Money in Bulgaria
The Bulgarian currency unit is the Lev (лев, abbreviated “лв”, plural: Leva), which comprises one hundred Stotinki. The Lev is pegged to the euro at 1.95583 Leva to the euro (which is the same rate as the old Deutsche Mark, to which the Lev was previously pegged at 1 to 1).
Traders and other businesses in Bulgaria generally do not accept foreign money, although many accept the euro. In rural areas, Bulgaria remains a predominantly cash-based economy, but in the larger cities credit cards are generally accepted.
In most cities, there are many exchange offices which are signposted with “CHANGE” signs. Most are legitimate, but some can rip you off. For example, they advertise a very competitive rate on the outside, but on the inside there is a small sign with “official” rates, and these are much worse – so always make sure you ask how much leva you will get for your money before you actually hand it in, and calculate for yourself (for example, using your mobile phone) how much money you expect to get. If you now refuse the transaction because the rate has suddenly changed, they will make all sorts of unjustified claims (for example, “I’ve already entered it into the computer, it can’t be stopped”), but if you threaten to call the police immediately while raising your voice so that other tourists look in your direction, they will usually let you go immediately.
It is much safer to exchange your money in a bank. Banks charge little or no commission and generally offer good rates, although they are slightly lower than those charged by (non-criminal) exchange offices. Higher commissions may apply to traveller’s cheques. Old, dirty or heavily worn banknotes may be refused. Never change money in the street. Beware of people on the street who offer high exchange rates or who may ask you to give them change.
In recent years, the network of ATMs in Bulgaria has grown considerably, making it relatively easy to obtain cash from the numerous ATMs in Sofia, as well as in all other major cities and seaside resorts. The national credit/debit card circuit BORICA [www], to which all ATMs in the country are connected, accepts VISA/Plus, Visa Electron, MasterCard/Cirrus, Maestro, American Express, Diners Club and a number of other cards.
Prices in Bulgaria
Prices for some items in Bulgaria are about half those in Western Europe, and it is possible to get good deals on shoes and leather goods as well as other clothing. Note that clothing from major international brands, perfumes, electronic equipment, etc. are often more expensive than in other parts of Europe.
Supermarkets in Bulgaria
In Sofia and some major cities you can find branches of international hypermarket chains such as Kaufland, Hit, Billa, Metro, and others. There are also many local supermarket chains such as Fantastiko, Familia and Piccadilly. All Bulgarian supermarkets sell European quality products.