The currency of Bulgaria is the Lev, this is issued by the Bulgarian National Bank in conjunction with the Bulgarian Mint. The Lev was first introduced into Bulgaria in 1881, the word “Lev” means Lion when translated from Bulgarian into English. The Lev is unique to Bulgaria, no other country in the world has the Lev as its currency. The plural for Lev is Leva.

Bulgaria is in the European Economic Union and has already made a commitment to adopt the Euro as its currency. Euro adoption is expected to happen during 2013, provided the required economic conditions in Bulgaria are satisfactory. To provide some economic stability, there is a fixed exchange rate between the Euro and the Lev, where 1 Euro has been set to equal 1.95583 Lev. The ISO 4217 standard 3-digit code for the Lev is BGN.

There are 100 stotinki to 1 Lev. The Lev notes depict well known religious leaders and are in 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 denominations. Stotinki coins are in 1 Lev, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 stotinki denominations.

The import and expert of Bulgarian currency is strictly prohibited by the Bulgarian government. Visitors are welcome to bring as much foreign currency into Bulgaria as they choose, provided they declare it upon arrival at customs.

If you are in Bulgaria, there is no need to worry about getting access to cash. Most Bulgarian citizens still prefer to use cash rather than cards. There is plenty of access to ATM machines to withdraw cash from throughout the country. It is advisable to check with your bank before you travel though if your card will operate in Bulgaria.

Image above: A 1 Lev banknote reverse side from 1999.

Major credit card brands such as Visa, MasterCard, Diners Club and American Express are accepted in a large number of stores and restaurants throughout Bulgaria. Access to credit card facilities is more commonplace in the major cities such as Sofia and Plovdiv, to be safe it is always advisable to have access to a ready supply of cash.

Travellers cheques are welcomed, although cash is certainly more frequently used. Travellers cheques are especially welcomed in hotels and restaurants throughout Bulgaria.