GETTING AROUND IN ROMANIA
Getting around Romania is relatively quick and efficient for the great distances that have to be covered in this country (this is after all, the second-largest country in Central Europe, after Poland). The transport infrastructure has been improving quite significantly recently, even though roads remain a weak point. The national roads have been upgraded but is far way till the highways that are still in project will be completed. Train travel, however, has improved dramatically.
Air travel is still not very common in Romania even though the national carrier Tarom has dramatically lowered its tariffs on internal flights in late 2006 fearing competition from the newly arrived low-cost airlines.
Carpatair (www.carpatair.com) operates domestic flights from Timisoara to Bucharest, Constanta, Bacau, Cluj, Iasi, Oradea, Tirgu-Mures, Satu-Mare, Arad and Suceava. A couple of flights also operate from Cluj.
Tarom (RO) operates regular services from Baneasa (travel time Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 20 minutes to Otopeni) to Arad, Baia Mare, Cluj-Napoca, Constanta, Iasi, Oradea, Satu Mare, Sibiu, Suceava, Timisoara and Tirgu Mures. Book in advance to get good discounts on fares.
The Danube Delta is easily explored by boat. Most trips and cruises depart from the ancient city of Tulcea and sail to Sulina.
The easiest, most comfortable and most rewarding way of travelling between cities is by train. Romania's railway network is one of the largest (the 4th in Europe) and most dense in Europe, with trains servicing every town and city in the country, and the many villages. Usually a train station is no more than 10km from a village, in the vast majority of cases.
BucharestÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s main station is the Gara de Nord on Calea Grivitei. Romanian State Railways, CFR, (website: www.cfr.ro) runs frequent, efficient and cheap services to most cities, towns and larger villages, some with sleeping and restaurant cars.
All CFR train services, except the "Personal" trains, which stop at every station and are awfully slow, are of a relatively high quality. The "Personal" trains stop at every station and are the only option when travelling to small villages. Even though they do make for very original and memorable experiences, they're usually not so comfortable and very slow, albeit very cheap.
The other train types, which are, in order of speed, "Accelerat", "Rapid" and "InterCity". Accelerat is quite uncomfortable (sharing some rolling stock with Personal), with old, unmodernised cars, albeit somewhat faster than personal. Rapid and Intercity are usually of a high standard - however, some Rapid trains should be avoided because of bad rolling stock (usually Mangalia - Oradea and Mangalia - Baia Mare, both using Accelerat-type stock).
If you can, use InterCity trains, which connect the hubs in Cluj-Napoca, Timisoara and Bucharest to other major cities. These trains are of a Western European standard and are incredibly clean and modern, with automatic doors, futuristic ecological toilets, air conditioning, ergonomic seats, free newspapers and all the other amenities. Also, they are reasonably cheap and are increasingly used by Romanians (and tourists) on most trips. They are only marginally more expensive than Rapid trains (usually only a few euro cents more expensive).
The "Rapid" trains should be your second choice - they stop at more stations, but serve more destinations, and, although being a little bit more traditional, are still comfortable. "Accelerat" is a third choice, with little comfort in second class. Only train type where a 1st class ticket is worth it (considering CFR's decision of very limited 1st class on Personal-10th Dec) If presented with a choice of Intercity trains (Classic or "Sageata Albastra" - The blue arrow) it is advisable to choose Classic, as these are faster, more comfortable trains. Sageata Albastra are small 2-car diesel trains with slower service (120 km/h top speed in regards to 160km/h). The difference in price between 1st and 2nd class can be as much as the price of a 2nd class ticket, if not more. However, the difference in comfort is not huge, and it is even possible to get worse seats in 1st class than in 2nd class (this is very common on Rapid trains heading for IaÃ…Å¸i, BotoÃ…Å¸ani and Suceava). Sleepers and Couchettes are usually clean, and quite modern, even on accelerat trains.
In winter due to harsh climatic conditions(snow storms) huge delays are possible so avoid travelling by train or at least watch the weather forecast (note that during the snow storms, trains are usually the only way of transport, with roads becoming blocked and airports closing down). In summer the trains and cars can run slower because the rails can be deformed by heat but delays are rather insignificant. The country is investing in upgrading its railways and railway stations. In some mountain cities the rail fans can travel by a small gauge rail train, but these trips are only available for small groups and not for individual tourists (an exception is Valea Vaserului in MaramureÃ…Å¸, a scenic mountain railway, which offers trips with a narrow gauge steam train to individual tourists during weekends - note that you may be able to get a ride during the weekdays, but you will either ride in the steam-engine itself, or on the logs in the open carriages, as the line is still in industrial use). Groups can also rent the former Romanian king's personal train or CeauÃ…Å¸escu's private train but these trips are rather expensive. Trains are usually on time, with delays only caused by weather or heavy modernisation involving serious infrastructure work such as the one currently in progress on the Bucharest - ConstanÃ…Â£a line.
Supplements are payable on rapid and express trains, for which seats must be reserved in advance. Express routes run from Bucharest to Timisoara, Cluj-Napoca, Iasi, Constanta and Brasov. Rail Inclusive Tour tickets include transport and hotel accommodation.
There are no platforms of any great height in Romania, making entering and alighting a little difficult for the elderly or infirm. There is a discount of 25 to 35 per cent for non-express trains. For train enthusiasts, there are nine steam train dating from the 1920s and 1930s, some of which have been restored, that are available to rent to organisations and individuals. Contact the Romania Tourist Board for more information.
Since the 10th of December 2006, CFR has introduced a new service, Business Class, with two subdivisions: standard and exclusive. Standard has plush armchairs instead of leather, as exclusive does, but is around 20RON cheaper. Initially, they only operate on Bucuresti-Craiova-Timisoara and Bucuresti-Brasov-Cluj-Oradea routes. As more rolling stock is introduced, most trunk routes will have this service (Suceava, Iasi, Constanta, Arad), although some (Suceava, Constanta) only standard Business Class. The Business Class service has Personal TV's and Wireless internet access. It is 50% more expensive than regular InterCity services.
Traffic drives on the right. Road conditions vary widely throughout Romania. While major streets in larger cities and major inter-city roads are in fair to good condition, other roads are in poor repair, badly lit, narrow and often do not have marked lanes. Drivers need to be alert for horse-drawn carts and livestock especially at night. Children under 12 are not allowed to travel in the front seat and front seat passengers must wear a seatbelt. Speed limits are 50k/h (30mph) in built up areas, 90k/h (56mph) on main roads, and 110 k/h (70mph) on highways. Driving under the influence of alcohol is forbidden. Tolls are charges on motorways and main roads, payable in Euros. Vignettes can be bought for one-week or one-month and can be bought at border points, post offices and at most petrol stations throughout Romania. Fines are charges for those without vignettes. The Romanian Automobile Club (ACR) has its headquarters in Bucharest (tel: (21) 212 8247 or 223 4525) and offers services through all its branches to AA and RAC members.
Coach & bus
Bus can be the least expensive method to travel between towns. In the Romanian towns and cities, you can usually find one or several bus terminals (autogara). From there, buses and minibuses depart for the the towns and villages in the nearby area as well as to other cities in the country. You can find timetables at www.autogari.ro
Minibuses are usually very uncomfortable; some buses are old and slow. Schedules are not tightly followed, and delays of over an hour are not uncommon, especially for inter-city buses.
Several bus companies offer fast and inexpensive connections between Romania's main cities. Inter-city bus stations are usually located next to the train stations. The main coach stations in Bucharest are at 164 Soseaua Alexandriei, 1 Ion Ionescu de la Brad Boulevard, 1 Piata GÃƒÂ£rii Filarest, 221 Soseaua Chitilei, 141 Pacii Boulevard and 3 GÃƒÂ£rii Obor Boulevard.
Be aware though that on Fridays, Sundays, and close to national holidays such buses tend to be overcrowded, so a reservation by phone might be necessary.
Available at hotels and at Bucharest Airport. Driving is very erratic, so it might be advisable to rent a car with a driver.
Documentation: National driving licence or International Driving Permit are required, as is Green Card insurance. Most Romanian roads are best suited to 4-wheel-drive vehicles as they are in poor, potholed condition. Police carry out frequent checks so it is essential that you observe the speed limit, ensure that your vehicle is roadworthy and you have all your car documents.
Most cities offer efficient and inexpensive bus, trollybus or tram transport. Bucharest has a good bus and tram system and a metro. Tickets are pre-purchased from agents, and there are stamping machines on board buses and trains. There are also daily, weekly and fortnightly passes. A separate minibus network is operated.
Metered taxis can be hailed in the street or called from hotels. Prices are relatively low, but drivers expect a 10 per cent tip. Although most drivers are honest, prices should be agreed beforehand, especially at the airport.