On the south-eastern edge of the European continent lies Bulgaria, a small country with an extremely beautiful landscape. The country’s culture, history and people are fascinating and especially after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Bulgaria quickly became a highly popular tourist destination, due to its close proximity and opening to the Black Sea, the reasonable prices and high-quality services.
The country’s location makes it an important gateway between Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Bulgaria is one of European Union’s external borders, which gives it relative stability, thus presenting a safe environment for all the businesses, organizations and tourists located within its borders.
From a tourist’s point of view, a lot of the scams that we are about to present to you below are well known, spread and practiced in a lot of destinations all over the Globe. However, a few of these crimes are extremely typical to Bulgaria; therefore you should carefully take note when reading the following information, especially if you are planning a vacation in Bulgaria.
It couldn’t be more obvious that pickpockets are drawn to large and preferably crowded masses of people. In those cases, victims have limited visibility and little space to move or react.
When in Bulgaria, be wary of your valuables when you are using public transportation as a means of traveling around. Busy trams or buses are good places for pickpockets to steal from tourists, so keep an eye on your bags, purses or wallets when traveling in such conditions.
These thieves can be as skilled as to relieve tourists of possessions even when they are standing on a street corner and waiting for the lights to turn green in order to cross to the other side.
Other dangerous places where pickpockets wait for easy targets include crowded alleys or malls and shopping streets. Just before a pickpocketing takes place, a diversion usually happens. This may vary from someone bumping into you, to a fake argument or even a fight. Keep your eyes open and do not let yourself easily distracted.
Always be aware of what is happening around you, especially in your close proximity. Try not to let anybody get too close to you if you do not know them. If you must go through a crowded area and you have your belongings in a backpack, switch it and carry it in front of you. If the bus that you must take in order to reach somewhere else is jam-packed, it is a good idea to wait for a few minutes for the next one.
Old, Invalid Banknotes
The Bulgarian currency is called leva and the valid banknotes are issued after 1999. The simplest way to check how a valid one looks like and what its features are is to search it on the Internet, on the Official Bulgarian National Bank’s website.
Scammers could try to give you invalid or old currency, relying on you not knowing the banknotes well enough. Pay attention to what you are being handed when you receive change at a shop or when you are exchanging money.
You must never exchange money on the street, no matter how good the rate is. Money should only be exchanged in banks. Tourists have reportedly received invalid banknotes all along the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast, so you must avoid these places when exchanging money.
If you are traveling through Bulgaria using public transportation you should buy the tickets before getting on.
You have the possibility to buy the tickets from the driver, as well. However, it is nearly impossible to receive one, unless you pay the exact amount of change.
If the trip starts at Sofia Airport, and you plan to travel using public transportation, you must buy a ticket in advance, before you get on the metro, tram or bus.
Foreign tourists have claimed that after boarding the bus from an airport, the driver refused to sell them tickets due to the fact that the tourists didn’t have the precise amount of money needed. The bus departed and they received a fine because they did not have any tickets.
If you use the metro, keep in mind that tickets are valid only at the time and from the station where you acquired them.
Inflated taxi prices that drivers impose on tourists are a known scam and that can be experienced in large cities all over the world. However, in Bulgaria, you must be particularly wary because there are fake taxi companies.
The ones who try to scam you, fake the car’s stickers and impersonate other well known legitimate taxi companies, by changing only a character and a couple of digits from the phone number. If you are a tourist and you do not pay attention you may not see the difference and especially in Sofia, you risk to fall into their trap.
One of the safest methods to call a taxi is to ask the receptionist of your hotel or a waiter to do it for you. Also, you could use an official smartphone application.
Some scammers will meet you on the streets or in any other public places and will wish to give you a small trinket, such as a tiny Crucifix, a ring or something similar. They will insist that you do not need to pay for it and that you should accept it as a symbol of good luck, or a blessing, or some other reason.
However, after you accept said gift, they change their attitude and charge you money in return. They will follow you and demand payment, refusing to take the item back, if you want to return it. Most tourists give in and eventually pay for the trinket, after getting annoyed past any limits. In order to avoid this scam, just refuse any object from strangers.
Inflated Restaurant Bill
The main Bulgarian cities greet tourists with a plethora of restaurants where everybody can enjoy the local dishes and culinary specialties. However, before paying your bill or personally handing over the money to the waiter or bartender, double check that the total amount is correctly calculated.
At times, you might find on the bill an extra portion of bread or a drink you did not order. More often than not, it’s not an innocent mistake, but rather it’s your waiter making a few extra levas. The way to handle such a situation is to politely show them the mistake. They will politely apologize and calculate your bill again.
Sometimes, when you are taking a walk on the streets of any town in Bulgaria, you may see stray animals, mostly dogs and cats.
No matter how much you love animals, please resist your urge to pet, feed or take them into your arms. These animals can be dirty, so they can carry all sorts of diseases, lice, and other parasites. Moreover, they can become aggressive if you reach your hand towards them. They may or may not bite you for no obvious reason.
You should just keep a safe distance and simply not interact with any stray animals.