18 Jan Sofia Through the Eyes of a Brit
We always enjoy it, when someone shares a different point of view with us. Naturally, we had lovely time with Nick – a charismatic Englishman, with more than a decade of experience in Bulgaria. Over a cup of coffee, he helped us pinpoint some cultural differences that foreigners might face in Bulgaria. He also gave out a few tips for newcomers. Nick strikes as a clean-cut guy. So, we weren’t surprised when he summarized his experience in two neat categories:
Over the past few years, the restaurants have improved dramatically. There are also some great new bars selling craft beer. In some areas, Sofia looks a bit aesthetically underwhelming. But once you see past this, it’s a great city with some amazing history and culture.
Sofia is easy on the pocket and money goes much further than in many Western European countries. It’s not quite the bargain as it once was, which is probably a good thing as it keeps some of the cheapskates out of the country (referring to the crowd that is just coming here looking for a cheap place to live, but not really helping the economy).
The hotel prices are very reasonable. Even better deal can be had by renting an apartment for a few weeks, whilst looking for accommodation. A really nice one-bedroom apartment can be as cheap as €40 per night, with better deals if rented by the month.
It’s a very safe place to live. There are far fewer muggings and instances of street crime than in Western Europe.
It’s surrounded by mountains, so during the summer you can hike the foothills and up through the forests around Vitosha. During the winter, you can ski up there too. There are hardly any other large European cities with a ski resort just 30 minutes away. Two other excellent ski resorts, Bansko and Borovets, are about a two–hour drive away.
The main city is basically in a smallish area and everything in the centre is easily accessible on foot.
Customer service needs a great deal of improvement in certain areas, yet things are looking up. Sometimes, staff in restaurants, bars, and shops are misconceived as rude. But they are simply taking their jobs seriously and don’t tend to smile too much.
Cab drivers are mostly alright, although you might occasionally get mistreated or overcharged. The first time you’ll run into the latter, will probably be at the airport “Arrivals” area. No doubt there will be a guy fishing for customer to charge at a lot higher prices than the official cabs just outside. It is quite amazing how government officials have been neglecting the issue for years.
In order to avoid getting scammed, our advice is to check with your cabbie for an approximate price of the fare to your desired destination. Use this blog post for reference.
If you ask a taxi driver to give you a short-distance lift, don’t be surprised if he refuses or asks you for a fare that is double the going rate.
The pavements are still in need of repair in many areas, but are gradually improving.
You have to be wary of professional pickpocketers, in some areas. They often work where big groups of people gather, like malls, public transportation, etc.
Drivers often don’t stop at pedestrian crossings.
Indeed, there may be some work ahead, if we want the city to become the great multicultural capital that we are convinced it is destined to be. We certainly need to address some important issues, both by personal example and as a society. Be that as it may, we believe in the Scottish proverb: “Hard work never killed a man”. It’s a great feeling to know that Sofia is on the right track.
What were your first impressions of Sofia? Please share in the comment box below.