POLITICS & GOVERNMENT
Bulgaria is a parliamentary democracy in which the most powerful executive position is that of prime minister. The political system has three branches—legislative, executive and judicial, with universal suffrage for citizens at least 18 years old. The Constitution of Bulgaria provides also possibilities of direct democracy.
Sofia (София), population = 1,263,884
LANGUAGE AND ALPHABET
The official language in the country is Bulgarian. The Cyrillic alphabet, which was developed in Bulgaria during the 10th century, became the third official alphabet of the European Union after Bulgaria’s accession. Some English, French, German and Russian is spoken in the large cities and tourist areas.
Religion typically follows ethnicity in Bulgaria. Almost ninety-four percent of Bulgarians are ethnic Slavs, and 82.6 of them belong to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, the country’s traditional religion. The largest minority religion is Islam, of which most are ethnic Turks.
For residents of the EU and the USA, no visa is required for up to a 90-day stay in Bulgaria. For information about other countries, pls. visit http://www.mfa.bg/en/pages/109/index.html
The official currency of the country is the lev, which is equal to 100 stotinki. Since 1997, the country has been governed by a currency board and the value of the lev has been pegged to the Euro, at a fixed rate of 1 EUR – 1.95583 BGN. Exchange rates by the Bulgarian National Bank http://bnb.bg/
In Bulgaria a tip is not an obligation, but is appropriate for good service. For waiting staff in restaurants, 10% is considered a good tip. For taxi drivers rounding the fare or a couple of Euros is sufficient and for hotel maids a Euro per day for good service is customary. Tipping in small coins is considered to be an insult.
Value Added Tax (VAT) is charged on most items and currently stands at 20%.
Most Bulgarian hotels and stores now accept VISA, MasterCard, American Express, and Diners Club credit cards.
The official business hours of most companies and administrative institutions in Bulgaria are from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. This includes banks, ministries, post offices, libraries, etc. However, 99% of the supermarkets, shops and bookstores have longer business hours and are open on weekends as well. Restaurants, bistros and pubs are usually open seven days a week from say 11am until midnight (at least). And please don’t expect the night clubs and discotheques to close before dawn
Weather in Bulgaria adheres to the traditional four seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter.During summer, from early June till mid September, Bulgaria enjoys a temperate climate when the average high temperature stands in low twenties. July and August are considered as the hottest months of the year with around 26 °C of maximums however on hot days temperatures can reach as high as 35°C. On the other hand, the minimums in this season stand at mid-teens. Sofia, receives a humid continental climate that features a cold and snowy winter and wet summer months.
INTERNATIONAL AIRPORTS IN THE COUNTRY
There are international airports in Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna and Burgas. Direct charter flights are available to the Black Sea airports in Varna and Burgas during the summer season.
SPEED LIMITS FOR MOTOR VEHICLES IN BULGARIA
50 km/h in populated areas; 90 km/h outside populated areas; 130 km/h on limited access highways.
Eastern European Standard Time = GMT+2
Eastern European Summer Time (End of March until the End of October) = GMT+3
COUNTRY’S EMERGENCY TELEPHONE NUMBER 112
INTERNATIONAL DIALLING CODE
The international access code for Bulgaria is +359. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 001 for North America).
Bulgaria offers great Internet services so you will be able to check your mail and update your Facebook status even if you are stranded in the most isolated, godforsaken town or village in the country.
Wi-Fi Internet is available in many hotels, cafés and restaurants, as well as in some parks in the main cities. If you don’t have your own laptop computer, you might as well look up for an Internet café.
Bulgaria’s standard electricity supply is 220/230 volts AC with a frequency of 50 hertz. For other equipment, a transformer or adaptor is required unless the appliance has a multi-voltage option. Sockets in Bulgaria take standard European-style two pin plugs.