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Bulgaria: As Cheap As It Gets 1

By Steenie Harvey

"What's the number one reason why you're coming back?" I ask.

"Because you can't spend any bloody money!" bellows Don.

I'm in Zlatni Piyasutsi (Golden Sands), Bulgaria's second largest Black Sea resort. I don't normally eavesdrop on conversations, but it's difficult not to with four Yorkshire people at the next table. Folk from this northern English county have a deserved reputation for being extremely loud and down-to-earth. And although many tend to curse like navvies, all the ones I've ever met are more than friendly.

Don and his wife are telling their new friends they've already booked NEXT year's holiday in Golden Sands through their holiday rep. I take over my wine, pull up a chair, and join in the collective bellowing.

Bulgaria's sun-and-fun resorts on the Black Sea have seen a stampede of British and Irish holiday-makers in the past two years. I intended coming last month--but all charter flights from Ireland were sold out. Don confirms that the primary reason why places like Golden Sands are netting visitors is price--Bulgaria is far cheaper than the Spanish Costas and Balearic Islands. (And, judging by my own experience a couple of months ago, it's even cheaper than Croatia too.)

You can get a beer for 50 cents, a bottle of good Merlot wine for $3.60, a pack of cigarettes for $1, and a large pizza for $2.70. Stalls along the promenade are awash in 'replica' goods for a fraction of prices in the real world. Brand-name jeans and tops for under $10...$6 designer sunglasses...replica soccer shirts for $3. All fakes, of course, including the Christian Dior J'Adore perfume for $4.80. But the golden sand, sunshine, and blue sky are the genuine article.

Steenie Harvey
Roving Euro-editor, International Living

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First Published: May 21, 2005

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