Local Laws and Customs in Bulgaria: What You Need to Know

Find out why you should always tap the salt shaker twice and how to tip in Bulgaria.


Photo © iStock/sfabisuk

Like many parts of Europe, Bulgaria has many residents who smoke - they are, after all, a major producer of tobacco. Only Greece has a higher per capita smoking rate. Smoking is like a hobby here!

Smoke Screen

You will see smoke everywhere and the poor ventilation systems in many spots can make smoke trickle into enclosed areas. In recent years, Bulgaria has enacted smoking bans in some, but not all, public places. There has been talk of a total ban, but not on the immediate horizon.

Yes and No

You may encounter some English in Bulgaria, but many signs are in the Cyrillic language. It is probably best to learn some main phrases before leaving on your trip. You will certainly want to do this if you drive as well.

Especially confusing is that the head gestures for "Yes" and "No" are backwards! So if you shake your head from side to side, you are saying "Yes," and a nod means "No." Tricky and sure to take practice!

You should use the Bulgarian forms of Miss, Mrs. and Mr. when speaking to a local unless otherwise directed.

If invited somewhere by a Bulgarian, give wine or flowers as a customary thanks. You may also have to take your shoes off in some homes. Shake hands with both men and women and introduce yourself with your first and last name. It is illegal to cover your face in Bulgaria.

Be a good human and give up your seat for anyone elderly or pregnant when traveling on public transport. The locals will love you for it.

Tipping and Other Tips

Bulgaria is largely a cash economy, so be prepared to use 

When in a restaurant, tap the salt shaker twice on the end of the table before seasoning your food if you want to be seen as a local.

Meeting to drink coffee is a big cultural and social custom, and you will usually order it as short, long or double.

Tips for restaurant service are expected to be small; you can round up to the nearest dollar.

Note that when invited to birthday parties, they are really going to be more drinking celebrations than anything else.

The Bulgarians have a lot of holidays, including the saint days, or name days, related to the ones for which they are named.

Wild Bulgaria

Something you might expect more of in an island nation, not a mainland European locale, is wild animals. Interestingly, Bulgaria has wild dogs, especially in Sofia, where these mutts like to muck around in Borissova gradina, or the Garden of Boris. They mostly keep to themselves, but if you try to feed them or aggravate them in any way, watch out! Rabies is endemic in Bulgaria; so should you be bitten, seek medical treatment immediately.

Get a travel insurance quote for Bulgaria

You can buy at home or while traveling, and claim online from anywhere in the world. With 150+ adventure activities covered and 24/7 emergency assistance.

Related articles

No Comments

Add a Comment