A Brit’s Guide to Driving in Bulgaria
You may have heard that Bulgarian roads are some of the worst in Europe, and sadly this is true. If you’re planning to drive in Bulgaria you will need to be confident behind the wheel and have your wits about you at all times!
Most of the driving I do is around the capital city, Sofia, and thankfully there isn’t too much ‘high speed’ driving involved for me. I’ve been driving for almost 20 years and I would describe myself as a confident driver, particularly as I have experience of driving on both the right and ‘wrong’ side of the road. However, when I arrived in Sofia, the thought of driving here terrified me! Witnessing lane swapping, tailgating at high speed and some pretty angry road rage was enough to put me off the idea entirely! Be that as it may, once I got settled and a little more familiar with my surroundings, driving definitely became much easier. So much so that I would now go as far to say that I love driving here!
A few tips that I would give to anyone who’s planning to drive in Bulgaria would be:
- Keep your distance – driver’s often switch lanes to beat the traffic, without any indication.
- Slow down – it may be tempting to put your foot down on the main roads, but if you’re taking it easy, you’ll have more time to react to any erratic moves made by other road users.
- Don’t drink and drive – if you take your car, use the drink and drive service! There is a service called “You drink, we drive” and it’s great if you go out with your car and decide later that you want to have a few drinks. They will send a driver to drive you and your car home and it doesn’t cost much more than a regular taxi!
- Do be aware of potholes – there are many of them on Bulgarian roads and they are often big enough to damage your wheels/tyres.
- Always carry your car documents and driving license – this is a legal requirement and they must be presented to the police if you are stopped for a routine check.
- Do drive with your headlights on at all times – this is another legal requirement.
- Do change your summer tyres for winter ones or check that your tyre tread meets the legal requirements.
- Be careful on the icy roads – in winter the main roads are usually cleared very quickly, but with temperatures often in the minuses, some roads can be very slippery.
- Do check the parking signs, particularly in city centres. Buy a pay and display ticket from a traffic warden or pay via text message (instructions in English are found on the signs which indicate which zone you are in). Cars parked illegally will be clamped or even towed away.
I hope these tips are helpful and I’m sure that, like me, you will quickly get used to driving in Bulgaria and then you can enjoy exploring this beautiful country!