World Wallet Wiki: Bulgarian Lev
Name: Bulgarian Lev
Also known as: BGN
Currency Symbol: Лв.
Denominations: Лв.1 = 100 stotinki
Where is it used?
The Bulgarian Lev is used in the country of Bulgaria.
What does it look like?
Bulgarian Lev comes in both coins and notes. Detailed descriptions of what these look like are listed below, so you know what to expect.
All Bulgarian coins are very easy to identify, making it one of the simpler foreign currencies to get to grips with. On one side of every stotinki coin, you’ll find the word ‘БЪΛΓΑΡИЯ’, which means ‘Bulgaria’ and the Madara Rider, which depicts a man on a horse. The Madara Rider is a large medieval rock carving which can be found in north-eastern Bulgaria and dates to the 700’s AD.
Small (16mm diameter) copper-coloured coin with a ‘1’, the year it was minted and CTOTИHKA (meaning ‘stotinka’) on one side, underneath a halo of 12 stars. Plain edged.
Small (18mm diameter) copper-coloured coin with a ‘2’, the year it was minted and CTOTИHKИ (meaning ‘stotinki’) on one side, underneath a halo of 12 stars. Plain edged.
Large (20mm diameter) copper-coloured coin with a ‘5’, the year it was minted and CTOTИHKИ (meaning ‘stotinki’) on one side, underneath a halo of 12 stars. Plain edged.
Small (18mm diameter) silver-coloured coin with a ‘10’, the year it was minted and CTOTИHKИ (meaning ‘stotinki’) on one side, underneath a halo of 12 stars. Scored edge.
Large (20.5mm diameter) silver-coloured coin with a ‘20’, the year it was minted and CTOTИHKИ (meaning ‘stotinki’) on one side, underneath a halo of 12 stars. Scored edge.
Large (22.5mm diameter) silver-coloured coin with a ‘50’, the year it was minted and CTOTИHKИ (meaning ‘stotinki’) on one side, underneath a halo of 12 stars. Scored edge.
- 1 Lev
Large (24.5mm diameter) bi-coloured coin (golden ring, silver centre) featuring a ‘1’, the year it was minted and a geometric pattern of two crossing lines on one side. On the other side, you’ll find an image of Saint Ivan Rilski – the first Bulgarian hermit. Alternate plain and scored edge.
- 2 Leva
Large (26.5mm diameter) bi-coloured coin (silver ring, golden centre) featuring a ‘2’, the year it was minted and a geometric pattern of two crossing lines on one side. On the other side, you’ll find an image of Saint Paisius of Hilendar – a key Bulgarian National Revival figure. Alternate plain and scored edge.
Bulgarian Lev banknotes go up in size the more they are worth, just like the banknotes we’re familiar with. There used to be a 1 Lev note in circulation, but this was replaced by the 1 Lev coin. If you happen to come across a 1 Lev note while you are in Bulgaria, you can still exchange these for the coin equivalent, but they will not be accepted in shops. Similarly, the 2 Leva coin is phasing out the use of the 2 Leva note and while they are still legal tender, they’re being used less and less. Look out for the all-important watermark on every banknote which proves authenticity.
Features a portrait of Saint Paisius of Hilendar (who you’ll also find on the 2 Leva coin) on one side and his famous history book of Bulgaria, the ‘Istoriya Slavyanobolgarskaya’ is depicted on the other side.
Watermark: Rampant lion
Features a portrait of Bulgarian artist Ivan Milev on one side, and a depiction of his paintings on the other side.
Watermark: Ivan Milev
Features a portrait of Petar Beron, a Bulgarian educator on one side. On the other side, you’ll find astronomical instruments .
Watermark: Petar Beron
Features a portrait of Stefan Stambolov, former Prime Minister of Bulgaria, and who was also a journalist, revolutionist and poet, on one side. Two of Bulgaria’s famous bridges, Eagle Eagles’ Bridge and Lion’s Bridge can be seen on the other side, as well as some of Stefan Stambolov’s poetry.
Watermark: Stafan Stambolov
Features a portrait of Pencho Slaveykov - a noted Bulgarian Poet - on one side and some of his poems, along with a large flying bird, on the other side.
Watermark: Pencho Slaveykov
Features a portrait of Aleko Konstantinov, a Bulgarian writer, on one side. On the other side, you’ll find a more complete image of Konstantinov, along with his works and letters of the alphabet.
Watermark: Aleko Konstantinov
How much should I expect to spend?
Bulgaria’s capital Sofia, as well as coastal areas popular with tourists like Golden Sands and Sunny Beach will be more expensive than the road less travelled. Average prices at the time of writing are: (6th December)
- Double-occupancy hotel room - 99Лв. (roughly £44 - £46)
- Meals for one person, for one day - 22Лв. (roughly £9 - £10)
- Bus/taxi fares average cost – 14Лв. (roughly £6 - £7)
- Bottled water – 1.82Лв. (roughly 80p)
Is it customary to barter and tip?
Haggling or bartering is not common in Bulgaria and the vast majority of shops will sell things at a fixed price. The exception to this is at furniture or antique markets, where you may be able to charm 10% – 25% off if you play your cards right.
Tipping is not a big thing in Bulgaria and you won’t be expected to tip everyone. In bars and restaurants, a tip of 10% for good service is normal. Hotel staff will not expect a tip at all unless you are staying at a high-end luxury hotel. When paying taxi drivers, it’s customary to round up to the nearest whole Lev. When tipping, particularly in restaurants, make sure you hand the tip to the person you want it to go to and always tip in cash, rather than via card.
Other customs to be aware of:
- Always check the watermark on your banknotes – the 20Лв note is the most frequently counterfeited and the most commonly used.
- Unless you’re in a city centre or busy hotspot, it’s likely you’ll need cash to pay for things – don’t rely on cards alone.
- Out of respect, the oldest person will usually be greeted and served first.