Your guide for a cheap and comfortable holiday in Bulgaria

User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active
Bulgaria currency

Bulgaria currency

What's the currency in Bulgaria? How to obtain Bulgarian currency? What to be aware of when exchanging currency in Bulgaria? In this article you will find everything you need to know about the Bulgarian currency, including some useful tips on how to avoid money scams during your visit to Bulgaria.

Bulgarian Lev (BGN) - currency of 'lion'

Lev (Bulgarian: Лев), abbreviated to lv (Bulgarian: лв), is the formal currency in Bulgaria. The name lev has been used since the 19th century, and it comes from an old Bulgarian word: лев, which meant: lion. Shortly after Bulgaria got liberated from the Ottoman rule, on 4 June 1880, a law was adopted and as a result the lev was introduced as an official Bulgarian currency. The first coins were minted a year later - in 1881, and the first Bulgarian banknote was issued in 1885.

After the fall of the Communist rule, Bulgaria suffered from drastic inflation. To tackle currency devaluation, the lev was pegged to the German mark since 1997, with 1000 lev equalling to 1 mark. That rate changed in 1999 when the lev was redenominated (1000 lev became 1 lev) so that 1 lev equalled to 1 mark. Since the German mark was replaced by the euro, Bulgarian lev was effectively pegged to the euro, at the fixed exchange rate: 1 euro = 1. 95583 leva.

Bulgaria currency: banknotes and coins

Bulgaria currency: the lev (plural: leva (лева)) is comprised of 100 stotinki i.e. 1 lev = 100 stotinki. Banknotes in Bulgaria are issued in denominations of 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 leva. Although text on banknotes is written in the Cyrillic alphabet, their numeric value is clearly shown. Bulgarian coins are issued in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 stotinki, 1 lev and 2 leva.

As an EU member since 1997, Bulgaria might be adopting the euro at some point in the future. However, the euro adoption has been postponed a couple of times already and there aren't any finalised plans yet.

Bulgaria currency - prices

Although some prices in Bulgaria are often published in euros, sellers are obliged to charge in Bulgarian leva (BGN), according to the new law. Prices for items below 1 lev are always presented as a fraction of a lev e.g. 0.80 lv instead of 80 stotinki.

Bulgaria currency: ways to obtain Bulgarian leva

As Bulgarian lev isn't a commonly used currency outside the country, one of the easiest and cheapest ways of obtaining Bulgarian currency is to withdraw or exchange the lev after you arrive in Bulgaria.

Bulgarian Banks

Banks in Bulgaria are open from 9 am to 4 pm on working days and can exchange all the main currencies into Bulgarian leva. The exchange rate is based on the rate issued daily by the Bulgarian National Bank. The money changing process in banks is still a bit slow and formal, compared to currency exchange offices. Take note however, that banks are usually offering better rates than exchange bureaus.

Currency exchange offices

Currency exchange bureaus are frequently at every street corner in all Bulgarian towns and cities. Although, make sure that you use a reputable exchange office, which clearly presents exchange rates on a board. Currency exchange bureaus are not allowed to charge commission for their services anymore. We wouldn't recommend exchanging money at hotels, airports or train stations, as they usually offer much worse rates than other bureaus.

ATMs in Bulgaria - the best way to obtain Bulgarian currency

The best and easiest way of getting Bulgarian currency is through an ATM withdrawal, in our opinion. ATMs in Bulgaria are commonly located in all sorts of busy places: in supermarkets, banks, city and town centres, bus stations etc. They accept most credit and debit cards, and have instructions in few languages. Just be aware, that for every withdrawal transaction, the bank in your country will usually charge you a 2.5% fee. However, if you travel often then it's worth looking around for a card with low or even no fees for foreign cash withdrawals / transactions. The maximum amount you can withdraw in one day (using one card) is usually from 200 to 400 lv.

Bulgaria currency: Credit card payments

Although most restaurants, hotels and shops should accept card payments (VISA, Master Card, American Express, and Diners Club), it's always good to have cash with you. Especially in smaller villages and rural areas, as most likely you won't be able to pay there with your card. Be aware, that some expensive hotels might charge you a 5% fee for using a credit card. That's why it's best to pay with cash for most purchases and use credit card to withdraw money and as a spare payment method.

Bulgarian currency: useful tips for visitors

  • The best ways of getting Bulgarian leva are at ATMs and banks in Bulgaria. Exchange bureaus usually offer less favourable rates, especially those located at airports, hotels or train stations;
  • The best currencies to bring with you to Bulgaria are: US dollar, euro and pound sterling. Other less common currencies (e.g. Canadian dollar) might not be exchangeable in all exchange offices, unless it's a bigger city;
  • You can bring to Bulgaria up to 8,000 leva (around 4,000 euro) or equivalent in other foreign currency, without making any declaration;
  • The best method of payment in Bulgaria is often cash. Credit card payments may incur an additional 5% fee, and typically won't be accepted in rural areas;
  • Make sure you have more than one credit/debit card with you, just in case your card gets stuck in an ATM. The process of retrieving a card from a bank takes a lot of time and patience;
  • Remember to inform your credit card provider that you'll be using your card in Bulgaria. Otherwise, your account might be frozen as a precaution;
  • Don't ever accept money exchange offers from anyone who approaches you in the street. Although, a black market doesn't exist in Bulgaria anymore and money exchange scams don't happen too often, foreigners might still be stopped by some scammers trying their luck. Just be careful and ignore such attempts.

Currency in Bulgaria- quick facts:

  • Name: Lev (short: lv);
  • Bulgarian name: Лев (short: лв);
  • Plural name: Leva = Лева;
  • Currency code: BGN;
  • Sub-unit: Stotinka (1 lev = 100 stotinki);
  • Pegged to: Euro (1 euro = 1.95583 leva);
  • Best source of leva: ATMs in Bulgaria;
  • Central Bank: Bulgarian National Park.