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Driving in Bulgaria (Domestic Help)


Most of the roads in Bulgaria are not in very good condition and badly marked. The road signs are basically identical to those in the other European countries but commonly absent or only in Cyrillic. Petrol (benzin) in Bulgaria is slightly cheaper than in Western Europe. The most reliable tanking places (benzinostantsiya) are the 24-hour stations of Shell, OMV and BP.

If you intend to travel by car around Bulgaria keep in mind the vignette system, valid since this year for the national road network, except for the roads within populated areas. You can buy a vignette from all border-crossing points, all post offices and most gas stations. The prices of vignettes are in EUR and USD. They are different depending on the type of the vehicle and the time period.

The minimum age for driving is 18 years. Traffic drives on the right. Speed limits are 120kph (75mph) on motorways, 90kph (56mph) on country roads and 50kph (31mph) in urban areas. You are obliged to use safety seat belts no matter where you sit in the car both inside and outside populated areas. Talking on a cellular telephone while driving is not allowed, unless you use a hands-free device. Drinking and driving is strictly forbidden.

On-the-spot fines are in operation for offences such as speeding, drink driving and not producing the correct documentation. In case of breakdown, dial 146 for the Road Assistance Service. Driving at night is not recommended – hazards include poor lighting and road markings, potholes, horse-drawn carts and vehicles driving without lights.

Car insurance is compulsory, it can be arranged before you arrive or at the border if you enter the country by car.

Driving Licence

Although Bulgaria became part of the EU on January 1 2007, there is a lot of work to do to harmonise road traffic legislation.

Foreign driving licences are valid in Bulgaria, so you can use your existing licence providing you also have an International Driving Permit (IDP). Valid for 12 months, the IDP is recognised internationally and allows you to drive without further bureaucracy. Those staying in Bulgaria for over 12 months will need to replace their existing licence with a Bulgarian licence.

No distinction is being made between the licences of foreigners from European Union countries and foreigners from a non-EU country.

The law currently says that a foreigner may drive a vehicle in Bulgaria with a driving licence issued by the foreigner’s home country for up to one year from the foreigner’s date of entry in Bulgaria. If the foreigner’s country has not ratified the 1968 Vienna convention on road traffic rules, the driving licence must be translated into Bulgarian. The translation can be done by any company dealing with legalising documents in Bulgaria.

If the foreigner’s country has signed the convention, the document cannot be translated into Bulgarian.

After the one-year period, the foreigner must either replace the driving licence with a Bulgarian one, if the foreigner’s country is a party to the 1968 Vienna Convention, or sit the test for a Bulgarian driving licence. The latter, however, can be done only by foreigners with long-term residence permits.




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