Here is your Bulgaria rental car guide. This post contains everything you need to know about Bulgaria car hire, including tips for driving in Bulgaria.
Bulgaria is a rather large country, so the best way to get around is by driving in Bulgaria. This means you can quickly move from place to place, checking out the history, landscapes, and of course, the fantastic beaches in all the incredible cities!
Hiring a car in Bulgaria isn’t tricky at all. There are countless car rental companies, most of which are located in major towns and cities. Whichever airport you fly into, you will also find several companies with offices based there.
Having so many choices means you must put more care and attention into picking the right company for you, researching which Bulgarian cars are available, and looking into Bulgaria driving laws. Every country is different!
In this post, we’ve compiled the best car rental tips for driving in Bulgaria after we took a road trip in Bulgaria, along with top rent a car companies in the country. We booked with Discover Cars in the fall of 2022 and highly recommended them.
Top Car Rental Companies Serving Bulgaria
- Discover Cars
- Top Rent a Car Sofia Bulgaria
- Budget Car Rental Bulgaria
- Hertz Rent a Car Bulgaria
- Savoy Rent a Car Bulgaria
- Car Rentals Bulgaria
- CarRent Bulgaria
- Europcar Bulgaria
- Autojet Car Hire Bulgaria
- Top Rent-a-Car Sofia
- Rent a Car Automatic Bulgaria
- Choice Car Hire Sofia Airport
- Autorental Bulgaria Ltd
Tips For Renting A Car In Bulgaria
To rent a car in Bulgaria and legally drive it, you will need an International Driving Permit* and your full driving license (both parts). You should also carry your insurance, passport, and any paperwork the car rental company gave you.
*If your license isn’t Bulgarian (or one that’s a recognized EU driving license), you must go online to get an International Driving Permit for Bulgaria, as most rental companies will require this. If going online isn’t possible, you can also get one in person once you arrive.
Have A Credit Card In Your Name
You’ll need to show a credit card in your name to rent a car in Bulgaria. This will be pre-approved in case of any damage or non-return of the vehicle. You don’t have to pay for the car with this card, but you must have it pre-approved.
Type Of Vehicle To Rent
The type of vehicle you want to rent will depend on your plans in Bulgaria. If you spend most of your time in cities, having a mini or compact car is ideal, especially for parking.
If you plan to visit Bulgaria in the winter to enjoy wintertime sports, something with sturdier wheels, such as an SUV, is advised.
Required Car Insurance
Car insurance for minor accidents is typically included in the cost of the car rental; however if you go with a cheap car rental in Bulgaria, you may need to add this.
You may also opt to add comprehensive accident insurance as you will be driving in a foreign country which brings its own risks. This can be added through the car rental company, or your credit card may sometimes cover this expense for you.
Car Hire Ages
Bulgarian car rental laws require you to be 21 years of age to rent a car, with at least a year’s driving experience.
If you are under the age of 25, a young driver charge may be added to your vehicle rental.
Check For Any Prior Damage
Before you accept the car, look carefully to spot any visual damage, note it down, take a photograph, or better yet, record a video of the vehicle and keep this close at hand if you’re somehow blamed for the damage when you return the car.
Refill The Fuel & Clean The Car
When you return the car, ensure it has been refilled and cleaned. If it’s less than complete, you’ll be charged the extra to top it up and probably have a hefty fee, and if it’s filthy, you’ll also be charged. Consider getting a car wash or vacuum at the gas station before returning the vehicle.
Return The Car To The Same Location
Although it might be convenient to pick up the car in one city and drop it off in another, you can expect to pay fees for this service. If you want to avoid the extra fees, plan to drop your car off at the location you picked it up.
Return Your Car On Time
If you rent your car at 11:00, make sure you return it at the same time (or earlier if possible) on the return date to avoid extra fees. If you think you will be late, call the rental company to let them know, as this may help you avoid any additional charges.
Tips For Driving A Car In Bulgaria
Items You Need To Carry
By law, there are certain things you need to have in your vehicle when driving around Bulgaria; these include:
- Headlight beam deflectors – These should already be fitted in all Bulgaria cars you can rent, but check to ensure.
- Warning triangle – If you break down, you must have a warning triangle handy.
- Reflective jacket – Check if this is in the car already because if you need to step out of your vehicle on a motorway, it’s the law to wear a reflective jacket.
- Fire extinguisher and first aid box.
Since all Bulgaria cars are required to carry these items, they are typically present in rental vehicles. Check before you leave the rental office.
Rules Of The Road
Important traffic rules in Bulgaria to remember are:
- Drive on the right side of the road and overtake on the left.
- Leave your headlights on at all times, even in the daytime, and dipped so as not to dazzle oncoming traffic.
- If you are in a town or city with trams, remember they have the right of way.
- It is forbidden to sound your horn in an urban area between 10 pm and 6 am unless this is to prevent an accident.
- You should also always wear a seat belt, regardless of whether you are the driver or the passenger.
- Drunk driving is a massive no-no in Bulgaria, as with many other countries, and the legal limit is meager, at 0.05%. Your license will be confiscated if you drive above the legal limit, and if you are seriously above the limit, you could be given jail time.
- Driving in Bulgaria is also not allowed if you’re wearing high heels, flip-flops, or day sunglasses.
- Eating, smoking, and using mobile devices behind the wheel are strictly prohibited.
The Bulgarian authorities are stringent on speeding, so always adhere to the following limits:
- 50 km/h in urban areas
- 90 km/h away from urban areas
- 130 km/h on motorways
Traveling With Children
Road rules in Bulgaria are very tight regarding restraining children in a car, which means a child under three cannot go in a vehicle if it doesn’t have child restraints.
If the child is over three years and less than 150 cm in height, they can go in the car without restraints but have to sit in the back.
Particularly in larger cities, such as Sofia, parking can be hard to find during busy times. Parking is forbidden anywhere it could obstruct traffic.
Try only to park where signs indicate it’s allowed.
If you are on a one-way street, always park on the left.
Specific parking areas are only valid for set amounts of time, which will be clearly marked. These are known as the Blue and Green Zones. Typically a paper is marked with the date and time you start parking, which is place in the windshield. If you go over this period, you may find yourself with a spot fine and even a wheel clamp, which might be expensive to have removed. If your car is towed away, expect a hefty fine and a lot of hassle.
Typical fines for breaking the rules of the road are as follows:
- Speeding 10 km/h above the limit: 20 Leva
- Speeding 20 km/h above the limit: 50 Leva
- Speeding 30 km/h above the limit: 100 Leva
- Driving without a seatbelt: 25 Leva
- Driving without an appropriate child seat: 50 Leva
- Using a mobile phone while driving: 50 Leva
- Drunk driving: 500-1000 Leva (you can expect a heftier fine if it’s a repeat offense)
- Parking inappropriately in an accessible parking space: 200 Leva
If an officer pulls you over, listen politely to understand what your offense was, find out what the cost of the fine will be, and proceed with the instructions the officer provides.
Do NOT bribe police officers, as this will result in additional fines.
You will find roundabouts in Bulgaria. If you enter the roundabout, you do not have the right of way. Always yield to vehicles already in the roundabout, and enter when there is a safe space to do so.
You won’t struggle to find a gas station anywhere in Bulgaria, as these are plentiful, with the main cities and towns open 24/7. Do not use the red pumps, as these are only for service vehicles.
You Need A Vignette Sticker For Road Tolls
As with most countries, there are road tolls you’ll need to know about when driving in Bulgaria. Many roads contain tolls here, but do not worry; it’s not expensive.
Even though you don’t have to pay any individual road tolls when driving in Bulgaria, everyone using roads does have to pay a “road tax” in the form of a vignette sticker.
Most rental cars in Bulgaria will already have one, but always check before you hit the road. If your vehicle doesn’t have one, you can buy a vignette sticker at all border crossings, gas stations, DZI bank branches, and post offices. Day, weekend, week, month, quarter, and annual vignettes are available.
The prices for passenger cars in 2022 are:
- 10 BGN for one weekend (Friday noon until midnight Sunday evening)
- 15 BGN for one week
- 30 BGN for one month
- 54 BGN for three months
- 97 BGN for one year
You can purchase an e-vignette here and save on queues at the border if you’re heading into Bulgaria from another country. You can buy your e-vignette up to 30 days before you want it to start.
Don’t attempt to drive around with your e-vignette, as this rule is strictly enforced, with cameras and vehicle checks. You will be fined 300 BGN (about 150 Euros) if you attempt to drive without paying your toll amount.
In addition to the e-vignette, several bridges have separate toll booths you’ll need to pay for, including the bridges that run between Romania and Bulgaria.
We’ve already mentioned the speed limits for driving around Bulgaria but know that these are strictly enforced, and several speed traps and cameras are dotted around. Sometimes you won’t even see the cameras, as they’re hidden in town and village name signs. There aren’t any warning signs to tell you about cameras either.
The best advice is to stick to the speed limit, and fines for going over the limit are hefty.
Don’t Drink & Drive
Of course, drinking alcohol and driving is illegal everywhere, but in Bulgaria, it’s best not to have one drink before getting behind the wheel as the limit is very low here. The BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration level) is no more than 0.05%; you can never tell how strong a drink is from bar to bar. Even one beer could put you over the limit and vary according to your age, weight, how much food you’ve eaten that day, etc.
It’s better to avoid drinking completely if you’re driving, as police are likely to do random checks on alcohol consumption at any time, at any point in the country.
Insurance Green Card
If you are driving a vehicle registered in any of the following countries, you must show a green card certificate for insurance:
Vehicles registered in EEA member countries, including Andorra, Serbia, and Switzerland, do not need to show this document.
Most roads between towns and cities are motorways, i.e., dual carriageways with emergency lanes. There are currently around 830km of these types of roads, with more in construction. The A1 between Burgas and Sofia and the A4 between Chirpan and the border with Turkey are the main two that are fully complete.
You will also see expressways, which are the same as motorways but don’t have emergency lanes. These are currently under construction nationwide as efforts to improve the road network continue.
Road signs are in Cyrillic, but many are also in Latin. Motorway signs are in green, and other roads are in blue.
Throughout the country, you will notice that some roads are quite bumpy and not of the highest standard, with common potholes and hairpin turns; take your time and drive slowly on roads that seem run-down.
Electric Charging Stations
There are a growing number of charging stations around the country for electric vehicles, and you’ll notice that these are provided by companies called Fullcharger, Eldrive, or Kaufland. You will also find Tesla Supercharger points in Plovdiv and Sofia.
Bulgaria Car Rental FAQs
Cities To Drive To In Bulgaria
Now you know the road rules, what about where to go? Buckle up; let’s start driving in Bulgaria. Here is where to go:
- Plovdiv. Stroll around the Old Town and central alley.
- Hike the 7 Rila Lakes. These lakes are a 2-hour drive south of Sofia. Take a look here.
- Visit The Rila Monastery. A UNESCO site and one of the most amazing places in Bulgaria.
- Weekend Break. See the small towns on one of these weekend break itineraries.