The Bulgarian lev (BGN) is the official currency of Bulgaria. Adopted in 1999, the lev replaced the Bulgarian lev, which was used during the communist era, at a rate of 1,000 old levs to 1 new lev. The lev is issued by the Bulgarian National Bank, with coins coming in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 stotinki, and banknotes in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 levs.

The lev is pegged to the euro at a rate of 1.95583 levs to 1 euro, which helps provide economic stability in the country. Like other countries in the region seeking to join the eurozone, Bulgaria maintains this currency board arrangement as part of its preparation to eventually switch over to using the euro.

Reasons to Trade the Bulgarian Lev

As an exotic currency, the BGN can offer forex traders some unique opportunities and benefits:

Stable Currency

The fixed peg to the euro helps minimize volatility and fluctuations for the lev compared to free-floating currencies. This makes the BGN attractive for traders looking for more stable currency pairs.

Potential Upside Upon Euro Adoption

If and when Bulgaria adopts the euro, BGN currency will need to be exchanged for euros. Traders positioning themselves in BGN now could benefit from upward valuation adjustments in that scenario.

Access to Exotic Pairings

The BGN can provide exposure to interesting minor and exotic currency pairings like BGN/JPY, BGN/CAD, and others that offer potential trading opportunities.


The BGN can help diversify a trading portfolio weighted heavily in major currency pairs. The relatively stable BGN acts differently than high-volatility majors.

Insulation from BGN Economy

Factors affecting the Bulgarian economy directly are less likely to impact the BGN due to its fixed peg to the euro. This provides some insulation for traders.

History of the Bulgarian Lev

To understand the BGN of today, it helps to examine the origins and history of Bulgaria’s currency over the decades:

Beginnings of the Lev

  • Bulgaria’s first national currency was the Bulgarian lev, introduced on May 5, 1879 during the country’s time as an autonomous principality of the Ottoman Empire.
  • The lev replaced the Bulgarian lev and sainted, which were based on the Ottoman empire’s currency at the time of Bulgarian independence.
  • The word “lev” in Bulgarian means “lion”, a symbol of courage and strength. The name was chosen to represent Bulgaria breaking free of Ottoman rule.

Transition to the Bulgarian Stotinka

  • In 1884, Bulgaria was divided into two parts – the Principality of Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia. The Bulgarian lev was used in the principality, while Eastern Rumelia introduced the Bulgarian stotinka based on the French franc.
  • When the two regions unified a year later, Bulgaria as a whole decided to adopt the stotinka as the national currency. One stotinka equaled 100 leva.

Return to the Lev and Hyperinflation

  • In 1952, Communist-led Bulgaria introduced a reformed currency called the Bulgarian lev to replace the stotinka, at a rate of 1 lev = 100 stotinka.
  • Under Communist rule, uncontrolled printing of money led the lev to suffer from hyperinflation and become effectively worthless by the 1990s after the collapse of the USSR.

Post-Communist Currency Board System

  • In 1997, Bulgaria instituted a currency board system and pegged the lev to the German deutsche mark at a rate of 1000 levs = 1 deutsche mark.
  • This helped stabilize the currency and end hyperinflation. When the euro replaced the deutsche mark in 1999, the lev peg switched to be fixed at 1.95583 levs per 1 euro.
  • This peg has remained in place up to the present, even after Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007. Bulgaria is not yet part of the eurozone but is required to eventually adopt the euro.

Coins and Banknotes

The lev currency consists of both coins and banknotes issued by the Bulgarian National Bank. These include:


Stotinki Denominations

  • 1 stotinka: Made of copper-plated steel; rarely used anymore due to low value
  • 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 stotinki: Bimetallic coins with a copper-nickel center and an outer copper-steel ring

Lev Denominations

  • 1 lev: Outer nickel-brass ring with a copper-nickel center; depicts portrait of St. Ivan Rilski
  • 2 leva: Nickel-brass; portrait of Paisiy Hilendarski


Lev Denominations

  • 1 lev: Predominantly purple; pictues Clematis flower on front and bellflower on back
  • 2 leva: Mainly green; depicts a lion head and Assenova fortress
  • 5 leva: Purplish color; bears primrose flower and Ivan Asen II monument
  • 10 leva: Orange; shows rhododendron flower and Ivan Asen II monument
  • 20 leva: Light blue; portrays wisteria flower and historical rock relief
  • 50 leva: Brown; pictures Cypress trees and Aladzha monastery
  • 100 leva: Green; depicts lavender flower and Tombul mosque

Exchange Rate History and Regime

As mentioned earlier, the modern Bulgarian lev is pegged to the euro under a currency board model adopted in 1997. Here is an overview of the lev’s exchange rate history and regime:

  • 1879-1952: Bulgarian lev pegged to gold under gold standard system
  • 1952: Lev reintroduced pegged to Soviet ruble after Communist takeover
  • 1964: Lev devalued against ruble from 1.12 to 0.90 lev per ruble
  • 1990: With USSR collapse, peg switched from ruble to US dollar at rate of 35 leva per $1
  • 1991-1997: Lev allowed to float freely and hyperinflation ensued, lev value plummeted rapidly
  • July 1997: Currency board introduced, lev pegged to German mark at 1000 leva per 1 mark
  • 1999: With German mark replaced by euro, peg changed to 1.95583 leva per 1 euro
  • Present: Peg at 1.95583 has remained fixed over 20+ years, even after EU entry in 2007

Using a Lev Account as a Forex Trader

For forex traders interested in exotic currencies like the BGN, it will generally be necessary to open a Bulgarian lev-denominated account with a Bulgaria-based bank or brokerage. Here are some tips for lev accounts:

  • Shop around for an account with low fees and charges for deposits/withdrawals, trades, and currency conversions
  • Pick an account that allows trading in the currency pairs you want exposure to like BGN/USD or BGN/JPY
  • Ensure you can make deposits/withdrawals with your home currency or in popular currencies like USD or EUR
  • Understand all account security, verification, and authentication requirements to access funds
  • Study the account agreement carefully and know the institution’s limits and policies on leverage, margin, withdrawals, etc.
  • Be aware of Bulgarian laws and regulations applicable to financial trading accounts for non-residents

Is the Lev a Worthwhile Investment Currency?

When deciding whether to invest directly in the Bulgarian lev as a currency, there are arguments on both sides to consider:

Arguments For

  • Peg provides stability and minimizes volatility versus floating currencies
  • Possible appreciation if euro adoption occurs down the line
  • Relatively high interest rates on BGN deposits through Bulgarian banks
  • Could diversify an investment portfolio heavy in major currencies

Arguments Against

  • Still exhibits some volatility tied to euro even with peg
  • Higher return opportunities likely available in other currency markets
  • Smaller pools of BGN liquidity can lead to higher transaction costs
  • Lacks full convertibility which limits options for direct investment

Trading the Lev Against Other Currencies

While investing directly in the BGN has drawbacks, trading the lev through forex and CFDs has more advantages for speculators. Here are some of the most tradable BGN pairings:


  • Peg keeps fluctuation minimal between the two
  • Small ranges and volatility present shorter-term trading chances
  • Eurozone developments directly impact the valuation


  • More room for fluctuation allows for larger potential gains
  • USD strength or weakness will influence the lev peg to the euro
  • Higher volatility presents extensive trading opportunities


  • Solid trading pairing during times of market turmoil or risk aversion
  • Correlates strongly to EUR/CHF movements and analysis
  • Lower spreadMakes a stable second choice to BGN/EUR


  • Active pairing that sees larger swings than BGN/EUR
  • Reacts more strongly to UK and Brexit-related news events
  • Generally more volatile for trading purposes


  • Both are exotic currencies so liquidity concerns are lessened
  • Trade and tourism between Bulgaria and Turkey creates volatility
  • Hedging opportunities for business ties between the countries

Is the BGN Likely to Get Stronger or Weaken?

There are arguments on both sides as to whether the BGN lev will increase or decrease in value going forward:

Get Stronger

  • Euro peg means BGN strength depends on continued euro strength
  • Bulgaria’s economy remains stable with room for growth as a developing EU member
  • Interest rates should attract BGN buying for carry trades
  • Eventual euro adoption would force revaluation higher when exchange occurs


  • Global recession could pressure the euro and relatedly the pegged BGN
  • Risk of excessive leveraging by consumers and businesses
  • Lack of full eurozone integration leaves residual uncertainty
  • Ongoing resets of the peg can allow periodic devaluations

Key Events and Releases on the Lev Forex Calendar

When trading the Bulgarian lev, pay close attention to these recurring news events to spot trading opportunities:

  • Eurozone GDP, inflation, and interest rate decisions
  • Bulgarian National Bank meetings and statements on monetary policy
  • Releases of key Bulgarian economic data like retail sales, GDP, industrial production and inflation
  • Euro currency commentary out of ECB officials or relevant panels
  • Developments toward Bulgaria potentially joining the eurozone

Managing Risk When Trading the BGN

While the lev presents fun trading opportunities, it can also carry risks like any exotic currency. Here are some tips for mitigating risk when trading BGN pairs:

  • Use tight stop losses in case of unexpected peg adjustments or devaluations
  • Keep trade sizes small to account for potential liquidity issues
  • Hedge BGN trades with suitable EUR/USD positions
  • Avoid holding BGN overnight or over weekends due to vulnerability to news surprises
  • Stay up on Bulgarian political developments, elections, etc. that could lead to sudden BGN impacts
  • Maintain overall portfolio diversification so BGN represents a small percentage of holdings

Conclusion: Why Trade the Bulgaria Lev (BGN)

For forex traders interested in venturing outside the most common currencies, the Bulgarian lev provides an intriguing option because of its exotic nature, fixed euro peg, and potential trading opportunities around economic shifts in Bulgaria and the eurozone. Taking a measured, risk-aware approach allows traders to explore BGN pairs as part of a well-balanced portfolio. The lev offers stable fluctuations, reasonable volatility, and promising long-term upside potential upon eventual euro adoption.