Life in Bulgaria, after Brexit – a ‘no-brainer’ for expats

2019-10-17   |  Benjamin Fox,

The village of Radyuvene is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of UK urban life. But it is home to Beynon and Sue Darley, who swapped Guildford, a town 40 km south of London, for a rambling cottage in rural central Bulgaria.

The Darleys made their decision to move to the village, not far from the city of Lovech, during their third visit to Bulgaria. They bought their house from a Roma family and re-located permanently in 2015.

Bulgaria may not be associated with hordes of British expats but it is estimated that some 18,000 British people have moved to live in Bulgaria, many to take advantage of the lower cost of housing and living. Around a half of them live in the country permanently.

With the UK potentially just a couple of weeks away from leaving the EU, the Darleys are bracing themselves for “chaos”, even if they say that the Bulgarian government has promised the situation of UK expats won’t change.

The new Bulgarian rules require people to demonstrate that they have a work contract or are self-employed in Bulgaria, or that they can support themselves financially.

“The impact we’re worried about is on the uprating of our pension,” says Sue. “They are guaranteeing our pension upgrading for three years but after that we don’t know if it will be frozen.”

There is also uncertainty about how and whether their healthcare status will be affected. At the moment, the Darleys are covered by Beynon’s UK pension rights. This gives them a certificate known as S1, which entitles them to state healthcare paid for by the UK. After Brexit, it is unclear whether that will continue

“We don’t know if we will be covered by the system we’ve paid into all our lives or have to move to private insurance,” Sue adds. Both have pre-existing medical conditions that could make private health insurance complicated and costly.

The Darleys don’t expect to be victims of a post-Brexit political tit-for-tat in the event that the UK government clamps down on access to the UK for Bulgarians.

Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has welcomed British migrants and, in April, the National Assembly adopted legislation that will treat UK citizens the same as those from the EU, even in a no-deal Brexit scenario.

“My feeling is that they want us to stay,” says Sue. “We bring money into the economy even as pensioners.”

So far, the Darleys have followed the recommendations of the UK and Bulgarian governments: updating their Bulgarian ID cards – known as lichna karta – obtaining ten-year residency permits and Bulgarian driving licenses.

“In the event of a complete no-deal breakdown, we will have to re-register but will keep the rights we have acquired,” says Beynon.

But while they are critical of the UK’s Settled Status scheme which has been offered to EU nationals in Britain, there has been no ‘hostile environment’ for them here. Community spirit is far stronger than in the UK, they say.

“In the village, we feel very much welcomed. Here our neighbours all talk to us. We help each other. If you do a service for them, they will always repay you in raki [brandy] or fruit. I think that’s brilliant,” says Sue.

“You’re not taking each other for granted. Little things but it means a lot.”

Despite the uncertainty facing them, the Darleys have no plans to return to the UK, where they say Brexit has “divided families”.

“I don’t like what it’s (the UK) become,” says Sue.

“Particularly since this Brexit business has been around,” adds Beynon. “We’re very happy here and there doesn’t seem to be an overwhelming reason to go back.”

Economic exile?

in Bulgaria, property taxes are low and living costs are around half those in the UK. Those are also factors that keep them from returning to Guildford, one of the wealthiest regions of the UK, , where they had worked as foster carers.

“We are able to live out here in Bulgaria on a standard pension – you couldn’t even have a basic standard of living in the UK with that,” says Sue.

Moving to Bulgaria was “a no brainer because we can live out here rather than just exist”, she adds, “when you’ve lived next to the M25 (under the flight path for London’s Heathrow airport), this is bliss”.

Pointing to the sweeping view of the countryside from their garden, she says: “how much would you pay in the UK for that?”

Check out our properties in rural countryside

Check our beach properties

Check properties in ski resorts
  Read more news

Properties in Bansko
Buy your own property in the top ski resort of Bansko! An all-year-round resort suitable for winter and summer tourism with the best prices in Europe! Prices starting from as low as 10,000 Euros!
See More
Properties in the Bulgarian Beach Resorts!
Check our selection of properties on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast! Attractive prices starting from just 15,000 Euros for a furnished studio! Regular flights to Burgas and Varna international airports. Perfect for frequent visits, summer holidays and more
See More

More News

latest news
The Best Places to Buy Property in Europe

Over the last thirty years, opportunities to purchase real estate worldwide have really opened up to serious investors and those that just want to own property internationally to travel and vacation in ways that just weren’t possible previously.

Europe, in particular, offers plenty of attractive opportunities for international real estate deals, with customers from all...

12 November, 2019
Company news

An extremely strong month for the property market, one of the record highs for this year, with clear activity in all market segments, has ended.

At the end of the year, buyers are active in 3 main directions: some are finding their new home in one of the big cities for their own use or for investment, others use the good weather to get a property at the sea at the bargain prices we ...

06 November, 2019
Press & Media
GlobalPropertyGuide: Bulgaria’s strong house price growth continues

After five years of strong house price rises, Bulgaria’s housing market remains strong, buoyed by low interest rates and a stable economy.

The nationwide house price index rose by 7.29% (3.56% inflation-adjusted) during the year to Q1 2019, following y-o-y rises of 5.54% in Q4 2018, 6.27% in Q3, 7.51% in Q2 and 7.09% in Q1, according to the National Statistical Institu...

01 November, 2019
latest news
Plovdiv 2019: JAZZ FEST (31.10 – 02.11)

Plovdiv Jazz Fest is a highlight in the programme of Plovdiv – European Capital of Culture 2019.

Jazz has been part of Plovdiv’s traditions and culture for decades. Plovdiv Jazz Fest is the successor of a ten-year tradition: It took over from the Plovdiv Jazz Evenings festival and each November welcomes some of the world’s most influential jazz artists. A string of attending events...

28 October, 2019