With its endless supply of man-made and natural wonders, seamless borders, and high quality of life, Europe is perhaps the most sought-after destination for digital nomads looking to venture outside their own home countries.
On the other hand, despite being more open than it was, Europe as a whole is yet to fully embrace digital nomads.
Some countries may have launched specific visas for the category, but they usually come with burdensome requirements and financial thresholds many beginners will find impossible to meet.
On top of that, a majority of European countries are getting progressively more expensive, including lesser-known spots such as Montenegro or previously affordable destinations like Croatia, where Euroization and price surges are threatening to push budget nomad travelers out.
Lucky for them, not all European nations have fallen victim to the trend, and one in particular, guarding Europe’s borders along its Southeasternmost flank, has unexpectedly risen to prominence as one of the continent’s hottest digital nomads hubs.
We’re talking about Bulgaria, a hugely overlooked South Slavic nation bounded by the Black Sea:
Is Bulgaria Europe’s New Digital Nomad Capital?
Bulgaria is one of Europe’s most ancient nations. Known historically as the territory of Eastern Thrace, it has been inhabited since immemorial times by warriors, chieftains, kings whose names History was ruthless in erasing, and Greco-Roman settlers.
Some Bulgarian cities are as old, or even older, than the more famous ancient metropolises of Rome or Athens, and Bulgarian culture sits at the crossroads of both the Western and Eastern worlds, being heavily influenced by Balkan/Orthodox customs and then other Turkic traditions.
In sum, it is a fascinating country not that many Americans are even aware exists, and it’s resurfaced in the post-crisis scene as a trendy spot for remote workers and long-term travelers. You may be wondering why.
Part of the reason why it’s become so popular among this group is the investments made by both the Bulgarian Government and the private sector in developing the country as a nomad-friendly destination.
Every year, Bulgaria hosts the Bansko Nomad Fest. As the title suggests, it is an event where digital nomads gather to exchange experiences, learn from each other, and attend workshops with the sole purpose of developing their skills further.
A Festival For Digital Nomads
The festival is already taking place this year, having started on June 25, and ending on July 2nd, but in case you are not traveling in Europe and cannot make it to Bulgaria in time, there is always the following year – and it’s getting bigger with each new edition.
Currently, more than 700 digital nomads from over 40 countries attend the festival, with over 20% of participants hailing from the United States, which proves the presence of Americans in Bulgaria is increasing.
Nomads in attendance can also learn more about how they can stay ahead of the curve in regards to AI and technology. A sizable percentage of digital nomads are working as developers or copywriters, and the AI insights offered by experts at Bansko help them realize their full potential in this field.
The selection of Bansko as Bulgaria’s digital nomad capital is not incidental, either.
Bansko May Have The Highest Concentration Of Co-Working Spots In The World
It may be a small town of about 9,000 inhabitants, but strangely enough, Bansko could well have the highest concentration of co-working spaces anywhere in the world, according to recent data.
Nomads flock to this retreat in search of some peace of mind while they fulfill their work obligations, as Bansko is found at the heart of a mountainous territory, within easy driving distance of beautiful nature reserves.
Beyond the natural attractions, they are drawn to the region’s surprisingly well-developed nomadic scene, its infrastructure – there are numerous AirBnB and hotel listings to pick from, not to mention work-friendly cafes – and Bulgaria’s relatively affordable prices compared to its Western European peers.
Bulgaria is known, alongside its neighbor Romania, as the most affordable European country that is a member of the European Union, based on the average national salary, the cost of living, and daily expenses.
The minimum wage in Bulgaria is currently set at 780 Bulgarian lev, or the equivalent of US$437. It is a reflection of the country’s generally cheaper prices and inviting bargains.
It is only natural that Bulgaria would proclaim Bansko its Digital Nomad Capital and host what’s one of the largest Digital Nomad festivals in Europe there.
That’s not to say Bansko is Bulgaria’s only noteworthy digital nomad spot.
Watch Out For Sofia
Europe’s Most Underrated Digital Nomad Spot
Having resided in Bulgaria non-continuously for close to four months myself, I was pleased to find numerous budget-friendly mid-range restaurants with hearty meals, including soup for starters and a pint of beer, ranging between US$12 and US$15 – and much cheaper even.
Staying in Sofia, the country’s capital, for an entire month as I worked remotely, I particularly benefited from the city’s lower bed & breakfast rates.
If I remember it correctly, my one-month rental agreement was estimated at US$480, or less than US$500, for a spacious, well-equipped private flat.
I wasn’t staying in Central Sofia, where rent is, of course, more expensive, though still cheap from a dollar-earning individual’s perspective, but the nearest metro station to me was a short 7-minute walk, and there were plenty of tram routes and municipal buses going into town.
The best thing about it was, even though I was residing away from the busy city center, I still had access to a number of charming cafes, beautiful emerald parks for strolling when the weather was warm enough approaching the hot summer months, your usual kebab stalls, and countless convenience stores.
As for its appeal as a tourist destination, Sofia’s beauty lies in its mix of rich ancient heritage and Soviet-inspired brutalist panoramas.
It was originally settled by Thracian tribes before coming under Roman rule at a time when the Empire was expanding East.
All around town, you will still find the remains of the Roman colony Serdica, dating back a couple of millennia, well-preserved Romanesque churches, and the most interesting of Sofia’s architectural feats, its communist-era landmarks, scattered across the historical Yellow Pavement district.
Although Bulgaria was not formally a republic within the Soviet Union, it was one of its many satellite states, regaining independence and the freedom to hold fair elections only upon the latter’s dissolution.
Fortunately, all that remains from that harrowing period are impossibly high, grey apartment blocks and stately Government buildings.
Where Else In Bulgaria Can You Live As A Digital Nomad?
Other popular digital nomad spots in Bulgaria include:
- Plovdiv, the second largest city and apparently Europe’s longest continuously-inhabited settlement, famous for its 1st-century Roman theater and other archaeological sites
- Veliko Tarnovo, home to two of Bulgaria’s most iconic medieval fortresses, spanning two peaks and impressive even in modern times
- Burgas, a smaller, quaint seaside city on the shores of the Black Sea, is Europe’s new trendy summer getaway
- Varna, both a resort zone and a historic Black Sea port jam-packed with luxurious hotels and boasting a lively nightlife and social scene
Americans and other non-European nationals can stay in Bulgaria as digital nomads without a long-term visa for up to three months.
While the decision on granting a visa always rests on an immigration officer’s hands, all they need in theory is a valid passport and proof of outward travel to be granted entry when crossing the Bulgarian border.
Learn more about the Bansko Nomad Fest here.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com