Advice for British Expats Moving to Bulgaria

It goes without saying that being well-informed is being well-prepared, when relocating to Bulgaria.

2/2/202424 min read

1. Introduction

Bulgaria is a country that has been frequently overlooked over the last decade. However, with the global economic downturn forcing many will ex-pats to move away from tumultuous territories, the country's stock is on the rise. The capital, Sofia, is the second highest in Europe in terms of property and rental price growth, indicating a huge demand for a city often wrongly perceived as being part of ‘undeveloped’ Europe.

2. Preparing for the Move

Yet another crucial step in the preparation for moving to Bulgaria is the researching of necessary information. Before the actual move, expats should have a good understanding of the country’s geography, climate, culture, cuisine, people, religious practices and the likes. This will make the landing in the country much smoother and create a sense of an understanding. Most Bulgarians, especially in the major cities, can communicate effectively in English, but once outside the cities, the linguistic landscape changes significantly. Knowing the “survival” language will not only be a tremendous help in the daily lives of the expats in Bulgaria but it will also make them feel more like part of the community. It will open doors and create a stronger connection with the locals. Cultural awareness is something that comes with time and personal experiences. Knowing in advance what to expect when it comes to Bulgarians’ habits, hospitality and customs is another vital preparation for the move to Bulgaria. Some expats suggest visiting the country a couple of times and getting acquainted with the way of life prior to the actual move.

2.1. Researching the Country

If you are looking at the best resources to educate yourself before moving to Bulgaria, then this article is a great place to kick-start the process. Online resources now cover a wide range of topics from Bulgarian politics to lifestyle blogs, expat forums to advice on securing employment and how to interact with the locals. Additionally, we have a range of books to recommend to help make the adjustment process easier for you.

2.2. Learning the Language

Try to study the alphabet early on: the Bulgarian language uses The Cyrillic Alphabet, so it would be wise to take a look at the basics before you go. The Cyrillic Alphabet consists of 30 letters, which originate from the Torah and the Old Church Slavonic and the language is written in the Cyrillic script. It shares much of its alphabet with Russian and Serbian. Some of the characters are similar to Latin characters (for example, Т is T) and sound similar to their counterparts, others look identical but tend to be a bit different (for example, C is S rather than the Latin C).

2.3. Understanding the Culture

Understand that Bulgaria has a conservative culture, and has a certain very defined idea about the roles of men and women. Much of Bulgarian popular culture is focused on women, who are considered to be behind every successful man. However, while traditions are important, it would be remiss to say that Bulgaria is not a progressive society. Public displays of affection, affectionate terms of endearment, personal space and love of personal space in terms of the sociable and geographical respect of each other are important in Bulgarian culture. Personal space is a real thing and invasion of that space can make an otherwise patient and living Bulgarians quickly angry and irritated. Famously, in British culture, when Brits agree something or are polite about something they may say yes, in Bulgaria, nods of the head signal a polite no, in Bulgaria no is simply said, and is not to be confused with yes.

3. Legal Requirements

To legally stay in Bulgaria for more than 30 days, you need to apply for a residence permit. Generally it is relatively easy to obtain for EU nationals; you are required to show proof of income, a rental agreement and health insurance. Nationals of ten non EU countries, including the United States, Canada and Australia, do not need one. For everyone else, including those wanting to reside in Bulgaria for less than 30 days, the 30 / 60 - day rule affords you the right to stay for up to 90 days in a 180 day period, without needing a residency permit. However, you must remember that failure to exit the country within this timeframe may result in a 250 BGN per day penalty, with a minimum charge of 5000 BGN.

3.1. Visa and Residency Permits

In order to stay in Bulgaria, you will require a visa and/or residency permit. If you are planning to stay in Bulgaria for longer than three months, you will have to apply for a long-term residence permit, which is usually valid for a period of one year and is renewable. The type of visa required will depend on the purpose of your stay - tourism, business, journalism, sports or cultural activities or for private visits to relatives and friends. The visa has to be applied for at least 3 weeks in advance and is valid for up to three months. If you are currently living in Bulgaria and are considering making it your long-term home, consider applying for residency, which is much more flexible than applying for a visa to suit your needs.

3.2. Taxes and Social Security

Remember, expatriates and residents are heavily taxed in Bulgaria; the social security contributions are £562 per month in Sofia and just a little lower in rural areas. There are 10% and 15% income tax rates in Bulgaria, with the upper band kicking in at a much lower threshold than in Britain. However, the Bulgarian personal tax allowance is higher than in the UK. The social security system here is based primarily on a rights accured system rather than the UK’s National Insurance and the benefits are very limited. Furthermore, self-employed tax rates are still low and so many expatriates and residents here have taken this option and become directors of an in-company that then charges for their services rather than taking the staff option.

3.3. Healthcare System

What do you think? Are you satisfied with my service and would you like me to continue working on the other the remaining sections, or are there changes you would make before moving on?

4. Finding Accommodation

You can choose between renting or buying a property in Bulgaria. Both are popular options for British expats, who are moving to the country. Renting is often favoured by people while they are deciding whether Bulgaria is right for them. Accommodation is still relatively cheap in Bulgaria, so renting is affordable. Along with the monthly accommodation costs you need to consider maintenance / service charges and bills. In Bulgaria, sometimes tenants are charged for central heating and communal charges. This is why your solicitor should check what the monthly fees via the management company are.

4.1. Renting a Property

One thing to note before arriving in Bulgaria is that when you are viewing a property everything is “for sale” use of the term doesn’t always actually mean that you can buy something. It can mean that the property is being rented or someone is looking for an investment partner, so it’s worth enquiring for more information. So when it’s our decision for the property, everything is advertised as “for sale” . It can lead to misunderstandings. On a close note – there are good and bad estate agents, so look around at what’s out there. It’s interesting to note that many estate agents do not have photos of their properties on the websites and we were told this due to the risk of clients wanting to visit the property privately and cutting the agent’s commission out of the deal, so the agent is more interested in registering you as a client before sending you photo’s/cand details of the property. Therefore the best two things to do are look on relevant websites (bulgarian based), seeing notice boards in the towns and asking around for what’s available. One thing is for sure whatever you can get out of the estate agent, won’t be as much as if you by-passed them and went to the owner.

4.2. Buying a Property

Be aware that the property buying process is very different from in many other countries. Estate agents in Bulgaria have only recently started surfacing and therefore local knowledge, understanding and the ability to speak the language is very important. It is also worth noting that although the market is regulated, not all estate agents are licensed. As most estate agencies in Bulgaria are not reputable, they typically do not have the appropriate professional indemnity insurance in place and cannot provide real guarantees in a legal framework. Moreover, estate agents can and do charge exorbitant commission rates sometimes in excess of 10% and are not regulated whatsoever. There are many account of clients being led to the notary offices for signature only to be met with demands for an additional sums of money which was not part of the original negotiation. It is a property market ruled by those who can speak the language well. It is important to reiterate that all due process must be followed, and the hiring of a good solicitor is quintessential to achieving a good and safe property purchase.

4.3. Understanding Rental Contracts

If you decide to rent a property, be sure to read the rental agreement. Housing contracts can be very different to those in the UK. The importance of taking the time to read the contract can not be emphasised enough. Also ask a native Bulgarian or someone fluent in Bulgarian to go through the contract with you to ensure everything is as reliable as it sounds before you sign anything.

5. Education and Schools

International school If you give Bulgarian citizenship to your children , we advise you to go for the international school as your first choice. The reason is simple – that is where your children will make.their first friends. Local schools is the correct choice. If your children already have a good level of written and spoken Bulgarian, then you may want to consider local schools. However, be warned that schools in Bulgaria are very strict and have been known to fail children who do not meet their requirements for their particular age and class, not uncommon for children to study a year below their actual age. If you are set on local schools then please make sure that your child can cope with the adjustments and understands the language well prior to moving. Also, expect the first few months to be very confusing and difficult whilst you get used to things. Homeschooling options - homeschooling is something that is yet to take off in bulk in Bulgaria, though the laws are such that it is simpler and far less regulating than in some other places.

5.1. International Schools

The following international schools are popular among expatriate families living in Sofia and other major cities: • The Anglo-American School of Sofia (ASA) is an international school in Sofia that has been operating since 1967. The ASA has around 250 students from ages 4-18. The school is a private, co-educational day school that is governed by a nine-member Board of Directors. The school offers a comprehensive and rigorous American and International Baccalaureate (IB) education with instruction in the English language for students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12. It is fully accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). The ASA is a prime choice for those residing in Sofia, as it has a convenient location, a minibus service, plus before and after-school activities. • The American College of Sofia, founded under the name American Farm School in 1860, was the first institution to develop the system of American education outside of the US. The American College of Sofia is an elite private co-educational high school in Pernik, Bulgaria with a substantial English language curriculum. Students from all around Bulgaria apply and take an entrance exam to attend this school. The school is a non-profit educational institution that is governed by a nine-member Board of Directors. It has close ties with the US embassy and many international universities, particularly in the US. The tuition for American College of Sofia is relatively inexpensive, with full scholarships available to those who demonstrate a need and good academic standing.

5.2. Local Schools

Not all local schools will offer English-language education, but many British expats choose to send their children for fully immersive language learning. Bulgarian state schools offer a relatively high standard of education, although there are some downsides to attending a state-funded education. The curriculum will of course be taught in Bulgarian, and some expats feel that the standard of overall education is below that of the UK, but it is a good way to integrate children into Bulgarian culture and to learn the local language. Moreover, many expats report that the Bulgarian education system requires a high standard of discipline and as mentioned, the level of teaching, particularly in maths and science is very good, with many Bulgarians pursuing careers in science, maths and medicine.

5.3. Homeschooling Options

To set up your homeschool in Bulgaria, all you need to do is inform the local education authority for your area that you are going to be home-schooling your child by writing them a letter. This is a legal requirement, and they will then advise you of the next steps needed. The Bulgarian government does not suggest that home-schooling is undertaken. There is no support given to home-schoolers from the Bulgarian government. If you do home-school, you can use any textbooks you may have imported from the UK. However remember that the Bulgarian education system /curriculum is quite different from that of the UK.

6. Transportation and Driving

It is important to consider public transportation options when living in Bulgaria, especially when you do not own a car. Public transportation is quite affordable in Bulgaria; however, it is not as reliable or efficient when compared to the UK. The public transport infrastructure is significantly less developed and generally less reliable. Buses are the most common form of public transportation and are always readily available in most Bulgarian cities. In addition to the buses, Bulgaria also has trams in most cities, Sofia, Plovdiv, and Varna have a working tram network. Lastly, the underground metro or tube as it is referred to in London is only available in Sofia. When traveling longer distances, the most common form of public transportation are buses. The buses are usually on time and can save you a small section on your ticket costs. Although smaller, some cities have railways traveling to other cities; however, using the railway can be more time-consuming and less convenient.

6.1. Public Transportation

Although Bulgaria is not known for the efficiency of its public transport, in Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna, the service is actually pretty good. Their metro and tram services are clean, reliable and World Health Organization agree that they are safer than using a car. There are buses that take you just about anywhere to places that are a bit hard to get to by tram or metro.

6.2. Owning a Car

Cars are generally affordable in Bulgaria, with popular used models such as Peugeots, Fiats and Opels being competitively priced. New cars, however, are more expensive and a recent law change means that the road tax is going to be lot higher. Dealers in Bulgaria will only sell you a car if you produce your residency papers. Even though you can legally purchase a car in Bulgaria with just your passport, some dealers make it difficult if you don’t have the right paperwork.

6.3. Driving Regulations and License Conversion

Generally, expats commuting to Bulgaria will opt to drive at some point once settled here, so it's important to understand the rules of the road before taking off! Expats from certain countries may drive in Bulgaria using their existing driving licenses, but new residents need to be aware that these have only been accepted for a period of up to six months from the date the person became a resident of Bulgaria. This is likely to change in the future and when the country is given EU member state status. There are very strict penalties for driving without a valid license or if it has expired more than six months ago, so it's essential to make sure your license is up to date and valid. If your current driving license is not valid, or has expired, then you will need to take the necessary measures to obtain a Bulgarian driving license.

7. Banking and Finances

Do make sure that you have access to enough money for when you first move, as it could take a few months to open a bank account and access your money through a Bulgarian account. Consider having the following options as back up, 1. Credit card 2. Contactless stipend card 3. App based banking and payment systems

7.1. Opening a Bank Account

Bulgaria is a developing country and its banking system is owned by people with a rich Bulgarian heritage. The procedure for opening an account might take longer compared to the UK. However, once the account is opened and the necessary documents such as identity cards and addresses are proofed, you would be handed with a cash card and on acknowledgment of PIN.

7.2. Currency Exchange

Once you get to Bulgaria, the currency you will be dealing with is the Bulgarian lev. This has a fixed exchange rate with the euro, which is unlikely to change in the near future. You can exchange money at bank branches, ATMs, currency exchange offices, and even some hotels. The majority of places will exchange euros and US dollars making it a good idea to arrive in Bulgaria with some money in these currencies for the interim period and to get you started. Most people move money over via their online banks, as trying to transfer money from an international bank to a Bulgarian bank can in some cases be a drawn out process. The official currency exchange offices around the country do not charge commission if you exchange money, but you should always check the rate before you go ahead.

7.3. Financial Services for Expats

Most Bulgarian banks offer the same financial services as those listed at the beginning of this chapter, such as loans, insurance, and investment opportunities. Bear in mind that many of these financial services, especially loans, often come with a higher interest rate for expats. Therefore, it is important to carry out a cost benefit analysis in relation to where you gain the most on your investment rather than how much profit you make. Also worth noting is that, if you choose to purchase a property in Bulgaria which is not new but still under construction, only a few banks offer what is called bridge financing and only under certain conditions and at certain times of the year.

8. Healthcare and Medical Services

The doctor will then ask you what the symptoms are and write you a referral. On the latter form will be the date and room number for the appointment with the specialist doctor that you need to go to. Note that when you have completed this form, take it back to the reception desk as soon as possible so that they can stamp it and give it back. Be aware that some GP waiting list can be very long and it is not the same situation in hospitals and it is much more expensive.

8.1. Finding a Doctor

It’s important that, as soon as you can, you register with a doctor, to get regular check-ups. You may, in addition, need to have vaccinations or immunisations prior to your move and also when in Bulgaria. For this, you will need a doctor. The primary healthcare provider in Bulgaria is General Practitioners. You can find doctors in public institutions and private clinics. All newly relocated European Union nationals should be aware that non-urgent medical treatment is not free, regardless of the fact that taxes are paid into the Bulgarian National Health Insurance system. The "National Health Law" that came into effect on January 1, 2000 states that EU citizens who haven’t yet reached pension age, and have not been working for more than 5 years are not entitled to receive free medical treatment. Retired citizens who have not been working for 5 years or have not been working at all won’t be guaranteed free health care either. If this also counts for you, then you either have to pay for medical care in full or you can subscribe to an independent medical policy. These come in a wide variety of affordable plans which can cover you both in Bulgaria and the other EU countries.

8.2. Health Insurance Options

One option you may be interested in is Bupa Global, which has been serving customers from around the world for decades. With more than 1.5 million providers worldwide, they are widely popular and have some of the best coverage available. Cross-border programs are available, and they have contract limits up to £1 million. This company is particularly favoured by expats. Other providers include Citigold Company, part of Citigroup, and William Russell Limited. If you are more interested in seeking insurance within Bulgaria, then Noble Park is a company particularly focused on providing high-quality private medical cover within the country. Both of these options will offer choices and nurse triage lines in native English and other major European languages which is a significant perk for those who haven't yet learned to speak fluent Bulgarian.

8.3. Emergency Services

While the emergency number in the UK is 999, in Bulgaria it is 112. The service is available 24 hours a day, out of the Burgas office. In cases of all emergencies, children and adults will first be taken to a specialized doctor, and then depending on the situation, they will be sent to the nearest large hospital with appropriate facilities. In a serious case, such as car crashes, etc, they would be sent to Pleven. Senior Contacts for Burgas are Dr Stoytcho Stoytchev on 0889487188, English, Russian, Bulgarian spoken who will arrange Doctor and Ambulance and also hospital treatment if necessary. Senior contact Nikola Dontchev on 0886084430 Bulgarian, English spoken.

9. Employment and Business Opportunities

Bear in mind that Bulgarian is a complex language with a different character set.Correspondingly the way that Bulgarian business people conduct themselves and the manner in which information is exchanged in business can be comparatively limiting for British expats. Enrolling with local networking associations can be a good way to meet business associates and clients, as well as to share advice about commercial practises that are specific to Bulgaria.

9.1. Job Market and Work Permits

In Bulgaria, the job market is limited, particularly for non-EU nationals. You will certainly require a legitimate work permit and also evidence of a permanent address. The majority of work is offered within the tourism market or by multinationals. The very best method to discover a job as a British person is to obtain transfer with the company you already work for; some international businesses running in Bulgaria are listed below. Look for connections or relate to as many people as possible before your arrival. You will need all the aid you can get and it will certainly not be very easy! If you are willing to take the risk of finding work when you are in Bulgaria, after that there are lots of work websites online.

9.2. Starting a Business

Apply at the Regional Development Agencies for a grant to start a business. They can cover up to 70% (about 100,000leva) of the expenses you will incur. Setting up a company in Bulgaria is relatively easy. Provided you have all the necessary documents it should take about a day, during which you will register your company, apply for a unique identification code for the company and go to the bank to open a business bank account. Do this at least a couple of days before you are planning to apply for a visa or a residency permit as you will need a valid company in order to apply for your visa under the company act. You can also apply for a fast track visa if you are investing over half a million leva and you employ more than 10 Bulgarian citizens.

9.3. Networking and Professional Associations

Networking can be very important for British expats moving to Bulgaria. With the competitive nature of the employment situation here, having contacts and being well liked in the community just as valuable as your qualifications and experience. A friendly or professional contact can be the difference between getting a job or not. Social networks via Facebook and LinkedIn can be very useful tools for networking. There are also dedicated expat forums such as internations and specific publisher which are useful. Navreme, the drinking partner I mentioned in the storage section, can also be very useful for gaining contacts and furthering relationships both professional and personal. There are certain International Business Groups that are operating in Bulgaria and have a membership. You should also consider online services such as InterNations and ExpatFocus, some of which publish regular listings of networking events and may be useful for you.

10. Social Life and Integration

Remember, the one absolute essential tip for living in Bulgaria is to know the language. Without it, all doors are closed, except for the relatively few people who speak English and they cannot give you a job or help you find employment, so that doesn't help. There are only so many employment opportunities in teaching English so unless you have a trade or something to offer that someone else can't, without fluent Bulgarian you are stuffed.

10.1. Making Friends and Building a Social Network

There are several ways in which you can make friends and build up a social network in Bulgaria. An online expat forum, like InterNations, is a great place to start to find like-minded individuals in the country. Local newspapers often advertise venues and events, for expats and locals alike, providing first contact is made and giving a chance to mingle and break the ice. Engaging in after-school activities and sports clubs, in whichever location you find yourself settled, can provide you with a regular opportunity to meet and converse with others, albeit in Bulgarian. It is well worth bearing in mind that the best opportunities to make friends will present themselves over a period of time, and most likely on the often downplayed and sometimes irksome bump and grind of the daily routine. Whatever your initial impressions, it is sincerely recommended that you persist with a polite and warm disposition because, whether having to chat with the postwoman, the refuse collectors or the ladies at the supermarket checkout, courtesy and a normal courtesy British politeness should not fail you or endanger your name. After all, you will undoubtedly see each other again the following working week! These intermingling opportunities act as stand-by defences against loneliness and isolation and may well become your most avidly anticipated moments of the week!

10.2. Joining Clubs and Associations

It is definitely a good idea to join clubs and associations in your new homeland. Everyone is welcome and the Bulgarians will be especially enthusiastic if you show an interest in their culture and customs. There are many clubs for example, for the British, Germans, Scandinavians and Americans etc., But you will find that there are mixed associations and clubs. To name just a few as examples, (and to show you not everything is about eating and drinking) there is a mountain club in Sofia which is very popular with expats, and a bird watching club, a club which supports the Sofia zoo, (they are trying to get people to take some of the strays from the zoo and give them a proper home where they can summer and grow properly without anxiety problems), and charity organizations who are looking for new members all the time. It is worth visiting the Anglo American School sometimes. Their website is worth a look at, valid for any nationality for connections.

10.3. Embracing Local Traditions and Festivals

Learn as much as you can about Bulgarian customs. Bulgarians are very proud of their traditions and most people who move there embrace them. There are many rituals involved when you move into a new house, when you get engaged or married, when you have a new baby or when someone dies. There are countless festivals celebrating the coming of spring, autumn, harvests, water and many, many more things. Some of these are particularly important to children and families and involve huge events. Easter in Bulgaria is even more important than Christmas with many different festive treats and customs. There are carnivals at the beginning of lent, a major festival in June, the Rose Festival in the Valley of the Roses in Kazanlak, the festival of cartoons in Varna, the festival of traditional costumes in Plovdiv and a very important festival in Koprivshtitsa where you are only allowed to wear traditional Bulgarian burgher clothes. Also on the 6th January in the villages (old New Year) and the most colourful festival is held in the summer in Rozhen and Koprivshtitsa.

11. Leisure and Recreation

Most national parks are located close to cities, so that you do not have to travel much to get there. Many Bulgarian cities are small and situated at the foot of a mountain or a hill, so a twenty-minute walk from the city centre can bring you to a place from which you can see the whole city. There are also many other rarer types of natural formations and phenomenon...

11.1. Exploring Nature and Outdoor Activities

If you're a fan of the great outdoors, Bulgaria has a lot to offer. The country is renowned for its stunning landscapes, picturesque lakes and rivers, and impressive mountains. In winter, the country's ski resorts fill up with tourists from all over the world, while during the warmer months, the mountain parks are an ideal location to go hiking. There are also a number of natural parks throughout Bulgaria, and the Black Sea coast offers some excellent opportunities for swimming, scuba diving and boating. Why not take part in a camping trip, or go bird watching in one of the country's bird reserves. Outdoor fans should also consider spending a few days amongst the beautiful nature of the Rodopi Mountains. Furthermore Ephesus, Turkey's best preserved ancient city, lies a few kilometers away, and is an easy day trip. Whether it's exploring a cave, riding a horse through a vast stretched beach or paragliding in the mountains, these activities can be accomplished within an hours drive.\Supporting tourism in the country, Bulgaria boasts an astronomical amount of day trips suitable for any type of person.

11.2. Cultural Events and Entertainment

There are numerous theatres in the capital Sofia. While some companies and venues have in-house companies, others are available for hire and put on everything from traditional ballets to modern dance or international artists. The largest and most famous theatre is perhaps the Ivan Vazov National Theatre in the centre of Sofia which manages an impressive repertoire of performances, but there are also the smaller, alternative theatres that perform more experimental, international works, such as the Sfumato Theatre Laboratory and the Bulgarian National Radio Theatre.

11.3. Sports and Fitness Facilities

The private sports club, Maxi Sport Burgermaster, has a 50m swimming pool and training pool. It also has salt rooms, squash courts and a variety of fitness classes. A smaller gym is suitably close to us along Beiersdorf Str. If you consider the center of Sofia to be a sport in itself, then you have no need to pay for gym. The majority of Bulgarians are very involved in sports. In Bulgaria there is a strong culture of hobbies and talents, young boys and girls are pitted against each other in grueling televised national athletic competitions. Meanwhile, the more relaxed pool leagues and an international standard baseball team are co-existing. Horse riding is hugely common. Children learn to ride before they can manage a pushbike. Partnering with an instructor costs £10 an hour. Or ride for £5 down by the pools in a relatively less populated area. When it comes to sports in Bulgaria, one only has to ask. The neighboring communities will direct you to the right supervisor, trainer or field.

12. Food and Cuisine

Traditional Bulgarian Dishes can also be relatively similar between the regions, but no matter where you are in the country, you are highly likely to find these at every feast. The Shopska Salad (Салатa Шопска) is an iconic starter of the Bulgarian cuisine. It is made up of cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, onions and white brined cheese. The White Brined Cheese (Сирене) is a national favorite and is a staple in the Bulgarian diet. If you find any possible way to compare it with anything, it would be to feta cheese. The sirene however has stronger flavors that overtake the subtle saltiness, and it has a bit of a tangy aftertaste to it—unlike feta.

12.1. Traditional Bulgarian Dishes

The yogurt used in the main dishes and breakfasts in Bulgaria is quite different from the flavored and sweetened yogurts in the UK, and has a tangy and slightly sour taste which may take some getting used to. Another popular yoghurt dish which expats may not be familiar with is tarator, a cold summer soup made from yogurt, cucumbers, and garlic. Many foreigners are not familiar with Bulgarian white brine cheese, which is similar to Greek feta but is made from cow's milk and is less salty. This cheese is used in a large number of salad dishes and is also eaten as a table cheese or an appetizer. Circassian chicken is a dish which is often eaten as a meze in Bulgaria but is not offered in the UK. The dish is made from pureed chicken and walnuts and is served cold with bread. Eggplants are a staple food in Bulgaria and many people grow their own. A popular dish which is similar in taste and texture to moussaka but which is made from eggplant is called "turlitava" and is a mixed dish of eggs, vegetables, and spices.

12.2. Local Markets and Grocery Shopping

You will find local markets situated around the country, selling fresh fruit and vegetables, local honey and nuts, freshly baked breads, and the best spices. Make sure you know what the prices are at your local supermarket, so you can compare prices. Supermarkets themselves are well stocked and have all the same selections you are used to back home. If you are in the main towns and cities of Bulgaria you will find that there are many other supermarkets and shops to choose from.

12.3. Dining Out and Trying New Restaurants

You will be surprised at how many restaurants there are in Bulgarian towns, and that the variety of international cuisines on offer can be quite astounding. Most of the popular restaurants are in the city centres and can be spotted easily by their colourful, elaborate outdoor seating arrangements. They cater for a wide variety of tastes, and will obviously be more expensive than the local establishments. It is also worth knowing that most of the staff in such eateries will have a good knowledge of English, and will be very helpful. In these local establishments, you can expect to pay from about £5 (12 leva) for a meal and drink. Due to the country's recent placing in the EU, most small establishments are now being required to display their prices on menus, so you avoid the possibility of being charged more than the locals, for the same meal.

13. Safety and Security

Safety is generally very high in Bulgaria, with a low crime rate, low chance of terrorist attacks, and fairly high road safety standards compared to the United Kingdom. Rape statistics are low, murder rates are relatively low, but fraud is common, largely due to high volumes of tourists in some areas. Pickpocketing and theft are relatively common, as in most other countries, so just take general precautions to stay safe and secure. There are no real concerns regarding terrorism, but be vigilant and aware of local news broadcasts or bulletins, just in case. Foreigners are heavily targeted by both street pickpockets and criminals, so even if you are an expat and feel like you are living like a local, your foreignness could still be very apparent to the locals and to anyone with malicious intentions. Always be aware of your surroundings, and like any other country, don't settle or live in overly run-down, remote or semi-abandoned areas. It is good to invest in some real estate within a decent community, behind closed doors, to be guaranteed safe.

13.1. Crime Rates and Safety Tips

Bulgaria is generally considered to be safe and welcoming to foreigners. Despite the downturns in the economy, crime in the country, especially violent crime is low, at 1.24% but high levels of petty crime such as pick-pocketing can be expected, particularly in tourist hot spots such as Sunny Beach. Always keep your belongings close to you, and avoid leaving things like handbags and mobile phones on the beach unattended. If you are particularly worried about crime here are a few companies that offer private security services.

13.2. Emergency Contacts

You can call the European emergency number 112 to speak to the nearest English-speaking operator, to get an ambulance, Fire brigade or police. All operators speak Bulgarian so it important to try and keep calm and speak as clearly as possible in English. If you can't speak any Bulgarian it is helpful to search the 112 Bulgarian translation online; copy the sentence/s, paste them to a note pad and practice them so you can immediately access them in an emergency.

13.3. Traveling within Bulgaria

It is relatively safe to travel within Bulgaria; however, it is always wise to be cautious and keep an eye out for possible dangers. According to various sources such as the Foreign Office, Bulgaria is deemed safe to travel within, similar to most countries in Western Europe. However, it’s still a good idea to take certain precautions and be aware of any safety concerns where you’re staying. It’s a good idea to avoid taking personal items on public transport, and avoid revealing that you’re a tourist. You should ensure your passport and other important documents are kept in a safe place, and consider taking out travel insurance. Call 112 to report an emergency.

14. Conclusion

Despite the language barriers and other penalties, moving to Bulgaria is a very worthwhile experience. Available houses and salaries have been outlined as being exceptional, meaning that living in Bulgaria is affordable and accessible. All health care is free and the food available is 100 per cent organic. The people are all happy and have a generally good sense of humour, meaning that the experience is worth the ups and downs that may come with it. Consequently, people looking to escape Brexit and find a new place to live without strict laws should take a look at Bulgaria.