Call 112 in case of emergency
It’s important to understand how the health service in Bulgaria works so that you are prepared for any worst case scenarios.
If you are travelling to Bulgaria from anywhere in Europe short-term, less than 90 days, you can use an EHIC (European Health Insurance) card. You apply for this card in your home country from your health service and this allows you to have access to the healthcare services in the country you are travelling to.
You should remember that things that are free in your home country may not be free in Bulgaria and this card will only give you access to the treatments that are free to Bulgarian citizens. You should also not use the EHIC card as a substitute for travel insurance as it will not cover any emergency transport home or other types of costs.
If you are an expat moving to Bulgaria long-term then you will need to register with the Bulgarian health system. When applying for your residence card in Bulgaria you will be asked for an EHIC card but this is not a long term option. As soon as you are a Bulgarian resident you must register and pay for the health service to be covered. You should also consider arranging private health insurance.
If you are working in Bulgaria your employer should pay this for you. If you are starting a business then your accountant will manage the payments however if you are not, you must pay the monthly minimum of 16.80 BGN (do check for updated costs as this changes every year) health insurance premium yourself.
There are many cases where people fail to realise that this is needed and trust that they will be covered by an EHIC card or by their own National Health Service but this is not the case. If you do not pay your health insurance, you are not covered and you will end up receiving large hospital bills if you are ever in the unfortunate situation of needing medical care in Bulgaria.
You should also remember that as an expat you are no longer entitled to healthcare in your home country. If you are not paying health insurance there you are not covered there. There are some exceptions but these would be people who have applied under specific circumstances.
Once you are registered you will be asked to present your Bulgarian residency card each time you visit your Doctor and when going to specialist doctors you will need a letter from your GP to obtain a free consultation or treatment. Of course, this doesn’t apply to private clinics where you would need to pay regardless.
When you visit any of the state clinics you can expect to wait up to an hour to be seen. There isn’t an appointment system here, it’s generally a matter of asking who is the last person waiting when you arrive! If you are in a hurry you can choose to pay a one off fee (usually around 20 leva) which allows you to jump the queue. Also, keep in mind that not everyone will speak English, so you may need the help of a local friend to explain.
When you arrive in Bulgaria you should also learn where your nearest emergency hospital is.
We are working on adding more information for hospitals and clinics and will be updating very soon. We also encourage you to share your experience in the comments sections of any hospitals or clinics that you’ve visited to help our readers get as much information as possible.