Healthcare in Bulgaria

Thanks to its low cost of living, scenic countryside and proximity to the rest of Europe, Bulgaria is growing in popularity as an expat destination.

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 plenty of private practices, however, as many practitioners are 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 are more likely to speak English, but this is less prevalent in rural areas of Bulgaria. 

Before venturing to another country, make sure you have a health insurance plan you can rely on. Our international health insurance plans offer comprehensive health cover for when you are in your home country and abroad.

Bulgaria’s public healthcare has limitations such as poor facilities, understaffing and a 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 (EHIC) is valid in Bulgaria, meaning holders are entitled to free medical treatment at public hospitals that have a contract with the Bulgarian National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF). A digital card that stores each person’s 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 will need to register with the NHIF and choose a GP and a dentist.

Most doctors in the public sector have a contract with the NHIF. Expats will be charged a small consultation fee for out-patient care, but in-patient care is free of charge. The vast majority of dentists are not covered by the NHIF, however, meaning that expats will often end up having to pay the full amount for dental treatments.

Private healthcare in Bulgaria is far more advanced and better equipped than its public sector equivalent. As Bulgarian private healthcare is fairly cheap when compared to many surrounding nations, the country has grown as a destination for medical tourism. Cosmetic and dental procedures are particularly popular. Most doctors at private institutions are also bilingual, so communicating in English should not be a problem.

Despite being less costly than some of its neighbours, private healthcare costs in Belgium can still add up quickly. It’s therefore recommended that expats planning to use this system purchase comprehensive international health insurance for their time in the country.

Pharmacies in Bulgaria are regulated and run by qualified pharmacists. They are generally easy to find in urban centres, while hospitals often have pharmacies attached. Some of the country’s larger cities have 24-hour pharmacies.

Regulations for medical prescriptions may be a little more flexible in Bulgaria than in an expat’s home country. On the other hand, sometimes expats find that medications that are available over the counter back home are prescription only in Bulgaria.

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.

Under the NHIF, emergency care in life-threatening situations is free of charge and emergency rooms are required to treat every patient. If not in a life threatening situation, expats will be required to pay for ambulances and treatment. Emergency response times in Bulgaria are still improving, and depending on their area, expats might want to have their own emergency transport ready in case.

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 English speaking operators who can assist with ambulance services or directions to the nearest hospital in case of emergency.