How to make reservation in the mountain refuges in Rila, Pirin, Balkan and the Rhodopes is a question we get quite often from travellers who are organising their own self-guided trip. We`ll try to give a general advice below:
Firstly, this is unfortunately a challenging task and requires, sometimes a lot of, patience – we can state this from our own experience, although we are locals. For the foreign visitors this would be due to the language barrier – many of the hut keepers do not speak English at all, as well as the difficult connection – mainly on the phone and not via email or other online tools.
Is reservation advisable? In general we would advise you to notify the hosts if you intend to visit. It is always acceptable to show up in the huts here without prior booking and there is a saying that “There is always space for one more in the hut”, But you risk to find no one in the place during the low season (November-May) or to find the place completely full during the peak times in July and August, also during public holidays and weekends, when many Bulgarians visit too. So a prior reservation will guarantee you bed and food.
You can successfully take the risk and visit the more popular huts without booking only if you are a small group – 1-3 people, and it is not a high season period. In all cases make sure you carry some extra food with you for dinner and breakfast in case there is not enough supplies. During the high season it is usually allowed to place your tent next to the huts for a small charge.
There is no equal standard of the service in the huts and there is not a centralized body responsible for their maintenance, so for each place you need to speak directly with the hut keepers, who own or rent the property from the Bulgarian Tourist Union, or with the office of the local tourist club who takes care of that certain hut (which is the worst scenario in terms of smooth communication). A very few of them have websites or offer bookings online. Please follow the link for more info on the huts network and what to generally expect from the huts in Bulgaria in terms of service, etc.
You can find a (still incomplete) list of the huts in Rila, Pirin and Balkan mountains, divided by range, in our Self-guided section. Each hut is presented with a basic description and up to date contacts. Please note that although we try to keep the info as accurate as possible, there is a chance that some of the contact numbers are outdated.
A map of the huts and up to date information on the huts, including comments from recent visitors, could be found on the Bulgarian-mountains website – only in Bulgarian language, requires Google translation.
Our best advice on how to book a hut in Rila, Pirin or the Balkan in case you struggle with the language barrier speaking on the phone is to send text messages, SMS, to the hut keepers with brief info on your name, dates, group size, requirements for food or not, and request for confirmation. It would be even better if you use online tools like Google Translate in order to translate your request into Bulgarian. You can also call at the same time when texting and simply explain you are now sms-ing for reservation to make sure your message will be notified. Of course, in some places you`ll be able to communicate your request in English and that’s much easier.
Although we do not offer booking the huts as a separate service, we would do that for you as part of our Self-guided services.
Author: Lyuben Grancharov
“The World is a book and those who do not travel read only a page” (Augustine of Hippo). I enjoy filling up the page, called “Bulgaria”, both working as a guide and writing about the mountains of Bulgaria on this blog.