We assume that as you’ve arrived on our blog you are interested in visiting Sofia? Good! That’s what we like to hear! We believe Sofia is one of Europe’s great capital cities and has so much to offer guests — especially those who are maybe making their first visit to Bulgaria. But, as with any city, the better you plan your trip, the more enjoyment you will have. With years of experience providing tailor-made guided tours of Bulgaria, we have been able to observe a few mistakes made by the newly arrived tourist. With this in mind, join us as we outline a few things we believe tourists should not do when in Sofia.
Don’t Forget to Brush Up on the Language
Okay, okay, we don’t really expect you to learn Bulgarian before your visit! But remember that Bulgaria does not use the Roman alphabet and you will generally encounter Cyrillic writing during your stay. Sofia is a cosmopolitan city and you won’t struggle when using English. But we believe a little familiarity with the local language will help you connect better with your surroundings and the people you meet, and it will allow you to better delve into the culture. Recent studies suggest that learning a new language boosts your brain’s ability to function no matter at what age you begin. So, what are you waiting for? Download a language app or subscribe to a learning channel on YouTube shortly before your trip. Късмет! (Good luck!)
Remember Non-Verbal Gestures Are Also Different
Closely related to our first post, it is worth remembering that in Bulgarian, our gestures are a little different, which can cause confusion. In fact, when we say a little different, we mean the exact opposite! On your visit, you may notice that people are shaking their heads when agreeing with something and nodding their heads up and down when disagreeing. This can lead to awkward (and occasionally hilarious) consequences, but we guess you would rather avoid the confusion. In recent years more and more people have begun adopting the gestures commonly used in other countries, but our recommendation is to observe the person you are engaging with and shadow their gestures when appropriate.
Be Sensitive to the Nation’s History
The 20th century was one of the bloodiest in Europe’s history and, like many other nations, Bulgaria endured its own tragedies and hardships. At Excedo Travel, we regard exploring history to be one of the greatest pleasures of travel, but travellers should remain aware that contentious chapters in Bulgaria’s past are still recent history for many citizens — especially older people. To get the best understanding of Sofia’s history, we recommend taking a tour with a knowledgeable local who will be able to pay attention to nuance when telling the story of the city. We recommend you take a look at our Sofia walking tour if you have not already.
Keep Hydrated Drinking the City’s Legendary Waters
The public baths in Sofia have been in operation since at least the 16th century and the mineral waters drawn from natural sources below have been prized through the centuries for their restorative powers. So, keep Sofia tidy and help the planet by doing as the locals do and taking a refillable bottle to the beautiful Central Mineral Baths. And while you’re hydrating and staying healthy, you can explore the city’s splendid gardens and parks with springs at every corner.
Don’t Underestimate Sofia
Lastly: don’t underestimate Sofia. When looking at Sofia on a map, it may appear more manageable for the tourist than sprawling cities such as London or Rome, but Sofia is a city that offers up endless opportunities no matter what your interests are. We are certainly pleased when our visitors inform us that they will be exploring regions of Bulgaria beyond Sofia, but that is not to say that Sofia cannot accommodate longer trips, or that you won’t leave the city with a list of things to do when you next return (as we are sure you will). For an idea of some of the stand-out aspects of the city, have a browse of our blog on why you should visit Sofia or, for guests who will be time-limited, our list of the most famous things to see in Sofia.
As we said at the beginning of this blog, a well-planned trip makes for a more enjoyable trip. If you have any questions for us at all, or you simply want to reach out for a chat, please do not hesitate to contact us.