July 4, 2009

All Roads Lead to Paradise - Getting to Your Bulgarian Holiday Home

With Bulgaria now an EU member, more tourists feel confident straying off the beaten track in this diverse country. A popular option is renting an apartment or villa some distance away from the bustling resort cities. Well inland, south of Sofia, are some of the finest ski slopes in Eastern Europe. And the East has pockets of vineyard growth and orchards that for some are more enchanting than the Black Sea sun, sea and sand combination. It's all there, waiting for the intrepid traveller to take the road less travelled - and half the fun is getting there!

Like most of Eastern Europe, Bulgaria has a well developed rail network. But well developed means it runs on time and covers many areas - but do not expect the luxury or comfort of the EuroStar! The national rail company is Bâlgarski Dârzhavni Zheleznitsi - or BDZ for short. They have a website with timetables, but you must book tickets at the train station in person. During the holiday season tickets may be booked 20 days in advance, but in the winter this shortens to five days. It is actually possible to travel from London to Sofia by train. It is a two to three day journey if you take the EuroStar to Paris, then on to Munich, and take a train from Vienna to Sofia, passing through Belgrade - three trains in all. The Vienna to Sofia leg of the journey is the most likely the cheapest - about £140 STG for a bed in a three-person sleeper - but also the least comfortable. But the scenery, as the train rushes through the rocky Balkan heights, is a sight to behold, and the hardness of your bunk bed will be the last thing on your mind! Bring a bottle of wine or two, some snacks and settle in for a memorable 24-hour journey.

If you want to rent a car for your holiday, you might have an adventure ahead if you are accustomed to the smooth highways of Western Europe. If you choose to take your own car rather than a rental, you might find it quicker to take the ferry from Italy to Greece. At the border you will be asked to pay a small road tax - about five euro for a week. Check the dates on the sticker they give you before you leave because if they are incorrect you could be fined. There are potholes aplenty on Bulgarian roads, and the further inland you get, the rougher conditions become. Near the mountainous areas, mudslides are not uncommon. In rural villages, you might even encounter the occasional four-legged vehicle... A car might be the only option if you intend to rent an apartment in Bulgaria outside of a major tourist destination. Luckily all new road signs now have English lettering as well as Bulgarian, but some of the old ones are still in Cyrillic. If that doesn't deter you, carry an international licence and drive on the right-hand-side of the road - and don't forget that seat belts are mandatory for a good reason!

Buses are great value in Bulgaria. You can practically cross the country, travelling from Sofia to the Black Sea Coast, for under twenty euro. But they take some preparation. Most drivers will speak only Bulgarian and possibly Russian, and the destinations will be written in the Bulgarian Cyrillic alphabet. Bring a phonetic alphabet table with you (you can print these off many websites for free). The New Central Bus station in Sofia serves most major destinations. On the coastline, private bus operators constantly run up and down the coast, winding through the major resort towns, and circling back again.

There are four international airports operating in Bulgaria: Sofia, Varna, Bourgas and Plovdiv. EasyJet connects Sofia with London, Manchester, Madrid and Milan. The best value can often be found by flying to Germany and connecting there with a German airline. Internal air travel has not reached economy levels yet in Bulgaria - try Wizz Air and Bulgaria Air for some city links.

Bulgaria is a lot more diverse than some other holiday destinations when it comes to regional activities - not many countries of its size can offer skiing and adventure holidays as well as white salty beaches. Fortunately if you are willing and able to do a bit of independent travelling, you have all these options open to you!

John Gringham is the webmaster of Bulgarian holiday apartment and villa rental website Bulgaria Holiday Rental, as well as Turkey Apartment Rental aimed at the Turkish market. He has travelled extensively in the Balkans and Southern Europe.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=John_Grigham

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