Romania is becoming one of the most popular destinations in Eastern Europe, having shed its backward image in order to cash in on its remarkable and varied landscapes, historic castles and excellent, affordable skiing. Go searching for vampires in Transylvania, take a dip in the Black Sea or fill up on polenta and spicy sausages, but whatever you do, be sure to stask plenty of extra pocketmoney for all those bribes your are likely to pay on the way.
Why You Should Go
What’s Cool: Beautiful countryside, the diverse landscapes of the Transylvanian Alps, the Black Sea coast, castles and medieval towns of Transylvania, the traditional villages in Maramures, the wonderful monasteries of Bucovina, the elaborate architecture of Bucharest, the mountains, spas and sea resorts, affordable skiing.
What’s Not: Roads can be dangerous, horses and carts in traffic jams with Mercedes and BMWs, the persistence of begging gypsy children and the need to be pay close attention to your personal belongings at all times.
When to Go
Romania has four distinct seasons, but there are significant regional variations and temperatures can differ widely depending on altitude. Spring is a nice time to visit, and most days are sunny and relatively warm, though temperatures can drop significantly at night. Summer days are warm and sunny, and when the temperature become uncomfortably hot, you can escape the heat in the mountains. Autumn days are fresh and the colors of the foliage and landscapes are particularly beautiful at this time of year.
Health & Safety
Corruption among officials is a continuing problem in Romania, and bribes are common place so have some extra pocket money at the ready just in case. You should always ensure that you are actually dealing with a real official, as there are a number of impersonators in operation. Maintain your distance from beggars or gypsy children, or prepare for your wallet to disappear. Medical facilities can vary dramatically from place to place, so shop around for a facility that has a good reputation and where the staff have some knowledge of English or another language in which you can communicate your ailments.
Romania is well served by buses, trains and planes, with an increasing number of budget airlines offering cheap European flights to the main destinations. The rail link with Western Europe is relatively good, and services are frequent and reliable though you should be careful of your personal belongings as pick-pocketing is a frequent occurrence. Buses are also available to many parts of Western Europe including Spain, Italy and France, though journeys are long and conditions can be crowded and unpleasant, especially if the person next to you insists on eating spicy sausages the whole way. If you choose to travel by road, you are best advised to equip yourself with a robust jeep as road conditions can be poor to non-existent.
Food & Hospitality
Romanian food includes a mix of various culinary traditions, which include oriental, Austrian and French ingredients. Snack food is also readily available on the street and includes hot pretzels and excellent pastries. Give the beers that are contained in plastic bottles a miss, these cheapo varieties will guarantee you a day on the toilet afterwards. Restaurants offer excellent local and international cuisine, and are great value by western European standards. Accommodation is easy to come by, in fact, you are likely to be pestered by friendly locals with rooms to rent as soon as you alight from a train or bus.. The upper end of the spectrum includes top-class hotels which require advance booking at busy times.
At least two weeks is necessary to enjoy the country’s highlights.
Three days to absorb the best of Bucharest and enjoy a few nights in the clubs and bars.
A week in the Transylvanian Alps to indulge in some mountain sports and visit Brasov and the surrounding medieval towns and villages.
Four days on the Black Sea coast to catch some rays if you are visiting during the summer, or simply to enjoy the beauty of the coast and the relaxing spa resorts at any other time of year.
Three days to visit the Greek port of Constanta and the nearby Danube Delta.
Two days to visit Transylvania’s Saxon fortified chuches, which include the UNESCO World Heritage site Biertan Church.Take a few days to see the remarkable palaces of Buftea, Heresti and Mogosoiaia, and the monasteries of Cernica, Pasarea and Tiganesti.
Brasov: is a beautiful area in the heart of the Transylvanian Alps, and is a great base for exploring the surrounding countryside or for indulging in some mountain sports.
Bucharest: the Romanian capital is situated on the plain between the Danube and the Carpathian hills. Though much of the city was destroyed during WWII bombings, there are still many remarkable sights in the city including the Palace of Parliament and the tree-lined central avenues.
Southern Bucovina: the painted monasteries of the region rank as some of the most impressive works of art in Europe.
Bran Castle: also known as Dracula’s castle, the building actually has no links to Vlad Tepes. However, the castle is worth a visit, and is located around 30kms from Brasov.
Merry Cemetery: is situated near Sapanta village, and is popular among tourists and locals due to its eccentric colored crosses which adorn the tombstones. The unique style of the burial place attracts hoards of visitors, and its features have been shown at art exhibitions across Europe.
Palace of Parliament: this is one of the largest buildings in the world, and it has over 3,000 rooms. Guided tours of the building are available, and introduce visitors to some of the most impressive marble halls and conference rooms.
Sightseeing: wandering through the tree-lined boulevards and the historic streets of Bucharest.
Beaches: enjoy water sports or just chill out on the Black Sea coast. There are miles of white sandy beaches, with some of the best situated near Mamaia.
Spa resorts: visit the spa resorts of Lake Techirghiol and Transylvania, where the salt waters and natural minerals are guaranteed to rejuvenate and recharge.
Mountain sports: in the Carpathian Mountains, leisure activities include skiing, horseback riding, tennis and a host of other outdoor pursuits. The most popular resorts are near Brasov, where there are extensive sports and recreation facilities.
Shopping for handicrafts: local crafts include pottery, ceramics and woodcarvings, and some excellent bargains can be found at the rural markets across the country.
Festivals & Events
Romanians celebrate their ancient traditions and heritage throughout the year with religious holidays and festivals that haven’t changed for centuries.
June: Traditional Crafts Fair is held annually in Bucharest, and crafts enthusiasts from across the country meet at the Village Museum.
July: Bucharest of Old festival celebrates the city as it was 150 years ago, and there are parades of 1800s costumes and servings of traditional dishes as well as other revelries.
August: Romania’s Folk Art Festival includes an initiation in the creation of folk art such as pottery moulding, embroidery, woodcarving and other traditional crafts.
October: Wine Making Festival marks the beginning of the grape harvest.
November: Halloween in Transylvania with tours and celebrations that follow the character of Dracula in Bram Stoker’s famous novel.