Sofia has become a well-known city in the digital nomads community, ranked number 36 on more than 500 cities in the world. We wanted to know more about this phenomenon which continues to grow in Bulgaria. We met Stephanie, an american digital nomad, who shared with us her experience in Sofia.
Chiang Mai, Berlin, Lisbon, Budapest, Amsterdam or Barcelona, these are some of the cities in the world offering a great life and good internet for digital nomads, people wanting to come and enjoy a new international spot while getting their work done via a laptop and a smart phone. For Bulgaria’s part, Plovdiv ranks 8th on Nomad List’s top cities for digital nomads, place highly deserved. The historical city, European Capital of Culture 2019, is a cool city with a great arts scene, fast internet, and a great cost of living.
Stephanie have been using Sofia as her digital nomad base for about eight months. She describes the Bulgarian capital as a city that really has everything : fast internet, great cost of living, and an amazing culture. Here she shares with us some of the reasons she loves being a digital nomad in Sofia.
1. The City is Cool
Stephane was born in the American Midwest, but she felt more at home when she moved to Philadelphia, the fifth largest city is the USA. Sofia is the center of Bulgarian culture, except for the summer when everyone goes to the shore. Stephanie needs to be in the middle of the action, and there’s no place in Bulgaria where this is more the case than in Sofia. Restaurants, bars, and clubs are interesting and uniquely Bulgarian, but they also rise to the standard of a major, international city.
2. People are chill
For people to love meet new other people and going new places, but also be able to disappear into the fabric of the neighborhood during a downtime, Sofia is a very good choice. Stephanie describes Bulgarians as really friendly, helpful and welcoming people, but they tend to keep to themselves. And she absolutely loves this ! Whenever she comes back after going somewhere that’s more of a nosy or loud place, she always appreciates how Bulgarians keep to themselves. When you interact with each other, it’s because there’s a genuine interest or connection. But they’re also perfectly happy to sit in silence, let you find your own way, or let you hang out in their coffee shop for seven hours after you only bought a cola.
3. No Need to Speak Bulgarian
Even if the official language is Bulgarian, lot of people in Sofia speak a perfect english. how many cities in the World can boast about it. English and sometimes French, Russian, Japanese, etc. So that the digital nomads are reassured, it will not be absolutely necessary to take intensive courses of Bulgarians. Just a few words to know showing that you are interested in Bulgarian culture or to read the names of the streets, in cyrillic alphabet.
4. The Cost of Living is Affordable
As a European city, Sofia is absolutely affordable. This is high on digital nomads’s priority list. Many of them work part time, freelance, or have our own businesses online. For many digital nomads, the difference between the cost of living back home and your new base can make or break you financially. Eastern Europe is known for being a great option in general, but with Sofia you can live the same lifestyle or better for far less. It’s not that things “cost less,” it’s that you also get the same quality or better as you would someplace else. Stephanie lives on a third of what she mades in the US, but her quality of life is dramatically improved.
5. The Internet is Really Fast
Definitely the most important thing for digital nomads. Not/bad internet, no work. With an average connection speed of 6.7 Mbits/s., Bulgaria is definitely a place to be when you are a Digital Nomad, so someone 100% super connected. For sure, it makes being productive a lot easier, when you don’t have to wait 30 seconds for something to load.
6. Location, Location, Location
Sofia is in the middle of everything ! One plane ride, and you can be in the Middle East, northern Africa, and most of Europe. The Sofia airport is twenty minutes the center of the Bulgarian capital, and lot of low cost fly companies using Sofia as a hub, it is easy to get a ticket to dozens of countries. In the past six months, Stephanie the digital nomad have spent 28-euro round trip to visit Budapest, taken an 8-euro train ride to Bucharest, and visited Israel and Jordan for less than 90 euros each way.
7. The City Loves Tourists
Sofia isn’t overrun with tourists, the way that some other European capitals are. Because of this, they treat tourists well. The 365 Association gives three free walking tours of Sofia every day, rain or shine. It’s a great introduction to the city. Unlike many places whose walking tours are a way to make money, the Free Sofia tour is run by an NGO whose purpose is to spread awareness about the city and welcome tourists with open arms.
8. Sofia is for History Lovers
If you love history, there’s a little bit of something for everyone-Roman ruins in the subway, medieval churches, Neo-Byzantine cathedrals, and Socialist monuments. History runs the gamut from Ancient Thrace to the fall of the Iron Curtain. You can see it all, just walking around the city, but if you want to go deeper check out the plethora of great museums (one of which is even located in the former residence of the country’s socialist leader).
The statues of St. Cyril and St. Methodius outside of the Cyril and Methodius Library in Sofia. They worked to convert the Slavs to Christianity and translated the Bible into Old Church Slavonic (Old Bulgarian). To do this they created the first version of the Cyrillic alphabet, the alphabet still used for Bulgarian, Russian, and most Slavic languages. Bulgarians are incredibly proud of these saints and the fact that the Cyrillic alphabet began in Old Bulgarian (and not Russian…)
9. Your Own Piece of Heaven
It may seem weird to say that a major national capital can feel like “your own,” but Sofia does have that charm. After college, Stephanie friends were all moving to New York City or Washington, D.C. Instead, she chose to move to Philadelphia, which had all the great culture and history, without the high cost of living or the feeling that the city was more about tourists than locals. Moving to Sofia has had that same effect. When everyone she knows wants to move to London or Paris, Sofia feels a little bit like “mine » for Stephanie. It’s a place that she found on accident-the first time she visited it was because it was the cheapest flight out of Athens. But it’s become a home that’s welcoming and easy, charming, vibrant, and full of surprises.
To know more about Sofia and the addresses to go when one is a digital nomad, cafes, coworking places, accommodations, transportation, Chris a digital nomad shares his thoughts on Sofia as a destination for digital nomads in on of his articles. All you need to know is here.
Cover picture @SOHOSofia coworking and creative space.