Many of those who are planning to travel to Bulgaria would be interested to read something about the cost of living. Since 1989 Bulgaria has been going through transition from state controlled economy to an open-market economy. During the early years there were fluctuations in the development but during the last 10 years the economy has stabilised. The incomes of the local people and prices gradually are increasing but they are still considerably lower compared to Western Europe. The local currency is the Bulgarian Lev (the plural is ‘Leva’) or BGN. The Lev is pegged to the Euro since 1997 at a rate of 1.95583 leva to 1 Euro. So how much you can expect to spend for some of the most common goods and services?
Some costs of food bought from supermarkets and shops are: loaf of bread (0.7 kg) – 0.5 euros, pork – 5-6 euros/kg , chicken – about 3 euros/kg, traditional Bulgarian white cheese – about 4 euros/kg, yellow cheese – 6 euros/kg, fresh milk – 0.9 euro/litre, 12 eggs – 1.6 euros, bottle of beer (0.5 l) – 0.5-1 euro, potatoes – 1-1,5 euro/kg.
Fresh organic fruits and vegetables which are produced in Bulgaria are normally very delicious and cheap but are only seasonally supplied. For example fresh tomatoes cost about 1 euro per kilo during the summer. During the winter many of the fruits are imported and the prices are higher.
The white goods and electrical products if they are the most up to date tend to be about the same price elsewhere but older models tend to be significantly cheaper.
The biggest differences in prices can be found in the hospitality services. A breakfast in an ordinary restaurant costs about 2-3 euros, dinner about 5-8 euros, and supper – 10-15 euros. There are more expensive luxury establishments where the prices are several times higher but rarely you would pay as much as in Western Europe.
Tap water in Bulgaria is usually good to drink. In addition mineral water of excellent quality is sold everywhere bottled and sealed for a cost of approximately 0.40 euros for 1.5 litres. Domestic natural factory-packed juices cost about 1.5 euro per litre.
Tea and coffee is offered everywhere in the country. Coffee is more popular amongst Bulgarians and strong espresso is usually served costing between 0.8 and 1.5 euro depending on the brand and establishment. The local habit is to drink herb infusion instead of proper tea but the later is also available. The costs are similar to the coffee costs.
Wine and alcoholic drinks are on sale in many restaurants and specialised pubs. The price of a 0.75 l bottle of good dry wine varies between 8 and 15 euros. For about 25 euros per bottle you can enjoy some of the best Bulgarian produced wines. In the shops wines are sold between 3 and 10 euros for normal quality and 15-30 euros for high quality Bulgarian wine. The price of a 0.5-litre bottle of rakiya (traditional Bulgarian spirit drink) normally is about 4-5 euros and if you wish to purchase something of better quality then you have to spend 10-15 euros.
Some of the other living costs are less cheaper compared to the western standards. There are no standing charges for electricity and water. Normally a household of four pays less than 15 euros for water and less than 25 euros for electricity during the summer. During the coldest winter months one household would usually pay up to 150-200 euros bills if electricity is used for heating. Gas is used only in few Bulgarian cities although the gas infrastructure is being developed currently.
Council tax and garbage collection fees are very low. The council tax of an average centrally located apartment in the bigger cities would not exceed 50 euros and for a rural property would not be more than 10 euros per year! The municipal garbage collection 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.
Property insurance costs are based on the property value. Typically rates vary between 0,1% and 1% of the value to cover all risks apart from robbery. The rate is at the lower end if the building is new.
Taxis are quite cheap with costs of 0.5 euros per kilometre with costs in Sofia and some resort areas being higher.
In summary it is fair to say that costs are lower in Bulgaria and generally speaking visitors to the country have a greater spending power than the locals so in practise can enjoy a higher standard of living.