Living in Bulgaria: The Pros and Cons From My 10-Year Experience

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If you’re a regular reader of mine, you’ll know that I’ve called Bulgaria one of my homes for several years now. It’s a land I’ve come to love and one that often summons questions from fellow professionals and entrepreneurs who are curious about why I moved here.

Bulgaria is a vastly underrated country that often gets an undeservedly poor reputation abroad for corruption and crime, which is ironic when you compare the crime rates with major Western capitals. 

The reality is that it’s a safe country to live in, provided you use common sense and are respectful. But, as always, nowhere is paradise. That’s why I’ve penned this guide to living in Bulgaria and the numerous pros and cons that go with it.

Whether you’re a fellow entrepreneur considering using Bulgaria as a base and tax haven or are simply curious about what the situation is like for ex-pats living on the ground here, read on for an unrivaled insight into life inside this fascinating Balkan nation!

The Pros of Living in Bulgaria

I always like to start on a positive note, so let’s kick this guide off with a look at some of the main pros of living in the land of old gold and Thracians!

Caribbean Style Living in the Summer 

It tickles me when people view Bulgaria as a godforsaken land of communist-era housing blocks, Brutalist architecture, and more Ladas than you can shake a Kalashnikov at.

Sure, you can find that in some places across the country, but this small Balkan nation boasts some of the most stunning natural scenery you’ll ever see.

This is especially true on the coast, where you can find beaches comparable to those in the Caribbean, minus the humidity. 

The weather in Bulgaria in summer is divine, the seasonal vegetables are delicious, the crystal-clear black sea waters are warm, and the quality of life is superb. 

The good times aren’t just limited to summer, either. Many locals split their time between the stunning coastlines in summer and opt for skiing retreats in the majestic mountains for winter.

The 10% Tax Rate in Bulgaria

Ok, let’s talk business. Many people come to Bulgaria for the fixed 10% tax rate (and 5% dividend tax) and stay for the rest!

Bulgaria has one of the lowest tax rates in Europe, and it’s a very appealing place for those coming from the likes of the UK, Germany, and Scandinavia.

But while I’d love to say that it’s all roses with business in Bulgaria, it isn’t, and I’ll show you why in the cons section shortly. 

The Cost of Living in Bulgaria Means Healthy Living is Cheaper 

I’m well aware that, in Western countries, it’s often cheaper to eat junk food than it is to eat natural, healthy products. In Bulgaria, on the other hand, it’s normally the opposite.

It’s far cheaper to whip up a home-cooked meal or indulge in a divine-tasting salad than it is to pick up a McDonald’s, and there’s a strong love for healthy living among Bulgarians.

But it’s not just the food—I plan to discuss that properly next—it’s the other facets of a healthy lifestyle. Everything from gym memberships to spa days is immensely affordable.

And if you’re a fan of destressing in a spa, be sure to check out my in-depth reviews that go deep into the numerous luxury spas across Bulgaria. They’re immense!

The Food! Good Lord, The Food!

Like many positive aspects of the country, Bulgarian food is underrated. The nation is home to some of the best salads on earth, with the national Shopska salad being voted as the #1 salad in the world by the International Salad League. Yes, there’s an  International Salad League!

While the salad is a quintessential addition to any Bulgarian dinner table, you can also expect a wide range of other mouth-watering dishes. After all, the average Bulgarian male is often a maestro when unleashed on the BBQ (locally known as Skara).

The Property is Generally Affordable For Now

I say generally because property in Bulgaria used to be ridiculously cheap, but a lot has changed in recent years. The pandemic and the war in Ukraine have seen property prices skyrocket, particularly on the coast.

However, that’s not to say that bargains can’t be found. If you head inland, it’s not that hard to find majestic mountain homes that require a little TLC for bargain prices, and they often make for a great investment when renovated. 

Even on the coastline, the prices are relatively low compared to other countries. An apartment with a front-line sea view will set you back $60,000+ upwards. Try getting that in Spain or Portugal, for example. 

Solid Travel Connections Around the World

As a man who is often traveling to more countries in a month than most people do in a year, it’s crucial for any base I have to be able to boast solid travel connections, and Bulgaria is elite-tier.

The country has four main airports: Sofia, Varna, Plovdiv, and Burgas. All of these airports have connections to many countries worldwide, not just Europe.

For example, I recently snagged a $30 WizzAir flight to Abu Dhabi and an $18 flight to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, not long after. Alright, the $120 e-visa for Saudi Arabia took the edge off the low cost, but you get the point!

Plus, from the likes of Varna or Sofia, you can take a one-hour flight to Istanbul (or a night bus if you’re feeling thrifty and adventurous) and be at the center of one of the world’s greatest flight hubs.

It’s a Country With Something for Everyone

In terms of history and stunning natural beauty, Bulgaria is criminally overlooked. This is a truly ancient country with a plethora of both modern and ancient history to explore. 

The best part? The country’s main attractions often lack the crowds of annoying tourists you’d find in more mainstream destinations. Bliss!

For example, I often take evening walks along a majestic mountaintop fortress that looks like something from Lord of the Rings. 

I take in the stunning scenery as I do and breathe in the sheer history that courses through the air, often without a single tourist in sight.

And if you’re not a history buff and prefer the simple beauty of the great outdoors, Bulgaria has you covered. From stunning coastal walks to demanding mountain hikes, the nation has it all.

The Hospitality of the Bulgarian People Themselves 

The final pro of living in Bulgaria is also the most important one, and that’s the people of Bulgaria themselves. 

Like in any other country, the Bulgarian people in major cities might seem a little dour, unfriendly, and impatient. But once you step outside, you’ll see the authentic side of the nation.

Don’t let the initially stern look fool you. A Bulgarian friend will often go to the ends of the earth to help you in your time of need, and you’ll never leave someone’s house with your stomach empty here.

I’d also suggest not being one of the foreigners who comes here and refuses to mix with locals. Merging with the local culture is a great way to settle in, find out what’s happening on the ground, and form vital business connections to succeed here.

The Cons of Life in Bulgaria

Like any country in the world, Bulgaria is not all roses, and I like to keep it real. So here are the not-so-great things about living in Bulgaria.

The Grey Hair Inducing Local Beaurocracy

Beaurocracy is a problem in most places, and Bulgaria is no exception. Sadly, there’s a significant hangover from the socialist era at various levels of the country’s administration, and it can take a lot of getting used to.

If you’re used to doing everything online, prepare to have it replaced with copious amounts of paperwork and long lines. However, with a local lawyer or competent Bulgarian to help you, all of this can be overcome.

For British citizens, Bulgarian bureaucracy just got 10x harder due to Brexit. Thankfully, I was able to get around this with an Irish passport through the ancestry route, which you can read about here.

The Roads & the Dangerous Drivers That Populate Them 

Bulgaria’s roads have improved greatly since I first moved here, and the country now has largely maintained highways comparable to those of most other neighboring countries.

However, it’s when you leave the highways that the problems begin. Road maintenance is a struggle here, and rim-bending potholes are an ever-present threat that lurks on smaller roads.

But a bigger threat is a distinct breed of Bulgarian drivers. The Bulgarian road traffic accident statistics are horrific and reckless driving is a plague for Bulgarians and foreigners alike.

Thankfully, the local authorities and the Bulgarian police, in particular, are taking increasing steps to combat reckless driving on the roads, and I hope they win this battle!

The Inability to Form a Civilized Queue

The last con of living in Bulgaria might seem minor, but it’s one that really grinds your gears, especially if you’re from the United Kingdom. 

A polite and orderly queue is rarer than hen’s teeth here. It’s not uncommon for people to push in line, sometimes deliberately or sometimes unknowingly, and it can be frustrating.

Still, it’s something you will have to get used to if you wish to live here. Get your elbows ready and stand your ground!

So, is Bulgaria Worth Living in?

You’ll notice that I’ve added significantly more pros than cons to this guide to living in Bulgaria, and that’s because the former heavily outweighs the latter.

Bulgaria isn’t perfect, just like any country, but it’s one I’m proud to call home and a place I hope to reside in for many years to come. 

If you’re seeking a welcoming nation with a good quality of life, friendly locals (outside of the main cities), and an enticing tax rate, consider a new life in Bulgaria!


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