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 My trip to Bulgaria by road

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LisA
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PostSubject: My trip to Bulgaria by road   Fri May 20, 2011 11:35 pm

This trip was in 2009 and I thought I would write it here and share with you what it was like for me/us.

Once we had bought our house and decided that we were going to move for good we had the small matter of moving everything we owned most of the way across Europe.

We had heard some horror stories about international movers and we wanted to have a van in Bulgaria anyway so we decided my wife and the Baby would fly over and I would drive with the dogs.

We bought an old Leyland Daf 400 (LDV 400) which had previously been owned from new by a primary school. Obviously its not worth buying some old banger and we hoped that it had been driven responsible teachers for all of its 72,000 mile life.

Before you set off you need to do a few things:

CHECK THE ROUTE –

Sounds silly but there are a few options. One big decision is whether you want to go through Serbia or take the route a bit further north through all EU countries. Serbia requires you to have a valid insurance Green Card to enter the country. The alternative is buying Serbian insurance at the boarder which costs about €200… We went north!

Our route went London, Dover, Calais, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania and finally Bulgaria. We spend about 4 days doing the journey but is could be done much quicker if there were 2 drivers doing shifts. I brought along a non-driver friend to keep me company and obviously the dogs helped keep things lively.

CHECK THE CAR/VAN-

There is nothing worse than being in the middle of nowhere and breaking down with everything you own at the side of the road. Its worth getting the vehicle serviced before you go for a bit of peace of mind. If you’re going to be loading the vehicle with grandma’s oak furniture then the engine, suspension and breaks are going to be working much harder than they might normally be. We also decided that it was worth getting European breakdown cover just in case and it did come in handy. RAC, Greenflag and The AA all have European breakdown options and we went with the AA as it had the cheapest policy that covered the countries we wanted covered.

Tyre pressure, oil and water are all things you should be checking regularly. Having the tyres at the correct pressure will help your fuel efficiency and make a blow out less likely. Remember you can’t put cold oil or water into a hot engine as you’re likely to blow a head gasket as the metal rapidly contracts.

MY JOURNEY

The drive to Bulgaria almost didn’t get going at all! We were up late on the Thursday night packing and since we filled the van to the roof I didn’t notice that the internal lights in the back were on….all night. So when I tried to start the van on Friday at about 3pm and the engine didn’t even turn over I was a little concerned to say the least! Because of the size of the van and the battery it has a jump start wasn’t an option unless I could find a comparable vehicle with heavy duty jumper cables. Luckily, being in London meant that I had some options of where to buy a new battery and £40 of taxi’s and £120 of Battery later, the van was up and running! A stupid and costly mistake but I’m sure anyone who has move knows of the relief once the last box is packed and all you can think about is a nice cold beer.

The journey was fairly none eventful through France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany. Good roads and fast drivers all the way. It wasn’t until we got to Austria that we had our first hiccup. I was a bit keen to get there and was driving at the limit of what the van would take. There is a strong chance we overloaded the van past its 5 ton limit which may explain why it was struggling up hills in 30c heat. In Austria the van decided enough was enough and spat its radiator fluid out across the motorway. Luckily I had been watching the temperature gauge and saw as soon as it happened, pulling off to the shoulder in no time. The Austrian AA came and gave the van a quick check over, put some water in her and told me to drive slower. We were back on the way.

"
Austria...You killed my van!....Almost"



I decided that there was no need to race and our 2 hour stop in Austria had undone all of the high speed driving from the previous days so we spent the rest of the journey relaxing behind lorries.

The roads in Hungary are incredibly straight was one of the first things I noticed on the Sat-Nav. The second thing was that driving on these roads at night becomes a bit scary when you hit a bend! After battling along a road for about an hour with cars appearing on the wrong side of the road round corners we decided enough was enough and it would be better tackled in the morning. The lady at the reception of the Motel we stopped at mentioned that 6 people had been killed on that road last week and a bus overturned that morning.

Romania is similar in terms of drivers who pull of crazy death defying overtaking manoeuvres. As long as you are prepared for the fact that there might be someone coming at you at 75 MPH around the next corner it becomes a fairly relaxing drive. We did see 2 separate lorries in Romania who had lost control on the windy roads and smashed into lampposts which was a great reminder to stay alert.

Along the whole journey I didn’t have anyone check our passports until Romania and the pet passport were never checked.

There are vignettes to pay in some of the countries which are basically a road tax. It is well signposted as you enter the country and its not worth trying to dodge them. I was stopped twice in Romania to check and didn’t much fancy arguing about it with a guy who has a gun on his hip.

We crossed the boarder from Romania to Bulgaria just South of Bucharest. There is a €6 charge to cross the bridge which is unavoidable and when you see the state of the bridge you do have to wonder where the money goes., 1,700 miles and 4 days, for a new life.

So here we are ::
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tonyb60
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PostSubject: Re: My trip to Bulgaria by road   Sat May 21, 2011 6:38 am

T I enjoyed reading it.

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Chris
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PostSubject: Re: My trip to Bulgaria by road   Sat May 21, 2011 7:38 am

Thanks for sharing LisA! g
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varnagirl
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PostSubject: Re: My trip to Bulgaria by road   Sat May 21, 2011 8:17 am

yep...good read and interesting post.... g
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beautifulangel
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PostSubject: Re: My trip to Bulgaria by road   Sat May 21, 2011 6:10 pm

glad you made it. we always go that route as i have friends from romania (who drive like maniacs) who tell me the roads in serbia are too dangerous. having driven through bucerest at rush hour with them i just take there word for it and give it a miss. i would like to know what everyone else thinks though because it is supposed to be a lot quicker. anyone go that way? s

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Daisy
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PostSubject: Re: My trip to Bulgaria by road   Sat May 21, 2011 7:33 pm

The route I always take is through Romania and we can do it in 3 days with both of us driving, I have always avoided Serbia because there has been difficulties in the past at the boarder control with some friends of ours. s
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oddball
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PostSubject: Re: My trip to Bulgaria by road   Sat May 21, 2011 8:10 pm

H H

Thank you LisA really enjoyed that thanks a million for sharing g

Oddy s

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PostSubject: Re: My trip to Bulgaria by road   Sun May 22, 2011 9:19 pm

Thanks for sharing the story Lisa.We have done that route a few times.Romania is very interesting!
The funniest/scariest thing for us was going over Shipka Pass.They were making the new road at the time and it was supposed to be closed.The guard at the road closed gate told us there was a detour,but for 10 leva we could go through.Once we coughed up,(this was cheaper than more fuel for the detour)we found there was no road and they were blasting rock from the side of the mountain!It was dark and there were Lada's and Kamaz trucks bombing along.We survived,but lost 3 tyres on the horse box.Very scary,but now we laugh about it.

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