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Bulgaria: Experts say tourism is booming thanks to cheap beer and friendly locals

Locals enjoy drinks in Sofia, Bulgaria
Locals enjoy drinks in Sofia, Bulgaria Copyright Fred Moon/Unsplash
Copyright Fred Moon/Unsplash
By Ruth Wright with AP
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Plus the Bulgarian Minister of Tourism's top recommendation for tourists.

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Bulgaria is seeing a near return to normal after the pandemic.

By the end of the year, visitor numbers are projected to reach 75% of 2019's figures, which was a peak for the sector, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.

The main bulk of foreign tourists are from Romania, Poland, Germany, the Czech Republic and the UK.

The council expects the industry to create 17,500 jobs this year, reaching over 287,000 in total.

“If we compare [Bulgaria's visitor numbers] to Greece's 30 million, we have one-third of its visitors - the world-famous destination Greece, which is incomparable with us. It really means we are doing very well, given our size and capacity,” says Rumen Draganov, director, Institute for Analysis and Assessment in Tourism.

Bulgaria: Where beer costs less than a euro

Draganov says visitors to Sofia, Bulgaria's capital, "are surprised by what they see. Unlike in the big European cities, where you can meet people of all nationalities, in Sofia, the people on the streets are mostly locals, and most are very friendly," he says.

It's easier to meet and mix with locals, unlike in bigger, more cosmopolitan cities.

"You can easily find company in a park in Sofia and spend a great evening sitting in the park in front of the National Theatre with a two-litre bottle of beer that will cost you less than €1 ($1). Bulgaria is a country where you can have fun and a good life - hopefully, we don't lose it."

Tourists enjoy free walking tours of Sofia

Tourist guides in Sofia are busy thanks to the influx of tourists.

Tomislav Rashkov, who runs free walking tours with Free Sofia, says the city is "a combination of many different styles, eras and contrasts, which can be seen especially in the historical part."

He says the Sofia's Tolerance Square is "one of the few places in the world where we have the opportunity to observe a mosque, a synagogue, a Catholic cathedral and two Orthodox churches, which hold significant interest and distinctiveness for our city.”

Vanessa Teng, a tourist from Taiwan, says Sofia's rich cultural and religious heritage is one of the main attractions for tourists. “Here it's the Balkans but also it’s very European, I feel like there is a mix of both cultures and that’s very interesting," says

Read on for more ideas for planning a trip to Bulgaria.

Where are the best places in Bulgaria for skiing?

Bulgaria is one of the best skiing destinations in Europe.

Bansko is cheap for a skiing holiday and has thermal springs for when you need a soak at the end of a long day on the slopes. Read this article for full details on Bansko

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What are the best beaches in Bulgaria?

Bulgaria's Black Sea coastline has gained in popularity in the last few years.

Sunny Beach is renowned for it's 24-hour party atmosphere and has been popular with stag and hen parties for some years.

But don't write off this coastline. It has much more to offer in terms of long, tranquil beaches. Read more about Bulgaria's beaches here.

What's the best place for an outdoor adventure in Bulgaria?

If there's anyone who's an expert on how to get the most out of Bulgaria, surely it's the Minister of Tourism Zaritsa Dinkova.

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In an interview with Euronews Travel last year, she shared her favourite place to visit: “I have had one favourite place since I was seven years old ...near the town of Shumen, about 70 kilometres from Varna.”

For more about why she loves Shumen so much, read this article about Bulgaria's rock formations.

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