Bulgarian property insurance

As with many of the financial products and services in Bulgaria, the insurance market is relatively immature. Many Bulgarians do not take out property insurance, but it is prudent to do so, even if it is only basic buildings cover. Buildings and contents insurance is normally offered separately.

Basic buildings insurance covers events such as fire and flooding. Cover may be extended to include landslides and earthquakes. Contents insurance is significantly more expensive than basic buildings cover.The standard Bulgarian contents insurance policies generally cover only furniture and electrical goods. You are advised to make a photographic record of all of the items you wish to insure and note down their serial numbers where possible. You will also be expected to write down the estimated replacement value of each item. Valuables such as jewellery may also be insured, but these are covered by more specific, more expensive policies. To insure any of the items listed on your contents policy against burglary you may need to take out a separate policy.

Security, Crime and the Police in Bulgaria

Crime levels in Bulgaria are very low, which is a major attraction for people visiting and moving to Bulgaria. In many rural areas in Bulgaria the crime rate is practically zero. There is no ‘yob culture’ problem as encountered in Britain. Crimes against the person are rare, and women should feel safe travelling alone, though it is sensible to take precautions similar to those you would take elsewhere.

Organised crime and the Mafia create a bigger problem, and the Bulgarian government has taken steps to try to address it. Fortunately people involved in this activity are generally easily identified and avoided. They dress in suits and their henchmen tend to be large ex-wrestler types; they often drive large 4×4 vehicles (often German models, and black), and tend to frequent regular venues, so you should pretty quickly get to know the places to avoid. Walk away from any encounter with such people who operate outside the law.

Postal services in Bulgaria

Post offices exist throughout the country, including most villages in the Bulgarian countryside, with small offices generally closing for lunch. In addition to the usual postal services, the larger offices also offer telephone services, fax transmissions, domestic and international money transfers, payment of utility bills, phone-card sales, newspapers and stationery.

The Media in Bulgaria

Television in Bulgaria

There are currently three terrestrial television channels in Bulgaria, all broadcasting in Bulgarian; to watch English-language programs you will have to install either cable or satellite TV. There are normally several cable providers in any one area but only two national satellite providers iTV partner and BulsatCom. Cable is cheaper to install than satellite, but neither should cost more than 145 leva (£70) for installation. The monthly cost is 11-40 leva (£5-18) depending on which package of channels you choose, with satellite slightly more expensive but having a larger selection of channels. Included in any basic package are CNN, Euronews, Eurosports, Hallmark, MTV, Discovery and Animal Planet. More expensive packages include movie channels such as HBO (in English) and extra sports channels.

Telecommunications in Bulgaria

Telephones in Bulgaria

The main telephone service provider in Bulgaria is BTC , although in Sofia and some other large cities there are other suppliers of telecom services, such as Orbitel. You can also subscribe to telephone services through the cable TV network.

In Bulgaria a telephone line and number is associated with a particular person living at a specific address. When you buy a property in Bulgaria the seller will either discontinue the number or move it with them to a new address, leaving you to apply to

Electricity in Bulgaria, electricity bills in Bulgaria

For many years electricity in Bulgaria was supplied by the state. To meet EU competition requirements, the market has now been privatised, although this has increased prices rather than reduced them as in other countries, because under state provision prices were heavily subsidised.

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Money and Banking in Bulgaria

The local currency is called the lev (official abbreviation BGN). The plural of lev is leva and the abbreviation V is normally used on price tags. 100 stotinki make up 1 lev. Coins are issued in denominations of 1,2,5,10,20 and 50 stotinki and 1 lev. Bank notes come in denominations of 2,5,10,20,50 and 100 leva, the size of the note increasing with value. A word of warning: the 1 lev coin and 100 leva note look very similar to their euro equivalent, so be very careful when receiving euro currency that you are not given leva (the lev is worth approximately half the euro).

Cost of Living in Bulgaria

Pounds sterling go a long way in Bulgaria, where native products and services are often less than a third of the price of western European countries. Perhaps the most notable area where prices are lower is in the bar and restaurant sector -even McDonald’s and KFC have prices around half those in the UK. Not everything is cheaper, however, particularly among imported products. Many electrical appliances, including certain newer models of white goods, cost at least as much as in the UK.

Buying materials and furniture in Bulgaria

Building Materials and Electrical Appliances

Bulgaria is now well served by shops selling building materials and electrical appliances. A number of foreign hardware superstores such as Mr Bricolage (French-owned) and Praktiker (German-owned) have appeared on the fringes of the larger cities in competition with smaller pre-existing shops and yards (many of which remain hidden to foreigners). These carry a comprehensive selection of DIY tools, tiles, light fittings, garden equipment and so on. Technopolis and Technomarket provide a full range of electrical appliances.

Shopping in Bulgaria

Shopping in Bulgaria, while not as developed as in other areas of Europe, is improving rapidly. During the Communist era, long queues were common and the selection of products limited. People used to carry plastic bags, not necessarily with the intention of buying anything, but so that they would not be caught short if a mushroom delivery was made unexpectedly. After the collapse of Communism, the situation gradually improved, but it is only in the few years that shopping has really begun to resemble that of western Europe, with people having a wider choice, including international brands, and increased disposable income. These changes are confined to the larger urban areas, however, with the villages still operating very much out of the local store and/or using their own produce.