The Bulgarian national monetary unit is the Lev (BGL), divided into 100 stotinki. On July 5th, 1999, the Lev was re-denominated at a rate of 1,000 old Leva to one new Lev. Banknotes of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 leva are in common circulation. Coins are minted in values of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 stotinki. At the present rate of exchange (June 1st, 2003), 1 USD is approximately equal to 1.75 BGL. Exchange facilities at daily rates are in operation at the airport, at the exchange desks of different banks and in many of the hotels.
All banknotes feature advanced protective measures such as transparent register ornament, watermark, micro text, security thread, holographic anti-copy element, and a relief designation for blind people..
Beginning September 2nd, 2002, the Bulgarian National Bank issued a 1 Lev coin. It is believed the coin will gradually phase out the 1 Lev banknote that is currently in circulation. The new coin differs in that it is two-tone and the obverse features an effigy of St. Ivan Rilski. The obverse of other coins features the Madara Horseman – a VIII century bas-relief hewn in the sheer face of a rock 25 meters above the ground near the town of Shoumen – and the text “Bulgaria” inscribed in circumference above it. The reverse value side of the 1 Lev coin features the numeral “1”, the text “Lev”, the year of issue – 2002 – and a graphical pattern of two crossing lines, while the main design on the reverse of the other coins features the figure of the denomination and the year of issue – 1999. The text “stotinki” is inscribed underneath, and the twelve five-pointed stars – the symbol of the European Union – are inscribed in circumference above it. All text is in Cyrillic.
There are several change desks at the Sofia Airport and you will find numerous legitimate change bureaus in any Bulgarian town that will not charge a commission. Working hours of the banks: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday to Friday, closed on national holidays. If you bring foreign currency from home into Bulgaria, be certain it is clean and untorn, and without any damages. No store, bank or change bureau will accept mutilated, torn or excessively dirty foreign currency. Currency exchange offices throughout the city are open until 5 – 6 p.m., some working 24 hours a day.Additional Information
Bulgarian National Holidays are as follows:
- New Year’s Day is celebrated on January 1
- National Day (Liberation from the Turks) is celebrated on March 3
- Easter (not on the same day as in Western Europe – usually a week later; according to the East Orthodox Calendar) – usually 3 days in a row
- St George’s Day – May 6th
- Sts. Cyril and Methodius Day is celebrated on May 24 (also Education and Culture Day, Day of the Slavonic Literacy)
- Christmas is observed on December 25
Banks will almost always charge a commission. Bulgaria is a very safe country to visit; but you must use common sense and always try to be on the safe side.
The “yellow coins” (1, 2 and 5 stotinki) are generally scorned by the Bulgarian people, and if you are not careful, at the end of a day shopping, you can find yourself weighted down by excessive coins. Do not be afraid to use the coins to pay for an individual coffee, a candy bar or a pack of chewing gum. Practically every bank in the city has an ATM machine in the lobby.
Western Union operates in Bulgaria and is a very efficient way to get cash from your countries. Almost each Bulgarian bank has either Western Union or MoneyGram representatives.
Credit cards – American Express, Diners Club, BankAmericard, Visa, Access, Euro card, MasterCard and Carte Blanche, among others, are accepted in Bulgaria. Many times (but NOT ALL and everywhere) they can be used for the payment of standard services: hotel accommodation, restaurants, nightspots, shopping, car rentals, plane tickets, etc. Taxis do not normally accept credit cards.