Friday, July 3, 2009

No change for us

The Bulgarian currency is the Leva. The value of the Leva is as follows:
1 Leva = $0.72 or NIS 2.79 or EUR 0.51.

Prices here are low, so that you can often find yourself making purchases or paying for services for amounts under 10 Leva. For instance, the taxi ride from my house to work will be around 3.50 Leva; we bought some fruit in the market today, and it came to 8 Leva.

Although it’s nice to deal with low prices, one of the drawbacks is that you will often come across people or shops that don’t have appropriate change! This is especially a problem since most of the time when we withdraw money from the bank, it comes in 50 Leva bills. We’re constantly looking for places where we can pay with larger notes, so that we can make change.

One morning I took a taxi to work, and all I had was a 20 Leva bill. One would think that a taxi driver would be able to make change for the 3 Leva charge, but he didn’t have any change, and neither did I! I got out of the taxi and went to the reception desk in my building, but no one there had change either, and no one else that I ran into had! In the end, I asked the driver to give me his name and number and that I would let him know when I had change! Ellis tried to help me out by going to the nearby gas station and trying to buy something with a 50, but they couldn’t change it either! I finally found a few co-workers who made change for me, and I called the driver who came back to my building to collect his 3 Leva fare from the morning.

The other evening, Ellis and I went to the corner market to pick up a couple of small items that we needed. Someone who was ahead of us in line was yelling at the cashier, because she had no change to give him. He finally left without his purchases, and it was our turn. Again, there was no change for our 3.50 Leva of purchases that we were trying to pay for with a 10 Leva bill – so we went around the shop adding a few more items to our purchases until we were able to pay and get change! If only we had realized that this would be the problem, we wouldn’t have got rid of all our small change at the restaurant a few minutes before.

We learned that credit/debit cards have only recently come to Bulgaria within the last few years, and most people still prefer to pay in cash. Given this preference, it would seem logical that the vendors and service providers would make sure that they always had enough small change on hand.

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