Tips for driving in Bulgaria
3 December 2023
Advice, Checklist & Legal Requirements
Under Bulgarian law, vehicles that are registered outside the EU are considered to be 'temporarily imported' when driven inside Bulgaria. If they are stolen on Bulgarian soil, the owners will be liable for import duty and related taxes. Cars registered in the Channel Islands and the Isles of Man are subject to this legislation.
Take care when driving, particularly at night. Many roads are in poor condition and road works are often unlit or unmarked. Driving standards are generally poor. Avoid confrontations with aggressive drivers who may be armed. You should observe the speed limit and ensure that your vehicle is roadworthy.
Some criminals have been reported to impersonate traffic policemen and impose “fines” or even steal vehicles and personal belongings on major routes. If you are crossing Bulgaria by car, you should try to travel in daylight hours.
Please be aware that under Bulgarian law, police officers, depending on the offence, may confiscate your driver's license.
What do I need to drive in Bulgaria?
If you enter Bulgaria in a private vehicle, you must have your driving licence, all original registration and ownership documents (including logbook) as well as evidence of insurance valid in Bulgaria. If you have hired a car you must have the original contract document, which should state that the vehicle can be brought into Bulgaria. Border officials will impound your vehicle if they are not satisfied that you own it or have permission to use it in Bulgaria.
- · Valid driving licence
- · Proof of identification (passport)
- · Insurance documents (third part or above)
- · Proof of ownership (registration certificate)
Tolls, in the form of a vignette, are charged on motorways and main roads out of town. These are payable in Bulgarian Leva. Rates are much higher for freight vehicles and coaches for eight or more passengers. Vignettes can be purchased at ports and border points, and are also available from post offices, large petrol stations and DZI bank offices. You will be fined if you do not carry the appropriate vignette.
In 2012 there were 605 road deaths in Bulgaria. This equates to 8.3 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2012.
Seat belts are required for all passengers, whether in the front or back seat of the vehicle. Children under 12 years of age are not allowed to travel in the front.
Kit You Need to Carry On Board
It is compulsory in Bulgaria to carry the following safety equipment within any vehicle with more than 2 wheels:
- · A Warning triangle
- · A fire extinguisher
- · A first aid kit
- · Headlamp converters
Standard speed limits (km/h) unless otherwise stated by traffic signs:
Urban roads (31 mph).
Non-urban roads (56 mph).
Motorways / expressways (87 - 74 mph).
Urban roads (31 mph).
Non-urban roads (43 mph).
Motorways / expressways (62 - 56 mph).
There are now speed cameras across the country, and it's illegal to carry or use any radar detection equipment.
Drinking and Driving
Bulgarian law states that it is illegal to drive with more than 0.5% of alcohol in the system.
Motorbikes must use dipped headlights at all times and the wearing of crash helmets is compulsory for both driver and passenger.
Only 'hands free' mobile telephones can be used whilst driving.
From November 1st until March 1st headlights must be on at all times.
General Driving Advice
In terms of Bulgaria driving habits the following are worth noting:
- · Take care when driving, particularly at night. Many roads are in poor condition and road works are often unlit or unmarked.
- · On the spot fines can be imposed
- · It's compulsory for all occupants to wear seatbelts if possible
- · From November 1st until March 1st headlights must be on at all times.
- · If you do not own the vehicle you are driving, you must obtain written permission from the registered owner.
So to recap here is our checklist for driving in Bulgaria:
- Ensure you have proper documentation: valid driving licence, ID, driving insurance covering driving in Bulgaria, proof of ownership (registration certification).
- Take plenty of breaks when driving long distances.
- Ensure rear passengers are wearing seat belts and remember children 12 and under are not allowed to travel in the front seat.
- Ensure your car is equipped with the following safety equipment: A Warning triangle, fire extinguisher, first aid kit and headlamp converters.
- Check fuel compatibility as some fuels may not be compatible with your vehicle.
- Do not drink and drive.
- Observe local speed limits – as a general rule built up areas have limits of 50km/h (31 mph), outside built up areas are 90km/h (56mph). In car radar detectors are illegal.
Driving to Bulgaria from another destination? You might like to read our guides to:
Need breakdown cover for Bulgaria? Eurobreakdown.com can provide you with comprehensive single trip breakdown cover or annual multi trip breakdown policies with a best price guarantee.
Reference: The statistics mentioned on this page were sourced from the Reported Road Casualties Great Britain:2012 Annual Report and, to the best of Eurobreakdown.com’s knowledge, are correct at the time of publication (June 2014).
For general European driving tips click here