Romanian travel tips

Where should I visit in Romania?

I enjoyed everywhere I visited, although I especially enjoyed visiting the parts which were more off the beaten track. Places like Rasnov and Bran can be very busy with tourists which makes it feel like you could be in Paris or Rome; I found that part of what was so attractive about Romania was that the pace of life is rather slower and it doesn’t have an over-engineered tourist industry.

The easiest way to get around is to hire a car which will give you complete freedom to move around. Romania is overwhelmingly rural, so if you want to go beyond the main tourist sites, you will likely struggle to do it on public transport. A week’s rent cost us around £200 for a small car.

If wildlife is your thing, there are plenty of tour operators offering wildlife watching and longer tours which are across the country but often seem to be clustered around Brașov. I used Carpathian Nature Tours for an evening bear watching in a hide.

This is the route I followed over a 7 day stay:

When should I visit Romania?

Tourist season doesn’t kick off fully till summer; if you want to swim in lakes and get the full experience in holiday resorts, then you’ll have to stick to July and August. Also keep in mind it is more or less universally snowy in winter and some of the mountain roads won’t be open, which is likely to spoil your itinerary. Some roads, like the must-drive Transfăgărășan pass don’t even open until June or July

The weather was pretty consistent during my June stay, with the temperature generally around 25 – 30 degrees (depending on altitude) and sunny, with the odd evening thunderstorm.

Meadows on the way from Humor to Lake Bicaz

Meadows on the way from Humor to Lake Bicaz

What is driving like in Romania?

Roads can be steep and treacherous, it doesn’t hurt to rent a car with a bit of power to take some of the frustration out of driving. Keep an eye on pot holes and the general road surface if you don’t like changing tyres on the side of a mountain.

Not all roads in Romania are paved, especially the country and communal roads. If you are not comfortable driving on bumpy, gravel roads then you may need to do some careful route planning before your trip, or hire a 4×4. We didn’t encounter problems, either with being able to drive the routes or damaging the car, but we were extremely close to grounding the car in some of the deeper holes and dips in an unpaved road and averaged about 15 kmph through that 8km section- it was very hairy driving.

Driving is otherwise fairly easy, other drivers tend to indicate and follow other rules of the road, they can just be a bit impatient when it comes to overtaking.

Unpaved Romanian road

The road quality had improved significantly by the time I dared to take this picture

How easy is it to be understood in Romania?

Not everyone speaks English.  English speakers are universally spoilt and you tend to assume that everyone can speak some.  This is not always the case in Romania. Some people have excellent English, but since it’s not much of a British or American holiday destination yet, they’re more likely to speak French, German or Russian if they have a second language. At no point did this cause us any problems.

How long should I spend in Romania?

Romania is massive and driving is slow. It’s easy to be over ambitious with an itinerary when you know there’s so much good stuff to see and it’s so widely dispersed. I used Google maps to plan my trip and it was generally pretty accurate on driving times. I initially thought it was wrong when it said 3 hours to drive 180km, but with the steep and twisting mountain roads it really does slow you up. We covered 1300km in a week which was totally doable but about 3 hours driving a day. Make sure you build in time for stopping for photos and investigating interesting things you see on your way.

DSC00096

What is the food like in Romania?

I went to Romania straight after a week in Croatia and confess I was starting to struggle with constant Central / Eastern European cuisine. Food was generally a bit hit and miss but on balance we had more good meals than bad.

Pizza and pasta are more of less omnipresent, although is often a bit of a take on the Italian originals. The rest of the food is general Eastern European fare with pork and chicken as the staples. In common with many of its neighbours, one traditional dish is ‘sarmale’; minced pork and beef cooked in cabbage or grape leaves and served with polenta (as many things are) and sour cream. Various regions also have their own take on a tochitură, which seemed to be a dish of pork in every way you could imagine served with polenta (again), cheese and fried egg.

Sarmale, traditional Romanian dish

Sarmale, traditional Romanian dish

How much will a trip to Romania cost?

Budget carriers Wizz Air and Ryanair both fly from London to a variety of Romania’s airports, and BA flies into Bucharest. We flew into Cluj and out of Sibiu with Wizz Air. I booked my flights a bit late and they cost about 200 return each. Simple accommodation cost us between 20 and 30 pounds a night for a twin room; breakfast and dinner are usually extra but you typically walk away with a bill for 50 – 60 quid a night for two people. A few locations were pricier and there are often more expensive options if you’re in a larger town, but it’s possible to get by on a fairly limited budget. Our week’s car hire with different pick up and drop off locations was about £200.

Window in Sibiu

Window in Sibiu

 

 

 

 

One thought on “Romanian travel tips

  1. These are all good tips, but I would also add something about money and currencies. It’s good to have cash on hand, especially in rural places, where there is difficult to find an ATM or to pay with a credit card. Also, euros and US dollars are sometimes accepted in larger hotels and restaurants, but for everything else, the local currency, the Leu is recommended. And last but not least, never ever exchange money with random people on the stree as they are mostly scammers! Use only banks or exchange offices, but for the later pay attention to the commission.

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