You may hear many people (including us) refer to Bulgarian prices in Euro but it’s important to remember that the local currency is the lev. In archaic Bulgarian the word “lev” meant “lion” and as you can see lions are all over Bulgaria in various forms (sculptures, monuments, etc.) representing the braveness of the Bulgarian nation.
You can’t spend euros in all the shops here and those who accept them may charge you more. There are however many change bureaus in the cities who will give you a good exchange rate if you haven’t managed to change any cash before you arrive. Most large hotels, restaurants and shops accept cards however smaller places are likely to ask for cash only so be prepared.
Here’s some more information on Bulgarian currency, including some pictures you will hopefully find useful:
1 Bulgarian Lev equals approximately € 0.50 and $ 0.63 and this will remain so until Bulgaria accepts Euros as national currency, which doesn’t look like something that will happen soon.
If you come to Bulgaria, try to keep your Bulgarian coins separate from your Euro coins, as they are quite similar and you might end up giving out Euros when you didn’t mean to.
1 Lev can buy you:
- 1 way ticket for the public transport (regardless of destination and length of journey, as long as you don’t change the means of transportation. You can also use it on the metro from one end of Sofia to the other;
- 1 cappuccino from a kiosk;
- a pack of chewing gums;
- ice cream in McDonald’s and in most supermarkets;
- a loaf of bread;
- “zakuska”- sweet or sour snack from one of the multiple kiosks around Bulgaria;
- + much more!
2 Leva (the plural of lev= leva)
The 2 leva note is basically equal to one euro but you can get a lot more for it than you could get for a euro in most European countries. Here is a list of some of the items you can get for 2 leva:
- 2 litres of beer from a supermarket;
- 0,330ml draft beer in most of the bars and restaurants;
- coffee, cappuccino, latte or tea in most of the bars and restaurants;
- lottery ticket;
- a sandwich or a slice of pizza;
- nail polish;
- a kilogram of apples;
- a chocolate bar and many more things!
This is what a 5 leva note looks like in Bulgaria. And here’s a list of items you could get for 5 leva:
- 500 gr of sausages;
- 500 gr of yellow cheese;
- 0.600 gr of pork meat;
- 2 litres of cooking oil;
- 4 kg of sugar;
- a salad in a restaurant or even a main course in some places;
- an alcoholic cocktail;
- 1kg of ice cream;
- face cream and lots of other cosmetics;
- a cab ride of about 5 km.
10, 20, 50 and 100 Leva
And here’s a preview of the notes of 10, 20, 50 and 100 leva. As you see from the prices above, there are so many things you could get with either one of these notes, so we will not be giving you further suggestions but hopefully you get the idea! This is what they look like:
Exchanging currency in Bulgaria
As we have described in this post, when travelling to Bulgaria it is wise to come over with your national currency and exchange it here as the exchange bureaus here offer really good rates! Two of the best exchange bureaus we are aware of are located in the very centre of Sofia, but there are many others. Whatever you do, DO NOT exchange your money at the airport – rates are really bad there!
Sending money to and from Bulgaria
If you need to send money to and from Bulgaria, there is an easy way to do it and you don’t need to pay bank taxes. Be sure to check Transferwise. If you have never heard of them, you can read more about our own experience here.