Bulgaria, situated in south-east Europe is bordered by Romania, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey and the Black Sea covering an area of 110,550 square kilometers. It has a diverse landscape with lush mountains and forests in the Rila and Pirin area in the west and coastal sandy beaches at the Black Sea. The highest mountain is Pirin or Mount Musala at 2974m/9757ft. Much of the country still remains untouched by mass tourism, leaving wildlife such as bears, lynx and rare birds to their natural habitat, a scarce treasure in Europe these days.
The time in Bulgaria is GMT + 2 hours and GMT + 3 hours in summer time.
Bulgarian is the official language. Some people in Bulgaria we will encounter speak excellent English, though it is a good idea to learn some basics in the local language such as common greetings. Outside of the main tourist areas few locals will speak English. Very few tourists make the effort to learn a little of the Bulgarian language. So it really impresses the locals to hear a few phrases in their own language and is a great way of enhancing your cultural experiences along the way. We recommend you take a pocket phrase book such as the Lonely Planet or Berlitz and learn some basics. Although Bulgarian can be a bit of a tongue twister for English speakers at first, your guide will be delighted to help you with your Bulgarian pronunciations.
Summer - From July to September the weather is generally very good. We can expect daytime, valley temperatures of between 18ºC/54ºF and 28ºC/82ºFin August, dropping to 12ºC/54ºF to15ºC/59ºF overnight. September and July temperatures can be a few degrees cooler. Temperatures will also be cooler at altitude, but usually very pleasant for mountain trekking. As with any mountain area there is the risk of some poor weather, with rain and wind. There is always the possibility of encountering occasional late lying snow in gullies, particularly in July. But we should encounter mainly clear and sunny days even in September. This area usually enjoys a very pleasant and stable climate in summer.
Winter - The temperatures that we can expect to encounter during the day will be in the range 4 - 7°C / 39 - 44°F., though it can feel much warmer than this in the reflected sunlight high on the slopes away from the forest. In the evening temperatures will drop below freezing levels. January to March is statistically the time of lowest precipitation, but mountainous areas do generate their own weather systems and occasional rain or snow and even stormy weather cannot be ruled out.
The unit of currency in Bulgaria is the Lev. For up to date exchange rates visit: www.xe.com
It is not necessary to purchase Lev outside the country. Cash can be withdrawn from ATM's using a credit card or a debit card, or you can exchange money. There are cash point facilities at the airport and major cities. Credit and debit cards can be used to purchase goods and services and at most larger restaurants.
A passport with 6 months remaining validity is required. Visas are not required by UK, U.S.A., Canadian or EC passport holders. Other nationalities should check with the Bulgarian Embassy in their own country.
You should attend your own doctor and dentist for a check-up. No special vaccinations are required for Bulgaria.
UK residents should obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before travelling. The EHIC is normally valid for three to five years and covers any medical treatment that becomes necessary during your trip, because of either illness or an accident. The card gives access to state-provided medical treatment only, and you'll be treated on the same basis as an 'insured' person living in the country you're visiting. Remember, this might not cover all the things you'd expect to get free of charge from the NHS in the UK. You may have to make a contribution to the cost of your care. You can obtain an EHIC from the Department of Health by phone, online, or at the post office.
Additional Sources of Information
The Rough Guide to Bulgaria.
Lonely Planet. Bulgaria.
The Mountains of Bulgaria. Julian Perry (Limited descriptions of our routes).
Rila Mountain. 1:55,000 Tourist map.
Pirin Mountain. 1:55,000 Tourist map.