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Bulgaria and Romania

New Year - new destination! We're working on an itinerary for late April/May travel that will include both countries. We're flying into Sofia and home from Bucharest. We're relaxed travelers and prefer larger cities to smaller ones but a mix is o.k. We like museums and enjoy local foods and wine. For now, we're considering using public transportation but want to investigate the feasibility of renting a car. Right now the working itinerary is:

Sofia - 4 nights

Plovdiv - 4 nights

Veliko Tarnovo - 3 nights

Ruse - 2 nights (mainly to be near Bucharest for a flight to Timisoara)

Timisoara - 4 nights

Clju-Napoka - 3 nights

Sibiu - 3 nights

Brasov - 3 nights

Bucharest - 3 nights

Question 1: Does this seem like the right amount of time for each city?

Question 2: Is there a place that isn't worth the time or an additional one we should consider?

Question 3: Has anyone rented a car in Romania? Would it be reasonable to consider renting a car in Bucharest to see the places we want to visit in Romania rather than flying Bucharest to Timisoara and then taking trains/buses between cities?

Thank You!
Happy New Year!

Posted by
3060 posts

Some stays seem a bit long - Brasov for 3 nights seems overly long - we stayed 2, and it was fine. It's a small town.

Timisuara, Bucharest, Sibiu - these seem about right. We've not been to Bulgaria, so I dunno about that.

We did take the train from Brasov to Budapest - maybe you can train instead of plane?

We enjoyed the Museum of Ethnography in Bucharest, which showed all kinds of local customs and stuff. Not flashy.

Posted by
3258 posts

Thanks Paul! Did you take the train from Bucharest to Timisoara? What was your itinerary for Romania?

Posted by
18569 posts

Sofia - 4 nights (sure, if that includes a day trip to Rila)

Plovdiv - 4 nights (as much as I love it, it really is a 2 night sort of place)

Veliko Tarnovo - 3 nights (again, 3 is okay, but you could do 2)

If you shorten some of the stops look at visiting Varna or Nessebar (2 or 3 nights in either is worth the effort) on the way to Ruse (1 night)

And try to work in the Devil's Throat Cave, you will be glad you did, if for no other reason the trip there.

Ruse - 2 nights (mainly to be near Bucharest for a flight to Timisoara) (1 night ........ or 2)

Timisoara - 4 nights (3 nights)

Clju-Napoka - 3 nights

Sibiu - 3 nights

Brasov - 3 nights (with a day trip to Peles Castle)

You missed Sighisoara. Cant miss Sighișoara

Bucharest - 3 nights

If you want names for guides with cars let me know, its a lot easier.

Posted by
3258 posts

Those look like great suggestions Mister E! Thank you!! Once the schedule is more settled, I may touch base about drivers.

Posted by
27366 posts

I only day-tripped to Brasov myself, but it could be used as a base for a side trip to Peles Castle.

One thing about traveling in Romania and Bulgaria: Public transportation is quite slow. I figured I covered only about 30 mph by train or by bus back in 2015.

If you're willing to rent a car for a few days, you might consider using it for a visit to Maramures, the fascinating area in northwest of Romania. It's known for its wooden churches, carved gateways, folk traditions and the Merry Cemetery. It's an area that really requires something other than public transportation. I managed it by taking a two-day tour (via car) organized by the Retro Hostel in Cluj Napoca. The tour was extremely inexpensive. You don't have to be staying at the hostel to take one of its tours. Unfortunately, at the time of my tripm the tours were offered on demand rather than on a fixed schedule, so you needed to be flexible unless your travel party was covering the entire cost of the car/driver, in which case I assume the hostel would be willing to arrange whatever you wanted.

I also took a one-day tour of Bucovina in the northeast, where the painted monasteries are located. That tour was booked through a travel agency in Suceava. The guide was nowhere near as good as the guide Retro Hostel used, though the tour was still worthwhile for someone wanting to see the area without a car.

If you haven't already done so, I highly recommend watching Rick's 2016 TV shoes on Bulgaria and Romania.

Posted by
18569 posts

Oh, and there are direct flights to Budapest, which is where you should end your trip.

BULGARIA
Pavlina Docheva
Program Manager and Tour Designer
Easy Bulgaria Travel Ltd
Bulgarian Tour Operator
Member of the Association of Bulgarian Tour Guides
1839 Sofia
Vrajdebna district, 9, 61 str.
www.easybulgariatravel.com
[email protected]
skype: polinkaa1
Tel. 00359 878 956 414

ROMANIA

Diana Simpetru
Guide & Tour Designer
Escape Romania
+40 745 410 763
[email protected]

Posted by
14580 posts

A very interesting itinerary with some interesting historical towns...Sibiu, Brasov, Clju and Sofia.

Logistically, if you can do this, I would suggest another place in Romania, the town of Iasi (known in Anglophone historiography as Jassy), close to Moldova, a culturally and historically (obviously in WW2 also) significant city.

Posted by
3258 posts

@ Mr. E - Thank you for the contact info for tour operators. We would probably only plan for shorter day trips. That's really helpful!

@Fred - it's interesting that you mention Iasi - we have a friend who will be there soon for a business-related trip. I've been curious about it so I'm glad that you suggested it. I will do further research! Thank you!

Posted by
27366 posts

I haven't been to Iasi, but the New York Times had an article about the area back in 2003. In the past I've found such articles useful in identifying off-the-beaten-track destinations. (I think it was in the NYTimes that I first heard about the Cinque Terre, back in the days before RS started publishing guidebooks.)

NYTimes article << gift link; should be readable without subscription

Posted by
3258 posts

Thanks for the link acraven! If you've saved this since 2003, I imagine that you have a great list of off-the-beaten-track destinations in your files! This one sounds interesting!

Posted by
14580 posts

@ Marsle.....I have an acquaintance who attended the university in Iasi. When I heard that, the name rang a bell but couldn't place it. The former name was (historically) Jassy.

Exactly. It was an event in diplomatically history. For both historical and cultural reasons, if you could swing it logistically after visiting those towns in Transylvania and time-wise, going there would be worth your time.

Posted by
18569 posts

Iasi has an international airport. I looked into it last year when the airport in Moldiva was closed and I was looking for a back door in.

Posted by
3258 posts

@Mister E - Good to know about the international airport in Iasi. Thank you!

I appreciate all of the suggestions!!

Posted by
2 posts

I rented a car out of Iasi airport last year for a week and drove directly up to Siret where I was conducting an assessment. I completely avoided large cities, even bypassing Iasi. I did not find the driving there to be difficult, but it is helpful to look online at what their various road signs mean, and there are a ton of videos on YouTube regarding driving in Romania.
You should be able to drive a manual transmission vehicle, as they may not have any automatic. Also, I had let my International Driving Permit expire, so I did not take it. The man with the rental car company at first told me it was not possible to rent a vehicle to me, but eventually conceded after a long diatribe of scare tactics as to what might happen if I got pulled over. The USB charging port did not work and so my biggest stressor was hoping that my phone battery would not die while using Google Maps, which I downloaded prior to going there.
I had no issues with driving in Romania, and as others have said, there are a lot of beautiful things off the beaten path that you can see with your own vehicle. The painted monasteries of Bucovina were spectacular!

Posted by
3258 posts

Your info about driving in Romania is very helpful! We are working out the details now…thank you so much!

Posted by
3258 posts

Your ‘Trip Report’ is perfectly timed Mr. È. We are in Bulgaria now heading to Bucharest, Sibiu, Brasov, and Cluj-Napoca soon. It’s been a great trip so far - we’ve been in Sofia and Plovdiv. We’ve found the free walking tours really helpful for an overview of the city. In Bucharest we’re planning to stay in a hotel not so far from the Moxy so glad to know that it’s a good location.

Thank you for the info!

Posted by
18569 posts

Bulgaria was two of my more memorable trips. One conventional, the second we got a car and driver and left Sofia with fly rods and fished at every river and stream from Sofia to the Turkish border. Took 5 days...... And I will be back. Romania was my third trip but the first two were about 7 and 10 years ago. Another, I will be back.

Posted by
3258 posts

Hi Tammy!

We are halfway through our trip - now in Sibiu, Romania. Bulgaria was great…we spent time in Sofia, Plovdiv, and Veliko Tarnovo. We’ve stayed in excellent accommodations and had great food. We modified the itinerary that I first posted. In Romania, we plan on spending time in Cluj-Napoca, Brasov and Bucharest - we have a car for the Romania part of the trip. We have 4 unplanned days - we haven’t decided where we’ll spend the extra days.

I’ll write a detailed trip report when we return! Bulgaria and Romania are definitely worth a visit - we’re having a great time. As a bonus, the cost of everything is inexpensive compared to places we’ve visited in Europe.

Posted by
3258 posts

We're back from our travels in Bulgaria and Romania and I wanted to update this to include our final itinerary. It was a wonderful trip and I'll write a more detailed trip report later. Here's what we did:

*Sofia - 4 nights

*Plovdiv - 4 nights

*Veliko Tarnovo - 3 nights

*Bucharest 1 night (the bus and train trip from Veliko Tarnovo took most of the day so we spent the night in Bucharest before picking up the rental car at the airport the next morning.)

*Sibiu - 4 nights (probably one too many but we're slow travelers)

*Cluj-Napoca - 3 nights

*Sighisoara - 3 nights

*Brasov - 4 nights (maybe one too many)

*Bucharest - 3 nights (we liked the city and could have spent another night or two)

We were happy with this itinerary. We took mostly bus/train trips between cities in Bulgaria. Having a car in Romania worked out great - the roads were really very good and driving not too stressful. There are many places we missed but we'll save those for another trip. It's very inexpensive to travel there and not crowded at all in any place we visited.

Posted by
4293 posts

I am excited for your full report! A month for both Romania and Bulgaria was what I was thinking might be about right (I am definitely a slow traveler). I am sure I will have questions. :)

Posted by
3258 posts

We're back from our travels in Bulgaria and Romania and it was a great trip!

I've posted details in the Trip Report section of this forum.

Posted by
4 posts

I have read this conversation with interest. My husband, daughter (19) and I are traveling to Plovdiv Bulgaria to watch my other daughter row in the World Championships in July. We are staying in Romania for a week prior to the competition and have rented a car to travel from Bucharest to Brasov and Sighisoara. We were considering driving to Bulgaria ourselves (have cleared it with the rental car agency and are getting International Driving Permits), but we have hear mixed reviews about driving in Bulgaria. We were going to travel from Brasov to Velika Tarnovo to Plovdiv, then do daytrips from Plovdiv in the afternoons after the rowing competition. I am wondering whether you have any thoughts about the safety of driving in Bulgaria?

Posted by
3258 posts

Hi mickanddiane!

I'm not sure that we're qualified to answer about driving in Bulgaria. We only took took the bus between the cities that we visited (Sofia, Plovdiv, and Veliko Tarnovo). That was partly because of the cost of a rental car for our one month trip and because the distance between the cities we visited wasn't that far.

My husband is a fearless driver and we've rented cars in many different European countries - he said he would probably do it. If I were you, I'd post a specific question about driving in Bulgaria. There is probably someone on this forum who has done it.

Before he drove in Romania, my husband posted a question on Reddit for information about driving in Romania - that was helpful. The roads in Romania are very good and the drivers are (mostly) courteous. There are many roundabouts that can be confusing but just follow the signs and you'll do great! In Romania, many of the gas stations have nice restaurants were you can get a sandwich or snack along the way.

Congratulations to your daughter! Competing in a world competition is a great accomplishment!

Posted by
18569 posts

I am a chicken hearted novice when it comes to tourism. I refuse to drive. I hired a guide with a car, and we spent a week driving from Sofia to Istanbul, stopping and fishing in every river and stream along the way. One of my best trips ever, stunning country.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you all for your suggestions and thoughts. I have actually just spoken with a friend who lived in Romania and Bulgaria about 15 years ago, and she is connecting me with another friend who is Bulgarian. I'll pose my question to him, and I will take your suggestions to post the question to the forum generally.