The Bulgarian Coast

There are a number of places where I could have based myself along the Bulgarian Coast. Sunny Beach seemed to be the most popular spot. But it’s really touristy, maybe I’d just do a day trip instead of spending a night there. Varna and Nessebar seemed like great choices for a bit of history and culture. Burgas was the most logical choice for me though. For one thing, the other places were farther from Plovdiv— and most buses stop at Burgas anyway, so I might as well spend a couple of days in the city. Also, I know someone who lives there. It would be great to meet up with someone who can give me advice on traveling from one place to another. I’ve been having a bit of a hard time traveling within the country due to the language barrier.

Normally I try to learn a bit of the local language before arriving in a certain country. However, when the local language doesn’t use the ISO basic Latin alphabet (i.e. the modern English alphabet), it’s harder to learn since i have to know each letter first before learning the language. So in these cases, I try to learn their second language. In Bulgaria, it’s either English or Russian. Trying to learn Russian presents the same problem. So I just hoped that the people I’d encounter whenever I needed help knew English.

It was easy enough to purchase a bus ticket to Burgas. I asked for the earliest departure, and the price was cheap so I went ahead and bought a ticket. I was trying to ask which bus station I’d be dropped off at but the lady couldn’t understand what I was asking. I thought it didn’t matter. So apparently there are two bus stations in Burgas. The South bus station is centrally located, so it’s also referred to as the central bus station. It’s right next to the train station and by the docks. It’s also in a brightly lit area, and most buses arrive there. The other bus station is the west bus station. This was where I was dropped off. When I got there at a little past 7 PM, the station was closed, it was dark and practically deserted. There’s a bus stop nearby but I couldn’t understand written Bulgarian so I didn’t know what time the bus would arrive, nor would I know where it was headed. I was standing there for about 30 minutes and not a single bus passed by— maybe they only ran until a certain time in the evening. The two other people who were dropped off took taxis, so I just hailed the next one that arrived. I wasn’t spending much money anyway, i could certainly afford a taxi. I waited for about 20 minutes before the next taxi arrived by the way, and I was getting a bit worried. It was really dark, and with my huge backpacks I wouldn’t be able to run fast if someone tried to murder me lol. Thank goodness the taxi driver understood the address when I said it even though he could barely speak any English.

Burgas is a modern city. There’s not much in terms of history, but it’s a good place to stop by for a day or two if you need to stock up on food and supplies. If you just wanna head to any beach, there’s little reason to go elsewhere since the beach in Burgas is pretty good. It’s clean and well maintained, though it can get really crowded since it’s by the city. The night life is pretty good too especially in those bars by the beach, though there seems to be less choices compared to Sofia. I went out one Saturday night and a lot of places closed at around 2 AM. A few places were open until 4 AM. I met a couple of locals, and i have to say most of them are really friendly. Two guys i got to hang out with even helped me look for my room mate who went missing even though I only knew them for a couple of hours. We went looking for this other dude until sunrise. Most people won’t do something like that for people they’ve just met. Yeah, i did get paranoid when my room mate disappeared— it was eerily similar to the plot of the first Hostel movie. Two travelers went out one night, hung out with locals, then the white dude disappeared… lol.  As with any huge city, safety can be a concern. So that dude who went missing apparently got lost when he went looking for a place to pee. He then got peppered spray when he got into a fight. Good thing a couple of strangers brought him home and took care of him. There may be a lot of bad people out there, but there certainly are a lot of good people too.

After spending three nights in Burgas, I figured it was time to check out other places of note along the Black Sea Coast. Sunny Beach and Nessebar are popular options, and they are close enough to Burgas that you could just opt for a day trip. It takes about 30 minutes to get to Nessebar, while it takes about 40 minutes to get to Sunny Beach. It’s easy to get to either place, just head to the south/ central bus station. Buses to either destination leave almost every hour. This is one instance when Google Maps fails. When you try to search for directions to Nessebar or Sunny Beach, it always directs you to the West bus station. Ignore it. There are more buses at the South Bus Station, and it’s easier to get there too.

I’ve always been having some sort of problems whenever I try to purchase bus tickets in Bulgaria. By far the worse experience I had was when I bought a ticket to Nessebar. So first I went to the information counter. I asked the old lady where I can buy a ticket to Nessebar. Surprise, surprise, she barely spoke any English. When I asked her the same question, this time slowly, she visibly got irritated. She answered in broken English which didn’t make much sense, so i tried to rephrase my question. Now she shouted at me at the top of her lungs, pointing to the right, shouting words that i couldn’t comprehend. Jesus Christ. I know it’s frustrating when you try talking to someone who isn’t fluent in your language, but there’s no need to get angry.. especially if you’re manning the f*cking information counter! You’re bound to encounter a lot of visitors who don’t speak the local language! I just said thanks anyway and proceeded to the information board. Good thing some of the texts were in English… enough for me to figure out where to buy tickets. Again the lady behind the counter didn’t speak much English, but she was able to understand where I wanted to go. Before I left I saw that she was also selling bus tickets to Sofia. I got so frustrated with that old lady manning the information counter that i decided to head back to Sofia the very next day and cross the border to Serbia. I was planning on heading up north to Varna then from there head east to Veliko Tarnovo before heading back to Sofia, but the frustration from buying tickets made me decide that I’ve had enough of Bulgaria. I know, that was such a rash decision. I met a couple more locals that night and I really liked their company so I ended up regretting the decision I made that the morning. I could have tried getting a refund, but that would probably lead to more unfavorable encounters with the folks selling bus tickets.

So anyway, I arrived in Nessebar after about 30-40 minutes. The bus would drop you off at the new part of town. There’s nothing extraordinary there, it’s just like any other modern town by the beach. But walk a bit and you’ll eventually reach the old part of town, which is considered a world heritage site. Obviously you’re gonna find a lot of people here because it’s a famous attraction, but it doesn’t get too crowded. Like in the old parts of Plovdiv, you’ll feel as if you’re transported back in time when you walk through the streets of old Nessebar. It’s definitely a must visit if you find yourself along the Bulgarian coast.

Sunny Beach is known as the place to be in Bulgaria if you want to party. It wasn’t too crowded when I visited mid September— I’ve been told that this beach is packed to the rafters from July to August. The party scene is still pretty much alive especially on weekend nights. I initially thought of staying here for a night, but accommodations are quite expensive— the cheapest ones were about 4-5 times more expensive than the price I was paying at the hostel in Burgas. It’s close enough to Burgas so you can easily go there if you want to party at night. Public transport won’t be available all night though. It would be best to rent a car… or make friends with locals from Burgas who have cars like I did. 🙂 Nothing really sets Sunny Beach apart from other party beaches, though I can see why it’s becoming a popular alternative for Europeans who are getting tired of Ibiza and Mykonos. It’s not a spectacular beach but the scenery is good enough, and if you want to party it does its job. It’s also only about 10 minutes away from Nessebar so it’s easy to combine these two destinations in one trip.

The Bulgarian coast stretches for miles, so if you’re not into the wild party scene you’re bound to find some isolated parts if you traverse the coastline. If you continue heading north, you’ll eventually reach Varna, another city known for its rich history and culture. From Sunny Beach it’s about 2 hours away. Another place that locals were recommending along the coast is Sozopol, about 30 minutes south of Burgas by bus. I didn’t go there, but the locals I’ve met say it’s as good as Nessebar. Like Nessebar, it also has an old part of town. And arguably the beaches are much better. it’s actually a popular destination for locals. And since it’s less popular to tourists, it’s less crowded.

In spite of those terrible encounters while trying to purchase bus tickets, I loved those days I spent near the Bulgarian coast. Heck, I mostly loved my entire stay in the country. I’ve seen a number of beautiful places, and if i stayed a little longer I would have surely discovered a whole lot more. I didn’t mind the fact that there’s a language barrier. What I didn’t like was the attitude of some people, especially in the transport industry. Thankfully, those people are in the minority. I met a lot of awesome locals in Bulgaria. And in general, the people you encounter on the streets are willing to help out a stranger. So would I return to Bulgaria? If I’ll be traveling with my new Bulgarian  friends, I don’t see why not. That way I’ll get to enjoy traveling within the country without having to worry about those people selling bus and train tickets 🙂

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