I Can’t Believe We Fell For This Simple Scam in Bulgaria

Our flight from Berlin landed very early in Sofia, and we were tired… definitely off our game at that hour of the morning.

Despite this being the 3rd stop on our EuroTrip, Sofia was a city neither of us knew much about. Of course, we did the typical Google search and learned how beautiful and understated the city was, especially for its architecture and history.

What appealed to us most when booking Sofia, was the overall price tag, and we were looking forward to getting a bit more bang for our buck, having come from Berlin and Barcelona. In Bulgaria, the local currency is the ‘Bulgarian Lev’; It is roughly half the price of the Euro, and most establishments will still take Euros at their value.

One of the first things we suss out when we visit a new country is how we’re going to get from the airport to our accommodation. Having searched online, we knew that Uber didn’t exist in Bulgaria, and was advised that standard taxis were very cheap and simple to use.

Customs was a breeze, and we hadn’t even made it out of the arrivals area before a Bulgarian man approached us, asking if we wanted a taxi. He was wearing a lanyard, and dressed like the other employees we could see at the airport. We declined, but the man walked alongside us, explaining that he worked for the airport and would help us to flag down a taxi outside, at no extra cost.

As we exited the airport, the man raised his hand, and immediately a yellow cab pulled up. It felt a bit odd, but it was also what we had planned to do anyway, so we went along and thought nothing of it. The man advised us to show the driver the address on our phone maps and bid us a great stay in Sofia.

The driver spoke very little English, so the conversation was pretty limited, but we were able to ask if he would accept Euro, as we hadn’t had a chance to exchange currency yet.

After a short 15 minute ride, we arrived outside our Airbnb. The driver pressed some buttons on his fare calculator, and it came up with a fare of 44.50 Lev (roughly €22.50). We had €25 in cash, and the driver said that would be fine. He didn’t offer change, and we assumed it was customary to tip.

After checking in to our Airbnb, it began to sink in that we paid €25 for a short taxi ride, in what we thought was a much more affordable country, so we hopped online to research the local rates. A quick Google search of ‘Sofia Taxi’ came up with a handful of articles warning tourists of the typical ‘taxi scam’.

As it turns out, there is a cap on what legitimate taxi drivers can charge from the airport, and we were WAY overcharged. A typical journey from the airport to the city centre should cost no more than 10 Lev (€5). HA!

We’d clearly been mugged off, and taken an imitation taxi, using logos so similar to the real taxis that it would have been near impossible to spot out again. Online threads say that paying anything over €10 and you’ve been severely conned.

Safe to say we feel pretty stupid, but have definitely learnt our lesson for next time.


How You Can Avoid This Taxi Scam In The Future

If you’re heading to an airport you’ve never been to before, make sure to do your research on how you will get from the airport to your accommodation.

  • Do not speak to anyone in arrivals and allow them to flag down a taxi for you
  • Find the official taxi rank and queue with everyone else
  • Check if the country you’re in uses apps like Uber, Lyft and Taxify; they will give you fair rates up front and detailed information about your driver
  • If you hail a taxi, make sure to ask for the price of the journey upfront, to avoid and unexpected surprises when you reach your destination
  • Imitation/fake taxis are usually not allowed to stop and park up, which is why someone had to flag them down for passengers
  • Alternatively, look at public transport (buses, trains, free shuttles to the city)

 

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This is Matt and Ally ^^

Matt and Ally didn’t do enough research on where they were travelling to and got scammed right in the airport.

Don’t be like Matt and Ally.

13 thoughts on “I Can’t Believe We Fell For This Simple Scam in Bulgaria

Add yours

  1. Hi Ally and Matt

    Same thing happened to me in Acapulco some 40 years ago at the airport. Paid $20 US and the correct fare for the trip should have been $10. Very old scam!
    Grandpa

    ________________________________

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Clazz! We hope that this helps you when you arrive. The official app to use in Sofia is called TaxiMe, and using it means you can also pay on card (if you don’t have any local currency). There is a bus from the airport, just follow the signs. Enjoy your trip!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. They got you good…but shame on them. Doesn’t do well to promote their city, does it?
    You have great advise! People get off a long flight and want transportation to be easy!! Better to slow it down a bit, and be sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Our whole first day in Sofia was ruined because we were angry and upset, and it made us not like the place as a whole. Once we calmed down and tried to forget the scam, we were able to enjoy the city. We hope the information here can help other travellers in the future!

      Like

  3. So glad it was nothing too dangerous, but that’s such a bummer!!! Thanks for writing about this so others can be more aware. It makes me wonder how often I have been scammed in other countries without even really knowing it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Mackenzie! After we were able to calm down and see the scam from all sides, we know it could have been much worse. Still, it was very upsetting and I wondered if it had happened to us before too! I guess we’ll never know, but we’ll be more cautious in the future and we hope others can learn from the experience.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Masha! Hope this can be of some use to you while getting around in Sofia. Seriously recommend the app, for its efficiency, in-app payments and location services. How long will you be in Sofia for?

      Like

  4. OMG, I just stumbled across your blog, you guys. I am a Bulgarian but moved to the U.S a few years ago. I sincerely laughed the moment I read that you got in a taxi offered by someone at the airport. These are called “Копърки” (Koperky). They are legal but use the maximum allowed by law rates and their targets are only foreign arrivals who do not have a clue. Maximum allowed rates are about 6 times higher than normal rates. They sit mainly at the airport, but also you can see them around the sea coast in the summer because there are many foreign tourists there.

    There was a political scandal a few years ago with some European Union official delegate. He arrived in Sofia and his taxi driver charged him 65 Euro for a trip to the center of the city where he was giving an interview. The first thing he did was to pull out the receipt from the taxi and spoke how shameful Bulgaria should be for allowing this. Despite that though the government left the maximum allowed rates unchanged and they can still do their cheap scams.

    All cabs have their rates posted on the dashboard (passenger side) and on the side windows. The easiest way to make sure you’ll not be scammed is to look at several cabs’ rates and compare. Because sometimes a bunch of Koperky would gather at the same spot and can fool you that this is the normal rate.

    I hope that you guys had the rest of your time in Sofia enjoyable and without any issues.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Ivan, thanks for your comment.

      It was really frustrating for us, but we’ve learnt are lesson and will make sure to check rates before getting in a cab in future. No one expects to be scammed, and when you’re in a foreign country that doesn’t speak your language, it’s easy to fall for these things.

      It’s unfortunate, because this one experience left a sour taste in our mouth about Bulgaria, when actually the rest of our visit to Sofia and Plovdiv were awesome. It may be worth Bulgarians bringing these issues up with their government, for the sake of preserving a tourism industry.

      I’m sure we’ll go back one day though! 🙂

      Like

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