Bulgaria may not be the first country that springs to mind for anyone looking for a new base in Europe. However the Balkan nation is emerging as a real hub for remote workers and there are many advantages we’ll highlight in this Bulgaria digital nomad guide. From the capital Sofia to Black Sea resorts and the mountain town of Bansko, the country has some great options.
Bulgaria Digital Nomad Guide
- Population – 7 million
- Capital – Sofia
- Language – Bulgarian
- EU – Yes
- Schengen Area – No
- Currency – Bulgarian Lev
Pros & Cons to being a Digital Nomad in Bulgaria
- Non-Schengen Nation
Bulgaria is relatively rare in that it is an EU nation but it is not yet part of the borderless Schengen Area where stays are limited to 90 days within 180 days for non-EU nationals. Therefore Bulgaria has long been a good option for non-EU digital nomads and travellers in Europe running close to their 90 day Schengen maximum who need to leave the zone by spending time in a nearby country with a different visa policy and separate set of entry requirements. It should be noted though that Bulgaria is expected to join the Schengen Area in the future, so be sure to check the rules and current status when you travel.
- Great Value
Bulgaria is a really affordable destination, ranking as one of the cheapest in Europe for both travel and living costs. Budget travellers can often get by on as little as €25/day (roughly 50 Bulgarian Lev). That makes it cheaper than Greece and comparable in expenditure to its other near neighbours with costs similar to those outlined in our Romania digital nomad guide.
Digital nomads shouldn’t have a hard time finding a cheap apartment or studio in any of the major cities on Airbnb and very few things are expensive in Bulgaria. Therefore it’s an excellent place for anyone starting out as a nomad or remote worker and not making much money, or indeed anyone who just wants to focus on saving cash for a few months.
- An Active Coworking Scene
While coworking spaces have sprung up all over Europe in recent years, the concept has rarely blown up in quite the same way as it has in some Bulgarian cities. This is linked to the overall cheapness of real estate in the country which makes it easier for people to set up coworking spaces.
That in turn leads to lower costs for remote workers looking to rent a desk or office space and these are major factors which have contributed to the growth of one of Eastern Europe’s biggest digital nomad communities. There are some great coworking spaces in Sofia catering to both local and international nomads, while Bansko is also widely regarded as a real hub for digital nomads with an array of affordable coworking options.
- Limited Transport Infrastructure
Bulgaria does have a few basic infrastructure issues that can make it a slightly frustrating place to be. The roads are rarely in good condition and are a regular source of complaint from both locals and visitors. This makes renting a car a less appealing option while bus travel takes longer than you might expect relative to the distance. There are trains but nothing even close to the high-speed services you find further west.
- Lack of Flights
It’s also a slightly isolated country in terms of a lack of flights away from the peak tourist season which sees more tourists fly into the coastal cities of Varna and Burgas. Sofia is the only other major international airport and it is the busiest in Bulgaria but has considerably less flight connections than other capitals in the region such as Bucharest, Budapest or Prague. Therefore from autumn to spring, you don’t have the array of easy options for getting away and doing trips to other European countries, particularly if you are located anywhere other than Sofia.
Remote Work Bulgaria – Where to Go
For a Growing Nomad Community & Coworking Spaces – Bansko
Few towns or cities in Europe are more synonymous with digital nomad culture than Bansko. Situated at the foot of the Pirin Mountains, this popular ski resort has turned into a real hub for nomads and remote workers with numerous coworking spaces and a real community feel. Given that feelings of isolation and even a sense of not belonging are frequently cited as being the biggest disadvantages of being a digital nomad, that is a really significant bonus.
Coworking Bansko even offer packages including accommodation, sim cards, airport transfers on top of the benefits of access to their coworking spaces. They also host a nomad festival each summer attended by 500+ digital nomads from around the world when the Bansko coworking scene really peaks.
For Big City Vibes – Sofia
Aside from Bansko, Sofia is certainly your best bet if you’re looking to find a nomad or expat community. It’s also just about the only “big city” in Bulgaria with a population of approximately 1.3 million, meaning it is almost four times bigger than Plovdiv, the country’s ancient second city (which is well worth at least a visit!).
Sofia may not be as international or even as beautiful as some other European capitals, but it’s the beating heart of Bulgaria with considerably more eating, drinking and entertainment options than anywhere else in the country. Despite being the capital, Bulgaria is still a cheap city to live in and there are some excellent affordable airbnb’s and apartments meaning you ought to easily find a nice place to stay. As a guide, costs in Sofia may be comparable to the very cheapest places to live in Greece.
For a Coastal Location & Great Beaches – Varna
If you’re looking to live on the coast to take advantage of Bulgaria’s warm summers, then Varna is a great option. It’s a very liveable city of a manageable size with lush gardens, sandy bays and a lively little centre complete with a small strip of bars, restaurants and clubs adjacent to the most central beach. It is worth noting though that the warm summer weather only really lasts from mid May through to September and at other times of the year it’s a much quieter place that isn’t spared the winter chill with temperatures frequently dropping below 0°C during the winter months.
Getting Around Bulgaria
By Train – Given the poor state of the roads, travelling by train is just about the best option for getting around Bulgaria. The four largest cities – Sofia, Varna, Burgas and Plovdiv are all on the rail network although the trains are relatively slow. It takes between two and a half to three hours to cover the 100 miles between Sofia and Plovdiv by rail. It’s a further four hours from Plovdiv to Burgas on the Black Sea Coast. You can check times and book trains on the Bulgarian Railways website. While you rarely get a table with your seat, most trains have a restaurant car which is often better for working on the go.
By Bus – Some routes are not served by rail meaning you will almost certainly need to take some buses during your time in Bulgaria. There are no direct train connections between Varna and Burgas for example with bus companies operating most of the routes along the Black Sea coast while the popular Sofia-Bansko route is also best done by bus. Etap Group and Union Ivkoni are two of the main bus companies.
By Car – Renting a car in Bulgaria is possible but it’s generally not a great idea for foreigners due to the poor state of the roads and problems you may run into.
The low cost of accommodation is one of the main draws for digital nomads and remote workers looking to move to Bulgaria for a short or long period. For the price of a small room in many western European countries, you can get a modern apartment, complete with a fully equipped kitchen and balcony. In the tourist regions for only slightly more, you can often even get access to a shared swimming pool.
For most nomads and travellers, airbnb will be the only accommodation booking service you need unless you are looking for the slightly more social experience of a hostel or want to spend a few days in a nice hotel. You can rent entire flats from around 350 Euros/month in Sofia on airbnb. Outside of peak tourist season on the coast, you can find apartments for as little 200 Euros/month and even during the summer, Bulgaria’s Black Sea resorts are possibly the cheapest beach destinations in all of Europe. If you’re on a really tight budget, there are also plenty of work exchange opportunities with Worldpackers (read our Worldpackers review for an overview of how it works).
It’s also worth noting that Bulgarian real estate is incredible value and in some places you can outright buy small apartments for 10,000 Euros or less. This can make a great little investment if you’ve always dreamed of owning a property but can’t afford to do it elsewhere. There are many companies in the more tourist-geared towns that specialise in helping foreigners buy property in Bulgaria.
Coworking Bulgaria & Other Places to Work
As mentioned previously, Bulgaria is embracing coworking, although in truth aside from Bansko and Sofia, options are a lot more limited. There are several websites you can use to find coworking spaces in Bulgaria, although a quick google map search should also suffice. APT.19 lists a number of coworking spaces in cities across the country. Here’s a nice rundown of five of the best coworking spaces in Sofia.
The ease of finding your own apartment does make working from home a little easier and more comfortable than in other countries where you may only be able to afford a room in a shared property or guesthouse. Internet speeds in private properties are generally pretty good while in a recent study Bulgaria ranked in the top ten countries in the world for mobile internet speeds.
Sofia has the biggest cafe culture and you shouldn’t struggle to find new places to work in the Bulgarian capital. Elsewhere the limited size of the cites makes things a little bit trickier but there are some nice options in the other towns, although you may struggle to find much variety.