In a somewhat hazy state of mind this morning, I began to write this post. My haziness is a result of flying from Istanbul to New York City yesterday, a 10-hour flight that, despite being as comfortable as possible for a 10-hour flight, has left me quite exhausted.
Anyway, I shall push forward with this post because, as I fell in and out of sleep during that lengthy flight yesterday, I couldn’t stop thinking about Bulgaria. And I decided that I must write a post about this interesting country nestled at the bottom of Southeastern Europe.
More specifically, I wanted to write about how, after my recent visit to Veliko Tarnovo, a small town in the center of the country, I became convinced that Bulgaria is possibly the best value destination on the planet.
It’s certainly at the top of my list at least.
During the five nights/six days that I stayed in Bulgaria, I spent a total of $210 USD. That’s about $35 USD per day, including all accommodation, food, activities, transportation and any other expenses I encountered.
And while there are plenty of countries where you could spend a lot less money per day, let’s take a quick look at what that $210 got me in the end…
I spent two nights at a very nice boutique hotel in the center of Veliko Tarnovo’s Old City, with a perfect view of the Yantra River from my room and a huge breakfast included in the price, followed by three nights at the highly-rated Hostel Mostel, where dorm rooms cost $12/night and include breakfast, a light dinner and evening beer.
I ate all of my other meals at the most popular local restaurants in the city (the restaurant Shtastliveca was so good I ate there four times), paid the entrance fee for the Tsarevets Castle, had coffee and cake most afternoons at Cafe Stratilat, took taxis across the city, made some random purchases in a few shops and even went out to the pub at night a couple of times.
Basically, I didn’t hold back at all in terms of spending money. And every time I handed over some cash, I couldn’t believe what I was receiving in return. This was especially true when it came to meals as Bulgarian food surprised me with it’s endless variety of fresh salads and wonderful Balkan-style main dishes that could be enjoyed for just a few dollars.
In addition, the fact that the Bulgarian people are extremely warm and welcoming towards foreigners just increases its attractiveness as a best value destination (speaking of attractiveness, Bulgarians have to be some of the most attractive people on the planet!). Everywhere I went I found it so remarkably easy to strike up a conversation with locals, whether it was the waitress at the restaurant, a taxi driver, the staff inside of a shop or strangers I encountered while wandering the streets.
And this was only a tiny part of the country I visited. Still left to be explored is Sofia, Plovdiv, Pleven, Varna, Burgas and many other towns, which can be found scattered among the mountains, national parks, historical sights and the Black Sea coastline that make up this country.
Luckily, I’ll be headed back to the region once my current month of hectic traveling is over and I’ll therefore have a chance to explore more of Bulgaria soon enough.
WHAT COUNTRY IS THE BEST VALUE DESTINATION?
Of course, as I mentioned before, this is not the only country on the planet that offers such good value for your money. Bulgaria just happens to be near the top of my list (maybe even at the very top) after my recent experiences.
So, in order to help each other out, I thought it would be useful for all of us to share the country/region that we each think offers a great value for travelers.
Please share your thoughts in the comments below and let’s see what we end up with!
I’m actually quite curious myself as I’m always looking for new places to visit and I’m confident you’ll have a few good ideas…
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[…] the rest of Romania to explore, but other countries such as Moldova, Ukraine, Hungary, Serbia and Bulgaria just one border crossing away. And a short flight to Istanbul (55 minutes) connects you with the […]
Thanks for the lovely words.
Very good review, I enjoyed reading it and agree Bulgaria is excellent value for money, the people are lovely, the scenery is gorgeous and I always feel very happy and content when I am there. The clean air in the mountains and by the sea always induces me into the most relaxing slumber, I wake up feeling chilled and happy. The views from Obzor cliffs on the black Sea are just breath taking and spectacular, the beaches away from the bigger resorts are peaceful and unspoilt, the towns are idyllic. When you return you must visit Sozopol, Nessebur, Obzor and anywhere along the coast. I have travelled a lot and Bulgaria is my favourite destination, so much so I plan to move there as soon as I can and live in the beautiful Balkan country! It makes me laugh when I read the about ‘All the Bulgarians’ coming here, invading our cold, angry little country. Anyone who has been and anyone who goes to Bulgaria will know instantly no one is going to leave there for the UK in a hurry! For me it is paradise on earth.
The best comment ever! Hope more people like you will choose to spent time in my country. Feel welcome 🙂
Yes Marisol! You must come to Bulgaria!You will be in for a very nice surprise. It is a beautiful country from Belogradchik in the North, to Borovets and Lake Iskar in the South-eastish, but my favourite area is Veliko Tarnovo and all around. There is a lot to see and do, fabulous food, wines, and all at fantastic prices. Lovely people also. Just been there for Christmas (10 days) and had amazing weather. Blue skies and sun the whole time and not too cold! Summers are HOT.
Thank you for your blog it was nice to read about a country that I should know about but dearly have no clue where to start..my father is bulgarian and he lives in sofia…thats is all I know..hopefully this year I will try to visit the country that is missing in my life.havent seen my dad since I was three years old and im hoping o take my kids so they can learn about a culture that runs in our blood…thank you again.
Hello , I’m Martin from Stara Zagora our town don’t have so much to show as castles or statues – because of historical reasons they are destroyed but that what no one can’t take from our city are memories ,traditions more then 3000 years even before the glory of ancient Egypt… just imagine that the historians are not 100% sure but this is one of the most oldest cities in the world and still resisting on the force of the nature and time 🙂
If you dig only 5 meters deep you’ll find a whole new world beneath you 🙂
Just for information about Bulgarians – our journey starts before more than 14000 years , we are the only nation that almost capture China and the Great Wall is built to stop us .. around 10000 B.C. a tribe of the Bulgarians moved to the south somewhere around Israel after that they cross to Egypt after that they go north to Kazakhstan after that to Europe around 2000-2500 B.C. . Our solar calendar is the oldest before mayans and its accurate to 1 – 2seconds from todays 🙂 There are more than 14 countries we know who contain Bulgar in their name . I cut the story would otherwise have to write a book 🙂 I hope you will come back soon 🙂
Omg yes! Finally someone who knows the truth! I hate when people laugh like ahahahahah bulgaria is shit, is so small hahaha. We have 17000 years of history and we have glorious stories. We need this to be released to the world! I thought I was the only one who knew the truth!
Quite an amusing statement, Michael. You obviously haven’t traveled to Asia. Although I enjoyed your simile, I would have to disagree that Bulgaria is the only place on the Earth that treats foreigners better than their own countrymen. Try visiting China, India, Bangladesh, etc. And I might say that you are over-exaggerating by generalizing the characteristics of an entire nation based on a pack of almonds you bought on the street.
And I also enjoyed your ignorance of the historical development of the European continent. It is true that the Bulgarian nation was fragmented during the invasion of the Ottomans (btw referring to the Ottomans as Turks is politically incorrect), but you also have to acknowledge the political development of Europe during the Middle Ages. At the time, the continent was divided among numerous small kingdoms- take a look at the history of Germany, France, Italy and let me know which of these countries existed as a unified nation in the 13th century. And by the way, had it not been for the fierce resistance of the Bulgarians the Ottoman army would have conquered half of the continent.
michael if your going to leave your nasty comments like that please spell. correctly… bulgarians dont want to be reminded off that… with the turks.. i live here and the bulgarians are very good strong willed very nice people..its a very cheap loveble country. which my family and i feel so grateful to be living here among very nice people.After all michael this sort off thing will happen in your country. please dont tell me it does not as it will do ( i just wonder which country you live in.) people should come to bulgaria and enjoy your stay as its cheap and pictuesque..god bless bulgaria….
Greetings from one Bulgarian that lives far away from Bulgaria. I am happy to read your positive review. Honestly I think the smaller towns of Bulgaria /and even villages/ have a lot to offer to tourists. You should try and visit the town of Gabrovo and the region around it. It is roughly 1 hour away from Veliko Tarnovo and you can even take a taxi or a bus line between the 2 towns for very cheap.
As a comparison for new destinations- I live in Alaska and work in the tourist industry. A great place to live or see but a little pricey. However if you research it right you could actually have a very cheap stay up here as well, except the air plane ticket would be the most expensive. If you ever end up in Alaska make sure to use hostels for very cheap stay or bnb places if you want an average priced stay with good food in the morning. Otherwise renting a car and camping around in the summer would be the best choice. Winter time everything is 50% off and the hotels have some GREAT rates, it is true that it is COLD up here but believe me the Northern Lights are worth any kind of temperatures and it is very pretty with the snow around here.
Have a good week !
Your commentary makes me think of you as an young man without enough experience yet. As a Bulgarian I would say that your observations sound quite probable to me, but your interpretation is sadly biased. From your posting I deduce: (a) you have been in BG more than one time (your broken Bulgarian), so you have had some business there (a girl?); (b) the business have been a failure (your words are soaked with negative emotions). Petty stories as yours with the almonds are very annoying and you’ll remember it for long time. But they are not uncommon elsewhere. If you are a French I would like to tell you my story from a couple months ago in Paris – I caught a hand in my wallet pocket. It belonged to a 20-tish year old French guy (not to a Bulgarian gypsy). At the end one advice: never judge for a nation from its ancient or medieval history. Your story about the three sons is historically incorrect, but this is not important. If France or Germany happened to be on the Balkans, they would not have any chances against the Turks either. If you are German, I would like to remember you that 2.5 centuries after the three brothers Germans killed each other like pigs for 30 years and left huge areas almost uninhabited. And I would not like to go in details for the Holocaust that was just 2-3 generations ago. In conclusion: Bulgarians are NOT saints, but they are NOT villains either. They are somewhat more provincial and with a bit less self-confidence in comparison with some other European nations.
I have read the article, and Im glad you’ve liked it here. When you decide to come again, dont hesitate to write, I will gladly make a map of sights worth seeing 🙂
Take care and keep travelling 🙂
Thank you Jane!
Very nice review – Veliko Turnovo is my native city and I am glad you enjoyed it!
And getting to know more local people will further reinforce your positive feel of Bulgaria!
I hope more people get to know what a nice place Bulgaria is!
Er, Michael Brunig, there are deceitful people everywhere. That is by no means the defining character trait of the Bulgarian or any other people. “…deep seated habit of thievery that this is all their offspring knows” – that is an incredibly offensive statement to make about anyone, let alone a whole nation. I am not sure when and why you were in Bulgaria, but you sound like a sad individual.
I, and obviously many others, have found Bulgaria to be a lovely place to visit.
Funny they are probably the only country in thevworld that treats outsiders better than their own fellow countrymen. Their is such distrust and backstabbing that they WILL NEVER get ahead unless they start an educatuon campaign with young children which will take 20 years to begin to see fruits. Reminds me of a certain bird species that always steals sticks from their neighbors nest while the other is away doing something. The growth of the colony suffrs as they have such a deep seated habit of thievery that this is all their offspring knows. Another issue is honesty. It is so common practice that there are even tv commercial that make light of it. I remember buying almonds in a little cup in Varna at the market to go a few layers down to find the lityle old Baba had filled the bottom with bittet apricot seeds. When confronted she blatantly lied having any knowledge, trying to save face. I said in broken Bulgarian that all of the contry has a problem with this. At that point, when she saw that a foreigner could expose her before her people she smiled and said not to let it known outside of the country. The sickness runs deep but I don’t give up hope because there is a small percent of faithful people their who want to do what is right. They are the dim light that says darkness has not fully enveloped this nation. If that ever does happen they will fall back into oppression again untill they finally get it right. Remember the Turks were able to take over and rule them because the three sons who inherited the kingdom were busy fighting amongst eachother.
A very mixed up, jumbled, incoherent, ignorant insecure babble there young Michael. Facts son, and the purchase of a good history book may mitigate some of your misconceptions, and improve your English!
Hey, Earl, thank you for being so open and honest to us!
Great to read it. Enjoy next time even more and please help our strays in any way.
Thank you for reading Katya!
Visited Bulgaria for the first and (unfortunately) only time in 2006 with my wife. We spent 10 days with great friends from Bulgaria, who offered us the opportunity to explore their amazing country with them as our guides. From Sofia to the Black Sea and back, it was awesome and amazing. We only had about $700 spending money that we took in cash – but on the 9th day we still had just over half of it left, which we blew on a full day shopping spree. Incredible if one considers that we ate lunch and dinner at restaurants every singly day, with copious amounts of alcohol. I’m glad it is still so cost effective as a holiday destination and I hope that I am blessed to one day return for a second visit. Miss the shop-ska salad, rakia and those tiny croissants filled with chocolate cream every single day!
Bulgaria is indeed
one ofthe most beautiful country on earth, and I am not saying that because my Bulgarian girlfriend will give me a dirty beating if I don’t press enter to this message that I defenetly wrote myself.
God bless Bulgaria
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I love your post and would be happy to help you map out your return to Bulgaria. Check out my blog ~WithLoveFromBG~ to stay connected to Bulgaria as you travel the world. 😉
Thanks Gerry…I shall let you know when I’m in Bulgaria again!
Finally a few good words about Bulgaria! 🙂 Thank you.
If you come again and have any questins or feel like you could use some advice on where to go and what to do, feel free to send me an e-mail, I would be more than happy to help.
I am from Bulgaria(Stara Zagora).I am glad to read this comment for Bulgaria.Bulgaria is really beautiful country.I recommend you to visit the waterfall ‘Raiskoto praskalo’-highest waterfall in the Balkans. 🙂
I’ve been to Sozopol a couple of times. It’s pretty cheap, especially in the new town – you can get a decent meal and a beer for around 10 lv. A very nice hotel will set you back 40-50 lv, but you could find something for around 20, there are loads of private rooms.
Try to travel south to some of the beaches. The beaches at Arkutino and Sinemorets are excellent.
In general Sozopol is lovely, especially the old town at night.
Hi, I am going to sozopol in a few weeks. If you have been there, could you please tell me approximate,y how much it is over there in terms of drinks, food and activities?
Kind regards, Mitchell
Hello Earl 🙂
My name is Raya and I am from Bulgaria! I am a newbie traveler with passion for food and unpredictable experiences. I am so happy that you enjoyed your stay in Bulgaria and also I wish to congratulate you for visiting one of the oldest cities in the country instead of shooting for the tourist resort Sunny Beach like so many other people!! Sunny Beach has got to be the WORST part of Bulgaria! Yet it seems like everybody are convinced that it is the only place to visit …
Anyway please take this comment as a official invitation for you in my hometown in Bulgaria – Varna, the Sea “capital” of BG 🙂
I know that you are always on the road and to be honest so am I (yay!)but next time you decide to visit Bulgaria please send me a message on Facebook or yahoo and if I am in BG, you can stay with my family and I will make sure to show you around! Keep in mind that since we are both all over the place (hah joke…) this invitation will be permanent! Even if you decide to come after a few years It will still last 🙂
Good luck on your travels !
Raya Gancheva 🙂
Hey Raya – Thank you so much for the comment and I definitely plan to visit Bulgaria again! I shall let you know when I do and look forward to meeting up with you 🙂
what an amazing wealth of info on Bulgaria! having heard nothing but the best about bulgaria, it’s certainly on my radar now. Thanks for the awesome article Earl– these comments also rock!
Hey Brandy – Just go to Bulgaria…that’s all I can say 🙂
Yes! Just go, just been in Veliko Tarnovo (at our house) for 10 days – it was fantastic. Our family were visiting and we had a ball! Long walks and longer lunches (the food is amazing), found a cosy restaurant this time, in Arbanassi, fireplace and lovely food! A white Christmas and blue skies! BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY!
Love it more every time we come.
I have just recently booked a holiday to Bulgaria, Sunny Beach. I am so excited and cannot wait to visit. This is such a fantastic site. I will have a child with me who is 10 so any suggestions or ideas of places to visit would be greatly appreciated :).
We are for 10 days in B&B accommodation, how much spending money do u think we would need?
Hey Nicola – That sounds like a great vacation to me, although I’ve never been to Sunny Beach so I don’t have many places to recommend. As for spending money, it all depends on your travel style of course but in general, I spent about $20 USD per day during my stay in Bulgaria, apart from accommodation.
I’ve never been to Bulgaria, but I work with Bulgarians on a project, over the internet. They are very lovely people, and I’m sure so it’s the country, can’t wait to visit!
I’m living in Bulgaria and I love the country. The nature is beautiful, the history fascinating and , as you say , the people very warm. The more you explore the more you find – there are some wonderful hidden villages that have hardly changed in two-hundred years, and some of the most amazing mountain scenery ever. Some of the coast is magic – especially in the South near Turkey, the beaches are long, clean and beautiful.
I’m so glad you enjoyed your stay and give the country a positive write-up.
we hope you return!
Hey James – I’ll return to Bulgaria for sure as I have still yet to make it over to the coast!
Hi, Earl! Completely agree about Bulgaria! With the EU inclusion, the prices are getting higher, but the nature is so diverse and beautiful, and there still are unspoiled authentic places (e.g. beaches, wont’ mention names here).
As a New York (Staten Island) resident now, I agree with Andrew’s comment above, esp. if we speak about urban destinations.
Nature-wise, Bulgaria is on the top of my list, followed by Thailand.
new to your site, and i’m lovin it.
I’m in Bulgaria right now, (V.T) and indeed it’s an amazing country, not only buck wise.
I would like to mention morocco has a very affordable country to travel.
daily expences are maybe a little bit higher then Bulgaria, while accomodation is much cheaper. I loved morocco and probably always will.
btw, if you need a bed in Veliko Tarnovo, i have a spare bedroom, for about 4 months. After i still don’t know where i will be going.
Hey Joost – Thanks for the comment and glad to hear you’re enjoying Bulgaria and V.T.! There’s a chance I’ll be passing through that town again in July so I’ll let you know if it happens. And thanks for mentioning Morocco…I’ve never been so am not too sure about the costs but that’s useful to know that it’s such a cheap country to visit overall!
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In Leon, in the north of Spain if you ask for a corto de cerveza (a medium sized beer) they give you the tapas included, and what you do there is entering into different bars its interesting because each bar has its own specialty. So instead of having dinner you just drink beers in every bar possible! great value also, the beer im saying costs 1.50€
Hey Alonso – I’ve heard many people talk about these cerveza y tapas deals and I must admit, it all sounds quite appealing to me. I’ll need to make it there at some point to give it a try!
Yay! Good news for me! I’m hoping to go skiing in Bulgaria next year with a big group so hope it will work out as cheap for me as it was for you! Cheers for the tips 🙂
Hey Lucy – I’m sure it will still be quite cheap for your skiing trip! Of course, it’s easy to end up paying a lot more money but if you do some good research, then you can still have all the comfort you need for very reasonable prices.
I have found Budapest to offer a great bang for your buck. We stayed in a charming bed and breakfast for 3 nights and only paid 90 Euro. Also, the food was delicious and reasonably priced! It provided a noticeable contrast to Ireland, which I visited a few weeks prior. Ireland is so expensive.
Thanks for your amazing blog Earl. You’re such an inspiration.
Hey Meleah – Thanks for sharing that info about Budapest. I was there once but stayed with a friend so I didn’t get a good idea of how much things really cost.
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What a friendly and inspiring guy you are! So happy to hear your comments about Bulgaria. My husband and I visited Bulgaria in 2006, we loved VT so much we bought an old house in the old part of town (up a steep cobbled street with a view straight out to Tsaravets. We had to demolish the old house, but built a beautiful new house. We love it there SO much. We do not live there permanently but hope to one day.We’d like to build a ’boutique’ B&B – charging a fair bit more than hostel prices – do you think there would be a market for this or do you think that Bulgaria is known as a cheap destination therefore people would not be prepared to pay more for something special and attentive service? Would be interested to hear your thoughts. Ijust think that Europe is so expensive (everwhere) and Bulgaria is so beautiful, and the food and wines is so fab, that surely, it will be ‘discovered’ when everyone has a bit more money (after the recession) to travel and see it! Would be interested to hear your thoughts! Best Regards
Just chipping in here. I think there is always a market for upscale accommodation, because there are always people prepared to pay for luxury or even to stay in a place others can’t afford (even during a recession).
Hey Lorraine – Thanks for the comment and I see no reason why there wouldn’t be a market for your idea. As with most things, the issue is not what you offer but how you market it. If you are able to get your B&B some attention and are able to market it to the right audience, then the people will come!
I live in Bulgaria, so if you need some research on places to stay/prices in VT, may be I can help. I am always interested in good ideas, especially when talking about my home country. I think there is room for what you plan, but depends on lots of things. You must think of something very nice and cosy so that you make the difference – have in mind that guest houses/rooms became very popular in virtually every settlement throughout the country so people now have a great choice.
If you decide, feel free to contact me – reply and we will exchange contact details.
Earl, Would be Bulgaria be a good place to teach English and live on a longer term basis compared to other countries?
Hey Gary – Bulgaria would be a great option in terms of the cost of living for a long-term stay. I know there are opportunities to teach English there as well. The only thing is that often times, in Eastern Europe, you are required to have a TEFL certificate, while in other regions of the world, you just need to be a native English speaker to get a teaching job somewhere.
Earl, I’m with you. We took out about $800 USD (about 1200 leva) at the beginning of the month for food, gas, entertainment, and sundries (excluding lodging because we had already paid for that) — we assumed that we would use all of it and more considering that there was two of us plus we had to fill up our car. By the end of the month, we still had 200 leva left — and that was after we had tried hard to get rid of the cash by filling our gas tank! It’s an extremely budget friendly country. We loved Bulgaria, too! A wonderful place to spend time in.
Great information Akila as that is a bargain for one month in a car! Perhaps I should rent a vehicle the next time I go there myself. It doesn’t get any cheaper than $600 per month!
I am glad you loved Bulgaria so much. We lived in the Rhodopes mountains for a month over winter, and even having to dig our way out in the deep snow each morning and the water was freezing for several days could not dampen my enthusiasm for the place. Not only was accommodation, food and transport so cheap but everyone we meet was so welcoming and friendly. The only place that strays away from this is Bankso, we went there for a few days as they were having a bumper snow season, but as it is mass marketed at English ski tour groups and is very overpriced and everyone is very pushy.
We have also just arrived in South Korea and so far it seems everything is really cheap here, buses, food (take away/restaurants) as well as groceries. We also took a couple of taxis (which we would never normally do because of the cost) but they are only a couple of dollars. Coincidentally, 2012 is “Visit Korea” year, so if you do end up here, make sure you check out this website as there are buses that are free for foreigners to some of the major destinations, which would normally be expensive by train. https://english.visitkoreayear.com/english/main.asp
Hey Sam – You must really love Bulgaria if you’re willing to visit during winter! And thanks for the “Visit Korea” info. I’m sure a lot of people would want to know about those free buses and anything else they’ve organized for foreigners. I might have to take advantage of it myself 🙂
Stumbled across your blog whilst trying to kill some time. Read a few posts; very enjoyable and light-hearted reading. I am Slovenian and as such might be slightly biased but I think Slovenia provides good value. Value not necessarily in terms of $$$ but in terms of quality and what you can do with the time you have. If anybody is visiting Slovenia please feel free to contact me and if I am around and have time I will be more than happy to show you around.
Hey Johan – Ahhh….Slovenia! Definitely a great value destination overall and as you may have read in my posts about Slovenia, it is one of my favorite countries that I have ever visited! And I appreciate you offering your assistance to anyone who may be heading to your country. I always talk very highly about Slovenia so I have a feeling some people might be in touch with you 🙂
I just read that the e-mail address does not get published so to make it possible for people to get in touch with me if they so desire here is my e-mail addy: [email protected] Happy travels folks.
Hey Earl, I am from Varna, Bulgaria. Great website and it certainly makes my mind wander 🙂 If you come once again in Bulgaria, I will be more than happy to show you around and to give you accomodation!
You are inspiring
Hey Daniel – I will definitely be in Bulgaria again and I shall look forward to meeting you! I really appreciate the offer 🙂 Have a great weekend over there in Varna!
I have never been to Bulgaria but it is on my list. I was however in Vietnam and Cambodia last month and found Saigon very cheap. Reasonable meal for 2 people including drinks cost $8 – $10 total. Beer 60c and local tours also very cheap.
Hey Noel – That is of course cheap as well and Vietnam, most of Southeast Asia for that matter, sure does offer incredible value, even for those traveling on a tight budget. I tend to use beer as well to compare prices around the world 🙂
hm, I think I’ll have to go to Bulgaria one day! and nice duck face 🙂
Hey Nichole – Haha…that was the best of several photos that displayed my face-making skills 🙂
Earl, if you’re going to Bulgaria again I can recommend the Southern Black Sea coast and Strandja Nature Park. This area is at the border of Turkey and there’s some fantastic scenery there. May and June are especially good months with lots of green, wildlife and nice warm weather, but without the tourists.
If you’re on a budget these months are good too, as in July and August everything is usually a bit more expensive (though still very affordable).
That part of Bulgaria is close to Istanbul as well. There are daily buses from the city of Burgas (where you can fly to) to Istanbul. Takes only a morning to get there.
Hey Dave – Those seem like good suggestions to me and Burgas is definitely at the top of my list for my next Bulgaria visit. The Nature Parks sounds perfect as well and it’s the first I’ve heard of it. So thank you for letting me know!
I kept hearing Bulgaria’s cheap and beautiful, yet never heard the details. Considering the short flight from where I am (Israel), this looks like something to look further into.
Hey Ayelet – It’s definitely worth a trip from Israel…and I think people will start hearing more and more about Bulgaria in the next couple of years as more and more travelers start to ‘discover’ this great destination!
If you spend time in Sofia, be sure to take the hiking trail up to Milonva (it’s a bit of a train trek out of the city, but it’s a great day hike), spend a few nights at one of the lodges up at Seven Rila Lakes and hike the trail/check out the monastary…go up and spend a weekend in the Bansko area if you want to check out a more touristy-vibe. It’s a ski resort, but it doubles as a summer vacation home destination. And you can’t go wrong with anything in the Rhodopes if you like hiking.
If you have the time, Nessebar is always a relaxing, nice vacation spot. If you can get a reasonably priced room on the island, it’s a nice way to spend a couple of days in a historic place with great views out over the Black Sea. And I still find Burgas to be one of my favorite coastal cities in the world. Plus, the train ride from Sofia to Burgas goes straight through the wine country that is the secret treasure of Bulgaria…hundreds of different vintages and vineyards stretching out across the length of the country on the Thracian plains.
Not to mention the Byazantine, Roman and Ottaman empires have all left their marks and ruins are scattered across the countryside in all sorts of places.
Plovdiv is also a good day or two trip just outside of Sofia, and it has the Roman ampitheater.
Sofia is…well, it’s another capital city. It has its trendy spots (downtown, Vitosha Boulevard), it’s parks and rivers and national park up at Vitosha itself…but it also has its slums and it’s dirty hovels and the gypsy subdivisions of brick-and-plywood shanties on the outskirts of town. But there’s a certain charm that comes from over 4,000 years of history, and if you get into a bottle of Rakia with the locals it can turn into a weeks-long discussion on the greatness of Bulgarians and how all cultures are inferior to the Bulgarians 🙂
Great memories coming back 🙂 Absolutely amazing place in the world.
Hey T.W. – I appreciate all of that useful information about Bulgaria! I’ll certainly use your comment as a general guide during my next visit 🙂
I commented recently about Bulgaria….I traveled there for 6 years or so and lived in Sofia for over two and a half…and aside from Mexico I find it to be one of the most affordable and comfortable places to live. I’m actually debating about heading back in another year or so after I wrap up some business stuff in Mexico, depending on a few things. Really enjoyed my time and I find myself missing it the longer I’m away.
I actually lived for much cheaper than what you describe, but it was also the difference between traveling and living there. You can rent a fully furnished apartment for 400-500 Euro per month (all utilities/Internet included) and food is only about 100 Euro per month….so if you are just covering rent/basics you can live there easily on 600ish Euro p/month…makes it very value-friendly when you can live for that cheap and yet still maintain a upper middle-class lifestyle. It’s the whole selling point of my “Live Like a Local in Sofia, Bulgaria” immersion guide, how you can live and enjoy an early retirement there for as little as 600 USD per month.
It’s also a great country for medicine and healthcare, as well as having functioning apothecaries and a medical community that is very much into natural healing and plants/herbs. And there’s plenty of hiking as well as camping in the Rhodopes and around the Black Sea…which also has the resorts if you are into them 🙂
All in all, I still rank Bulgaria as one of my top three destinations in the world.
I will always refer to my favorite country in the world as the best value. That would be Cambodia. You can get a four-star hotel in Siem Reap.. though I have never stayed at one myself. Spacious single rooms at hostels will run less than $5USD. Snorkle tour including lunch for $10. Even found free lodging staying right next to Bay of Thailand. Bus travel may be slow.. but equally inexpensive. Cambodia offers anything you want.. and price is very agreeable. People are some of the nicest you will find.
Hey Jake – Cambodia is definitely a cheap place to travel. I think in Bulgaria you would receive goods/services that are of higher quality than what you find in Southeast Asia but in terms of keeping the costs low, Cambodia is right up there for sure. And being in a country with warm, friendly people certainly does make a difference!
Laos has probably been the best value destination I have been to. Only spent around $20 per day on everything.
Hey Dean – You can’t really beat $20 per day…I wish the entire world was like that!
I can see that Bulgaria and Veliko Trnovo have impressed you. I suggest that you visit Macedonia too, especially Ohrid. I’m sure you will like what you can get for small amount of money
Hey Kiril – It’s part of my plan for the next few months! I’ll definitely make it over to Macedonia as well 🙂
I have to agree with Rocket on South Korea.
I had never in my life thought I would go there, but a university exchange presented the opportunity. I am so glad I went!
Korea is a highly developed country but still very cheap. The highest fare I paid on the Seoul metro was $1 (usually only 90 cents) for an hour long ride, and is quite possibly the nicest metro I have ever ridden. Taxis are very cheap (all have GPS and are CLEAN).
Food is inexpensive, I always ate out. Eating at a Korean restaurant sets you back $3.50 to $6 (always come with free side dishes), loads of awesome street food can be had for even less. Shopping is cheap, everywhere, and available 24/7. A lot of museums and cultural attractions are FREE or cheap.
Hostels were a bit more expensive, but the love motels are indeed a good bargain. If you want to travel ultra-cheap, you can spend the night in a ‘jjimjilbang’ (traditional Korean sauna and bathouse) for $8-$11. Very relaxing!
Drinks are not as cheap as S.E.A., but a shot of ‘Soju’ can be had for as little as 90 cents at a Korean BBQ joint. Most mixed drinks I saw were about $3.50-$4.50, a pitcher of beer (about 5-6 pints) was about $11 in pubs.
Not many tourists in Korea (they all flock to Japan/China), so even in Seoul you are sometimes looked at with curiosity (which suprised me). Koreans are the friendliest people I’ve encountered while travelling.
Just came across your website tonight for the first time and I’ve read some really good stuff on here, thanks. My top tip for good value would be Vietnam. Accommodation is good and lots of cheap / clean places to stay and eat all over. People are great and the food is to die for. Hanoi in the North is less commercialised than Saigon. Travel is cheap whether by bus, train or plane. Best regards Richard.
india is nice, but sometimes it’s hard to handle. you know, you’ve been there several times before.
i’d say definitely egypt. and i would travel there now. in fact, i just did. and the only time i felt unsafe was walking past the riot police outside the american and canadian embassies, but that’s a topic for a different day. and cairo is great- i love it. but what’s even better is siwa, where you can go sandboarding, trek in the desert, eat camel for dinner (tastes like tender beef!), explore hidden oases and chase sunsets all over town and there are only a handful of tourists and no shebeb harassing you- just small children shouting hallo at every turn.
if i haven’t sold you enough on it yet, i have some photos and a few posts on my blog from our trip there two weeks ago: https://chotapeeleeauto.blogspot.com/search/label/siwa
(and if you go, we have a friend who’s in the tourism business and can arrange for desert safaris, etc- let me know!)
Holy Moly! I Surely need to learn some Cyrillic characters when I go to Bulgaria (judging from the receipt seen on one of your photos). Speaking of the country which offers the best value, I still think it’s Thailand. Everything seems to be a lot cheaper than in its neighboring countries and you can find almost everything in Thailand.
Hey Bama – You definitely need to practice your Cyrillic but luckily, it’s not that difficult to pick up after a day or two (in terms of reading it) in a place like Bulgaria. And Thailand is definitely one of the most consistent countries in terms of offering great value for travelers. Not only is it cheap but what you get in return for your money is well above most other developing countries.
South Korea, believe it or not, is one of the best values for the money. Hotels aren’t too bad, and that is the highest expense. “Love Hotels” are great for a cheap sleep. All kinds of delicious street food can be had in every city for a dollar or two. Long taxi rides cost only a few dollars as well. You can take a bus from one side of the country to the other for $10. And it’s all comfortable, good quality, etc. The taxis are nice cars, the subways are extremely clean and efficient, the food is delicious!
There are much cheaper places, but you will probably be sharing a bathroom and showering in cold water, eating rice and beans, and plucking bed bugs and ticks off of your thighs.
Hey Rocket – That’s the thing…while there are cheaper places to travel, it doesn’t always mean those places offer a comfortable travel experience. Seems like South Korea does offer a good value for the money though and I must admit, I always assumed that South Korea would be more expensive than that. But after reading your description, I was clearly wrong! Thank you for adding your input!
Interesting how everyone says Chang Mai, never been only heard. But given my experiences traveling in the south of Thailand I wouldn’t even consider it to be a cheap destination and the value you get is sometimes questionable. I could be wrong here but it seems to me going to Thailand in say the 1970s would have been far better than today. Apologies all around for the “it was better back then” cliche.
Hey Derek – Chiang Mai is much, much different from the south of Thailand. You can really live very well in Chiang Mai for very little money. Nice studio apartments are $300/month (in the center of the city), food markets serve up dishes for 30 Baht ($1 USD), free wi-fi everywhere, transportation is cheap, drinks are cheap…and on and on. For around $600 USD per month, you can enjoy a standard of living that would cost well over $1500 per month in many other parts of the world.
as an Egyptian, getting paid in Egyptian Pounds, I can tell you the best value for my money is Egypt, wherever I go I’m paying more and getting less than what I would be getting in Egypt. But well I’ve only been to Europe…
When I compare prices of SE Asia though, through what I read, it seems pretty reasonable, almost like prices here in Egypt, some things more and some are less but I think for staying there long term it would cost almost as much as it costs in Egypt (Or a little but more, but that little bit is coz in Egypt I know how to get the cheapest prices of whatever…wouldn’t be that easy when I don’t speak the language and know the insides of the country)
Hey Mina – That does make a difference and it always helps when you know exactly how/where to get the best prices. But I think if you travel slowly you will eventually discover how to get those cheap prices as well…it just takes some time when you’re in a foreign land. And I agree that Egypt is another place that offers a great value and in my experience it is very similar to the cost of traveling in Asia, just like you mentioned. You’re making me want to go back to Egypt for another visit!
India, pretty much all of SE Asia, Philippines, Egypt (wouln’t travel there at the moment.) Mexico. There are many more, especially in central and S. America. For me , the less developed countries are more interesting, have more delicious cuisines and are, of course, more economical.
Hey Colleen – Those are all good value places as well. They are definitely cheap destinations but I think what made Bulgaria stand out was the quality of services/goods that you receive for such little money. In many other cheap destinations, you might find accommodation for just a few dollars but it probably won’t be such a good room or you might only pay $1 for a bus ride but you sit on an uncomfortable bench. In Bulgaria, everything was super-comfortable despite costing so little!
I took a ski trip in Bulgaria a few years ago and loved it. Although in regards to skiing, the resorts and food aren’t really a scratch on the French or Swiss Alps, it was about half the price. Definitely worth it!
p.s. That cake looks amazing.
Hey Gemma – That cake was amazing! And I don’t know, I’d almost prefer Bulgarian food over French food…the variety in Bulgarian food was incredible and every meal I ate was excellent. Perhaps that’s just a Veliko Tarnovo thing. I guess I’ll have to sample the food in other towns/cities before reaching a conclusion.
I think Kota Kinabalu Malaysia.15.00 a night for a hotel inside the biggest mall in Sabah.30 minutes from the best Mt. climbing river rafting and jungles of Sabah.
Hey Ken – That seems like a good value destination to me!
Definitely agree with Chiang Mai had a room w/ most amenities including desk, direct internet connection, daily cleaning, TV/cable ‘n’ hot water. About $13, and the street food and Sunday market. YUM!
India definitely has to be right up there.
I’m now in Ecuador which isn’t bad at all. The best I’ve found is at the Hostal Erupción in Baños. I paid $8 a night for a private room, queen size bed, w/ bath and it had the strongest wifi connection and hottest water I’ve had here yet. Even drinking water was included. Otherwise water’s dirt-cheap in supermarkets. Visiting world class hot springs are $2 to $4. They don’t jack prices up for tourists for most things not the Galapagos included. You can get a huge, tasty, healthy almuerzo for $2 at most markets. Comfortable bus rides cost between $1 and $2 per hour. Ecuador can provide top-notch value.
@Earthdrifter – That is much cheaper than I would have imagined for Ecuador, especially for the accommodation. And that’s good to know as I think of some future destinations 🙂
Great to hear about Bulgaria! I knew you would like it. It’s been quite some time since I went to Tsarevets- do they still charge more for foreigners? You went to a pub. Was it an Irish one owned by an Irishman and his Bulgarka wife? I read and saw on your smetka that you had Zagorka beer; it’s from my wife’s hometown of Stara Zagora and I like it as well. If you haven’t had Kamenitza yet give it a try next time you’re there. Anytime you want to talk about Bulgaria send me an email. Looking forward to your next post! Take care.
Hey Lane – I did try the Kamenitza as well…very good stuff too. That whole region of the world is quite impressive when it comes to beer! I think I went to a different pub as it was more of a Bulgarian style place and not an Irish pub. As for Tsarevets, I don’t know if there was a price difference. The price for me was 6 leva.
And I will be in touch the next time I head to Bulgaria so that you can perhaps give me a few extra tips!
Because EU regulations make price discrimination based on national origin illegal, the sights no longer charge different fees for foreigners.
Hey Earl, you’ve read my mind. I’m currently living in Norway, right at the other end of the value scale! (unless you’re earning here in Kroner of course, then everything becomes reasonable, but that’s another story…)
Anyway I’m planning the start of some serious traveling and am torn between southern Spain (surprisingly cheap to live rather than holiday) and Bulgaria/Romania. This post is helping tip the balance, especially as I’m looking at towns outside of Sofia and Bucharesti – great to see some real life example of costs. Thanks!
Hey David – I think no matter where you end up it will be a lot easier on the wallet than Norway! And if you do head towards Bulgaria/Romania, let me know as I’ll be based out of Bucharest for a while.
Egypt, particularly the Sinai, is excellent value; also Laos is wonderful; but I was amazed by how far the money went in Bulgaria, like you.
Hey Theodora – Those are great choices as well…Egypt is quite a cheap country and I think in the Sinai region you can really get a lot more for your money. Glad you found Bulgaria to be a good value destination as well!
It’s far for undiscovered, but in terms of what you get for the money, I don’t think you can beat Chiang Mai, Thailand. Not my favorite place in Thailand by far, but it’s SO cheap and the amenities are SO good. There’s a reason why it’s travel blogger land!
I would also add Spain to the list, particularly in terms of food, and especially if you go for long-term lodging. Barcelona was quite expensive, but Valencia, Granada and Sevilla were great value cities. Especially Granada with the free tapas!
Hey Kate – That is true…Chiang Mai is about as cheap as it gets for those wanting a very good standard of living. And I keep hearing about the free tapas in Granada from several people…it’s about time I get there myself and check it out!
I loved visiting Bulgaria, especially Neseber and the beautiful Black Sea. But Turkey also still offers excellent travel value. For example, you can stay in a double room in Olympos (actually a cabin) for 15 euros, including breakfast and dinner.xa
Hey Ellen – I agree that Turkey is a good value as well, although Istanbul is incredibly expensive for the region!
We found Bulgarians a little more closed than you seem to have done (though less so in VT) but otherwise agree that Bulgaria is a very attractive country. I won’t judge Bulgarians too harshly though as – looking at the country with a view to living there – we were deliberately being more critical than we normally would be. Bulgaria also had the bad luck to be visited straight after our favourite country, Egypt.
VT though is a beautiful old city and I do miss those Stratilat cakes, and a glass of rakija with my shopska salad. As for value, if you are ever thinking of settling down or buying a base between travels, the two bed new build apartment we came ‘this’ close to buying (six years ago), close to the centre (though up a very steep hill) would have cost around £24,000 (plus an extra few thousand to finish the internal fittings to our specs).
Another good value place well worth exploring is Ohrid which is a little like a combo of VT and Plovdiv beside a lake: similar architechture, a Roman amphitheatre surrounded by housing, a fortress and a lively cafe culture.
Hey Shane – Thanks for the recommendation as I had not heard of Ohrid before. And that’s quite a good deal for an apartment…I was actually looking at some of the offers in the real estate agency windows. I found a nice 3 BR house in one of the villages on the outskirts of VT (20 minute walk into town) for 15,000 Euros.
Tweet me if you do go to Ohrid. We stayed in a room rented out by a family who were the nicest people we’ve ever met on our travels. We had to sneak past their door if we wanted to eat at my favourite restaurant in the town. If they caught us they would give us food and rakija and we’d be too full to go out that night. They even waved us off at the bus station – our own families don’t do that.
Hey Shane – I will let you know for sure. That sounds like an experience I would love to have as well!
Just for the record – Ohrid is not in Bulgaria, it is in Macedonia. Not the same! 🙂
Hey Mariya – I think Shane was just pointing out another good option in the general Southeastern European region. I know that he’s aware it’s not in Bulgaria 🙂
This is awesome to hear about Bulgaria! I’m traveling through Eastern Europe this summer, and Bulgaria is one of the countries I’m most looking forward to!
Hey Amanda – Be sure to let me know when you’re in the area as I’ll be based out of Romania for another few months!
Hey, hello to everybody 🙂 I’m from Bulgaria, Pleven city. If anyone travels across Pleven can write an email. I’ll show him the city and everything, it’s not a problem at all. My name is Biser(in EN maaaaby means Dimond 😀 ) and I’m 21 yo 🙂 I’ll help anybody 🙂 Waiting here 🙂
Hey Biser – Thank you for the comment and the offer of assistance to anyone traveling to Pleven! I’m sure I’ll get there myself at some point and when I do, I shall be in touch 🙂
My vote goes to India with a close second to Thailand. This not only takes into account the cost of traveling / living but the huge value of the cultures you experience by the minute 24/7. Not that Eastern is better than Western cultures, it’s just way-different.
Hey Steve – Those are of course two great value countries, both in terms of money and cultural experiences. It just takes a little effort sometimes to find good accommodation when you’re traveling there on a budget. What surprised me about Bulgaria was that even at the budget end, the accommodation/restaurants seemed to be almost always of the highest quality (based on my experiences and the experiences of other travelers).
Could I be so bold as to say I’m finding NYC to be great value? The $29 for a week on the subway, heaps of free stuff on offer, some museums free on the first weekend of each month, the Statten Island ferry, countless free guided city walks and accomodation via Air BnB.
Did I mention all the amazing fruit carts & $1 slices of pizza?!
Hey Andrew – NYC definitely can be a great value…I like that mentioned it on here. It’s one of those places that people automatically think is prohibitively expensive but in reality, can be quite cheap once you figure things out a bit.