The necessary steps to take to convert your old driver’s license or to start a driving course
In partnership with FIRST DRIVING SCHOOL FOR FOREIGNERS, editor Olena Cytryna, photos by Anastasiia Dehtiarova and FIRST DRIVING SCHOOL FOR FOREIGNERS.
Driving is a great way for you to see Bulgaria’s beautiful nature, visit your friends in other cities, and even travel abroad. With some eco-friendly options like Spark, it can also become an environmentally friendly activity. What if you don’t have a driver’s license or if Bulgaria requires you to get a new one? This article is here to help you. And when you do get your license, check our article on buying a second-hand car in Bulgaria.
You need a Bulgarian ID card
The type of residence is not important, but you do need a Personal Foreigner Number card or a Bulgarian national ID. Without such a document you are not allowed to be registered in the driving school or take the exam.
Proof of education
You should have the original diploma from your high school or university with an apostille – a document certifying that your education is equal to the level of obligatory education in Bulgaria, which is until 8th grade – together with an academic reference containing all the subjects you took and grades you received. The only institutions authorized to give you an apostille are the Ministry of Education or The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the country which issued the original document or diploma. You must translate and legalize it in an authorized translation agency in Bulgaria. If you are not sure who to turn to, our driving school has been working with such an agency for years, so you may submit your documents for translation there.
Agency of Education
At the Agency of Education apply for a document confirming that your education level is sufficient to start a driving course. It takes a month to get this document after submitting the application. At this point, as well as for some of the following steps, the driving school can assign a person to you who is ready to help you with filling in the forms, as it has to be done in Bulgarian and communicating with the institutions.
Regional Agency of Education:
Address: Sofia 1303, „ul. Antim 17, floor 4, room 401 – the first on your right
Working time: from 09.00 to 17.30 02/9356081; 02/9356050
e-mail: [email protected]
The fee is 35 BGN which you can pay on the spot by card (though note that it must be issued by a Bulgarian bank). In case you don’t have a Bulgarian card or you don’t want to pay by card, you could pay by cash at a bank office in advance. Keep the bank receipt, and add it to the rest of the documents when applying.
Bank details of the Agency of Education:
ОББ клон „Княгиня Мария Луиза”
First, pay the fee and then submit the following documents:
- a) The original and a copy of the legalized translation of your diploma from middle or high school. You have to prove our minimum educational level – 8th
- b) The untranslated original and a copy of your diploma, together with the academic reference (The Agency of Education keeps the original diploma for one month, then you will have it back together with the Bulgarian education recognition document).
- c) A copy of your Bulgarian residency card;
- d) Payment receipt
- e) Application form
There are several countries Bulgaria has got agreements with. Then there is no need to have an apostille. Translation and legalization of the school certificate and academic reference is enough to apply for confirmation in the Agency of Education. Here is the list: Albania, Algeria, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, China, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, France, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Macedonia, Mongolia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Syria, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Vietnam, Yemen.
If you are a beginner and you have never had a driver’s license before
The driving course costs 1,200 BGN. It includes a minimum of 40 hours of theory lessons and a minimum of 31 hours of practical lessons. You can pay in parts or the whole amount in our office or in a bank, by cash or by card.
The fee for the theory exam is 60 BGN. You pay it in the driving school office when you book a date for the official theoretical exam.
The fee for the practical exam (driving test) is 70 BGN. You pay it in the driving school office on the day of your exam.
If you fail, you pay the same fee again for the next exam.
Bank details of the driving school:
Theoretical and driving lessons are conducted in English, as are the exams.
The schedule for the theory lessons is: during the week on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 18:00 to 21:00. These sessions are via Skype and Discord. On Saturday the lessons are led in person at the driving school. They are from 09:30 to 13:30, or from 14:00 until 18:00. There is no official textbook in English, however, the school will provide you with PowerPoint presentations created by the teachers on the individual chapters. They are very useful and substantially support the learning process.
What if you already have a driver’s license?
If your license is issued from a country outside of the EU, you are allowed to drive with it only if it is legalized and translated to Bulgarian, but even then you cannot use it for longer than one year. Even if you have an international driver’s license, its validity is the same as the validity of a national one.
If you have changed your stay permit in Bulgaria from temporary to permanent, you are obligated to pass the exams and to apply for a Bulgarian driver’s license.
You don’t have to complete any mandatory theoretical or driving classes, but you have to be registered in a driving school because the school signs you up for the exams. Then you prepare independently for the theory tests and only pay for the official exam, the fee for which is 60 BGN. If you fail, you pay the exam fee again to re-take. The same applies for the driving exam, the fee for which is 70 BGN. However, it is not recommended to take the practical exam without having any idea about its rules and requirements. Likewise, the vehicle you would drive during the exam would be new to you, as would the exam routes. For the above reasons, we recommend you take at least 4 driving lessons before the exam. One driving lesson is 30 BGN and its duration is 45 minutes.
You don’t need the education recognition document for registering at the driving school because you will be signed up with the number of your current driver’s license, but you will still need it when you pass your exams successfully and you apply for the driver’s license at the police office.
If you think that you need preparation for the theory exam at the driving school, you must pay for all 40 classes. The fee is 400 BGN with the exam fee included. Even if you fail, you don’t need to pay the fee again, so that is the total sum you would ever pay for the theoretical part of your driver’s license.
Because you will be registered in the driving school with your current driver’s license, you must know that it is possible for the authorities to require you to return it . You are not allowed to have two driver’s licenses in Bulgaria. It is possible you will be obligated to return yours when you get the Bulgarian one.
If you register at the driving school as a new driver (regardless if you aren’t one), you keep your license which will expire for Bulgaria but will still be valid in your own country. In this case, the course price is 850 BGN in total and you get all the mandatory theory hours. The number of driving hours depends on an agreement between you and the school. All the exam fees are included regardless of the number of attempts you need to pass. The trade-off is that you don’t need to return your current license.
The school is going to prepare you to be able to pass the exams successfully. The theory part is not easy even for a person who has already got a license because you need to know what the requirements are to pass the practical exam.
Bulgaria has agreements with some countries which are out of the European Union, like Israel and Russia, so that the person just converts the current driver’s license to a Bulgarian one without the need to pass any exams. But it is still necessary to apply for the recognition of an education certificate. You are allowed to transfer the driver’s license if this “one year validity” period hasn’t expired yet. If it is expired, you have to pass the mandatory exams.
Unfortunately, there is no list of the exact countries whose citizens are allowed to simply transfer their licenses. You can go to the police office, KAT, to ask if it is possible to just transfer your license. If the answer is “No”, then you already know what steps to take!
What documents do you need when applying for a license at the police office?
The address of the main police office is: 1 “Lachezar Stanchev” 41797 NPZ Dianabad, Sofia
7.1. A copy of your Bulgarian ID card;
7.2. A medical certificate which states that you are allowed to be the driver of a motor vehicle class B – the original plus two copies;
7.3. You should attend a one-day first aid course at the RED CROSS in case of road accidents – the original card plus two copies. You could do that during the driving course or just after it.
Address: Sofia, “Knyaz Aleksandar Dondukov” blvd 61
Pay attention: The cost of the course is 60 BGN. You sign up via the site: firstaid.redcross.bg
You could pay online, by bank transfer or on the spot.
7.4. The original education recognition document plus two copies;
7.5. You should fill in an application form in Bulgarian.
7.6.You should pay on the spot 27 BGN for a regular speed service (you get the driver’s license in a month) or 57 BGN for the fast service (you get the driving license in a week).
To recap: the additional fees in the agencies are, approximately:
- Translation and legalization – it depends on the number of pages and the language. But on average it is 12 BGN per page and 30 BGN per document for the notarization.
- Education recognition – 35 BGN
- Red Cross course – 60 BGN
- Medical check – 30 BGN
- Applying for a license in the police office: 27 (normal) or 57 BGN (fast)
The school can also arrange a person to accompany you and to help you in the Bulgarian institutions. If you require such support it would cost you 50 BGN per day, paid in cash directly to the person accompanying you. This sum will be later discounted from the overall course price. In most cases, you would require such assistance twice: when applying for the recognition of your high school diploma at the educational agency, and when submitting your documents at the police office.
When you translate and legalize your diploma, which takes 3 days, the next step is to apply for the certificate of recognition of your education. It takes the Agency of Education for approximately one month to give you the final document. Only then do we have the right to officially register you in the driving school system. This means that there are 5 weeks while you are waiting for your certificate of recognition and before you can be registered at our school. However, you can use this time to take your theory classes and pass the theoretical exam. The practical lessons can only start once we have officially registered you at the school after you have received all the necessary documents.
If you have a license but you need some additional driving hours to get familiar with the traffic in Sofia or to improve your skills
Then you pay per driving lesson which is 45 min each. It costs 30 BGN. But if you take a package for 10 driving hours, then it is 250 BGN.
Useful advice from Rozalina Videnova, the founder of the First Driving School for Foreigners in Bulgaria.
I have taught theory and practical lessons for more than 15 years to people from more than 85 countries. Apart from being an excellent and safe driver, you have to know what is assessed and looked for in order to get your driver’s license. No matter if you are a completely new driver or a seasoned veteran behind the wheel, we can help you pass your exams with flying colors!
How does the theoretical exam look?
The theory exam is taken on tablets. There are exams scheduled every day, except for weekends and they take place under the address Ul. “Vitinya” 1, “Levski G” living area. You only take the exam once you and the instructor are sure that you are fully prepared to pass it. There is no need to take exams without being sure of your success – it’s only an additional hassle and expense for you. You will have the exam in the building of the official transport administration.
The theory test consists of 45 multiple-choice questions. There are 1, 2 or 3 possible answers but it is impossible for all of them to be correct. The number of correct answers is shown next to the question.
The maximum number of points you can receive on a test is 97. The minimum result you need to pass the test successfully is 87 points. Each wrong answer costs you 1, 2 or 3 points depending on the difficulty of the question. There are two useful sites you can use to prepare:
Avtoizpit.bg – here you can take practice tests.
Rta.government.bg – here you could see all the possible questions and their correct answers.
(go to the ‘Exams’ tab in the menu)
What about the practical part of the course?
The school has manual and automatic gear cars. If you pass the course on a manual engine, the license is valid for both types of engines. However, if you choose to pass it on an automatic one, then the license is only valid for automatic cars. There are 30 practical lessons and each one lasts 45 minutes. It is recommended to start from the area of the driving school as it is located in an area with little traffic. When you gain some basic skills and confidence you could practice along the route to your workplace. The earliest possible hour for driving lessons is 07:30. The latest possible is 16:00 as from 17:30 start the theory classes. The last 3 classes must take place in the area where the driving school is located because the exam will be conducted on the same routes. That’s why you should be familiar with all the details in the area.
During the exam, I will be in the car behind you as your instructor as well as a translator. The exam is conducted in the same car you have driven in your classes up until this point. If you fail, you must take 4 additional hours (which are included in the course fee) before you can retake the exam (the fee for which must be paid again).. There are exams each week so don’t worry, you won’t have to wait for weeks or months to pass your exam.
You can rely on my expertise, support and understanding from the very beginning to the very end of the course!