A Digital Nomad’s Guide to Bansko

Earlier this year, I spent a month in Bansko as a nomad in residence with ‘Co-working Bansko’, figuring out where to go and what to do in Bansko to help make it easier on fellow nomads moving out there :)

The Bansko Guide

Bansko has started to become a popular spot for Digital Nomads, home to a large community of expats, due to insanely affordable cost of living, a 10% flat income tax and a great climate.

This post from Cynthia, one of the first nomads in residence, will give you an interesting overview of Bansko from a digital nomad perspective. And Sarah, a travel blogger who owns a holiday home in Bansko, has written an insight into why Bansko is an all season resort on her blog A Social Nomad

And when you’ve decided to make the trip out there, this should make your travel planning easy with tips on the best recommendations from my experiences and very reliable sources from the Co-working Bansko community ;)

Visas — Don’t Worry
Bulgaria is part of the EU, so EU citizens don’t require a visa and can stay here as long as they want.

Non EU citizens — Won’t be able to exceed the 90 day stay but for more info, see here. An advantage is that Bulgaria is not part of Schengen, so you could stay 90 days inside Schengen and then 90 days in Bulgaria every 6 months.

Flights — starting at €20

Closest airport to Bansko is Sofia (160km) but check out these to get the best deals on flights from your departing city.

Flying from major European cities like London or Berlin with Ryanair, Wizzair or Easyjet, will get you the most convenient and cheapest deals, often for less than 20 Euros (seriously it’s crazy cheap).

Transfer from Sofia Airport to Bansko

Hoppa Airport Transfer (Recommended) — They’ll ask for your flight arrival details and pick you up accordingly with a name board and take you straight to the car.

They usually have a discount code on their site of 25%, which means you should get a one way ride for 15€

If you’re lucky to have no-one else riding with you, then your journey will take around 2.5 hours. However, if there are other people in the car, it may be longer and could take upto 3 hours due to slightly different arrival time and drop off at different locations. There will be a maximum of 3 passengers in the car.

In the winter season, there are two additional shared shuttle companies. They offer private transfers year round.

Bansko Express — This option is pretty great, you can get a one way private taxi transfer taking 2.5 hours or you can choose the shared transfer, which will take longer (up to 4 hours). Check the site to get a quote for your journey.

Bansko Shuttle — The Bansko Express shuttle service operates between 1st December & 15th April each year. Seats are 19.95 Euros one way.

Public transport via Bus is described in detail in the document — click the link and in this blog post: http://asocialnomad.com/bulgaria/sofia-to-bansko/

Train — There is a train from Sofia to Bansko, which will take you on a scenic adventure through the mountains but be warned this is not the quickest route to Bansko, as the estimated journey duration is 7+ hours.

Finding Accommodation in Bansko

Guesthouses (special rate at Riverside plus Baba Reina — or very affordable hotels to stay for a week and to check out further options once you are here. It is better to ask around and you’ll get far better rates than what you can book in the internet. Check out in advance helps (winter rates are usually higher).

Stay near the Co-working Space (Old Town Bansko)

  • Within walking distance to the Co-working Space
  • It’s fairly easy to get to the Ski Slopes from here rather than the other way around because most apartment complexes and hotels run a free shuttle service from here to the Gondola area. Even if you don’t live in one of these, we have an arrangement with some hotels that will offer you a free ride to the Ski Resort when you mention Co-working Bansko. Or you could walk up as it only takes 20 minutes!
  • Charming, quaint and historical town
  • Lots of really awesome local and affordable restaurants (including great lunch menu deals, breakfast buffet discounts and more when you mention Co-working Bansko)
  • You can eat out for 5€ per person (includes a nice meal at dinner including wine)
  • Local Open Markets nearby where you can buy your fresh fruit and veg at a great price!
  • Coffee Shops and Cafes within walking distance from the Co-working Space
  • Apartment rental prices (one bed) at 100/150€ per month plus utilities or single room in a local guest house from 10€ per night
Source: Bansko Listings

Stay near the Gondola area, next to the Ski Slopes (only viable in the winter season. In the summer this area is empty with most shops, hotels and restaurants closed). Consider following:

  • This area is very touristy so the prices are reflected in the nearby restaurants etc
  • Very close to the Ski Slopes, so you’ll have easy access to the slopes
  • Coffee Shops and Bars within walking distance
  • 20 minute walk to the Co-working Space
  • Nearby Restaurants — expect to pay at least 15€ per person for dinner — it’s catered for holiday makers here.
  • Apartment Rental prices (one bed): 250€ a month plus utilities

CAUTION: Keep a special eye out for accommodation during Winter season. You might find the insulation not sufficient, due to various reasons they’re not all necessarily insulated enough for the Winter months. So make sure to check out the apartment for yourself (or ask for help) when you’re there before agreeing to a lease. Also, the electricity bills during Winter will be more so budget for an extra 100€ on top per month. Having a fireplace in the apartment and people who live below your apartment definitely helps.

How To Find an Apartment in Bansko?

You could go through agencies and pay them fees etc and look at the listed apartments they have. Or you could use these recommended contacts:

margi3@mail.bg. She’s very well connected in the area and will help you get really good deals for a good quality apartment/room at the local rate (not the tourist rate).

d.dzhibin@gmail.com (Local Property Contact FB page)

bestpropertyshow@gmail.com (Ask for Sergey)

Rent in Bansko Listings

Internet Options

Coworking Bansko has two 100MBit symmetrical fibre connections which provides probably the fastest internet in Bansko.

Wi-Fi is available pretty much everywhere around town — all restaurants, hotels, coffee shops have WiFi.

I would still recommend getting a SIM Card so you can enjoy 4G speeds of about 50 MBit. There are several good options starting from 5 Euros for 2GB, which you can sort out once you arrive in town. Mtel, Telenor and Vivacom are the 3 main providers. I just went with whoever had the best deal at the time, which was Vivacom.

Money Exchange

The currency used in Bulgaria is Lev and is fixed to the Euro (1 Lev = 1.95€).

Withdrawing cash: there is a limit to withdraw money from an ATM, 600–800 Lev (300–400€) depending on the bank and charges will vary according to your bank.

Try to avoid to exchange bureaus as the rates are pretty rubbish.

Climate Recommendation

Winter: Bring Hiking Shoes/Snow Boots, Windproof/Ski Trousers and Jacket, thick socks and ski gear if you plan on skiing/snowboarding!

Summer: You still need a good pair of walking shoes as flip flops won’t be able to withstand the mountain hikes

Bansko Mountains

Food

Food in Old Town far exceeds that to the Ski Resort Gondola area in terms of quality, price, value and taste. Bulgarians love their meat and the portion sizes are pretty generous (grilled sausage, grilled meat platters with vegetables, bean stew with sausage, steak on grill are some of their typical cuisines). A few recommendations to try out: Tavern, Dedo Pene, Adela, Emap, etc.

Ljutenica (pronounced Luto — nitza) is the yummiest vegetable relish that you just have to try with their freshly oven baked bread — it’s SO good!

Breakfast: Coworking Bansko members can eat at Riverside Hotel’s Buffet for 5 Lev (2.5€) for a decent buffet selection. Personally, my favourite cafes for breakfast would be ‘Starfish’ for Coffee and Smoothies or ‘Le Retro’ for their Coffee and Croissants!

Other options:

Le Retro Bansko

Breakfast service from 8am till 11am

Phone: 359 877 660 306

Momini dvori

Phone: 088 853 0695

They offer:

• English breakfast for 13lv

• Sandwiches from 7lv

• Mekitsi for 6lv

The atmosphere is in Bulgarian traditional style and they have seating outside.

Coconut

Open: 10AM–1PM, 4–9PM

A small space for smoothies and coffee .

Lunch: There are special lunch deals at several places around town starting at 2.5€

Dinner: The Co-working Bansko team go out for dinner frequently and the members have started a list of some of their best picks in town (great price and quality). Expect about 5–10€ for dinner.

Here are a few of our favourite picks:

An average meal in Old Town, will cost you about 5€ per person

Eating out in the Gondola area, you’re looking at around 10€+ per person

For Weekly Shops — Aldo, Lidl, BG are the local supermarkets (quite a few of these around).

There’s an Aldo in the Gondola area and Lidl a bit further out, so you’d need a car or taxi for this. Or become friends with someone who has a car ;)

The market is open everyday from 9 to 19h and the typical market day is Sunday! And there’s a Butchers, if you want to buy meat.

Social Life

Meeting people in Bansko is actually quite easy as it’s a small place and it’s not very busy (until you’re on the slopes!). Co-working Bansko have a great community and arrange events for their team members, it’s definitely more of a family unit and they make it super easy to connect you with other people.

There’s also a large expat community in Bansko and they hold regular social events, so that’s also another great way for you to connect with more familiar ‘locals’.

Useful Facebook Groups to Join:

Also check the Bansko Blog, which has a wealth of information about Bansko including their own app, a podcast and videos to capture the atmosphere in the town.

Where to Work?

Coworking Space — Coworking Bansko provides the perfect balance between being part of an active community and productive work in Bansko. They currently have two spaces, one being the social space for events, meetings etc and the other being the more focused and quiet space for solo work. Also, during summer, you can mix it up and use their outdoor area.

Monthly memberships start at €100 for a flex desk and get even cheaper when you commit longer. Your first day is always free, so best to go and check it out.

Coffee Shops

Old Town actually boasts quite a few Coffee Shops for that perfect break no matter what part of the day that falls for you.

(Starfish Coffee and Champagne Bar, closer to the Gondola area)
(Cafe Lido — Coffee Shop in Old Town, near the Co-working space)

Going out in Bansko (Bars and Clubs)

Vegan/Veg/Gluten free options

If you’re going to be around for a while, then check out this website for Organic/Free From Food Deliveries: http://www.zoya.bg/

Things to Do in (and around) Bansko

  • Skiing
  • One day Ski Pass: 58 Lev
  • A 20 day (non consecutive) ski pass: 800 Lev
  • Season pass: 1500 Lev, but 200 Lev discount when bought in November
  • Ski Hire (Boots, Skis and Helmet) — 20/30 Lev per day
  • Where to rent Skis: Tsakiris is affordable, close to the Slopes and offer great customer service
  • Izgreva Hot Springs — A favourite après-ski activity is definitely taking a warm, relaxing mineral bath after a long day of skiing.
  • Hiking in the Mountains— Pirin is one of the largest mountains in Bulgaria and one of the most beautiful sights to see, especially in the summer when you can take a walking tour with a guide or just go on your own
  • Safaris — Check out the breathtaking scenery with an ‘adrenaline rising off-road experience for a fast and fun adventure’ in Bansko
  • National Parks (Rila and Pirin) — ‘The landscape of the Mountains is diverse and includes a notable alpine area, dotted with many lakes, forested mountain landscapes that define the unique fauna richness in the mountain’
  • Plovdiv — The second largest city in Bulgaria and home to the most beautiful Roman ruins and an enchanting town of cobbled streets is definitely worth a visit. And plenty of cute coffee shops!
  • Sofia (capital of Bulgaria) — The largest city of Bulgaria, if you’re looking for a weekend getaway, boasts a youthful, modern and quirky vibe with a delicious food scene.
  • Greece — Thessaloniki is only a 2 hour drive from Bansko, highly recommended over Spring and Summer, when the weather is really pleasant.
  • Wine tasting — Bulgaria is well known for its red wine so don’t miss out on trying out some of the finest and affordable red wine while you’re there
  • A few other fun activities include Ski Doo, Horse Riding, ATV riding, paint ball…

Fitness Centres

Getting Around

  • Walk (or Cycle in the summer) — best way of getting around in Bansko
  • Car Hire — to get outside of Bansko you can hire a car from TwoHeads
  • Taxi Services (Call Dinko: 898591970, Katarino: 74789500, Blago: 879253855) Only one company that runs in Bansko and it’s better to order a Taxi from another part of town to pick you up from Bansko as the Bansko taxi’s are more expensive and catered for tourists. (3 Lev for pickup plus 3 Lev per km)
  • If you stay near the Co-working space, you can get to the Gondola from there with the free shuttle bus from your apartment building or the 2 lev shuttle option from the Riverside hotel
  • If you stay near the Gondola without a car, then you are just a few minutes away from the slopes but try not to limit yourself to this area without experiencing the beautiful historical old town (and the co-working community).

Getting to Coworking Bansko

Coworking Bansko on Google Maps: Toma Vishanov 2 & 6, Bansko

More information on the website: Co-working Bansko

Irina https://www.facebook.com/irina.pandeva 
Matthias https://www.facebook.com/MatthiasEZeitler

Uwe https://www.facebook.com/captainuwe

Links to other useful blog posts from the Co-working Bansko team:

Why I Moved to Bansko, Bulgaria

Bulgaria — Where Nomads Can Buy an Apartment for 10k

Co-Living Space Opening Soon

Mountain Destination for Digital Nomads

Getting Bulgarian Tax Residency for Digital Nomads