Dog-Friendly Bulgaria: Travelling in Bulgaria with a Dog

I hadn’t heard that much about Bulgaria before I visited the country in September 2018 with my dog, Schnitzel. But between it’s beautiful coastline, magnificent mountains and plenty of history, not to mention cheap prices, it won me over.

It’s not the most dog-friendly country in Europe, but it’s still a great destination to visit with your pup, particularly if you’re looking for an affordable destination in summertime. I give you the lowdown on what to expect when travelling in Bulgaria with a dog…

Dog-friendly Bulgaria

Travelling to Bulgaria with a Dog

The standard EU rules apply to travelling to Bulgaria with your dog, whether from another EU country or from outside of Europe. Your dog will require at least a microchip, valid rabies vaccine and EU pet passport or EU health certificate.

If you are travelling to Bulgaria with your dog from Serbia, North Macedonia or Turkey, the rules are similar to those for travelling from outside of Europe. An animal health certificate or “Annex IV” is required if you don’t have a pet passport from the EU or a related country.

Additionally, a rabies titre test is required for dogs travelling from Serbia and Turkey. This needs to be done three months in advance, or before leaving the EU with your dog, if you are initially from an EU country. A rabies titre test isn’t require for dogs travelling from North Macedonia.

If driving into Bulgaria from these non-EU countries, you are required to enter the country at a valid “Travellers’ points of entry”, where your dog’s paperwork can be checked. The list of possible entry points to Bulgaria can be downloaded here.

In my experience, my dog’s passport wasn’t checked when I drove across the border into Bulgaria from other EU countries. I have also heard that sometimes passports, plus the rabies titre test, isn’t checked when driving into Bulgaria from non-EU countries. However, always be prepared.

Dining Out in Bulgaria with a Dog

We didn’t try and dine indoor at restaurants in Bulgaria with our dog – I don’t think it’s the done thing. Although there’s probably not a rule against it, and it’s likely up to the decision of the manager.

If it was winter time, I’d give it a try, but we visited in late summer with sunshine each day. We instead dined at some outdoor terraces with our dog without an issue. Although once or twice we left our dog behind as we wanted a quiet meal without the interruption of him spotting nearby cats!

Dining out in Bulgaria with a dog
Dining out at a restaurant in Nessebar with our dog

Taking a Dog on Public Transport in Bulgaria

Dogs are allowed to travel on trains in Bulgaria, with some rules and restrictions, but it’s not as clear whether dogs are allowed to travel on other forms of public transport.

In Bulgaria, the trains are operated by BDZ and their rules for pets are listed here. Smaller pets in a waterproof container can be transported on the floor or your lap in 2nd class coaches, without needing a ticket. Although, if other passengers object to them, you need to retreat to the entry lobby.

Larger dogs require a half-price second-class ticket, and can only be transported in the entry lobby of the last coach on a train, wearing a muzzle and accompanied by a veterinary certificate. Additionally, dogs are not allowed in sleeping cars or couchette cars.

Rock formations near Varna in the Bulgarian countryside with dog
Rock formations near Varna in the Bulgarian countryside

In Sofia, public trams, buses, trolleybuses and the underground metro are operated by the Sofia Urban Mobility Centre, but I can’t find any information on transporting pets on their website, at least in English.

In this article from 2011, it’s mentioned that pets are allowed but only with a special ticket (which I can’t find listed online). Small dogs and cats should travel in transportation cages, with big dogs on a short leash and wearing a muzzle.

Dog-Friendly Accommodation in Bulgaria

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive commission if you make a purchase using the links. See my full disclaimer.

While in Bulgaria, we stayed in a range of accommodation, ranging from Airbnb apartments to budget guest houses to a 4-star hotel. What each of the hotels had in common was that we weren’t charged an additional fee for having a dog at any of them. (There are still some hotels that charge, but it seems less frequent.)

Hotel prices in Bulgaria aren’t quite as cheap as in Romania, but are still amongst the cheapest in Europe. During our visit to Ruse near the Romania border we stayed at the lovely 4-star Grand Hotel Riga which I recommend.

Grand early 20th-century buildings in Ruse
Grand early 20th-century buildings in Ruse

We also found great value in Airbnb apartments. Search on Airbnb for the latest selection of pet-friendly apartments. Note that accommodation in Sofia tends to more expensive than in the rest of the country.

Dog-Friendly Sightseeing in Bulgaria

During our time in Bulgaria, some of the sightseeing stops that we wanted to do didn’t allow dogs, from the famous Rila Monastery to the well-protected ancient tombs scattered around the country (some of which require human visitors also to visit a replica).

But there are plenty of dog-friendly options available, in particular if you are exploring the natural beauty of the country, from the coastline along the Black Sea to the mountains of Bansko to the many forests.

1. Visit the Black Sea Coast

Bulgaria is blessed with some beautiful beaches along the Black Sea coast. Compared to elsewhere in Europe, prices are more reasonable and crowds are less of an issue, at least when we visited in early September.

The rocky coastline with dogs at the beach in Nessebar
The rocky coastline with dogs at the beach in Nessebar

The seafood on offer is also the cheapest we found in Europe, and of an excellent quality. Consider feasting on a seafood platter while dining at an outdoor terrace along the coast, accompanied by some fine Bulgarian wine.

I didn’t notice any signs forbidding dogs from beaches, at least the few that I visited in Bulgaria. I would guess that dogs are forbidden from the more popular beaches (at least during the day over the summer months), but smaller beaches without amenities may allow dogs.

Keep an eye out for what the locals are doing if you are unsure, and of course always clean up after your dog.

Enjoying at paddle at Nessebar
Enjoying a paddle with my dog, Schnitzel

2. Explore the Mountains around Bansko

Bulgaria is also endowed with some beautiful mountain scenery, including the mountains around the ski resort of Bansko. Just a few hours south of Sofia (and not far north of the Greek border), this is the premier ski resort in Bulgaria but in summer time is popular as a hiking destination.

Hiking with a dog in Bulgaria
Schnitzel exploring the mountains in Bulgaria

We visited in September, meaning that it was off-peak season, although still snow-free for hiking. We drove all the way up the road behind Bansko, past the gondola lift, to Vihren Chalet. (During the peak summer season, I believe the latter part of the road is closed to regular vehicles.)

From there we complete a short hike along one of the hiking trails to Okoto Lake, a pretty spot and perfect for a picnic. It’s also possible to complete a longer hike from further down the hill, at the top of the gondola lift.

Okoto Lake in Bulgaria
Pretty Okoto Lake
Hiking with a dog in Bulgaria
Hiking with Schnitzel

3. Head to Historic Nessebar

Nessebar is an ancient city located on a peninsula along the Black Sea Coast. Dating back to the Thracian and Ancient Greek eras, the town’s many churches primarily date from the 5th-century onwards. These days it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, popular for both its historic sites and many souvenir shops.

Dog-friendly Bulgaria
Exploring historic Nessebar with Schnitzel
Dog in front of an historic church in Nessebar
At one of the historic churches in Nessebar

Don’t miss the remains of the ancient theatre and the ruined open-air skeleton of the Church of Saint Sophia, both fine to visit with a dog.

We also recommend also stepping inside St Stefan’s with its frescoes; our dog was fine to enter the churchyard and we took turns stepping inside. (I recommend skipping buying the combo-ticket though, if you’re sightseeing with your dog.)

St Stefan's in Nessebar
Inside St Stefan’s

4. View the Madara Rider

Another UNESCO World Heritage site in Bulgaria that’s ideal to visit with a dog is the Madara Rider. It’s a large rock relief carving of a horseman triumphing over a lion, on the side of a cliff about oan hour inland from Varna. You may recognise it from some of the Bulgarian coins.

Cliff with Madara Rider
Cliff with Madara Rider

The carving dates from the early medieval period, either the late 7th or early 8th centuries, and the relief has no parallel across Europe. It’s almost life-size, but it’s hard to appreciate how large it is as you can only view it from the bottom of the cliff. Don’t miss spotting the dog just behind the knight’s horse.

Stray Dogs and Cats in Bulgaria

Just like I noted in the posts on Romania and Greece, you will likely come across stray dogs and cats in Bulgaria. Although, I personally thought that there were less stray dogs in Bulgaria than in Romania, and less stray cats in Bulgaria than in Greece.

I found that the stray dogs tended to be timid and easily scared off, but you should still keep an eye out for them. If your dog doesn’t like cats, you’ll probably have more of an issue with stray cats.

In particular, if you’re dining out, I often noticed stray cats around outdoor restaurant areas. Make sure your dog is kept on a leash so doesn’t try to give chase!

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About the Author

Photo of Shandos & Schnitzel

Shandos Cleaver is the founder of Travelnuity: Dog-Friendly Travel. She has travelled extensively with her Miniature Dachshund, Schnitzel, including to 33 countries across Europe, every state and territory of Australia except Tasmania, and 10 of the United States. She’s passionate about providing inspiration and information to others wanting to travel with their dogs, whether close to home or internationally.

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14 thoughts on “Dog-Friendly Bulgaria: Travelling in Bulgaria with a Dog”

    • Nancy – I had no troubles finding an apartment, but this was pre-COVID, so I recommend researching in advance to check what it’s like now.

  1. Hi,
    I really love your site, it’s so useful:-)
    I’ve travelled with my tiny papillon, Ella, in Bulgaria several times.
    We are always allowed to eat inside restaurants, if we ask.

  2. What are the conditions to visit Bulgaria with a small dog but without a car? I have read on travel with dog but I need to know more about the options of visiting public places and sights – are they pet friendly?

    • Sorry, but we only visited Bulgaria with a car, not by public transport, and the information is a little vague about dogs on public transport other than trains. We found plenty of dog-friendly attractions, but also many attractions will not allow dogs.

  3. Hiya
    Love your site, thank you! That’s all most helpful.
    Looking to go to Bulgaria to collect an adult dog, driving there and back.
    When you drove do you have any advice or tips please? Any Countries a ‘lone female’ driving should ‘avoid at all costs’ please? Or any other tips, or advice please?
    Google says 26hrs driving, but that I assume isn’t taking into account any border checks? I see there could be a number of tolls, can they be paid by credit card please?
    I think if the car had issues train return would be an option from what I can tell.
    Warmest regards. C A 😀

    • Many European countries have a vignette that you’ll need to buy just across the border, that will cover the cost of highways, rather than paying individual tolls. I don’t recall all of them, because usually when we rented cars, they already had a vignette for that country. This website has more info:

      Most border crossings didn’t take extra time due to the Schengen zone, except for instance crossing from Romania to Bulgaria and back (we used the same car in both countries). Both countries have just joined the Schengen zone, which will simplify things, but I think border checks may still occur on road crossings for awhile, unlike when flying.

      I wasn’t driving solo – my husband did most of the driving as I’ve never driven on the right. We never felt insecure, but we generally only drove during the day. In particular in Bulgaria and Romania where the road conditions aren’t always the best, it’s best to stick to daytime driving.


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