Bulgaria is a fascinating country with thousands of years of history and so much to see and do. If you’re looking for an off the beaten path destination, Bulgaria fits the bill to a T. It may not be the first place to come to mind when most people think “European vacation” but in my opinion, it should be. And Turkey…Turkey is magnificent. I can’t wait to go back and have more time to really get to know Istanbul, the entire country and the people. Part European, part Middle Eastern – this country has so much to offer. See these countries together, or separate, but do yourself a favor and see them both.
I don’t have a cost analysis for you on these countries because I use a different card now and paid for much of the trip in cash and didn’t keep track. But both places are very affordable compared to the US and western Europe.
Target Audience –
As always, these recommendations are based on my opinions and experiences in these countries. It by no means is meant to exclude anyone – simply give you an idea if you might be interested in visiting these places or not. Or maybe allow you to prioritize where you want to go, if you’re lucky to be able to travel frequently.
- Bulgaria – Anyone looking for an off the beaten path European destination that provides a bit more of a challenge than western Europe, but with great rewards. Maybe the thought of hoards of people at the Eiffel Tower gives you sweats, or $10 for a gelato in Rome just doesn’t interest you (confession: I’ve never been to Italy or France and I’m certainly not trying to discourage anyone from visiting these places!) Costs in Bulgaria are quite a bit lower, crowds are much smaller but you still know you’re in Europe with cafes lining the streets and familiar styles of architecture.
- Varna – In the summertime, Varna is a great place to spend time relaxing on the beach and is a popular tourist destination for Europeans.
- Plovdiv, Perperikon, Veliko Tarnovo – Love ancient Greek ruins? Or just ancient ruins in general? These 3 cities have plenty to see, from different time periods throughout Bulgaria’s loooong history.
- Nessebar – If you like Cape Cod but want something a little different, Nessebar fits the bill.
- Turkey – History, culture, food. Turkey has it all. I truly believe everyone would enjoy Istanbul. There is so much to see and do, the people are so friendly, and I really just can’t recommend this place enough. Can I go back yet?
General Information –
Some tips and tricks I picked up on my trip that might help you out (yay for alliteration!)!
- Head shaking and nodding for yes and no is the opposite as everywhere else. You nod your head up and down for no and shake it back and forth for yes. This is very confusing and I never quite got the hang of it, but usually everyone will take your words for your meaning and ignore your head movements.
- English is widely spoken in the larger cities, but in the smaller ones, it’s helpful to have a few words to help you get around (Da = yes; Ne [nay] = no).
- The buses (avtogara = bus station) are the way to get around this country. The trains are fine and a bit cheaper, but the buses are much more comfortable, usually have free wifi, and depending on the length of the trip, sometimes serve food and beverages for purchase. Plus, they give you much more flexibility than the trains.
- Fall is a great time to visit as there are still plenty of warm days, but the crowds are far less. In fact, many times, I had a place all to myself. However, many of the towns along the Black Sea would be great beach vacations in the summer. Expect there to be more crowds and higher prices.
- Traffic can be REALLY bad in Istanbul during rush hour. Make sure to leave yourself plenty of time to get around if you need to be in a car during these times. Or better yet, take public transportation. The train hits most of the tourist destinations, and is quick and easy to use.
- Istanbul is very clean and safe and the people are incredibly friendly. If you find yourself lost, looking at a map, it won’t be long before someone walks up to you and offers to help.
- If you can, look at that map before you visit any country. It will help you familiarize yourself with the place so you don’t end up riding a ferry back and forth 3 times, trying to figure out where the hell you are going.
Links to all my posts on Bulgaria and Turkey!
Walking Tour of Sofia
The Rila Monastery
European Charm in Plovdiv
Thracian Ruins of Perperikon
Varn on the Black Sea
Nessebar – The Pearl of the Black Sea
The Bazaars of Istanbul
The Hagia Sophia
The Blue Mosque and Topkapi Harem
Misadventures in Asian Istanbul
The Tsarevets of Veliko Tarnovo