Doing Business In Bulgaria

  1. Bulgaria is ranked 66th out of 185 economies in Doing Business 2013. Its overall ranking decreased by 2 points compared to last year, reflecting decreases in six indicators.
  2. According to the most recent Enterprise Surveys (2009), the top 3 obstacles to running a business include Access to Finance, Practices of the Informal Sector, and Political Instability. 54.1% of firms compete against unregistered or informal firms, compared to the regional average of 44.7%
  3. According to Investing Across Borders Indicators, Bulgaria has fewer restrictions on foreign equity ownership. Over the past few years, its legislation has undergone harmonization with European Union legislation. During this process, many sectors of the economy have been opened to foreign capital participation. Today, the country does not apply any restrictions on foreign equity ownership in 31 of the 33 sectors measured by the Investing Across Sectors indicators.
  4. Bulgaria’s economic freedom score is 64.7, making its economy the 61st freest in the 2012 Index. Its overall score is down slightly, reflecting deterioration in freedom from corruption, government spending, and business freedom. Bulgaria is ranked 27th out of 43 countries in the Europe region, and its overall score is above the world average but below the regional average.

Source: World Bank


Visa Information

Citizens of other EU member states and Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand and the USA can stay in Bulgaria visa-free for up to 90 days. Citizens of other countries should check the current requirements with their nearest Bulgarian embassy or consulate before their departure. Visas cannot be obtained at border crossings.
Visa extensions
At the time of writing, visitors wishing to extend their visit to Bulgaria beyond the 90-day limit have to apply for a residence permit at the Immigration Office (02-982 3764; bul Maria Luisa 48; 9am-5pm Mon-Fri). This is likely to be a time-consuming, bureaucratic nightmare, and nobody here will speak anything but Bulgarian. It’s probably far better to contact the Bulgarian Embassy in your own country for advice before you travel if you envisage being in the country for more than three months. The situation, especially for EU citizens, may well change over coming years.

Business Etiquette

Meeting & Greeting
. Greetings consist of a firm handshake, direct eye contact and the appropriate greeting for the time of day. 
. Handshakes are used when meeting and departing.
. Address people with their titles (try and find out if people have one beforehand) - if not then use Mr "Gospodin" / Mrs "Gospozha" followed by the surname. 
. Business cards are exchanged on initial meetings.
. There is little protocol to follow.
. If your company/firm has been established a long time (25-50 years) include the founding date on your business card. 
. Add any academic qualifications you may have too.
. Translating cards into Bulgarian may not always be a necessity but it would certainly impress recipients. 
Business Meetings
Relationship building is important in Bulgaria. Try to spend time getting to know people before getting down to serious business.
. Initial meetings should be used as an introduction. The next meetings can then be used for more business focused discussions.
. If you are aware that your counterparts in Bulgaria, hire an interpreter and fully brief them on your needs.
. Eye contact is important is relaying trust and sincerity.
. Any presentations should be factual and backed with statistics. If possible try to present information visually.
. Bulgarians do not appreciate too much "talk" so avoid over zealous statements.
. Once meetings have started to get into more serious matters they will start to proceed at a much slower pace as details are digested, scrutinized and discussed.
. Bulgarians are not deadline oriented. They prefer to ensure they have comprehensively covered a topic before bringing proceedings to a close.
. Be patient and do not rush meetings - successful ventures in Bulgaria will never happen overnight.
. Meetings often last much longer than anticipated. Do not rush the process. 
. It is important to retain a sense of formality and professionalism. Any slip into casual behaviour may not be appreciated.
. Bulgarians have a tendency to talk in a roundabout way when concerned about not saying anything that could be used against them later. If you are asking questions and not getting direct answers try asking the question in different ways. 


General Business Hours

Normally, government offices are open on weekdays (Monday to Friday) between 9am and 5pm, but they often close for around an hour between noon and 2pm. Private businesses more or less keep the same hours, but rarely have time for a leisurely lunch break. Most shops are open from about 9am to 7pm on weekdays, and from 9am to 1pm on weekends. Some operate shorter hours on Sunday (or close altogether) but shops in big cities such as Sofia and Plovdiv are often open later on weekends. Post offices are open weekdays from 8am to 6pm, and banks operate from 9am to 4pm weekdays. Some of the foreign exchange offices are open 24 hours but most operate between about 9am and 6pm, Monday to Saturday.
Restaurants generally open from 11am to 11pm. Frustratingly, many museums and tourist attractions, even those in major cities, close for one or two days a week, usually between Sunday and Tuesday (they often also close for lunch). Opening times do change regularly, so don’t be surprised if a museum or art gallery is closed even though it should be open.