If you plan a road trip in Bulgaria and arrive from the US, you’ll encounter more differences than similarities. We use the metric system for measuring speed (km/h), weight (kilograms and tons), volume (liters), and temperature (Celsius). City centers are popular hangout spots, and parking can be limited and require payment. People might seem less open to conversation at first. European countries have diverse languages, histories, and cultures. To acclimate more quickly, read the info below on driving, parking, speed limits, road safety, and temperature conversion.
On highways, traffic patterns can change quickly and unexpectedly due to more frequent exits and merging traffic. Use your hazard lights during sudden traffic stops.
No Right Turns on Red
In Bulgaria, you must stop at red lights, even if there’s no traffic coming from the left. Proceed only when the light turns green.
The Right of Way Rule
Like most European countries, Bulgaria follows the right-of-way rule at intersections. There’s no “first come, first served” rule.
Roundabouts are common for traffic calming. Yield to inside traffic and signal before exiting.
Gas is more expensive in Bulgaria, and cars have smaller tanks. Gas stations offer different types of gasoline based on octane levels (98, 95, 91, and sometimes 100). They also provide diesel and LPG. You won’t find 87, 89, or 93 octane gas. Prices are per liter, not per gallon (1 gallon = 3.8 liters). These are example prices; gas prices are adjusted frequently.
Traffic lights are located on the nearby side, so stop just before them and look up to see them.
A Headlight Flash
A headlight flash from an oncoming car means you can proceed. If it comes from behind, someone wants to pass you.
Manual Transmission Cars
Manual transmission cars are standard in Bulgaria. They’re more economical and safer in winter if driven correctly. If you prefer automatic, request one when renting a car. Manual cars are cheaper to rent.
Big cities accommodate various traffic participants, including scooters, bikes, mopeds, trucks, buses, trolleybusses, trams, and taxis.
Narrower roads are typical in Europe and Bulgaria. Highways have two lanes and a shoulder.
Winter Road Maintenance
In winter, neighborhood and inner-city roads are cleared of snow before highways. Don’t assume that cleared roads near your home mean streets are ready for travel.
If you’re road-tripping Bulgaria from the US, note that car temperature dials display Celsius, not Fahrenheit. Converting between the two is simple, and here is an easy way to understand how to convert between the two systems.