Sofia is a relatively small city so far as European capitals go and all the main sights, hotels and attractions are clustered around the central area. This makes the city easily walkable and so about the only time you'll need to use the public transport system is on arrival or departure.
The main bus and rail stations are about a kilometre out of this central area whilst the airport is about 10 kilometres away. The bus and tram system connects these to the centre with cheap, regular services and the main interchange is at the Most Orlov (Eagle Bridge) from where everything is easily accessible.
If however you do need to use a taxi then these are cheap and plentiful and whilst Sofia taxi drivers have a bit of a historic reputation for being opportunist in recent years the main taxi firms have adopted a policy of cracking down on the rogue operators.
It is still always wise to avoid the touts who hang around the main transport termini and only to use the taxis from the official ranks or to arrange your rides through your hotel. There's no real need to negotiate prices in advance for airport or station runs as you'll find that the metered fare will more often than not be cheaper and then you can tip at your own discretion.
On my last visit I used an OK Taxi from the Central Railway Station out to the airport as I was a bit tight for time. The driver was pleasant, switched the meter on as soon as we set off and from what I could work out took the most direct route, along with the expected slaloming the traffic lanes as we left the city.
On arrival he printed out the receipt from the meter (picture #2) which shows the fare breakdown as well as the total. The first item is the 60c tax, then the kilometre distance (at 59c per Km) and finally the what I think is the stationary timing at 18c per minute which resulted in a total bill of 10.43 leva for the 30 minute, 13 Km journey. I paid him 14 which he seemed more than happy with.
Rather naively I had assumed that in Sofia, as in most cities, the rates charged by taxis in the city are fixed by the city authorities. Not so in Sofia. Some taxis in my experience can charge FIVE TIMES the going rate - and these are yellow, fully legal, metered taxis, not illegal cowboys. The going rate (Feb 2010) is around 0.60 BGN per km and 0.18 BGN per minute waiting time. A taxi belonging to a company called CK taxis (note: not OK taxis which is very similarly named) which I picked up in a hurry this morning charged 2.90 BGN per km and 0.90 per minute waiting time. Since it was metered and the rate was fully displayed in the taxi I could do nothing but pay up at the end - 35 BGN for what should have cost 7 BGN! Solution - the fare rate is displayed in the taxi on a notice fixed to the dashboard on the passenger side, so if you don't want to pay an extortionate fare ALWAYS LOOK AT THE DISPLAYED RATE and never use a taxi displayed a rate much greater than the going rate indicated above. This is particularly important if you are taking a taxi when in a hurry, or one that you have stopped on the street, or in places where you may not be expected to be paying your full attention (the one I picked up today was outtside the emergency hospital). Perhaps if no one uses these extortionate taxis they will go out of business!
This is a list of legal taxis in Sofia, the telephone numbers are written on the side of the car:
973 21 21
9 12 80
9 622 226
Take care: The fake taxis are looking similar, same color, same sign, but with small differences in the phone number. For example, if there's written 91118 (instead of 91119) you can be sure that you'll be ripped off.
You can negociate with taxi drivers about the price. Some charge for example around 20 leva from the Sofia Train Station to the Airport.
They drive pretty fast. Always use a taxi that are yellow. Some people act like taxi drivers. Always approach the cabcar that way you know you are getting to the right car taxi don't let them approach you. Some people simply approach you.
There is no taxi shortage in Bulgaria. They are literially everywhere. Most cars are old with no car conditioning. They have a meter always located on the passenger side of the car or above the radio. Some charge about .35 st (cents) to .50 st for simply getting the car. All in all not expensive by western standards. BUt if you don't speak Bulgaria, you might expect to be charged more. A helpful tip is not to speak in your native lanauge that way they will think you are bulgarian and not over charge you.
BEWARE of fake "OK taxis" !!!
Everyone recommends OK taxis as the most reliable and cheap ones in Sofia. Well, i had the chance to come across a fake one as it came out later. It looks like OK taxi, it says OK taxi but it is not. I was told that the only difference is in the phone number written on the side of the car. How am i supposed to know all phone numbers of all the taxis i have no idea. Anyway, i was charged a monstrous amount of money from the central station to the airport. I had no chance to bargain, because the guy was getting aggressive!
Also, the rates/kilometer written on the window were completely acceptable.
The taxi i got in front of the central station in Sofia. Later i was told, that is better to walk few meters down towards the Central Bus Station, where the "real" OK taxis are (because the OK company has a contract with the Bus Station)
So my advice, is think twice before getting in "OK taxi"
Hope this will help someone:)
Athens, Belgrade, Bucharest, Kaunas, Kiev, Krakow, Minsk, Moscow, Prague, Riga, Rome, Sofia, Warsaw, Zagreb.
Something all of these places have in common is no shortage of taxi drivers who see it as a divine right to rip off tourists. In Bucharest, Minsk and Moscow in particular it is utterly outrageous and if there is an honest taxi driver anywhere in these cities then I am yet to find them. Sofia isn't much better.
Some thing else each of these cities have in common is a well developed public transport system based on any of metro / tram / trolley bus. The public transport systems are simple, efficient, quick and inexpensive and provide a welcome alternative to the inevitable taxi driver rip off.
Yes taxi driver, you .. you are talking to me?
Travelling opens your mind and lets you discover so many new places, cultures, people, ....
yet there is one similarity in every country : taxi drivers
let's not elaborate but yes they are rip-offs
As I've read on VT about it we mostly took a bus or tramway, but we've heard horror stories from the few other tourists we've met in Sofia
I can confirm that we paid a very low fare thanks to Anna, our Bulgarian guide and friend escorting us.
One anecdote to defend this taxi driver as he made a U-turn to drop us off where the bus (that we've missed for a few minutes) to Rila was passing. He even made the bus stop so we could hop on -- miracles do happen every day !
Use OK taxi when in sofia and you won't be disappointed...I had the cheapest taxi ride I've ever had Saturday night in Sofia...I don't know how it could have been so little (1.68), but the driver was very happy with the tip :)
I understand that some other companies post ridiculous rates per kilometer and you can spend many times more than with OK.
Unlike other European capitals, taxis are really cheap here (USUALLY will not charge more than 0.40 lev/ 0.20 euro for km). Consequently, I never bothered with other means of public transport. USUALLY is there just to make you vigilant, as there are plenty of illegal (non-licensed) cabs usually around train/bus station, airport, hotels and other places where it is likely there will be some foreign tourists to milk.
My experience is particularly good with all "OK" (label) taxis.
You may meet some of the cabbies that don't speak a word of any foreign language. Others on the contrary would pester you with all sorts of rubbish. If you're travelling outside the city, consult (try to bargain) for a good price. You may even make it more reasonable than bus transport.
Beware, once you come out of the aiport building, you will find desprate people touting themselves as a guide or taxi driver.
For a start the cars are the type that would be non road worthy in western Europe. Im talking 70's 80's cars with rust and noisy engines.
They are also dearer than the mainstream taxis (which are also terrible cars!)
Make sure you keep an eye on the tariffs, try and negotiate the price, Not easy though, not many speak English!
My tip would be go by foot, or use the trams.
I was able to contract a taxi for my entire stay (three days) on each occasion for about 120 Euro (240 lev). They covered me 24/7. It was actually a gentleman and his two sons. They gave me a cell phone and I could call them whenever I needed. Plus, they were able to make most of my reservations for me and give me good tourist tips.
If you want to use a taxi while in Sofia there are a few things to know:
1. All taxis in Bulgaria are colored in yellow and have a "taxi" sign on the roof.
2. Most taxi drivers do not charge you accurately.
3. When taking a taxi better make sure that it is OK-supertrans one. They have big blue signes OK on the sides and a blue phone number 9732121 as well. They are the most secure and the cheapest ones. This is not bacause their fares are cheep but because you are sure to be charged 100% correctly. You can also be sure that they won't drive you the longest possible way, or drop in a small back street and rob you, or anything of the kind.
The taxi fares vary between 0,25 Bulgarian leva per km and 3,00 Bulgarian leva per km. With 0,30 to 3,00 starting fee.
The fare of OK supertrans is 0,39 during the days and 0,45 during the nights. The starting fee is 0,40.
The fixed exchange rate BGN/EURO is 1.95583 BGN for 1,00 EURO.
Taxi drivers will rip you off and you won't even know where it came from. To avoid ordeals, order taxi by phone (they are the cheapest as well). On the street flag cabs which have 1280 painted on the side. If you are not sure, ask at the hotel.
Some Bg taxi drivers are chatterboxes, but those are still the preferred ones.
Ladies, prepare to be ogled. So if you are sensitive, avoid this transportation altogether.