I have spent a total of almost 20 weeks in Sunny Beach, Bulgaria. Why? I was a tourist guide in this city, and I have also been here as a travel-guest, both with friends, and one time with my girlfriend and my young son.
Is Bulgaria Safe for a Family Holiday? Sunny Beach, Bulgaria is a safe and nice place for families to have a vacation. There are countries with safer cities and better crime statistics, and if you leave your stuff unattended it will get stolen. But as a hotel and pool-vacation, Sunny Beach, Bulgaria is a safe and sound, based on my experience
There is more to say about this, Safety is one thing, but would I recommend Sunny Beach as a holiday destination? Read on to find out more.
Why I Think Bulgaria Is Safe For a Family Holiday?
Sunny Beach is rumored to be a party-only holiday destination, at least here, and most likely also in Britain and other big parts of Europe.
The city is an artificial hotel-city, I remember being there in May before the guests arrived, we were almost alone, the entire city downtown was ours, we basically got used to live in a ghost town.
When the summer season peaks, the city is crowded and booming with people, which makes it feel like a maybe a 10% Las Vegas vibe. Big hotels, lighted signs, music in the street and a city full of promoters who wants to get you as a customer.
Compared to Denmark, Bulgaria is dirt cheap, Sunny Beach has somewhat inflated prices, the locals can not afford to have a night out unless they are quite well off, but for a Dane, two drinks for the price of what equals to 5 euros, is maybe one fifth or only 15% of the price in Denmark.
This means that Sunny Beach attracts lots of young people in their early twenties, from richer countries. It is actually cheaper for them, to go on a bender and pay for the hotel than it is staying at home.
That’s why, the rumors of Sunny Beach is, that it is only great for partying
That is not true, there is approximately 5 km of beachfront, with hotels in several rows, and it is actually only the center of flower-street, where the party is.
NOTE: There is many more pensioners and families in Sunny Beach than there are young people partying.
I also believe that Sunny Beach, Bulgaria is quite a safe destination for families, you are not likely to travel outside your own hotel, and when you do, it is to go a stroll down the beach.
Here are 5 Warnings about Sunny Beach from a Former Tour Guide
Being responsible for hundreds of guests each week, we had to take some precautions, especially because I was a tourist guide at an agency with lots of young people who went to Sunny Beach, to party.
I honestly do not remember everything we informed our guests, but here are 5 things that stuck with me through the years. It is some basic rules that will apply when you travel to any country with a low or no average income.
#1 Don’t go out about alone at night
You can easily go for a stroll in the crowded, lighted area of midtown flower-street, but we always told everyone to always go in groups at night and stay in the light.
I do not think, you will just get mugged if you don’t, I have walked around, by myself in questionable ally’s and in dark places, where no one could see me, but I always wore a guide-shirt, in my mind, that gave me a sense of security.
We did not have any guests the two years I was there, as a guide nor have I ever heard stories about people being mugged or anything worse. At least not people from Denmark, if this had been the case, it would have been all over the news.
#2 Don’t drink the water
This is a basic rule that always applies when traveling, but to be honest, I have drunk water from the tap, and so has lots of my friends, yes I have had some tummy aches, but I am quite sure it is from bad food, and not the water.
I say if you don’t have any bottled water, and really need to hydrate, go for tap water, at least if you stay at a nice hotel, but bottled water is incredibly cheap and you can buy it in big tanks.
#3 Be aware of pirate taxis
I don’t know if this is still a problem, I did only drive with other guides from another agency who had a car, I never actually drove a taxi.
But there were stories about people being transported some kilometers out of town and was told to empty their pockets and give them all their money, to get back again.
Ask your travel agency, if this is something that you still need to be aware of.
#4 Don’t leave your stuff unattended
A basic rule for being anywhere at any time, if you go to the beach, hotel pool or anywhere else, don’t leave your wallet or anything valuable at the beach.
There are even times when they would run away with clothes and towels, the locals are not generally well of, so they’ll take what they can get away with.
#5 Respect the authorities
If a security guard, bouncer or policeman tells you to do something in Bulgaria, you do it, otherwise, they will use force.
I have seen drunk young people being dragged and almost literally thrown out of pubs, for behaving badly.
There were also stories about people who got some beatings by the police because they refused to pay a cash fine for pissing in the streets.
The Bulgarian police system is quite different than ours, it is up to the individual policeman to judge how you should pay, and most likely they’ll want some cash in hand, to make a problem go away.
The city is most likely still controlled by mafia-like structures with corruption and bribery, so if you, anyhow get into trouble, just do exactly as they say, afterward, you can go to your own travel agency and tell them about the situation, if you feel like you were unfairly treated.
Why Sunny Beach is a Great (But Boring) Family Vacation
I have been there 3 times, almost 20 weeks in total, so I might be quite fed up with Bulgaria, but there is also some lovely things that make it great.
My son enjoyed sitting in the stroller at the long beach walk and just looking at the people, the hundreds of shops with tacky cheap crap, he enjoyed the cheap ice cream and the cheap fruit and crisps, while his mum and dad took turns to be the one who gets to drink an incredibly cheap piná colada or mojito.
I really do know, many families, where cheap and bang-for-the-buck is high on the list, if this is you, then Bulgaria hits the spot. Go for a 4 or 5-star hotel or closed resort, it sounds it expensive, but it isn’t.
As a tour guide I stayed in 2 and 3 starred hotels, they are basically just a room, and sometimes a pool. They are quite liberal with the starring systems so I would say to only consider the 4 and 5 stars, and if you can afford it, go for 5 stars and make sure it is child-friendly. I am not sure, but I think the most exclusive is Royal Helena Palace
Our hotel was really great and child-friendly. We stayed at Evrika Beach Club Hotel, and I have eaten at maybe 40 different restaurants in Sunny Beach, and Evrika Beach Club Hotel’s all-inclusive is actually way better food than the restaurants of Sunny Beach.
And also, the pool is basically a water park, there is also a children’s activity center, two playgrounds, and free drinks all day at the bar.
My Top Hotel Recommendations Would Be as Follows
- Evrika Beach Club Hotel
- Royal Barcelo
- Majestic Beach Resort
- Emerald Beach Resort
- Ibero Star Beach Resort
Do not select a hotel, too close to the main street, called Flower Street, the kids and you, might have some trouble sleeping, but 500 meters away you should be fine.
Do they speak English in Bulgaria?
I have spent a total of almost 20 weeks in Sunny Beach, Bulgaria, which is one of the most touristy locations in all of Bulgaria, and in my experience, English is what I will say hit or miss, with the locals.
What I mean by that is, either they speak English just fine, or else they do not understand a single word of what you are trying to communicate.
One thing to note is, there is a correlation between the job they do, and their ability to speak English. Waiters, Promotors, Hotel-staff, and Bartenders will probably understand you just fine, especially because both promoters and bartender probably aren’t Bulgarian.
TIP: If you want to go somewhere in a taxi or by any chance travel somewhere by bus, then make sure you are going with your tour guide.
You can go very wrong, if you try to communicate with a Bulgarian taxi-driver who does not understand a single word of what you are saying, because they will probably take you somewhere, just to earn some money, and very much likely not somewhere you would want to go.
My overall review of Sunny Beach Bulgaria for families
In my opinion, there are a few different types of vacationers, but it can mainly be divided into two big groups, the group of people, who do absolutely nothing, who just relax, play cards, drink wine and sit around all day.
And there is the other group of vacationers, who wants to go out and get experiences, learn something new or see something they have never seen before.
In Sunny Beach, there is not really that much to experience
The city is an artificial hotel-city so you won’t find any old beautiful buildings and locations, I haven’t been to Sofia, the main Capitol, but I think this would be a far better destination if you want to experience Bulgaria.
Sadly Sofia is not a city you just go and visit from Sunny Beach, there is a very long way, about 450 kilometers, which translates to about 280 miles, and the roads and public transport is not something you would want to experience.
So how would I rate the experience for a family
I would give Sunny Beach 2 out of 5 stars, and I would only recommend you to go there if you want to do nothing, and you live quite close. I would not recommend any US citizens to travel internationally to go visit Sunny Beach, there is not much to see.
Why the low rating?
- The food is not a great experience, I have lived there and worked there for so long, and I will say that Bulgaria will never be known for having a great kitchen.
- There is almost nothing to see for the parents, there is a little culture to experience in the old town of Nessebar, but it is touristy and crowded.
- I have stayed in maybe 10 different hotels, ranging from 2 to 5-star hotels, and the build quality is somewhat questionable at best
The highlights of Sunny Beach
- You will be almost guaranteed to have nice warm weather.
- If you like to enjoy some holiday party, it is very cheap, in fact, everything is cheap, but this is not what I recommend doing when traveling with your kids
- The people are very nice, I’ve met some great people in Bulgaria. They are much more outgoing and open than the Danish people are.
Would I travel to Sunny Beach again?
Yes, but only because I know the ins and outs of the city, and I know where great hotels are located, but I would only be for a short trip of 1 week or less, and it would only be if there was a special and cheap offer from a travel agency.
I’ve had the time of my life in Sunny Beach as a tourist guide, and I am quite sure my son enjoyed it very much as a 1,5-year old, i have great memories of being there.
But, I will not have you put Sunny Beach on a map of locations you need to experience.
This is not a bucket-list worthy location