Hitchhiking in Bulgaria is not hard but can be slow. At times I had long waiting times because of the lack of traffic and only travelled short distances due to the bad roads.
Travelling from East to West and back is faster then North to South and back because of the one motorway. Don’t be deterred from travelling this way though, I went from Turkey up to Veliko-Tarnovo in the North near Romania. It took two days but I meet some great locals travelling South to North.
In Bulgaria I hitchhiked with Gypsies for the first time and had no issues, (I wasn’t robbed like most people said). The countryside is mostly safe even if many villages look extremely run down and lawless.
Most of the men who will offer lifts used to hitchhike themselves back in the days of Communsim. Quite often they speak highly of Communism and the “old days”. They often complain about the modern politicians and Turks, especially the Turkish truck drivers.
If you are going to Turkey then try catch a truck, most will be going to Istanbul and like the cars can be flagged down simply with your thumb on any road.
Camping in Bulgaria is easy in the countryside seen as there are miles of open fields between the villages.
Driving to Turkey with a UK car was not much trouble. I had an Irish driver’s license and my friend Connor had a British License (the car was under his name).
The car was a Peugeot 206 by no means flash or fancy.
We were clearly two young guys who could be carrying lots of alcohol or weed too in the eyes of the border police.
This is some sort of road tax, required in some European countries (Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary included). We got caught out at the Romania – Bulgaria border for not buying one. The fine was over 200 euro, a 50 dollar bribe sufficed though in our case.
It’s better to get one though at the first petrol station you find (usually less than 10 euro for a month).
We never bought one in Turkey and I don’t think you need one, instead you pay motorway tolls.
These can’t be paid by cash or credit card. Instead you register your car registration at a PTT (Yellow Post office in Turkey) to enroll in the system and credit your account. Then every-time you pass a toll the cameras will charge your account.
At least that’s the jist of what I was told.
I was told in theory that every-time we passed through the toll without this set-up we were receiving a fine, the cameras had the registration after all. If my friend didn’t receive the fine by mail we would be charged when we drove the car over the Georgia border.
In reality we drove though many tolls on our way across Turkey to Georgia, setting of an alarm every single time. In reality also much to our relieve the Turkish police’s computers at the Trabzon to Batumi border did not know that we had skipped all the tolls across the countries northern coast. We never paid this fee.
I would recommend you do visit a PTT if staying in Turkey a while though, we could of just got lucky in the smaller 206 which didn’t catch attention.
First Aid Kit, Fire Extinguisher and Two Warning Triangles
Never checked at the border but you might aswell buy these bits, we got them all as a kit in a Practikar in Bulgaria for about 15 euro.
Nope, I’m Irish and Connor is Scottish (the failed referendum was soon) so we decided that we could talk our way out of this one if we got caught, never did get questioned about the sticker.
Seen this mentioned on a sign, ignored and never questioned. Can’t see the point once your dims work fine.
Certificate of Ownership
Something that will prove you own the car, like the log book with your name written on it just the same as on your passport.
Something that will prove your insured inside the EU, probably not needed but bring it anyway in-case.
Cash is King for Insurance
Cash (Euros) to buy Turkish Insurance. Pounds are probably good too but not Scottish pounds for some stupid reason. Best to just have Euro at the end of the day.
The cost will vary depending on your car size, we got the diesel 206 insured for 6 months (no shorter period allowed for us) in Turkey for around 60 euro. This was cheaper then the signs suggested so be sure to try chat with the border police, I’m sure it’s a bit at their discretion to give a good price.
You will get a printed certificate of insurance, keep it with the car at all times. In our case either of us could lawfully drive the car (both full license) but a crash would be liable to Connor (the owner).
You always have your dipped lights on here, even during the brightest days by law.
Be prepared for a search of the car, they didn’t look rigorous but don’t be bringing tonnes of Alcohol into Turkey (even though it’s a good idea since its far more expensive than Bulgaria). No recreational drugs either, Marijuana is a big deal in Muslim countries, a prison cell big deal.
Turks are dangerous drivers, be careful on the roads and expect that 30 foot truck to over-take you on the bend. Good idea to always have a passenger to help you with over-taking since you will be driving on the right-hand side of the road in a left-hand side car.
Istanbul is insane to try drive around with a population of like 20 million, bring a sat-nav.
Hitchhiking from Bulgaria to Romania and across to the Hungary border at Nadlac took me a total of two days. It was an enjoyable journey across Romania, one of my favourite countries to hitch-hike.
I began in the morning in a village a couple of kilometres from Veliko Tarnovo called Samovodene. I had been staying at my friend Cliff”s place called Trinity Rock’s Farm.
I began thumbing on the northern side of Samovodene and got collected by a young Bulgarian guy who spoke English from working at holiday resorts.
Overall Rating : OK
Waiting Time : 1 Hour
He brought me to the border at Ruse and turned back. I was quickly told by Bulgarian security that I wouldn’t be allowed cross the border (a big bridge) by foot.
So I began talking to truck drivers and the third guy (Turkish) nodded to me, he had no English but knew I wanted to cross the border and had no problem with me ridding shotgun.
Once across the border he stopped for some Turkish tea (Chai) with his other Turkish trucker friends (Turks love tea). I got offered plenty of tea, biscuits and bread by the three Turkish truckers then they set off again with my guy driving to Bucharest.
He dropped me off on the outskirts of Romania’s Capital near Jilava on a ring road that goes around the city.
I followed the signs for Pitesti and started thumbing again.
Some young Romanian guys pulled over wanting a chat but they were only driving into the city and a Prostitute seemed to be angry at me for hitchhiking near her spot or maybe because I was a foreigner without lots of cash.
A trucker stopped for me though after about 30 mins.
Overall Rating : OK but not ideal, rough looking area
Waiting Time : 30 Mins
The trucker was a great gut (like most Romanian truckers), he drove along the motorway until Pitesti then radioed the other truckers to ask if anyone was continuing towards Hungary.
He found me a guy named Carlos that was driving that way and let me off, after waiting on the side of the motorway maybe 10 minutes Carlos an old Romanian guy turned up.
He spoke Spanish fluently which meant we cold have some conversation although my Spanish is basic. He drove for another hour then stopped to watch football and put some magnet scrammer thing under his truck then drove for a few hours during the night.
Carlos was going to Arad but had to stop for a few hours in Timisoara first. His truck had two bunk beds and he offered me one while he took a nap in the other. That was my first time sleeping in a truck.
After a 6 hour nap we headed to Arad and I jumped out on the outskirts of the city and began thumbing for the border.
Overall Rating : Great
Waiting Time : 20 Mins
Carlos had been great company on the road and it was still early in the day so I was sure I could make Budapest before the end of the day.
My lift to the Nadlac border was a young Romanian guy who wasn’t himself crossing it.
I began hitch-hiking on the Hungary side and din’t have too much success. All the truckers were planning on resting after the border.
There was a petrol station with very little traffic close by but in the end thumbing near the border paid off and I got a lift directly to Budapest with a Hungarian guy in his forties who had travelled around Europe and Israel in his younger days via hitch-hiking. He was returning from work in Arad.
The first car to pass by collected me, a Turkish fella and he brought me to the border then turned back, don’t really know where he was going originally.
Overall Rating : Great
Waiting Time : 5 Mins
I had no luck what so ever at the border though. I waited nearly an hour just after crossing it then another hour on the immediate highway but with no luck (the traffic is scarce yet moving fast).
After walking along the highway though about a kilometre I spotted a hole in the fence that led down towards some service stations and restaurants for truckers. I had a bite to eat then continued walking from here towards Svilengrad.
After walking another 2 or 3 km I got collected by an old man who dropped me at a good “autostop” spot in Svilengrad for travelling north towards Veliko. I was very grateful for that lift after the hardship of the border.
At my new hitch-hiking spot it only took about 20 mins to get back on the road again.
Overall Rating : OK (Not very busy)
Waiting Time : 20 Mins
This elderly man had no English but I believe he claimed that he regularly picked up hitchhikers from all over Europe around the border.
He was only going to Cherepovo so I jumped out before then and tried for another car. There is no need to point out the specific locations because this route I took is full of small villages and it’s possible to hitch-hike anywhere on the road.
The next car to pass was a pair of Gypsys in their thirties with a banged up old Dacia, some part of my brain said to ignore them but my aching feet were happy with any ride so I stuck the thumb out and caught my first lift with Gypsys.
It turned out to be just fine like I expected (wouldn’t of thumbed otherwise) and I got let off in Polski Gradets. I walked out of the town and started hitch-hiking again on the side of the road.
My next lift took maybe an hour to arrive but I was glad in the end because the (mafia looking) guy drove ridiculously fast, and he had a mercedes with comfortable leather seats. He was only going to Radnevo though.
By now I was a little confused as to my location but I knew I was still heading in a northerly direction.
So after hitchhiking in Radnevo I arrived in Stara Zagora and since it was after getting dark I decided to sleep, I pitched my tent up by a small lane-way which was to the side of the E85 motorway just outside Stara Zagora. To me it looked like a Mechanic’s Garage was maybe at the top of the lane, I couldn’t tell in the dark.
After maybe one hour of sleep though I was awoken by a flash-lamp and the sound of a dog. I opened my tent to find four fully armed Bulgarian soldiers looking at me (more on this later) but luckily one spoke English and I talked me way out of the situation. Apparently the ground was Bulgarian secret service territory (some spy I would be).
I walked down the motorway another 500 meters and found a secluded spot in a wooded area without soldiers.
In the morning it was raining heavy but I really wanted to get to my friends place in Veliko to get tidied up and showered so I began hitch-hiking anyway. An elderly guy in a truck stopped for me even tough I was drenched (some people are just great) and he brought me to Kazanlak explaining in broken English how I had went wrong on my way to Veliko.
The road from Nova Zagora to Veliko by Gurkovo is much faster and used by the Veliko traffic no the Stara Zagora route. When coming from Polski Gradets I shouldn’t of veered west to Radnevo. He helped me get back on track by radioing other truckers too and found me one in Kazanlak for Veliko, and that’s how I finally got there in the end. Getting lifts in trucks can be a slower method of travelling but will often proove rewarding since no-one knows the roads better than them.