Hurray, I finally took a trip somewhere again, which was way too long ago and as I do not have any intercontinental trips planned yet, I get a bit anxious. Thankfully, at the supermarket Albert Heijn they sold these surprise tickets from Fly Wise, and my friend L and I went for it. And we were off to: Sofia!
Sofia is the capital of Bulgaria and it has about 1.2 million inhabitants. It is a city I would normally not really go to, which is mostly because it is simply not a hot touristy place, so we do not really hear about it that much. However, on this surprise ticket we went there, as ten days after we made our booking we got to learn where to go and we were totally happy with it.
Super excited about Sofia
A colleague of ours went on the exact same trip (but a different hotel) a few weeks before, but he really did not like the city. We were in luck though, cause it had snowed when we went there and there was a Christmas market. Plus, we usually are pretty excited about everything, so Sofia was no exception.
We went to Eindhoven in the morning, from which we flew directly to Sofia in approximately 2.5 hours. Unfortunately we flew RyanAir, meaning we had a delay of 45 minutes or something. Bummer, cause we already traveled late. Anyway, after a pretty nice flight we landed in Sofia and we tried to turn our euros in to the local currency called lev somewhere. That was not easy: the atm’s did not work (we have tried three of them, both bank cards and credit cards!) so eventually we accepted the ridiculous 10 percent commission at the Travelex desk, just to make sure we could at least reach our hotel okay.
Thankfully Bulgaria is pretty cheap compared to The Netherlands: the taxi only cost us 13 lev. Funnily I gave our taxi driver 20 lev, waiting for my money back, but he just looked away, helped my friend with her suitcase and drove off. That was a bit odd, but okay, 20 lev is 11 euros or so, and we were just happy to reach our hotel okay (the ride was approximately 20 mins), as we were staying at the Sofia Plaza hotel across from the central station.
When we arrived at the hotel we got a room that did not close well, which was a bit creepy, so we went downstairs again and received an upgrade (a bath and a double bed plus a small bed, yay). We sat down for half an hour and then we took a cab to the Garden House restaurant that our colleague recommended.
Garden House restaurant
It was an excellent place, not too fancy but definitely a great choice in food: nachos, risotto, fries, bbq/grilled meat.. awesome stuff. But what I liked even more were the cocktails, that were not just good, they were half the price of a cocktail in the Netherlands. Yay! The food was really good, especially the home made crisps we started our evening with, and the aspergus risotto was amazing too. A bit much though… My friend also had trouble finishing her grilled chicken, as it was just a lot of food.
But we sat there for many hours, enjoying the cute little fountain downstairs and the lovely staff helping out. We were just talking and laughing and when the bill came we could not believe it: we had just spend hours, eating and drinking all these amazing things and then we were presented with a bill of 30 euros. What the!?
It was so cheap, we instantly decided to take a cab home instead of walking for 30 minutes. Unfortunately many of the legal OK/Yellow cabs did not want to take us, three of them told us to take the next one because it was not going to make them enough money I suppose. Sucky. We ended up getting this dodgy cab that charged us 10 lev, but we were just happy to go home so whatever. The lady did not try to bribe us at the end so all was good.
Sofia has been great thusfar, though we have only seen our hotel and that specific restaurant hihi. Tomorrow I will tell you all about our second day, when we were able to watch things a lot better than just from the taxi window. Yay!
Do you tip the driver?
And, to answer my question as posed in the headline of this post: yes, you do tip them. I would say keep it about 8-12%, depending on if the driver wants to discuss an amount beforehand (which is a bit dodgy) and if they just take your money (which only happened once during this trip, so do not worry too much about it, just stay in the car until you have your money back, hihi).