Cost to Retire Early in Sofia Bulgaria

In this report, I will share an itemized estimated Cost to Retire Early in Sofia Bulgaria including rent, utilities, groceries, restaurants, transportation, and other expenses for low to middle-range living costs.

This was not my first time in Bulgaria. Sofia is affectionately known as the most affordable European capital city. Here are my thoughts about why I decided to go to Bulgaria 11 years ago. It is not all about saving money.

When I learn about a place that sounds fun, I put it on my maybe list. But that is just the first step. The next step requires feedback from other travelers. When I chat with other travelers, I ask them what places in the world they love; and/or do not love.

If they love places I love, and they don’t like places I don’t like, then I know that we have very similar tastes. Once I know we have similar tastes, I start asking them about places on my maybe list where I have not been yet.

If they love places on my maybe list, I go to those places.

So, I met an American in Eastern Europe who loved Prague, Buenos Aires, Budapest, and Gdansk, Poland. Since I loved those places, I listened intently when he said he loved Sofia Bulgaria. So I had to go.

I grew up in the USA, so I like a little chaos in my life now.

Parts of the USA are a little dry for me. Some cities use zoning to keep neighborhoods in homogeneous controlled value ranges so everybody in that area fits within the desired economic groups. They are often required to paint their homes the same colors to avoid fines.

Within those tightly controlled value ranges, the nearby malls, strip malls, and commercial centers, often end up with the same sets of chain restaurants and retail outlets designed to sell to those tightly coupled neighborhoods.

So in those parts of the USA, not much is surprising, it all starts to feel predictable. There is nothing wrong with predictability. No offense intended if that is your thing. So long as you know what you love about life, you are 90% on your way to getting there.

But, if you are more like me, having grown up in a homogeneous world, you may like a little more chaos in your life. Movies, music, books, and TV are not enough for me. I want to walk out my front door and see, feel, taste, and touch things that are a little less predictable. I find chaos refreshing now.

Since I loved Bulgaria back in 2013, I decided to come back and show it to you again today. I want to share my estimated costs of living here if the two of us moved to Sofia Bulgaria year-round on a tight budget. We will also include middle-range costs of living estimates so you have another data point.

But first, I will share my retirement desirability factors for Sofia Bulgaria as I show you the video I just took here.

Sofia Bulgaria Retirement Desirability Factors

Before you move anywhere outside your home country, create a list of things that you must have for your happy retirement. Here are my retirement desirability factors and I will rank each as high, medium, or low before assigning an overall retirement desirability score to Sofia.

Walkability: High. We walked everywhere in central Sofia. We only booked a taxi to get from the airport to our apartment when we arrived and to get from our apartment to the bus station when we left. Sofia also has great public transportation we would use if it was raining. So we would not need a car if we lived in Sofia.

Internet: High. The wifi in our Airbnb was 198 MBPS down and 99 MBPS up. Unless you are running a server out of your house it is hard to imagine why you would need a faster connection. Good enough for us to do Zoom calls, upload YouTube videos, and watch Netflix.

Food: High. There was a Lidl grocery store just two short blocks from our house. This is our favorite grocery store in the world. They have an amazing selection with very reasonable prices. There is also a great assortment of restaurants with flavors from much of the world.

Weather: Medium. Sofia is 595 meters (1952 feet) above sea level. At that elevation, things remain fairly cool year-round. Sofia receives an average of 98 cm (38.6 in) of snow per year and the ground averages 56 days with snow cover per year. Borovets at about 90 minutes away, is one of the closest ski resorts to Sofia. Daily highs in Sofia average from 38 F (3 C) in January up to 82 F (28 C) in August. Nightly lows average from 22 F (-6 C) in January to 58 F (14 C) in July. If you love to ski or board or love snow on the ground for a few months of the year, then you may rank Sofia’s weather as high.

Things to Do: High. Sofia is the capital of Bulgaria, so there is much to do here. Sofia is a beautiful walkable city with parks, restaurants, cafes, and walking streets. There are museums, live music, people-watching, cultural tours, coffee shops, shopping malls, and art galleries. There is also an interesting array of statues spread around the city where you can learn about famous people that lived here. If you are a cultural explorer you are likely to really enjoy your time here.

Social Considerations: According to Wikipedia, English is the most common foreign language spoken in Bulgaria (25% of Bulgarians claim workable knowledge of English). However, proficiency in English or another foreign language is necessary for high-level career prospects. However, in remote areas outside Sofia not in Tourist Meccas, you will have to rely on Google Translate and universal hand gestures and pantomime. So you may want to enroll in Bulgarian language classes which is also a great way to meet people.

Safety Considerations: According to the US Embassy in Bulgaria, “Bulgaria continues to participate actively in military missions and to have a close security partnership with the U.S., NATO, and the European Union.” Additionally, the US State Department webpage for Bulgaria published the lowest level 1 risk for Bulgaria–“Exercise normal precaution.” Numbeo surveys report that crime is lower and safety is higher in Bulgaria than in the United States. We have been out as late as 1 a.m. and haven’t seen or heard a hint of violence.

Expat Community: Here are a few Facebook pages that cater to English-speaking expats living in Sofia: 1, 2, 3. These online expat communities are great for learning all about things that expats want to learn when they first move overseas. But do scroll down and read the previous questions asked and answered before posting any questions to the group. These groups are more likely to answer questions that they have not already recently answered.

Medical: This healthcare international comparison index ranks Bulgaria 65th in the world, four spots better than the United States at 69th. There are different ways healthcare is rated, but this one seems to be considering quality of care in relation to what patients are charged.


You may decide to seek treatment in one of the other countries in the world on this list that I have had great experience with such as Thailand 31st or Malaysia 42nd. It is also true that there are very good doctors in Sofia. So, make sure to ask around for referrals and establish relationships with doctors based on the feedback you have gotten from others who have used their services. The above Expats Facebook pages may be a good source for that information.

Tourist Visa: Bulgaria is a member of the Schengen Visa countries. Citizens of many countries such as the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Malaysia, USA, and many many others, are given 90 days of visa-free entry upon arrival. Plus, we can stay in any Schengen member country for no more than 90 days of any 180 day period. The Schengen countries will soon be implementing an online portal where visitors intending to visit must register online and pay a small fee. When we entered Bulgaria on a flight from Armenia, they didn’t ask Qiang or myself any questions. They just stamped our passport upon entering Bulgaria because it was the first entry into a Schengen member country for this 180 day period.

Bulgaria Residence Permits: A residence permit allows foreign citizens to legally stay in Bulgaria beyond the Schengen period. You start by getting a D Visa. D Visas are issued for retirement, employment, business, education, skilled professionals, marriage, entrepreneurs, family relationships, and foreign investors. Each requires a specific set of documents. The retirement visa requires an application, photos, a passport, and evidence of sufficient financial support to support yourself such as pension income, medical insurance, proof of accommodations, and a criminal background check. One source I found says the minimum monthly proof of income would be less than 600 Euros per month. Once in possession of the D Visa, you can begin the process for longer-term visas that can lead to citizenship if desired. The key to this process will be finding the right immigration lawyer. I suggest using the above Facebook Expat pages to find a reference to a good immigration lawyer from someone who has been through the process and can confirm the efficiency and fairness of their specific lawyer. One lawyer that I have heard ex-pats talk about positively is Dimitar: Email:, Phone Bulgaria: +359888403752 (WhatsApp & Viber)

Real Estate: Presently, foreigners can take title to real estate in Bulgaria with ownership rights with some restrictions on the kind of property and a minimum purchase cost which changes from time to time. However, I do not recommend buying real estate in a foreign country until you have lived there for an extended period of time making sure you love it. If you decide to buy, you should also get your own lawyer that has no conflict of interest with you. For example, do not use a lawyer recommended by your real estate broker or local lover.

Sofia Bulgaria Retirement Desirability Score: Medium. Sofia Bulgaria remains one of my favorite cities in E. Europe. I love the people, the rhythm of life, and the endless things that seem to be happening there. But, I would not be willing to put up with snow on the ground for 2 months of the year. So I would only take Sofia as a base if I had enough money to fly south for at least 4 months each winter. But if you are a skier or border, and snow isn’t a bother for you, then you may rate Sofia as High.

Estimated Cost Retire Early in Sofia Bulgaria


Rents: I found this furnished 1 bedroom apartment for rent for 475 Euros ($513 USD) per month in Sofia. If you rent for a shorter period on Airbnb it would be much more expensive.

If you rent a larger flat with more space it could easily cost twice as much per month. So for the middle range expenses, I would estimate $900 USD per month on up depending upon area and size.

Here is the process we use to find great apartments. So, we will show you a table of all expenses in a moment. We will use $513 per month for our lower rent estimate and $900 per month for the middle cost of living estimate for expats who want more space.

Utilities: We estimate that the year-round average for our utilities would be about $100 USD per month. The utilities would cost more for the larger space, starting at around $160 USD per month.

Groceries: When possible, we would purchase fruits and vegetables from small shops and street vendors to save money (once you know what locals pay). But we would also shop in grocery stores for nonperishable foods and other things like shampoo and detergents. We estimate about $350 per month for groceries. Other expats are likely to shop more often in expensive grocery stores often spending more than $450 per month on groceries.

Restaurants: We would eat out twice per week mostly in more local-style restaurants averaging about $6 to $10 USD per meal per person and one or two splurges per month of $12 to $15 USD per meal per person. If you add all that up, we would spend around $250 per month for the two of us. We may have a beer here and there, but that is covered below in alcohol.

Other expats are likely to eat more Western-style foods in expensive expat-style restaurants and less in local-style restaurants, so they would likely spend more like $350 per month for 2 people in restaurants. It is lifestyle-dependent.

Cell Phone Data: The cost to get a prepaid sim card for your unlocked smartphone is about $6 USD per month with about 8 GB per month of data. My Android phone will act as a hotspot so we can both be on the internet at the same time when we are out of the house together.

Other expat couples are likely to buy two prepaid SIM cards so they would send $12 per month.

Laundry: The apartments all seemed to have clothes washing machines. The above grocery estimate includes laundry detergent.

Drinking Water: We read online that the water is clean here and many people drink water from the tap but we would be more careful. We didn’t see reverse osmosis delivery in 20-liter jugs here so we would probably get a Brita water filter. The filter refills would be about $5 USD per month.

Internet: 60 MBPS up and down is about $14 USD for in-home wifi.

Public Transportation: A monthly pass for public transportation is $14 USD for seniors and $28 USD for Qiang, so $42 per month for the two of us. Other expats might spend more riding the Yellow Taxi App or the TaxiMe Taxi App, and less on public transportation, so I estimate $100 per month for them.

Alcohol (Optional): Domestic beer in grocery stores in Sofia is about ($1.00 USD) for 500 ml. In bars and restaurants half-liter draft domestic draft beer ranges from about $3 to $4.00 USD. We estimate about $120 per month on alcohol for the two of us.

Many other expats would spend a higher amount for imported foreign or craft beers in expat bars, so about $220 USD per month for 2 people assuming they are not into imported whiskey or wine.

Entertainment (Optional): We would budget about $200 per month for entertainment for the two of us. We enjoy doing more do-it-yourself kinds of entertainment so expats would spend a little more, maybe $300 per month, for 2 of them?

Estimated Costs to Retire in Sofia Bulgaria


















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Optional Total









Optional Total



The above lower estimated cost of living would be if the two of us lived in Sofia Bulgaria on a tight budget. The middle estimate is just an example of what other expats might spend if they moved here.

To understand what it would cost you to live here, you must put your feet on the ground, see what you would choose to rent, eat, and entertain yourself, and add it all up. It doesn’t matter what anyone else spends because we are all different.

Sofia Bulgaria Old Town Walking Tour

Google Map



Prince Alexander of Battenberg Square: Alexander of Battenberg became the first Prince of the Principality of Bulgaria in 1879 when he was voted as such by the National Assembly. He stepped down 7 years later under pressure from the Russian Empire. Military parades were held here during the communist era.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral: Sofia has a 7000-year history. The Cathedral was built in 1882 and dedicated to the Russians who died in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877. They defeated the Ottoman Rule which has lasted 500 years, and the City took the name Sofia thereafter. Many great Empires attacked and ruled over the centuries–the Huns, Visigoths, Avars, Slavs, Byzantines, and Ottomans. The cathedral is named after Alexander Nevsky who was 19 at the time he defeated the Swedes in the 13th century.

Saint Sofia Church: Was built in the 6th Century by Byzantine Emperor Justinian II. It was changed into a mosque during Ottoman rule and back to a church when Ottoman rule ended in 1878. Sofia was named after this church.

Russian Church: Upon defeating the Ottoman Empire in 1882, this church was built next door to the Russian Embassy and named after Saint Nicholas the Miracle-Maker. The early communists were not very tolerant of religion, but this Russian Church remained open during the Communist regime in Bulgaria, 1944 to 1989.

National Archaeological Museum: This was the oldest Mosque in Sofia, built during the Ottoman Empire in the 15th Century, but was converted into a museum when the Ottoman Empire fell in the 19th Century. 

Church of Saint George: This was built as a Roman Bath in the 4th century AD during the Byzantine Rule and is now a Bulgarian Orthodox Church. There are frescos inside on the walls dating back all the way back to the 10th Century. Portraits of 22 prophets painted inside were painted over during the Ottoman period and were discovered later in the 20th Century.

Central Sofia Market Hall: This is a covered market in near the Center of town on Marie Louise Boulevard which opened in 1911. There are three levels including food, restaurants, and clothing.

Pirotska Street (Carila Bar): The first walking street in Sofia. It has an assortment of different kinds of shopping, bakeries, restaurants, and retail. It is a funky cool street and has a different flavor. The tour ends with people watching at this Carila Bar.

Where we stayed in Sofia

We stayed at this Airbnb for $31 USD per night with the weekly discount before adding Airbnb fees). It was a great location (Google Map). Everything we needed was within walking distance and I have listed all of that below under restaurants, shopping, and services. This was one of the best Airbnbs I have ever stayed. She even had a Brita-style water filter so we didn’t have to buy water as soon as we arrived. Plus, the cooking utensils were unmatched from anywhere we have stayed.

Sofia Bulgaria Pub Crawl

A few years ago Airbnb started offering experiences such as tours and classes in each city. I hadn’t been on a pub crawl for a very long time but we decided to do a pub crawl in Sofia. I thought it would be all 20-year-olds but there was a nice variety in the ages and background of the people we met on the pub crawl. So I would recommend trying it out when you are in Sofia. Here is the one we went on: Airbnb Pub Crawl. I will include the places we stopped in the bars below but it would not have been as fun if we had gone to these places solo. Plus, some had cover charges for people not in the pub crawl so it turned out to be a good deal also.

How we got to Sofia Bulgaria from Armenia

We flew from Yerevan Armenia to Sofia Bulgaria on Wizz Airlines for $169 per person which included a luggage upgrade. Wizz Airlines is one of those annoying discount airlines that try to nickel and dime you at every opportunity, so make sure to follow all of their weight rules and check in online before going to the airport or they will charge you for that too. We also got onward flights for $10 each in case they wanted to see proof of onward flights before letting us board our flight to Bulgaria, but neither Wizz Airlines nor immigration in Bulgaria asked to see proof of an onward flight. We used the Yellow Taxi App to get from the airport in Sofia to our Airbnb and the Taxi Me App to go from our apartment in Bulgaria to the bus station when we left. 

Restaurants, Bars, Services

Restaurants (prices in Bulgarian Lev (BGN) (divide BGN by 1.82 to get USD))

Resturant Lampata: Minced beef & pork with salad 15, Pink tomato salad with cottage cheese 15, Beer 6.90, orange juice 4.90

Mangia Station: Beer burger 15.99, Veggie taco 4.99, Bean Taco 4.99, Beer, 3.99

Franco’s Pizza: Magarita pizza 11.99, salad 8.99, beer 500ml 5.49

Grill House 2 – Балканска скара: BBQ minced beef + vege 9.50

Supa Star 2: Zucchini soup 6.35, lentil soup 6.35, mexican soup 6.9

Sun Moon Vegetarian: Masala tofu rice 12.8, Vege cream soup 4.5, carrot cake 8.9, coffee 4.5

Cake Lab: Walnut cake 6.8, cappuccino 1.30, Chocolate 1.3

Bars, Lounges (prices in Bulgarian Lev (BGN) (divide BGN by 1.82 to get USD))

Bar “Bar”: First bar on the pub crawl. One free beer or wine

Bar Friday: (Pub Crawl, one free shot) Draught beer 6.50

KUPE / КУПЕ: (Pub Crawl, one free shot) Small bottle beer 6

McCarthys Irish Pub: (Pub Crawl, one free shot) Irish beer 9.50

Club Stroeja: (Pub Crawl) One free beer

Memento NDK: Stella beer 500ml/ 6.90


A1 : Smartphone Sim: 10 BGN – 8 GB/ 500 minutes/30 days

BIOMET Bus online ticket: But ticket online: 35 BGN from Sofia to Varna Bulgaria, our next stop after Sofia, is 6.5 hours, The bus leaves from Central Bus Station – Sofia

Lidl: Our favorite grocery store near our house.

Carrefour Market: Another grocery store.

Aquaphor water filter: Airbnb host uses this brand water filter

The New Sofia Pub Crawl: $20 per person, 4 bars, and a club at the end.

Yellow Taxi App

Taxi Me App

What would it cost you to live in Sofia Bulgaria?

To get a better understanding of things you should add to our estimated cost of living watch this video: 9 Reasons You Can’t Retire on $1000 Month Overseas.

Most people will likely be unable to retire for the lower range estimate above. I give example reasons why in this report. Plus, this other report explains how to avoid coming home early with your tail between your legs.

Also, if you are going to try to retire cheap offshore, make sure to read my report, the Two Biggest Risks of Retiring Early for Cheap Offshore, which explains why you should have emergency funds available for unexpectedly large expenses.

You should also add anything to the above table that you spend money on in your home country that is not listed in the above table. Presumably, you find those things necessary in life. To do that, visit the Numbeo Sofia and add anything not mentioned in the above table.

Never move anywhere until you have visited first personally to verify the living costs for your lifestyle and needs. I am not guaranteeing these prices. These are just my notes and estimates from the time of my visit and this post. Your costs will likely be drastically different depending on your lifestyle and the time since this post.

Many of the expats we meet living overseas are self-insured for medical care. That means that not everyone buys health insurance when they move overseas. That probably sounds crazy to many of you.

I didn’t carry medical insurance for most of my first 17 years living overseas. But last year I bought medical insurance. If you are wondering what it costs and what it covers, watch my medical insurance video at this link. This is not an affiliate link.

More typical expat living costs in Sofia range from about $1800 to $3000 per month. But people spending that much often have higher savings, incomes, or pensions. They often report spending more on accommodations, entertainment, eating out more, traveling, and alcohol. Many also have more expensive cars, houses, or apartments.

Make sure to grab a free copy of my eBook, How I Fired My Boss and Traveled the World for 17 Years (and how I pay for travel).