Category Archives: Property in Veliko Turnovo

Although not a hit holiday destination Veliko Turnovo is one of the areas which are attractive to people who think about buying and living in Bulgaria. Here you will find information about the region, its attractions and things to do as well as property in Veliko Turnovo region.

Short Excursions off The Beaten Track around Bulgaria – Mountain Adventures 3

Stara Planina (the Balkan) mountains spreads from western border of Bulgaria to the Black Sea. The central part of the mountains is the highest with Botev pick reaching 2,376 m altitude. The eastern part is the lowest and it is hills rather than peaks. The landscapes are diverse and beautiful. Due to the length of the range it is difficult to organise a route covering all major parts of Stara Planina. On the other hand it is quite suitable for short two-three day excursions which can combine climbing with sightseeing in the foothills where there are many heritage sights in small towns and villages.

The highest pick in the western part is Kom just over 2,000 m above sea level (it is not far from the town of Berkovitsa). Kom hut is a starting point for the Kom-Emine route which is a challenge for the most eager mountain lovers and crosses the mountains from West to the East. The most significant site in the Kom range of the mountains is Belogradchik rock formation – red lime-stone rocks beautifully rising above the town of Belogradchik. Not far away is the small town of Chiprovtsi which is known for its traditional multicolour carpets.

Going to the east one can visit Magurata cave. Apart from its natural beauty there are prehistoric drawings dating back to 3,000-1,200 years BC – the oldest in Bulgaria and some of the oldest on the European continent. The cave is not far from the town of Vratsa – the main town of the region where the steep slopes of Stara Planina start literally from the central part of the town.

The area around Lakatnik and Bov is known for the beautiful formations following the deep defile of the Iskar river. It is the favourite destination for cavers with its numerous karst caves some of which are the deepest in Bulgaria.

The Teteven range of Stara Planina is one of the most popular parts with the gorge of Vit River along which both Teteven town and Ribaritsa resort are spread. When travelling from the main road Sofia- Varna towards Ribaritsa you will be amazed with the beautiful sights when the mountain rises from the plain. The forests and rocks on both sides of the road are amazing and the picture is complemented by the crystal waters of the Vit river. Ribaritsa and Teteven are both small resorts and whilst there are quite a few hotels the tourist infrastructure is not very well developed and there aren’t many amenities such as restaurants and bars.

Vejen hut and Vejen pick (2,198 m) are the attractions for lovers of the higher mountains. The road and path leading to them are surrounded by beautiful broad-leaved forests. Another mountain destination in the area is the Vassilyov mountain with the hut and peak with the same name.

The monastery of Glojene is small but its picturesque location makes it desirable place to visit if you are in the area. You would have to take the road to the monastery from the village of Glojene and follow the signs. The road is good but its last part is quite narrow so the journey is not quick.

The Troyan range of Stara Planina is famous for its nature parks and the mineral springs in the villages of Chiflik and Shipkovo as well as the craft traditions in the villages around Troyan such as Oreshaka and Cherni Osam. The Troyan Monastery is the third largest monastery in Bulgaria and is very popular.

There are several mountain routes excellent for one or two day walks within the area. Some of them are:

  • Chiflik – Kozya Stena hut and peak – Beklemeto – Troyan
  • Beli Osam – Beklemeto – Troyan
  • Cherni Osam – Ambaritsa and back
  • Cherni Osam – Steneto and back

If you have more time you can take the routes from Kozya Stena hut to the east to Dermenkaia hut, Levski hut and further to Kupena and Botev peaks. Be prepared for changeable weather and low temperatures even in the hottest summer months.

South and south-east from Troyan there are several nature reserves which are part of Central Balkan nature park – the most important being Djendema and Steneto – where are some of the best preserved forests with rare plants and animals.

If you are travelling between Northern and Southern Bulgaria between April and October you can take the pass from Troyan through Beklemeto to Karnare instead of the more popular roads. It is very picturesque and the views from the highest part are amazing.

The town of Apriltsi is situated in a lovely valley with enchanting views. Although the town itself is not of particular interest it is a starting point for a visit of the highest peaks of Stara Planina as well as to some beautiful protected areas. The Apriltsi area offers excellent opportunities for fishing, walking, horse-riding, cycling and hunting. Apriltsi is spread along the river Vidimska. The town has several quarters which are far from each other and you have to learn the route well before going not to waste time in finding the right place to start your mountain adventure there. From the Vidima quarter one can visit the Vidima waterfall – an outstanding Alpine-looking formation which is most beautiful in the spring when the snow in the higher mountain melts.

The Vidimska valley is bounded by the Severen Dzhendem Reserve. At the foot of this mountain the landscape changes from dense forest slopes into picturesque hills and lush meadows cut by the twisting rivers. The route through the reserve leads to Pleven hut – the starting point from the north for the peak Botev (the highest peak of Stara Planina, 2376 m). Other notable peaks in the area are Triglav and Maragidik. You may decide to continue to the south to the Ray hut over which the highest waterfall in Bulgaria is located (124 m). It is called Raysko Praskalo.

About 20 km north-east of Apriltsi is the Batoshevo Monastery, built in the 13th century. It is less known but worth a visit for the beautiful nature, its amazing paintings and woodcarvings.

At the southern slopes of Stara Planina there is a string of few charming small towns which are connected with the Bulgarian history, culture and traditions of the 19th century. Koprivshtitsa (located in the Sredna Gora mountain) is the first one starting from the west. The old revival houses of Koprivshtitsa are unique and worth a day visit which can be combined with visit to a traditional local restaurant and cafe. Karlovo and Sopot towns are known for the rose oil production. Routes to the huts Dermenkaya, Nezabravka and Vassil Levski start from there. If you do not have the time to climb in the mountains you may decide to take the lift up over Sopot and enjoy the unbeatable views of the valley between Stara Planina and Sredna Gora and the colourful paragliders. This is one of the best sites for paragliding in Bulgaria.

Kalofer is a small town over which the mountain of Botev peak rises dramatically. Kalofer will be your starting point if you want to visit Rayskoto Praskalo waterfall or to climb Botev from the south.

The range of Stara Planina between Gabrovo and Kazanlak is a bit lower but excellent for mountain walking. Gabrovo in the northern foothills is surrounded by few interesting sights. Etara is a nice open-air museum of traditional crafts just outside Gabrovo. Not far from Etara is the Sokolovski monastery, a good starting point for a walk towards Shipka or Buzludja. About 10 km from Gabrovo is the preserved village of Bojentsi and 25 km away is Tryavna, a charming small town which is worth a visit for its atmosphere, excellent small craft shops, restaurants and caf?s as well as its pure mountain air.

Uzana is another beautiful place in the high mountain (about 1,300-1,500 m altitude). It is located 20 km from Gabrovo and there are several hotels and huts. There is skiing during the winter and good walks during all seasons.

The Shipka pass will take you from Gabrovo to Kazanlak. If you have time climb Shipka to see the views from the peak and the monument there. Towards the south is the valley of the Thracian Kings with the tomb in Kazanlak and the tomb Goliama Kosmatka near the village of Shipka.

East of Gabrovo the mountains become lower and more welcoming. The Dryanovo and Elena ranges of the mountains are preserved clean areas with small villages and beautiful views. They cannot offer real mountain adventure but are excellent for a rural holiday in one of the many guest houses with traditional outlook and welcoming hosts.

The Sinite Kamani rock formations above Sliven are spectacular and can be best seen if you take the lift from the town up to the mountain. North- west of Sliven are the towns of Kotel and the village of Jeravna. They are worth a visit for the traditional houses typical for the area and the art of the carpet making (in Kotel there is a museum of the traditional carpets).

Stara Planina slopes into the Black Sea and cape Emine is considered its final point. The most challenging route in the Stara Planina Mountains is the walk from Kom peak on the west to the Emine Cape on the Black Sea. The highest parts of Stara Planina are the mountains with the most severe climate in the winter and you have to be very careful with the forecast and follow the instructions of the Mountain Service.

EU Citizens Are Allowed To Buy Land for Residential Purposes in Bulgaria in Their Name

The regime of ownership of land plots for residential purposes was changed in Bulgaria in the beginning of 2012. Now citizens and companies of all EU and EEA countries are allowed to own residential land in their name without the need to register a Bulgarian company. The change happened after the expiration of the 5-year moratorium which was allowed by the Treaty of Accession of Bulgaria to the EU.

The change of the legislation applies to plots of land which fall into the settlement borders – towns, villages and hamlets – and which are often referred to as regulated plots of land. The regime for ownership of land with different status such as agricultural plots and forests is not changed and foreign individuals and companies will not have the right to possess such plots until the end of 2013.

For all other foreign persons, who are not citizens of EU or EEA countries, the overall restrictions to buy land in Bulgaria are still valid, which means that they need to register companies.

As this is a new regulation of the market, there are some differences in the procedures in the various regions of the country.

If you own property in Bulgaria through a company and would like to understand the particulars, please contact us to discuss your situation and advise you about your options.

Bulgarian Tax Review

Bulgarian Tax Review

Under Bulgarian law it is responsibility of the individuals to fill in a tax return each year when they have any taxable income whilst all companies have the obligation to submit annual tax returns each year regardless of their activities. The tax offices in Bulgaria are not always very helpful so you should seek professional assistance.

Local Property Taxes (similar to UK’s Community Charge)

The property tax is paid annually to the local municipality based on property tax evaluation which is determined according to tax criteria and the information provided by the owner in a declaration that is submitted not later than 2 months after the acquisition of the property. Each property has a file with the local tax office which is being updated in case of changes in the state of the property based on owner’s declaration. The tax charged is between 0.1 and 4.5 per mil of the tax evaluation and is set by each municipal council for the particular municipality.

In addition to the property tax you are required to pay a refuge fee which is often higher than the property tax. The rate of the refuge fee is decided by the local municipal council and in some of the smallest villages there might not be such fee. Both taxes come as one bill. The taxes are payable in four instalments and you can receive a 5% discount if you pay the bill in full by the end of April.

The property tax of an average centrally located apartment in the bigger cities would rarely exceed 50 euros and for a rural property would not be more than 20 euros per year. The municipal refuge fees would also depend on the location and would not be more than 100 euros per year for an average centrally located apartment in the bigger cities and 30 euros per year in the villages.

Taxes Payable by Non-Resident Individuals from renting and selling a property

Income of non-resident owners (individuals) from lease of real estate is subject to 10% withholding tax in Bulgaria. If the lessee is a Bulgarian legal entity the tax is withheld and remitted to the budget by the lessee on behalf of the non-resident lesser. If the lessee is an individual the tax should be paid by the non-resident owner of the real estate within 30 days as of the date on which the rent has been paid by the lessee.

If you sell your property as an individual non-resident owner you must pay 10% withholding tax on the difference between the selling or tax evaluation whichever is greater and the purchase price. However since January 2007 EU citizens are not required to pay the 10% withholding tax (1) if they sell one residential immovable property, regardless of the date of acquisition of the said property, in any one year and (2) if they sell up to two immovable properties as well as any number of agricultural and forest properties, provided that more than five years have elapsed between the date of acquisition and the date of sale or exchange.

Taxes Payable by Resident Individuals

This is a just brief summary of the complicated laws relating to individual’s income tax. Taxes are paid to the national government. The tax returns must be completed by the middle of April in the year following the year to which they relate. If your total income is subject to any of the permitted exemptions you need not fill a tax return unless you are running a business or are self- employed.

Tax on income from the renting a property.20% of the income from rent go towards costs and the remaining 80% of the income are taxable. The rate of tax is 10%. This tax should be paid up to the 15th of the third month following receipt of the income. If for example the rent is paid on the 2nd of January then the tax should be paid by the 15th March of that year.

Income from sale of property. The tax base for the sale of property is the difference between the selling price and the purchase price reduced with 10% for costs. The income tax payable is 10% of the amount calculated as per above rule.

As for the non-resident individuals there are important exemptions that apply to EU citizens when it comes to selling property that mean you are not required to pay tax if you receive income from the sale of: (1) one residential immovable property if you have owned it for more than three years; (2) up to two immovable properties as well as any number of agricultural and forest properties provided that more than five years have elapsed between the date of acquisition and the date of sale or exchange; (3) property that you have received as an inheritance.

Taxes on the employment income are payable by the employer who is responsibile to deduct the income tax and pay it to the government on a monthly basis. This tax is paid together with the social and health insurance payments. The tax rate is10% based on the income reduced by any social payment made.

Taxes Payable by Companies

Under Bulgarian legislation in force non-resident companies and individuals are allowed to set up Bulgarian entities without any restrictions. Bulgarian entities owned by foreign shareholders are allowed to acquire any kind of real estate in Bulgaria including land.

The rate of corporate tax is 10%. The tax is levied on the basis of the profit of the company as per its profit and loss account, adjusted with certain non-deductible items. After-tax profit of the Bulgarian company may be distributed as a dividend to the shareholder/s; alternatively these profits can remain within the company.

If the money from profit is taken out of the company it is done so as dividends. As per the Corporate Income Tax Act dividends are subject to 5% withholding tax in Bulgaria. Withholding tax will not be due in Bulgaria in the situation where the shareholders in the Bulgarian company are tax residents of an EU country and:

  • The shareholders are not considered tax residents of a third state on the grounds of a Double Tax Treaty;
  • The shareholders are payers of corporate income tax in their state of residence and are not entitled to any tax exemptions, tax holidays, etc.;
  • The non-residents hold at least 15% of the shares in the Bulgarian company distributing the dividends for an interrupted period of at least two years.

Most people register a company simply to own a property in Bulgaria and have no interest in maintaining any links with Bulgaria once they have sold their property. In this instances when you come to sell your property you can either sell the asset (i.e. the property) and then liquidate your company or you can sell the shares in the company to the buyer. The price of the shares would of course reflect the price that you want to sell the property for. If you are intending to continue some activities in Bulgaria then you should not liquidate your company when you sell any of its assets. If you do liquidate your company you will be required to pay profit and dividend tax as outlined above.

Value Added Tax

The current rate of the Value Added Tax is 20%. If you buy a property as an individual or as a company from a VAT registered company you will have to pay 20% VAT and the seller then passes on this VAT to the government.

Companies are obliged to register for VAT if the value of their sales is equal or grater than BGN 50,000 in any 12-month period but a company can choose to register even with nil revenue. Once a company becomes VAT-registered it is obliged to charge 20% VAT on all taxable deals. The company should prepare and file monthly VAT ledgers on which bases the tax liability is determined. The tax is due by the 14th of the following month.

VAT charged to the buyer of the real estate will not be recoverable at the point of purchase unless the buyer is registered for VAT. However, the above VAT may be recovered by the buyer of the real estate even if their VAT registration is affected after the date of the purchase of the real estate, provided that the property is still owned by the buyer at the date of their VAT registration.

Bulgaria has Double Taxation Agreements with most of the European countries including the UK. If, for example, your income is chargeable to tax in Bulgaria and in the UK, a double charge is prevented by one of the following exempting the income from tax in one of the countries or allowing a credit in Bulgaria or in the UK for the tax paid in the other country on the same income. In any case it might be useful to familiarise yourselves with the treaty relevant to your domicile and Bulgaria in order to avoid future problems.

Prior to joining the EU in 2007 the general consensus was that you were better off owning a property through a company because the tax levels were lower than owning as an individual. The tax levels now depend on whether you are tax resident in Bulgaria. If you are resident and expect to receive constant income from your property through rent you could be better off registering a company since the tax rate for companies is lower than residential individual tax persons. If you are non-resident as an individual (if possible) you are probably better off buying as an individual since the tax levels are comparable but you now have the added bonus of being able to sell one property per year without tax.

Bulgarian Experiences: English Book Shop

Bulgarian Experiences: English Book Shop

By Karen Fox

Originally published in Stara Planina Properties newsletter on 13th February 2009.

Some things happen so naturally you have to decide that they were just meant to be…

Plans for ‘The Book Cave’ started when I was admiring a friend’s newly converted old quarter flat, ‘It even comes with its own shop’ she told me. ‘I need to find someone who wants it, it’s very small but I think it would make a lovely bookshop’.

I’ve always loved to read and had already been through my books six times and swapped them with everyone I knew, the idea of an excuse to bring more reading matter to Bulgaria was almost irresistible, so off we went to look at the shop. It was very small (12 sq m) and in need of a little work, but the location, not on the high street, but just off the old art quarter seemed right for second-hand books.

The research period followed. How many books to a cardboard box? How much do they weigh? How much shelf space do they take up? How much was all this going to cost? Where could I get the books from? Initially this last question was my biggest concern, then my sister casually announced ‘You do know your niece is going out with a boy whose parents are booksellers don’t you?!’ A few e-mails established that they could provide me with mixed boxes of good quality second-hand books at a price that began to make it look as if the whole idea could be possible. A chance contact with a man involved with exporting from Bulgaria who was looking for items to transport from the UK solved the last practical problem. We could buy books and get them to Bulgaria for a decent price where there was a space available to sell them from.

The next phase was the bit which is most anxiety provoking for Brits trying to run a business in Bulgaria; obtaining the various permissions and documents needed to make the business legal.

At the start the lady from the municipality planning department was not encouraging, ‘There is no shop in that part of Opulchenska Street, there never has been’. We waved the notary deed at her and told her we’d been into the premises, ‘Show me’ she said, so in one of those slightly surreal Bulgarian moments we jumped in the car and did just that. ‘Oh yes’, she announced, ‘It was a fabric shop, I think the skirt I’m wearing now came from material I bought there!’

There was no need to apply for change of use, just the documents to re-open were needed. The discovery that bookshops are exempt from hygiene regulations in Bulgaria was a real stroke of luck, with no water on the premises we’d been scratching our heads about how we would install the toilet!

The wooden wall at the back of the shop had to come out; it was ugly, damp and a fire risk. We expected to find a cliff face behind the wall and were more than a little disconcerted when we realised we’d broken into the neighbours cellar but he was very understanding about it and even offered to sell us the cellar if we wanted to make a bigger shop!

As well as native English speakers we’ve served Romanian, French, Italian, Scandinavian and German customers, as well as many young and not so young Bulgarians who are delighted at the chance to purchase good value English books.

Bulgaria isn’t always an easy country to live or do business in, so it’s great when things run smoothly. It appears we’ve found a product people want and can sell it for a price they find acceptable; the exchange system (bring your book back when you’ve read it and get 50% of the price discounted from the next book) works well for those with limited budgets or limited shelf space. I’m still waiting for the day when a book I’ve sold to a hosteller on his way to Istanbul is returned by another on her way to Bucharest; sooner or later it has to happen!

The address of The Book Cave is 9 Opalchenska Street (less than 50 metres from Yantra hotel and 100 meters from the Stara Planina office in Veliko Turnovo).

Bulgarian Experiences: Running a Backpacker Hostel

Bulgarian Experiences: Running a Backpacker Hostel

By Graham Bright

First published in Stara Planina Properties newsletter on 19th December 2008.

As most young people I did the usual thing of taking a gap year to travel the world and explore far flung places, staying in backpacker hostels, meeting people and discovering different cultures. On returning to England and embarking on a career I never really felt settled: I would always make the most of my 22 days holiday allowance per year but never felt it was enough. One day I thought back to places I had been, and one thing that struck me was the lack of memorable hostels; very few stood out as being anything above ordinary. With this in mind my future was set; I was to open a hostel that was a cut above the rest and provide backpackers with what they want; a decent place to stay at a fair price.

One summer I had used my precious 22 days on a swift jaunt through Eastern Europe, taking in the Baltic’s, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. Of all the countries Bulgaria was the least equipped for foreign backpackers; having only one hostel in Sofia. With this, my mind was made, and choosing a location within Bulgaria was easy; Veliko Tarnovo stood out head and shoulders above any other destination owing not only to its beauty, but also its location; at a crossroads on the main Istanbul-Bucharest, and Sofia-Varna train lines it lays in a strategic position for maximum footfall.

So I returned to Veliko Tarnovo, not knowing the language, the laws or the requirements for a hostel etc. There were times when things were difficult and I thought how easy life was back in England. But I persevered, finding a suitable property, and more importantly understanding the municipality requirements for opening and running such a business. Then the lengthy process of renovating the place began. The property I had bought required a new roof which would also allow the attic to be utilized as further living space, aside from this the rest of the place only required the standard re-wiring, re-plumbing, re-plastering and decorating throughout. I chose a local contractor to undertake the work after inspecting previous examples of his work. His initial time frame for completing the entire works was 8-10 weeks, which seemed reasonable and after 3 weeks all seemed to be on track; the old roof removed and new one in place. But then things slowed down considerably and instead of 4 workers coming each day it was only 1 or 2 and then every other day. It was extremely frustrating because the quality of the work was good and also the price, but when you are trying to open a business time is money. After several talks progress did speed up, but it was still 19 weeks in total for the works to be completed which resulted in me missing the majority of the peak summer season.

The overall finish was how I had envisaged it, original wood doors and floors remained giving character, bespoke bunks with built in lockers and individual reading lamps offer the budget traveller comfort, but the real wow factor was in the attic space which had been transformed into the communal lounge and kitchen and works so well providing the decent social space that so many hostels lack.

Following all the municipality checks I obtained a license and was up and running, the instant turnover was phenomenal which was largely down to good relations with the local Tourist Information Centre, this was key to getting the place known. I also sent fliers to hostels in other cities, developed a website as well as a listing on all major hostel booking sites. All this paid dividends as numbers were continually increasing and a researcher for the Lonely Planet Travel Guide stopped by. The following year the hostel was the first listed in the new guide book; which backpackers rarely leave home without! This saw occupancy figures rise further and really had the place on the map.

The day to day running of the hostel has been improved over time which comes with experience; to begin with it was largely trial and error to see what worked and what didn’t. With all the hiccups ironed out the operation runs smoothly, although it can be a bit of a mad house over the peak season, especially on rainy days when the majority of the guests don’t venture out. The large lounge with a generous selection of board games, books, magazines and Wi-Fi internet access usually provides enough entertainment though.

Feedback from travellers has been great; many say it’s the best hostel of their trip, I feel proud of my achievement and that I have fulfilled my original goals.

Bulgarian Experiences: Running a Bar

Bulgarian Experiences: Running a Bar

This post was originally published in Stara Planina Properties newsletter on 14th November 2008.

I am a person who likes taking on different challenges and moving on in life so after a career in I.T., back in England, I came to Bulgaria a few years ago for a change of direction. After awhile kicking back and enjoying the gloriously long summers I decided I needed to actually do something productive with my time. Bulgaria has a great cafe bar culture and I’d always fancied myself as a bar owner so I thought I’d give it a go.

Whilst I love the bars in VT, one thing that was lacking was a student bar that played alternative/retro music. Armed with this niche, I set about finding some suitable premises. The place I found had been a bar before (and indeed a leather factory before that) but hadn’t operated for 6 years. It was located in the old town near the Hotel Yantra and oozed character with a high vaulted ceiling and a small garden with views over a church and the river below. Inside it was big enough for about 50 people and the garden outside again could take 50 people. The fact that it had operated as a bar beforehand was good news as I didn’t have to apply for change of use (which is long and bureaucratic procedure). The first hurdle was out of the way. However, because it hadn’t operated as a bar for 6 years, the license had been revoked and I would have to apply for a new one after jumping through the following hurdles:

  • Ventilation Inspection
  • Health & Safety Inspection
  • Health & Safety Sound Test
  • Fire Inspection
  • Building Inspection (Structure and Electrics)

Before embarking on any works it is advisable to ensure that the bar will meet the requirements of the above listed hurdles. If so, then the next step is the works. First you need to find a reputable designers to draw up your plans for the bar layout, electrical circuits and plumbing. Once these are done they need to be rubber stamped at the municipality. A point to note here is that if the building doesn’t already have 3 phase electricity then you’ll more than likely have to pay to upgrade it to handle ventilation and/or AC.

If you’ve renovated a property in Bulgaria before, or in the UK for that matter, then you know the rest. You need to coordinate an architect, builders, plumbers, electricians and joiners. If the architect is late, the electrician and plumber are late. If the electricians or plumbers are late then a builder can’t plaster a wall or concrete a floor. If the builders are late then the joiner can’t install the floor, wood panel the walls or install the bar. Unfortunately, delays are inevitable and every day costs you money in potential revenue. When the bar is, finally, finished you can bask in the glory of your achievement. Now it’s time to hold your breath and get the inspectors in.

Once the inspections are over, it’s time to pay a little more tax and get your license and permission. A great feeling as once you have this, it’s just a matter of paying a small fee each year for the alcohol license.

So you now have a legal bar, it’s time to solicit offers from bar suppliers, buy and register a cash till, buy an adequate sound system/ TV, fridges, ice machine, glasses, spoons and find a cleaner and bar staff. Getting the right staff is very important for a bar as they are the front end to the business. It’s important that the staff that you employ fit the mood of your bar because if they fit the mood then so will their friends and they will come to the bar. With this in mind, being a student bar, I advertised on the notice boards at the University. Once you have one or two staff, then it snow balls as they suggest friends and friends suggest friends etc.

After you’ve been running for a while, be prepared to make compromises. One of the biggest mistakes you can make in business is sticking steadfastly to your ideas and ignoring the wants of the customers. If I had my way, my bar would play alternative rock music every night but this is not what the students want. I compromised by playing just popular alternative rock along with Bulgarian rock (no Chalga thankfully!), Reggae, a little Hip-Hop and, of course, lots of Depeche Mode. Listen to your staff; they have a good idea of what music the locals like. They can make suggestions and you can see if it’s appropriate for your bar. This applies to all aspects of your bar, be it music, drinks, decor etc.

If your bar is successful then, if you have the space, you may also need to invest some or all of your profits into expansion. As the summer months approached, I created a paved area outside so we could have a beer garden with benches and chairs. I employed a local joiner to craft bespoke tables and chairs out of thick wood and tree stumps. The results were very impressive but my staff described them as Flintstone furniture! Take note that, unlike the Brits, Bulgarians don’t like sitting directly in the sun, so parasols or complete covering may be needed. So, after paving the whole garden, the winter months approached and I realised that the garden was going to waste, and the main bar was becoming too full. I had to compromise on the garden and build an extension over half of it to create an overflow for the main bar.

It’s a risky business, most bars close after their first year, but if you find the right niche, mood and staff you’ll have a great time and make some money. Da Da Bar is now the most popular student bar in town (not so difficult given there are over 10,000 students!) and also attracts a varied mix of internationals some of whom live locally and some who come from the many hostels located nearby.

Moving to Rural Bulgaria with Young Children

Moving to Rural Bulgaria with Young Children

What we will say below may sound discouraging to some of you but this is our true and honest opinion on the issue and we feel it is good to share it with our interested readers. Living in rural Bulgaria with young family has certain specifics which need to be taken into consideration before you choose your property (and property region and village).

Schooling. This is the first issue which you have to think about when choosing the location of your property. Normally there aren’t many young families in the villages away from the big cities. Hence there isn’t a school in each village and in some schools kids from two classes study together in mixed groups. Local municipalities provide a special free transport to the nearest school if there is not one in your village. Read further about the Bulgaria’s education system..

Medical care. When you have young kids you have to have constant contact with a doctor who knows them and who is available to speak with you and visit you 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Finding a doctor to whom you can explain the condition of your kid in your language will not be easy in the villages. There is a general practitioner in most middle-sized and large villages. Just some of the most remote areas close to the borders (especially in the South-Eastern and Southern Bulgaria) are not well served by GPs. If you need to visit a specialist doctor however you will have to go to the nearest town or the regional city. If you have babies or kids with special needs in the family we strongly advise you inquire in advance what are the options in the area and eventually take the contacts and meet the local doctor. Further read about the Bulgaria’s health system..

Transport connections are important especially as you will have more shopping to do, may need to go to the nearest polyclinic with a kid or may have to take the kids to a school of your choice and not to the one the municipality recommends. In any of these cases having a car is a must. We do not think it viable to rely just on the available public transport.

Attractions for kids. They are very few if you think of quality playgrounds or other means that normally entertain kids in the cities. Kids living in the villages have a lot more though. They have the freedom, space, touch to the nature and traditional village life which is completely unknown to the city people. These are things which will not only entertain them but will also educate and give them a healthy attitude to the world that surrounds them. Kids in the villages are not growing in the jungle of parked cars, nor have to share a small garden with hundreds of other people. There is normally a quiet street where they can freely learn to ride a bicycle, a neighbour who has animals and will allow the kids to feed them, and a field where kids can walk freely.

Mother tongue tuition. Most parents would like their kids to be fluent in their native language. Pupils study Bulgarian in the local schools and start learning a foreign language of their choice at age of 8-9 at school. However the level of foreign language education varies and in some schools kids would not learn much especially in the small village schools. If you really want your kids to write well in your language you may need to spend time teaching them or to pay someone to do so instead of you. There are private language tutors in every city and many of the smaller towns.

Living in a Bulgarian village away from the big cities may be a challenge at times for both kids and parents but it can also turn into a fresh new perspective in life if you have done your research before purchasing your property.

Retiring to Rural Bulgaria

Retiring to Rural Bulgaria

With the affordable property prices and comparatively low living costs – Bulgaria is an attractive place for many people reaching retirement. However there are a number of issues which people have to consider when they think of moving to Bulgaria. These are both personal circumstances and facts of the local environment.

Moving home late in life means that you will change your place, neighbours and, probably, some of your habits but there will be attitudes which are comparatively stable and you will not be able or will not want to change.

Town or village. Rural areas of Bulgaria are tranquil and beautiful but they also are less populated and developed than Bulgarian cities and, indeed, the villages in the western part of the continent. That is why the first important issue to consider is if you are a ‘city’ or a ‘village’ person. If you are used to living in a city, having all the amenities within walking distance, cannot pay attention to things such as cutting grass, etc, it may be too late for you to change. Sometimes people need a break from their routine life and rural peace may seem like a heaven. But do you think you will still feel the same after two weeks or you would be eager to return to the life you have always lived? Think about this when you make your decision whether to purchase a city or a village property, or how far from a city you need to be.

Transport. If the answer of the above question leads you to a village property you should be prepared to drive or use a bus for most of your shopping, hospital or specialist doctor treatment, going to restaurants, etc. Having a car would be the most convenient travel option but most villages linked to local urban areas but like in the UK the frequency of service is low. Check what is the timetable to the nearest city or town and what is the travel time.

Medical care. To start with you should obtain your European Medical Card before living your home country. This card will cover any emergency treatment until the time you register with the Bulgarian health system. You may also subscribe to a private medical insurance from the beginning of your stay to give you time until you settle in and go through the formalities. Such medical insurance will cover your travel and any non-emergency cases after your arrival. How to register with the Bulgarian health system you can find out in our newsletter archive.

Shopping. Most villages have one or two shops selling basic goods. In the smaller settlements there might be no shop though. Pop in the shop on the village square to get an idea of what is for sale there and how often you will need to travel for shopping. The towns are well supplied with all foods and items for daily consumption. For items such as furniture, white goods, electronic goods, some of the clothing, etc, you will need to visit bigger towns or cities.

Bars & restaurants. There is a small bar in almost every village. Often there is ‘two-in-one’ shop and bar where people meet in the evenings to have a drink together. If you want to go to a decent restaurant however you may need to travel to the nearest town. This may be a nice change and some people prefer to go out and stay in a local hotel for a night.

Gardening. A nice garden is something which gives joy in every season. A garden blooming in all colours of the rainbow in the spring, hiding under the shade of mature trees in the summer, enjoying the fruits and flowers in the autumn, gathering sun in the short winter days is a romantic picture. Achieving this, however, means work to maintaining your garden which might bring a different feeling if you are not used to it. If your garden is too big you may struggle to keep the grass cut or it might not be affordable to pay for maintenance. Think about this when buying a property.

Neighbours. An old Bulgarian saying claims that having a good neighbour is more important than having a good family close by. This is something that most of our past clients have experienced. People in the rural areas are used to making friends with their neighbours. They will probably come and greet you on your arrival and bring fresh eggs the first week you move in. Most houses have no door bells so the neighbour might barge through your garden. Do not accept this as anything rude! It means that you are also welcome to his/her house anytime you need help. Even if you cannot communicate you will be invited at a dinner as soon as you settle in. You may postpone the invitation for few days but they may be insulted if you do not go. Bring a small gift – box of chocolates or bottle of wine! Be prepared to answer questions about family and your home country as Bulgarians are quite curious by nature. In return they will also tell you about their family, sometimes a bit more than you need or want to hear!

Language barrier. Be prepared that very few people, if any, in the village will speak your language. The language barrier will not be a problem for your shopping, sitting in the bar, getting help from the neighbours. It will be an issue to share views and speak out your thoughts or just to have fun within a bigger company. This is something that very few people realize before it happens to them. In order not to come to such a problem you may decide to choose a village where there are other people speaking your language.

Away from family. Most people nowadays are used to living away from their family. Presumably you will be moving with your partner. However if you are used to being close to the other family members such as children and grandchildren, you have to think twice before moving to a foreign country. With the communications these days it is not a problem to keep the contact with them but it may be the case that you will really miss them.

If you make the right decisions when you think of the above issues your retirement to rural Bulgaria should be a positive experience. Before you jump in it think about all the aspects, spend some time in the area you are considering for your new home and gather as much information as possible. To any questions you may have you will receive a straight and honest answer by the staff of our local offices so please ask your questions on time.

Paying Utility Bills and Taxes Online

Paying Utility Bills and Taxes Online

Although paying utility bills is a straightforward thing to do it can be very time consuming. In cases when you live away from your property during most of the year it would be also difficult to monitor and you may need to engage someone to help with this.

There are alternatives which help to save time and hassle. Most banks offer direct debit service to pay utility bills however in most cases you receive the information about the payments made some time after it has been completed and have to have online banking to check the balance in your account.

Instead you could easily pay for various services through the electronic payments system ePay. The ePay.bg site which has also English language version is user-friendly and offers variety of services.

To make payments through ePay.bg you need to have a Bulgarian debit or credit card and to register your card for payments within ePay. Please note that you will have to complete the initial process of registration whilst you are in Bulgaria as you will need to confirm through a local ATM machine.

The first step is to obtain a debit or credit card from a local bank. On the home page of ePay you will find a link to a list of banks which cards are valid for payment on ePay.bg.

Next you have to create your account within the ePay system which is free of charge. This is easy to complete as you will be guided by the system with instructions for each step.

Once you create your account you can enter the details of your bank card. For security reasons you will be asked to confirm your desire to pay online through an ATM machine. For this purpose you will receive a message with details of the procedure which will contain security code valid for limited time. Then you just need to go to an ATM machine with the card you have registered on ePay and enter your code.

After you confirm through the ATM you have the option to set a list of utility bills you will pay online. There is a long list of utility companies and other merchants registered with ePay. A link to the list can be found on the home page. For each utility bill you will have to choose the supplier and then enter your customer number. All electrical, telephone and gas bills plus most water, heating, internet and cable operator bills can be paid through ePay. For each utility service you can request from the system to send you an email alert when a new bill is received in your account. Alternatively you can just log-in once a month and order the outstanding bills to be paid. The system keeps record of each payment which you can print out at any time. In addition it is easy to pay taxes or transfer money to any Bulgarian bank account from your card.

For each payment of utility bills you will be charges as for withdrawing money from your debit/credit card through an ATM (typically 0,20-0,50 levs). If you make payments to bank accounts you will be charged by the bank which issued the card with same rate as for a normal money transfer.

You have to remember that the ePay system will not pay your bills automatically but you would need to confirm that the payments should be made. In addition you should check the balance of your card account and transfer sufficient money to cover your bills.

Home Utilities and Services for Property in Bulgaria

Home Utilities and Services for Property in Bulgaria

Home utilities are important issue for those who are planning to moving to Bulgaria and for owners who rent out their property. With this article we will try to give you an idea of the prices and rules related to the major services – electricity, gas, water and land-line phones.

Electricity

For decades Bulgaria was one of the major exporters of electricity to most of the Balkan countries due to the existence of a large nuclear power station in Kozludui, on the river Danube which had produced cheap energy, together with several major thermoelectric power plants. Due to political pressure from the EU Bulgaria had to close four of the six nuclear reactors by end of December 2006 and thus the capacity of the country’s electrical production was reduced significantly. As a result Bulgaria’s exports were reduced to minimum and the prices of the electricity increased by more than 10% in June 2007 and another increase is expected in just few months.

For many years electricity in Bulgaria was supplied by the state. Now some of the major thermoelectric power stations are privately owned together with the middle and low voltage infrastructure which was privatised in 2006 (now owned by a German, Austrian and Czech companies). Thus the electricity bill will be one of your major spendings especially in the winter months when it is cold and in the hottest summer weeks when the use of air-conditioners is common.

The current prices per kilowatt for the households in Bulgaria are as follows:

  • Day zone – EUR 0.12 per kWh
  • Night zone – EUR 0.08 per kWh

The night zone runs from 22.00-06.00 during the winter and 23.00-07.00 during the summer. You would need to have a clock installed in order to use the night hours discount. Otherwise you would only be registered for a single tariff. You can apply and pay for a change to the dual tariff system at any time.

There are no standing charges although the new owners of the electrical companies are negotiating with the government a minimum charge to be paid for each electric metre which has not been accepted.

The electricity supply in Bulgaria is delivered to homes at 220/240 volts with a frequency of 50 hertz. This means that most imported electrical appliances should work in Bulgaria. The plugs are of the two-pin type fittings (unlikely the three pin fittings used in the UK) which means you will have to either fit a new two pin fitting to your cable or use an adaptor. The best option is probably to stick with the UK fitting and to use an adaptor because the two pin types do not incorporate overload protection.

Interruptions to the power supply are surprisingly common in Bulgaria including the main cities. In the cities the reason is generally some upgrading operation in the system. In many of the villages the low-voltage infrastructure is above the ground (on high electric poles) and thus a heavy rain, snow or thunder storm often leads to power cuts. You should keep a good supply of candles or other independent light sources to see you through these frustrating occurrences.

When you buy a property you should ensure that all existing electrical bills (and others) have been paid on the property since the liability stays with the property. The next step is to have the bills transferred into your name or the name of the company through which you bought the property.

Bills in Bulgaria should be paid on a monthly basis. If the meter is located inside the property a representative from the electrical company will need to enter the property. If there is nobody to let them in then an estimate will be made. Bills can be paid direct in the offices of the electrical company and in the post offices but it is best to arrange payment through your bank. The procedure to execute this task varies between the banks and the different electrical companies so please check with the relevant parties. You may decide to leave payment in the care of an agent or property management company. If this is the case then you will need to arrange with them access to funds in order to arrange the payments. The average monthly bill for a family of four people in the summer would be 30-50 euros but in the winter it could be much more if you have electrical heating system.

Communal Central Heating

Central heating is only available in the cities and not all their quarters are included in the central heating network. It is supplied by local companies which are often owned by the municipalities and were subsidised in the past. The cost for the central heating has been increased a lot during the recent years as the government stopped to pay subsidies and the infrastructure is old and in need of modernisation.

The cost for central heating for an average apartment in the winter months would be between 60 and 120 euros which includes hot-water supply. There are standing charges which can be significant especially if you do not use your property.

Gas

Bulgaria imports nearly all its gas from Russia. The network is limited to some of the cities but is expanding. The cost of piped gas is lower than electricity but the cost for the installation should also be considered. Some people still use gas bottles mainly for cooking purposes. Bottles can be bought from petrol stations or delivered direct from suppliers.

As with electricity bills you should ensure all central heating and gas bills are paid prior to completion. The same general guidelines apply for them as for electricity when it comes to changing the name on the bill.

Wood

Wood is still a very popular source of energy in Bulgaria and in particular in rural areas. Wood is considerably cheaper than any other fuel source. One chopped cubic meter of wood costs EUR 40 (wood is generally cheaper to buy during the summer months). A property of 150 sq m would consume between 10 and 15 cubic metres over the winter. The problem with wood it is messy to use and the burner needs stocking at least twice a day. Often the mayor in any village is your best contact point to source wood. The wood comes in large pieces and you can employ someone to chop it up and stack it in the store for a small amount of money. Avoid using suppliers that quote unusually cheap prices per tonne of work. These people are probably operating illegally and taking wood from unauthorized locations which is leading to the depletion of Bulgaria’s forest population.

Oil

This fuel source is not so popular in Bulgaria but is more convenient than wood in the rural areas. Again it is delivered in bulk. Although it is cheaper than electricity to run the initial instalment costs are higher than other heat systems.

Water

Water supplies in Bulgaria are metered. If your house is not already connected to the mains water supply make sure that you get a quotation for connecting the property prior to committing to the purchase. Piped water supply coverage in Bulgaria is extensive however there are some instances in more remote rural areas where supply of water is dependent on wells. If your property only has water supplied through a well one should get an expert in to check whether it is fit for domestic consumption. In some instances rural properties have both a piped water supply and a well. In this instance the well should really only be used for gardening purposes or filling a swimming pool.

Despite considerable investment in upgrading the system not all rural areas are well serviced by water and shortages and stoppages are common place. Even in some of the cities supplies can be cut off for up to 2 days in cases of major problems with the supply network! So keep an emergency supply of bottled water.

Telephone

The main land-line telephone service provider in Bulgaria is Vivacom. In Sofia and some other large cities there are other suppliers of telecom services such as Coool, Orbitel and Nexcom.

In Bulgaria the telephone line and number is registered to a person living at an address. When you buy a property the seller will have to either close the number down or take it with them to a new address. Therefore you will have to apply to open a new line through the telecom company when you buy the property. This involves taking proof of ownership of the property and your ID if the property is owned by an individual and company papers if the property is owned by a company. The process takes about a month and costs about 40 euros. Prior to agreeing to connect your property the telecom company will have to carry out a technical check to ensure that there is capacity in the local junction box to add your new number. The standing charge for the private phone service is about 7 euros per month and includes a small number of local calls.

Vivacom offer an array of telephone (and internet) services so check carefully which package suits your requirements. National call costs are in line with other countries but international calls tend to be more expensive. Public telephone booths can be found in all the towns but take only phone cards which can be purchased from specialist outlets.