Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy Bansko New Year Video

My Bansko New Year Message from the Chalin Valog chair lift
. Click play to view.

Thank you for visiting my Bansko Blog web site and I hope you have found something interesting here this year. Now the season is in full swing, there are many more reviews on the way for site visitors.

Unbiased Bansko information is always good. But it is now a necessity here, because the tourist scene has changed so much in just one year.

Caution In The Mehanas

Many traditional mehanas and restaurants are attempting to charge inflated prices. My New Year hope is that we avoid the Black Sea sharks*. They are easy to ignore by following an old simple rule:

If someone is trying to get you in, then you could end up hoping to get out - fast.

Good places, generally, do not need to employ people to persuade you to enter. Often the better places are full of locals, who pay close attention to price, or with visitors who know. The best places get booked up.

The current mehana problem has arisen due to owners finding it an easier money making proposition to rent their traditional mehanas (tavern style restaurants). Typically the operators are the Sunny Beach/Black Sea restaurateurs - rather than owners. Many are not family owned and run any longer. So what was good last year, may well not be in 2009.

The only way to stop this, is for visitors to avoid these type of places.
Demand and supply will then make the relevant price and quality adjustments. Its worth noting, that those bars and restaurants who charge less, can still make a good living. Here's a good one - Dedo Pene's Tel: +359(0)888 795970 just by clock tower:

By the way - if you register today, you'll receive by email, latest reviews of the places worth trying. There are hundreds of new businesses in Bansko and now, more than ever, web sites like this, will help us get the very best out of Bansko.

Bansko Changes For 2009

From ski/board hire, lessons, entertainment, accommodation, transfers, shopping... its all changing at a fast pace.

Many of the Bansko changes are very positive.

Today, I think most people would agree that the previous building site feel is much less in evidence. The facilities, accommodation, bars, restaurants and general choice are improved. Even service standards are better as we enter 2009.

Accidents In Bansko

Take care out the mountain. I ski first thing in the mor
ning but, as it get busier on rather thin snow with some rocks now showing, its worth being realistic about our abilities.

And here's why.

I met up with the doctor, in a kind of unplanned way, in the Medical Centre situated in the Bansko Gondola station. Entrance is on the west side of the building.

The doctor and his team have been very busy. Even by lunchtime last Saturday, there were three broken arms, one dislocated shoulder, cracked rib and broken nose (my son) and that's only what he has dealt with.

But all this was before the prime time, four o'clock, accident rush.

The "one more last run of the day", tired, out of practice, on ice, on busy slopes, will deliver to the Medical Centre a load more injuries. In fact some patients of The Medical Centre are not skiers - just slipping on icy pavements is a trap for all.

The Medical Centre is well equipped with X ray, and the doctors and nursing staff deliver excellent care. However, it's not a hospital.

You go to Razlog for this. And you may wish you never have visited this hospital.

A Bansko hospital is a few years away, or so I'm told.

In early 2009, I will examine what exactly the Bankso lift pass insurance covers you for.

Insurance is automatically included in your lift pass price. But make sure you have full winter sports cover, as you will not be covered for extensive search and rescue and medical treatment. Nor for repatriation which was being undertaken for a man who had badly fractured his hip last week. This required transfer to Sofia, nurse flown out and special flight back to the UK. Expensive stuff.

What To Do In Bansko When Its Busy

The slopes are icy right now, especially later on in the day. If you don't already, how about wearing a helmet?

Be early for the lift. Avoid the queues. The picture above showing gondola lift queue, was taken on Monday 29th December at midday.

But how about taking the blue run down to Chalin Valog?

If you are a competent rider / skier then enjoy the deserted black run shown above. No queue for lift. The picture above was taken Monday 29th Dec 2008.

Or the easy blue run served by button lift shown below:

No amount of the excellent snow making in Bansko, makes up for the shortage of early season snow. More is on its way. In the meantime please take care.

Bansko For Non Skiers Or Boarders

Many visitors come to the mountains to relax and enjoy the ambiance of an old mountain town, to party or, lie today, just to spend the New Year with good friends and family.

Bansko delivers this better than ever before. The view of the main Pirin street above and below was taken on Monday.

The ice skating ring, near the Strazhite Hotel and Mountain Residence 3, is popular and is surely another great way to get that feel good feeling before the New Year celebrations.

The recent fine weather has made for some nice views, so I'll sign off 2008 with this mountain view.

Thank you for reading, listening and watching in 2008.

Happy New Year

And Here's To Happy Days In Bansko During 2009.

As always, your comments are really welcome and thank you to those who have sent me emails and comments during 2008.

* "Black Sea Sharks" is a metaphor for the the opportunistic entrepreneurs renting premises and over charging. Generally they hail from Bulgaria's Black Sea coast.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Bansko Ski Conditions Video

Today's conditions are summed up in the video above.

In spite of snow cover is thin and still not all lifts are open.

It icy in the afternoon. Skiers are advised to ski early and take care later in the day.

Pistes are getting busy and mixed with ice accidents are more likely.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Bansko Christmas Eve Ski Conditions Video

Bansko ski conditions saw some icy conditions today. Still only four lifts open. See video of the icy top half of the Tomba run and my Christmas Greetings to all readers.

Some queues were around 20 minutes as the picture above shows.

Many visitors come to Bansko for the atmosphere, food and some fresh air. However keen skiers are likely to be disappointed over the next few days. Although light snow is forecast every day for the next four days, it is unclear at this stage whether these will transpire to be the big dump needed to ensure the resort is fully open.

The run down to Bansko is fully open and was pleasant in the sunshine. Impressive snow making coverage has made this possible.

Looks like today's high winds will subside. It will remain very cold.

But I was glad for all the thermal underwear today Inner gloves saved my fingers

A very Happy Christmas to all readers.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bansko Ski Conditions

Bansko Ski Conditions. Report from today on the piste.

The snow is okay, but is mainly artificial. The picture here was taken just a few hours ago and you can see there is snow..

BUT only 5 lifts are open and there is an expectation of snow tonight.

Not a great start to the season but temperatures are now low
. And its getting colder.

There is now a light dusting of snow in Bansko and this should mean tomorrow, Christmas Eve there should be more snow on the runs and, with luck, more lifts open. Wind speeds remain high though.

No queues at gondola today and beautiful sunshine. Tomba was open but some queues for about 10 minutes. Well there were only 4 lifts + baby lift + gondola open.

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Does Bansko Have A Curry Or Indian Restaurant?

A dedicated Indian restaurant to satisfy Bansko curry cravings does not yet exist. No worries. Avalon hotel does have curry nights most weeks. But should you get a "curry-on" at any time - your problem is now solved.

Just follow Lance's Christmas Curry recipe and your Indian food desires will be satisfied. Click on play for the audio version with full cooking and recipe details:

Well give it a go. Its really simple and nothing needs accurate measuring.

After a day out on the snow w
hat could be more enjoyable than a curry? A good curry tastes like heaven after a hard day's boarding or skiing.

Please comment if you can help me on Indian spices and herbs
being sourced in Sofia, Blagoevgrad or even Bansko. In the meantime you will need to bring over some of the spices from home.

You may well save some cash too but this recipe is for taste, not economy.

For Lance's Bansko Curry you need:

1 x onion
1 x leek
fresh ginger
2 x garlic
chillies (to taste) more the better of course. chilli powder

coriander seed (best to grind your own with pestle and mortar - but whatever)
garam masala (if possible but not essential)
cumin Seed (fairly essential)
black pepper
tomato puree

vegetable stock
1 x lemon

chicken / meat / fish / prawns
vegetables: leek, peas, courgettes


Take your finely chopped 1 x onion
1 x chopped leek
fresh root ginger (powder sold in Bansko supermarket)
2 x garlic
chillies (to taste) more the better of course and/or chili powder

then cook this lot very slowly in big wok or pot for 20 mins

add chicken/ beef/lamb/pork or just vegetables

if you have some Kaffir Lime leaves add them. Add lemon grass if you have. Neither essential.

ADD Spices as follows:

Coriander seed (best to grind your own with pestle and mortar - but whatever)
Garam Masala (if possible but not essential)
Cumin Seed (fairly essential)
Black Pepper

Add vegetable stock (500ml enough for 4 people)
a little tomato puree (not essential)
add 2 teaspoons of sugar

if you like a "one pot curry" add favourite vegetables (any.. okra, leeks, courgettes, peas, broccoli)

put lid on pot.

Cook very slowly for an hour for chicken on bone (40 minutes if not on bone). 1 hour plus hours for lamb/beef.

at end of cooking add more vegetables mushrooms (15 minutes) and spinach (5 minutes)

Add coconut milk if you have it. A little Thai Fish Sauce is also good.

Serve with basmati rice and yogurt with cucumber and, if possible, mint.. best to make this whilst the curry is cooking. The yogurt thickens up the thin sauce.

Just before serving add a lot of fresh coriander. Squeeze lemon juice in the pot.

Serve with a few coriander leaves, Mrs Balls chutney, your yogurt mix and accompany with a cool beer....

variations: add (Puy) Lentils for a lush lentil curry.

Make separate vegetable curry. add small new potatoes.

Make a large batch then freeze as its even better the next day or out of the freezer.

What do you think? Please comment with your recipe. If you enjoyed this article, and would like to receive my Bulgarian kebabche recipe which I guarantee tastes better than the local version, then simply register for regular emails. You'll also receive the new guide to the little known ways of getting the best out of Bansko.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sofia Airport Bansko Transfer Update

Sofia Airport To Bansko transfers are one of the most popular search requests for this Bansko Blog. Click play for the audio version of this article:

George, a Bansko Blog reader from the UK, has now tried Bulgaria Transport for car hire to Bansko - after reading my Bansko transfer article - as wrote: "I'm as happy as larry with the value for money. I got the lowest price I could find - everything was spot on."

I caught up with
Alex outside Terminal 1, Sofia Airport. So if you use the service you'll know who to look out for... although its not always Alex! If you are happy with your transfer or car hire, then please let me know in the comments section below.

Warning! Beware of rogue transfer and hire companies.

Don't risk your life
! There are some cars you can hire which are unsafe. You need winter tyres, a motorway ticket. Don't risk a car that is dangerous to drive. There are many cowboy operators out there. Too cheap? Then Be careful.
There are six transfer options to Bansko:

1. Bankso Express
2. private transfer
3. taxi
4. hire a car
5. take the bus

6. train (not reviewed - takes far too long)

bonus option: fly to Thessaloniki (Greece) or to Plovdiv (Bulgaria)

1. Bansko Express This will be a new service costing from £12 per person each way PLUS £1 booking fee. £25 return. (€28 approx).

From their web site they say:

Easy Jet, Wizz Air and Aer Lingus Flights are covered.

Book well ahead.


"Bansko Express works as a booking agent which gets holiday makers from the same flights and transports them between Sofia Airport and Bansko in one vehicle.

Depending on the number of bookings the vehicles used are cars, shuttle buses, mini-buses and coaches. If you are the only booking for your flight then it would be like a private taxi transfer at a much cheaper price. Whatever type of vehicle used, your journey will be pleasant."

Seems like a great option particularly if you are a small group or alone.

2. Private Transfer:

The most common way for skiers to get to Bansko from Sofia, unless you have booked on a package trip.

Here are my recommended transfer companies. There is competition. So here are seven to choose from.


They currently charge according to number a number of people.

Expect to pay for 1/2 people 1
38 euros return.
For 3/4 people, 145 euros in total (€74 if just one way, no return)

So that's €36.25 per person return if there is four of you.

Call Alex Lub. He's a great guy and speaks perfect English and is very helpful. Tel:+359.886.222.400 or email Alex on:

2. - Jordan speaks excellent
English and is helpful too. Recommended.

3. - Radoslav. Drivers vary, but very reliable and
good car hire too.

4. - HHB Travel quote €150 return up to four people

5. - Very reliable service. Competitive prices

6. - Prices on request. Luxury van from Steve. Recommended.

7. - No reports but efficient on email quote. But it was €178 for two people return to Bansko.

3. Taxi - I have used OK taxis several times. And its not a bad option - well, its just okay!

They are the official yellow taxis outside airport. If you're up for some hard bargaining remember its just one way, so start at €50/100 lev. Try and pay €80/160 lev. Let me know how you got on.

If you were last minute and all other options failed. Or you just forgot to book.

All is not lost. OK Taxis (Supertrans) will get you there. Try and pick and English speaking driver.

Very poor boot (trunk) space for your baggage. There is a large gas bottle in the boot.

4. Hire a Car Alex provides great rates from just 16 euros per day. Good service.
who also provide a very flexible car hire service. Their yellow mini cooper drew admiring glances driving through remote villages.

There is now lots of hire car competition and prices have come down.

Hiring a car is a good option once you have been once to Bansko - or are used to driving abroad. A car will also mean you will save money by driving out of Bansko in the evenings to local restaurants. Often they are over half the price of Pirin street tourist traps.

Go to
for directions from Sofia Airport to Bansko

TOP TIP: Be sure you have a ticket attached to screen for the motorways outside Sofia. Do check you have winter tyres attached and that the windscreen fluid is full.

Carry your driving licence. Be very careful to obey speed limits.

Police (Kat): The time spent stopped by police makes it a waste of time speeding. Be sure you have a road legal vehicle. Don't drink and drive. Winter tyres are essential.

Go to for directions from airport to Bansko.

If you can recommend other transfer companies then please can you comment? I will then add them to the list.

5. Take the Bus

Why not take the bus? Save the environment and save cash. This is cheap, about 14 lev (7 euros approx) each way. It will take longer though.

Go to Central Bus Station, Sofia for timetable (its in English).

Be warned, this will take time as you have to get to Central Bus Station. Best may be to use Ovcha Kupel bus station. But at least its on the right side of town. You will need to check these times.

Sofia Ovcha Kupal Bus Terminal to Bansko - 07:00, 09:20 (not Tues), 10:30, 11:50 (not Sun), 13:05, 13:55, 14:30, 14:40, 15:10, 15:28 (not Tues), 15:55, 16:30, 17:00, 17:30.

Bansko Bus Terminal to Sofia - 05:40, 07:00, 08:40, 13:15, 15:20
(not Tues).

6. Train

Here's the link for the timetable: . Go to central train station. Change of trains is required. It will take you seven hours. Take a good book.

Thessaloniki option

Fly to Thessaloniki, hire a car and drive to Bansko from Greece. Car hire costs more and its a bit further but getting out of Sofia at busy times makes this an option to consider especially if you fancy time exploring Greece.

When I went to Thessaloniki I really enjoyed the atmosphere. Great bars and restaurants and really different from Bulgaria. Be prepared for drinks prices that are equal to, if not more, than London, Paris, Dublin etc.

Quality is high, however, and the weather is almost always warmer than Bulgaria.

Plovdiv Transfer Option

Sorry no knowledge of this. So no comments. But if you have experience of a private/taxi transfer from Plovdiv then please comment, thank you.

Do you have any more options? Please comment.

Links to useful Bankso resources, apartments, hotels can be found here:

If you enjoyed this article, and would like to receive more, then simply register for regular emails. You'll also receive the new guide to getting the best out of Bansko.

How To Profit From The Pound vs Euro Collapse

You just can't escape it these days, everywhere you turn the talking heads on the TV, radio, newspaper and internet are all jostling for your attention in order to sell you the latest financial doomsday scenario.
And if you aren't careful, you'll get swept away by the media's hysterics.

Such events open up opportunities for us to get what we want for less. Read on for why:

The collapse in value of stirling agains the euro.

For people earning in stirling then this collapse could be bad news and will add over 20% to the cost of a holiday. However, your room costs don't go up one penny when you book accommodation direct with the owner.

An owner who advertises in GB Pounds. Like we have on this site.

If you are outside the UK, then you have just bagged a huge 20% saving over booking in euros (or Levs) by booking direct with a UK owner who advertises in GB Pounds and who has NOT increased their prices.

So my advice is to make your skiing accommodation costs cheaper than last season.

Check out accommodation links here:

alternatively just send me an email to lancenelson1 at (@sign)

remember best options for transfer are here:

Friday, December 12, 2008

Pirila Hotel For Local Bulgarian Experience And More

Today's review is of the very special Pirila Hotel. The audio interview is with co owner Dave. Listen to his personal story including why they picked this very special location in Dolno Draglishte, 15 minutes from Bansko.

Audio Summary

The Pirila Hotel must be good as this is where David and Hazel have hosted the majors of Bansko and Razlog have held their parties! Listen here so find out why:

So do listen to the audio and let me know what you think. (Please turn volume up, as its a little qui
et at times)

Dave talks about living in Bulgaria, the rare mountain goats, fishing, local village life, traditions and their Friday and Saturday nights dancing.

He outlines his eight bedroom hotel, all with ensuite bathrooms, two of which are family rooms, their new swimming pool. Food wise go for traditional Bulgarian or on special order for special steaks, ribs, pasta, Chinese and Indian dishes. Dave asks for just 48 hours notice.

Listen to end of the recording for the amusing true story of a visiting fisherman, rakia, a mistaken bar and a local writer.

Most of all, David and Hazel show a great example of determination and generosity and you'll understand why the locals have taken them to heart.

Local prices (1.5 lev for a beer) and local atmosphere make this a place to either stay or visit when you are in Bansko.

Contact Details:

Sedma Str. Dolno Draglishte Razlog 359 886110971 (English speaking) Bulgaria 359 885199268 (Bulgarian speaking) UK Tel: 00441282 869657

If you liked this article, why not receive regular updates? More reviews of the new season bars and restaurants coming up soon. Your comments are always welcome.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Brilliantine Goes Retro For Students Day In Bansko

Yes Brilliantine night club at the Lion Hotel Bansko was the place to meet, drink, dance and, for some, to be seen in. So it was the venue I just had to check up for this students' day special review.

Brilliantine is one popular Bansko late night spot to visit in the run up to Bulgaria's famous 8th December annual students day. However, Sofia's Brilliantine bar and club is best known for its often exclusive, and demanding, door policy in Battenberg Square (3 Moskovska Street) in Sofia.

Bansko's Brilliantine is located underneath the Lion Hotel and is a smaller, but nonetheless smart, destination for Bansko's late night party goers.

They say, "if you feel too old, you are too old." But after a while it didn't seem to matter to me. And Friday saw this blog receive viewers from 40 countries, since I installed a counter three weeks ago. So it was time to celebrate this little milestone achievement.

Back to Brilliantine. It's true to say retro music is more widely appreciated by Bulgarians than many other countries. Words for 80's favourites from "Right Said Fred", "Queen" and "Duran Duran" seemed to be universally known.

In Brilliantine, be prepared to pay 10 lev for a drink. As I will reveal in later posts, these sort of prices can now be charged by some of the other, and less upscale establishments. On Saturday night party folk were queuing up to get in at 4.00am - just as we were were leaving the club. So I assume it didn't really get going until about 12:30 ish.

The students day build up in Bansko started Friday the 5th, and continued until departure today. What strikes me, is that the spectacle is the opposite of, not only what you may expect of impoverished credit crunch students, but also of a country whose official average income is about €400 per month!

German car marques such as BMW x5's, Audi Cayenne, and even a few Porsches, demonstrated how the offspring of Bulgaria's 200,000 millionaires like to flash their cash. Like their parents - so conspicuous student wealth abounds.

Dressed in the finest gear you may have been forgiven you were looking at a modeling convention. Why is it Bulgarian students look so different than the spotty, greasy and somewhat rough look I remember from my days?

So there we go - a perfect opportunity to see Bansko at its designer finest. New gear for the girls, and smart new jackets for the guys seemed to be the order of the day and night. Bansko needs a good crowd to fill its venues and the 8th December is one to put in the diary for next year.

Poor skiing conditions at the weekend meant there were not so many bright ski outfits to interfere with the dressed up students during the daytime parade in the old town.
A snow storm came in on Sunday - so things are looking up for the ski season.

For great value rooms, very close to gondola click here.

If you liked this article, why not receive regular updates? More reviews of the new season bars coming up soon. Your comments are always welcome. Were you there? What do you think of Bansko's late night spots?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

How To Book Rooms In Bansko Part 1

Well booking a Bansko room cant be hard, can it not? Sometimes the whole job feels like pulling teeth.

Time spent surfing the web, checking availability, checking whether 100 metres to gondola means 1,000 metres, and so on.
It can be a painful process.

But like an American burger joint, sometimes there can be just too much choice. Bansko has loads of room options. Don't be a monkey. Read on for my guide on how to successfully find and book the room that satisfies all your requirements.

Quick Economics Lesson

But before I do this, here is my reminder of some school economics.

The world is going through its seismic changes for really one fundamental reason. There is an
excess of supply over demand.

This is the real cause, not greedy bankers or government failings. This is the reason millions of people are losing their jobs right now. There is too much supply.

However here is the good news.

When supply increases beyond demand, prices fall. So what has this got to do with booking a room in Bansko? Well, everything really.

Construction Boom and Supply

Over the past six years the huge demand for investment property, primarily from English and Irish investors. It lead to a huge building spree. Whilst many were surprised that so many building licences were granted, the fact is, there are now around 15,000 apartments and studios in Bansko.

Assuming some two and three bedroom apartments, its a fair assumption that there is accommodation, including hotel rooms, for well over 35,000 people in the Razlog Valley.

Well there would be, if they were all available to rent. Some owners don't want to rent, don't want to furnish and some think they can't be bothered to rent out at low rents.

Okay, the message is clear, Bansko now has a huge supply of rooms.

Nobody knows the exact amount of rooms to be supplied - but there seems to be a
consensus of this number. So its as good a guess as any.

Factor on the Demand

The next thing to consider is
demand. Sometimes relative demand is easy to determine. For example, demand is lot higher over New Year than mid January. But what you need to know is that, whatever time of year, you should be booking your accommodation, or room, at the very lowest price that satisfies your needs.

Prices vary from around five euros to over two hundred euros per night - so you can see this is more complicated than you might believe! There are fabulous prices available out there that many hotels don't want you to know about. More of this next time.

Factors to consider and try and prioritise:
  1. Decide how many there are in your group or family, are there young children?
  2. Decide what you really like. e.g luxury hotel with swimming pool spa, home style, space?
  3. If you are skiing , is being a few minutes walk from gondola an essential requirement?
  4. Do you like to able to walk into the town?
  5. Do you like a chalet atmosphere?
  6. Do you like to stay in?
  7. Do you need to work in your room?
  8. Are you organising a group?
  9. Are you organising a school or society trip?
  10. Are you looking to feel part of a the local scene?
Depending on your answers here, you now need to find the right accommodation that satisfies almost all of your requirements. For the lowest price.

I am going to show you how to do this for Bansko's complex and varied accommodation scene.

So check this out in part two next month. But I am going to give subscribers a head start, by sending this out to you by email on Tuesday. So if you enjoyed reading this article, then subscribe to my newsletter and be first to learn how to get the best out of Bansko.

As always, I value your comments. So whether you are a Bansko resident, regular visitor, property owner, hotel manager or potential visitor please comment on what you consider important right now. Click here for more about me.