There are many reasons why international students consider obtaining a driving licence in Bulgaria – they need it, they have a bit of free time or simply because a Bulgarian driving licence is also valid abroad. The team of Inter HECS – Study in Bulgaria had the pleasure to speak with Maria Guerzoni, a first-year student at Plovdiv Medical University who passed all driving lessons and exams in Bulgaria and is currently waiting for her driving licence!
Why did you decide to obtain a driving licence in Bulgaria?
There is no specific reason. I wasn’t particularly bothered to do it in my home country so then I moved here and decided it would be more convenient to do it in the city I currently live in – Plovdiv. Bulgaria is part of Europe so this driving license is recognised by all European countries and the world. I’m from Italy so if I want when I go back home I can choose to have it transferred into an Italian licence.
Overall, I do recommend doing this course! At the end of the day it would be more confusing and hectic if you were to obtain a driving licence back home because obviously a driving licence is serious and us not being locals in Bulgaria or official residents means taking extra precautions. Let’s just say that if you learn to drive here, you can basically drive anywhere in the world.
What documents are required to start the application for a driving licence?
Firstly, it is necessary to have a residence permit – without it, you cannot be registered so that is definitely the most important thing. To be honest, I’m not completely sure of what is needed next since everything that happened from there onwards was in Bulgarian so my driving instructor helped me to take care of everything. So I think if you’re seriously considering doing your licence here then start with getting a residence permit (it looks like a Bulgarian ID) and after that the driving instructor will help you.
Are there any age requirements?
You must be 18 of age or above.
What are the costs involved with obtaining a driving licence in Bulgaria?
The actual driving lessons came to a total cost of 700 lv. which can be paid separately. However, there are extra costs like 20 lv. for the theory exam, 50 lv. for the first aid course plus the cost of applying for a residence permit, to issue the driving licence etc. To sum up, the total cost was between 900 to 1000 lv. All of this is paid directly to the instructor. The great thing about this is that the instructor really helps you with everything so don’t worry because it may feel slightly overwhelming in the beginning.
What do the driving lessons consist of?
Basically, you need a total of 30 driving hours which are split into two hours per lesson (15 lessons). All lessons are carried out in the car of the driving instructor and so is the final exam. Since we are university students the driving instructor is very flexible with timings. How it worked for me is I would message him every time I had spare time and he would tell me if he was available to drive … and 90% of the time he always was. So it’s very important that you make time for these lessons or else it will carry on forever.
We know there is a theory exam – can you tell us more about it?
As for the theory part of the lessons you can use this website – there you will find actual simulations of what the final exam will be like. There are 45 multiple-choice questions (in English), 97 points, 45 minutes and you need minimum 87 points to pass. The actual test takes place via computer so it’s not written. Personally, I only used this website to study, the trick is to do the quizzes as many times as you can because the questions get repeated very often. The theory test comes first. Once you’ve passed it, you can then take the driving exam. Also what happens is that before you do the final exam the driving company will make you take a sort of ‘mock’ exam and ONLY if you pass this mock exam will you be allowed to take the actual final theory test. For both the mock and the final test as soon as you click ‘submit’ on the screen it will immediately tell you whether you passed or failed.
And how is the actual driving exam?
This takes about 25 – 30 minutes, it all depends on the examiner. It is an immediate fail if he/she touches the wheel or the pedals. The examiner will speak to you in Bulgarian but only the basics (left, right, U-turn…) which by now you will know because the driving instructor will incorporate these terms during the driving lessons. Also, the driving instructor will take you driving to the most common exam locations and will make you do the same route you’re likely to do during the exam so you will be familiar with the roads. You will find out if you passed right at the end, the examiner will give you a tablet to sign and at the top it will either say: ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
How much time did it take you for the whole procedure (lessons, exams, etc.)?
Overall, it took me about 6 months but that is only because the whole document preparation took longer than expected and I was quite lazy during the first three months. However, within a month and a half I had completed all my driving lessons and my theory exam. So it really depends on how dedicated you are to getting it finished.
What happens if you fail any of the exams?
The most important thing is the theory test. It is essentially the easiest so you really don’t want to get caught up in wasting time to retake this. However, for the driving test it is common to fail the first time – well, I did – especially for foreign students. But it’s okay – you can retake it as many times as you want, but you need to have done at least 4 hours of additional driving before retaking it and you must also pay 50 lv.
Are there any other things students should keep in mind?
Firstly, you will have to take a whole day course on first aid which will be in Bulgarian language but the driving instructor will tell you more about this. Also, once you have passed all tests you will need: a medical note confirming you are healthy and with good sight, your residence permit and a yellow document which you will have acquired at the beginning of this process which the driving instructor will give you more information about. These documents are then taken to the police station and you can choose either one week (60 lv.) or one month (30 lv.) to have the driving licence issued.
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