Sofia – Bulgaria – Information


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JULY 2019:



OVERVIEW:

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 3 (Summer Season) nights in the famous Ski Resort of Borovets.

We, now, head for the capital city: Sofia …


GETTING THERE:

We need to get from Borovets to Sofia via Samokov.

The bus from Borovets to Samokov stops in front of Hotel Ela.

It leaves every 30 minutes: on the hour and half past the hour. The price is B$1.50. I caught the 10:30am. Travel time is about 15 minutes.

It terminates at Samokov Bus Station. I arrived at 10:45am. The 11am bus from Samokov to Sofia was already waiting.

The seating was ‘average’ but comfortable. The price was B$6. Travel time is 1:15 hours.

I was expecting the bus to terminate at the main Central Bus Station on the northern edge of Sofia City Centre (I had already planned how I was going to get from there to my hotel). To my surprise, it terminated south of City Centre at the STTS Interpred Bus Station.

From here, it was an easy 200 metre walk to the Joliot Curie Metro Station. A metro ticket costs B$1.60 per ride. I got off at the Sofia University Metro Station and walked the 200 metres to my apartment. I arrived there at 1pm.


ABOUT:

I can’t tell you any more about Sofia than what is already well documented on the internet.

Sofia has a long history. Sofia has been an area of human habitation since at least 7000 BC. The recorded history begins with the Romans conquering the original settlement of Serdica from the Celts in 29 BC. Sofia was raided by Huns in 343–347 AD and, again, in 447 AD. Sofia was conquered by Visigoths in 376–382 AD, then conquered by Avars and Slavs in 617 AD.

Sofia was subsequently conquered by the Pechenegs in 1048 and 1078, by the Magyars and Serbs in 1183, and by the Crusaders in 1095 and 1190. The rule of the Second Bulgarian Empire lasted from 1194 until its conquest by the Ottomans in 1382. From 1520 to 1836, Sofia was the Ottoman Empire’s regional capital of their European province. Bulgarian rule was restored in 1878. After WWII, Bulgaria was seized by the Soviet Union.

Bulgaria secured independence in 1989.


PHOTO GALLERY:

Where do you start? There is so much history and so much to see …

PARKS:

There are several parks to while away some time in.

CHURCHES:

And, obviously, lots of beautiful churches.

Some with golden domes that glisten in the sunlight.

The insides are typical Orthodox Christian.

And, there are plenty of little ones to discover.

CITY CENTRE:

There are pedestrian streets in the city centre.

And, plenty of nice buildings to appreciate.

SERDICA:

The Roman ruins of Serdica were discovered when they started to build the Serdica Metro Station. They have been left open for people to walk around.

Some lie within the Metro Station itself.

MUSEUMS:

The Archaeological Museum is worth a visit. Entry B$10.

BRIDGES:

There are some ‘famous’ bridges but they are not much to see … but they are worth walking over.

THE ROMAN WALL:

The ‘Roman Wall’ is, actually, Byzantine. It is not much to see … but that doesn’t stop people visiting and sitting underneath it in one of the small cafes.


ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS:

JULY:

This is what you can expect to find within 1km of the City Centre at short notice in late July:

BOOKING.COM:

HOTELS.COM:

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).

OCTOBER:

An alternative to July is the other best ‘Shoulder Season’ month: October.

BOOKING.COM:

HOTELS.COM:

AIRBnB / HOLIDAY RENTALS:

IN SUMMARY:

GRANDPAckers can find accommodation in the City Centre within our price range. Again, as is usual in Bulgaria, BOOKING offers a wider range and better value for money than Hotels and AirBnB.


MY ACCOMMODATION:

I used BOOKING.COM to book a Double Room with Private Bathroom (single occupancy) at the ART Revolution Studio. It was a new listing. I paid B$40 (US$23) per night for 4 nights.

The studio room was in a basement. It smelt like a basement but it did not smell of mould. The owners are going to install dehumidifiers.

There are 2 rooms that share a kitchen / diner.

There is a fridge, microwave, kettle, and coffee maker. Plates, cups, and cutlery are provided. It is a simple kitchen targeting drinks and cold / fast food. The owners plan to install a kitchen sink so that they can provide better kitchen facilities.

Meanwhile, you have to clean your dishes in the small sink in your bathroom.

This whole downstairs area is secured with a door and key. My room was spacious. Each studio is secured with its own door and key as well.

I had a double bed.

A clothes rack.

And cable TV which had several English Speaking channels (including 1 movie channel).

The ensuite is an average size.

The shower has good water pressure and plenty of hot water.

The downstairs area has its own WiFi which is fast, strong, and good enough to stream video.

Upstairs is a small restobar owned by the same landlord (Roman). You can use this area freely and you get a 10% discount.

The basement has ‘history’. This is where revolutionaries met in secret to plan Bulgarian Independence.


WHERE TO STAY:

The Metro System is comparatively new in Sofia. There are only 3 lines that meet at Serdica. Otherwise, Sofia is mainly serviced by an older tram system and a public bus network.

Ideally, you want to be in the City Centre so that you can walk around all of the sights. If not, you want to me close to a Metro Station.


ACCOMMODATION SEARCH:

Have a look yourself:


Booking.com


EAT & DRINK:

This is a big city … you have a multitude of options.

CHEAP EATS:

As an example, you can get an XL sized Chicken Doner Kebab for B$5. In a cheap restaurant, expect to pay about B$10 for a meal.

DRINK:

In the supermarkets, you can buy a 500ml bottle of local beer for under B$1. A 2L bottle costs about B$2-B$2.50.

In an average bar, you will get a 500ml bottle for about B$4. A standard cocktail costs about B$7.

IN SUMMARY:

Breakfast is NOT usually included in Bulgaria. Expect to pay an average of B$10 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.


TRANSPORT:

Both of the Metro Blue Lines take you to the main Railway Station which is only 100 metres from the main Bus Station. A Metro ticket costs a flat-rate of B$1.60. You can change from the Red Metro Line to either of the Blue Line(s) at Serdica for free.

I booked a long distance bus from Sofia to Nis, Serbia for B$24. They leave from the main Bus Station twice each day: 7:30am and 4:00pm. The trip takes about 3.5-4 hours depending on how long it takes to clear the border.


INTERNET / WIFI:

Don’t trust your hotel to provide good wifi in this price range.

VIVACOM:

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$7.50.

There is no reason to feel unsafe. As always, exercise normal levels of caution … don’t make yourself an obvious target.


CONCLUSION:

The more that I come to these big cities, the more that I realise that I am not a ‘big city type person’.

Obviously, living in a big city is a totally different story but, as a tourist, 3 nights would have been enough.

TTFN

 


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