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Bulgaria is growing in popularity as an expat destination thanks to its low cost of living, scenic countryside and proximity to the rest of Europe. While the country is known to have exceptionally well-trained medical professionals, its facilities often suffer from poor standards due to a lack of infrastructure and funding.
There are a large number of private practices, however, with many practitioners drawn to the more lucrative opportunities in the private sector. For those working in Bulgaria, including foreign residents, payments towards the country’s national health insurance fund are compulsory.
Medical staff in the larger cities will most likely speak English, but expats living in rural Bulgaria may have trouble finding medical assistance in their language.
Bulgaria’s public healthcare has limitations that expats may need to adjust to, such as poor facilities, understaffing and a simple lack of funding. Most expats tend to opt for the more efficient, reliable and progressive private centres.
EU and EEA residents will be pleased to know that their European Health Insurance Card is valid in Bulgaria, meaning holders are entitled to free medical treatment at public hospitals which have a contract with the Bulgarian national health insurance fund. A digital card which stores your information is available in the form of a mobile app.
Expats must make compulsory contributions towards Bulgaria’s public healthcare system in order to use it. To make these contributions, expats must register with the National Health Insurance Fund, choosing both a GP and a dentist.
As is often the case, private healthcare in Bulgaria is far more advanced and well-equipped than its public sector equivalent. Relatively cheap when compared to many surrounding Western nations, Bulgaria has grown as a destination for medical tourism involving cosmetic and dental procedures. Most doctors at private institutions are also bilingual, so communicating in English should not be a problem.
Private healthcare costs can be exorbitant, and it is recommended that expats planning to use this system purchase comprehensive international health insurance for their time in the country.
Pharmacies and medication
Pharmacies in Bulgaria are regulated and run by qualified pharmacists. If looking to continue a prescription in Bulgaria, it is advisable that expats obtain medical certificates from their GPs back home.
Regulations for medical prescriptions can be a little more flexible in Bulgaria than in an expats home country. It is worth taking note of the generic names for any chronic or prescription medication, as brand names tend to vary from country to country.
Emergency services and important numbers
Bulgaria is currently undertaking projects to modernise its emergency services and hospital facilities. State-run hospitals normally have dedicated emergency wards, while in the capital city of Sofia, the University Hospital Tsaritsa Yoanna and University Hospital St Anna both operate dedicated emergency wings.
Emergency response times in Bulgaria are still improving. Expats with potential language barriers and difficulty with the Cyrillic alphabet might find communication difficult during emergencies.
112 is the general European emergency number, which has operators who can assist with ambulance services or directions to the nearest hospital in case of emergency.