Bulgaria is so close to Switzerland, nature-wise. People are different, making all the differences flourish and further evolve. If you are visiting Bulgaria from der Schweiz here, we tried to summarise the most critical information about Bulgaria and exploring the country by car, whether you rent it or drive your vehicle.
We tried to preserve our sense of humor and make your experience glamorous and worry-free. If you are visiting Bulgaria from Switzerland for a road trip, you can find more information and suggestions below.
How Can I Reach Bulgaria from Switzerland?
Bulgaria is situated South of Switzerland. There are two conceptually distinct ways to reach Bulgaria from Switzerland.
One travels South via Slovenia, Croatia, and Serbia, reaching Bulgaria from the North. This is the quicker and the most straightforward route.
Alternatively, Bulgaria can be reached via Italy and Greece from the South. This route is more picturesque, will require more time, and is a pleasant experience. You can conclude the round trip if you like to explore more countries.
What do I need to Know when Visiting Bulgaria from Switzerland for a Road Trip?
Are you planning to travel by car on holiday? Driving makes your journey more flexible and independent, and sometimes it is more practical, too, as there are no waiting times at airports. While on a road trip, you can experience different countries, cultures, and traditions. To ensure that your holidays are worry-free, we recommend the following precise checklist of things you should know if your journey to Bulgaria starts from Switzerland.
Starting from Switzerland with a Swiss-registered vehicle and a Swiss passport, you need the following documents to drive to and in Bulgaria:
- Your driving license (you don’t need an International driving permit to drive in Bulgaria as it is an EU-member state)
- Your Swiss ID and/or passport
- Vehicle’s registration document
- International Insurance Card (Green Card) for the car
- European Accident Report document
Tip: We recommend you make copies of important documents, such as car insurance, and carry these with you. We do not recommend leaving the car document in the car.
Checking your car before a holiday road trip is always intelligent. You may cover long distances, and your vehicle should be ready. Here are a few things that you may want to check:
- Tires: Make sure the tires have enough tread; If you are planning to visit Bulgaria in the winter – make sure your car has its winter tires
- Lights: Check if all the lights work properly
- Car fluids: Make sure that the oil, brake fluid, and coolant levels are correct
- Windscreen wipers and fluid: Ensure wiper blades are clean and the windshield fluid is enough
Tip: More dust on the roads in Southern Europe, and you will use more washing fluid. Make sure you have a spare bottle in the trunk. You can always buy more from the petrol stations. Also, make sure you have a proper non-freezing washer for the winter if you travel during the winter season.
Do not forget to put the CH bumper sticker on your car when driving abroad. Chances are nothing terrible will happen in Bulgaria if you don’t have it on your Swiss car. However, you cross several countries before driving into Bulgaria, and their authorities may be more demanding. The CH bumper sticker on your vehicle does not hurt when driving in Bulgaria.
Vehicles insured in Switzerland do not need additional insurance to travel to European and Mediterranean non-European countries and islands. Be aware that most Swiss insurers do not include by default insurance for the countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Iran, Kazakhstan, and Russia. In Kosovo, most of the standard insurance offered will not cover liability. On your trip from Switzerland to Bulgaria, you will not cross these countries; there is nothing to worry about.
The International Motor Insurance Card (former Green Card) is not additional insurance you need; it proves that a vehicle is covered by third-party insurance. There is no need for an International Insurance Card when traveling to Bulgaria, and in Bulgaria as well. The Swiss NBI regulates this, and the form can be downloaded from their website and must be printed on green paper. You can also request the International Motor Insurance Card from your car insurer.
You will typically cross Italy or Austria first to reach Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, from Switzerland. Your journey will continue through Slovenia, Croatia, and Serbia. You will enter Bulgaria from the North-West via Kalotina.
The more picturesque road via Italy and Greece will bring you to the Kalotina border crossing (between Greece and Bulgaria). During the high season in the summer, crossing this border can take more than 2-3 hours.
Be aware of the local rules
Driving in Bulgaria is not different from the European countries. Please consider the topics linked here to learn more about:
- The differences between driving in Switzerland and Bulgaria are explained with a sense of humor (below)
- Speed limits and speeding fines сх Km/h
- Review the Driving resource to learn about E-vignette, Road safety regulations (to learn what you need to have in your car), Petrol stations, and e-car charging.
- Parking in Bulgaria
- Safe driving tips
- Guide on renting a car in Bulgaria
Differences Between Driving in Switzerland and Bulgaria
Yes, cars are dirtier and will remain dirty after the rain. It takes about 2 hours in Sofia to get your vehicle as dirty and dusty as if you had not washed it in Zurich for a month. This is correct. This is partly because of the humus (turf) structure and the infrastructure design. In any case, a car in Sofia will be dirtier than one in Schwitz.
Cars may stop behind the stop line, which does not mean they would not want to join the traffic. In the German part of Switzerland, we always stop at the spot line exactly there. In Bulgaria, most drivers will stop slightly behind the stop line. You can try to make an eye-contact and see if they want to proceed and join the traffic.
Speaking about the eye-contact — making eye contact is not an obligatory social convention in Bulgaria when you drive. Most city drivers will not wave to you to express “Thank you.”. They will take advantage if you allow them to join the traffic. This is not impolite, Sofia has 2 million inhabitants, and they barely meet each other the second time.
Yes, in Sofia, there are trams. Some of the trams are bought from the municipality of Zurich. Same way, trams have the right of way, be cautious of the trams if you drive in Sofia.
Road signs may not always be well lit up; some still display directions only in Cyrillic. Unfortunately, duplicate road signs in the Latin alphabet will take longer than expected.
Speeding may be frequent, but please understand that most drivers are experienced and believe they can manage risky situations. That also does not allow you or make you free to brake the speed rules. Speeding drivers take responsibility for their acts.
Parking when shopping is free. You may find this concept strange, but you don’t pay for parking your car when you are expected to spend money. Of course, only for a limited period, typically 2 to 4 hours at malls, supermarkets, and stores.
Road infrastructure is not nearly as good as Switzerland’s, which is no surprise. Highways are usually worry-free, but secondary and minor roads can cause shocks. Like Switzerland, you can expect slow-moving tractors and agri-vehicles on rural roads. Unline in Switzerland, you can expect bad rural roads with varying quality. Drive carefully, and drive slowly.
There is a “concierge” service at petrol stations, which is customary-normality. A petrol station concierge will approach you, asking what kind of fuel you need and how much to fill. If you don’t feel comfortable, you can fill the reservoir yourself. Don’t be stressed, the concierge service at petrol stations is paid for it.
When visiting Bulgaria from Switzerland for a road trip, nature, mountains, and lakes may look very familiar. And it is true! However, don’t expect nicely maintained roads, sharply reflecting road signs, mountain lifts, and well-maintained hiking routes and weggs.