Bulgaria is a member of the European Union, though not part of the EU's common border Schengen Zone. In practice, this means that all visitors are required to show a passport or EU identity card, even if arriving from another EU member country.
Delays are common at border crossings, and customs officials are generally an unfriendly and suspicious lot; expect to be questioned on what business you have in coming to Bulgaria and where you intend on staying.
- Whether you’re inspected by customs officers depends on how you enter the country, but bona fide tourists are generally left alone.
- If you’re travelling between Bulgaria and another EU country, then normal EU rules on what you can import or export apply.
- If you enter or leave the country with more than €10,000 on you (in any currency), you must declare it.
- Check with the customs service in your home country for advice on what you can import duty-free from Bulgaria.
- For information about exporting unusual items (such as valuable archaeological artefacts) by air, contact the National Customs Agency (www.customs.bg).
All visitors to Bulgaria are required to show a valid passport or EU identity card on entering and exiting the country. Passports should be valid for at least three months after the date of your intended departure from Bulgaria.
Visas are not required for EU citizens. Citizens of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA can visit visa-free for up to 90 days.
Citizens of other EU member states and Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, the USA and several other countries can stay in Bulgaria visa-free for up to 90 days. Other nationals should check the current requirements with their nearest Bulgarian embassy or consulate before their departure. Visas cannot be obtained at border crossings.
Visitors wishing to extend their visit to Bulgaria beyond the 90-day limit have to apply for a residence permit at the National Migration Directorate (http://migration.mvr.bg); application forms can be downloaded from the website. This is likely to be a time-consuming, bureaucratic nightmare, and nobody here will speak anything but Bulgarian. It’s probably far better to contact the Bulgarian Embassy in your own country for advice before you travel if you envisage being in the country for more than three months. The Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (www.mfa.bg) has useful information, in English, on visas and other immigration matters.