1 MONTH TRIP REPORT:
Sofia's affordable for high quality. Dating/social scene is good. It has great food and even better skiing. Beware hailed taxis (only use taxime) and visit a dry cleaner if you need cloths washed.
For the pessimists, here’s what was bad:
Only use the app Taxime. Hailed taxis have modified meters.
You need to find a dry cleaner that offers “wet washing”. It’s a service not widely marketed and there are no laundromats.
I needed a key to open the door to my Airbnb, wether from inside our outside (handle was broken).
For everyone else!
Seen as more of a pit stop on the way to ski resorts or Black Sea beaches, Sofia is an ideal home for its people. Even during winter, the city was highly active. Temperatures that will have you bundled in multiple layers are seen as a time to be outside for locals. A gondola picks people up from within the city and, in 20 minutes, drops them off at the mountain for skiing. If that mountain isn't enough, it has two other world-class resorts less than 2 hours away (Borovets & Bansko).
Whether staying in Sofia or its surrounding cities, accommodation is affordable. Hostels go for $10 a night, but I spent $350 on a furnished one-bedroom to live there for a month. That wasn't a low-quality place either. It was part of a boutique hotel, so it included all the expenses such as heating, internet, and electricity. Did I forget to mention it was a penthouse in the city center?
If walking isn't your thing, low-cost public transport can take you anywhere. Regardless of distance, a ride on the subway or on a bus will cost .90c. Taxis are the sore spot in this city that has banned rideshares. Because if you trust the modified meters, you'll pay $12 for a ride across town. Not bad, until you realize it should cost $4.
Food follows the opposite price flip. That 30 BGN steak seems like a fair price until you remember the exchange rate means it's closer to $15. Movie ticket and popcorn for $20? Oh, no, wait, that's more like $10. Throughout the city, prices are what you'd expect from the west. But then, pleasantly, you remember where you're at.
Drinks follow the same discrepancy. For better or for worse, alcohol couldn't possibly be cheaper. I lost count of the number of promotional signs like "Buy 5 Beers Get 5 Shots Free". And wouldn't you guess it, this leads to a very active social scene. Sofia has it all, from high-class costume parties to grungy holes in the wall. Thanks to its affordability and a burgeoning number of western migrants, the party atmosphere is only increasing.
Sofia is where 90% of Bulgaria's tech companies are located. And this pull has a far reach, making it the 2nd fastest growing tech center in Europe. The move of remote-capable companies to more affordable places is trending. That move is typically seen as a downgrade. But for those moving to Sofia, you’re going to feel right at home.