Vehicle registration plates of Bulgaria
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Standard Bulgarian vehicle registration plates display black glyphs (alphanumeric characters) on a white background, together with – on the left-hand side of the plate – a blue vertical "EU strip" showing the flag of Europe (or, for older-registered cars, the flag of Bulgaria) and, below it, the country code for Bulgaria: BG.
The characters displayed in the main field of the plate are:
- a one- or two-letter province code
- four numerals
- a final two-letter code, known as the "series".
The format is thus XX NNNN YY, where XX (or X) is the province code, NNNN is the serial number, and YY is the series. Since 1992, only glyphs that are common to both the Cyrillic and the Latin alphabets have been used on Bulgarian plates.
Only 12 letters are used. In Bulgarian order, these are: А, В, Е, К, М, Н, О, Р, С, Т, У, Х. All of these are used as part of the province codes (i.e. on the left). Only nine letters are used in the series (i.e. on the right), of which "А" is the only vowel. The three that are not used in the series, (all vowels) are Е, reserved exclusively for trailers and caravans (e.g. СА 1234 ЕЕ), О and У. Since 2022, the letter E is used in the series of cars in Sofia, (e.g. CB 1234 TE).
Number plates with a single letter in the series, i.e. "X(X) NNNN Y", appear mainly on mopeds and motorcycles, but can rarely be seen on some older vehicles that have failed to undergo the obligatory re-registration. The format "X(X) AAAAAA" may be used in vanity plates, where "A" represents either letters or numbers chosen by the owner (a name for example). The price of such a custom plate is BGN 7,000 (approx. €3,500), so these are rare.
Not counting the "Е" series, which is reserved for trailers, nor the vanity plates with no series letters, there is a total of 810,000 possible combinations for each province. This total ran out in Sofia ("С") in late 2005, and was replaced by "СА" in early 2006; In 2014, "CB" began to be used.
Note that the number "0" is written normally, while the letter "O" is egg-shaped.
Black letters on a white background, in the format: X(x) NN-NN.
State vehicles retained the black on white format, while private vehicles were given black plates with white lettering. The format was X(x)- NNNN. after reaching 9999 a letter was set in front of the 4 numbers X(x)-Y-NNNN. In the early 80's, after all the combinations with the letter "C" were exhausted in Sofia, a new format was introduced in the capital beginning with "A", namely AYY-NNNN. Plates with the combinations AAB-NNNN and ABC-NNNN were issued before the standard was changed once again in 1986.
A new issue of plates is introduced with the standard format of "X(X) NNNN Y(Y)". Yellow for private plates, white for state-owned vehicles, with previous-style plates no longer valid. These new plates used ISO 7591 standard font & size and had reflective surfaces. "E" was designated as the series letter for trailers, and "Ч" for private freight and private mass transport vehicles (Ч: частен, private)
Since 1992, the letter license plate code used letters common to both the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets, irrespective of whether they have the same phonetic value or not: А, В, Е, К, М, Н, О, Р, С, Т, У, Х, the same as today. A similar system is used in Greece, Russia, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Ukraine. Regions are as per ISO 3166-2:BG. The new 1992 issue of plates used a white background, in the format "X(X) NNNN Y". All former yellow background plates became invalid. In 1993, The hyphens/stops between letter and number blocks were also phased out and also became invalid in 1993. During the mid-1990s, the "X NNNN Y" combinations began to run out in many provinces (as there were only 90,000 possible combinations), and so a second letter was added to the series. Between 2000 and 2008, the left-hand blue band Bulgaria flag was phased in, eventually becoming a legal requirement on 1 July 2006. These plates were all in the "X(X) NNNN YY" format, but the shape of the letters was changed to the current standard – namely, the letters were made more "square" and heavier-set than previously. These plates all began with the series "AA", thereby repeating some combinations that had already existed before, albeit without the EU strip. On 1 January 2007 Bulgaria (BG) and Romania (RO) joined the European Union, and the standardised Europlate was introduced soon after.
In use are also three other types of plates in format of nnn X nnn:
- Т plate for the transit of an unregistered vehicle through Bulgaria (Т: транзит, transit)
- Н plate for a new vehicle, not yet registered (Н: ново, new)
- М plate for a new vehicle, started 2017 after the Н series has been exhausted
- В plate for car dealers (В: временен, temporary)
These three types use a white background with black text and a red vertical strip on the right side. Usually, the expiry date is inscribed on the red strip.
Military and police vehicles
Since 2006, all military vehicles' plates are subject to change with the new ones: the letters "BA" (for Bulgarian Army, formerly "В" in red on a white plate) and 6 digits — the form is "BA NNN NNN". The same form is adopted for the new license plates of the Civil Protection Service of Bulgaria, beginning with "CP" (for Civil Protection, formerly "ГЗ") followed by 5 digits — "CP NN NNN". On the left side of both kinds of plates there is a blue EU-standard vertical strip.
Cars belonging to foreigners and imported into Bulgaria for a limited period of time are light blue with white characters, starting with "ХХ", followed by four (semantically meaningless) digits and two small digits denoting the expiry year. From 2019 "XH" is used after "XX".
Diplomatic and consular car number plates are similar to ordinary ones, but are recognizably different in their color: white symbols on a red background. Plates starting with "C" indicate diplomatic status, "CC" indicate consular status, while "CT" is used for cars belonging to other staff of diplomatic representations. Additionally, the first two digits of the numeric group represent the country of the diplomatic or consular mission to which the vehicle belongs. Two smaller digits in the lower right corner denote the expiry year of the plate.
After the requirement that all number plate codes had to be compatible with both the Cyrillic and Latin alphabets came into force:
- The provinces that already had compatible codes retained them: e.g. Varna "B", Ruse "P", Dobrich "TX".
- Each main city's province has its own area code, except the capital, Sofia, which has a code for the capital area, i.e. Sofia and the directly surrounding towns and villages (C, CA, CB), and 1 for Sofia Province, i.e. the further country, towns, and villages surrounding the capital (CO)
- Most other major cities took on the remaining single-letter codes that were unused: e.g. Burgas "A", Blagoevgrad "E" (a significant exception to this is Plovdiv's "PB")
- The rest adopted two-letter codes that simply included random letters from their names, mostly from Cyrillic, some from Latin, and a few from a combination of the two.
|Current code||Province||Old code||Bulgarian spellings, notes|
|А||Burgas Province||Бс, Б||БургАс|
|В||Varna Province||Вн, В||Варна|
|ВН||Vidin Province||Вд, ВД||ВидиН|
|ВР||Vratsa Province||Вр, ВР||ВРаца|
|ВТ||Veliko Tarnovo Province||ВТ||Велико Търново|
|Е||Blagoevgrad Province||Бл, БЛ||БлагоЕвград|
|ЕВ||Gabrovo Province||Гб, Г||Габрово |
|ЕН||Pleven Province||Пл, ПЛ||ПлевЕН|
|К||Kardzhali Province||Кж, К||Кърджали|
|КН||Kyustendil Province||Кн, КН||КюстеНдил|
|М||Montana Province||Мх, М||Монтана |
|ОВ||Lovech Province||Лч, Л||ЛОВеч|
|Р||Ruse Province||Рс, Р||Русе|
|РА||Pazardzhik Province||Пз, ПЗ||Пазарджик (PAzardzhik)|
|РВ||Plovdiv Province||Пд, П||Пловдив |
|РК||Pernik Province||Пк, ПК||ПеРниК (PerniK)|
|С, СА, СB||Sofia (Capital)||Сф, С, А||София |
|СН||Sliven Province||Сл, СЛ||СливеН|
|СМ||Smolyan Province||См, СМ||СМолян|
|СО||Sofia Province||СФ||София Област|
|СС||Silistra Province||Сс, СС||СилиСтра|
|СТ||Stara Zagora Province||СтЗ, СЗ||СТара Загора|
|Т||Targovishte Province||Тщ, Т||Търговище|
|ТХ||Dobrich Province||Тх, ТХ||Добрич (Old name Tolbuhin – ТолбуХин)|
|У||Yambol Province||Яб, Я||Ямбол (Yambol) |
|Х||Haskovo Province||Хс, Х||Хасково|
Diplomatic plate codes
- Note that the letter code for Yambol number plates is written in the style of the Cyrillic letter У, and not in the style of the Latin letter Y.
- Only Stara Zagora had a three-letter province code: СтЗ.
- There was an exception in some provinces, e.g. Silistra began its series with "CC", thereby the first ever plates there were "CC NNNN CC", but this was an exception rather than the norm.
- Car number plates - a matter of police confusion, freedom and business e-vestnik.bg (in Bulgarian), 14 Jun 2011. Retrieved Dec 2012.
- A short guide to the new vehicle registrations in Bulgaria Archived 2014-04-26 at the Wayback Machine e-psylon.net (in Bulgarian), 27 May 2004. Retrieved Dec 2012.
- Show me your number and I'll tell you what you're like, WebCafe.bg (in Bulgarian), 10 Mar 2011. Retrieved Dec 2012.
- The origin of the "EB" code for Gabrovo is uncertain. By following the logic of other provinces, it should be "AP" (from ГАбРово) or "AB" (from GABrovo). The most commonly-cited supposition is that it was registered by a civil servant favoring the second-largest town in the province – Sevlievo – СЕВлиево (although this raises the question as to why it was not "CE", from СЕвлиево). Another suggestion has been that it stands for ЕВропа (Europe), as a way for Gabrovo to endear itself to the EU, in a similar way as was done in 2012, when the newly opened extension of the Sofia Metro included a station that was controversially named European Union.
- Although the "M" is left over from the city's previous name of Mihaylovgrad
- The "PB" code is presumed to be a combination of Plovdiv and ПловдиВ.
- "CA" was adopted on 2006 once the "C" combinations ran out, and since 2014 "CB" has entered use. It is assumed that "CE" will follow once these run out (since valid letters are: А, б, В, г, д, Е... in Cyrillic order, and "CC" is already used by Silistra.)
- "TX" is still used by Dobrich Province because it was compatible - even though the city Tolbuhin was renamed Dobrich.
- Media related to License plates of Bulgaria at Wikimedia Commons