Best up-and-coming: Bulgaria
As more countries become holiday favourites, TheSite.org's best up-and-coming destination has to be Bulgaria.
This Eastern European country only came in from the communist cold in 1990. It might have seen big changes in that time, but its traditions and customs still thrive. More importantly, it's ridiculously cheap.
Geography: Bulgaria is situated in the underbelly of Europe. It borders Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, and Greece and Turkey to the south. Bulgaria features a diverse landscape ranging from the snow-capped peaks in Rila and Pirin, to the typically Mediterranean valleys in the south.
Currency: the Bulgarian Lev
Climate: Bulgaria is most comfortable from May to mid September. The country's climate is influenced by the Mediterranean and Black Seas, making the temperature throughout the country quite mild. Summer days don't get extremely hot and in the mountainous regions, the temperature is about five degrees Celsius cooler than the rest of the country. The winters can be snowy, windy and freezing cold, but lots of relaxing health spas are open and the skiing is fantastic.
GMT: Bulgaria is two hours ahead of GMT.
Visa: If you hold a valid British passport, you will not need a visa for a visit of less than 90 days. On arrival you are required to register with the police within 72 hours. If you're travelling on a package trip, your tour operator should take care of this. Otherwise, your hotel/hostel might be authorised to provide you with the necessary stamp.
Languages: The main languages spoken in Bulgaria are Bulgarian and Turkish. English is not widely spoken so have your phrasebook at the ready.
Do's & don'ts:
- Do nod your head up and down to say 'no' in Bulgaria - strange but true.
- Bulgaria is very proud of its folk traditions. Every village has its own unique style of music and dress. When you travel around the countryside, enjoy and respect these traditions.
Getting there/getting around
Bulgaria boasts three main airports - Sofia, the capital, Varna and Burgas (both of which are on the Black Sea coast). You can fly there from most UK airports and it's well served by British and European airlines. By train, take the Eurostar from Waterloo to Paris, then catch the overnight sleeper from Paris to Vienna, and the direct 'TransBalkan' from Budapest to Sofia. It'll take two days in total. If you're planning on driving there, be aware that on leaving the country you'll have to pay a road tax at the border crossing. On arrival, you'll be asked to state which crossing you intend to leave by, and advised of the charge then.
Don't miss the stunning mountain scenery
Staying in Bulgaria can cost next to nothing, which means you can afford more for your money. If you're on a serious budget, basic hostel accommodation begins at £3.50 a night, with top of the range hotels clocking in between £35-£50.
Sightseeing & activities
This is one of those countries where it's not uncommon to see people travelling around by donkey. A world away from our own, it makes simply wandering around an entertainment in itself. The capital, Sofia offers much for the urban explorer as much as the bar crawler, all of which can be enjoyed on a shoestring. The country is also known for its rugged mountains and Black Sea coast beaches, making summer a popular time to visit. If you want to see the "real" Bulgaria, visit Nesebar. This ancient town, dating back to 510BC, sits on a rocky outcrop off the mainland, and is guaranteed to bring out the Lara Croft in everyone.
Entertainment & nightlife
Bulgarians eat late, wherever you are in the country, but outside of Sofia you might be tempted to make your own entertainment, as clubs and bars are few and far between. The capital itself offers a range of bars and clubs, catering for every interest.
Food & drink
Stews and salads are a staple fare, but dishes are often compared to Greek or Turkish cuisine. Bulgarians also like their booze to be on the lethal side. Look out for Rakia and Mastika, but be careful with them both because they can beat you about a bit. Snack-wise, the cheese pastries are commonplace and highly recommended.
The final word
Dougal, 19, from Leith, visited Sofia for a weekend with his girlfriend. "I'd definitely go back," he says. "What makes it so worthwhile is the fact that it hardly costs anything to have a good time when you're there. I came home with uncashed travellers cheques, which is always good in my book. Just being there you could sense this was a place to watch."
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