Visitor documents are the biggest issue for those who wish to visit other countries, particularly the ones that require visas. Sometimes lack of sufficient documents or the false information provided while applying for visa lead to the applications getting rejected. And of course, the consuls do not want to relax their iron rules. The same is true for the Consulate of Bulgaria in Azerbaijan as well.
Bulgaria not only encourages those who want to see the golden sandy shores of the country, the mysterious cities along the Black Sea, its culture and history to visit their country but also follow the rules while applying for visa. Considering that "Buta Airways” arranges low cost flights between our countries, it is no surprise that this topic remains relevant. We brought up these issues in our interview with Bulgarian consul to Azerbaijan Kiril Apostolov.
- Mr. consul, Buta Airways have been organizing budget trips between Sofia and Baku since January. Has this resulted in an increase in tourist flow from Azerbaijan to Bulgaria as it was predicted? Do you have any data on how many people have visited the country during this time period?
- Since the start of the "Baku – Sofia – Baku” flight of "Buta Airways” the tourist flow has significantly increased. Our data shows that for the period January 1st 2018 – May 31st 2018, the number of people from Azerbaijan who have visited the Republic of Bulgaria is almost two times higher than for the same period of last year.
- Azerbaijanis would enjoy relaxing on the sunny beaches of Varna since Soviet period. How is the situation now? What parts of Bulgaria do they visit now?
- Bulgarian Black sea coast has traditionally been popular with tourists from all over the world. The combination of nice weather, sandy beaches, clear water and many cozy restaurants and hotels attracts many tourists, including tourists from Azerbaijan. Not only that they want to stay in Bulgaria as tourists more and more with each coming year, but they also buy properties in our country so they could enjoy Bulgaria all year round. There is no specific place which could be named "most popular” for Azerbaijani tourists, they go everywhere from North to South, along our coastline. Of course, our biggest cities on the Black sea coast – Varna and Burgas, have always been, and still are, the most visited, but they are surrounded with many small towns and villages, which are also popular for tourists and offer many attractions.
- How long before the trip should Azerbaijani citizens apply for a visa? In what circumstances can their visa application be rejected?
It is very important for visitors to know that sufficient time is required for the processing of visa applications. Usually, the processing of a so called "tourist visa” takes about 3 - 5, in some cases 8 working days. For the visas issued for other reasons – private or business visit, culture, sport, etc., the processing period could take between 8 and 15 working days. For visas type "D” (long-term), the processing period could take about 30 working days. The applicants should bear in mind that the respective authorities in the Republic of Bulgaria, which process the visa applications, receive application from all over the world. There are countries in the world, from which these authorities receive and need to process hundreds of thousands applications each year. This is why these authorities need enough time for visa processing. I kindly encourage Azerbaijani citizens to come to our Consular Section and apply for Bulgarian visa at least 10-15 days prior to their departure.
A visa could be refused for different reasons, but usually it was done so for the lack of sufficient documents. Applicants are being informed about the necessary documents for different types of visa in advance and they should present all of them in order to receive Bulgarian visa.
Also, a reason for visa refusal could be the presentation of false or incorrect information to the Consular Section. Every citizen is personally responsible for the application which they submit and for the information, which they present during the visa application process.
- What other opportunities does the Tourist Ministry of Bulgaria have in mind for visitors that want to become acquainted with the tourist potential of the country?
- The Ministry of Tourism of the Republic of Bulgaria has the mission to pursue a clear and transparent tourism policy protecting the state and the public interest on the basis of the European Union principles. The Ministry constantly works for positioning Bulgaria as a well-known and preferred year-round tourist destination with clearly identifiable national identity, authentic culture and nature, occupying a leading place among the tourist destinations in Central and Eastern Europe. The efforts of the Ministry of Tourism are focused on the development of specialized types of tourism, improving the quality of the national tourism product and its competitiveness, and on the attraction of more tourists. The three main principles which the Ministry follows in its work are: effectiveness, transparency and benefits for business and society.
Azerbaijani citizens could learn more about the Ministry of Tourism of the Republic of Bulgaria and about Bulgaria’s tourist potential at the following web links:
- What work is done with the travel agencies that want to organize tours in Bulgaria?
- In November 2017 members of the Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria held a meeting with representatives of the Azerbaijan Tourism Association (AZTA). On this meeting we stated that each Azerbaijani tourist agency, that would like to apply for accreditation with the Bulgarian Embassy, should present to us its application and necessary documents. Those documents will be forwarded to the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for approval and if they are approved, the tourist agency will receive an accreditation by the Bulgarian Embassy in Baku.
- Can the tourists visit other Schengen area countries with the Bulgarian tourist visa? How long are the visitors allowed to stay in the country?
- Bulgarian visa gives to the applicant the possibility to visit the Republic of Bulgaria. This is a national visa and it does not give permission to visit Schengen countries. However, according to a decision of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Bulgaria, by the date of Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen area, our country will unilaterally apply a visa-free system for holders of valid Schengen visas. They will have the right to enter and reside in the Republic of Bulgaria for a period of no more than three months in a six-month period from the date of the first entry, without the need to have a Bulgarian short-stay visa.
Our country also applies a visa-free system for holders of valid visas and residence permits issued by Romania, Cyprus and Croatia for a stay of up to 90 days. They will have the right to enter and stay in the Republic of Bulgaria for a period of no more than 90 days in a 180-day period, without the need to have a Bulgarian short-stay visa.
- Who can make a visa-free visit to Bulgaria?
Currently, the fee for visa application processing for Azerbaijani citizens is 35 Euro.
According to the Article 6 of the Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Azerbaijan on the facilitation of the issuance of visas, fees for processing the visa application are waived for the following categories of persons: pupils, students, post-graduate students and accompanying teachers who undertake trips for the purposes of study or educational training; children under the age of 12; persons with disabilities; pensioners; participants in international cultural and sports events and persons accompanying them in a professional capacity and other categories of applicants, including journalists and technical crew accompanying them in a professional capacity.
- What measures are you planning to take to promote the tourism potential of your country?
The Republic of Bulgaria always works to promote its tourist potential through its official institutions in many international events worldwide, including in the Republic of Azerbaijan. For example, our country is a regular participant in the Azerbaijan International Travel and Tourism Fair (AITF) and this year Bulgaria was a partner country to the Fair.
Our Embassy to the Republic of Azerbaijan constantly works for promotion of best practices in our bilateral relations in the sphere of tourism. We encourage the participation of representatives of both countries in tourist exhibitions, held in Bulgaria and in Azerbaijan, who could promote the rich culture and history which we have and share.
- Thank you for the interview!