Bulgaria is a beautiful country in the Balkans, nestled on the western side of the Black Sea. The exotic nation is filled with beaches, countryside, historical monuments, and charming churches. There is a wide range of activities to enjoy in Bulgaria including winter sports opportunities, beach activities, archaeological sites, and great hiking opportunities. The country also allows visitors easy access to surrounding countries such as Romania to the north, Serbia to the northwest, North Macedonia to the southwest, Greece to the south, and Turkey to the southeast. Renting a car to explore the country is a wonderful way to see the varied landscapes and escape to close destinations by driving. Due to its ideal geographical location, visitors can reach Bulgaria from Western Europe on board a ferry from Italy to Greece, or by traveling through Serbia or Romania and crossing the borders.

Road Conditions

The road infrastructure in Bulgaria is pretty poor with significant potholes and uneven surfaces, and roads in the country that are unfinished. There can be animals and livestock roaming the roads, traffic signs are hard to read and difficult to navigate, and the locals are erratic drivers who don’t obey the speed limit. There are modern four-lane highways that connect Sofia with Plovdiv, Burgas, and Turkey along with highways to Varna, and Greece.

Road Signs

Road signs are not great in Bulgaria, there are signs written in both Bulgarian Cyrillic and English, some are shown in Latin making it hard or impossible for foreigners to read. Speed limits are shown in km/h. .

Speed Limits

The national speed limit in cities and urban areas is 50km/h, outside of the cities it’s 90km/h and on the highways, it is 140km/h (unless otherwise specified).

Documents and Laws

They drive on the right-hand side of the road in Bulgaria and pass on the left. You are required to have the right paperwork when driving including a valid driver’s license, an International Driver’s permit, registration for the vehicle, and proof of insurance. Seatbelts are required by all passengers in the vehicle at all times.

Every driver must possess a highway permit, called a “vignette” these can be obtained at gas stations, DZI bank offices, border points, and post offices. (Rental cars usually have the vignette sticker on them, but be sure to double-check this before driving outside of the city).

You must drive with headlights on even during the daytime all year round in Bulgaria.

Driver’s cannot turn right on a red light in Bulgaria.

The pan-European standard number 112 for all emergency calls is working everywhere in Bulgaria since September 2008. If, for some reason, you can not connect to 112, dial 166 for police, 150 for an ambulance, and 160 for the fire department.

The laws are very strict when it comes to drinking and driving in Bulgaria, the blood alcohol limit is 0.05%. Your first offense will result in a hefty fine, and you can lose your license for up to a year as well as face a long prison sentence.

Car Rentals

When traveling to Bulgaria it is a great idea to rent a car, there are many rental car offices throughout the country including international companies such as Avis, Hertz, Europcar, and Sixt.

Drivers must be 21 to hire a car and have a valid driver’s license as well as an International Driving Permit and a valid driver’s license for your deposit.

Many of the sights in Bulgaria are only accessible by car, so the most convenient way to visit the best sites is by driving a car.
Gas Stations/Petrol Stations

There are plenty of petrol stations found along the main roads in Bulgaria, as well as through the cities and towns. Some of the bigger chain petrol stations include OMV, Petrol, Lukoil, Shell, Eko, and Gasprom. Petrol stations are readily available around cities and villages. On the main highway, the petrol stops are clearly marked and often don’t offer a wide range of services like elsewhere in Europe, where you would have a resting place with a restaurant next to it.