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10 things About Plovdiv That Will Surprise You


Some of the things you will see about Plovdiv when you visit or move here will surprise you quite a bit. That applies only to people who come from outside the country. Some of them have funny aspects, some of them will only create a wow factor in your mind and some of them will take some time to accept if you plan to live here.

Smoking in Restaurants, Cafes, Taxis and Night Clubs

Bulgaria is the EU's heaviest smoking country according to the "Bulgaria Health Profile" prepared by the European Commission. Although smoking indoors is against the goverment's law since 2012, it seems almost impossible to implement it practically in a society that loves cigarettes so much. You will often see cafes, restaurants and nightclubs where people smoke indoors  in the city, whether you like it or not. Please don't argue with your waiter if you're bothered by this, and don't be a smartass about it. 
 Just choose another place where there are no any ashtrays on the tables. You may also see your taxi driver light up a cigarette, open the window and smoke during your ride. However, taxi drivers in Plovdiv always try to make a good impression on foreigners, so they will likely ask you if it's okay for them to smoke before they do so. 

Cat Population 

The number of freely roaming cats on the streets in Plovdiv will surprise anyone coming from a western European country. There are literally thousands of them. Many are even wandering around as groups. If you are dining in a restaurant's outdoor tables, it is very common for a cat to approach you and ask for food. Do not even think of kicking them, they are being taken care of by the restaurant and its customers. It's best to give them a piece of what you're eating. Be kind to them & show some love. 

Use of Cash

Here, cash is king. It is the dominant payment method across the entire country. In a study conducted by Statista between 2014 and 2019, over 85 percent of all transactions were made using cash. At the supermarket or restaurant, don't be surprised when you see someone paying the bill from a fat wallet full of banknotes or from the thick pile of money they pull out of their pocket. While it's so normal here, it will surprise you if you come from a place like England where cash transactions account for only 10% of all payments. We recommend that you carry some cash at all times, as paying small amounts with a card is unlikely to be appreciated.

English Proficiency

Prior to moving to Plovdiv, our research on the web suggested that some people speak English in the city. After we arrived, it became clear that this was an inadequate statement. Plovdiv is a multicultural city where most people speak and understand English well. There seems to be a definite preference for hiring English speaking personnel at shops, cafes, restaurants, etc. If you live outside the city center, you may not find this to be the case, but it's quite likely you can get some help in English from any young person you stop on the street. It might sound good if you are only visiting Plovdiv, but if you move here, you end up not bothering to learn Bulgarian. 

Zebra Crossings

Do not assume that pedestrians have priority at zebra crossings and jump into the road to cross in Plovdiv. 
In theory and by law, as a pedestrian, you have the right to cross at zebra crossings, but many drivers ignore this rule every day and do not give you a chance. You should be extra cautious and make sure the driver clearly intends to let you pass before you step on the street. It isn't wise to make your decision based on the distance between the vehicle and zebra cross because most young people drive extremely fast and may not be able to break and stop on time.

Coffee Culture

Based on a study conducted by Logo Market Research and Consulting Company, 78 percent of the population in Bulgaria consumes 1 to 4 cups of coffee daily. Well, on paper it looks like this. However, you will be blown away by the sheer number of coffee shops you will find in every corner in any size. Furthermore, there are coffee vending machines outside of almost every building and at the bus stops in Plovdiv. There are also a great many small and mid-sized shops, off-licences, and corner stores that have coffee machines inside and serve a variety of take-away coffees. 

Local Bus Ticket Payments

Local bus fares are usually paid with similar methods across Europe. To pay your bus fare, you usually need an electronic pass card and top it up in advance. However, in Plovdiv things work a bit differently. There is usually a conductor inside every bus, and once the bus departs from the stop, he/she approaches you and asks you to pay the bus fare in cash so that he/she can issue you a ticket. To prevent you from using the same ticket over and over again, they tear it apart before handing you the ticket. If there is no conductor on board, the bus driver will open only the front door and you will pay the fee to the driver once you step on board and he/she will hand you a ticket. 

Green Spaces and Old Trees

Your first impression of Plovdiv will be of its green environment in your first hours of visit. It is not uncommon to find green scenery in balkan countries, however, it is much more noticeable in Plovdiv. Besides the many parks and gardens around the city, there are many old and tall trees spread all over the city centre. Almost all of the roads and streets in Plovdiv have the appearance of tunnels made by old and beautiful trees. The smell of trees, flowers, and other plants fills the city during spring and summer. Those who appreciate nature will enjoy this city without ever leaving the city center. 

Internet Speed

Bulgaria is known for its fast internet speeds, we're sure you heard. And we guarantee you won't be disappointed about it when you arrive here. Bulgaria ranks 20th globally in terms of internet speeds. Not bad for a developing country, huh? As for the city of Plovdiv itself, the average download speed is 84.27 Mbps, while the average upload speed is 33.59 Mbps. The numbers for mobile internet speed are even higher. There is no such thing as ''buffering'' on YouTube. Furthermore, high speed internet services are quite affordable compared to other western european countries. 

Cycling Network

When it comes to cycling networks, Amsterdam comes to mind first. Amsterdam is full of bike enthusiasts, which means cycling is a huge part of their life. This is not the case for people in Plovdiv, however, the city boasts an excellent network of bike paths. The paths are clearly marked and separated from the main roads. With a bicycle, you can ride almost anywhere within the city limits without getting into traffic. You will be impressed by what Plovdiv has to offer in terms of cycling for commute or leisure if you are a bike fan.


Living in Plovdiv has its perks, such as affordability. If you come from a Western European block country, everything you buy here will feel cheap. Low tax rates are one reason for that. Bulgaria has the lowest personal and corporate tax rates in the European Union, both of which are flat rates of 10%. Yup, you read that right. No matter how much you or your company earn, this percentage remains the same. This is not the case for countries like France, the United Kingdom, Germany, etc. In those countries, the higher you earn, the higher the percentage gets, up to 55 percent. Thus, many big companies from western Europe move their operations here or outsource their workforce to cities like Sofia or Plovdiv. 

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