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Subject: soc.culture.bulgaria FAQ (monthly posting) (part 2/10)

This article was archived around: 20 Jan 2003 04:00:46 -0500

All FAQs in Directory: bulgaria-faq
All FAQs posted in: soc.culture.bulgaria
Source: Usenet Version

Last-Modified: July 17, 2000 Posting-Frequency: Monthly Version: 4.11 URL: http://www.cs.columbia.edu/~radev/cgi-bin/bgfaq.cgi Archive-Name: bulgaria-faq/part2
=============================================================================== CHAPTER 3: VISITING BULGARIA ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3-1 Travel agencies dealing with Bulgaria (by Plamen Bliznakov), last updated: 31-Jul-1994 Telefoni i FAX na letishte JFK : (718) 656-8235 (718) 656-8370 (718) 656-0119 (mislja, poslednoto e FAX) Adresqt e E. Wing, Building 51 JFK International Airport Jamaica, NY 11430 1-800 - nomera imat dve ot agenciite, specializirani v bileti za BG. Balkan Holidays - predstavljavat Balkan ot poveche vreme (800) 852-0944 (obshto vzeto ne go reklamirat za p`tnici, idejata e kato che li poveche da go polzvat travel agent-i) (212) 573-5530 (212) 573-5538 (FAX) Intervega - rabotjat sravnitelno ot skoro (800) 677-9089 Sofia Travel - s`shto sa sravnitelno otskoro v NY (212) 247-8091 (212) 247-3810 (FAX) Poslednite dve agencii kato che li predlagat po-niski ceni (makar che imat dop`lnitelni taksi za pokupka na bileti s kreditna karta, v krajna smetka mozhe da izleze i s`shtata suma). Ima e agencija s E-mail adres : TraveLB@aol.com Po princip, v njakoi sluchai agenciite mogat da predlozhat i cena po-niska ot tazi, kojato Balkan shte dade direktno na p`tnika. No p`k v njakoi sluchai chovek se nalaga da se obadi direktno na Balkan. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3-2 Telephones of Balkan Airlines (by Plamen Stefanov), last updated: 31-Jul-1994 (212) 371-2047 (212) 573-5530 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3-3 Visa info for foreigners (by Plamen Bliznakov) Visitors should have valid passports. No visa is required for Americans visiting up to 30 days. Entry or transit visas could be obtained at Bulgarian Embassies and Consulates abroad. Some Addresses : In the USA The Consular Office of the Bulgarian Embassy 1621 22nd Street N.W., Washington, DC 20008 Phone: (202) 483-5885 In Canada The Consular Office of the Bulgarian Embassy 100 Adelaide Street, Toronto, Ontario M5H 1S3 Phone (416) 363-7307 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3-4 Tourist Information (by Dragomir R. Radev) Off-peak Europe in brief [...] During the winter, there's top skiing (Borovets has been the site of World Cup competitions) plus a Christmas and New Year's Festival in the country's 5,000-year-old capital, Sofia. Come spring, Black Sea resorts are magnets for vacationing Europeans. Year-round, Bulgaria is on of the best bargains in Europe. In fact, a seven-day air/land package (New York-Sofia) starts as low as $825 per person. Ski Bulgaria packages - offered by Balkan Holidays - start as low as $1,000 per person, including roundtrip airfare to Sofia, six nights' first-class accomodations, breakfast and dinner daily, equipment rental and lift passes, and ski-school tuition. Best shopping buys include antiques, leather goods, perfume, ceramics and woordcrafts. Bulgarian Tourist Information Center: 41 East 42nd St., Suite 508, New York, NY 10017, (212) 573-5530 Source: NYT supplement "Your invitation to Europe", October 10, 1993 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3-5 Useful Contacts in Bulgaria (by Department of Commerce of the USA, Eastern Europe Business Bulletin) American Embassy Sofia John Fogarasi, Commercial Attache No.1 Bulgaria Square NDK Administration Building, 5th Floor Sofia, Bulgaria (APO NY 09213-5740) Tel: 359-2-65-94-64 (or 359-2-88-48-01 ext. 307) Fax: 359-2-80-38-50 (or 80-19-77) Telex: 22690 BG Ministry of Industry & Trade Boris Nachev, International Trade Specialist 8, ul. Slavyanska 1000 Sofia, Bulgaria Tel: 359-2-80-37-28 Fax: 359-2-89-76-05 Evgeni Kharalanov, U.S. Desk Officer Tel: 359-2-87-24-20 Fax: 359-2-89-76-05 Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce & Industry Vladimir Lambrev, President 11A, A.Stamboliiski Blvd. 1000 Sofia, Bulgaria Tel: 359-2-87-26-31 Fax: 359-2-87-32-09 Bulgarian-American Enterprise Fund Ms. L. Searle Vetter, Managing Director 3 Shipka Street Sofia, Bulgaria Tel: 359-2-44-18-62 Fax: 359-2-43-89-47 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3-6 Visit to Bulgaria (by Jan Terziyski) The airport is 3km from the Sofia living areas (Druzhba, Iskyr, etc.). The buses depart every 20min, but in the rush hours you can get on for 5 min or so. Tickets ARE AVAILABLE on board, but one has to by a bunch of ten or five to ease the driver who may not have change. For the tourists who have reserved rooms in bigger hotels by travelling agency, there are buses going directly to the hotel(I know about Varna, but such a service should be available in Sofia). There are 4 main international roads, used by tourists and cargo-trucks: Kalotina-Sofia-Plovdiv-Svilengrad, Vidin-Sofia-Kulata, Russe-Pleven-Sofia-Kulata and Russe-Sliven-(to Turkey and to Greece). ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3-7 Hotels in Bulgaria (by Plamen Bliznakov), last updated: 06-Apr-1994 Bulgaria has some 400 international hotels with 100,000 beds, half of which are located in the Black Sea resorts. In all major cities and tourist places there is at least one good First Class hotel. Some of the hotels are built with Western partners and are jointly managed. In Sofia you can stay at Deluxe hotels like the Sheraton Balkan Hotel, the Vitosha Hotel or the First class Novotel Evropa, Rodina or Grand Sofia Hotel. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3-8 Where to sleep in Bulgaria (by Plamen Stefanov), last updated: 31-Jul-1994 WHERE TO SLEEP Stay in private accommodations whenever and wherever you can. Whether it's a private room in a house or a private hotel (each $5-$7 per night), you will be much better off than if you stay in a state-run establishment, where prices vary according to your nationality. In the latter, foreigners pay exorbitant prices - as much as $100 - $150 per night, which is about 10-20 times the amount a Bulgarian would pay. Even if you speak Bulgarian, the mandatory display of your passport will give you away. If that were not bad enough, the typical Balkantourist hotel is run-down and dirty. Hot water is rarity; plumbing and electrical problems are not. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3-9 The Sheraton Hotel in Sofia (by Dragomir R. Radev), last updated: 07-Jun-1995 Sheraton Sofia 5, Sveta Nedelya Sq. $180 per night 359-2-876541 1-800-325-3535 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3-10 Renting Cars (by Plamen Stefanov), last updated: 06-Sep-1995 CITY RENT - VARNA 10,Dragan Tsankov str. tel: 359/52/256977 Lada (1 month) 640 $ (insurance and VAT included) Price goes up respectively with the size of the vehicle Hertz or Avis charge nearly double ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3-11 Eating in Bulgaria (by Plamen Stefanov), last updated: 31-Jul-1994 The staple in most restaurants is meat - and don't expect a large selection. The loud music at diner is meant to keep you occupied while you wait. It's common to share tables if a place is crowded, which can be a plus or minus, depending on whom you are stuck with. The "smetkata" (bill) won't be brought to you until you ask for it. It's a good idea to request a menu and check the addition - errors are common. Whether you are dining out or weighing veggies at the marketplace, you will find that food is extremely cheap. The major obstacles are finding it and waiting in line for it. ... Many locals consider Sofia's restaurants overpriced and are wary of being overcharged by money-hungry waiters, who tend to prey on foreigners but who have recently begun pulling scams on locas as well. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3-12 Bringing electrical devices to Bulgaria (by Dragomir R. Radev), last updated: 02-Jul-1996 Be careful when bringing electrical appliances from the U.S. to Bulgaria. The voltage there (as in the rest of Europe) is 220 V. Don't lose your equipment to the high voltage! In addition to this, note that the frequency used in Bulgaria is 50 Hz, not 60 Hz. In addition to this, please note that plugs (and outlets) in Bulgaria are different than those in the U.S. So, even if your computer (VCR, or whatever) can operate at 220 V, you will still need a special plug (it's better to purchase it before coming to Bulgaria, since you might not be able to find one there). ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3-13 Information for drivers (by Plamen Bliznakov), last updated: 06-Apr-1994 Bulgaria is connected with neighbouring countries by a broad network of motorways. Motorists entering the country are required to provide valid driver's license (a regular US driver's license is sufficient), car registration, and an insurance policy covering third party liability known as the "green card". The latter can be obtained at the border, but buying it in advance typically costs less. Gas stations in Bulgaria are located 25-30 kilometers (15-20 miles) apart. Hours of operation in most cases are 6 a.m. (6:00) to 10 p.m. (22:00). Few gas stations in big cities and key junctions are open 24 hours a day. Unleaded gasoline is available at the border checkpoints, in Sofia and the large Black Sea and mountain resorts, and along the major motorways. Speed limits : for cars - 60 km/h (37 MPH) within city limits, 80 km/h (50 MPH) on roadways outside cities and 120 km/h (75 MPH) on highways. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3-14 Time, office hours (by Plamen Bliznakov) (by Plamen Bliznakov), last updated: 06-Apr-1994 Time Local time: GMT+2 or EST+7. As in most European countries, summer daylight saving time is being introduced from the last weekend of March till the last weekend of September. Business Hours Shopping Usually open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. (9:00) to 1 p.m. (13:00) and from 2 p.m. (14:00) to 7 p.m. (19:00). Banks Typically work with customers Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. (8:00) till noon (12:00). Museums From 9 a.m. (9:00) to 5 p.m. (17:00). Admission fees are $ 1 - $ 3. Restaurants Meals may be ordered until 11 p.m. (23:00). Government offices Monday to Friday 9 a.m. (9:00) to 6 p.m. (18:00) with a lunch break. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3-15 Local Calls (by Plamen Stefanov), last updated: 03-Jan-1997 Public phones are plentiful but require coins, which you deposit at the top of the phone after dialing the number. Stockpile a few of these coins, since they are rare, and venders eschew dispensing change to foreigners. ... ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3-16 Sending Mail Home (by Plamen Stefanov), last updated: 31-Jul-1994 Unless you plan on staying in Bulgaria for quite a long time, you will probably arrive home before your mail. Letters to other parts of Europe can take as long as two weeks to arrive, and letters to the US can take anywhere from two weeks to two months. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3-17 Police Assistance (by Plamen Stefanov), last updated: 31-Jul-1994 The police are not that helpful to their fellow Bulgarians, let alone foreigners who do not speak the language, so do not expect much. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3-18 Medical care for foreigners (by Plamen Bliznakov), last updated: 06-Apr-1994 Bulgaria has well-trained medical personnel. No charge is made for consultations about, or treatment of, emergency cases. There is a clinic for foreigners in Sofia. Its address is: 1 Evgeni Pavlovski Str., Mladost 1, Sofia; Phone (02) 75-361. The prices for the medical treatment and medicines there are reasonable. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3-19 Contraceptives and Safe Sex (by Plamen Stefanov), last updated: 31-Jul-1994 Sexual attitudes in Bulgaria are fairly liberal. Prostitution is rampant, especially in resort towns and seaports. Casual sex is definitely not a taboo, and condoms are readily available in pharmacies. ... You get what you pay if you buy 2 cents Bulgarian condoms (a.k.a. Medbio Protex) - they have the annoying tendency of decomposing or falling apart as they are unrolled. They don't ever work as balloons or soap containers. Foreign-made condoms (mostly Chinese and Japanese) exist, but they are hard to find. ... Although public displays of affection among the same sex are common, homosexuality is not openly accepted. As far as attitudes toward homosexuality go, Bulgarians waver between denial and intolerance. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3-20 Taxi (by Plamen Stefanov), last updated: 31-Jul-1994 There are two types of taxis: state and private. Many do not have meters, and the fares are calculated from the driver's odometer. Agree on a rate ahead of time and note the distance traveled, or negotiate a flat fee for the trip, since the drivers have a tendency to overcharge. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3-21 How to use credit cards in Bulgaria (by Plamen Bliznakov) During my two-week stay in Bulgaria I tried to check how cash could be obtained from a cradit card account or by cashing a traveller's cheque. First, there was an office of American Express recently established in Sofia. It is located at Batemberg square, at the former office of Yugoslavian airlines JAT. One can obtaing emergency cash from his/her account in this office. I am not sure what is the commission they take for that service. Almost $ 1000 were available to me. Second, Balkantourist is a travel representative of AMEX, offering many services in their office on 1, Vitosha Blvd., including traveller's mail, cashing traveller's cheques, getting cash from AMEX credit card account, etc. They charge 1 % commission + 10 BGL per traveller's cheque for cashing the latter. If you want to use your AMEX charge card, it will cost you 4.5 % commission, and you can get cash only in Bulgarian leva, according to Balkantourist rate. Several other exchange bureaus also can give you Bulgarian leva charging your credit card account (AMEX, Visa, Mastercard), but all I have seen charge 8 % commission. AMEX traveller's cheques can be cashed in some banks as well. One of them is the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which has an office on the 3 floor of EuropaPalace Hotel (former Hotel Rila) in the center of Sofia. First Private Bank also cashes AMEX as well as Mastercard traveller's cheques. You can check with Balkan Air Tours (the office of Balkan Airlines at Sofiyska Communa St.) for cashing AMEX and Eurocheques. Credit cards are accepted for payments of airline tickets at offices of Balkan Airlines, as well as by many travel agencies. Yoy can also use major cards for purchases at CUM and some other stores (e.g., Boujour chain of Stambouli brothers - Cyprus). You can certainly use a credit card at the duty free shops (e.g., at Sofia airport). In a TV interview they also said that a chain of private gas stations now under construction will also start accepting credit cards. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3-22 Can Bulgarians exchange leva for hard currency (by Vassil Peychev), last updated: 01-Jan-1994 You can buy any amount of dollars from a "Change" office, which are everywhere in the bigger cities. However, to be able to get the currency out of the country you need a document, certifying where you have it from - for this, you need an international passport (no visa), and the limit is 10,000 lv. However, you can usually get away with a slightly higher amount, and in my experience the customs officers don't care. If you bring currency in, you can take it out with your entry customs form, so don't throw it away! P.S. Some numbers look suspicious to me (e.g., prices for a round-trip travel with a stay up to 1 year are the same for Economy class and for Business class; also, two one-ways are cheaper than one 1-year round-trip travel). However, this are the prices which the agency my wife works at received officially. I might ask her to verify some specific figures if there is interest. Also, soon the limit will be 50,000 leva, and if you need the money for medical care abroad or for education, there is no limit - but I guess this would involve some unpleasant amount of paperwork. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3-23 Exchange Rate for the Bulgarian Lev (1995-1997) (by Andrey Savov), last updated: 29-May-1997 Rough estimate: Exch. rate: Nov-95 65 Dec-95 70 Jan-96 75 Feb-96 80 Mar-96 85 Apr-96 95 May-96 150 Jun-96 151 Jul-96 185 Aug-96 190 Sep-96 230 Oct-96 231 Nov-96 260 Dec-96 490 Jan-97 870 Feb-97 2700 Mar-97 1600 Apr-97 1550 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3-24 Bulgarian Addresses (by Vladimir Alexiev), last updated: 15-Jan-1997 The syntax of the addresses is: [name] [street address] [county] [city/village] [code] PO Box Poshtenska kutia (PK) Boulevard Bulevard bul. Street Ulica ul. Street number Nomer no. (or can be omitted, written after the street name) Square Ploshtad pl. Ciry district Kvartal kv. Apartment block Blok bl. Block entrance Vhod vh. Apartment Apartament ap. The code is 4 decimal digits. Sometimes the lines of the address can be written in the opposite order. -- Drago -- Drago