3 Golden Rules for Traveling to Bulgaria

by Gerry Botchoukova-Farkova /
Gerry Botchoukova-Farkova's picture
Dec 04, 2013 / 0 comments

All too often unrealistic expectations and personal prejudices prevent us from fully understanding and experiencing the unique places around the world (Bulgaria included) that we so eagerly set out to see. Getting there, although it could be quite difficult at times, is just half the battle. Usually the real challenge, even for the most seasoned of travelers, begins once we pull away from the Arrivals terminal of the airport. Why?  Because simply put, we don’t come alone!

Realizing it or not, along with our carefully packed luggage and travel documents, we always bring along two extra companions: our expectations and personal prejudices. And if right now you are shaking your head in the NO direction (which ironically enough, is the way Bulgarians say YES) this post will be most beneficial to you. The fact of the matter is that we all are human beings and as such, like it or not, we will always have expectations and personal prejudices that are shaped by our individual experiences. However, through travel - and especially during travel - we have the unique opportunity to step out of our comfort zones and take a long hard look from the outside in. Recognizing the subjective nature of our perception of the destination, is the first step to widening our perspective and ensuring that we come home with a rich and satisfying cultural experience.

Rila Monastery, Bulgaria

Rila Monastery, Bulgaria

So with this in mind, here are my 3 golden rules for traveling to Bulgaria!

1.    Don’t try to over plan: Just go with the flow and leave something to chance!

Americans and especially New Yorkers (I include myself in that group) are notorious for their need to be in control. Bring that mentality to Bulgaria and you are SURE to completely ruin your experience. What’s even worse is that in the efforts to remain in full control of your environment, you might even create or reinforce a negative stereotype that would entirely be the result of unrealistic expectations. That is why, my best advice for anyone traveling to Bulgaria is: Try not to plan every minute of every day of your stay. Leave room for chance! Bulgarians firmly believe that things will happen when they happen and there is no need or sense in trying to force them.  Most will even tell you “Shte stane kogato mu diode vremeto” (translation: It will happen when it’s time comes/ when the time is right). All you will gain from attempting to be “on top of everything” is an unnecessary headache and a less than great experience. So have a rough idea of what you want to do, see and experience when in country, but leave the detailed minute by minute planned out schedule at home. Get in tune with the local rhythm and pace of life, in order to avoid stereotyping and to truly understand and enjoy the Bulgarian culture and your time with it. 


Chapel St. Joan Letni near dam Pchelina in Bulgaria

Chapel St. Joan Letni near dam Pchelina in Bulgaria

2.    Taste everything!

I mean it! Unless you have some sort of a medical condition that prevents you from eating certain types of foods or are allergic to any ingredients, go for it and taste everything. I am yet to meet anyone who has tasted the Bulgarian cuisine and said that they did not enjoy it or flat out disliked it. The closest it can be described as, although it is authentically Bulgarian, is a well balanced mix of Mediterranean, Oriental, and Balkan flavors. Missing out on banitsa (filo dough pie filled with Bulgarian feta cheese), lukanka (dried salami delicatessen), and kebabche (long grilled meatballs- much better than hot dogs if you ask me) or any other local specialty for that matter is like walking into an ice cream shop and not getting ice cream. Although some dry meats, cheeses, and local spreads are exported internationally, they are usually not readily available in major supermarket chains. Bulgarian restaurants abroad are scarce as well. Therefore, don’t miss your opportunity to experience the tasty side of Bulgarian culture while in country. I promise you will be happy you did.                                                                  

Mixed Bulgarian grill with kebabche

Mixed Bulgarian grill with kebabche. Photo by: Sandra Ionescu

3.    Expect the unexpected because it will most likely happen and you are going to love it!

All right, you caught me! My third and last golden rule has to do with having an expectation of the unexpected. And while I did say in the beginning that in order to immerse in and enjoy your destination, you have to try and rid yourself of unrealistic expectations, this one is a good one to have. Here is why. By expecting the unexpected you are essentially saying “anything is possible” and in Bulgaria that is a huge part of the local mentality. That alone makes this country a very fun place to be. Having a certain degree of unpredictability in your travels, makes them that much more exciting, exhilarating, and unforgettable. Add to that the variety of activities, places and traditions that Bulgaria offers and you have the perfect recipe for an amazing stay.

St. Sophia Church’s bell in Sofia is located in a tree a few feet from its entrance as the church does not have a bell tower. Photo by: Sandra Ionescu

St. Sophia Church’s bell in Sofia is located in a tree a few feet from its entrance as the church does not have a bell tower. Photo by: Sandra Ionescu

So there you have them: the 3 golden rules that will help you make your travels to Bulgaria a total success. Keep them in mind and try them out next time you are Bulgaria bound. 


Gerry Botchoukova-Farkova is an Innovation Associate at Melibee Global and our Bulgaria editor here at Wondering Educators. In addition she currently serves as an Honorary BG Cultural Ambassador for Foundation Identity for Bulgaria, where she also heads the foundation’s English blog. Gerry has lived and studied in Spain, Bulgaria and the United States, and holds a B.A. in International Studies Summa Cum Laude from Bentley University. In her spare time she enjoys traveling and writing her blog entitled ~WithLoveFromBG~.

All photos courtesy and copyright Alexander Sandev, except where noted