We recently drove from West Sussex, England to Sofia, Bulgaria and we’ve had many questions about the cost and how effective it was to drive in comparison to flying.
This post addresses some of the costs of driving down through Europe to Bulgaria not travelling through Serbia.
This post is proving contentious with certain men who are proclaiming that I am stupid and can’t map read. SO…
- This is not the most direct route.
- This is not the cheapest route.
- This is the route that we chose to drive because I had to drop Rich off at Zurich airport and the kids and I decided to have a holiday en route in Liechtenstein.
- This route avoids Serbia – read below as to why.
- All photos taken en-route with my phone!
Driving to Bulgaria; our route.
There is a newly built motorway that enables you to travel from Hungary to Bulgaria through Serbia (thus eliminating Romania) BUT and this is a big however, Serbia is not in the EU….
If you’re just travelling alone or with kids, you don’t need to worry about this however if you’re travelling with a dog there is an additional requirement of a health certificate, translated into Serbian, and a vet checking the pet at the border and a subsequent fee.
Some people have told me that if you travel through a non-EU country with an EU pet passport that this voids the EU passport. This is not true and I can find no official vet to confirm this however I have heard horror stories of bribery & corruption at the Serbian border involving a pet and some people have told me that British vets will not sign the Serbian health certificate because it isn’t a DEFRA form…
So for this reason we did not drive through Serbia – although we will on a future trip!
Our hound on the beach
What do we drive?
We’re currently driving a 2002 Lexus RX300, 4×4 with two adults, three kids, a 50kg dog and a roof box. We’re in eastern Europe until at least December so we are packed full and as the dog takes up the entire boot/trunk we need a roof box.
It has a 75 litre fuel tank and for motorway driving we generally sit on 80mph/130kmh.
What our car probably looked like when it was new and shiny.
Driving to Bulgaria from England
We left West Sussex early on a Saturday morning as we booked a Eurotunnel for 10:30am. There were some slight delays which meant we were able to pop into the dog park at the Eurotunnel terminal which is really good. Even for a dog who doesn’t like other dogs, he had fun!
Eurotunnel – £102
Petrol – £93.73
Total – £195.73/€221.75/$US259.63
Driving to Bulgaria, via the Eurotunnel
We arrived in Calais at roughly 1pm and made our way over to Nancy in the north-east. We’d booked two rooms in an F1 hotel not remembering that the bathrooms are all shared. The rooms are only 9sq/m big and the dog seemed to take up a lot of room!
Peage – €6.10. 3.60. 22.80€
F1 hotel – €75
Petrol – €95.01
Total – €202.51/£178.74/$US237.13
Driving to Bulgaria; Staying in the F1 hotel where the dog had visions above himself.
I dropped Rich off at Zurich airport on the Sunday afternoon as he had business meetings the following week. The kids and I decided that instead of carrying on driving over to eastern Europe, we would wait in Liechtenstein for him to join us on the Friday night.
In hindsight this was an expensive stop-over and there was no reason why I couldn’t have driven further alone.
Vignette – CHF 40
Petrol – CHF 108.75
Total – CHF 148.75/£113.10/€128.17/$US150.05
Driving to Bulgaria through Switzerland with our vignette
One week’s accommodation in Liechtenstein £537/€608.50/$US712.38
Driving from Liechtenstein we very briefly crossed the Austrian border before heading up and through Germany, although we later met Austria again.
Vignette – €26.20
Total – €26.20/£23.12/$US30.67
Germany’s drive was long and tedious. It is all autobahn which is a delight really as the roads are in perfect condition and there’s no real speed limit but by this stage the trip was seemingly endless.
We’d limited ourselves to roughly 8 hours of driving per day but it turned into 10 hours because of dog stops.
Toll – €0.70
Petrol – €89.09
Meal at a service station: 58.86€
Driving to Bulgaria; A car park somewhere in Europe
After having our passports checked at the Hungarian border we slipped over the border to our hotel with no drama.
I can really recommend Nimrod Hotel as it’s not far from the main road and has three supermarkets and some restaurants within a few minutes walk.
The surrounding area was also very green and grassy and meant I could walk the dog before he went to bed and before we left the next morning.
Vignette – 2975 / €10 – 10 days
Hotel – 35325
Petrol – 20,740
Tesco shopping for lunch and dinner – 7,437
Breakfast at McDonalds (yes terrible!) – 6,750
We had a horrendous drive through Hungary with huge queues and delays. It meant that our 8 hour drive was in fact 11.5 hours. To say we were exhausted was an understatement.
The problem with being in the car all day is despite being exhausted, the dog still needs walking and that is a challenge when you arrive at your destination at 10pm and just want to sleep.
Hotel – 403.19 ron
Meal out – 116 ron
Carrefour shopping – 92 ron
Petrol – 349.20
The Bulgarian border at Vidin was very different to the border we crossed last year at Giurgiu (friendship bridge). For starters we waited to have our passports checked and that took about an hour and then we had to buy the vignette which took about 30 minutes.
As you’ve finished with passport control, you’re required to pay €6 for the road toll before pulling over to buy the vignette.
€6 – toll
54 lev – vignette 3 months
I haven’t included the week in Liechtenstein in this total. If you want a week in Liechtenstein, obviously add on the difference from above.
Driving to Bulgaria; our route
How to make it cheaper
- If you drive the most direct route, you wouldn’t have to drive through Switzerland and therefore you’d eliminate at least a tank of petrol as well as the vignette.
- The accommodation we chose wasn’t always the cheapest but it did not come to more than £100 per night for the two rooms we booked (one room for Rich and I and one room for the 3 kids). After driving for 8-12 hours per day, I wanted a nice bed and a hot shower.
- We ate out three times (service station, McDonalds & Romania). This isn’t essential especially if you are organised and can pre-prepare food but a hot meal after laborious days is worth it.
- Fly – If you have no dog to contend with, flights can be found for as low as £35 with easyJet.
- Ship your pet – We have been quoted approximately £250 for air-conditioned, licensed dog shipping which takes 3 days from Bulgaria to England.
- Fly your pet – Bulgarian air offer pet freight. A fee of up to €120 applies and you MUST call the airline prior. Maximum dimensions of the pet container – 110 x 65 x 70 cм!
- Drive through Serbia (if you have no pet).
- Drive through Italy and catch a ferry to Greece.
Driving to Bulgaria? Pin this
Considering driving through Europe to Bulgaria? Add this post to your pinterest board.