for B$3 or a burger for B$3.50.
A local 500ml beer at a minimart will cost about B$1.60. A 1L about B$2.20.
Expect to pay B$3.50-B$4.00 for a local 500ml beer in your hotel.
There are plenty of small bars around town with 500ml beers in the B$2.50-B$3.50 price range.
Breakfast is not normally included in Bulgaria. Expect to pay an average of B$7 for a cheap local Breakfast with tea / coffee.
Expect to pay an average of B$7 for a cheap Lunch with fruit drink.
Expect to pay an average of B$12 for a cheap Dinner with a Fruit Juice / 500ml Beer.
Obviously, if you had your own Aparthotel with a kitchen, you could bring in groceries and eat for half of this price … but, for comparative purposes, this is not GRANDPAcking Standard.
A bus leaves from Borovets to Samokov (and visa versa) every 30 minutes. The Bus Stop is outside the front of Hotel Ela.
There are money exchanges in town but some were closed when I was there (presumably, some close in ‘off season’). Some are inside the stores. They exchange several currencies including GBP, EURO, and US$s. They offer ‘zero commission’ which, usually, means that they offer a poor exchange rate.
There are no Banks (that I saw) but there are some ATMs. Some ATMs were ‘closed’. Just in case, bring enough cash.
INTERNET / WIFI:
Don’t trust your hotel to provide good wifi in this price range.
In Sunny Beach I went to A1. They were unfriendly and unhelpful. In addition, their main store had no Tourist Holiday+ simcards. Their smallest 1 month option was 30GBs for B$30.
I went next door to Vivacom and bought their 15GB Prepaid Data Package for B$15 (this included the new SIMcard). Again, it was their smallest option. You need your passport. They configured in up for me. In the store, I immediately downloaded their Mobile App. They helped me sign in. Because I downloaded the App, Vivacom gave me an extra 10GBs for free.
HEALTH & SAFETY:
The first thing that you notice is the number of smokers; there is still a large % of smokers here. Not a surprise when you can get a 30g pack of rolling tobacco for only B$9.50.
There is no reason to feel unsafe. As always, exercise normal levels of caution … don’t make yourself an obvious target.
You don’t need to worry about getting ‘ripped off’ on everyday items just because you are a ‘tourist’. The shops charge you the same price as the locals. HOWEVER, for ‘tourist activities’ you should still try and ‘haggle’ (especially ‘off season’ when there aren’t many people around).
WHEN TO GO
WHAT TO DO:
Like most ski resorts, Borovets is quieter during the summer, but there is:
- Horse Riding by the hour (or 1 to 7-day holidays) on the wonderful mountain;
- Forest tracks and paths; and more recently,
- Mountain biking which has become popular with many dedicated routes
The lifts are working in the summer and bikers can take their bikes up on them. Different lifts work on different days.
Hiking is also popular as is fishing at the local trout fishery.
The Kings Palace (Tsarska Bistritsa) is open from 10 till 5 Friday to Sunday and cost B$3 entry.
Read About – GRANDPAcking Costs if you don’t know how to interpret my figures.
My costs are broken down into:
- Cost of Existence: The basic costs of just being there
- Cost of Living: The additional costs that make being there fun
COST OF EXISTENCE (COE):
I EXISTED within GRANDPAcking standard.
My accommodation was B$58 / US$34 per night.
I already had my working and topped up Vivacom SIMcard.
I paid nothing for food & water: I had Half Board.
My COE worked out to be about B$44 (US$25) per day.
COST OF LIVING (COL):
I LIVED to GRANDPAcking standard.
Living Costs: I averaged about B$4 per night on drinks.
Entertainment: I spent nothing on Entertainment … I just went for walks in the countryside.
In / Out Costs: My public transport costs were B$11.
My total COL was about B$49 (US$29) / day. This was only 53% of my budget.
COSTS FOR 2 GRANDPAckers:
Again, costs are broken down into Cost Of Existence (COE) and Cost Of Living (COL).
COST OF EXISTENCE (COE):
Accommodation: I have booked you into an Aparthotel on a long term rate of US$25 / night.
Transportation: I have budgeted a return bus trip on a local bus each week to Samokov.
Communications & Fees: I have budgeted a Vivacom SIMcard and 1 month promo data package.
Food & Water: Your budget averages about B$53 (US$31) / day for 2 people. This is to eat all of your meals in Cheap Restaurants.
Your COE is about B$96 (US$56) / day. This is 4% OVER budget.
COST OF LIVING (COL):
This leaves you nothing to LIVE on.
If you are looking for a quiet, mountain retreat with great scenery and pleasant walking trails, you should consider Borovets.
Accommodation may be on the expensive side for GRANDPAckers but an Aparthotel would work. There are many cheap restobars to while away the evenings.
MY SUGGESTION: Come in July. Book Half Board in an hotel like Hotel Ela. In July, you should be able to get Half Board for 2 people in a Double Room for US$45-US$48 / night. As long as you are NOT big drinkers, are happy with just 2 meals each day, and just want to enjoy a quiet time in beautiful surroundings, you can LIVE within GRANDPAcking Budget.
Could you afford to retire here on a GRANDPAcking budget? NO.