Getting There -- With no stops, Veliko Tarnovo is a 2 1/2-hour drive by car from Sofia. It is not economical to travel by train as there is no direct line to the central station (trains from Sofia and Varna pull into Gorna Oryahovitsa, 13km/8 miles north of Veliko Tarnovo, where scheduled trains then connect you to the city, an unwieldy arrangement). By contrast traveling to Veliko Tarnovo by bus is fast, convenient, and inexpensive. From Sofia the journey takes no more than 3 hours, costs 11lev ($8.90/£5.50) one-way (an additional 11lev/$8.90/£5.50 onward to Varna), with buses departing, on average, every 2 hours. Private buses from Sofia and Varna, including those belonging to highly efficient ETAP, pull in at the centrally located tower-block Hotel Etar on Ivailo Street (no matter how convenient the location, do not be tempted to overnight in these overpriced rooms). Buses also arrive here from Plovdiv, a 4-hour journey (13lev/$11/£6.80).
Getting Around -- The main sites are centered in the old part, which is tiny. In fact, the entire city is so small that you can drive from side to side in about 15 minutes. To get to nearby Arbanassi, order a taxi (5lev/$4.05/£2.50). You can get to Tryavna very easily by bus from the Zapad Bus Terminal, 4km (2 1/2 miles) west of the center; the journey takes around 2 hours. For the other recommended day trips it's best to rent a car. The Tourism Information Centre can arrange one for 35lev ($28/£17) a day. Bus travel to these destinations is complicated, involving two to three changes with drivers who don't speak English. If you're up for this, speak to the tourism officials for bus schedule details.
Visitor Information -- Veliko Tarnovo has a reasonably helpful Tourism Information Centre, with an English-speaking staff that not only dispenses brochures (including the free city guide; www.veliko-tarnovo.net) but can, if pressed, provide reasonably qualitative advice on where to stay and dine. Be sure also to pick up a copy of The Frontier Times. The center is conveniently located just behind the bus terminal, at Hristo Botev Street (tel. 062/622148; www.velikoturnovo.info; Mon-Sat 9am-6pm Apr-Sept, Oct-Mar closed Sat).