Visiting religious sites can be a frustrating experience if you are not familiar with the what is acceptable and what is not.
Here are a few simple rules on what to do when visiting an orthodox church in Bulgaria.
- Entrance Fee
Active churches do not have an entrance fee. Churches that are designated as museums, like the famous Boyana Church, will most certainly charge for entering.
- Dress Code
It is highly unlikely that a visitor will be stopped from entering a church or a monastery, no matter his or her attire. Several basic rules apply, however, and are usually posted at the entrance. It is considered a sign of bad taste to enter a church wearing tank tops or miniskirts.
Taking off hats is also a sign of common courtesy.
Food and drink are not allowed.
Women are not expected to cover their heads.
Taking pictures, especially with a flash, is generally not allowed in Bulgarian churches or is allowed for an extra fee (approximately 10 lv). This rule is, again, loosely enforced, but since all churches are generally dark, photographing inside takes significant skill and equipment. It is much better to just buy a postcard.
It is a custom to buy a candle (0,2 - 0,5 lv) and light it inside the church. Candles are usually left at the special candle holder. Many locals buy a second candle that they leave in a sandbox on the ground for the dead. Religious people, especially the elderly, might be seen kissing the icons and leaving coins.
If a service is taking place, be courteous to the believers attending. Remain quiet and stay at the back of the church.