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Unless you're staying in one of the few five-star hotels in Bulgaria, do not expect western standards of service. In small towns you probably will be better off dealing with a family proprietor, but there you'll often struggle to find someone who speaks English. Bulgaria's star ratings are misleading; take one off from most establishments and you'll have a much better idea of what you're in for. Decor trends are firmly stuck in the last century (only a handful of hotels across the country could be described as modern boutique), and rooms generally are bare, with cheap prefab pine furniture and laminate flooring. Note that Bulgarian hotel descriptions often refer to suites as "apartments," but do not assume that this means a kitchenette or dining area. Bathrooms are usually tiny shower rooms: a large cubicle with a toilet and basin with shower overhead, sans doors or shower curtain but with a drain in the middle of the floor. If you're lucky, the toilet paper will remain dry.

On the bright side, places are almost always impeccably clean and incredibly cheap (hoteliers are no longer allowed to charge foreigners a higher price than locals). Websites worth investigating are www.hotelsbulgaria.com and www.hotels-in-bulgaria.com, though neither features opinionated reviews. If you're more interested in B&B/guesthouses/family hotels, the Bulgarian Association for Alternative Tourism (BAAT), offers a fabulous booklet with a single photograph and brief description of each entry, along with useful advice on how to plan your trip. To find out where to get a booklet, check www.baat.org. Tip: In small towns you may have problems making a booking, particularly if you want a particular room, as so few people speak English; use Surprise Tours booking service -- send your entire Bulgaria itinerary to svelte@mail.bg and all your bookings will be made for a one-time fee of 20€ ($25).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.