The Bulgarian Mountain Guides Association, or BGMGA, is an NGO, founded in 2016 with the aim to promote and strengthen the position of the mountain guides profession, to ease the communication between the mountain guides and their clients, as well as to sustain and improve the professional qualifications of its members – mountain guides, by organizing a variety of seminars, informal trainings and practices.
We also aim to popularize the Bulgarian nature and especially our mountains by providing information about them, available both for foreign and Bulgarian tourists. We will provide the Bulgarian mountaineers with information about various interesting destinations and routes as well as we will work on improving the mountaineering culture and the knowledge of our mountains’ visitors.
Read more about hiring a mountain guide in Bulgaria below:
What can a mountain guide add to your trip?
Depending on your personal knowledge and skills, a trip in to the mountains may become a great experience or a catastrophe. If you are not certain where exactly do you want to go, how to plan your trip, what equipment and technical skills are required and how to proceed in an emergency situation then probably you need a mountain guide.
Taking people in the mountains shouldn’t be only movement from one point to another but both fun, adventure and educational process. A guide can answer to the numerous practical questions that are part of every trip, take you to places you wouldn’t dare to go on your own and teach you how to cope in the mountains next time. A local mountain guide can give you a completely different point of view on the places you visit and people you meet.
How to choose a mountain guide in Bulgaria?
The mountain guides profession in Bulgaria is regulated by:
- The Tourism Act;
- The Ordinance on education, practical training and professional qualification, which are necessary for obtaining legal capacity and for practising the profession “mountain guide”.
Important to know:
- Only certified mountain guides have the right to practice the profession;
- In order to practice their profession legally, the mountain guides must have passed an exam for capacity, to be registered in the National Tourism Register and possess an Identity Card;
- The guides have two levels of qualification – Mountain Guide (with additional specializations in guiding on sksi and mountain bike) and Alpine Guide*. The qualification level possessed determines the spheres, in which the guide is competent to lead clients.
- The guides have the right to practice the profession as hired by a tour operating agency or to offer directly the service “mountain guiding” as freelancers. The direct offering excludes selling accommodation, transport and any other services except the guiding;
*There is a bit of term`s confusion here: internationally as a mountain guide is recognized only an individual who has the qualifications equal to the Bulgarian Alpine Guide level, i.e. training in alpine and rock climbing, off-piste skiing, glacier travel, etc. This is all very new for our country generally (and for other large parts of the world as well) and traditionally all professionals who are guiding people in the mountains are called “mountain guides” no matter of their qualifications and areas of operation. There is still no qualified Alpine Guides in Bulgaria and the qualification exists only on the papers of the new Ordinance. Many Bulgarian guides have international qualifications, equal to the international Mountain Leader level (read more about that below), but also successfully guide different activities from the upper level for years. As we live and offer our services in Bulgaria we would prefer to use the traditional term “Mountain guides” when we speak about our selves and also to give preference to the Bulgarian Law when determining our qualifications and duties, without neglecting the best international standards and practices in the profession.
The education of the mountain guides in Bulgaria is regulated by:
- The Professional Education and Training Act;
- The Ordinance on obtaining qualification for the profession “Mountain Guide”.
Important to know:
- Only licensed training centres have the right to conduct training;
- The training is with a certain duration and content and ends with a state exam.
At a global level, there is a division of the profession on two stages: Mountain Guides and Mountain Leaders (in Bulgaria equal are Alpine Guides and Mountain Guides). Briefly, the mountain leaders are working in the fields, where climbing, alpinism, off piste skiing and glacier travel are not especially part of the program. Their field of activities include walking, snowshoeing and mountain biking. Both professions have their representative organizations: IFMGA (UIAGM, IVBV) – of the mountain guides and UIMLA – of the mountain leaders.
The worldwide training is conducted by various organizations, which are following the standards of the above mentioned IFMGA and UIMLA. In Bulgaria training, which corresponds to the standards of UIMLA is conducted by „Mountains and people – association of the mountain guides in Bulgaria“, which is a member of UIMLA. There are other licensed Bulgarian organizations, which are conducting training according to the Bulgarian standards as per the state educational requirements of the profession. Training according to IFMGA standards is not conducted in Bulgaria for now, the first courses held by EEMGA, under the umbrella of IFMGA, that train individuals from all Eastern Europe started in 2017.
What are the advantages of organizing your trip directly with a guide?
– You can choose the dates and duration which are suitable for you;
– Can set your own pace of the program, choose the places to visit, to stay and to eat with the help of a local;
– Don’t have to mess up with people you may not like, as in a bigger organized group;
– You contact directly with the person who is going to lead you and is responsible for all the organizational hassle;
– Every trip can be planed for a tight budget or with extras and there is no total price with hidden costs – you know how much exactly do you pay to the guide, for accommodation, transport, etc.
Some advice for those, who seek to hire a mountain guide in Bulgaria:
- Check the legal capacity of the guide – to hire a guide without a license is equivalent to ride in a car with a driver without a license. You can do this by checking with the National Touristic Register, the Training organization or directly with the guide – the identity card certifies the license and the capacity of practicing the profession;
- Check the guide’s reputation;
- Make clear what are your rights and duties as a client, as well as the responsibilities, which the guide has in both types of practicing the profession:
– Using the service through tour operator – the tour operator is responsible for organizing the whole journey – accommodation, transportation, including the quality of the service, which the mountain guide (hired by the tour operator) offers. In this case the guide is a representative of the tour operator, who’s hiring the guide. The tour operator has an insurance “Responsibility of the Tour Operator”, which would cover eventual claims on your behalf, in case you’re not pleased with the journey.
– When directly hired, the guide is responsible for you only while guiding in the mountains and you or a third party (those who give accommodation, transportation, etc.) are responsible for the rest of your journey. All the assistance you get from the guide is only informative and the guide is not responsible as well as doesn’t get paid for other services than the guiding.
Note: unfortunately in Bulgaria at the moment there isn’t an insurance “Professional Responsibility” for mountain guides, which covers damages caused by the guide while performing professional duties.
And last, what we should be aware of:
- Guides without license and legal capacity;
- Companies, which hire guides without legal capacity – always be informed who is guiding you;
- Groups and organizations, which organize mountain activities, but don’t make it clear who’s responsible for the group while you’re in the mountains, regardless if the event is paid for or free of charge.
Why we should be aware? Very often, the unprofessional organization behind such trip in the mountains stays unnoticed – if the weather is nice, we’re all friends, laughing together, etc. In another occasion, it’s possible, that we get a feeling of discontent, because of the discomfort we experience, but we don’t see it’s connected to the work of the person leading at the front. In worst case scenario, we can witness or be a victim in an accident, caused by unprofessional guiding.