It is absolutely essential to either learn (memorize!) the Cyrillic alphabet or to carry a copy of it with you at all times.
All street signs are in Bulgarian only, all place names are in Bulgarian only, all bus destinations are in Bulgarian only.
To use a map you must be able to transliterate the street signs.
To understand what you are looking at, or the name of the building, or what is in it, you must be able to transliterate the signs... The Cyrillic alphabet is available in a number of places:
1. For a card sized transliteration that you can easily Copy & Paste to carry with you go to:
2. There is a copy with pronunciation help in the Sofia In Your Pocket on line (.pdf)
In Your Pocket
3. I found that the same was available in my Rough Guide, which was invaluable in many ways.
It is a bit unfair but prices for foreigners are much higher than prices for locals. And since most of you can’t pass for locals, you’ll have to pay the price. Accommodation prices are basically double the prices for BGs. Food and drink prices should be the same for local and foreigners, but watch the bill for uncalled for charges.
If you get overcharged, you have few options – discuss with the staff (but don’t argue, you can’t win), subtract the difference from the TIP (see TIPPING in Local Customs)… or just pay it. ;-/
Generally, cash is the preferred means of payment everywhere. It is also the safest in a way that you don’t leave paper trail behind you for someone else to abuse.
You can use the ATMs to withdraw cash. Check your bank account has the MAESTRO or CIRRUS signs on the back (which means you can use them in BG). You can also withdraw cash with your credit card if this service is made available to you by the issuing company.
Credit cards could be used in some establishments, but not very widely… and nowhere near as widely as in the US.
Personal Cheques and Travellers cheques are not widely accepted, if at all… and personally we do not have any experience, so don’t know what to advise you.
Birthdays & Namedays
Birthday: ×åñòèò Ðîæäåí Äåí! (Chest-it Rozh-den Den) = Happy Birthday!
It is customary to buy flowers for the women on occasions such as birthdays. If you see the mother of the birthday person, you should bring some flowers for her, too. It does not have to be anything fancy -- even a stalk will be enough -- it's the gesture that matters.
Birthday cards should carry a wish - usually for long life, health, love, happiness, prosperity.
Office parties may turn into drinking feasts, so be prepared.
Nameday: ×åñòèò Èìåí Äåí! - (Chest-it Ee-men den) - Happy Nameday!
Usually, the day of the saint whose name you carry, but there are also other, more pagan, holidays. It is customary to verbally acknowledge the fact. No gifts are necessary, unless you are invited to a special celebration.
Some links are obvious -- Georges and Gerganas celebrate on St George Day; Ivans and Ivanas on St John; but others not so much -- all names, which mean flowers (Ruzha, Tsvetelina, Rosa), celebrate on the pagan Tsvetnitsa (literally, Flower day).
Some of the other Local Customs tips indicate which names go with each festival.
This little church from the 13th century in on Unesco's Heritage list. It's interior is decorated with beautiful murals which date bach as far as 1259. You'll only be allowed into the church with a guide who is definitely quite informative.
Admission for foreigners is 10 Leva.
Opening times: 9am-5pm, Tuesday-Sunday
Minibus No.21 (thanks to VTer Boyan18 for this info) is going from the centre of Sofia to Boyana.
When you get right infront of the main entrance of Alexander Nevski Cathedral
look to your left hand side and you can not miss it.
If you are a lace fan or you want to make a present to your gandma this is the place for you. You will find piles of hand made lace and table cloths hanging around.
The ladies who sell the lace are keep making new ones at the same time.
Here is a bit of advise from me: try to go there with a Bulgarian because otherwise you are risking to pay a higher price :) Lace :))) well, prices range between 10 and 200 leva (EUR 5 to 100) depending on the size and the quality.