Bulgaria is still largely a cash economy. Due to the potential for fraud and other criminal activity, credit cards should be used sparingly and with extreme caution. Skimming devices, surreptitiously attached to ATMs by criminals, are used to capture cards and PINs for later criminal use, including unauthorized charges or withdrawals, and are common in Bulgaria. If you choose to use credit cards, we recommend you use ATMs located in banks or malls as opposed to the more vulnerable locations on the street. You should check your account status regularly to ensure its integrity. In connection with such scams, be extremely wary of friendly bystanders near ATMs who offer assistance. Any time a card is not returned, you should immediately report the card as lost/stolen to the card-issuing company.
You may exchange cash at banks or Exchange Bureaus, but should know that Exchange Bureaus sometimes post misleading rate quotations that confuse travelers. People on the street who offer high rates of exchange are usually con artists intent on swindling unwary travelers. Damaged or very worn U.S. dollar bank notes are often not accepted at banks or exchange bureaus. Major branches of the following Bulgarian banks will cash travelers’ checks on the spot for Leva, the Bulgarian currency, or another desired currency: Unicredit Bulbank, Bulgarian Postbank, First Investment Bank, and United Bulgarian Bank (UBB). UBB also serves as a Western Union agent and provides direct transfer of money. There are also many Western Union branches in major towns and cities. Most shops, hotels, and restaurants, with the exception of the major hotels, do not accept travelers’ checks or credit cards. Only some local banks can cash U.S. Treasury checks and the payee may need to wait up to a month to receive funds.
Corruption remains an important concern of the Bulgarian government. The Commission for Coordinating of the Activity for Combating Corruption manages the efforts of each government agency’s internal inspectorate in fighting public corruption and engages in public awareness campaigns. Complaints of public corruption can be made by mail to the Ministry of Finance, 2A Knyaz Dondukov Blvd., 1055 Sofia, Bulgaria and 1 Slavyanska St., 1000 Sofia, 359 2 987 06 97; or to the Ministry of Finance by phone at 080018018. For more information, visit the Ministry of Justice website.
If you are planning to import an automobile to Bulgaria, be aware that customs duties on personal automobiles can be high.