Transportation guide: vehicle rentals and taxi options
How to get through the city jungle
Written by Andrea Vushkova, edited by Gabriella Permaul, photos by Sara Coll Lopez
I always tell people that my favorite sports activity is running after trams and buses. Unfortunately, I do not catch them all the time, but at least I get something good out of this horrible habit of being late. If you prefer to use alternative ways to get around Sofia though, here is a rough guide to the different options.
Car rental in Bulgaria is no different than in any other European country. Most of the companies can be found at the airport, like Europcar, Top Rent a Car, Easy Rent, Sixt, Hertz, but some of them also have offices in the city.
Another company that I personally really like is Horizon. It is family-run and their biggest advantage is that they do not require a deposit.
A cool and green way to get from point A to point B for which you only need a driving license and a smartphone. The company offers electric cars for rental that you can use for a short ride in the city or for a couple of days and drive outside Sofia.
The mobile app allows you to find a car on the map, book it if it is in your vicinity, unlock and drive it. When you reach your destination, you park it in one of the designated areas and lock it through your phone.
The downside is that you get charged by the minute, so Spark is not the best option during rush hour. On the other hand, you don’t have to pay for street parking, which is a big plus.
One of the biggest companies for bicycle rent in the city is Sofia Bike Rental.
Their office is in the center and you can choose between different types of bikes to find the most suitable for your purposes. The pricing can be arranged for 3 hours, 1 whole day, or more, with the average daily rate being 20 BGN. They also handle the Sofia Green Tour project. They offer daily bike tours of Sofia and organized hiking in Vitosha (from April until October). Check them out!
Thanks to E-bike Rental Sofia you now have the opportunity to try electric bicycles. The average price per day can vary between 15 and 30 BGN, as they mostly have mountain E-bikes. The website is in Bulgarian, but you can call them and inquire about their offers.
A new, ecological, and fun way to escape the busy city traffic is renting an electric scooter. Sofia, like most European capitals, is now offering this opportunity to its citizens and visitors.
Two companies currently operate scooters:
- the Bulgarian start-up “Hobo,”
- “Brum,” the Bulgarian partner of the international “Bird.”
Both companies have a respective mobile app, which you have to download if you would like to use their services. The concept is similar to the “Spark” one, you can check on the map if there is a scooter nearby, book it through the app, unlock it with your phone, and then leave it on the street when you’ve reached your destination.
The fares are per minute, not per kilometer.
|1.60 BGN to unlock it||1.50 BGN to unlock it;|
|0.20 BGN per minute||0.30 BGN per minute;|
|60 BGN monthly subscription||0.50 BGN discount if you leave it in one of their designated areas.|
Luckily, taxis in Sofia are quite cheap. The average rate is 0.75 BGN/km during the day and 0.85 BGN/km at night (after 22:00 until 6:00). A ride usually costs between 7 and 10 BGN, unless you are going to the airport or one of the less central neighborhoods. There is a catch, though.
You can find yourself in a fake taxi and end up paying 30 or 40 BGN for a five-minute ride. Here are some ways to avoid such a scam.
After a night out, a friend of mine had the following experience:
She found a taxi on the street, opened the door, and asked the driver: “Excuse me, are you fake?” Believe it or not, he simply answered “Yes,” and she went on to find another one. As easy as this sounds, unfortunately, you cannot always count on the driver’s honesty.
That’s why, if you want to hail a cab from the street:
- Always check the little table with fares, stuck on the rear side window.
- Be aware that scammers are very creative and make their cars look almost like exact replicas of the legit company taxis.
“OK Super Trans” are the ones that often get imitated. You can see all kinds of versions from “OK Super Shans” to “OK Avto Trans”.
They even falsify the phone number by 1 digit, and my personal favorite - they change the name of the advertisement which is usually seen on the cabs, from “Fibank” to “Fidank”.
You have to admit, they are quite clever, so always stay alert.
Sometimes, even if the stated rate on the rear window looks acceptable, drivers “forget” to run the meter. When you arrive they come up with a random price, which is absolutely illegal.
- Always make sure that the meter is running, and if you notice some discrepancy, you have the right to make the driver stop and pay only what you owe up to this point.
Unfortunately, foreigners are most likely to become victims of such scams. So just to be on the safe side, the best option is to either use a mobile app or call a trusted company.
There are three reliable apps: TaxiMe, Yellow, and Taxistars, all available in English. As for calling, chances are the operators will not speak English, but if you have a basic understanding of Bulgarian, you can give it a try. Consult the table below for trusted companies and their contact information.
|Company||Phone number||Initial fee||Day rate per km (BGN)||Night rate per km (BGN)|
|Taxi S Express||02/91280||0.70||0.77||0.88|
|Taxi For 1 Euro||02/80700||0.70||0.77||0.88|
* Green Taxi is noticeably more expensive than the others because they operate with Toyota Prius. As the name suggests they are eco-friendly, hence the fares. They also have their own app.
** Yes, Panda Taxi is much cheaper than the others, there is no catch but they have a limited number of cars, so they are not easy to find.
*** All companies also have a fee for ordering (0.70 BGN), and a fare for 1 minute wait which includes waiting in traffic (0.22 BGN).
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