Having spent three months living in Bucharest and Brasov I learned quite a bit about the history, culture and lifestyle of the Romanian people. I also was fortunate enough to be able to travel across the entire country and visited countless cities, villages and beautiful natural areas.
Romania is a wonderful country with so many things to see and do that even after three months I feel that I’ve hardly scratched the surface of what the country has to offer.
Whether you’re looking for well-preserved medieval cities, picturesque castles or you just want to get away from it all and explore the vast forests and countryside here are some practical Romania travel tips to help you get the most of your visit to one of my favorite Balkan countries.
Getting to Romania
If you are backpacking in Europe it’s likely that Romania isn’t your first stop. In that case, you probably need to make your way to Bucharest or Brasov. These two cities are situated on popular train routes from both Budapest, Belgrade and Vienna so it’s not at all difficult to reach them.
Taking a train is the most practical and affordable way of getting to Romania from the rest of Europe. Flights into Bucharest can be expensive, unless you find a sweet deal on Skyscanner, because it’s not a very popular airport compared to those in neighboring countries.
I don’t recommend taking the bus since the bus infrastructure in Romania isn’t nearly as upgraded or modern as you’ll find in the rest of Europe and it will take about the same time if you choose the train instead.
The main train station in Bucharest is: Bucuresti Nord Gara (Bucharest North Station)
The main train station in Brasov is: Gara Brasov (Brasov Train Station)
Both of these stations are located in the center of the city and are likely within an easy walk, or metro ride, to your accommodation.
When you are looking for accommodation in Romania I recommend using Booking.com or AirBnb (get $25 off your first AirBnb stay by clicking here). You could also try using Hostel World but I never had much luck with them.
There will be plenty of options in the popular cities like Bucharest, Brasov and Sibiu and you will still definitely be able to find a room in the smaller cities as well. Be sure to check out my post on the top AirBnb rentals on a budget in Brasov.
In regards to the cost for accommodation you can expect to spend around $12-$15 for a bed in a high quality, high rated hostel and you’ll be able to find a private room for around $20 to $35. Hotels will cost you a bit more and you will be able to get a room in a hotel for anywhere between $25 and $50 depending on the quality.
Both eating out and buying your own groceries in Romania is extremely affordable. You will usually have a variety of options if you want to eat out and you can choose from both local, traditional cuisine to international like kebab, McDonald’s and everything in between.
For breakfast I recommend heading to a local bakery where you be able to get a pastry for around $0.50. If you’re on a budget feel free to grab a bottle of water from the local grocery store, which will cost about $0.50, or you can grab a coffee from a café stand for about $0.75.
In the larger tourist cities you can find really affordable lunch options. Typically restaurants will offer a set price daily lunch menu and I have seen them available for as low as $3 with the average around $4 to $5. A good budget option is to just grab a sausage on a bun or mici plate from one of the street vendors.
Dinner, if you’re eating out, isn’t going to be that much more expensive and ill be able to find a full, delicious meal for between $5 to $7. In most cases this will include a starter, Main dish and dessert. An extra beer or water will run you between $0.75 to $1.50 Lei.
If you’re in Romania for an extended period or you have an apartment where you can do your own cooking then you can just grab your own groceries at the local grocery store or market. If you buy all your own food you can expect to spend about $5 to $7 per day on high quality, organic and local ingredients.
All of the larger, popular tourist cities will be equipped with a bus or tram system. In Bucharest you find a metro and it’s easy and cheap to take. Tickets for these public transportation systems will cost between $0.50 to $1 per journey. Be sure to validate your ticket before getting onto your transportation or you risk getting a fine.
If you’re looking to get around Romania then you will want to take the train. While the trains might not be the newest the rail system is upgraded and will efficiently get you from one city to another without too many delays.
You can buy your train tickets online but I recommend heading to the local station to buy them in person. This way you can guarantee that the journey you’re taking is correct and you’ll be able to get all the information you need from the teller.
In my experience many of the people working at the train station don’t speak English so come prepared with a sheet of paper listing your destination and the journey you want to take translated into Romanian.
Museums and Attractions in Romania
Romania has some of the cheapest entry costs for their museums and popular attractions.
Many of the entry costs start at around $1.25 with the most expensive costs, at places like Bran Castle, only costing between $4 to $6.
Budget Travel Tips for Romania
There are many ways to avoid spending more money than you need to in Romania. It’s already very affordable and, unless you are going overboard with excursions and eating/drinking out, you shouldn’t have to watch your budget too much.
The general budget travel tips apply here as it anywhere else so always be sure to compare prices between your accommodation options and, if you are traveling on a tight budget, avoid eating out too much.
Unlike in Western Europe you won’t find too many free museum or tourist attraction days so pick and choose the top ones you want to visit and just stick to them. None of the attractions are too expensive anyways so you will be able to visit them all without going over your budget.
Is Romania Safe?
One of the most common questions that I am asked in regards to Romania travel tips is whether or not the country is safe. After spending three months here I can positively say that Romania is extremely safe and that you have nothing to worry about during your visit.
As in any other large European city you want to keep an eye on your valuables and watch out for pickpockets. Avoid traveling with a large purse or wallet and just keep the cash that you’ll need for the day in your front pocket.
It’s unlikely that you will experience any issues carrying around a DSLR camera, smart phone or using any other electronics. Not once did I experience or see any crimes happening and it was even rare to see police dealing with drunk or unruly people.
In my personal opinion you’re safer in Romanian cities than places like Toronto, New York City or Los Angeles.
The Best Cities To Visit in Romania
The capital city of Romania, Bucharest, is an interesting, unique and inspiring place. Since the fall of communism just over 20 years ago there has been somewhat of a Renaissance in Bucharest and today it’s a thriving and seemingly modern city.
The Old Town is crisscrossed with winding streets and hidden passages and only a few blocks away is the impressive and ominous Peoples Palace. Whether you’re into a great nightlife experience or you want to see firsthand the impact that communism has on a city full of millions of people you’re bound to find something you like and enjoy in Bucharest.
It’s the first stop for many visitors to Romania and it’s worth spending a few days walking around, exploring and eating some delicious Romanian cuisine.
Situated in the heart of Transylvania is Brasov, the most popular city for tourists in the country. It’s old town is one of the most impressive and well-preserved in Romania and the bright colors with the mountain backdrop make it a great place to visit.
If you are into skiing or winter sports then you will especially love Brasov since it has direct access to plenty of ski hills, went to resorts and other outdoor winter activities for you to participate in. There are so many things to do in Brasov that you’ll have to spend quite a lot of time there to experience them all.
From Brasov it’s also easy to reach the rest of Transylvania and make your way to some of the other small towns in the area.
Only a few short hours away from Brasov is Sibiu. This small town is popular for its well preserved medieval old town and long Saxon history. It boasts having the biggest town square in Romania and it’s full of churches, old fortress walls and the oldest restaurant still operating in the country.
With so many things to do in Sibiu I highly recommend you take the time to visit and try to spend at least one or two exploring the city.
Another medieval city near Brasov that you should visit is Sighisoara. It’s the birthplace of Dracula and you will be pleased to find a well-preserved and still lived in Citadel, one of the only ones of its kind in Eastern Europe.
Check out the nearby fortified churches, some of which are on the UNESCO world heritage site list, and are a must-see for anyone visiting Romania.
The Best Things to See in Romania
The Bucharest Old Town
Packed full of architectural sites the Bucharest old town is one of my favorite places in Romania. The streets are always busy with both locals and tourists and there are countless restaurants, cafés and bakeries where you can stop to relax and enjoy a quick bite to eat.
In the old town itself you will find many old structures dating back to the 19th century as well as the Romanian Patriarchal Cathedral, one of the oldest churches in the country. Be sure to stop by at the National Museum and the Carturesti bookshop as well.
Drive the Most Beautiful Road in the World
Running straight up and over the Carpathian Mountains is the Transfagarasan highway. This 95 km long stretch of pavement zigzags through forested Alpine valleys, passes by rugged mountain peaks and brings you through the mountain range that splits Romania in two.
It’s not that far from Bucharest or Brasov. Either book a car or book a day trip to experience the Transfagarasan in its true glory. The views alone are worth it and it’s one of my favorite places to visit in Romania.
Head to the Danube Delta
Nearly 3500 km from its source in Germany the Danube River empties into the Black Sea where it finishes its journey across most of Europe. It’s the second largest and most well-preserved River Delta on the continent and from here you’ll see some of the rarest and most beautiful bird species in the world.
Visit a Castle
There are so many beautiful castles in Romania that it’s hard to pick just one to recommend. Check them out online before departing on your trip but my three favorites were Bran castle, Corvin Castle and Peles Castle. Each of them deserves a visit and you’re bound to be impressed by the architecture, lavish decorations and unique history of each one.
Check Out the Salt Mine
In Turda you’ll find the Salina Turda salt mine. This is a mine that has been used for hundreds of years and today it is an underground museum where you can learn more about the history and importance of the mine and local area.
It’s one of the biggest in Europe and I would compare it to the salt mine in Kraków in regards to how interesting of an experience visiting it is.
Explore the Fortified Churches of Transylvania
All across the region of Transylvania there are countless villages that are home to fortified churches. These churches were built during the Saxon occupation of Transylvania and today are important part of the cultural heritage of the Romanian people.
My favorite churches were the ones in Viscri, Malancrav and Biertan. If you are in the area I highly recommend checking them out.