Relocating to Sofia - Housing and living questions


I am considering a move to the capital of Bulgaria, Sofia, and would really appreciate some good advice and information from expats and/or locals who are registered on this website.

There are of course many questions/concerns on my mind that I would love to get answers for, so I will list some below and hope that anyone could answer it for me.

About housing in Sofia (or Bulgaria as a whole if you don't live in the capital), is the process of buying a property really as dangerous as people make it sound? I have seen advices of getting lawyers and notaries involved in the process. I have lived in China for several years and also purchased an apartment in Beijing a few years back, and I had no problem at all. Just as normal as the process would be in Sweden (my country of birth). Is the housing market really that bad in Bulgaria? If anyone had any good experience in buying property, especially in Sofia, I would love it if you could share the agent with me and any lawyers/notaries if you used them. If it is not allowed to post the agencies/agents name here you can send me a message.

As for selling property, here I have also read some concerning posts by other people. That when you sell your property you are likely to make a loss and that it would take at least 6 months to find a buyer. Is this true as well, is the property market in Bulgaria slow/dead? And how about investment, am I more likely to make a loss than to gain money from buying and eventually selling my property in Sofia/Bulgaria?

As for drivers license I have read that the questions can be taken in English but the English is terrible and next to unreadable. Are there any truth in this? And for those who has taken their drivers license in Bulgaria, where would it be best to do it, in the city or in the country side? In Sweden I know many people prefer to go to the country side to avoid heavy traffic when they do their driving test. Also how much does it cost, the written exam and the driving test. Any traffic school that could be recommended in Sofia or nearby?

And now to some more easier questions. :)

What's the price of (and a good company for):
- Internet (I would be interested in high-speed connection)
- Food (bread, milk, cheese, pizza etc.)
- Public transport (bus, subway, tram)
- Cinema (do they screen movies with original sound or dub them to Bulgarian?)
- Mobile internet (do they provide and option for unlimited data in a monthly plan?)
- Electricity (home)
- Insurance (car, home, health)

If you feel that there's something that I might have forgotten to ask about, feel free to note that as well. And thanks a lot in advance, really appreciate any answer, short or long. :)

Buying an apartment is tricky, if you use an agency its a lot safer, they will prepare all of the paperwork, commission is 3% but you can negotiate it down a bit. As for selling, yes it will take a min of 6mo unless of course you take a huge loss. Also it really depends on the price of the apartment, apartments between €50K-€80K  move a lot quicker, anything over €100K might take up to 2 years. Not too many people here that can pull out that kind of cash and the ones that do are really picky. So in conclusion, can you get screwed? Yes, but as long as you get a good deal on the place and keep it under €80K you will be fine.
Drivers license, it cost 600lv for the whole process unless you need driving lessons but I assume you know how to drive. However it's better to use foreign drivers license, there are points that they deduct here for violations and after you get 4 I think it was they take your license away. But with foreign DL they can't take points so your all good. Now there is a law saying you can only drive with foreign license for 1 month but who will ever know when you came into the country?
Basic cost of living:
Internet + TV, I pay 56lv a month but I have all channels and fast internet, you can get it as low as 20lv
Food, really depends on what you buy, local brands or not, but about 150lv-200lv a week, can eat on a low budget of 50lv week, there are also a few food delivery services that bring food to you every morning and price is between 115lv-150lv a week not a bad option if you are dieting or can't cook.
Public transportation, dunno about that, I know the metro is 1lv one way but that's about all the knowledge I have on public transportation since I have a car
Movies are not dubbed unless it's a children's movie, they are all subtitled, price is between 7lv-12lv depending on time of day and day of the week.
Mobile phone plans also vary greatly, can be as low as 10lv and as high as 100lv, I pay 60lv a month that gives me 15GB, unlimited minutes to anyone in the country, 500MB roaming in the EU and 500min in the EU and 200min to the states also HBOGO and a few other things that I can't remember now.
Electricity, during summer about 150lv a month, that's with running my AC most of the time, winter about 40lv since I have central heating
Insurance, that will depend on your car, I pay about 2000lv a year, don't have health and home insurance so I don't know how much it is.
Another thing that is a must is SOT, that's home security company, they are really worth the money for the piece of mind, it's about 20lv a month.
Gym, 40lv-80lv a months depends on where you go
That's all I can think of now.

The short answers to your questions are Yes and No.

and the detailed ones are here:

Re: buying property, actually notary is involved in all cases. That's the legal representative when transferring ownership of the property.
Involvement of a lawyer - not necessary, but this will help you to check whether the property has or not some debts, mortgages etc. I personally recommend using a reliable person to check the property status before the purchase.

Re: selling property, yes the market is not developing right now, but that also means that you will get a better price at the purchase phase. Also selling depends on the type of property and location. Certain types cell better than others.

Re: driving licence - not sure about the quality of English used, but generally will be good. I personally would recommend taking the driving course in Sofia and taking the exam at a smaller town.

- Internet (I would be interested in high-speed connection)  - 30 BGN
- Food (bread, milk, cheese, pizza etc.) - 0,5 eur, 0,6 eur, 6 eur, 7 eur
- Public transport (bus, subway, tram)- 0,9 eur
- Cinema (do they screen movies with original sound or dub them to Bulgarian?) - 7 eur / both cases/
- Mobile internet (do they provide and option for unlimited data in a monthly plan?) - 12 eur, yes
- Electricity (home) - depends on size, heating method, appliances, but generally 80 eur for three bedroom flat
- Insurance (car, home, health)  - depend, but average 300 eur, 50 eur, 150 eur

hope that helps

If you have a Swedish license, you should be able to exchange it for a Bulgarian one (if you like), since Sweden is part of the Vienna road convention treaty. The exam in English used to be terrible (about three years ago or so) but they have updated it and the questions are understandable now. You can see the sample tests here:

Click english in the upper right and the test for cars and small trucks is category B.

Also, your foreign license is valid for a year, not a month, and you can only get a license if you have already gotten a residence permit here.

As for buying and selling in sofia, I have no clue. I am sure that a lot of info you find on here will be about buying and selling in small villages, which is a different ballgame altogether.

Good luck.

Thanks everyone for the informative answers, has given me some basic understanding of what to expect when it comes to the cost of living in Bulgaria.

However, I would be really thankful if you could also recommend me some names/companies, which ones you prefer and also why.

For example which bank do you use/prefer, which ISP and phone company do you think is better, are there any agency that you have good experience with when you bought your house/flat etc.

This would be much appreciated as well. :)

UniCredit bulbank (largest in BG)
Telenor for mobile
Yavlena for real estate (google it cuz u can't post advertisement links on here) and why? Well I know couple of people there and I know a few that have worked with them.

Currently the most flexible/lowest fee bank is Central Cooperative Bank- I like them, because there are no monthly fees and you can withdraw up to 5,000 leva cash without fees at any time. In most other banks, the limit is around 1,000 leva and even then there are fees. If you are doing renovations or major purchases, this adds up fast.
Unicredit Bulbank is the biggest bank is Bulgaria, and supposedly the "safest". Be wary of fees if you plan to withdraw money!
DSK Bank and First Investment Bank are the 2nd and 3rd largest, again be wary of fees.

I use Vivacom for mobile, they're supposed to be the biggest but service wise they're so so. Telenor also are a good choice, be way of Mtel who are horrific cheats and should be avoided at all costs. 

ISP and cable TV depends on where you plan to live, not everyone has coverage everywhere. I am EXTREMELY happy with Net1, I've tried nearly every provider and they're either overpriced or with horrific service. I've been with Net1 for around 6-7 years, maybe more and have had literally zero problems. Excellent service, excellent speed, great cheap plans, I cannot recommend them enough.

Regarding the license, just use your foreign license. It's actually better since you can't lose points, and you can get out of (most) tickets since they have nowhere to send the fine.

Choosing a bank will depend on the services you want to receive, the online services that they provide and the availability of a near by bank office.

Most popular banks in Bulgaria are: DSK, FIB, Bulbank, PNP - Paribas, Reiffesen bank, Si Bank, CCB ... and many others.

I would recommend using the bank which services the company you work for, provided above listed requirements are met.

Mobile operators were well addressed so far, nothing more to say.

ISP/Cable TV providers - all the mobile operators + several national represented like Blizoo and many local. Just do not signe a contract longer than 1 year. If anything is not what you negotiated or expected - change them immediately.

Real Estate Agencies - select one with an office in your area, and check if people recommend this company or not. Sofia however provides many options.

Car is a question of research, thorough check by a mechanic and ... luck, if you're not buying a new one. So just search for a good mechanic. If necessary I can recommend one too.

In all cases, try to read the small letters at the bottom of the contract before you sign anything.

Yes and ask the woman there to give you detailed answer,because the lie sometimes.

Thanks everyone for the recommendations! Really thankful. :)

I think I will go with Kris' recommendation of Bulbank for bank, Telenor for mobile and Yavlena for my property. Bulbank given that it is the biggest bank should give me less problems, and the bank app (downloaded it to see the interface) looks alright, and also has English UI. Telenor I also used while living in Sweden, the Norwegian telecom company has a good reputation in Scandinavia so it should be a good choice down in Bulgaria too.

As for real estate I am less certain, but I think Yavlena seems like a big company at least. And as mentioned with bank, big usually means less trouble down the road even if rates might go up a bit. Will probably work out just fine.

And as for drivers license, I currently don't hold any. I neither took the license in Sweden nor in China. I would mostly blame lack of time but also lack of interest and/or use.

In Sofia I feel however that it might be of much more use than it would in Stockholm and especially in Beijing with the massive subway.

As for license, what's the requirements for taking the test in Bulgaria?

Also, does anyone know the requirements to apply for residence permit (EU citizen)? It seems that most of you guys are non-EU nationals so you might not have the answer for this.

I don`t know man if you want i may come with you and help you,if i am able to help you,i am at work but a can go outside  from 12:00  -to 14:30 sometimes 15:00  every day.If you have any questions i am from the local people i work in sofia.

Thanks Hybrid88, that sounds great. :)

If everything goes as planned I should move to Bulgaria at the beginning of August or possibly the end of July.

The EU residence permit process is rather easy--- you go to the immigration office with your passport, rental contract (or house deed if you own a place), proof of health care (I believe you should have an international card from your home country) and either proof of employment OR proof of means to sustain yourself (via a bulgarian bank account).

I believe the processing fee is something tiny, like 10 lev, and you fill out a form then pick up your card within two weeks.

@kojidae That sounds like a really easy process, hopefully you are right as well. :)

Regarding the proof of health care, do you know if that really applies for EU citizens as well? I haven't been to Sweden for many years now and won't be going back there any time soon, so I won't be able to apply for that card.

Also, do you know the actual requirement for proof of means, as in how much money do I need in my bank account? I haven't been able to find this information online. Do you think that 100K Euro would be enough?

You can get health insurance pretty cheap, less than €100 a month, just do a google search, then you can cancel it once you get the permit. As for means it's was a very low amount, like €5K-€10K

The health insurance required for a residence permit should be around 100-200 lev per year- I pay 160, but it varies on age... (It doesn't cover much... but it will get you your permit if you do not have a valid EU health card).  I use Uniqa for it. You can go into any Uniqa office and just say you need foreign insurance for your residence permit and they will give you the correct one.

The sustainable income is the minimum wage for how long you want the permit for... around 450 lev/month--- however, since you are eu, you only need to prove about a year and you still get a long term (5 year, I believe) permit. (In other words, 100k would be way more than sufficient).

Thanks Kris and kojidae, seems like there's not much to worry about for my part, should be fairly easy to get the residence permit. :)

How about you, were you required to apply for the D-visa first and then apply for the residence permit? I take it from your previous comments that you both are not EU citizens.

My wife is not a EU citizen so I suppose she will have to apply for the D-visa first and also needs an insurance before she can enter Bulgaria.

It also said she needed an address in Bulgaria first as well, is this true?

In the "worst case scenario" I suppose that I will go to Bulgaria first and get us a rental contract somewhere and then provide it to her so she can apply for the D-visa, and later when she arrives, she also applies for the residence permit.

They say that you need insurance for your wife before she enters Bulgaria (and in the US they say they will not issue the visa without insurance) but in my experience, me and all of my friends got our visas without the insurance and then purchased the insurance as soon as we arrived in Bulgaria. It is much cheaper and easier to figure out exactly what you need. (Of course, if you are coming before her, you could bring a copy of her passport and get her the insurance beforehand.)

I had an address in Bulgaria before moving, but it is basically just a statement that you will have a place to live when you get there- she should be able to apply with a hotel booking, in theory.

@kojidae Thanks for the info, I also received an email from Your Europe Advice ( regarding my case. I think I can post it below, hopefully it can come to use for someone else in the future. :)

I highlighted some areas of the text I think can be of use for others. And I have to admit that the process seems really easy. Now just hope that the Bulgarian embassy agrees with what's in that email as well. :)

Dear Sir/Madam,

Please find below the reply to your enquiry. Please note that the advice given by Your Europe Advice is an independent advice and cannot be considered to be the opinion of the European Commission, of any other EU institution or its staff nor will this advice be binding upon the European Commission, any other EU or national institution.

Dear Sir,

Thank you for this enquiry.

1. Regarding your residence status
As an EU national, you can reside on a long-term basis in Bulgaria and be issued a residence certificate even without having a job in the country. EU nationals who have health insurance and enough resources to live in Bulgaria without relying on social assistance can settle in the country as self-sufficient persons (as per Directive 2004/38/EC)

The sum of 100,000 euro on your bank account is enough for both you and your wife: normally the Bulgarian authorities require about 1,000 euro per person.

No later than 3 months after your arrival in Bulgaria you need to apply for an EU citizen s long-term residence certificate before the Bulgarian police at your locality. You should have a valid Swedish ID document (ID card or a passport), proof of valid health insurance, bank statements or other financial documents, a rental contract or a proof of address. You will be asked to fill out an application form and pay a fee. You will be issued a laminated paper-based certificate. If you wish, you can also apply for a plastic card containing a personal number.

2. Regarding your wife s residence and visa
As an EU national residing in Bulgaria you are entitled to be joined by your wife, irrespective of her nationality. No later than 3 months after arriving in Bulgaria, she should apply before the Bulgarian police for a Residence Card of a Family Member of Union Citizen. The Card needs to be issued no later than 6 months from the date she submits her application. However, she should be provided immediately with a document that she had handed in an application.

The Residence Card of a Family Member of Union Citizen is different from the residence permits issued to foreigners in Bulgaria. Your wife needs to produce a valid passport and a marriage certificate. The Bulgarian authorities will request that your marriage certificate is legalised (with apostille) and translated.

As a family member of Union citizen, your wife does not need a visa D in order to enter or settle in Bulgaria or to be issued a Residence Card of Family Member of Union Citizen.
It is true that under the Bulgarian Foreigners Act, foreign nationals who wish to reside in the country need to hold a visa D. However, non-EU family members of Union citizen are exempted from the visa D requirement. Their visas are issued under a different piece of legislation: the Law on the Entry, Residence and Departure from the Republic of Bulgaria of EU Citizens and their Family Members (which transposes the EU Free Movement Directive 2004/38/EC).

Furthermore, as you will be travelling together, her visa should be issued free of charge, as soon as possible within accelerated procedure. She will need, however, to establish before the Bulgarian consular service that she is married to a Union citizen. To this aim, you will be required to submit your marriage certificate. Legalization (with apostille) and translation will be necessary.

Please note that in order to be issued a visa, your wife does not need to submit documents such as financial documents, travel documents, letter of invitation, insurance, etc. Such documents can be required from her only if she travelled on her own.

Finally, in case she holds a valid multi-entry Schengen visa, she does not need to apply for a separate Bulgarian visa. Bulgaria unilaterally recognizes the visas and residence permits issued by the Schengen countries as equivalent to its national visas. For example, if she has a valid multi-entry Swedish visa she can enter Bulgaria with it.

For more information of the rights of third country nationals, family members of EU citizens, please visit the Your Europe website at: … dex_en.htm … nts_en.htm

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Best regards
Your Europe Advice

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