Currency in Bulgaria - A Full Guide 2024
Planning a trip to Bulgaria? Whether you’re heading there for work or pleasure, you’ll need to know how to pay your way as you travel.
This guide covers all you’ll need to know about the official currency in Bulgaria, where to get it and how to keep your costs down during your trip.
What is the currency in Bulgaria?
The official currency in Bulgaria is the Bulgarian Lev, which is issued and overseen by the Bulgarian National Bank. If you’re buying your travel money online you may also see the official code being shown - BGN. In stores and restaurants, Bulgarian Lev prices are likely to use the currency symbol лв.
Once you’re in Bulgaria you’ll see costs of items shown in BGN and you’ll need to start paying for things in local coins and notes which are often found in the following denominations:
banknotes - 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 BGN and coins - 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 stotinki; 1, 2 BGN.
Can you officially pay in GBP when you are in Bulgaria?
You’re unlikely to be able to officially transact in GBP in Bulgaria, which is why it’s time to start getting used to BGN and learning more about the currency exchange rates so you’ll know what you’re spending on your trip.
This guide will walk through all you need to know, including British pound/Bulgarian Lev rates and where best to get your travel money from.
|Bulgarian National Bank
|Best travel cards to take to Bulgaria
BGN coins and banknotes
Here’s a full rundown of the BGN coins and banknotes you’ll need to be familiar with when you’re in Bulgaria.
|banknotes - 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 BGN
|coins - 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 stotinki; 1, 2 BGN
History of Bulgarian Lev currency
The Bulgarian Lev (BGN) was first introduced in 1881, following the country's liberation from Ottoman rule. The currency has been redenominated three times due to inflation, with the current series dating back to 1999 when the lev was pegged to the euro at a fixed rate.
Is GBP accepted in Bulgaria?
As we’ve seen, the official currency in Bulgaria is BGN. If you carry GBP with you on your trip, you’ll probably need to exchange it before you can spend.
Sometimes when you’re away on a trip abroad you’ll find that merchants will take payments in a selection of major foreign currencies. However, the chances are that where this is offered, you won’t get a good exchange rate for your GBP. Planning smart and convenient ways to spend in BGN when you’re away is likely to mean you save on costs in the end.
Usually, having a few different ways to pay and get cash is the best option for travelers and tourists. That’s because you’ll have a back up plan in case one payment method isn’t accepted for any reason, and you can pick the method that’s best suited to the specific transaction. Having a multi-currency card from a provider like Wise or Revolut, plus your normal bank debit card, and some local cash in BGN should mean you’ve always got options. You can use your cash for small purchases and tipping, and make low cost payments and cash withdrawals with your multi-currency card, while keeping your bank card in reserve for emergencies.
Use a travel card on your next trip to Bulgaria
Using a travel debit card in Bulgaria is usually cheap, safe and convenient. A few providers in the UK offer multi-currency cards which come with a linked payment account that lets you convert, hold and spend in BGN. That allows you to add a balance in GBP and switch over to BGN to lock in the exchange rate and set your travel budget.
Once you have BGN in your account there are no extra fees to make payments, and you’ll not have foreign transaction charges to worry about, either.
Here’s a quick overview of a couple of handy travel debit cards you may want to order and use in Bulgaria.
Wise travel card
Order a Wise travel card online or in the Wise app, to hold and exchange 40+ currencies and manage your money from your phone. You’ll be able to spend conveniently in BGN - and all currency exchange uses the mid-market rate with no markup.
Card holders get some free ATM withdrawals available every month, and there’s no annual or monthly fees to pay, and no minimum balance requirement.
✅ Currency exchange uses the mid-market rate
✅ No foreign transaction fees apply
✅ Free to hold and spend 40+ currencies
✅ Receive payments to your Wise account in a selection of global currencies
✅ No minimum balance or ongoing fees
❌ Card order fee applies
❌ ATM fees apply once you’ve exhausted your free monthly withdrawals
Revolut offers several different account plans so you can pick the one that suits your needs and spending, including some with no monthly fees. All account plans let you hold and exchange multiple currencies in the same account, and there’s no-fee to spend currencies you hold.
Depending on the plan you pick you’ll get fixed levels of no-fee ATM withdrawals and mid-market currency exchange every month. Low fees apply once you exhaust your plan no-fee limits.
✅ Hold and exchange a selection of global currencies, spend currencies you hold with no extra fee
✅ Choose from different account tiers to suit different customer needs
✅ Get some currency exchange every month which uses the mid-market rate - limits vary by account plan
✅ No card order fee
✅ Some account tiers have extra perks including travel benefits
❌ Ongoing fees apply for some account tiers
❌ No branch network for a face to face service
❌ Fees apply once you exhaust your account no-fee transaction limits
What is the currency exchange rate for £ 1 GBP/BGN?
It’s helpful to get to know the live GBP/BGN rate so you can easily calculate how much things are costing you while you’re on your trip abroad. The rate you need to focus on is the mid market rate, which is the one banks and major currency services get when buying and selling currencies. This rate isn’t always passed on to customers. Instead you may find that the GBP/BGN rate you get when exchanging travel cash includes a markup - an extra fee.
Find the GBP/BGN mid-market rate from a currency conversion site or a website like this, so you can keep an eye on the market and compare the rates you’re offered as you travel against the mid-market rate easily.
Should I exchange GBP to BGN before traveling to Bulgaria?
It’s a good idea to exchange GBP to BGN before you head off to Bulgaria, as you can often find a better exchange rate and lower overall costs before you travel.
When you’re in Bulgaria you’re going to need BGN in cash for some of your spending - particularly when tipping or making smaller value purchases. Buying your BGN travel money in advance can get you better GBP/BGN exchange rates, and saves you wasting precious time shopping around for a good deal once you arrive in Bulgaria.
Tips for exchanging money in Bulgaria
Cards are widely accepted in Bulgaria, but you’ll still need to watch the exchange rate given when making a transaction from GBP to BGN. Some merchants offer to let you pay in GBP instead of BGN, but this will usually mean paying more because of dynamic currency conversion costs.
Best place to exchange currency in Bulgaria
You can get your BGN in Bulgaria in a couple of ways.
Or if you prefer an offline solution you can carry some cash in GBP to exchange when you arrive. Currency exchange providers are often in airports and hotels, although the exchange shops in a city center are likely to be cheaper overall.
How to pay in Bulgaria?
You’ll need to have BGN to spend in Bulgaria. However, generally having a few different payment methods is a good plan. That means that if a merchant won't accept one, you’ve got a back up. It’s also reassuring to know you have a different way to pay if you were unlucky enough to have a card or some travel cash stolen. Here are your key payment options in Bulgaria.
1. Debit or credit card
Card payments can be helpful in shops, restaurants and hotels but there will be places where cash is also important. Order a travel card from a provider like Wise or Revolut for cheap and fast transactions, including card payments and cash withdrawals as and when you need travel money in BGN.
2. BGN cash
Cash is widely used in Bulgaria, so it’s worth having some with you at all times. You may want to exchange money to BGN before you leave, but it’s also usually convenient to make ATM withdrawals locally once you arrive in Bulgaria.
You’ll usually find you can use a card to make payments in Bulgaria, but carrying some cash in BGN is also reassuring. It’s often easier for tipping and making smaller purchases, plus you’ve got a nice backup if your card is ever out of action for some reason.
It’s a smart idea to have both a card and some cash in BGN when you’re in Bulgaria. Some merchants will prefer cash, but having a card for higher value payments and in busier more tourist places is also convenient. Consider using a travel card from a provider like Wise or Revolut alongside your cash for flexibility.
Paying for the trip in GBP
If you’re paying for things in Bulgaria with a GBP bank card you might find a foreign transaction fee is added. This pushes up your costs when you spend in a foreign currency, and can be tricky to calculate.
Travel debit cards don’t always work this way. When you make purchases in Bulgaria using the Wise card you can either choose to convert your account balance to BGN in advance in the Wise app, or just leave your balance in GBP and let the card handle the transaction when you pay. You’ll always get the lowest available fee and there are no extra foreign transaction charges.
Conclusion - Currency in Bulgaria
You won’t be able to pay in GBP when you visit Bulgaria - so learning about the currency you need is essential. Whether you decide to use a travel debit card from a service like Wise , or stock up on BGN in cash in advance, knowing the mid-market exchange rate can help you get the best available deal. Use this guide to learn all you need to know about the options, rates and fees for exchanging GBP to BGN, and make your money go further while you’re away.
The official currency in Bulgaria is BGN. You can’t usually pay in GBP in Bulgaria, so you’ll need to plan in advance to get your travel money sorted. Consider ordering a travel debit card from a service like Wise, for low cost conversions to BGN and convenient spending and withdrawals - and remember that knowing the GBP to BGN mid-market exchange rate is essential to check you’re getting a fair deal on currency exchange.
FAQ - Currency in Bulgaria
What is the currency in Bulgaria called?
The official currency in Bulgaria is the Bulgarian Lev. You may also see the code BGN and the currency symbol лв.
What's the currency in Sofia?
The official currency in Sofia is the Bulgarian Lev. You’ll only be able to spend in BGN while you’re there.
What is the old Bulgaria currency?
Today the currency in Bulgaria is the Bulgarian Lev. If you’re worried about currencies changing, why not get a travel debit card from a service like Wise which will automatically pick the currency needed in your destination when making a payment - with no penalties or inflated fees.
What is the best currency to take to Bulgaria?
You’ll only be able to spend in BGN while you’re in Bulgaria. Carrying some money in cash and using a travel debit card from a service like Wise is usually the best way to spend while you’re away from home.