The biggest challenge for new visitors is not just an unfamiliar language but also a new alphabet. When trying to find your way around the cities, make sure you have a good map and a Cyrillic decoder. If you get lost, seek advice or directions from the youngest, hippest looking person on the street; older citizens tend to speak no English and asking if they do usually affronts. You will find yourself a little more lost outside main centers where English speakers are rare. However, this is more than compensated by sincere friendliness, and rural folk will usually make a real effort to assist in any way they can. Speaking even just a few phrases of Bulgarian can thaw a strained atmosphere or -- outside the city -- have you seated and trying out a bowl of homemade bean soup with your delighted host. Here are a few phrases to help you on your way. Words, when written with Latin alphabet, are done so phonetically to aid pronunciation, but make for variations in spelling, even in place names (for example, Triavna = Tryavna).

When Yes Means No & No Means Yes -- It's worth noting that traditionally Bulgarians shake their heads from side to side when saying yes (da), and nod when saying no (ne). This quirky characteristic is dying out, but definitely worth knowing when asking, or answering, a question in rural areas.

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.