Bulgaria Lev - BGN
The European country of Bulgaria uses the lev as its official currency. This is a decimal currency and the sub-unit is known as the stotinka. The currency has been pegged to the Euro but the country has not yet adopted the currency. This will not remain the case for ever though, since it agreed to adopt the single currency as a condition of joining the EU.
What coins and notes are available for this currency?
While the currency is referred to as the lev, the plural of the currency name is leva. There are several coins available for this currency but only one of them is denominated as the lev. This is the one lev coin. All the rest are stotinki coins, which are denominated as the 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 stotinki coins.
You will also see several banknotes available for this currency. These are the 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 leva notes.
From past to present – the history of the lev
The lev has been in use in one form or another since 1881. At this point it was on the gold standard but this did not always remain the case. However the first version of the currency remained in use until 1952 when the second lev replaced it. This was due to inflation that had occurred in the Second World War.
The second lev didn’t last anywhere near as long as the first – only ten years in fact. By the time 1962 arrived the currency was redenominated once more and the third lev was brought into play. As is often the case when inflation and devaluation occurs, there would be yet another new lev by the time 1999 arrived. Just in time for the new millennium the fourth lev was approved. This is the one the country has today.
Originally the idea was for Bulgaria to join the euro in 2012, but at the time of writing (in 2014) this has yet to happen. It remains to be seen how long it will be until we say goodbye to the lev for ever. As of this moment it could be a while yet before the country can meet the conditions laid down for its adoption of the single currency.
How to get hold of Bulgarian leva
You have a number of options open to you when it comes to swapping your own currency for the lev. Some travellers take in their own currency and exchange that, but if you are going to exchange note for note you should exchange the euro as this is generally easier than exchanging other currencies. There are plenty of bureaux de change around, not to mention banks, so make sure you stick to these instead of going to individuals to change money. Sometimes you might be approached by people offering to do you a good deal on changing your money for the lev. Don’t be fooled – these approaches are scams and they can fleece you of your cash.
Do watch out for the rates offered in money changing places too. It is important to get the exchange rate before you agree to swap money because sometimes you might see a good rate offered and yet this is not what you receive. Of course you can use cash machines to get hold of the cash you need, so make sure you have a couple of cards with you that you can use in Bulgaria.
Traveller’s cheques can be cashed in plenty of places, but the charges associated with them can be high. If you can get by using cash machines and card payments you might find it better to do so. You can pay for goods using credit cards but the normal rules apply: check before buying that your card will be accepted and make sure you don’t let anyone take your card out of your sight.
How to find out the latest exchange rate between your home currency and Bulgarian leva
You should be able to find the lev on any currency converter you use either online or as an app on your phone or tablet. Once you have found it make sure it is set as the destination currency to convert into. Choose your own currency as the one to start with and then select the amount of cash you want to convert from one to the other.
As is normally the case with many foreign countries, Bulgaria has an embassy in the UK with its own website. This is a good site to visit if you are thinking about going to Bulgaria at some point in the future. It can be found at http://www.bulgarianembassy-london.org/.
Travelling safely with Bulgarian leva
Bulgaria is generally a safe place to visit but you should always check up on the latest travel information prior to starting your trip. The main threat will be one of pickpocketing and other petty crime. Sunny Beach is a popular area with tourists and thus a popular one with pickpockets as well. Make sure you don’t leave any of your belongings unattended and keep your cash and cards safe and on your person at all times. If you can split things up and carry them in different pockets (or better still use a money belt) so much the better.
If the hotel you are staying in has a safe, do make good use of it. Store your passport in there for the time you are away but make sure you have a photocopy of the relevant pages with you as proof of who you are.
Where to spend your leva in Bulgaria – and what to spend them on
Bulgaria is a European country and can be found on the south eastern reaches of the continent. It is bordered by Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, and mainland Greece and Turkey to the south. Its eastern coast juts out into the Black Sea so it has some nice coastal locations to consider visiting as well as more inland areas.
Let’s start with Sunny Beach then, which is an aptly named beach on the Black Sea Coast. It is very easy to find package holidays to this part of Bulgaria; indeed they are becoming more popular among people who want to have a beach holiday somewhere other than the usual European haunts. There are plenty of things to see and do here, including pony trekking, visiting the market and visiting some of the many bars and restaurants in the area.
But what else does Bulgaria have to offer? Well, let’s take a closer look at its capital, Sofia. This can be found on the western side of the country and it provides a fascinating insight into the history of this part of the country. If you have even a passing interest in architecture from different time periods you might think you have found it all here. You will see remains of a 4th century fortress not far from other buildings dating from Roman and even medieval times among other periods. These sit virtually alongside modern buildings so Sofia does offer a real mix of time periods and examples of different building types.
You can enjoy some greenery here as well, thanks to the large green belt the city enjoys. One of the main gardens in the city is known as Borisova gradina. It is over a century old now and has gone through several periods of change in that time. There are literally thousands of plants and shrubs here, not to mention mature trees and lakes. Be sure to see it in its glory no matter what time of the year you decide to visit.
Just outside Sofia – and indeed towering over it – is Vitosha. This rather majestic and mighty sounding name is rather appropriate as it is the name of a mountain range. Vitosha is also the name of the tallest mountain here. As such Sofia is a very popular place for people to come if they love skiing. However if you love nature you will love this place as there is plenty of opportunity to go hiking as well.
One last place you may want to visit if you go to Sofia in Bulgaria and that’s the National Museum of History. This is the best place to go if you want to learn more about the history, not just of Sofia, but of the Balkan countries as a whole. There are hundreds of thousands of exhibits here and this can lead you to a new understanding of Bulgaria and its past.
Bulgaria may not be the first European country you consider when thinking about a skiing holiday – or even a beach-based holiday come to that. However you will see from this article that you can spend your cash here in many different ways. Whatever type of holiday you like most you may just find it is possible to enjoy it in Bulgaria. From skiing to sunbathing there are many ways to make the most of every lev you spend here.