Bulgaria once operated a dual-pricing system for foreigners and locals, but this has been abolished since it joined the EU. The country remains relatively inexpensive, and food, drink, transport, and hotels are all refreshingly cheap compared with Western Europe. Imported luxury goods cost the same as anywhere else. ATMs are common, and most mid- and all top-range hotels, restaurants and shops accept credit cards. Avoid plastic at more basic establishments where cash remains king. Note that in Sofia, prices tend to run slightly higher than in other regions
Prices throughout this guide are given for adults. Substantially reduced fees are almost always available for children, students, and senior citizens.
Currency and Exchange
The national currency of Bulgaria is the lev (leva in the plural), which is divided into 100 stotinki. It is usually abbreviated to lv. Bills come in 2, 5, 10 and 50 leva denominations. Coins come in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 stotinki, and 1 lev denominations. At this writing the exchange rate was 1.54 lv to $1. Note that some hotels may quote room rates in euros.
The VAT rate for most non-essential goods and services in Bulgaria is 20%. Hotels charge a reduced rate of 9%, which is included in the rate quoted. Hotels also add a city tax, charged in euros. The rate varies from one city to the next, but is usually in the €0.40-0.60 per person per night range. Hotels in Varna charge €0.55 per person per night.
Tipping is generally expected by wait staff in restaurants and bars, but is not compulsory if the service is below par. There is no fixed amount to pay. Give what you feel the service deserves. Either round off the bill to a convenient amount or add a maximum of 10%. Some restaurants automatically add a service charge, so check the bill before adding more. Taxi drivers expect the fare to be rounded up. Leave chambermaids in hotels a small token at the end of your stay. In many bigger hotels there is a collection box for staff gratuities at the reception desk.