A must-read guide before you move (2024)

1. Keep your home country’s bank account

Make sure you can access your funds online. This is handy when you need to order a money transfer into your Bulgarian account. Be mindful of potential charges for using your card abroad. In most cases, you can save on fees if you consider using Wise (former Transferwise). They offer competitive exchange rates into BGN leva.

2. Keep your mobile phone number

Consider switching to a cheaper “pay as you go” option. Remember you need this number to access your home country’s online banking. You can purchase a dual SIM phone in preparation for your second Bulgarian SIM/number.

3. Translate and legalise

Translate to Bulgarian and legalise your secondary / higher education degree or certificate of studies. Do the same with your birth and/or marriage certificates.

4. Start learning the language

Download a Languages app for your smartphone – Mondly Bulgarian for example, and start learning. Speaking even a few words in Bulgarian will help you settle in faster.

5. Sort your health insurance

Apply for the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC, GHIC in the UK) before you depart.

6. Cancel your memberships

Cancel your gym membership, as well as other subscription services. Look up your direct debits on your bank account to make sure you covered it all.

7. Budget is key

Budget for your first year abroad, assume your initial expenses would be higher, such as initial rent plus deposit, and residence card application fees. You would need some of your savings to start life in Bulgaria.

8. Means of communication

Consider downloading the Viber app, which is the Whatsapp equivalent in Bulgaria. Add important Bulgarian mobile phone numbers to it. Some businesses can be contacted on Viber too.

9. Connect on Facebook

Connect with other expats on Facebook, and explore expat communities and events. Get to know them before the move.

10. Rent your property

If you own a property, consider renting it out. If possible, maintain one address (physical location) in your home country, for example, your parents’ address. This will be your primary contact address for official communication from banks and government authorities.

11. Sort out the logistics before the move

Arrange for your possessions to be shipped to Bulgaria with a reliable relocation company. Consider taking contents insurance. Order your cardboard boxes, wrapping paper, and adhesive tape.

12. Why sell your car?

List your car on a popular used cars website, and be prepared to drop the price as you get closer to the day of your move. Bulgarians drive their cars on the right side of the road and the driver’s wheel is on the left. Cars imported from the UK for example are much more difficult to register with the Traffic Police.

13. Check, check, check

Check the validity period of your ID document, passport, driving license, and payment cards. If they are due to expire within the next 6 months make sure you reapply for new ones before departure.

14. Let your GP know you are moving abroad

Try to get a copy of your medical history, vaccination history for kids is also important. Make sure you are up to date with all planned vaccinations and medical checks, at least those that are due every year.

15. “Try before you buy”

Go on holiday to Bulgaria before you commit long-term. Essentially you need to get first-hand experience of what life is in Bulgaria. See the area you want to move to with your own eyes. Talk to expats already living in the neighborhood.