Bulgaria – Inland Waterways

Lying below the Iron Gates locks of Serbia, Bulgaria has no control over water levels. This is a good stretch of the river to start following commercial traffic to avoid shallow water. Sometimes government docks can be used for overnight moorage if no traffic is expected (check with officials at the dock). This route followed on from our Danube route and so we have not repeated the preamble about boat dimensions etc. here as they may be read on the Danube Overview page. Comments here are specific to the inland waterways of Bulgaria, we have another page, click here, on coastal Bulgaria.

Note: Comments are based on 2013 passages with very high water levels due to extreme rainfall and subsequently very high levels of siltation in harbours.

Borders and Travel Permits

Bulgaria is in the EU but not in the Schengen Area so border formalities must be observed. We exited Serbia at Prahovo and entered Bulgaria at Vidin which is about 70 km down the Danube.

Danube River on Wikipedia

Terminus Points: Vidin,  Silistra
Connections to:
Locks enroute: none
Portion Covered:  km 845 to km 376
Problems or Issues:

Previous river segment upriver – Serbia

The Danube runs for 469 km across Bulgaria although only on the left bank.

Vidin border control point Danube km 790
Depth: 3m
Air Draft: unlimited
Facilities: none, WiFi in town, food shopping nearby (Lidl)
Description: With permission of the Ministry of Transportation you can stay on the pontoon unless a large ship is expected.
Problems or Issues: none
Oriahovo Danube km 679
Depth: >2m
Air Draft: unlimited
Facilities: pontoon only, presumably food shopping in town
Description: another customs dock where permission to stay must be received from the Ministry of Transportation.
Problems or Issues: Probably the worst harbour we met, some staff had been drinking and were physically aggressive, the officials tried to tell us that the dock was now private and that we would have to pay 15 euros but no receipt was possible, then they failed to inform us of the river conditions when we asked. We did not stay there.

There are some sections of the lower Danube where bouyage and dredging can cause issues, these seem to lie between Oriahovo and Rousse. These are the locations where we encountered problems but in other years the problem points could be located elsewhere. Other boats with much less draft than us (e.g. 1.4m) reported many more problems than we had encountered so maybe we were lucky. It may be possible to moor to anchored barges where other facilities are not available.

Shallows Danube km 678 (immediately past Oriahovo)
Depth: 3m
Description: There is a very narrow channel which has depth but not breadth. The water survey boat went aground there while re-bouying the stretch and had to be pulled off. Then a double length barge went aground across the channel. These two incidents caused the river to be closed for 2 days at km 678. All the barge convoys were having to break the barges apart and move them through one at a time. It turned out there was ample breadth for Maringret (at 3.4m) once we were in the channel.
Problems or Issues: Narrowness of channel.
Shallows Danube km 646
Depth: 2m
Description: The bouyage disappears as you enter a wide stretch of the river.
Problems or Issues: Missing bouyage.
Shallows Danube km 590
Depth: 2m
Description: The channel is not clearly marked and passes on the south side of the island. Once you find the channel there is depth.
Problems or Issues: Missing bouyage.
Shallows Danube km 568
Depth: 2m
Description: The channel cuts at right angles across the  river from one bank to the other. For once we did not get stuck but 3 barges did.
Problems or Issues: Sharp corners and insufficient bouyage.
Shallows Danube km 555
Depth: 2m
Description: The bouyage disappears as you pass between the towns of Svistov (B) and Zimnicea (R). We found the channel to be down the Romanian side.
Problems or Issues: Lack of depth combined with absent bouyage.
Shallows Danube km 514
Depth: 3m
Description: The bouyage disappears as you enter a wide section of river which is marked as an anchorage. We found the channel on the Bulgarian side.
Problems or Issues: Absent bouyage.
Yacht Club Port Rousse Danube km 495
Depth: 2m (barely)
Air Draft: unlimited
Facilities: water, garbage, electricity, toilets, showers, laundry, food shopping nearby
Description: There are 2 yacht clubs side by side, Yacht Club Rousse first then Yacht Club Port Rousse where someone was on the pontoon to take our lines. We tied our forward half to a floating pontoon as we could get no further in due to low water and then ran a line from the stern to an upwind pontoon. Water and electricity were both run down to the pontoon for us from the club house. The club house has a great collection of pennants from all sorts of places and also a collection of Danube maps on the walls. Both clubs have guest books dating back to 1981 – we were requested to sign both. A working ship’s captain who is a member of Yacht Club Port Rousse updated the chartlets in our pilot book to show where the channel used by the large ships lay – this saved us a lot of headaches.
Problems or Issues: There is no security and no night lighting. Both clubs claim to have WiFi but neither was working when we were there.
Shallows Danube km 421
Depth: 2.5m
Description: Probably if the river had been empty we would have gone through this section although it is narrow. But a convoy of 9 barges had gone aground and they were spread all over the fairway. All other barge traffic was halted while the mess was cleaned up but we were allow to drift through the chaos. With a 5,000 HP push boat pulling barges off the ground the water was anything but calm. As we continued down river we saw a second push boat going up to help get the traffic flowing again. We learned that if you see barges anchored out in the middle of the river then there is probably a reason, and that reason is often a blockage. A “blockage” is a barge blocking the fairway which only effects that location while a “closure” is over the whole river (or a section of it).
Problems or Issues: Convoy aground.
Hotel Drustar Silestra Danube km 377
Depth: 3m
Air Draft: unlimited
Facilities: water, garbage, electricity, toilets, food shopping nearby
Description: There was no water depth to moor at the customs or police pontoons so we were directed to moor on the hotel pontoon for the purposes of checking out of Bulgaria. We decided to stay the night, if we had simply conducted our customs formalities there would have been no charge. There is WiFi in the hotel and also in the riverside bar next to the pontoon.
Problems or Issues: none
Silestra border control point Danube km 377
Depth: <2m
Air Draft: unlimited
Problems or Issues: In August 2013 there was no water to moor and clearing boats were being instructed to precede to the Drustar Hotel pontoon and then walk back with documents.

Next river segment downriver – Romania

  • Die Donau by Melanie Haselhorst & Kenneth Dittmann – guide to the Danube River from Kelheim Germany to the Black Sea. Referred to as “the pilot” on this page, we have full description of it here.
  • we have collected the links we found for the canals and rivers of Germany, eastern France and the Donau
  • some of our sources were online facilities which we list in Android for Sailing

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