Bulgaria is the small Eastern European country you’ve probably never heard of. This is a country with high mountains; great sea resorts, and cute, cozy little towns you will crave to visit once you see them in pictures. This little known Balkan gem has a lot to offer its visitors. There are two main reasons to re-shuffle your travel plans for 2018 and put Bulgaria on the list. № 1: It’s unbelievably beautiful and charming and № 2: It’s ridiculously affordable. The first one is obvious through the pictures you may have seen. It’s the second that I want to tell you more about.
The minimum wage in Bulgaria is around 235 € but the actual average wage is around 550 € a month. Bearing that in mind it is obvious that the accommodation costs should not exceed that amount. For a decent one-bedroom apartment in Sofia’s city center you can pay as much as 300 € a month. Outside of the center the rent decreases by around 150 € and if you venture further out the accommodation is even cheaper. The average monthly utilities would not exceed 50 € which includes electric, heating and water.
In the big cities there are plenty of transportation options to choose from. One-way tickets usually cost around 1,60 lev which is around 0.80€. In Sofia, the capital, you can find a metro system which has 2 lines and is again 1,60 lev. If you’re staying for a while a monthly pass costs around 25€ and you can use it on all means of the transportation system.
Taxis in Bulgaria are also fairly affordable, for a good 15-minute drive they will charge you no more than 5-7 Euros but usually it’s around 3-4 Euros.
If you’re staying a little longer in Bulgaria and plan on buying a vehicle you can find a decent used car for as little as 1500 Euros. The cost of running a car is also fairly cheap by European standards, with one liter of gasoline coming in at around 1,10 €.
If you‘re coming to Bulgaria make sure you pack some bigger jeans because for really reasonable prices you’ll get a lot of food. Eating out is very affordable. Bulgarians love having “banichka” and “boza” for breakfast, which costs no more than 1,50 euro for both. Restaurants, taverns and pubs are not only a local’s favorite place for socializing but are also very easy on the pocket. A nice three course meal in an expensive restaurant will cost you around 10 – 12 € euros and with a large beer in Bulgaria costing only 1-2 € you can be wined and dined for very little money.
And let’s not forget the famous “shopska” salad, which recently topped European Parliament’s campaign “A Taste of Europe” (getting around 20,000 Facebook likes). This will cost you around 2-3€.
Bulgarians love to have long coffee breaks with friends that can sometimes last more than 2 hours. It’s great to catch up and take our time indulging in doing things like going to the cinema which only costs around 4-6 €. If you’re feeling like doing something a little fancier a ticket to the theater can be found for 5-10 €.
There are a lot of night clubs in Bulgaria simply because Bulgarians know how to party. The clubs are full every night and on Fridays and Saturdays it’s almost impossible to find a seat. If you want to experience the Bulgarian nightlife you should budget around 15-25 €.
Cost of Property
Although Bulgaria’s currency is the lev, prices for most Bulgarian properties are quoted in euros, although in some areas popular with UK buyers prices are quoted in sterling. For a rough conversion of euros to sterling, multiply by 0.7; for US dollars, multiply by 1.25.
The low cost of property in Bulgaria is one of the main reasons for its increasing popularity among foreign buyers. Just over 16 years ago Bulgaria was firmly under Communist rule and it is only in the past decade that the country has fully opened itself to outside investment and encouraged private industry and business. Coupled with the economic crash of 1996/97, this has meant that property prices have had little time to rise from their traditional low level.
There has recently been a phenomenal increase in values in popular areas, some developments having seen their value double in the space of 12 months, while capital growth across Bulgaria has averaged around 35 per cent for the past few years. Nevertheless, with a growing range of homes available, property is excellent value compared to the UK and Spain and there are still bargains to be found in many areas.
As in most countries, property is cheapest in rural areas, where the number of people leaving the land in search of a ‘better’ life (particularly since 1996/97) has left the countryside with plenty of empty properties.
Prices are being driven up by foreign buyers in the resort areas along the Black Sea coast and the mountain resorts around Pamporovo, Bansko and Borovets. Demand is strongest on the southern Black Sea coast and around Pamporovo, where restrictions on available land and a huge influx of tourists and locals working in the tourist industry have seen demand outstrip supply.
Any property with a sea view will command a substantial premium, although it should be easier to resell. Coastal and city properties can cost anything from 3 to 20 times more than similar-size rural properties, although the standard and infrastructure of rural properties can be quite low (some have no mains water or electricity and most an outside toilet).
New villa developments along the Black Sea coast are usually around €100,000 to €150,000, with prices rising to €300,000 for the most luxurious properties. There’s also a growing number of people buying in rural areas, either for investment or for a permanent move to Bulgaria.
Most economic forecasters are predicting a continued rise in tourist numbers to Bulgaria over the next few years, so properties on the coastal fringe and around the mountain resorts will no doubt continue to rise steadily in value. Anywhere within striking distance of the international airports at Burgas, Sofia and Varna will probably jump dramatically in value, particularly if low-cost flight operators commence scheduled flights to these destinations.
There are also less well known areas of Bulgaria that could prove good value in the long term, particularly those close to historical towns or in areas of spectacular natural beauty. Towns such Plovdiv (Bulgaria’s second biggest city), Vidin and Ruse offer historical interest, while Melnik, Balchik and Batak (near Plovdiv) have the advantage of beautiful views and quiet locations.
With a budget of up to around €25,000, you should be able to find a large wooden or stone house with open fireplaces, large rooms, picturesque views and plenty of land attached, but needing renovation to bring it up to standard. A rural property in need of major renovation can often be purchased for less than €5,000, while rural properties in better condition needing only minor repair seldom cost much more than €20,000. Most unmodernised rural houses have an outside toilet, and bathrooms tend to be fairly rudimentary.
A budget of between €25,000 and €50,000 will buy you a generous property of reasonable quality in a pleasant rural or less popular coastal location, possibly in need of improvement only.
As little as €50,000 will buy you a house or villa close to one of the main towns, usually with lake or mountain views, big rooms and plenty of land, or a small to medium-size new apartment in one of the coastal towns or in the capital Sofia.
For €150,000 you can be the proud owner of a large two-storey house in one of the coastal towns, a family home in Sofia or a luxury apartment in one of the popular tourist resorts. At the top end of the market (over €250,000), large, modern, renovated homes, new houses with sea views, luxury apartments in Sofia and even hotels are available.
Property prices in different areas of Bulgaria
|Property price in €||Type of property and area|
|under 10,000||A house in the north-east; a house away from tourist areas requiring modernisation or renovation; a small house or bungalow in a ski resort.|
|10,000 to 25,000||A large house or bungalow in a rural area; a small house or villa in the Sofia region (not in Sofia); a plot several kilometres from a ski resort or from the coast; an older house or stone cottage in a coastal area in need of renovation; or a house in a small village.|
|25,000 to 50,000||A one or two-bedroom apartment in a ski resort or in one of the coastal resorts; a plot in a village near the coast or near a ski resort; a new house or villa in the mountains or inland from the coast; a renovated house in a village near the coast; an apartment on the outskirts of Sofia.|
|50,000 to 75,000||An apartment in a suburb of Sofia; an apartment in the centre of a ski resort or in one of the popular coastal towns; a detached house or villa in a ski resort; a small new or renovated property in a coastal area; a large house near one of the bigger cities.|
|75,000 to 100,000||A small off-plan villa or renovated house in a village in a coastal area or popular inland area; a large plot several kilometres from the sea; a two-bedroom apartment in Sofia.|
|100,000 to 150,000||An apartment in the centre of a coastal town; a large house or villa in a village or near a tourist area; a plot near a tourist area; a large, quality apartment in Sofia|
|150,000 to 300,000||A large villa near the coast or in a mountain resort, usually with a swimming pool; a luxury apartment with sea views along the coast; land for development in a tourist area.|
|over 300,000||A huge villa with swimming pool close to the beach or a large villa in one of the ski resorts; a working hotel or similar business in a popular area; a large plot in a tourist area or near Sofia for development; a luxury house in an upmarket neighbourhood of Sofia.|