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My wait for a Bulgarian Number Plate

Regardless of where you buy your car, be it the UK, France, Russia or Bulgaria you will need to go through the lengthy registration process with the Bulgarian traffic police known as KAT. The process is akin to watching paint dry, it is bureaucratic and time consuming and you need to write off time to do this.

Renault Megane in my own name at KAT in Dobrich because you must register in the area that you declared yourself resident at the time of registering with the immigration police. You can choose to register your car as an asset of your company and in this case you must register in the region where your company was formed.

My car was purchased in Austria and brought over on temporary number plates giving me 17 days to get a Bulgarian registration. If I had bought the same car in Bulgaria the procedure would be exactly the same, as Bulgarian garages will issue you with temporary red plates. If you bring your car in from abroad ensure you have all of the documents, which prove ownership as you may be asked to produce them at the border. I went to the KAT offices with a translator at 10 am and did not leave until 4 pm. Using a translator who was familiar with the car registration process cost me 150 Leva but proved invaluable as I could not have found my way round the volume of paperwork let alone the layout of the building!


Our first office entailed a two hour wait and there was no organized queuing system, you literally go into the waiting area and ask, “who is the last in the queue?” then remember that person’s face and follow their every move until they enter the registration office. This is the place where you show all paperwork relating to the car’s ownership as well as proof of your own ID.

I encountered a few problems at this office because my passport had been renewed and now contained a different number to the one I registered at the immigration office. I have also held two Bulgarian ID cards, yet the computer could only find details pertaining to my first residence, which was not in Dobrich region. The fact that my UK driver’s licence was in my maiden name did not matter even though it would not match with my passport. After a couple of phone calls to the immigration police and the input of a senior member of the registration staff, my details were matched and my residence established as Dobrich region. I was given yet more sheaves of papers, which included one year’s motor insurance at a cost of 140 Leva. There is an additional 12 Leva fee for the processing of the registration paperwork.

Failure to produce all relevant documents at this office results in you having to come back and start queuing all over again – I met one British couple who had visited the office five times.


Outside of the shabby KAT building, there are a series of covered garages and a stream of cars queuing up for their MOT. You literally have to join one of these queues and wait your turn. It took me an hour in total to pass through this section.

It doesn’t matter whether your car was MOT’d in the country you bought it in, a Bulgarian MOT is obligatory and you need to renew this every year. The test consists of a mechanic filling out yet more paperwork, most of which is copied from the certificate of ownership. He then shines a torch into the engine area and collects a series of numbers imprinted on various parts of your car, one of mine was in the boot where the spare tyre was, which was quite handy because he also needs to check you have a spare.

The last part of the test involves you slamming your foot on the breaks in front of a machine, which tests their effectiveness. Your handbrake also receives the same scrutiny. When you pass this section you are given all of the mechanic’s hand written forms and you are well on your way to collecting your Bulgarian licence plates. In this part of the registration process make sure that your car is MOT worthy otherwise you will need to return and start queuing at this section again.

Paying your Eco Tax and Collecting your Talon

My next stop was a cabin belonging to Allianz Bank, where I handed over all of my documentation only to find that I had not got a certificate to say that I had paid the new Bulgarian eco tax. This is a one off payment calculated according to the age and emissions of the car. I paid 205 Leva and received another piece of paper, which allowed me to progress onto the next stage. Next to the bank there were a series of windows and a mass of people. Again we tried to establish who was last in the “queue.” When my turn came I was given more paperwork to fill out and required to pay 54 Leva for the privilege! The point of this section was to provide the necessary information for the laminated documents, which prove your ownership in Bulgaria, one of which is known as the talon and is the small card you must produce to the police whenever you are stopped. It is not possible to get a friend to do all of this on your behalf as your signature is required on each document.

Getting your Plates

By now the clock was ticking close to 4 pm and it was time to join the queue outside the number plate garage. In this section you provide the attendant with your laminated ownership card and he removes your old ones and screws on your new Bulgarian number plate. It was the most satisfying part of the day and also the swiftest, but it was not the end of the car registration business.

Paying your Car Tax

The following day I had to pay 14.30 Leva for my annual car tax at my local municipality in Balchik. The procedure entailed more form filling and queuing. This tax must be paid annually and can only be paid at the municipality where your car is registered. You do however have until December 31st in which to pay the tax. Failure to pay by this deadline will result in a fine.

Document Check List

  • Drivers licence
    Lichna karta (residency permit)
    Lichen nommer (not displayed on the new residency permits)
    Car log book
    Bill of sale
    Certificate of ownership
    Certificate of Bulgarian eco tax payment (you may not have this document and will have to purchase it at KAT)