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Bulgaria - Sunny Beach - kids

   
“As though time stopped thirty years ago – but not in a bad way. In fact, everything’s very relaxed and friendly. It’s as though Bulgaria has no ambitions to be more than what it already is. It’s like going to some remote and unspectacular village back home, and finding that they’re promoting the local lake and holiday homes like it’s the next Taj Mahal.

The fact is, there are no sights to see on the beach in Bulgaria, and they try to sell the usual beach facilities as though they’re offering some unique attraction. There’s a boat trip, for example, but it just does a few laps of the bay. You’re never far from the shore, and the highlight is when they let you jump overboard. You can go scuba diving too, but it’s hardly worth it.
They organize trips to Istanbul too, but you have to take an overnight bus. The ‘Bulgarian evening’ might be interesting for those with a passion for folklore.

We spent most of our time playing sports, swimming, running, and playing volleyball on the beach. The beach is sandy, and though there’s quite a lot of seaweed, the water is pleasantly warm, and it’s good to bathe in. There are also opportunities for water sports, and we tried the donut. The boys enjoyed it, but they went a bit fast for the girls. All the amenities are expensive: a massage on the beach costs €40, which was the same price we paid for an all-day Turkish bath session last year – just as a comparison…

Transport is well organized, and we could get everywhere we wanted to go. There’s a bus that runs along the Sunny Beach promenade, and wherever you get off, you can easily walk back. Everything is on this stretch of beach – a doctor’s, a grocery store, a bazaar, and any number of hotels and entertainment venues. (2019)

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“In the peripheral areas beyond the main road, there are hypermarkets and cheaper restaurants and buffets. In small, secluded corners, you can also find self-service restaurants where the local workforce comes out for lunch: there you can often eat for half the price at the beach, and the shops here also operate at Sofia prices.

Recently, the resort area has been expanding beyond the highway. Along the Burgas-Varna main road, there are now large department stores, furniture stores, petrol stations, service stations, and water parks, as well as new holiday complexes that are quite modern. These can be particularly cheap but are so far from the shore that the "walk down to the sea" can turn into a half-hour hike, and with a rubber mattress on your shoulders that isn’t always fun. Of course, driving is an alternative, but there are only paid parking spaces near the coast, and not from the cheap type – generally 2-3 levs an hour.

At Sunny Beach, the real attraction is the seafront promenade itself, which is full of life, shops, cafes, bars, hustle and bustle everywhere, so you don’t even notice the long walk. Of course, you can also travel by bus, and a one-way ticket to the area is 1 lev (about fifty cents) but it is more atmospheric to use the lightly rickety – but supposedly more environmentally friendly – light rail along the promenade, for 2 levs per person. In case of emergency, the taxi takes you from your door to your destination: there are quite a few of them, but they are not at all cheap: an hour's walk can equal 15-20 lev in a taxi. Sunny Beach taxis charge three to four times the prices in Sofia.

In case of bad weather, you’re in bad luck: there are one or two mini-plazas to visit, or you can go to Nessebar, which is actually a must, regardless, but otherwise, there isn’t much to do. Local travel agencies advertise all kinds of activities, including jeep safaris (discounted at 60 levs per person), boat trips, etc., but you really need good weather for these as well.




Practicals

Transport

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Accomodation

"If you’re looking for accommodation in Sunny Beach, it’s worth knowing that the area is known as Sunny Beach actually covers a large area, and is essentially integrated with Nessebar at one end of the bay, and with Sveti Vlas at the other end. The beach is more than 7 km long. The Sunny Beach can be divided into several areas, so it makes a big difference where your accommodation is.

The beach itself and the first row of hotels along the front, including the imposing Hotel Kuban, which stands out from all other buildings, is the most elegant area. The prices are highest here, but there are also premium services, luxury hotels, expensive restaurants, casinos, and mega discos. As we move out along the coast, the quality decreases first from luxury to mid-range, then from mid-range to Balkans.

The main dividing line is the main road running parallel to the coast, which leads through the town. The world on the other side of this main road is already pretty Balkan: in the 2000s, they tried to build a larger resort complex than is currently extant, largely on an ad-hoc basis. There are no streets, no cross-streets, only holiday complexes built on scattered plots of land, including plenty of empty plots, which – as per Bulgarian custom – are a sort of no-man's-land: they are covered in weeds and rubbish, with dust swirling and construction debris from elsewhere. This is a completely normal sight, even between two neat and elegant hotel complexes.

The problem with these plots is not only that they are ugly and dirty, but also, if you book a room next to them, there is a chance that they will start construction right during your vacation, which means noise, dust, and truck traffic all day, and can essentially ruin the vacation. This disordered expansion is also typical of other Bulgarian holiday resorts, but perhaps only in Sunny Beach is it quite so stupid and haphazard.

Even on the beachside of the main road, the picture is rather mixed: to the south, in the direction of Nessebar, a lot of communist-era trade-union resorts were left to decay. They’ve been refurbished and scaled-down and they’ve even built pools in the gardens, but these buildings and their communal spaces are so fundamentally outdated that they’re not really suitable for much more than a full day of sunbathing, or perhaps a quiet place to sleep after a night of partying. Insufficient sound insulation, poorly designed, musty, moldy bathrooms, damp, and things like that. It’s great for college students, but not so much for families with children. True, these are normally listed in catalogs as 2-star resorts, meaning they’re cheap and are described in a brochure language full of words to welcome young party people. If you’re not a partying youngster, take the hint and be skeptical, despite the attractive price (and often the attractive photos), especially if there are few pictures of the bathrooms or the exterior of the building, or if they are intentionally blurry.” (2020)



Food

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Sunny Beach - fresh fruit juices - b.m. photo

Sunny Beach - local beer - o.a. photo

Shopping

“Sunny Beach is a resort town: there is no local population (the people who work there take a bus to work from the surrounding settlements), so there are no residential houses, and the infrastructure for the local population (tinker, tailor, windscreen-repairer, etc.) is underdeveloped. There are small shops (these are called supermarkets), but they mostly sell alcohol, tobacco, and snacks, while essentials are available only in a limited range and with very high prices.” (2020)
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"The Bulgarian word ‘менте’ or ‘mente’ means counterfeit branded products. Anyone who walks by the boutiques of Sunny Beach or Golden Sands will find a thousand places selling clothing from the coolest Western brands at ridiculously low prices.

How original or counterfeit they are is often difficult to say. Based on the details of the pieces, which also seem good quality to the eye, one is tempted to say that they are not all fake.

In fact, many world brands manufacture their products in Bulgaria (or neighboring Turkey). And they sometimes fall off the truck and somehow find their way to the markets, without ever seeing a VAT bill.

For example, I myself am the happy owner of a graphite gray "Tommy Hilfiger" t-shirt, which I bought in the Bulgarian market 15 years ago, and is still in good condition to this day, despite a lot of washing. (True, it was a little loose at the time, now maybe a little tight, but that's not the fault of the t-shirt.)” (2021)


Sunny Beach - shopping street - k.z. photo

Sunny Beach - souvenirs - v.a. photo

Fun



"Many of the tourists here are from Western Europe, Germany, Britain, the Netherlands, and Scandinavia, but for people from these countries, Bulgaria counts as a real budget destination, so it’s hardly surprising that most travelers from these countries are young people who want to party, and are generally from less wealthy backgrounds. Accordingly, most entertainment venues and hotels are specifically targeted at the 18-30 age group. Although Sunny Beach has quieter corners, travelers shouldn't be surprised if they hear techno music booming from somewhere even at four in the morning, or they stumble upon German or English youngsters who are strikingly cheerful but a little drunk and/or loud in the early morning. Channel 4 has also made a documentary about young British people partying on Sunny Beach – there are some pretty rough scenes in the films. (The title of the BBC short film is ‘What Happens in Sunny Beach’” (2020)


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"An increasing number of foreign tourists from different countries are referred to in Bulgarian slang simply as 'English football hooligans'. And although it’s not just English who make up this group, the name is apt. The ‘English football hooligan’ is typically an unemployed young guy from Western Europe, often British and aged 18-25, who, after picking up his unemployment benefits and boarding a low-cost flight from Luton to Bourgas or Varna, tries to make the most of the good time from the moment he arrives.

Chief among the available pleasures is the unlimited consumption of incredibly cheap alcohol, at least compared to UK prices. Entrepreneurs working in Bulgarian tourism are also very fond of English football hooligans, as they are very undemanding holidaymakers, interested in practically nothing except drinking a lot of cheap alcohol and listening to loud music around the clock. There are English football hooligans who spend 2 months in Bulgaria – with the same money, they could maybe manage 2 weeks in Ibiza, so it’s understandable that the popularity of the Bulgarian Black Sea coast is constantly increasing in such circles.

The average day for the average English football hooligan starts by waking up sober – for now – at noon. He then rushes to the buffet for a late breakfast, before hitting the beach. There he has another nap, preparing for the evening. In the evening he visits bars and music venues, trying to meet girls. Then, if the dating is successful, sex and drinking to inebriation with the partner follows. If a partner cannot be found, the English football hooligans left without a partner will roam the streets in groups, roaring songs until sunrise, while drinking themselves stupid, sometimes organizing leisure programs for themselves, among which the mass brawl is most popular.

If they turn out to be fans of rival football teams, they will fight each other on that basis, and if not, they will find another reason. If they can’t find any reason at all to fight one another, they’ll join forces to beat someone else up, or else take bloody revenge on a trash can in the street. There is only one problem: if we are not English football hooligans and we happen to get lost in a place where they make up the majority. In such cases, we must flee the area quickly, as these are definitely not circumstances propitious for rest and relaxation.”

“Walking around the resorts, you’ll see all sorts of restaurants advertising themselves with the slogan ‘Big Beer - 2 lv’. Discounts for certain times of the day may be okay, but anywhere you can get a beer for a dollar all day long will definitely be a disappointment.

I’ll tell you what a two-lev beer is: lukewarm, almost completely non-carbonated and quite tasteless. And that’s in the best case. In worse cases, it has a definite unpleasant aftertaste. But we wrote about Bulgarian beers elsewhere.

There are no miracles in the hospitality industry. For the lowest prices, you’ll only get a watered-down, low-quality drink.

There are occasional exceptions, of course. In Sunny Beach, for example, we found a cocktail bar where there are quite amazingly low cocktail prices and yet it wasn’t all that big a scam. The basic cocktail is fine, 250ml, and costs 3.5 lv (about two bucks), but there are also shots for one lev or less than a dollar. We had a great time, the service was good, and the atmosphere was great, even though these cocktails contained only traces of alcohol – the trick is to indicate on the cocktail page what kind of alcohol is in the cocktail, but not how much. The cocktails were delicious anyway, but it did strike us as odd that we weren’t even slightly tipsy, even after the fifth cocktail. So it was cheap compared to other "regular" cocktail bars, though relatively expensive compared to buying a bunch of juice bottles in a store and mixing them together while looking at a bottle of vodka in the shop window.” (2021)

Sunny Beach - Brexit Bar&Restaurant - We never close - k. z. photo

Public safety

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Sunny Beach - life guard - red flag

Sunny Beach - female pirate - k.z. photo

Health

“Careful at the Sunny Beach. Wash your hands and pay attention to children, because by the end of our holiday, everyone was sick, and the children had diarrhea and were vomiting... But the prices in local pharmacies are horrendous! Four or five times the prices elsewhere! For a vast sum, they offer the same syrup or powder with an angel's face that you can get in Sofia for an insignificant amount, then add on a probiotic or a homeopathic syrup for post-appendectomy treatment if you're not careful and don’t put your foot down. I’m not knocking the place, it was a good holiday, but do be careful. Also, most of the 24-hour pharmacies listed on google aren’t actually open at night, just in the daytime. The cheapest pharmacy which really is open 24 hours a day in downtown Sunny Beach is at the bus station. (Here they only charge double, and at least it’s there and they give you what you ask for.”

It is not difficult to catch food poisoning on the Bulgarian coast. All eggs, mayonnaise, etc. should be avoided.” (2021)

Others

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Sunny Beach - jellyfish

Sunny Beach - v.a. photo

Background

Destination in brief

Sunny Beach is a popular beach resort city on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria. Sunny Beach has a 10 kilometers long, yellow sand beach.

People

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Sunny Beach - comfort - f.a. photo

Attractions

Beach

Bulgaria - Sunny Beach - t.a. photo (July, 2021)

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Comments

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