Although the toll roads in Bulgaria are well surfaced, other roads can be rough, so it is advised that you drive at a lower speed on these to avoid an accident or puncture.
Be sure to read our Bulgaria travel guide.
Tips for driving in Bulgaria
Which side of the road do they drive on?
Drive on the right, overtake on the left. Unless otherwise indicated, vehicles coming from the right have priority at junctions. At junctions with roundabouts, vehicles already on the roundabout have right of way. Vehicles on rails have priority even when they approach from the left.
Seat belts in Bulgaria
If fitted, seat belts must be worn at all times by all occupants of the vehicle. Failure to do so can result in fines of €100 to €300.
Driving with children
Children under 12 must not sit in the front seat. Children aged 3 or over and shorter than 150cm must travel in the rear seat if there are no suitable child seats. Child restraint systems must adhere to rule 44/03 of the UNECE (Economic Commission for Europe).
Blood alcohol limit
Bulgaria is extremely strict on drink driving. The maximum permitted level of alcohol in the bloodstream is 0.05% but with a recent War on Drink Driving, you’re best not to drink anything at all. The Bulgarian police can impose random breath tests and if you test positive you will be required to undergo a blood test at a hospital.
Can I use a mobile?
It’s illegal to use a mobile unless you have a hands-free kit.
Reflective vests, triangles and other essentials
A reflective vest must be kept in the vehicle at all times. It is compulsory to carry a warning triangle, first aid kit, and a fire extinguisher.
NB: It is the driver's legal responsibility to carry the required winter equipment; therefore, it is essential to check that it is included in any hire car.
Do I need winter tyres or snow chains?
Winter tyres are legally required during winter conditions. Snow chains must be carried from November 1st until March 1st and used when the relevant sign is displayed.
Do I need a vignette?
In Bulgaria you do need to buy a vignette to drive on motorways and main roads outside towns. Make sure your vehicle has one otherwise you’ll be fined. You can buy vignettes from post offices, large petrol stations, at the border, and in DZI bank offices.
A lot of the roads in Bulgaria are in poor condition so drive carefully. Many roads don’t have markings so be particularly careful when there is other traffic on the road.
Park on the left if in a one way street. You will be fined otherwise.
On the spot fines
Try and keep some cash on you in case of an on the spot fine. These are handed out for a number of violations including parking offences. Illegally parked vehicles may be clamped.
Horns and headlights
You must drive with running lights or dipped beam headlights throughout the year, even during the daytime. It is forbidden to use your horn except in the event of an emergency.
What should I do if I have an accident or breakdown?
If your hire car breaks down or you’re in an accident and have no phone signal, emergency SOS telephones are positioned roughly every 2km.
If you breakdown in Bulgaria, you must put on a reflective jacket and place the reflective triangle 30m behind the vehicle to warn other drivers. Call the supplier who will be able to advise you. It is recommended you contact ourselves at the same time to ensure you follow the correct procedure.
If you’re in an accident, you MUST notify the Police and get an accident report for insurance purposes. Failure to do so may result in you footing the whole bill. Only move the vehicle if it is in a dangerous position. It is recommended that you contact the supplier and ourselves at the same time to ensure you follow the correct procedure.
Driving distances in Bulgaria
Sofia to Plovdiv – 145km (1hr 41mins)
Sofia to Varna – 443km (5hrs 14mins)
Sofia to Bourgas – 383km (3hrs 35mins)
Bourgas to Varna – 115km (1hr 55mins)
Plovdiv to Bourgas – 253km (2hrs 23mins)
Plovdiv to Varna – 358km (4hrs 8mins)