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Odessa

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European Information

This tour visits the following countries. Please select one to view its details.

| Bulgaria | Georgia | Russia | Turkey | Ukraine |

Bulgaria
To see our current selection of tours in Bulgaria click here.
Climate
Introduction
The climate in Bulgaria varies according to altitude. Summers are warmest with some rainfall, with the south feeling the influence of the Mediterranean. The best months to visit are mid-June to September when the days are long and sunny. Winters are cold with†good snowfall in the†mountains. January†is the best month†for skiing in Bulgaria.†It rains frequently during spring and autumn.
Required Clothing
Mediumweights most of the year; warmer outdoor wear necessary in winter.

Key Facts
Location
Southeastern Europe.
Area
110,994 sq km (42,855 sq miles).
Population
7,300,000 (2011).
Population Density
65.8 per sq km.
Capital
Sofia.
Government
Democratic Republic since 1990.
Geography
Bulgaria is situated in Eastern Europe and bordered to the north by the River Danube and Romania, to the east by the Black Sea, to the south by Turkey and Greece and to the west by Serbia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The Balkan Mountains cross the country reaching to the edge of the Black Sea and its golden beaches. The land is heavily cultivated, covered with forests and crossed by rivers. Although Bulgaria lies in the very southeast corner of Europe, the climate is never extreme in summer, even on the red-earthed plains of Southern Thrace. The Black Sea resorts have some of the largest beaches in Europe and offer sunbathing from May until October, while in winter heavy falls of snow are virtually guaranteed in the mountain ski resorts.
Language
Bulgarian is the official language and the Cyrillic alphabet is used - Bulgaria is the only EU nation to use it. Turkish and Macedonian are amongst the minority languages. English, German, French and Russian are spoken in major tourist resorts and hotels.
Religion
The majority of the population are Christian, the main denomination being Bulgarian Orthodox Church with a membership of 83% of the population. Eastern Orthodox Christianity is considered to be the traditional religion in Bulgaria. There is also a significant Muslim minority (13%) and a small Jewish community.
Time
GMT + 2 (GMT + 3 from last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October).
Social Conventions
Normal courtesies should be observed and handshaking is the normal form of greeting. Dress should be conservative but casual. If invited to the home, a small souvenir from one's homeland is an acceptable gift, and something for their children is always welcome. Do not give money. Remember that a nod of the head means 'No' and a shake means 'Yes'. Smoking: Bulgarian restaurants, cafťs and nightclubs have zones for smokers and non-smokers. There is no smoking in public places.
Electricity
220 volts AC, 50Hz. Plugs are two-pin.
Head of Government
(Acting) Prime Minister Marin Raykov since 2013.
Head of State
President Rosen Plevneliev since 2012.
Recent History
The centre-right GERB party, led by Boiko Borisov, won the latest election in summer 2009.†Voters punished the Socialist-led governing coalition of Sergei Stanishev for failing to crack down on corruption and organised crime. Mr Borisov†has promised to jail corrupt officials and mafia bosses and pull the country out of its worst economic downturn in years.†President Georgi Parvanov won a second term in the October 2006 presidential elections. His role is mainly ceremonial.

Money
Currency
Lev (BGN; symbol –Ľ–≤) = 100 stotinki. Notes are in denominations of –Ľ–≤100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1. Coins are in denominations of –Ľ–≤1 and 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 stotinki. Note: (a) The Lev is tied to the Euro at a fixed rate; Ä1 = –Ľ–≤1.955. (b) Notes dated 1997 and earlier are now out of circulation.
Currency Exchange
Visitors are advised to exchange money at banks, at large hotels and at independent currency exchange offices, where the rates are clearly displayed. Travellers should not be tempted by a 'better rate' offered at unofficial sources on the street. It is illegal for commission to be charged when changing money at official offices. No store, bank or bureau de change will accept mutilated, torn or excessively dirty foreign currency.
Credit/Debit Cards and ATMs
American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa are accepted in large cities, in larger hotels and car hire offices, and in some restaurants and shops, mainly in Sofia. However, Bulgaria is still a country that operates mainly on cash.
Traveller's Cheques
Accepted in major hotels and restaurants, although cash is far more common. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in US Dollars, Pounds Sterling or Euros.
Currency Restrictions
The import and export of local currency is prohibited. The import of foreign currency is unlimited, provided it is declared on arrival. The export of foreign currency is limited to the amount declared upon arrival.
Banking Hours
Mon-Fri 0900-1600.
Exchange Rate Indicators
1.00 GBP = 2.34 BGN 1.00 USD = 1.44 BGN 1.00 EUR = 1.96 BGN 1.00 CAD = 1.35 BGN Currency conversion rates as of 12 December 2013

Overview
Bulgaria's spectacular mountains, swathe of golden beaches and vibrant cities have begun attracting hordes of eager-eyed tourists over the past few years - a dramatic change to how the country was a mere 10 years ago. In fact, Bulgaria has been through mammoth changes in the last few years, with many of the cities and resorts undergoing construction booms galore, tempting buyers from Western Europe with relatively cheap property and stunning landscapes. Bulgaria's beautiful beach and ski resorts are expanding quickly as a result and have lured visitors away from more expensive European destinations with low-priced lift passes and accommodation options. The main cities have shrugged off their weary Communist-era image and have become vibrant and attractive, with well-kept boulevards, varied shopping and lively nightlife. In contrast, many towns and villages have preserved the authentic Bulgarian spirit and hospitality and the country is especially proud of its rich folklore traditions.



From www.worldtravelguide.net copyright Columbus Travel Publishing Ltd, December 2013.

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