This guide was written by Francine Carrel, Assistant Editor of Guides.Global (email@example.com).
It was written on 03 January 2017. The law and practice in Bulgaria change all the time. Our guides are updated as frequently as possible - typically every three years - but may be out of date.
Our guides are prepared by professionals from many countries. They are, of necessity, both brief and general and can take no account of your personal circumstances. They are intended to be a good introduction to the subject BUT ARE NO SUBSTITUTE FOR PROPER PROFESSIONAL ADVICE, which our contributors will usually be happy to provide upon request.
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Bulgaria does not have a large percentage of foreign-born residents - in fact, it's one of the lowest in the EU (see below).
Those expats who have found their way to Bulgaria, though, find choices to suit most lifestyles. Some prefer the cosmopolitan Sofia, while many foreigners take advantage of the beautiful countryside or beachside resorts (although the latter is more popular with holiday home owners than foreign residents).
Bulgaria is not the easiest choice as an expat. Though it has stabilised politically since it joined the European Union, the country still suffers from high unemployment. This does mean, though, that the Bulgarian government is keen to encourage new business and job creators.
Another challenge for foreigners is the language: the Cyrillic alphabet can be daunting to those used to Roman letters, and yet it's vital to integration to know at least a little Bulgarian.
The Country: Bulgaria (България)
The Nationality: (български)
The People: Bulgarian (българин)
Languages: Bulgarian (български език )
Time Zone: UTC+02:00
Currency: Bulgarian lev (лв)
Currency Code: BGN
ISO International Country Code: BGR
Internet Domain: .bg
Telephone Dialling Code: +359
Capital City: Sofia (population: 1.211 million)
Coastline: 378 km
Terrain: Perhaps surprisingly for a modestly sized country, Bulgaria boasts a huge range of geographical variety. Depending on where you go, you'll find plains, valleys, mountains or gentle coastline.
Climate: Depends, to an extent, where you are in the country: but all of Bulgaria has distinct seasons, with cold winters and warm summers. See our Climate Guide for Bulgaria for more information.
Population: 7,144,653 (July 2016 est. - 102 out of 252 countries in the world). Bulgaria has a rapidly shrinking population - it's down from nearly 9million in the late 80s. This is largely due to mass migration, as vast numbers of young Bulgarians move to Western Europe for economic reasons. Bulgaria and Latvia are the only countries in the world that have a smaller population today than they did in 1950.
Median age: 42
Life expectancy at Birth: 73.09
Expat population: Around 1.75%
UN Human Development Index: 59 of 188 countries. This index attempts to measure a country's achievements in education, healthcare, wealth generation and a number of other areas. In effect, it looks at the extent to which the people in a country enjoy a long and healthy life, a good education and a decent standard of living. It is a very useful indicator of what a country will be like as a place to live.
UN Inequality Adjusted Human Development Index: 59 of 188 countries. This index is a list measuring the lost development potential arising from all types of inequality in a country. With perfect equality this index and the HDI would show the same result.
Population Below Poverty Line: 20.7%
Bulgaria's universal healthcare system is still in the midst of a decades-long overhaul - the structure it maintained from its communist days was in dire need of updating. Since 1999, reforms have led to mandatory contributions from employers and employees and diminishing state support.
Individual regions have more control over their healthcare than they used to. This does mean that the quality of healthcare can vary massively depending on where in Bulgaria you're seeking treatment.
Bulgaria is a democratic republic with multiple parties. The government is headed by a prime minister, but the country also has a president who is active in diplomatic decisions. Bulgaria is split into 28 provinces, each with a provincial governor.
All Bulgarian citizens over 18 years old can vote in elections.
Bulgaria is ranked 29 out of 163 countries included in the 2016 edition of the Vision of Humanity "Peace Index". This is ahead of Romania and Latvia but behind Croatia and Spain. Iceland comes first. Syria comes last.
The methodology used to make this index may be open to some debate but it is a good snapshot of criminality, conflict, political attitudes and military expenditure.
This is another interesting snapshot, from the same people.
Bulgaria is ranked a middling 53 out of 113 countries included in the 2016 edition of the World Justice Project's "Rule of Law Index" (with 1 being the best). It places right at the bottom of the region, though, at 24/24.
Bulgaria also scores modestly on Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index. Bulgaria is ranked 69 out of 168 countries included in the 2015 edition of the index. They scored similarly to Turkey and Jamaica. Denmark is top. Somalia and North Korea are bottom.
Inflation: -0.9% (2016)
Unemployment: General: 10.1%; Youth 23.8%
Currency: Bulgarian Lev
As already mentioned, Bulgaria scores modestly on Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index. Bulgaria is ranked 69 out of 168 countries included in the 2015 edition of the index. They scored similarly to Turkey and Jamaica. Denmark is top. Somalia and North Korea are bottom.
Our guides contain (or soon will do!) a mass of information about living, working, doing business, retiring & investing in Bulgaria. Check them out here.
When preparing this factsheet we made extensive use of:
In addition we would like to thank our colleagues, contributors and readers for their invaluable input.
I hope you have found this guide useful. If you need any further help, please contact me.Francine Carrel 03 January 2017
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