Cost of living in Bulgaria: Your guide

Zorica Lončar
05.10.20
6 minute read

If you’re interested in its history or you’re a nature enthusiast, Bulgaria won’t disappoint. Paired with the well-known Balkan friendliness, this country is bursting with potential. That’s why many expats choose it as their short-term or permanent home.

Our guide will inform you about all you need to know when it comes to the cost of living in Bulgaria. We’ll also get into the average salaries you can expect. After reading through, you should be ready to take on the challenge of relocating there.

While you’re tackling the move, using a service like TransferWise could help you reduce your overall expenses. With TransferWise, you can send, receive, and organize your money internationally, without large fees.

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The currency in Bulgaria

The Bulgarian currency is the Bulgarian lev or lv for short. It’s also written as BGN. Although Bulgaria is in the EU, it’s not in the Eurozone. Here’s a comparison of the value of Bulgarian lev and some major world currencies (at the time of research):

$1000 = ‎1677 lv

£1000 = 2137 lv

€1000 = 1956 lv

A$1000 = 1182 lv

Since these values change all the time, using a currency converter or searching the current live rates is advisable.

Get your Bulgarian lev card for free. Manage over 50 currencies at once.

Banks and money exchange services make money off their exchange rates. By doing this, they keep their return fees low and make it seem like you’re getting a good deal. TransferWise makes it possible for you to get a fair price on your currency by using the real, mid-market rate.

If you plan on sending money to or from Bulgaria, TransferWise will help you save. The Borderless multi-currency account, lets you manage over 50 different currencies all at once. It’s a great account choice for expats, travellers and freelancers. You can convert your money to Bulgarian lev quickly and easily.

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Cost of living in Bulgaria compared to the UK

Living in Bulgaria doesn’t cost nearly as much as living in the UK. Mercer’s annual cost of living list places Sofia on the 180th place price-wise. Life outside of the capital is even cheaper. Meanwhile, the UK capital is at number 19 with higher monthly and daily expenses.¹

The following chart shows some Bulgaria prices compared to UK ones, in Bulgarian lev:

Comparing basic cost of living1 bedroom flat in city centre (monthly rent)Meal for 2 (mid-range restaurant, three courses)Transportation (monthly pass)
London, UK²‎3,760 lv‎128 lv321 lv
Manchester, UK³‎1,693 lv‎118 lv150 lv
Edinburgh, UK⁴1,753 lv‎128 lv120 lv
Sofia, Bulgaria⁵‎743 lv‎59 lv‎50 lv
Sunny Beach, Bulgaria⁶586 lv57 lv‎33 lv
Plovdiv, Bulgaria⁷‎500 lv‎45 lv40 lv

Major cities in Bulgaria

The largest and most populous city is Sofia. Since that means more job prospects, this makes it the number one expat location. Sofia is full of green areas and the residents are very laid back, so you won’t feel the chaos of a big city.

Sunny Beach is ideal for those who need their daily dose of UV rays to feel good. It’s a vibrant holiday destination, but it can be a permanent spot for expats who want to experience the coast. The cost of living in Sunny Beach is another advantage, because the monthly expenses are low.

Plovdiv is one of the oldest cities in Europe, but it has a very youthful spirit. Many would describe it as hipster and great for artists and creative people in general. It’s cheaper than Sofia and it has a lot of English speakers, so foreigners love staying there.

What are general living expenses like in Bulgaria?

Total living expenses in Sofia⁵Average cost
1 person, per month (without rent)‎926 lv
4 person family, per month (without rent)3,233 lv
Utilities, basic, for 85m² apartment‎205 lv
Total living expenses in Plovdiv⁷Average cost
1 person, per month (without rent)‎833 lv
4 person family, per month (without rent)‎2,921 lv
Utilities, basic, for 85m² apartment165 lv

What are the average salaries in Bulgaria?

Although Bulgaria is a member of the European Union, the standard of living is somewhat low. So, the average salaries are not as big as they are in western Europe. But, the cost of living in Bulgaria isn't as high as in the UK or France, so sometimes it can even out.

The pay depends on the position and the city, but here are some average numbers:

Salary averages for Sofia⁸Average salary
Graphic designer‎13,188 lv
Software engineer22,801 lv
IT manager34,510 lv
Operations manager34,093 lv
Waiter10,103 lv
Copywriter22,979 lv
Salary averages for Plovdiv⁹Average salary
Graphic designer10,000 lv
Software engineer23,000 lv
IT manager44,000 lv
Operations manager42,000 lv
iOS developer27,000 lv
Human resource administrator¹⁰48,500 lv

How expensive is housing and accommodation in Bulgaria?

Rent costs are not high for expats who come from richer countries. Even buying a property for a reasonable price is possible. Rent-wise, the cost of living in Sofia, Bulgaria is the highest.

Here are some average prices:

Rental cost in Sofia¹⁰Average monthly cost
Large apartment905 lv
Medium apartment754 lv
Small apartment586 lv
Rental cost in Plovdiv⁷Average monthly cost
Large apartment‎851 lv
Small apartment494 lv

What about healthcare and dental costs in Bulgaria?

The good news is that all residents, both Bulgarians and expats, get very cheap healthcare that all citizens contribute to. If you’re self-employed, you’ll pay 8% of your annual salary before tax each month.¹² If you have a regular job, your employer will cover more than half of those costs.

European Health Insurance cards are valid for those who are not residents yet. Emergency services are also free and everyone can get treated in the emergency room.¹³

Private insurance is inexpensive to most foreigners and it’s a good investment. The private facilities are better equipped and the doctors are more likely to speak English.

How much are travel and transportation costs in Bulgaria?

If you’re travelling through Bulgaria, you can choose between air and land travel. The train and bus network is well developed, but slow compared to European standards. Still, they’re popular because of their low prices. During the summer, there are also seasonal ferry boats that operate on the Black Sea coast.

If you opt to drive, good second-hand vehicles are easy to find in Bulgaria. Also, keep in mind that hitching is illegal in Bulgaria.

Sofia has a metro, but people mainly get around by bus. The cost of the monthly pass is 50 lv in Sofia⁵, 45 lv in Varna¹⁴, and 40 lv in Plovdiv⁷.

Study costs in Bulgaria

As Bulgaria is part of the EU, all EU countries recognize Bulgarian diplomas.¹⁵

One of the best higher institutions in the country is the Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski. They offer a couple of bachelor programs in English, but the variety of master’s programs is much wider. The American University in Bulgaria is the most prominent private university in the country.

Compared to the rest of Europe, the price of studying in Bulgaria is sometimes even half the price. For example, studying medicine in English will cost you between 13,000 and 16,000 lv. At St. Kliment Ohridski, the program costs around 15,000 lv. However, Bulgarian universities are not among the top 1000 in the world.¹⁶

Send money to and from Bulgaria with the real, mid-market exchange rate

With TransferWise, sending money to and from Bulgaria is easy and transparent. Even though Bulgaria isn’t expensive, you still don’t want to waste your money on high transfer fees. TransferWise allows you to make the most of your earnings by ensuring you get a fair and transparent deal.

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Sources:
  1. Mercer’s annual cost of living 2020 list
  2. Numbeo - cost of living in London
  3. Numbeo - cost of living in Manchester
  4. Numbeo - cost of living in Edinburgh
  5. Numbeo - cost of living in Sofia
  6. Numbeo - cost of living in Sunny Beach
  7. Numbeo - cost of living in Plovdiv
  8. Teleport - salaries in Sofia
  9. Payscale - salaries in Plovdiv
  10. Average salary survey - salaries in Plovdiv
  11. Teleport - cost of living in Sofia
  12. Gov.uk - healthcare in Bulgaria
  13. Europa.eu - healthcare in Bulgaria
  14. Numbeo - cost of living in Varna
  15. Interhecs - study in Bulgaria
  16. Shanghai ranking of world universities

All sources checked on 30 September 2020


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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