Bulgaria: tourism by yourself or excursions?

When we were in Montenegro, we traveled only by excursions. Prices are quite acceptable, and comfort (and fear of a foreign country) blocked a desire of a small economy. Independently, we did not go anywhere.

In Bulgaria, prices for excursions are too high. So we decided to try to travel on our own.

Is it worth it to travel in Bulgaria on your own?

Most tourists come to Bulgaria to relax a bit on the sea, sunbathe on local beaches, visit the not-ceasing discos of Sunny Beach and to have a dinner at local restaurants.

Some want also to see the country, but without exhausting and long journeys. In this case, self-tourism is an ideal option. You just need to go to a bus stop at any time convenient for you, wait for the bus (you can find a bus schedule in Bulgaria in this separate article), to name the city that interests you and pay for the ticket. In a few hours (and sometimes in 20 minutes) you will enjoy the new city and its sights.

Where it is profitable to go by yourself in Bulgaria?

Unfortunately, a lot of interesting corners of Bulgaria are in the depths of the country. In Sofia, Plovdiv, Veliko Tarnovo or in the Valley of Roses it is necessary to go for all day, and the bus schedule is not convenient for tourists – it is also necessary to book a hotel on the spot and depart with an overnight stay.

So, ideal variant – to see the small coastal resorts, many of which can surprise you not only with ancient excavations, but also with a rich set of attractions.

We lived in Nessebar (Sunny Beach is literally close to it), it is practically in the middle of the coast, and therefore could visit both the northern and southern part of Bulgaria. Let’s see where it’s worth to go to see the country:

  • Balchik – the city itself did not impress us at all, but the nearby botanical garden is rightfully considered one of the main sights of Bulgaria. I had to go to Balchik from Nessebar with a transfer in Varna. The journey took about 3 hours and cost 18 levs in one way.
  • Pomorie is a rather small but surprisingly cozy town where you can find the monastery of St. George. It is worth to come here for Orthodox shrines, excellent seascapes, fruit market and cheap shopping. Not far from the city there is the Pomorie lake with healing mud and a wild beach on the spit, which we liked very much. It is simple to get here from Nessebar – almost any bus to Bourgas will help you. The road takes about 20-30 minutes and costs 3-3,5 levs. We even went to Pomorie on our foot, but it’s more than 20 kilometers. But how many beautiful things you could see.
  • Nessebar – if you live somewhere in another city, be sure to come to Nessebar. It is one of the most beautiful resorts in Bulgaria with many interesting sights. Sunny Beach is nearby, you can easily walk to it, get on the tourist train or swim by boat.
  • Burgas is a big city with a lot of ancient temples and monuments. Many tourists goes to Burgas for shopping, but we do not recommend it for you – the choice is great, but the prices are also very high. Bourgas stands out with the Primorsky Park. More than 10 kilometers of diverse and really interesting park elements stretches along the sea (there are a very few people on the beach), and you can see the sand sculptures, made by masters from many countries. Each year the sculptures are different. It takes about an hour to get to Burgas from Nessebar, maybe a little less, the ticket costs 6 levs.
  • Varna is a large modern city with an amazing number of curious places and sights. There are many small parks and squares, shops with reasonable prices and large shopping centers for tourists. In Varna, we advise you to go to the dolphinarium – you will get a lot of positive emotions. It takes about 2 hours to get to Varna from Nessebar, there is a big bus station in the city from which you can go to any part of the country and even abroad.

We do not advise to visit Obzor, Ravda, Aheloy, Saint Vlas, Elenite and other seaside cities with sightseeing purposes. In most cases, exept hotels, you will not see anything there. Sozopol deserves special mention. Despite the fact that it is actively recommended by travel agencies and sites on the Internet, in fact the resort turned out to be very similar to Nessebar, only with much lesser number of sights – the “Bulgarian Jerusalem” did not impress us.

How much can you save while travel by yourself?

An independent trip will cost you about 2-3 times cheaper than a similar tour. At the same time, you will not be bound by rigid frames, you will be able to go where you want and when you want.

But there are also disadvantages – excursions try to include places in which it is difficult to reach by public transport, for example, the monastery of Aladzha, Rila Monastery, Ropotamo, Broken Stones or Cape Kaliakra.

If you really want to visit this places – we recommend you to rent a car, it’s still a bit more comfortable and cheaper than an excursion. But be sure to keep in mind that the roads in Bulgaria are not simple, often with limited visibility.

How to view Bulgaria by public transport?

The public transport system in Bulgaria is very simple. Almost at each bus stop you can find routes and a schedule of buses that pass through it. At the bus station, you can ask the manager, but the price will be exactly the same.

You just open the map of the country, find where you would like to go, go to the bus stop, take the bus and drive to your destination.

How to rent a car and what are the advantages?

Renting a car, you will not be bound by time frames, bus routes and excursions and will be able to see exactly what you want.

Of course, comfort is not cheap, but prices are quite acceptable and start from $ 10 per day.

Can I travel by taxi?

Of course, you can, but only if you are not a greedy person. With a taxi in the resort part of Bulgaria, a separate story, it is about 4 lev (hover mouse to learn more) per kilometer, and the counter revolves almost faster than the wheels, especially the situation is relevant for the Sunny Beach.

With taxi drivers, you can and should bargain, so you can knock down the price up to several times, but it will still very high.

In general, we do not advise you to travel by taxi. Although for the wealthy people this is really the most convenient option.

An exception to this rule would be a transfer from the airport. If you fly by yourself, most likely you have nowhere to go and pay taxi drivers. But a taxi at the airport is very expensive. In such cases we recommend you to book a taxi in advance (to the resort on the day of arrival and back in a couple of weeks). So it goes cheaper at least a third.

Advantages of excursions in Bulgaria – convenience and unique places

Excursion is convenient. Get on the bus and you will be taken to the most interesting sights, the guide will tell you why they are so unique, show and organize everything. Excursions also allow you to visit such places, that can not be reached by foot or by public transport.

But there are also disadvantages:

  • Excursions cost several times more than an independent trip.
  • There is always little time to enjoy the beauties of the country on excursions – you will have to adhere to a fixed schedule.
  • You will see exactly what the travel company wants, and this is usually far from the most interesting places in the country.

When and where is it profitable to buy excursions in Bulgaria?

Excursions in Bulgaria are profitable if you want to visit central regions of the country (Sofia, Veliko Tarnovo, Plovdiv, Rose Valley), which are difficult to reach on your own. A good option would be an excursion to Istanbul.

Most resorts on the coast are easier and cheaper to visit by public transport.

There is also an option to purchase individual excursions by car for several people. They cost, of course, a bit more expensive than group buses for the whole bus, but their advantages are obvious: an individual approach, about 2 times longer duration, you`re able to choose what you want to see. Unfortunately, for Bulgaria the choice of such excursions is not very big, but there are very good options.

Where can you buy individual tours of Bulgaria:

Where it is better to buy excursions, is there a difference?

As far as we know, there is no significant difference in the prices for the excursion. Plus / minus a few dollars depending on the travel agent.

We noticed that in Sunny Beach excursions are more expensive than in Nessebar or Pomorie. Well, the price level there is generally very high.

So what is more profitable, independent tourism or excursions?

In most cases, independent tourism will cost you 2-3 times cheaper than an excursion. You will not be limited by time, you will be able to see exactly what you want.

But there are also disadvantages. To travel independently, you have to spend a lot of time on the route and determine the most interesting sights for you. Unfortunately, there is little information about Bulgaria on the Internet, and it may have a lot of mistakes, inaccuracies and hidden advertising.

Another important disadvantage is that not all the sights can be visited by public transport, you have to rent a car.

As a summary: if you want to see the seaside cities and resorts – it’s better and cheaper to do it yourself, and if you plan to go deeper into the country – we recommend you to get a tour.

Other useful tips and articles: