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Country-by-country guide

Accessing healthcare in Bulgaria

Each country's health system is different, and might not include all the things you would expect to get free of charge from the NHS. This means you may have to make a patient contribution to the cost of your care.

Your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will enable you to access state-provided healthcare in Bulgaria at a reduced cost, or sometimes for free. It will cover your treatment until you return to the UK. It also covers treatment of pre-existing medical conditions and routine maternity care, providing the reason for your visit is not specifically to give birth.

Non-EEA nationals are not covered in Bulgaria. 

Get the EHIC smartphone app

The European Commission (EC) has developed a useful multi-language free phone app, which explains how to use the EHIC in different countries within the European Union (EU). It summarises the treatments, costs, procedure for reimbursement and emergency numbers.

If you are travelling for the express purpose of obtaining medical treatment, please read our section on seeking medical treatment in Europe

Find help in emergencies

If you find yourself in a serious, life-threatening emergency, you should call 112. This number is free of charge and valid in all Bulgarian territories.

Other important phone numbers to note down:

  • 150 – ambulance
  • 160 – fire/rescue
  • 166 – police
  • 178 – pharmacy on duty

Health services and costs

Your EHIC does not cover private treatment. Make sure you are treated by a healthcare provider that has a contract with the Bulgarian National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF).

You should be particularly careful if healthcare arrangements are made by a hotel or travel representative. Any costs incurred for private healthcare are non-refundable.

Contact NHIF for more advice before you travel. Call 00359 2 965 9116 from the UK. The NHIF website offers some information in English.

Doctors

About 90% of doctors in Bulgaria are registered with the NHIF  however, always check before making an appointment. There is a small charge for seeing a doctor. This is non-refundable.

If you require medication, a doctor will usually issue you a receipt form (for non-chronic diseases) or a prescription (chronic illnesses).

Dentists

You should consult a dentist who has a contract with the NHIF. However, a patient contribution might be charged. If the dentist does not have a contract with the NHIF, you will be charged the full cost of the treatment and those charges are not refundable.

Hospital treatment

Inpatient treatment is provided by public and private hospitals. However, you should ask to be referred to a hospital that has a contract with the NHIF, as they will cover the cost of treatment. After being discharged from hospital, you are entitled to a maximum of two examinations as part of your inpatient care.

Prescriptions

If you have been issued a receipt form, you'll be able to get your medication either for free or at reduced costs. However, ensure you take the receipt form to a pharmacy that is registered with the NHIF – otherwise, you will have to pay the full price.

If you have been issued a prescription, you can visit any pharmacy in Bulgaria but you will have to pay the full cost. This is non-refundable.

Ambulance

Using an ambulance in cases of emergency is free.

 

Making healthcare arrangements in advance

Although your EHIC covers the provision of oxygen, renal dialysis and routine medical care, you'll have to arrange and pre-book medical treatment before you travel. You should always consult your GP or hospital before travelling. You should also ensure you are not booked with a private healthcare provider, as these are not covered by the EHIC.

Oxygen therapy

Ensure your EHIC is valid before you travel. In most cases, you will have to use the authorised oxygen company for the country you are travelling to. You will also have to make your own arrangements, including arranging for permission from your hotel to deliver and install the equipment. There may also be additional costs that the EHIC will not cover.

Your home oxygen supplier is not required to provide a service outside the UK; however, most suppliers can advise you on what to do. Your oxygen treatment clinic will organise your home oxygen supply from one of these suppliers:

Air Liquide: call them on:

  • 0808 143 9991 for London
  • 0808 143 9992 for North West
  • 0808 143 9993 for East Midlands
  • 0808 143 9999 for South West

Baywater Healthcare: covers Yorkshire and Humberside, West Midlands and Wales. Call them on 0800 373 580. For more information, visit the Baywater Healthcare website.

BOC: covers the East and North East of England. Call them on 0800 136 603.

Dolby Vivisol: covers the South of England. Call them on 0500 823 773.

The British Lung Foundation (BLF) may have additional oxygen contacts for the country you are travelling to. Their website offers general advice about how to make travel arrangements, including advice on going on holiday with a lung condition

Make sure you allow plenty of time to make all your arrangements before you travel.

Dialysis

You will need to speak to the coordinator in your UK Dialysis Unit, who will contact the dialysis unit in Bulgaria nearest to where you will be staying. You can look up UK renal units on the Renal Association website.

Ensure you make arrangements according to your UK schedule. There may also be different guidance, depending on the type of dialysis you receive. Make sure you speak to your doctor before you travel. The National Kidney Federation website offers general advice about travelling with a kidney disease, as well as specific guidance for haemodialysis patients, peritoneal dialysis patients and guidelines for transplant patients.

The NHS Choices website has advice on travelling with various conditions. These include:

Living in Bulgaria

Everyone who is eligible for health insurance in Bulgaria is registered with the Bulgarian NHIF. This is the only organisation in Bulgaria that deals with compulsory health insurance. Once you are registered with the relevant authorities, you are entitled to necessary medical treatment and you will have to pay the same patient contributions as a permanent resident of Bulgaria.

Registration is also necessary to obtain your Bulgarian National Health Insurance Card (Амбулаторна здравна карта). You will have to present the card every time you see a doctor or dentist.

For more information, contact the Bulgarian NHIF: 

National Health Insurance Fund
1 Krichim Str.
Sofia 1407

Telephone: 0800 14 800
Website: www.nhif.bg

Or visit the Ministry of Health website (information in Bulgarian only).

Working in Bulgaria

If you are a worker seconded to Bulgaria or the family member of someone making UK National Insurance (NI) contributions, your employer should contact HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for the following forms:

  • A1 – this will show that tax and NI contributions are paid in the UK
  • S1 – this will give you and your family the same medical cover as Bulgarian residents

HM Revenue & Customs
NIC&EO
International Caseworker
Room BP1301
Benton Park View
Longbenton
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE98 1ZZ
United Kingdom

For more information, visit the Moving abroad section.

Once issued, register the S1 form with the NHIF before you register with your local GP surgery.

Pensioners

If you are living in Bulgaria and you receive a UK State Pension, or any other benefit that can be paid to you when you move abroad (exportable benefit), you may be entitled to state healthcare paid for by the UK. You'll need to apply for an S1 form (a certificate of entitlement) from the International Pension Centre, which can be reached on 0191 218 7777. Once issued, register the S1 form with the NHIF before you register with your local GP surgery. 

Once you have registered your S1 in Bulgaria, you will be entitled to apply for and use a UK-issued EHIC to access state-funded necessary medical treatment when you visit other EEA countries outside Bulgaria, including when you return to the UK.

Early retirees

From July 1 2014, you are no longer able to apply for a residual S1 form. If you already have a residual S1 this will not affect you – it will continue to be valid until its original expiry date. Find out more about the new rules.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) provides useful information about what UK and Bulgarian benefits are available to Britons living in Bulgaria.

Page last reviewed: 21/08/2014

Next review due: 21/08/2016

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Media last reviewed: 13/06/2014

Next review due: 13/06/2016