Looking for cheap travel destinations in Europe for a winter break? Let me tell you how much it costs to travel in Bulgaria.
We booked our flights and set off on our winter adventure to Bulgaria after learning that there’s good skiing for bargain prices and that the cost to travel in Bulgaria is low. We weren’t disappointed by Bulgaria and travelling on a budget — even while skiing — was very doable. I have to be honest though and say that although the cost to travel in Bulgaria was good, it was even cheaper to travel in Macedonia.
Our travel budget for Bulgaria includes budget accommodation for two, 3 meals per day, local transport and activities including a 2-day ski trip. This travel budget does not include flights.
Where we Travelled
We flew from the UK to Bulgaria’s capital city, Sofia, where we stayed for 5 days and mostly walked around and ate a bunch of vegan food. We then headed south to go skiing in Bansko. We stayed in Bansko for 5 days and went skiing on 2 of those days. Our final destination was the historic city of Plovdiv, where we enjoyed another 5 days before spending a day travelling back to Sofia and straight through to Macedonia.
Our travel budget is spread across the total 16 days, including the day we spent travelling by bus to Macedonia. We paid a reasonable amount of attention to our budget though our 2-day ski trip did push our average costs up.
Budget Accommodation in Bulgaria
The biggest cost to travel in Bulgaria definitely came from accommodation, but we still think that we found some pretty good deals. Like all Eastern European countries, you can get dorm beds for pretty cheap in Bulgaria and we met one guy who was staying in a dorm at Hostel Mostel in Sofia for £12 a night including basic meals — if you’re budgeting hard, then check that out for sure.
In Sofia and Bansko, we stayed in cool Airbnb apartments. In Sofia, our shared apartment cost us £23 per night, while Bansko our private apartment came in at the slightly higher price of £24.50 per night. We actually struggled to find cheap accommodation in Bansko because there were so many pricey tourist hotels and package holidays going on and we were skiing DIY style. The apartment we stayed in was the cheapest we could find at the time, though we did admittedly leave it a bit late to book.
When we got to Plovdiv, we opted to stay in a double room in Hostel Old Plovdiv. We’d read so many glowing reviews saying that this hostel was the best place people had ever stayed — and the price as comparable to other accommodation in Plovdiv — so we felt that couldn’t not stay there. The reviews were right, the hostel was amazing. We paid £25 per night, with a breakfast spread included.
Eating in Bulgaria on a Budget
I’m going to be honest and say that we were so taken aback by how little we paid to eat compared to other countries on our first night in Sofia, that we didn’t scrutinise our food spending all that much. We had set ourselves a 31-day vegan travel challenge when we were travelling in Bulgaria, so all of the meals that we ate were vegan.
That first night, we ate at the very lovely vegetarian Sun & Moon Bakery on Gladstone in Sofia. Our meal was all Bulgarian food and two sides, two mains, homemade bread and a glass of red wine cost us just 19lev (£7.32). Incredible, right? Now you can probably see why we didn’t feel the need to budget any harder when it came to eating out.
Local food in Bulgaria tends to be much cheaper than Western food and the same goes for local wine and beer. Avoid eating on the main high streets and instead look for places that are a bit away from the centre. We used Happy Cow to find vegetarian and vegan places — we kept food costs down by looking for restaurants marked as inexpensive.
Budget Activities in Bulgaria
Thinking about the total cost to travel in Bulgaria, it’s easy to see that we managed to keep our costs down by opting for lots of free activities. Aside from the skiing that is. We joined a free walking tours in both Sofia and Plovdiv, which meant we were able to check out all of the main city sights from the outside and learn a little bit of local knowledge.
Other budget travel activities in Bulgaria included checking out foodie markets in the local areas, as well as museums, churches and ruins. Many of the museums and churches only cost a token amount of lev to enter. If you’re in Plovdiv, definitely don’t forget to go walking up the city’s six hills to catch the sunset.
Skiing was of course the most expensive activity which we did, but skiing in Bulgaria is much cheaper than skiing in the rest of Europe. We discovered later on that skiing in Macedonia is even cheaper! Our 2 days skiing in Bansko worked out reasonably well priced with ski passes costing just 58lev (£18) per day and ski hire 35lev (£14) per day. If you’re a novice skier like me, you can pay just to use the gondola and keep costs down further.
Getting Around Bulgaria on a Budget
When we were in the city, we mostly got around by foot. The cities in Bulgaria are reasonably small so most places are within walking distance. In Sofia, the MRT is really useful and cheap. We stayed in a really central area though, so only used it a couple of times.
When travelling between cities in Bulgaria and out of the country, we always travelled by bus as this tended to be cheapest option. The bus from Sofia to Bansko cost us 16lev (£6.50) each and from Bansko to Plovdiv cost 14lev (£5.70).
The Total Cost to Travel in Bulgaria
After totting up our expenses, the total cost to travel in Bulgaria worked out at £23 per person per day, not including flights. This makes Bulgaria an excellent European travel destination for travellers on a budget. Though, if you think this is cheap, check out how much it costs to travel in neighbouring Macedonia!
Are you travelling to Bulgaria soon? I’d love to hear how much it cost to travel in Bulgaria for you!