Romania is an up-and-coming country for tourists, especially with Bucharest hitting many “must-visit” lists. Before heading there, here are 8 things to know before visiting Romania.
1. Romanian train travel is not like western Europe.
If you consider yourself an “old pro” at train travel through Europe, but your experience has been mostly France/Italy/etc, manage your expectations. Trains through Romania are much older and slower than the trains in western Europe. The good news is that the trains are cheaper! In general, Romania is not as well-connected as western Europe with trains and train stations – they are further apart, and frequently a bit further from the city center. Consider using busses to get around.
2. Transylvania is a must-see.
If you’re headed to Bucharest because it’s on all the “city-break” lists, don’t miss out on the wonders that are in Transylvania. You’ll need a bit more than a weekend, just because it’s further out. But it’s worth the trip.
Brasov is a fun city, with a ton of old-world character that’s missing from Bucharest. Bran Castle is exactly what you’d imagine after reading Dracula. And Peles Castle is totally out of a storybook. (And is, in fact the castle where they filmed “A Christmas Prince”).
3. Be prepared to feel remnants of the Soviet era in Bucharest.
In many parts of Romania, you can palpably feel what Romania was like under the Soviets. I felt it when I screwed up validating my tram ticket and there was NO grace. Especially with the older generation, don’t expect immediate warmth. And do everything you can to stay on the right side of the rules!
4. Get ready for Instagrammable Bucharest.
In some ways, Bucharest feels like a genius of a city. It was ahead of it’s time in terms of Instagrammability. From the food truck area with a perfect #Bucharest sign, to the alleys with umbrellas strung across them, it’s like the city was made for the ‘gram.
5. Yes, it’s worth going to Cărturești Carusel.
This is the book store you see on everyone’s Pinterest and Instagram. It’s worth the trip, as it’s right in the middle of the old city of Bucharest, so it’s near many other things you’ll want to see. They did an incredible job of the architecture, and they have a great section for books in English. Their desk accessories and other home goods are top-notch. This is the perfect place for super-cute souvenirs.
6. The bread is to-die for.
It seems like there’s a bakery on every corner. And what an amazing thing that is. You can find the most incredible breads in Romania – and most of them are served hot! My favorite were these bagel-like pastries stuffed with chocolate or caramel! They worked out to about 50 cents US per pastry, so it was the perfect cheap snack to fill up on.
7. Go prepared for outdoor adventures.
Romania has some incredible outdoor adventures to pursue. Especially if you like hiking, heading up into Transylvania will be a fun experience. There are numerous hiking trails, and they frequently connect to the city centers. Mt. Tampa in Brasov is a fun, easy hike. There are trails around Peles Castle that are just gorgeous. And in the winter, Romania has skiing as well!
8. Romania is cheap for Europe, but not compared to Southeast Asia.
So many “budget travel” blogs have been written about how cheap Romania is. It’s cheap for Europe, but it’s definitely not dirt-cheap. Be prepared to spend about $50 US per day, even if you’re staying in hostels.
If you want to review what I spent in Romania, you can see a rough breakdown of costs.
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