Daily life in Plovdiv is easy and smooth – even as a foreigner who can’t speak Bulgarian and doesn’t have car. Things generally just work, and locals are friendly and willing to help you out. Plovdiv is long past its communist era – both in infrastructure and mentality – and it shows.
This article details some handy tips for navigating daily life in Plovdiv as an expat, nomad, or traveler. We also made a handy visual map showing you a lot of the important places mentioned in this series:
This article is part of our Plovdiv, Bulgaria series. For more information, check out our other related articles:
- Plovdiv, Bulgaria: What to Know Before You Go
- Best Places to Eat in Plovdiv, Bulgaria
- Things to Do in Plovdiv, Bulgaria
Plovdiv is extremely walkable as long as you are based reasonably close to the city center. From there, nearly any place of interest can be reached in less than twenty minutes on foot. And although Plovdiv is known as the city of seven hills, the terrain you’re likely to cross on a regular basis really isn’t that hilly. The exception to this is the Old Town, but even there the hills are manageable.
Vehicle traffic is much lighter than other places we’ve been and drivers generally respect pedestrians very well. Nearly all intersections have stop/go signs for walking and jaywalking is both uncommon and unnecessary.
There is no subway/metro system in Plovdiv. There are local buses, but we didn’t bother figuring these out since walking was so easy. We did notice that the major bus stops seemed well-labeled with benches and shelter.
We only used a taxi once during our three months here, and it was pretty cheap and painless. The cost was about $3.50 USD for an 8 minute ride and the driver used his meter. Uber and related apps were not available in Plovdiv as of the summer of 2019.
Although we can’t speak for the whole city, the internet speed at our Airbnb was fantastic: 75 Mbps download, 49 Mbps upload, and 4 ms ping with the telecom company Vivacom. The connection was rock solid and never went down the full three months we lived here. Still, if internet speed is important to you, we’d recommend contacting your host in advance and asking them for a speed test before committing.
Our Airbnb host also recommended Vivacom for a local SIM card. We had no speed or stability complaints with this either. A speed test snapshot showed 42 Mbps download, 11 Mbps upload, and 82 ms ping. As of summer 2019, you can get 5 GB of data for 25 days (not a full month) for the low, low price of just 8 leva ($4.50 USD) with their promotion. If you want to renew, however, you’ll have to get a whole new SIM card and different phone number if you want to keep that same cost.
In Plovdiv, we ended up doing about a 50/50 mix of eating out vs. cooking at home. You can read all about our favorite restaurants in our best places to eat article. Cooking at home was relatively easy thanks to the abundance of good grocery options.
Like many parts of Europe, the best option for cheap and fresh produce is the local, open-air markets. We saw fresh local produce going for less than $0.50 USD per kilo sometimes. From what we saw, these were small-to-medium “fruit/vegetable” stands offering seasonal produce. They didn’t seem to have any meat, fish, or dairy options. And these might be a little hard to find since Plovdiv lacks a major central food market. Still, the savings here are worth struggling with the language barrier. Plus, it’s a cultural experience!
We were surprised at the wide variety of items available at the local supermarkets. We were able to find all sorts of imported alcohol, wines, spices, and sauces available for reasonable prices. Our two favorite supermarkets were “Leksi” and BILLA, each of which has multiple locations around town. Unfortunately, the largest and best-stocked of these are located a few kilometers outside the city center. If you want to stock up, bring a large backpack or take a taxi home.
Domestic amenities in Plovdiv are pretty par-for-the-course for Europe. Tap water is drinkable straight out of the faucet and tastes neutral. Most apartment rentals should have a washing machine, but you’ll almost certainly need to air-dry your clothes. Be sure to check and make sure your host provides a clothes drying rack for you!
In terms of handling waste, you’ll need to bring your garbage to a receptacle on the street. These are common around most street corners, but they look generic and have no specific markings. That’s because there is no recycling whatsoever in Plovdiv as of Summer 2019.
If you’re planning on staying in Plovdiv over the summer, we strongly recommend finding a place with air conditioning. Luckily, it seems that most modern rentals are equipped with ductless heat pumps. These wall-mounted units are common in Europe and provide both cooling in the summer and heating in the winter.
Like anywhere else, daily life in Plovdiv necessitates busting out the old wallet from time to time. For large purchases in Plovdiv such as stocking up at the grocery store, it’s easy and normal to use a credit card. When dining out at restaurants, it depends on the establishment. We usually paid in cash, but most modern restaurants will be able to accept card as well. For all other small purchases, it’s probably best to just pay in cash.
Tipping is customary when eating out at a sit-down restaurant. We followed our standard 10% tip as a guideline, similar to most of the rest of Europe. If you pay for your meal with a credit card, you won’t be able to tip on the card, so be sure to carry around some spare coins and 2 leva notes for this purpose. Other than restaurants, the only semi-common service to tip for is taxi rides. The fact that they are so cheap takes the sting out of it, and tips for drivers up to 10% is common.
Places to Exercise
As the city of seven hills, Plovdiv has some excellent “urban” hiking opportunities. While you might not necessarily want to run up and down them, they make for great casual exercise and a spectacular place to catch the sunset.
As a runner, I was happy to find long and uninterrupted trails along the Maritsa River, especially on the south side. If you run east to west, you’ll eventually hit this incredibly huge rowing channel. Here you’ll see Bulgarians exercising in all manner of ways – biking, running, rowing, even playing tennis and soccer on the athletic fields just to the south. It seems that daily life in Plovdiv is filled with physical activity, and the opportunities are there for visitors as well as locals.
Cost of Living
Plovdiv was the ninth most affordable city (out of 19) that we’ve lived in during four years of traveling. Middle-of-the-pack among that group, but really good considering we seek out affordable places to begin with! Our average combined cost per day was just $42.50 USD for two people. If you’re by yourself, we’d estimate that to drop to about $28 USD (two-thirds of the previous figure). This average includes basic expenditures for daily life in Plovdiv such as rent, groceries, eating out, transportation around town, and basic entertainment. As always, your cost of living may vary depending on the amount of comfort and luxury you want.
Here is a more detailed breakdown of our expenses (for two people) while living in Plovdiv:
|Rent||$575/month for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center on Airbnb|
|Transportation||$0/month (we walked everywhere)|
We could have saved more by buying more food at local produce markets and cooking more at home. In addition, spending more time to hunt for an apartment on the ground (outside of Airbnb) could have saved us about another $300/month (realistically $200 for medium-term) according to Numbeo.
Any other day-to-day Plovdiv info you may be curious about? Check out this very useful article published by the city to get all the nitty-gritty!