In June 2014 me and my boyfriend decided to travel over to Romania for a week's holiday. The trip was mainly inspired by cheap flights from Wizz Air and the fact it was somewhere neither of us had visited before. If I'm honest before we started to do our research I don't think I even realised Transylvania was in Romania!
Here is part one of my little guide to having a great time in Romania.
Our itinerary consisted of:
One night staying at airport hotel
Two days in Bucharest
Four days touring Transylvania
Last day & night back in Bucharest
We used an itinerary we found in a travel guide which was actually for ten days touring so as we were condensing it into a week it really was a whistle stop tour!
We live in Greater Manchester so the easiest way for us to get to Romania was to drive to Doncaster/Sheffield Airport (AKA Robin Hood airport) which took about an hour. Flights go weekly to Henri Coanda Airport (AKA Otopeni airport - what is with all these airports having two names??) which is just outside Bucharest. The Wizz Air flights we were on, arrived in Romania in the early hours of the morning. This meant arranging accommodation at the airport rather than figuring out transport at a silly hour of the day. Our 'casa' was basic but only 5 minutes walk which was a huge plus!
Motel Casa Romanesca:
Although basic this hotel was also super cheap (£25 for the night) and included breakfast (1 hard boiled egg, 4 slices of ham, 1 x tub of jam and a basket of bread - see picture above!). For a base it was convenient - we also heard rumours that it's a great place to sample traditional Romanian cuisine, so it's worth noting if you want authentic food.
Airport to Bucharest:
We opted for the bus into Bucharest, we managed to purchase tickets at the airport but then got caught out on the bus for fare dodging! Apparently we hadn't registered our card correctly on the bus despite the fact we swiped our card and pressed the button on the machine. It did feel a little bit like they were trying to catch us out to make a extra money on paying fines as we weren't the only tourists being targeted. Best to be aware of this if you are going & ensure your card is properly registered. Our fine was £5 each, so still cheaper than taxi!
Useful information about routes from the airport into Bucharest can be found here
There is also the option of a taxi (which we did on the return journey) though if you go down this route it's best if your hotel/accommodation can ring for you to get you the best deal. There is a train as well, though none of the guides recommend it as an option as it's quite a convoluted journey.
The Romania currency is the LEU (usually referred to LEI or RON to add to the confusion!) it's not the easiet currency to get hold of as most places only hold popular currencies such as dollars or euros. We ordered ours from M&S and they took about a week to arrive. More information can be found here
We visited in June and the weather was lovely; warm enough to wear sandals and summer wear but not too hot that you felt exhausted moving around. Due to the warm weather and the fact Romania is very mountainous we did experience a couple of epic storms, so waterproofs are useful to pack!
In total we spent three full days in Bucharest, not exactly time to get a exhaustive feel for the city but enough to see the main highlights and start to navigate our way round without problems. I thought I could manage a full week in the city - though my other half wasn't quite as convinced!
Key things we did whilst in Bucharest:
The Palace of the Parliament - possibly the biggest attraction in the city, this took up most of our first day. It is the second largest building in the world and the largest in Europe. It's slightly insane if I'm honest - we were booked on a tour by our hotel, I'm not sure how you book otherwise! The main reception area was chaotic. Coach loads of people wandering around, no organised queuing, no proper welcome desk, security guards patrolling and intimidating. However when we finally spoke to someone they ushered us to the front of the masses and onto an English tour. Not sure if this was something to do with our hotel booking us in or the fact an English tour was just leaving. It resulted in grumpy looks and mutterings from everyone else.
The building is huge and very striking, our tour covered 1km and the guide told us that's only 5% of the building! Be prepared for huge amounts of walking, which leads me onto:
National Museum of Contemporary Art - this is actually part of the Palace of the Parliament, but it's miles away! We weren't quite sure how to access this gallery once we'd finished our tour so we set off walking round the perimeter. It wasn't well signed so it was quite confusing; even when we got to it, the outside looked very scruffy and unfinished, we had to walk through large pools of water and broken paving. Inside it was fun to look round the art but did feel a little bit empty, there were only a few other people and hardly any staff. We had drinks on the terrace but sadly although it looked as though it might have been regenerated in the last few years it wasn't being well maintained.
The old town - this is your classic area filled with beautiful buildings, churches, museums and places to sit out and eat. Very touristy but when you are on holiday it's what you want!
Lots of walking - the best way to get a feel for anywhere, whilst out walking we stumbled across a free music festival taking place in one of the many parks. We stopped to watch 'Vunk' a premier Romanian pop rock band:
For an exhaustive list of things to do in Bucharest check out Romania's tourist information page here
To finish a few more Romania pics:
Coming soon in my Part Two Romanian Travel guide; food and touring Transylvania.