Bulgaria is becoming increasingly expensive, but is still the cheapest place in Europe
Issue 3, December 2006
by Plamen Doudov How much would you pay for a room with a view in Sofia? How much for a pint? If you thought it was impossible these days to get a decent fl at for under 1,500,000 pounds, or to get a round in and still have change from a tenner, think again. It may be time to give Bulgaria a try.
Over the past three years Bulgaria has become one of the most attractive places for real estate investments among EU citizens. Costs were low and expectations for profit high. However, it was not only the expectation of profit that drove these investment decisions. The low cost of living and the beautiful Bulgarian countryside influenced many people to seek retirement homes here, or simply a nice property in which to spend family winter or summer holidays. These developments have made the country a champion in attracting foreign investment.
The Bulgarian Government's recent decision to set corporation tax at 10 percent will also boost investment trends and, as a result, more professionals will be transferred to Bulgaria to join the growing expatriate community.
The general consensus is that Bulgaria is a "cheap" place to live. But in order to get a more accurate picture and to see what this means in day to day terms, we compare here the cost of living in Bulgaria with that elsewhere in Europe: in EU members France, Greece, Italy and the UK, and in Croatia, which closely resembles the average Bulgarian household's pattern of expenditure.
Distribution of household income and expenditure varies across countries, but assuming relatively stable consumption habits and the absence of drastic price increases, it is possible to make a rough estimate of the household expenditure you can expect to incur when moving to Bulgaria. Everybody can easily transform their household budget into its Bulgarian version by observing the local household spending volumes.
In its recent "Cost of Living Survey 2006" Mercer Human Resource Consulting measured the comparative cost of living in 144 cities across the world. Mercer's study ranks London in 3rd place, followed by Paris - 12th, and Rome -17th. Athens and Zagreb occupy respectively the more modest 41st and 48th positions, while Sofia comes behind in 81st place, towards the far end of the table. To put it in concrete terms, the average monthly rent for a luxury two bedroom unfurnished apartment in Sofia is 300 euros, which is eight times less than it would be in London. Coffee lovers will find coffee heaven in Sofia.
An espresso at a local cafe only costs 0.60 euro, which is almost four times cheaper than in its homeland the Italian. However, its quality will probably be nowhere near that in Italy. For a good cup of espresso you will probably have to pay more than in Italy, provided you can find someone to make it for you.
For those who like to keep up with the news from home, international daily newspapers are available in Bulgaria and cost almost the same as in the EU. Entertainment is readily available and easy to access. You can expect to pay six euros for two cinema tickets. Nightlife is cheap too, with entrance to a live music club costing less than five euros, and for the same amount inside you can get five beers.
70 years ago, on 10 March 1943, Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev. Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembers