2019 Digital Nomad Guide to Varna

by Apr 9, 2019

2019 Digital Nomad Guide to Varna

Looking for an inexpensive European base for the summer months? Varna, Bulgaria may be exactly what you are searching for. With a cost of living similar to that of cities like Chiang Mai, miles of beaches, a great bar and cafe scene, and a fast and reliable internet Varna has a lot to offer. Check out the rest of the Digital Nomad Guide to Varna below.

A Quick Background

varna bulgaria

Varna is situated in the northeastern part of Bulgaria and is one of the oldest cities on the Black Sea. The city is one of the tourism hubs of Bulgaria because there are several popular resorts like Golden Sands and St. St. Constantin and Elena in it’s vicinity.

The official spoken language is Bulgarian, which is similar to Russian, and uses the Cyrillic alphabet. Many street signs and menus are translated in English but not all. You will find that most young people speak good English, while the older generations are better versed in Russian or German.

While the Euro tends to be the preferred currency for things like real estate purchases, the currency that is still used day to day is the Bulgarian Lev (BGN) which tends to hover right around 0.50 Euro or US Dollars.

Cost of Living in Varna

Varna, and generally speaking all of Bulgaria, is a very affordable place to live. The average monthly salary of a Bulgarian worker is around 1000 BGN ($585.00) so most people earning a West European or US wage will find life in Bulgaria very affordable.

One of the easiest ways to find housing, especially temporarily, is through AirBnB. Even though the prices will be a bit more expensive you can still find quality accommodations for $1000 a month or less. If you don’t mind spending a little bit more time and headache to find a good place for cheap, then you can check out some of the Bulgarian sites like this one where you can find a private apartment in the center of the city for around $15 – $30 a night ($450-$900 a month).

To get to the “per night” area the first thing you will have to do once you reach the website is change the language to English through the drop down menu in the top right hand corner of the site page.

Next click on the red button that says “Night” with a picture of a bed. This will take you to a selection of apartments and rooms you can rent per night. From here select Varna as the city you are looking. Then you can select advanced options where you can check off additional wants such as “near to shops”, I suggest you check “In the central part” so you are served only apartments in a good location of the city.

Below you can see a map of the city that I put together. Everything inside of the red square is the area that I would recommend getting a place to live. If you find a place outside of this square it does not necessarily mean that it is in an unsafe area, in fact you can find many great deals on apartments outside of this area. The issue with those places is that they are further away from the general “center” of the city. Basically everything within the red square is within a 20  minute walk from the beach and a wide variety of cafes, restaurants, and bars.

map of varna for digital nomads

On this map you will also find a small pink/purple circle. This is the location of Innovator , currently my favorite coworking space in the city. You can find out more about Beehive and the rest of my recommended working locations further down in the guide.

Food and Drink

Food is incredibly cheap in Varna. You can fill up a cart at any supermarket with groceries and spend as little as $20. Restaurant prices are also quite cheap, a Shopska salad (a Bulgarian favorite) will cost you around 4.50BGN ($2.25) and a main dish between 7-10BGN ($3.50-$5).

Beer fans will find Varna especially great because you can get quality beer for about $1 per half liter. If you are a craft beer fan then I suggest you check out The Black Sheep Pub near Sevastopol which has a good offering of craft beer like the Varna brewed Glarus, and their own home brew Zlatna Varna (Golden Varna).

Varna is full of good cheap restaurants that serve a mix of authentic Bulgarian food and food from abroad. In the center of the city near the entrance to the Sea Gardens and Sevastopol you can find a McDonalds and Subway. One of my favorite restaurants also in that area is Happy. Although there are several locations in the city the one at Sevastopol and their new location at the port are the ones I would recommend. Happy became famous after featuring mouthwatering pictures of their food in the menu – I guess you could say it was the original #foodporn. If you do eat at Happy do not skip their fried zucchini, it is absolutely amazing.

If you are looking for street food one of my favorite places is Sky Food which is also located at Sevastopol. I have been eating at Sky Food since I was a kid, and I recommend trying their “djob” (a pita like sandwich filled with meat, cheese, french fries, and a plethora of salads) which is a personal favorite of mine along with their crepes which weigh almost half a kilo.

If you’re like me and make a point to eat a düner in every city you visit then you have to check out the Düner Shop on the corner of Tsar Osvoboditel and 8th Primorski Polk Blvd by the Red Square. If there is a long line outside then you are likely at the right place. I strongly recommend the düner box

Some must try Bulgarian foods are Tsa-Tsa (a small fried fish), Shopska Salad, Banica (feta cheese filled breakfast pastry), Tarator (cucumber-yogurt soup), and Kebabche (ground meat mixed with beer and grilled in a hotdog shape).

Working and Internet

Internet speeds tend to be quite good in Bulgaria and the same holds true for Varna. Bulgaria was recently ranked 20th in the world in internet speed and accessibility as reported by the Akamai State of the Internet Report.

There are several coworking spaces in the city which you can easily find by visiting Coworker.com however my personal favorite which I mentioned earlier is Innovator. They have an awesome community, the prices are very reasonable, and it’s centrally located just a few minutes from the beach. Innovator will routinely put on events at their space and several of them have been in English so you’re good even if you don’t speak Bulgarian.

If you’re not into coworking spaces and would prefer to work out of a cafe there is plenty for you to choose from in Varna. There is a huge cafe scene in the city so just about any place you walk past on the street will sell coffee and usually will have usable internet.

One of my favorite places to work out of is Edno Cafe just behind the cathedral. It is a large cafe with plenty of seating and is also quite comfortable. The tricky thing with Edno Cafe is that because of it’s strange shape the A/C only reaches so far so be strategic with where you choose to sit.

Probably the spot I visit the most however is Nedelya on General Kolev street. While it is mostly recognized as a cake chain in Bulgaria, Nedelya has great coffee and pretty decent WiFi. The service at this location is also phenomenal and everyone that works there is all smiles, which can be a bit rare sometimes in the service industry in Bulgaria. Also, it doesn’t hurt that the cakes are epic!

Cellular data plans in Bulgaria are also very cheap. M-Tel is one of the fastest cell phone/internet providers in Bulgaria and you can get 7GB of 4G service for just over 15BGN ($7.50) per month. If you are looking for a bit more freedom in your workplace you can also purchase a small wireless WiFi hotspot for less than $20 that will provide you with high speed internet everywhere in the city, including the beach so you can take those epic “office for the day” Instagram shots ;).

Getting to Varna

Varna has a recently remodeled airport that is located a short taxi ride from the city. Currently Wizz Air offers flights directly to Varna from London, Milan, Tel Aviv, Dortmund, Munich, Cyprus, and Eindhoven.  If you are coming from elsewhere in the world you can fly into Sofia and get one of the daily Wizz Air flights to Varna for 35BGN ($20), which takes about 40 minutes.

If you are not in a hurry you can also take the train from Sofia. There are several trains to Varna every day and a regular ticket will cost you just 30BGN ($15) or up to 40BGN ($22) for a seat in the first class cabin which is more spacious. The railway system in Bulgaria however is rather old and the journey takes around 7.5 hours. The train cars will be a blast from the past but the views the trip will introduce you to are stunning. Whatever you do, DO NOT sleep for the first 2 hours of the Sofia-Varna trip…you will have a prime view of the Iskar Gorge which is absolutely striking. Also be advised that these trains do not have a food/restaurant car, so you should pack food and drinks for the journey. Thankfully, all the railway stations have small restaurants and shops where you can buy food for the journey. The train arrives at the main Varna railway station which is in the center of the city. You can book a trip from the Bulgarian Railway website at BDZ.bg

The bus is another popular option that will cost you about the same as the train journey. This trip takes a bit less time, around 6 hours, but can lack in views depending on which route you pick. You can compare prices and routes on BusRadar.com

If you will be arriving in Sofia I would suggest that you just fly to Varna. The journey is short and getting to the city from the airport will cost you less than 10BGN ($5) by taxi. If you want to see more of the countryside and are looking for a slightly more “adventurous” experience, the train is is the better option.

Living in Varna as a Digital Nomad

beach bar in varna

Varna is the largest Bulgarian city on the Black Sea and is known for its nightlife and beach scene. What makes it a wonderful place for digital nomads in the summer, other than the affordability, is the laid back lifestyle, and that Bulgaria is not a Schengen country, meaning that any time spent in Bulgaria will not count towards your total time in Europe.

Along with not being in the Schengen Zone, Varna through Sofia, is a short direct flight from most European capitals like Paris, London, Berlin, or Budapest.

Unlike most European cities, Varna does not have much to “sightsee” which has pros and cons. Some of the city’s landmarks include the Varna Cathedral and Archeological Museum which houses the oldest golden treasure ever discovered (a must see while in Varna). The Sea Gardens are another popular Varna attraction that separates the city from the beachfront. Take a few hours and walk it’s entirety for a relaxing afternoon activity favored by many locals. That should not happen just once during your stay in Varna.

Other famous city sights include the Pantheon – a memorial to the people who died in the fight against the Fascists, and the Park-Monument to The Bulgarian-Soviet Relations. Although it is not exactly the most attractive monument in existence it does have a bit of a cool secret. I have not investigated it myself but local lore has it that within the monument is an entrance to a tunnel which runs under the city and is connected to the City Hall. This was the secret escape route for government official in case of a nuclear attack.

If you decide to venture outside the city there are several interesting historical and natural wonders to explore like Pobiti Kamani. To visit and see all of the mentioned sights and memorials shouldn’t take your more than two days, this means that your time in the city can actually be spent working and relaxing by the beach.

The beach in Varna is lined with numerous cafes, restaurants, and bars that offer beach seating. A favorite of many locals is Cubo which has relaxed vibes, chill electronic/modern music during the day, and many interesting art pieces. In fact, this where you can most often find me when I am not working, so don’t hesitate to drop me a line and we can meet up for a Menta with Sprite (a popular Bulgarian summer beach cocktail).

Best Places to Work Out in Varna

Perhaps the most high class gym in Varna is Orange Fitness located at 3B Nikola Y. Vaptzarov St. just behind the Naval Academy. This gym is pretty expensive even for European/US standards, depending on the pass you could be paying up to $100 per month. However you get what you pay for since Orange Fitness has a pool, sauna, spa and is exceptionally clean and high class.

If you are looking to do yoga there are many places all over the city that a simple Google Maps search will reveal. To be honest I have never visited a yoga place in Varna but but based on reviews and website quality the best place seems to be Om Shanti which is a bit outside the city but is very reasonably priced at just 8BGN ($4) for a single visit, 50BGN ($29) for 8 visits, or 90BGN ($52) for an unlimited number of visits per month.

If you are looking for a place that has a little bit of everything, in a good location, and great price, then the recently remodeled Primorski Pool and Gym is for you. This is where I swam competitively as a kid and it is my current choice for a gym and pool. It’s conveniently located near the center of the city and it is built right above the beach.

There are two pool passes: 10 visits per month for 30BGN($17) or 20 for 55BGN($32). If you are looking for a gym then you can get 10 visits for 25BGN($14) or 20 for 40BGN($23). In total a 10 day pass to the pool and a 10 day pass to the gym will cost you 55BGN or around $32. The Primorski Athletic Center also has a spa where you can purchase massages costing 15BGN($9) for 25 minutes, or 25BGN($14) for 50 minutes.

If you are interested in coming to Varna and are a digital nomad don’t forget to join the Varna Digital Nomad Facebook group where you can meet more location independent workers and entrepreneurs living and working in the city.

See you in Varna!

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