As far as digital nomad locations go Bulgaria ticks all the boxes. It is stupidly cheap, the internet is great and easy to find in all forms, the weather is fantastic for the countryside and black sea coast in the finer months then in winter you can hit the mountains, the people are friendly and there is lots of diverse scenery and things to see and do. Plus getting in and out is easy, so is exploring the neighbouring countries.
I have been back in Bulgaria for about a month now, I was here for a few weeks previously and had no plans on returning but a girl brought me back here. Anyways that is another story so I will cut to the chase, here is my guide to location independent living in Bulgaria.
Cost of living in Bulgaria & finding accommodation.
The overall cost of living in Bulgaria is insanely cheap. I would almost go as far as saying it is the most affordable country I have visited and it is certainly the cheapest I have spent any extended amount of time in. If you are looking for locations based on cost of living then Bulgaria is a digital nomad paradise!
Accommodation is seriously affordable, especially in my current location in Veliko Tarnovo. When I first arrived I rented a room above a language school on booking.com for €12 a night including breakfast. Now considering this was in the height of the summer season in August and I booked it last minute through a booking site then this to me was amazing value for money.
The next stop was a private room in one of the best hostels I have ever stayed in, Hostel Mostel in Veliko Tarnovo, if you are in Veliko Tarnovo or Sofia then I would recommend staying with them. It was also in summer season that I stayed here and it set me back €19 a night including breakfast, dinner and free tea & coffee all day, again exceptionally good value for money.
A hotel room on the black sea coast in Sozopol cost us €10 a night per person with breakfast and sea views. We got this by finding the lower priced places on booking sites then turning up in person and bartering for a better deal, a tactic that is totally doable here.
As I originally only intended staying a few weeks hostel accommodation suited my plans. Now I am back here I have had a chance to find out more. I am paying €50 a week for a room. I have met expats that are paying as little as €125 per month for a studio apartment. You could even buy your own place here for less than 5 figures in Euros.
Airbnb prices are inflated and way above the average monthly cost. There seems to be plenty of availability, especially outside the main season so asking around would get you a much better deal.
Supermarkets, although not as well stocked are also ridiculously affordable in Bulgaria. A trolley full of shopping that would have probably cost me way over €100 from Lidl in Ireland cost me 90Lev from Lidl in Bulgaria (About €45). There is a fresh food market daily here where a few Euros gets me bags full of fresh fruit, veg & salad. The local butchers is quality and also a lot cheaper than western European countries.
Eating out on a budget is good too, I am actually stuck for choice here. I can get a stone baked pizza and a coke for less than €5. If we go out for dinners in mid-range places it has been costing between 20-40Lev (between €10 – €20) for 2 of us to have a 2 course meal each with a half-litre of wine & a beer etc.
Bakeries and Deli’s make shopping and cooking seem pointless. You can get half a rotisserie chicken, roast potatoes, veg and some side like red cabbage salad to take away from a Deli and probably get change from €5 in most places. The local butchers is also not bad value at all.
And for those of you who smoke then this bad habit is also way cheaper than most other countries with a box of cigarettes setting you back about €2.50. I am very bad, I use the cost of cigarettes as a general indication of the cost of living 🙂
Public transport is also very cheap compared to most other countries I have spent extended amounts of time in. Especially taxis, they are such good value that I am finding it hard to walk anywhere!
Internet access and places to work from.
Internet access is generally fantastic in Bulgaria so being delayed with work due to bad internet is not something to worry about. In fact according to this article that I am quoting “Bulgaria ranks at the 20-th position in the global Net Index Explorer for broadband internet accessibility and speed”. Broadband is accessible in most places such as coffee shops and bars. Everywhere I have stayed has also had a decent connection even when the networks have been busy.
4/3G is also good, I am getting optimal speeds in most places on my phone and the prepaid data plans are really good value for money. I am using a pay as you go sim card from Telenor which you can find out about here. I just went in to a Telenor shop and paid less than €10 for the card with 2GB data to start me off. A 2GB top-up costs me something like €3.50 and lasts a week, you can view the tariffs here. Telenor is not the only mobile internet provider here but my Bulgarian friend advised me that they are the best and the cheapest so I took his word for it and it does not disappoint. Even on the odd occasion where I need to tether my laptop through my phone for a connection it has served me well.
Although there is co-working spaces in Sofia and Varna I do not know much about them. There is none in my current location but then again I do not go looking for them. Most cafes and bars are good places to work from for a while but I don’t know if staying for an 8 hour shift would be an acceptable thing to do in most of them.
One thing I have found via being invited to a Facebook group looks interesting, a weekly meet-up for entrepreneurs and digital nomads etc in Sofia called the silicone drink about, you can find out more on their Facebook page.
Entertainment and things to do in Bulgaria.
In keeping with the general theme about how affordable things are in Bulgaria, how does €1 for a half litre beer in a bar sound to you? Coupled with the many friendly locals you are likely to meet this makes Bulgaria a perfect place for going out socialising. There is also a café scene in most towns if bars & a beer are not your cup of tea (No pun intended). The low cost of living also makes things like Gym’s, hotel saunas and pools etc easily accessible.
Days out or weekends away are also very doable on a budget and even by taxi. There is a diverse range of attractions from some of the oldest settlements on the planet, castles and old towns, mountains, coast and beaches and nature in general. For example around Veliko Tarnove I have taken days out to two beautiful waterfalls in gorges where I have swam in the pools. I have eaten a 2 course meal in a quality restaurant overlooking one of these waterfalls before taking a walk around a nearby monastery. Which not being the least bit religious is something that would not normally appeal to me but it was worth it for the buildings, the gardens and to see the monks brewing Rakia in the traditional way, fermenting it over an open log fire.
More info about Bulgaria for digital nomads.
Bulgaria is a lot safer than I first imagined it would be. I feel much safer here than I would in many western countries, especially after dark. English is generally spoken or at least understood by most young people but you will have a language barrier almost everywhere so even learning to understand a few basics helps. Unless you are already familiar with the Cyrillic alphabet (unlike me) then this can cause a bit of an issue, especially trying buy things from shop shelves or read signs. The alphabet always makes train travel in Bulgaria and bus journeys an interesting experience as reading your ticket is next to impossible.
The currency is Bulgarian Lev, it is roughly double the Euro at the time of writing this so 2Lev would be approx. €1. This makes it easy to handle and get used to using, unlike some countries where you have to shell out thousands for a euro equivalent.
Bulgarian people are generally friendly and more than happy to give you advice and directions or even just sit around passing the time of day. Some of the older generation especially but also the younger seem to love Russia and Russian culture. I got a taxi the other day and the driver (an oldish woman) had an air freshener hanging from her rear view mirror that was actually a picture of Putin. I presume that if you were coming from Russia you would be overly welcomed.
One thing I was pretty surprised to find in the centre of Bulgaria is an expat community, mainly British. Some have been here for many years and they are spread out amongst the local villages but get together now and then. I was invited to a birthday party where I met a good few of them on one of their occasional get togethers. All here for different reasons and doing different things but the one thing they have in common is they were drawn here by the property prices, cost of living and laid back, old school style lifestyle. There is even a real estate shop here with a big sign outside that says “as seen on channel-4’s a place in the sun”.
So in summary Bulgaria is probably one of the ultimate digital nomad locations if ticking the right boxes is what you seek in your choice of countries. If you are considering Bulgaria and have any questions, are seeking advice or even if you just want to say hello then drop me a comment bellow.
Happy travels 🙂