In the UK, Romania doesn’t exactly have the best word-of-mouth campaign. Most people immediately think of gypsies, thieves or Dracula. People know very little about the country, this is such a shame as I discovered a country full of potential, incredible scenery and some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met on my travels.
Romania officially became a member of the European Union on 1st January 2007, this provided huge potential and many opportunities for the country to develop and prosper.
During my visit in the summer of 2013, I was a little nervous before visiting due to what I’d heard. However, thankfully all I experienced were great things. I was reluctant about writing this blog article, as I don’t want too many people to discover how amazing it is and to then make the place overrun with tourists, how selfish of me!
Where did I visit?
I visited Romania for 5 days in August 2013 and spent a couple of days in the capital before heading north to Transylvania. If I’d have had time I would have loved to go hiking and explore the more “off-the-beaten” track regions, definitely on my next visit!
I remember mentioning to various friends that I was going to be visiting Bucharest, they were a little confused as to why! Usually when this happens, it inspires me to prove people wrong and thankfully on my return when they saw my photos they were pleasantly surprised and said they’d look in to visit in the future… my work is done!
This city is incredibly easy to get around, although a little daunting at first. Bucharest’s Metro is modern and affordable, it worked out about £0.10p for a journey. Sadly it doesn’t connect to the airport, but this can be easily accessed via bus.
The biggest throwback to the Communist-era is the Parliament Palace. Completed in 1984, it is the largest parliament building in the world! I’m not joking, it is absolutely enormous, it is 12 stories high and has more than 3,000 rooms. It’s well worth a visit, the price is reasonable but it does get quite crowded so make sure you get there early.
My advice is to simply walk around the city and explore, I uncovered a great cafe culture down some of the side streets which added to the fun, quirky charm of the city.
If you get the opportunity, take a train out of the capital for the day, either to the Black Sea or north to Transylvania. I travelled to Brasov by train and had an awesome experience, it’s like a throwback to the good old days when people are forced to interact with each other due to sitting in compartments.
I met an elderly couple that could barely speak a word of English, from what they did say however, they were incredibly kind, friendly and just seemed amazed and pleased to see tourists visiting their country. I really wish I’d taken a photo with them, but I’ll know for next time.
It’s these experiences that make travelling worthwhile.
I visited Brasov (Pronounced bra-shov) for two nights, three days. Unfortunately for me though, I spent two of these days sick in bed :o(
However it provides me with an excuse to go back! I had originally booked a day trip to visit Bran Castle, aka Dracula’s Castle! I was so sad that I wasn’t able to make it, but it certainly gave me chance to enjoy the beautiful 4* Kronwell Brasov Hotel. Located right next to the train station, this is a rarity in this area. It’s a new, modern hotel and is well worth staying at.
An extremely well preserved medieval city, although small, this UNESCO World Heritage Site packs in an incredible amount to see.
Once again I travelled by train from Brasov to Sighisoara, be aware there’s only a few trains a day and sometimes at odd times so plan in advance.
The Citadel is in the heart of the city, it includes an incredible amount of charm. Other must-see places include the 12th Century Clock Tower, Bust of Vlad Tepes, Covered Staircase and the Church on the Hill.
For me, the charm of Sighisoara is simply walking along the cobbled streets, it made me feel like I’d stepped back in time.
If you are only staying in Bucharest you can easily walk everywhere or take the Metro.
Travelling outside the capital is not a problem, Romania has excellent train connections across most of the country, it’s also well connected to visit other surrounding countries. I took an overnight train from Romania to Moldova, which was a fantastic unique experience, one that I highly recommend! Read my article on my Roma-Dova experience.
Although not as cheap as what it was, Romania is one of the most affordable countries to visit in Europe. I was amazed how little food, travel and hotels cost, especially compared to the likes of London, Paris or Stockholm!
Bucharest has to be one of, if not the cheapest weekend breaks you can have in Europe. Although not conventionally “beautiful”, Bucharest has a lot to offer an adventure traveller on a budget.
Trains are incredibly affordable in Romania, although not modern or fast, they certainly help the thrifty traveller to save a few £/$/€’s!
What surprised me the most about Romania?
Well I know in the future not to listen to critics, as none of what I was warned about was true. Romanians are friendly and happy to help.
I experienced many young people who were more than willing to help me out once they realised I couldn’t speak Romanian. They didn’t have to do this, but they simply wanted to as it helped them engage with a native English speaker and improve their own language skills. This kindness will take the country and its residents far and I can’t wait to return to discover some more Romanian charm.
If you’d like to discover more photographs and information from this trip or any others please feel free to ask me any questions. You can visit my Facebook page and please don’t forget to ‘Like’ Travel Geek UK.