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Transylvania

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PompeyPetePompeyPete Forumite
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We've been to Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina this year, and having lost our appetite for SE Asia [after 20 years], we want more of Central and Eastern Europe.

Off a completely non-travel forum on MSE I recently got the idea of visiting Romania, and in particular the Transylvania Region.....Dracula look out.:)

So before I could talk myself out of the idea, I booked return flights for me and the cook with TAROM Airlines from LHR to Bucharest, between 5-23 June.

Booking flights was the easy bit. The hard bit is where exactly to go in Transylvania for 18 nights, and how many nights to allocate to each place. First thing was to buy a Guide Book. I settled on Rough Guide to Romania, which I bought online at Wordery for just under a tenner. I could have been real MSE, and borrowed one from our local Library, but buying one means it's mine and no need to keep renewing it, plus I can attack it with a red biro to make notes.

Next, was to work out a rough itinerary. So off I went to the Trip Advisor Romania forum, and I soon came up with basically a loop, easily doable by train, which are comfortable and inexpensive.

I've decided on a total of 4 hotels, topping and tailing with 1 night at an Ibis Hotel close to Bucharest Airport. All the accommodation I've book are excellent vfm, and conveniently located.

With MSE in mind, our total outlay so far is...

- Return flights for both of us, including 23Kg: £298.
- 18 nights accommodation in v.good standard accommodation [including breakfast at two of the places - 6 nights]: £546.
- Train travel will come out at about £60.

Anybody interested, I'll spill a few more beans on exactly what our itinerary is, and costings of individual accommodation.....no PMs please.
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  • PompeyPetePompeyPete Forumite
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    Thanks for the responses.:)

    Perhaps some of the following will be tempting...

    - A 90 minute train ride from Bucharest, our first stop for 3 nights is Sinaia

    https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attractions-g315907-Activities-Sinaia_Prahova_County_Southern_Romania.html

    - Then, a 3.5 train ride to Sighisoara for 3 nights

    https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attractions-g311309-Activities-Sighisoara_Mures_County_Central_Romania_Transylvania.html

    - Another train, in 2.5 hours we'll reach Sibiu for 4 nights

    https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attractions-g295393-Activities-Sibiu_Sibiu_County_Central_Romania_Transylvania.html

    - And for our final stop another 2.5 hours train to wonderful Brasov, where we'll be staying for 6 nights

    https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attractions-g295394-Activities-Brasov_Brasov_County_Central_Romania_Transylvania.html

    Finally, back to Bucharest by train in 3.5 hours, and an overnight stay before a lunchtime flight home.
  • purcelpurcel Forumite
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    Wonderful itinerary, love Romania! Been to Sinaia and Brasov a few times now and loved it, accomodation is cheap and decent and food and drink is very good value for money ( a beer is around 60p in a supermarket and about £1.10 in a restaurant). I'm sure you'll have a great time, plus June is nice and warm :)
  • edited 29 October 2017 at 9:04AM
    PompeyPetePompeyPete Forumite
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    edited 29 October 2017 at 9:04AM
    Our accommodation...

    Bucharest, first and final nights

    https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g294458-d304876-Reviews-Ibis_Bucuresti_Gara_de_Nord-Bucharest.html

    Sinaia, for 3 nights B&B

    https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g315907-d655599-Reviews-Vila_Camelia-Sinaia_Prahova_County_Southern_Romania.html

    Sighisoara, another 3 nights B&B

    https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g311309-d7216753-Reviews-Gasthaus_AltePost_Pension-Sighisoara_Mures_County_Central_Romania_Transylvania.html

    Sibiu, a lovely little apartment for 4 nights, bang in the centre of the Old Town

    https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/13460886

    Brasov, 6 nights in the main square of the Old Town

    https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g295394-d6383492-Reviews-Residence_Piata_Sfatului-Brasov_Brasov_County_Central_Romania_Transylvania.html

    All booked on Booking.com.....yep, I read all the terms and conditions before pressing the Book button.

    The weather should be in the upper 60F, so very pleasant, allowing us to travel light.
  • skint_chickskint_chick Forumite
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    When you're in Bucharest if you haven't already got plans I would recommend the Walkabout free walking tour, it was really good and covered all the sights in the Old Town and the guide had great recommendations for places to eat and other things to see. Your trip sounds amazing!
    "I cannot make my days longer so I strive to make them better." Paul Theroux
  • PompeyPetePompeyPete Forumite
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    Thanks. We haven't allowed any time in Bucharest, other than overnight accommodation on arrival and at the end of our trip. But hopefully we'll be so impressed that we'll quickly want to return.
  • PompeyPetePompeyPete Forumite
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    Right, we've been back a few days now, so I thought I'd chuck in a trip report. It might take me a few days to post it all.

    Basically, our itinerary was more or less exactly as further up the thread.

    A few general notes:

    - Guide Book. It's a bit silly trying to plan a multi-centre trip without a Guide Book. We used Rough Guide, and it more than did the trick.

    - Money. Called the leu or lei [plural], and abbreviated RON. The notes are all plastic, and invariable in excellent condition. We used cash most of the time, and got £1 = 5.25 RON. It varied a little, but there are plenty of exchange kiosks in all the touristy towns.....nobody tried to rip us off. There are coins too, the highest being .5 on a RON.

    - Accommodation. We don't like to spend any more than necessary, and were surprised at the high quality of accommodation at about £30 a night, often including a buffet breakfast. The one apartment that we booked was exceptional.

    - Eating out. Eating out is unbelievably affordable. Alcohol is cheap too. There are some excellent places to suit all tastes in the places we visited.

    - Trains and public transport. Trains are clean, but slow.....some slower than others. All are inexpensive, with the slower ones being very cheap. Plus side on slow trains is that you can take in the glorious green countryside, be it agricultural, rolling hills or dramatic mountains. Timetables can be frustrating, even if you want to get a faster slow train. All the timetables, arrival and departure are clearly displayed on a board in the station Booking Hall. We used local buses without any problems. Buy tickets from a kiosk, and make sure you validate them when you get on, they're cheap. A BIG Note on the trains.....you have to climb aboard, when getting off you might have a little jump. The stations don't have lifts, or slopes.....it's all stairs.

    - Getting around on foot. Some town centres, Brasov for example are quite flat, but in our experience you can expect steps everywhere, with little if any concession given for anyone with mobility issues. Not a problem for us, but definitely something to think about.

    Right, I've set the scene, and will get on the journey next.
  • PompeyPetePompeyPete Forumite
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    We started on 5 June with a mid-afternoon flight from LHR to Bucharest with Tarom Airlines. The flight took just short of 3 hours, clean cabin, smart, efficient and friendly cabin crew, a meal and drinks were included. Flight set off on schedule , ditto landing. Bucharest is GMT+3, we hit the tarmac at 2000 [local]. Clearing formalities was a breeze.

    We needed some local currency. Lots of ATMs at that time, so just drew out £50 worth of RON. Bucharest Airport is a 40 minute drive out of town, and we wanted to catch the very cheap 780 shuttle Bus. No problem, one floor down from the Arrivals Hall, buy a return ticket from the ticket booth and jump on the bus, which was waiting. Make sure you validate your ticket in the validating machine as you board the bus. The return tickets cost the equivalent of £1.50 each.....a taxi would have cost a lot more, and if you got the wrong cabbie he'd have taken you for a ride. Not many people on the bus, so felt very safe.

    Uneventful journey into Bucharest, we got off at the terminus at the main train station Gara de Nord. That area isn't very inspiring after dark so it's best to have your sensible head switched on. We were staying overnight at the Ibis Hotel, a 5 minute walk. I left the cook, now referred to s Rosemary, with our stuff, and I had a quick wander to see exactly where the hotel was. Took me about 5 minutes, in that time Rosemary had been touted 4 times by taxi drivers.

    Got to the hotel, checked in. Nice hotel, standard Ibis I suppose. Decided to walk back to Gara de Nord and see if we could buy tickets for train ride to Sinaia in the morning. Gara de Nord is a very big train station, but it was easy enough to find a ticket booth open, even after 2200. We looked at the Departures Board before enquiring about the ticket. Bought the tickets for the 1010 departure, no problem, the ticket person spoke enough English to understand.....£14 total for the pair of us for the 120 Km, 95 minute trip. Note:every train journey we made we wrote on a bit of paper in Romania exactly what we wanted, date, departure, time, destination, just to avoid any misunderstandings.

    Back to the Ibis.....lights out.
  • PompeyPetePompeyPete Forumite
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    6, 7, and 8 June

    Up bright and early, looking forward to our first stop in Translyvania, Sinaia. Buffet breakfast at the Ibis is 8 €uros each, far too expensive. We settled for an Instant Porridge Blueberry Oat Burst each, of which we'd brought a few.....add a bit of boiling water, give it a stir, and enjoy. Note: We drank tap water straight from the tap throughout the trip without any problems.

    Checked-out at 0915, and a 10 minute walk to Gara de Nord station. Note: That area looked a little scary when we arrived in the dark, but by day it's fine. Gara de Nord is a very big station, so it's worth allowing a few extra minutes. We found our platform easy enough, and people were already boarding. The destination of the train was Baia Mare, which is way up north close to the Ukraine Border.

    Seats on the train are allocated when you buy your ticket [except for the very slow trains]. All the carriages are numbered and we were in Vagon 5, which was right at the back and closest to the concourse. You have to climb onto the trains, and we saw people struggle a bit. The carriage we were in was full, but the seats were comfortable enough. We were sat facing a couple of Gay Romanians, who were quite interested in us, they spoke English, and we soon got a conversation going.

    The train left bang on time, and we quickly made our way into the countryside north of Bucharest. Note: There are no refreshment facilities on Romanian trains [other than Sleeper Trains]. Our journey to Sinaia took 95 minutes, for the first 50 minutes the lay of the land was flat and mainly agricultural, but it was spotlessly clean and green. Our final 45 minutes took us into the Bucegi Mountains, and the mountain scenery was glorious.

    We arrived at Sinaia on time at 1140. I had to get our luggage down from the overhead rack [nowhere else to stow it], and while I didn't have a struggle, some people will. Climbing off the train wasn't too bad. Getting from the platform to the exit meant going down 20 stairs and then up 20 stairs, no option available.

    Sinaia looks flat on our Rough Guide map, but it's anything but! Our hotel was about 300 metres away as the crow flies. We aren't crows, but we were up to a bit of a challenge, and found Hotel Tanzi after a 25 minute slog, mainly up steps and a cobbled path through the very pleasant Dimitrie Ghica Park, which also houses the Sinaia Casino [now uses for Conferences and events].

    Hotel Tanzi proved to be very comfortable and quiet, with a choice of 11 set breakfasts included. The hotel is more or less opposite the impressive Palace Hotel, but wile impressive there were tour group caches coming and going.....no thanks.

    The centre of Sinaia is very pleasant, quite small, and reasonably flat until you decide to wander away from the centre. Not a lot of traffic either along the centre. Plenty of places to eat and drink, and like everywhere else the prices are very reasonable.

    While we were in Sinaia we visited Peles Castle, which is a must do. We walked up there, which is a fair 45 minute slog to the west of town, but the scenery takes your mind of the physical effort. You can get into the extensive Castle grounds for free. We never went into the Castle as, yep you've guessed it, the place was crawling with tour groups. But we still enjoyed the place.

    We also visited a ski resort called Busteni which is a few miles north of Sinai, and easy to reach by frequent bus from outside the train station. Busteni has dramatic mountains to the immediate west, a very pretty and clean town, but spoiled a bit by the main road that runs right through it. It rained very heavily while we were there for a couple of hours, but we found a nice little bar with great views of the mountains and people watching.

    There's also a cable-car in Sinaia, but we never used it, mainly due to dodgy weather forecasts. We've got brollies, but the thought of being too far off shelter from a Transylvanian deluge didn't appeal.

    Overall, we really enjoyed our 3 nights in Sinaia, and definitely recommend it.

    Next stop, lovely Sighisoara.
  • PompeyPetePompeyPete Forumite
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    9,10, and 11 June

    Our train to Sighisoara is at 0750, so we're up early. We had a packed breakfast ordered, and left the hotel at 0700.

    From leaving our room to arriving on the platform at Sinaia train station we had to negotiate a total of 206 steps, including 31 downward steps at the train station subway followed by another 31 upward steps to the platform. Yep, we could have got a taxi, but we only use them when we really need to.

    Out tickets for the 4 hour, 173 Km journey cost the equivalent of £9.50 each. The train, which had originated in Bucharest, arrived on time. The carriages were different on this train. Our train from Bucharest had big open carriages with seats of 2 with 2 facing opposite, an aisle down the middle and the same seat layout on the other side of the aisle. The carriages on this train had compartments of 8, 4 seats opposite 4 seats, with an aisle running along one bulkhead. Our reserved seats were empty for us, but the compartment was full. There wasn't room on the overhead rack, so we had to part our pull-along bags the aisle outside the compartment.

    The compartment was quite stuffy, and a little claustrophobic. We spent a fair bit of the journey still outside in the aisle with the window open for a bit of fresh air. Note: Don't stick you head out of the window, as you'll soon lose it!

    The journey seemed to be never ending, but the views were great. I was hoping for mountains all the way, but had to settle for rolling hills, lots of agriculture, loads of sheep, a few lakes, and a mass of green. Note: The train ran parallel to the odd main road, the traffic was very light, and looked ideal for people who prefer to travel by hire car.

    The train arrived at Sighisoara on time at 1140. Clambered off, we were able to cross the rail line rather than go down and up more steps. It was a lovely warm day, so we took an easy flat walk to our hotel in the Lower Town, which took about 20 minutes.

    Note: Signisoara is where Vlad the Impaler was born. His father was Vlad Dracul, otherwise known as Dracula. So as you can imagine the place is very popular with day trippers, and tour groups.
  • PompeyPetePompeyPete Forumite
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    Sighisoara has a Lower Town, and Upper Town [Citadel]. The Lower Town has less character but is more practical, the Upper Town oozes character as do the cobbled lanes leading up to it.

    Our hotel, the Pensuinea Gasthaus Alte Post is a lovely, lovely place with lots of history and character. Our picture perfect room was on the 2nd floor [more steps, this time a wide wooden staircase]. One problem though.....the wifi reception was atrocious, but never mind. The hotel had a beautiful restaurant, different rooms, beautifully decorated and decked out.

    Getting to the Upper Town was easy, just walk outside the hotel, and start climbing the cobbled lane. Plenty to look at on the way up. Once you arrive at the Upper Town it's simply wonderful. No need to explain everything, it's all online. But to make the most of the Upper Town you need to be reasonable fit, eg. the [enclosed] Pupils Stairway, built in 1642 to protect pupils access to the school at the top, has a staircase totalling of 176 wooden steps. Above the school is the Evangelical Church on the Hill. If you want 360 degree views of the surrounding area then you need to make your way up there.

    During our stay in Sighisoara we visited, by public bus, the town of Targu Mures, which is an hour north of Sighisoara. It's a nice run out through beautiful green and clean countryside. The town is quite big, but the bus drops you v.close to the historical centre and Citadel. You get the bus from the small bus station, which is next to the train station. They run hourly throughout the day, the single fare is £2.75, we got the 0930 departure. You'll notice lots of gypsy folk around town, all dressed in traditional costume. Well worth a day out.

    Next, Sibiu.
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