Simon (pictured above left with Phil Campion) has been visiting Bulgaria for over 20 years and has been operational in the Balkans for some 17 years. He has been living here full-time for the last ten years after a varied military career in The British Army. Simon is an accomplished public speaker with a number of conference, TV and media appearances in recent years in both the UK and The Balkans. He has also appeared in two major Hollywood movies shot here in Bulgaria. His passion includes snowboarding and other outdoor sports.
A born networker and business developer Simon has been a founding member of the BBBA and currently has several businesses under his wing, but it is in his capacity as Operations Director of PrepYou.Eu that he talks to us here. Simon started PrepYou as a result of the 2015 Tunisia terrorist attack (in Sousa) with the aim of training restaurant and hotel staff in "mass casualty response”. PrepYou has grown to be regarded as the Number One Military & Medical Training provider in the Region over the past four years and has provided tactical training to hundreds of professionals (contractors), civilians and even actors and has recently begun to consult the BG Government in "matters of national security". PrepYou has a five range training centre in Sofia, 15 mins from City Centre.
How would you assess general safety levels in Bulgaria?
Let’s get one thing straight; Bulgaria is one of the safest countries in Europe (if not the world) in almost every aspect. But there are always some local peculiarities and considerations when visiting any country and Bulgaria is no different.
Is Organised Crime an issue for the average visitor to Bulgaria?
Bulgaria has had bad press for organised criminal activity in recent years and it is fair to say, that like every other EU country, there is an organised and often visible “Mafia presence” in some parts of Bulgarian life and society. However, the 'Mutra' (as they are known locally) are highly unlikely to bother anyone outside of their own circles least of all tourists or visitors ,unless you go looking for trouble or decide to get involved in their business. At the other end of the spectrum are the Roma (Gypsies) who DO actively target tourists in areas popular with visitors to Bulgaria but this tends to revolve around pickpocketing and honeytrap style stings involving sex workers at worse.
Should we worry about Terrorism in Bulgaria?
Bulgaria has long been an entry point to Europe from The East and although Bulgaria has seen a fairly recent terrorist attack (Burgas Airport 2012), it is worth noting that the general threat of terror attack in Bulgaria is perceived to be low. Visitors to the Black Sea Coast in particular should be aware that mass tourist resorts such as Sunny Beach offer a tempting 'target-set' for unsophisticated, lone-wolf style attacks that have become prevalent in recent years in Western Europe. Keep your eyes open and report anything suspicious.
What is the law about carrying weapons?
Bulgaria is a hunting nation and firearms ownership laws in Bulgaria are strict but fairly accessible to Bulgarians and foreign residents via formal Police training and certification and it is not uncommon to see private individuals carrying concealed weapons - usually a pistol - for their own protection. It is also very common to see Bulgarians openly carrying a knife (usually a folding blade) as they go about their daily lives. This may seem strange to some visitors (especially from the UK) where doing either could result in several years in prison..
Tell us about Prep You
Originally it was designed to offer clients in tourism & hospitality on the Black Sea Coast an opportunity to train and prepare for a potential terrorist attack, the project "escalated quickly" and now offers training provision & support for the International Private Military Sector as well as a growing number of international Corporates who also see the sense in preparing their staff for multiple worst-case scenarios. A new kind of Team Building! And we also offer a variety of courses for individual groups like our Lethal Ladies which cover everything from understanding paramedic first aid, non-lethal weapon training and live fire weapon training.To find out more visit www.prepyou.eu.
What do you think is the biggest danger in Bulgaria?
If you are going to prepare for any “worst case scenario” in Bulgaria, the most likely you will encounter will be a Road Traffic Accident (RTA). The Bulgarian roads are regarded as some of the most dangerous in Europe and this is in no small part due to the poor quality of driver education in the country, a recent access to high-powered motor cars and a 'notion of bravery' displayed by most Bulgarian 'men' behind the wheel in particular. There is little appreciation for stopping distance and aggressive tailgating is standard behaviour which means the most likely serious injury as a result of an RTA is lower limb injuries. Also beware of prolific undertaking (trying to pass on the inside) on highways and a general lack of spacial awareness by all drivers on all roads. Road Rage is fairly common. In general, keep your distance from other drivers, always expect them to do the last thing you would and if dealing with aggressive drivers, let them pass… you are a long time dead!