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Budgeting in Bulgaria – The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need

There’s a million generic guides across the internet that will tell you how to save money. This is not one of those guides.

This is an in-depth guide on how to live as cheap as possible in Bulgaria. We’ll cover everything here – from where to buy the cheapest clothes, to free fun activities for you and your friends. Keep scrolling to find out how to save money in Sofia, and the rest of Bulgaria.

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Shopping for Clothes in Bulgaria

Charity shops in Bulgaria are ultimately the most affordable places to shop for clothing, some of them even sell clothes by the kilogram! There are far too many to list here, but I highly recommend both Bulgarian Red Cross (Български Червен кръст) and Caritas Bulgaria (Каритас България)

Liyantsi (aka Ilientsi) – for clothes, shoes and a variety of other things. It is the largest open-air market in Sofia. However, in order to get the best deals you need to be able to haggle with the vendors.

Refan – For dupes of your favourite designer perfumes, try Refan. They have several stores located throughout Bulgaria.

Well-known clothing brands such as H&M, Pull & Bear, Bershka and Zara are available in most major Bulgarian cities. Other affordable clothing chains present in Bulgaria include C&A, Reserved, New Yorker and LC Waikiki.

Mania – for second-hand shopping online. The website is currently only available in Bulgarian.

IKEA – If you want to purchase new furniture, bedding or basic appliances for your apartment, Ikea is an affordable option. Ikea has physical locations in Sofia, Burgas and Varna. It is possible to order online, but you need to factor in the delivery costs.

Supermarkets and Grocery Stores

We all want the best deals when it comes to our weekly grocery shopping. To save you the hassle, here is a well-researched list of each major supermarket chain in Bulgaria – ranked in order from least to most expensive:

  1. Lidl: Overall Lidl is considered to be the cheapest Supermarket chain in Bulgaria. They are consistently affordable and suitable for all of your grocery shopping needs.

  2. Kaufland: Kaufland, is a large German hypermarket chain. They offer everything from from food to household appliances, making it a one-stop-shop for everything. They are convenient, yet still budget friendly.

  3. Billa: Billa is a popular Supermarket chain with locations across Bulgaria. They offer a diverse selection of products, and prices are generally budget-friendly.

  4. Fantastiko: Fantastiko is another Bulgarian supermarket chain.

  5. BILLA Plus: As an extension of the Billa brand, BILLA Plus offer a variety of products with varying price points.

  6. Lavanda: Lavanda is a run-of-the-mill local grocery store chain in Bulgaria.

  7. Piccadilly: Piccadilly is another supermarket chain in Bulgaria offering a variety of products, including fresh produce and household items.

  8. CBA: CBA is your standard convenience store. As the name suggests, they offer convenience at the cost of slightly higher prices compared to larger supermarkets. Great for easily picking up the basics like bread and eggs, but not for your weekly food shop.

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Banking in Bulgaria

UniCredit Bulbank is the top pick for the majority of international students and young people. They operate all over Europe and have physical locations as well as a solid app and easy-access to online-banking.

Being an international bank, UniCredit Bulbank generally has a lot more English-speaking employees, especially if you use their branch in Sofia city centre. If you require a student loan, I suggest you look elsewhere because their interest rates can be quite high.

Revolut is a brilliant option if you plan on mostly using your card and don’t withdraw wads of cash regularly. Revolut is also the cheapest for international transfers within Europe. This is especially useful if your parents are sick paying excessive bank fees just so you don’t die of starvation.

It is always worth doing your own research and shopping around for a bank that suits your needs, but as of the time of writing, these are the best budget-friendly options for international students in Bulgaria.

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Having Fun in Bulgaria for Free

Bulgaria has an abundance of amazing museums, art galleries and parks that are worth visiting. Many of these hotspots offer free admission on certain days of the month. Read on to find out about the finest museums Bulgaria has to offer – that you can enter for free!

National Museum of History, Sofia – free every last Monday of the month.

National Archaeological Museum, Sofia – free every last Sunday of the month.

Sofia Art Gallery, Sofia – free еvery second and fourth Thursday of the month.

National Gallery for Foreign Art, Sofia – free every last Monday of the month.

National Polytechnic Museum, Sofia – free every last Monday of the month.

The Monasteries of Mount Athos, Sofia – entry is always free.

Boyana Church, Sofia – free every Monday from 15:00.

South Park, Sofia – always free. Great for a midday wander or an evening cycle.

Zaimov Park, Sofia – always free. This is a very popular place for locals to come and play chess.

City Garden Park, Sofia – always free. Young people love to come here and drink a cold beer with friends while watching the fountain.

Regional History Museum, Plovdiv – free on the first Thursday of each month.

Regional History Museum, Burgas – free admission for students every Monday from 10.00 – 16:00. Free admission for everyone on the 3rd of March and the 6th of December.