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Bulgaria Country Guide

This guide was written by Francine Carrel, Assistant Editor of Guides.Global (office@guides.global).

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 Our guides are updated as frequently as possible - typically every three years - but may be out of date.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.

The advice and opinions contained in the guides are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Guides.Global.

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Introduction

flag of bulgaria
Bulgarian Flag

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 basics

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

The geography

Capital City: Sofia (population: 1.211 million)

Area: 110,879 sq km (105 out of 252 countries in the world) lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

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.

Fresh Water: Per capita consumption: 821.8 cubic metres per capita/yr (US: 1583, France: 512; Cyprus: 164; China: 410).lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

The people

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. lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Source: countrymeters

Population growth (2016): -0.6%. (US: 0.77%; France: 0.45%; Turkey: 1.13%). lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Median age: 42

Life expectancy at Birth: 73.09

Urban population: 74% of total population lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Expat population: Around 1.75%

Religion: Eastern Orthodox 59.4%, Muslim 7.8%, other (including Catholic, Protestant, Armenian Apostolic Orthodox, and Jewish) 1.7%, none 3.7%, unspecified 27.4% (2011 est.) lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Ethnicity: Bulgarian 76.9%, Turkish 8%, Roma 4.4%, other 0.7% (including Russian, Armenian, and Vlach), other (unknown) 10% (2011 est.) lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

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. lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

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. lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Population Below Poverty Line: 20.7%

The medical system

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.

Health Expenditure: 8.4% of GDP (UK 9.1%; US: 17.9%; France: 11.6%; Turkey: 6.7%; China: 5.2%) lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Doctors: 3.87/1000 (UK 2.81; US: 2.42; France: 3.38; Turkey: 1.71; China: 1.46) lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Hospital Beds: 6.4/1000 (UK 2.9; US: 3; France: 6.6; Turkey: 2.5; China: 3.8) lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

The government

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.

The Peace Index

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. lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

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.

The Global Terrorism Index

Bulgaria is ranked 82 out of the 162 countries in the 2016 edition of the "Global Terrorism Index". A low rank/high number is good. Iraq is number 1 on the list. lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

This is another interesting snapshot, from the same people.

The Legal System

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.lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

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.lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

The Economy:

GDP (purchasing power parity ('PPP'): $133.9 billion (2015 est.) lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

GDP per capita: $19,200 Ranks 89 out of 229 listed countries. lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

GDP Growth 2015: 3%. Ranks 104 out of 221 listed countries. lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Inflation: -0.9% (2016)

Public debt: 26.7% of GDP (2015 est.) lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Unemployment: General: 10.1%; Youth 23.8%

Currency: Bulgarian Lev

Business

Bulgaria ranks 39 out of 189 on the World Bank's "Ease of doing business index". lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

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.lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Our Guides

Our guides contain (or soon will do!) a mass of information about living, working, doing business, retiring & investing in Bulgaria. Check them out here.

Acknowledgments

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.

Readers' Comments

 

Further information?

I hope you have found this guide useful. If you need any further help, please contact me.

Francine Carrel

03 January 2017


 

This guide was co-authored by John Howell (Email: John.Howell@Guides.Global or John@jhco.org. Web: www.jhco.org or www.Guides.Global)



 

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