Bulgaria is a European Union country but has its own currency, the Lev (BGN). You have to exchange your money when you go to Bulgaria.
1 LEV = 0.51€
Bills are in denomination of 2 , 5, 10 , 20, 50, and 100 Levas (BGN). Coins are in denomination of 1, 2 , 5, 10, 20 and 50 Stotinki and 1 Lev. The brand new 2-lev coin has just been launched a few weeks ago.
So, you have to exchange your money when you arrive in Bulgaria, at the airport if you need to pay a taxi.
You can find change offices easily in town. But, beware of exchange rates, some change offices are less interesting than others. Take a few minutes to read and understand the chart displaying the various currencies and the equivalent in Bulgarian published in front of it. Because, sometimes, the indications can be confused.
Approximate exchange rates : 1,00 euro = 1,95 lev (BGN) / 1,00 pound = 2,51 lev (BGN)
To find the price in euro, divide the amount in Bulgarian currency by 2 to get the equivalent in Euro.
In Sofia, I have some addresses where you can change money at the best rate : first, in the banks, it’s possible to change money. The exchange rates are correct. Last week, I changed 40 euros in Leva. I receive in exchange 78 levas >> 40 euros = 78 levas >> 1 euro = 1,95 lev.
WHERE TO CHANGE MONEY
No problem to change the cash in Bulgaria in a bank. You can easily find banks everywhere in Bulgaria. Some of them are open during the week only (9:00/10:00 am – 5:00/6:00 pm) and not during the week-end. But, generally, the banks focused on FOREX are open also the week-end.
Varchev Finance, bul. « Patriarh Evtimiy », 1000 Sofia centre (google map) / Open hours : open all the week and ALSO week-end (9:00 am – 7:00 pm). Click here for the real time exchange rates. Staff very serious. You have to present your ID card for identification.
The change offices are all over town (in post offices, campsites, hotels or large shopping streets). In Sofia, you can find some private change offices. But, be careful, because some of them practice fraudulent rates.
It will not ask you for identification, the transaction is done on the field, without paperwork.
The exchange rates are displayed on tables outside the window. Take time to read the table and calculate approximately how much you have to receive. Change offices normally don’t take commission.
Private office, William Glastone Street, 30 (3 meters from the Vitosha street >> google map) /Open hours : week & week-end (8:00 am – 8:30 pm).
In Sofia, more generally, there are several foreign exchange offices on Boulevard Vitosha, Maria Luisa and Stamboliyski.
There are ATMs everywhere in Bulgaria. You will never be caught unawares, but you have to pay a commission taken for each withdrawal by your bank if it does not have an agreement with the bank which owns the ATM. It can be sometimes quite important between 3 and 7 euros by withdrawal. It is better to make a large withdrawal once instead of multiplying small operations with commissions each time.
Check with your bank before to come in order to know the commission rate.
« ONLY CASH PLEASE »
You need to know it, in Bulgaria, people are used to paying in CASH. Lots of places like bars, cafés, restaurants, hairdressers don’t accept credit cards but only cash. Think about the fact that you must have enough money with you all the time. When you don’t use to pay by cash, this can sometimes be annoying.
So, more and more, you can directly pay by credit card in many places, although many still accept only cash. Basically, hotels, gas stations, some restaurants (but not all) and boutiques take cards.