When venturing out to the Balkan nation of Bulgaria, you’ll likely be visiting Devil’s Bridge and taking a selfie in front of the Bulgarian State Monument. But as for the things you shouldn’t do, you might be a bit clueless. Just like any travel destination, there’s a list of things you should do and a list of things you should avoid. Here are a few things you should avoid that will make your stay in this cultural melting pot more enjoyable.
1. Don’t Crack Jokes
We’re not saying you should completely leave your humor at home before you visit, but be mindful of the kind of jokes you crack in the presence of a Bulgarian. By nature, they love making self-deprecatory jokes, but when the tables are turned, they don’t appreciate being the butt of a foreigner’s jokes. To be sure you don’t cross the line and come off as insensitive or downright rude, go easy on the humor.
2. Don’t Splurge on Cheap Liquor
It might be tempting to purchase some inexpensive alcohol during your stay, but cheap liquor can cost you your life. In 2015, four people died of alcohol poisoning after drinking counterfeit alcohol during celebrations. The men consumed 4 liters of “bathtub” rakia – a fruity brandy that’s poured over a butchered pig. Police have confiscated hundreds of liters of fake alcohol, but that doesn’t mean the deadly liquor doesn’t still exist.
3. Don’t Spend All Your Time in the Capital
Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, is a beautiful city that’s rapidly growing, and it’s a vibrant location that you should definitely explore. But staying in the capital throughout the duration of your trip is limiting your entire experience. There’s so much more to see, like the coastline of the Black Sea, the beautiful beaches, the stunning mountains, the crafts, the traditional dancing, and the streams of the Danube river.
4. Don’t Talk Bad About Their Football Team
Football – or soccer as the Americans call it – is the most popular sport in the country. Bulgarians treat their football players like kings, and participating in some unfriendly banter about their favorite past time is a recipe for disaster. In some countries, sports fans are more lighthearted when it comes to how horrible their teams are, Bulgarians are the exact opposite. So when you visit this country, whatever you do, don’t mention the Bulgarian National Team’s failure to qualify for major tournaments in the past decade. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
5. Don’t Trust Hotel Ratings
In other countries, you can heavily rely on the star-rating system of hotels, but that’s not always the case here. Some hotels will adhere to their own rules and claim to be luxurious while the amenities are two-star at best. If you want to know the real deal about the conditions of an accommodation, check out verified traveler’s reviews online.
6. Don’t Pack Too Much
We know it’s difficult to pack light no matter where you’re traveling, but trust us, you’ll want to leave some extra room in your suitcase when you visit this country. Bulgaria is full of markets and stands that have beautiful souvenirs that you’ll definitely want to take home, from handcrafted pottery to handmade jewelry. They also have amazing art galleries that allow you to purchase paintings and various sculptures made by some of the country’s most talented artists.
7. Don’t Confuse the Nod
In Bulgaria, they nod differently. For “yes,” they nod their head once upward. And for “no,” they shake their head from side to side. If you’re not aware of this, you might actually be saying no when you really mean yes!
8. Don’t Criticize Their Food
It’s always best to remain cordial and appreciative when you’re sampling cuisine from other cultures. In Bulgaria, they love their traditional dishes, and they want their guests to enjoy the food, too. If you’re not particularly fond of what’s on your plate, remain courteous, and chow down anyway. You don’t want to potentially turn someone off and come across as an inconsiderate traveler.
9. Don’t Always Expect Great Service
Whether you’re in a small eatery or a luxury restaurant, most establishments will have so-so service. But despite tipping customs in the U.S. that base the amount of tip on the level of service, Bulgarians expect you to monetarily thank them no matter the quality of service you receive.
10. Don’t Drink in Public in Varna
If you head out to the port city of Varna, be aware that the mayor placed a ban on drinking in public as of 2015. Due to an increase in inebriated tourists, the mayor felt the need to prohibit drinking in gardens, alleyways, and parks. You don’t want to get locked up or stuck with a big fine while you’re on vacation, do you?
11. Don’t Completely Stop at Stop Signs
Use caution when driving, especially when you come to a stop sign. It will be natural for you to feel the need to press the brakes, but many people say this isn’t such a good thing in Bulgaria. Coming to a full stop at a stop sign means you’re in danger of being hit from behind. In Bulgaria, it’s the norm to slow down, look to the left, and then proceed as usual without fulling pressing the brakes.
12. Don’t Visit Without Brushing Up on Their History
When you engage in conversation with Bulgarians, you’ll quickly realize that they’re serious about their history. They have a lot of pride in their country, and they know the ins and outs of the ancient Bulgarian kings and the discoveries that were made in the country centuries ago. If you want to impress some of the locals, brush up on some Bulgarian history beforehand.