Guest post: Bulgaria hitchhiking essentials
Advantages of hitchhiking in Bulgaria
Bulgaria is a beautiful and not very populated country with a diversity of mountains and access to the Black Sea coast. A small country that, as Marta says, hides little jewels here and there, joined by roads that take you through wonderful landscapes. Taking trains is interesting, but hitchhiking is definitely worth the travel.
People in Bulgaria know what hitchhiking means, you may often meet drivers that used to hitchhike when they were young, you may find young people hitchhiking at the edge of Sofia to visit their families in other towns for a weekend, and in summer many will hitchhike to the seaside, plus it is common to hitchhike in between villages.
Disadvatages of hitchhiking in Bulgaria
The road infrastructure in Bulgaria is undergoing a long reconstruction process. Apart from highways between the biggest cities, most of the roads are two-lane affairs with narrow hard shoulders, and drivers who overtake cars on the right and left and often ignore the road signs. When hitchhiking, be sure to pick a safe spot with enough visibility and room for cars to pull over.
Some minor roads may not have much traffic, and you may get stuck for a few hours on small roads in the Rodopi mountains or around Strandja.
Travelling in winter may not be easy. Temperatures drop under zero, heavy snow is common and it is not advisable to hitchhike without good equipment (specially thermal or warm clothes and a proper winter sleeping bag).
Types of Roads
There are around 37,300km of roads in Bulgaria, of which all but 3,000km are paved. However, around 18,000km of road falls into the lowest international ratings for paved roads. The highways of Bulgaria cover around 625 km (388 mi), with another 149 km (93 mi) currently under construction.
① Bulgarian highways are dual-carriage ways with controlled-access prepared for high speeds. They can be motorways (Avtomagistrala/ Автомагистрала) , with emergency lanes and speed limit of 140 km/h OR expressways ( Skorosten pat/ Скоростен път). that do not have emergency lanes and where the speed limit is 120 km/h. There are two main highway projects: Sofia – Bourgas (finished) and Sofia – Varna (unfinished). There are no tolls, but a vignette (road tax sticker) is required from drivers (which should not affect hitchhikers)
② National roads are two-lane roads with narrow or no hard shoulders and a speed limit of 90 km/h. There are nine of them plus the Sofia Ring Road. Although the conditions are gradually improving, they might be undergoing reconstruction in several parts, so count on travelling at much lower speed due to the road conditions, especially in the winter months.
③ Municipal roads are roads maintained by the different municipalities, which are often in need of repair. Speed limit, within the cities and towns is 50 km/h and outside towns is 90 km/h like on National Roads.
- 50 km/h within towns
- 90 km/h outside towns
- 120 km/h on expressways
- 140 km/h on motorways
Road map of Bulgaria
Absolutely essential hitch-hikers phrasebook
Bulgarian language belongs to the southern Slavic family, and like many it is written using the Cyrillic alphabet.
Hello – Здравейте [zdra-VEY-te]
Good day – Добър ден [do-bar den]
Good morning – Добро утро [do-bro u-tro]
Good evening – Добър вечер [do-ber ve-cher]
Goodbye – Довиждане [do-VIZH-da-ne]
Thank you – Благодаря [bla-go-DA-rya]
Yes – да [da]
No – не [ne]
To make things easy you can always use:
Hi! – (Colloquial) – [zdrasti]
Bye – (Colloquial) – Чао – chao (like in Italian)
Thanks – (colloquial)- Мерси – merci (like in French)
Hitchhiking – автостоп [av-to-stop]
Road – път [pat]
Highway – магистрала [ma-gis-tra-la]
Petrol station – бензиностанция [ben-zi-no-STAN-tsia]
Ring road – околовръстно (шосе) [o-ko-lo-vrast-no (sho-sse)]
Roundabout – кръгово [kra-go-vo]
Crossroad – кръстовище [kra-sto-vi-shte]
Map – карта [kar-ta]
Bus stop – (автобусна) спирка [(av-to-bus-na) spir-ka]
Where are you going? – На къде отивате? [Na ka-de o-ti-va-te?]
I’m going to … – Пътувам към … [Pa-tu-vam kam …]
From – от [ot]
To / towards – към [kam]
Through – през [prez]
(To the) left – (На) ляво [(na) LIA-vo]
(To the) right – (На) дясно [(na) DIAS-no]
Straight on – Направо [na PRA-vo]
Other important info
Please stop here – Моля, спрете тук [Mo-lya spre-te tuk]
A bit further – Малко по-напред [Mal-ko po na-pred]
I don’t have money – Нямам пари [Nya-mam pa-RI]
What is your name? – Как се казваш? [Kak se KAZ-vash?]
My name is… – Казвам се…. [Kaz-VAM se…]
Where are you from? – Откъде си? [Ot-ka-de si?]
I am from… – Аз съм от… [Az sam ot…]
What is your profession? (be ready for sign language, or have a pen at hand) – Какво работиш? [Kak-vo ra-bo-tish?]
I work in… – Работя…[Ra-bo-tya…]
Beautiful – Красиво [Kra-si-vo]
Tasty – Вкусно [Vkus-no]
Sleeping and eating
Where can I camp? – Къде мога да си сложа палатката? [KA-de MO-ga da si slo-ja pa-lat-ka-ta]
Can I sleep here? – Може ли да спя тук? [MO-je li da spya tuk]
Where is the market? – Къде е пазара? [KA-de e pa-za-ra?]
Do you have…? (for shops) – Имате ли…? [IMA-te li?]
and for vegetarians and vegans…
I am vegetarian – Вегетарианец съм [Ve-ge-ta-RIA-nec sam]
I am vegan – Веган съм [Ve-gan sam]
I do not eat meat – Не ям месо [Ne yam me-so]
I do not eat meat, cheese or eggs – Не ям, месо, сирене и яйца [Ne yam me-so, yai-ca i si-re-ne]
Have you got something without meat? – Имате ли нещо без месо [IMA-te li nesh-to bez me-so?]
When Bulgarians say “yes” (da) they nod their heads horizontally (like saying “no” in the rest of the known world). When they say “no” (ne) they move their heads vertically (like your “yes”). Confusing? Good luck!
Bulgaria Border Crossings
Bulgaria – Romania
There are seven border crossings between Bulgaria & Romania
Vidin (Bulgaria) – Calafat (Romania) (E 79) – a small ferry border crossing in the north-east. It is used mainly by trucks and it does not have fixed timetable – the ferry leaves whenever it is full. This crossing is a good spot if you are hitching towards Timisoara or Hungary.
Ruse (Bulgaria) – Giurgiu (Romania) (E 85) – the main border crossing between Bulgaria and Romania. A bridge over the Danube connects both countries. Walking on the bridge is prohibited. There is plenty of traffic here. Most of the cars and trucks are going to / coming from Bucuresti.
Durankulak (Bulgaria) – Vama Veche (Romania) (E 87) – a small and beautiful border-crossing on the north-east, running next to the Black Sea. Usually, not much traffic.
Bulgaria & Turkey
There are three border crossings between Bulgaria & Turkey
Kapitan Andreevo (Bulgaria) – Kapikule (Turkey) (E80) – the main border crossing between Bulgaria and Turkey (near Edirne). Plenty of traffic and easy to hitch a ride to Istanbul, to Bucharest or to Sofia, depending on your direction.
Malko Tarnovo (Bulgaria) – Kirklareli (Turkey) (E87) – a small border crossing in the isolated Strandja mountain. Scenic area with not much traffic.
Bulgaria & Greece
There are six border crossings between Bulgaria & Greece
Kulata (Bulgaria) – Pramochanas (Greece) (E79) – a big border crossing with plenty of traffic heading to / coming from Thessaloniki.
Ilinden (Bulgaria) – Eksohi (Greece) (19/57) – a small border crossing, but with healthy amount of cars passing by (especially in summer) and a short and direct way to the shores of the Mediterranean sea.
Zlatograd (Bulgaria) – Themas (Greece) (86) – a beautiful tiny border crossing in Rodopi mountain. Extremely scarce traffic, but worth taking if you have time. The nearest big city on the Greek side is Xanthi.
Bulgaria & Macedonia
There are three border crossings between Bulgaria & Macedonia
- The principal border crossing is the most northern and can be found on the European highway E871 at Gyueshevo (Bulgaria) – Kriva Palanka (Macedonia). It connects the capital Sofia with its Macedonian counterpart Skopje and is the main route for most long distance traffic.
Bulgaria & Serbia
There are five border crossings between Bulgaria & Serbia
- The main border crossing is located at Kalotina (Bulgaria) – Dimitrovgrad (Serbia) on the E-80 motorway. The crossing connects the Bulgarian capital of Sofia to Serbia, and attracts lots of trucks and summer holidaymakers, so expect long queues in the summer. Furthermore, you can easily walk across the border.
Bulgaria border crossings map
Boris & Marta’s Experience
Boris is Bulgarian himself and has been hitchhiking his country for almost 10 years. Marta moved to Sofia (from Spain) and fell in love with the city and the country, she especially liked taking trains to wherever they went. But since they met, they have mostly hitchhiked the country west to east and south to north a few times, gone to the mountains, travelled to the Black Sea, hitchhiked to their village house. They claim that in Bulgaria hitchhiking is often faster than taking bus, but admit that sometimes they have been quite stuck on small pretty roads. They have been taken into homes, invited for meals, enjoyed coffee by the roadside or homemade rakia in hidden villages, walked with wild animals and always, always had wonderful experiences. They are travelling at the moment, but if you have any questions, they will be happy to hear from you, and respond asap: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Roving snails are Boris (Bulgaria) and Marta (Spain). They have been hitchhiking together since the day they met. After covering Bulgaria west to east and Europe north to south they left home in October 2013 on a long travel east searching for an overland way to India. they are still searching…
Follow their blog at rovingsnails.com