Medical Emergencies and Healthcare for Travelers

Last updated Jan 2015
Good to know

Public healthcare in Bulgaria is funded by an obligatory installments paid by each working individual and his or her employer. It is administered by the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF). 

The quality of the healthcare in Sofia is adequate, but below the standards in other European countries. This is especially true in the state-run hospitals.


Call 112 for any emergency while in Bulgaria (or in the EU). English speaking operators are available.

In case of a serious emergency you should also notify your embassy. They might be able to assist you.


Hospital - болница pronounced bolnitsa
Clinic - клиника pronounced klinika
Where is the nearest hospital/pharmacy? Къде е най-близката болница /аптека? 
Kade e naj blizkata bolnitsa/apteka?
Doctor - лекар lekar, доктор doctor
Patient - п
ациент patzient
Disease, Illness - болест bolest 
I feel pain, it hurts - б
оли ме boli me 



The big state-run trauma and emergency care wards are often the only places that treat serious medical emergencies. 

In Sofia, emergency patients usually end up in Pirogov Emergency Hospital /Институт Пирогов/

The hospital treats life- threatening conditions and emergencies like severe allergies, poisoning, fractures, etc.

Several other hospitals in Sofia have a 24 hour emergency services:

  • University Hospital Tsaritsa Yoanna - ISUL / Болница ИСУЛ  
    Their Accidents and Emergencies ward is open 24 hours a day and is located on the ground floor in the Western block. 
  • University Hospital St Anna commonly known as Okruzna bolnitsa / Окръжна болница   also operates an emergency ward.


Emergency care for life-threatening conditions is free of charge in Bulgaria. All hospitals are obliged to treat every patient regardless of insurance status, nationality or ability to pay. 

Be advised that medical staff, reportedly, ask for extra money from worry-stricken patients and relatives in return for special care, medical supplies, or just because they can. 


If you need to see a doctor for non-emergency care or a routine procedure, the private clinics and hospitals are a good option.

A visit to a private clinic will save you time and will come at a reasonable price. Doctors there are highly trained and often speak English.

Most travel insurance policies will cover visits to private clinics.

Tokuda Hospital   is the biggest private hospital in the country. Seeing a doctor there costs 40 -60 lv / €20-30. Medical tests will come at an extra fee. The hospital also operates an emergency ward. 


Pharmacies in Bulgaria will only fill prescriptions issued by Bulgarian doctors. Make sure you bring a sufficient supply of all prescription drugs you might need.

A wide range of over-the-counter medicines are available in pharmacies and the pharmacists will be ready to discuss your condition and help out with over-the-counter alternatives. Pharmacists will also generally sell antibiotics and other prescription-only drugs even though they are not supposed to.

Anesthetics and psychotropic medications, on the other hand, are highly controlled and are sold in selected pharmacies.


Receiving a medical treatment within the European Economic Area (EEA) has never been easier. Here are few things citizens of the EU and the EEA visiting Bulgaria should know.


EU and EEA citizens should carry their European Health Insurance card while traveling.

Click here for more information on how to get your EHIC card.  

The European Commission (EC) has developed a useful multi-language free phone app, which explains how to use the EHIC in different countries within the European Union.

Download the app here:

The EHIC card will entitle travelers to free medical treatment /emergency care, urgent care and routine procedures/ during their stay. Note, that you will be asked to pay the non-refundable patient contribution applicable to Bulgarian citizens. (Usually no more than several euro).

The card is only valid with doctors and hospitals that have a contract with the Bulgarian National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF). Most doctors and hospitals in Bulgaria do. 

Note, that hotel concierges tend to call doctors that do not work with the Fund and have to be paid on the spot.

Make it clear that you want to be treated under your EHIC card coverage and not as a private patient.

For EHIC coverage you will be asked to sign a declaration and to present an ID. 

It should be then the responsibility of the Bulgarian NHIF to seek reimbursement from your national insurer. In practice this is not always the case. Travelers and expats report being made to pay for their treatment and later send to seek reimbursement from their national healthcare provider, a process that is lengthy and cumbersome.

Check if your National Insurer will reimburse you for any prescription drugs bought in Bulgaria and under what conditions. 

Additional Travel Insurance

The EHIC does not allow treatment in private hospital and does not cover transport to your country of residence in case of a serious medical emergency or first aid and emergency transport for mountain climbers.

It is recommended to have both the European Health Insurance Card and an additional travel insurance.

Read our guide on travel insurance in Bulgaria.


You will be required to pay for any non-life threatening treatment, as well as for treatment and tests following your life-threatening operation. 

It is always a good idea to have a travel insurance that covers medical emergencies and repatriation. 


If you consider mountain climbing or adventure sports make sure your insurance covers emergency transport.The EHIC card does not cover transportation to the hospital. 

Emergency care, fractures and other injuries are covered.

Consider purchasing a special skiing insurance or adventure sport insurance.


Dental care in Bulgaria is of high quality and prices are reasonable. 

Check if your travel insurance covers dental emergencies.

Did you find this article useful? Was the information in it accurate? Let us know.


Last updated Jan 2015
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