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.

Visitors to Bulgaria

Finding help in an emergency

In the event of an emergency, call 112. This number is free of charge and valid in all Bulgarian territories.

Using an ambulance in cases of emergency is free.

Healthcare up until the UK leaves the EU

Emergency medical care is provided to anyone requiring urgent attention. You can expect to be charged in full for any care provided without an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card).

You should always buy enough travel insurance and make sure you have access to funding to cover any medical treatment abroad. Remember to keep all receipts and any paperwork (make copies if necessary) as they might be needed by you or your insurance company to apply for any refund.

Currently, your EHIC enables you to access the necessary state-provided healthcare in Bulgaria at a reduced cost, or sometimes for free, if you are staying there temporarily. If you are asked to pay for health services upfront, it is likely that you are not being treated under the state health system.

EHIC does not cover certain costs, including:

  • private treatment
  • being brought back to the UK
  • mountain rescue services
  • cruises

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.

Provisional replacement certificate (PRC)

A PRC is a certificate demonstrating a person’s entitlement to EHIC. If you need healthcare but do not have your EHIC with you, you can call Overseas Healthcare Services and ask them to send a PRC to show to the hospital. This will avoid you being directly charged.

Contact Overseas Healthcare Services:

UK: 0191 218 1999
Outside UK: +44 191 218 1999
(Open Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm, UK time)

People with pre-existing health conditions

If you have a pre-existing health condition, you should buy medical travel insurance before visiting Bulgaria. You must tell the insurance company about any pre-existing health conditions you have, to make sure you can get the cover you need. If you have an EHIC, this will be valid until the UK leaves the EU but may not work after that.

If you have a pre-existing condition that will need treatment while abroad, ask your doctor in the UK for advice before you travel. Make sure you take with you any documents about your health condition or medication.

If you are travelling for the express purpose of obtaining medical treatment, see our section about seeking medical treatment in Europe.

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.

Hospitals

Inpatient treatment is provided by state 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 2 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.

Bringing your own medicines to Bulgaria

Some prescribed medicines contain drugs that are controlled under the Misuse of Drugs legislation in the UK. This means that extra legal controls apply to these medicines.

You may need a personal licence to take controlled medicines abroad. Specific requirements also apply to:

  • the information that you must take with you
  • how you carry your controlled medicines

You can visit the GOV.UK website for more information about travelling with controlled medicines.

After the UK leaves the EU

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, your access to healthcare when visiting Bulgaria is likely to change.

If you are planning to visit Bulgaria after the UK leaves the EU, you should continue to buy travel insurance so you can get the healthcare treatment you need, just as you would if visiting a non-EU country. If you are using an EHIC issued by the UK, this will still be valid until the UK leaves the EU.

The UK government is seeking agreements with countries, including Bulgaria, on healthcare arrangements for UK nationals after the UK leaves the EU.

This guide will be updated with further information on travelling to Bulgaria as the circumstances change.

Working in Bulgaria

Healthcare up until the UK leaves the EU

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 state funded healthcare 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. 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: 00359 2 965 9116
Website: www.nhif.bg

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

If you are a worker posted by a UK company to Bulgaria, you may be entitled to health cover funded by the UK in the country you are posted to. Contact HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for more details:

National Insurance Contributions and Employer Office
HM Revenue and Customs
BX9 1AN
United Kingdom

  • Telephone: 0300 200 3500
  • Outside UK: +44 191 203 7010

Opening times: 8.30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday – closed weekends and bank holidays.

For more information, see Planning your healthcare when moving abroad.

After the UK leaves the EU

If you are a permanent or long-term resident in Bulgaria, you must register with the NHIF and pay health insurance, giving you the same access to healthcare as Bulgarian nationals, including emergency healthcare.

If you are a UK posted worker, you may need to buy additional healthcare insurance in Bulgaria (state and/or private) so you can continue to receive the healthcare you need.

Pensioners in Bulgaria

Healthcare up until the UK leaves the EU

If you live in Bulgaria and receive an exportable UK pension, contribution-based Employment Support Allowance or another exportable benefit, you may be entitled to state healthcare paid for by the UK. You will need to apply for a certificate of entitlement known as an S1 certificate.

For exportable UK pensions and contribution-based Employment Support Allowance, you can apply for your certificate via the International Pension Centre in the Department for Work and Pensions on 0191 218 7777.

You may need to liaise with a different team, depending on the exportable benefit. Further information is available under Claiming benefits if you live, move or travel abroad on the GOV.UK website. Please note that different exportable benefits can have different rules in terms of healthcare cover.

S1 certificate (formerly known as E106)

An S1 certificate helps you and your dependants access healthcare in Bulgaria. If you have an S1 certificate, it will be valid until the UK leaves the EU.

After this date, the certificate may not be valid, depending on decisions by member states.

You should continue to apply for an S1 certificate until the UK leaves the EU.

You may be eligible for an S1 certificate, if you:

  • have worked and paid contributions in the UK
  • receive some UK benefits such as pensions

Apply through the Business Services Authority for an S1 certificate.

For exportable UK pensions and contribution-based Employment Support Allowance, you can apply for your certificate via the International Pension Centre in the Department for Work and Pensions on 0191 218 7777.

Further information is available under Claiming benefits if you live, move or travel abroad on the GOV.UK website. Please note that different exportable benefits can have different rules in terms of healthcare cover.

After the UK leaves the EU

Anyone who has been in Bulgaria for less than 5 years would need to apply for a long-term residency to continue living in Bulgaria.

People who have continuously lived in Bulgaria for more than 5 years may be able to apply for a permanent residency.

If you are a permanent or long-term resident in Bulgaria, you must register with the NHIF and pay health insurance, giving you the same access to healthcare as Bulgarian nationals, including emergency healthcare.

Students in Bulgaria

If you are a UK resident and studying in Bulgaria, and you have an EHIC, this will be valid until the UK leaves the EU. It is recommended that you continue to buy healthcare insurance in addition to your EHIC.

After the UK leaves the EU, you should also continue to buy insurance to cover your healthcare, as you would if you were visiting a non-EU country.

Page last reviewed: 28/01/2019
Next review due: 28/01/2022