Avoid scam exchange bureaus in Sofia
I would like to support Jtripper's comment on those scam exchange bureaus on Vitosha Boulevard in Sofia. Please dont let the big sign of the exchange rate placed outside the bureau fooled you like it did to me.
Today I exchanged some money on Euro normal rate will be 1.95 leva and I saw big sign on the board outside the bureau which is located next to the Bank. I got tired from my trip from Rila Monastery so I didnt pay attention much. I lost about 22 % of my exchange rate. I asked her about the explanation for the rate, she just simply said it was my fault. Anyway, I told her to go to hell for praying other people for a living. I also reported it to the police who were not willing to waste their time on my case. But it is their obligation to provide assistance to people even thought I am a foreign tourist.
So please exchange at the banks which provide good rate with little commission or good exchange bureaus which show clear buying and selling rate. The bad bureau I found was located on No. 3 Vitosha street not far from Sheraton Hotel and next to the Greek Bank.
Unique Suggestions: If you are not sure if the exchange bureau can be a fraud and scam one, please ask for the amount of money for your exchange first. Do not sign anything until you read it clearly. She will try to make you signed a receipt, if everything has been done nicely and neatly please be aware that it can be a fraud. Good exchange bureau will not ask you to sign anything and just show good sized information of buying and selling rate outside their bureau.
If you are a victim of the fraud, dont expect police will help you that much. But to report the scam acts to the police can make the difference and hopefully it will be improved.
Fun Alternatives: Go for exchange bureau inside the bank only.
Pay attention to the information of exchange rate.
Count money before you leave.
If you are buying your currency, dollar, euro, etc., from the exchange bureau, be aware of fake bank notes. Please write down the number of the note, take pictures, etc. for proving in case the banknotes are fake.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Family Travel
Corupt Trafic police in Bulgaria
No Bulgarian rental company will let you, take their car into Macedonia, Serbia & Albania...
Another thing is even if you rent-a-car in those 3 countries, Bulgarian police won't let you come with rental.. They ask lots of documents and be prepared to bribe the Bulbarian police..€5 will be sufficient in your passport..
Last summer (August 2009) we rented car in Sofija, and had problems with the Police, as the rentals have particular set of numbers and letters and they are easely recognisable by the Police. So you will be harresed, stopped every time when they see your rental..
I am not trying to scare anybody, just to tell my experiance..
If the Serbian police is bad, the Bulgarian is worse...
Unique Suggestions: If you have to take rental or drive with your own car with forein plates in Bulgaria, make sure you have all nessesary documents & photocopies, in case you are stopped.
Make sure you give them copies if they ask to retain your "no good" documents, like green card, car registration and so on...
Make note of their name and badge number too....
Usualy they expect note of €5 or €10 dictreetly stashed into your passport.. If you willing to do so, than its up to you, but if you are not, than make sure you know your rights, and do call your respective Embassy if the harresmant continue..
On few ocations, when I was stopped for no reason at all, I clearly stated that I am member of EU, and that I am calling my Embassy, NOW!! If they do not let me go...
They are counting of you beeing on foreign soil, not knowing the law and just do not wanting to have any problems with the police, that is when you are most vulnerable to fall for thier scam..
Fun Alternatives: If you can travel with bus or train within Bulgaria, is cheaper and less haresmant....
If you do use car,rental or your own car, than make sure you know whats happening at any given time, and ask to see the photos of you beeing clocked for fast driving, if any, and note the date, & time.
Ask questions, lots of questions, do not let be intimidated... If they say we do not speak English, than insist to take you to the local Police station, where you can get translator.. They will not expect that, as getting all that bribe is done on the side, so the bent police officer, do not want his coleques to know what he is been up to..Related to:
- Family Travel
- Road Trip
Exchange bureaux scams Vitosha Boulevard, Sofia
Watch out for rip off exchange bureaux on Vitosha Boulevard, Sofia Bulgaria. These scam artists show just slightly inflated selling rates for £s $s Euros but it isn't clear that they are in fact selling rates.
You may think (or hope) they are displaying what would interest most tourists i.e. a good buying rates. Once inside you will probably find a list showing the buying rate somewhere but if you just hand over some currency you'll find the rate you are given is as much as 20% less than the decently run exchange bureaux around the corner. In the same day I changed some pounds at a scam rate of 1.85 Leva to the UK pound and at a reasonable rate of 2.25 leva to the UK pound at a fair operator. Be warned check the rate offered before handing over your money.
Fun Alternatives: Good places show buy and sell rates outside. In my experience many bureaux de changes operate fairly. If you don't see a buy rate and sell rate for your currency in English it is probably a rip off merchant. Always check what rate you are being given before handing over cash.
There was a lot of young children begging on the streets and it wasn't very nice to see and although you feel like you want to give them something do this at your own peril. We gave one small girl a small amount of money one day and for the next four days her and her friends would constantly harrass us every time we left our apartment. The other thing which we didn't like about these children begging was that the money then went to there parents who had obviously put them up to this, and I know for a fact that the money went to there parents as i witnessed it.
Unique Suggestions: One thing we did find which helped and didn't lead to us getting harrassed so badly was to rather than give them money we bought them an ice cream one day and bought a sweet from the shops another. therefore if the child is hungry there at least getting something and you see it first hand.Related to:
- School Holidays
- Family Travel
Language and prices
Many people speak here but it is great if you have someone who can help you and translate you.
You have to be very careful for prices because they are higher for tourists, so choose carefully what and where you buy it!
For villages on the coast here this is the 'gold' period when they can make money and be able to survive the winter!
Unique Suggestions: Be careful with taxi drivers, not to take you on a wrong place and tell him exactly where you are going and shortest way!
In the country taxis are much more expensive than in the capital. That is because of the short distances.
Fun Alternatives: If weather is nice, you can walk or hire a bike. This is good for atleast two reasons: it is healthy and you are free to go whenever you like but be careful with crazy drivers! here they do not respect cyclists and you can get seriously hurt!!!!!
You can rent also electric bikes, which are like motorbikes but no noise and smoke, plus they are much cheaper!
There are also rikshes, which are like bikes but higher, for two persons and with a roof, something between a car and a bike. :-)Related to:
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
- Family Travel
Avoid Penguin Travel. Horrible service!
We dealt with Penguin Travel and very sorry about that. Only negative recommendations. Those guys are lazy, unfriendly and try to keep every penny for themselves instead of satisfaction by reasonable profit. It means that you’ll get the cheapest available service (if any!) regardless of the quality standard or money you paid. They invest to ads and PR only and provide very nasty service.
We realized that all the following sites are actually the same Penguin Travel with several well hyped-up names: www.penguin.bg, www.penguin.dk, www.bulgariacarrent.com, www.trekkingbulgaria.com, www.cyclingbulgaria.com, www.birdwatchingbulgaria.com, www.horseridingbulgaria.com, www.ski-bg.com, www.aroundbulgaria.com
Do not deal with them. Don’t be deceived by promises or ads.
The cost of a normal 3* double room in Bulgaria is about
20-30EUR/nights on a HB. That’s for two persons of course. A bit less in Trigrad and Bansko and a bit more in Sofia. That’s without any discount, so don’t pay more than that!.
For example, Penguin’s guesthouse costs 8-9EUR/night per person (!) if you pay on place and 50EUR if you book “the hotel” in advance - you’ll get the same flophouse, just paying 42EURs more. (Mean the difference, that’s typical Penguin’s Travel hype!).
Unique Suggestions: OK, if you got there already, the only tip is:
Insist, insist and once again INSIST on what you need.
Don't afraid to shout at them! Make noise and scare away other tourists.
This is the only way which works with them.
Never believe to promises like "we'll investigate and let you know" or "please write your concern and send us". All those will never be answered! (Believe me, that's based on experience). You lose your money anyway if you deal with Penguin Travel, but if you insist you will probably get a bit more for the same lost money.
Insist NOW and request it NOW!
Fun Alternatives: Best of all, contact local hotel owners in the area you want to travel. Ask them for a guide and NEVER PAY IN ADVANCE.Related to:
- Adventure Travel
- Hiking and Walking
Package Tour Excursions
If you have travelled with a tour company they will inevitably offer optional extra excursions. Whilst these may be very worth visiting there is inevitably a hefty markup on the prices. Be aware that restaurants your tour operator takes you to are likely to be pricier since a commission deal will be operating.
Fun Alternatives: Check out the activities offered and find cheaper alternatives. It is very possible to do these yourself and save money; your hotel concierge can help arrange transport.Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Family Travel
Golden Sands - Black Sea Coast
As Bulgarian as Las Vegas . . . anyone looking for culture and/or 'Bulgaria' here: forget it.
A place adventurous souls frequenting this website ought to avoid.
Fun Alternatives: Go a bit further up the coast to Balchik, a fishing village that hasn't (yet) lost its character.
Also in Bulgaria the Taxi drivers try to cheat you.
In many countries the taxi mafia is active,
If they see a tourist they see the dollars and try to cheat you.
So don't be naiv, Get a feeling for the right price by asking other people.
Always ask for the price before you get off.
Always look what the driver does if he uses the taxameter.
If you drive by day be sure that he doesn't use the night tarif.
Be careful that the taxameter is not tuned.
Unique Suggestions: Pay and try to do better next time!
Fun Alternatives: Use public transport.Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Road Trip
Do not give money to children
Sometimes it is hard to see the poor children and not give them money.
But you don't really help them if you give them money.
Unique Suggestions: Be friendly by saying no.
Fun Alternatives: It is better support organisations.
Then you have also a more relaxed trip.
If you start to give money they tell each other and you will be followed ..Related to:
- Budget Travel
general tourist traps
just like in many countries tourists are sometimes taken advantage of..u get cheated if u don't speak the language, especially in the tourist resorts (by the seaside)
so just like everywhere, if u'r on tight budget, look around before spending money and stay away from the main streets (if u'r looking for a restaurant for example)
Muzzled but probably still dangerous
Watch out for dancing bears led down the street on a chain by ancient old men, the bear looked like it could have knocked the old fella's head off without effort and I certainly was not interested in either getting too close or watching the poor beast dance to his rubbish guitar playing. Sorry left my camera in the van that night.Related to:
- Road Trip
Police on the roads
Police on the roads. Most common trap for driving tourists. You'll never get around without a speed ticket, in fact what they want is a bribe. If they tell you had 80kmph you can't argue, can you? I had one "ticket" going to Turkey .. payed 10 dollars for allegedly over 60kmph and one one my way back for 60kmph on a 50kmph section that was in the middle of nowhere (no city or whatsoever) .. that cost me just 5 dollars :)
Not exactly Riviera....
Don't be fooled by the ladies or gents at the side of the road on the sea front, begging. You can bet they travelled miles to get there! Also, if you hire a car, don't park it along the sea front... They don't clamp you or give you a ticket! We watched, gobsmacked, as they brought in a flatbed truck, lifted a car onto the back and took it away! I'm glad I didn't have to explain that one to the other half!!
Unique Suggestions: Keep your cash as close to your person as you can! Don't take up the offers of the 'Change touts' as you walk along. They may offer you a higher exchange for you currency, but they also palm you off with some 'funny money'.
Fun Alternatives: You can go into any hotel's bank and change your money for theirs. The notes are fine, the Leva, but the coinage will make you smile, they are called 'Stinkies'!!!
Allways ask for prices...
Allways ask for prices befooore, and I stress before, you enter, do or eat anything. Often there is no price indicated, and if you don't ask people will certainly charge you too much afterwards, but then there's no turning back.
Unique Suggestions: There's no harm in asking in advance. Often you can even negotiate a reasonable price.
The Grand is a great hotel. If you are looking for a quiet setting with all the comforts you need –...more
The hotel is just across the road from Varna Cathedral, its name is Splendid and that sums it it...more
this hotel is a part of famous Turkish hotel chain "Dedeman" They have many hotels in Bulgaria...more
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