Please sign in to post.

Report on trip to Bulgaria and Romania

My husband and I just returned from a 17 day trip to Romania and Bulgaria and since these are countries that are not extensively covered, I thought I would share some info on our trip. We flew into Bucharest and after recovering from jet lag, we spent one day exploring. The palace of parliament was closed to visitors so we just walked the town and ate at Caru' cu Bere which was wonderful ! We picked up a car and drove through Transylvania. We spent time in Brasov, Sighisoara and Sibiu. All were enjoyable, the people friendly ( always found English speakers willing to help us ), and everything was very inexpensive compared to other European countries. While driving from one place to another we found that the travel time was about 50 kmph at times, as you slowed down each time you came to a village. While this was frustrating to move so slowly, you were rewarded with beautiful scenery and a real peek into rural life. Sharing the road with horse drawn wagons, villagers walking along the road and seeing people working in the fields without modern farm equipment, all added to the experience.
We drove from Sibiu to Ruse, Bulgaria and that was a very long drive as we were driving on small roads and it took us 7 1/2 hours to go 330 km. The transition to the Cyrillic alphabet proved to be a rough one. We studied it before we left but the lack of street signs or small signage at the intersections made it frustrating for my husband (the driver) and myself (the navigator) . Luckily the people were more than willing to help. We were lost and a middle aged woman tried to assist us in finding our hotel and because of the language barrier she decided to help us by jumping in the back seat and pointing us to our destination. While it wasn't far from where we were, we would've never found it on our own ... an act of kindness we will always remember ! Despite the frustration with street signs we found the traveling in Bulgaria to be faster than in Romania with larger roadways. We visited Ruse, Veliko Tărnovo, Plovdiv and Sofia in Bulgaria. A highlight was a day tour to Rila monastery and Boyana church from Sofia. Again the people were friendly, prices inexpensive and all the sights were impressive. I would wholeheartedly recommend visiting these two countries (act now, before tourism ruins the authenticity of these beautiful places).

Posted by
630 posts

Thank you for your posting of this excellent adventure in two of my favorite countries. I'm glad you enjoyed your visit in "true" Eastern Europe

Posted by
40 posts

Thank you for your post on Bulgaria and Romania. I’m leaving for an RS Bulgaria tour in a few days. We’ll be in all of the Bulgarian locations which you mentioned except for Ruse. Can you tell me if it was humid and hot in Bulgaria? I’m trying to figure out if I should pack shorts in addition to pants as high humidity really gets to me. I’m trying not to overpack as we’re responsible for handling our own luggage on the tour. However we’re going to be in the mountains some but also next to the Black Sea later so I have to prepared for a variety of weather conditions.

Posted by
6062 posts

In retrospect, would you give Bucharest more than one day? I'm probably an outlier, but I'm interested in spending a few days there. I realize it's not the most beautiful part of Romania, but I'd still find it interesting.

Also, how did you like the food and how would you compare it between the two countries? I'm a vegetarian so I'm sure Bulgarian food would really appeal to me (I've had it before and it's wonderful), but I'm wondering what I could eat in Romania (that's not meat based and still tasty)

Posted by
15 posts

This in response to the inquiry about the weather in Bulgaria. I realize that Rick Steves advocates that you pack light, but I am a middle aged woman who could never fit everything for a twelve day trip into a backpack ! The weather was pleasant while we were there in mid May and I wore long pants, short sleeved tops and a windbreaker when needed. I always bring a small umbrella which I fit in my cross body purse in case I need it. I am sorry I am not more help, but I do not know whether you are a man or woman, young or middle aged, so I don't know how to advise you. I suggest you contact Rick Steves and ask them their advice. Hope you enjoy your trip !

Posted by
15 posts

Sorry, I just realized the post regarding weather was by Valerie. Now that I know you are a woman may I suggest a wrinkle free dress that you can wear in warmer climate (we never went to the Black Sea) so I don't know it's weather. Just make sure your shoulders, upper legs and cleavage are covered when going to Rila monastery and some churches. I did not see any women wearing shorts ( I really wasn't looking to see what other people were wearing) but I am sure there are some in the resort areas. I know that the Rick Steves team would be helpful in answering your questions.

Posted by
40 posts

Hi. Thanks for your reply, wintersbs. I’m a 66 year old woman. I think that I’ll need to err on the side of overpacking a bit to cover the variety of weather which we will probably be encountering in the seaside, mountains, and cities. I’ll also try calling the RS tour office.

Sounds like you had a wonderful trip. I’d like to see Romania too.

Posted by
15 posts

Agnes, in response to your question about Bucharest, I am sure you can find things to do there for several days. There are plays, an opera and museums (it all depends on your interests) and it is a large city with much to offer. I just think compared to the historical attractions in Bulgaria it can't compete with Plovdiv or Veliko Tarnovo.
As for the food in Romania, I don't foresee any problems with finding meatless options. There a lot of Italian restaurants in both countries that make it easy to find what you want. There are enough vegetarian tourists and locals patronizing these restaurants to have variety in their menus. Hope you enjoy your travels to these wonderful countries.

Posted by
6062 posts

There a lot of Italian restaurants in both countries that make it easy
to find what you want.

But is there Romanian food I could eat? I'd prefer to eat the local cuisine if possible. I think a really rural place like Maramures could be a challenge, but I'm not worried about Bucharest or Sibiu or even Sighisoara. I don't mind eating veggies and potatoes and cheese if need be (I don't assume fish is popular or local?). I'm wondering if the vegetarian options in an authentic Romanian restaurant would be tasty.

Posted by
16591 posts

Agnes, the first time I had quinoa was in a health-conscious cafe in Timisoara. That said, Timisoara is probably the most westernized city in Romania. I've posted this comment before and am still waiting for someone to quibble with it: Few Romanians can afford to eat meals in restaurants, so you may want to look for restaurants that seem more touristy than your usual selections.

I don't remember specifically what I ate while traveling through the Balkans except a lot of chicken kebabs (won't work for you) and the very good bread rings sold right put of the oven throughout Romania. To tell you the truth, I don't know what Romanian food is--other than the bread rings, which I think are clearly an Ottoman legacy. Now that I think back, I believe I found grilled vegetables on menus in Bulgaria; perhaps they're offered in Romania as well. And of course there are cheeses.

Posted by
6062 posts

Another quick question: how bad was the drop-off fee for renting the car in Romania and dropping it off in Bulgaria?

Posted by
15 posts

Agnes, your question about Romanian food for vegetarians all depends on what you consider "Romanian food". Meat rolls (mititei) and cabbage rolls with minced meat and rice (sarmale) may not be options for you but, there are plenty of meatless dishes. According to my Lonely Planet book on Romania (forgive me Rick but, you don't cover Romania in your books) the devout Orthodox Christians observe a vegan diet on Wednesday and Fridays so I am sure you will find many meatless options.
As to your question about the drop off fee in Bulgaria for a car rented in Romania, that was pretty steep $361 drop off fee. We just didn't want to add additional days to return the car to Bucharest so we decided that it made sense to drop off the car in Sofia.

Posted by
6062 posts

Yes, that's exactly what I consider Romanian food - directly influenced by Austro-Hungary and Germany. Not so different from Polish food - lots of meat. I'm sure I can get around it somehow although even the soups have meat chunks swimming in them, or use it as the base. I was just curious if there were many appealing veggie side dishes on menus.

Can I ask what the per day car rental (inclusive of all taxes and fees came out to)? (disregard the drop off fee). I have considered renting a car so some out of the way areas, so it would be helpful to know.

Posted by
15 posts

Agnes, in response to your question about car rentals, you need to go on line and research it once you know when and where you are going. Any price is going to be determined by a number of factors : time of year, length of rental, place of rental and type of car rented. I do suggest you stick to a small car as many of the old towns have narrow streets and minimal parking. We went with Sixt because they were the only rental company that allowed drop offs in another country. Hope this helps.

Posted by
30 posts

Wintersbs,thank you for your interesting and very informative report. In September, my husband and I will be spending 2 weeks in Romania and Bulgaria. We are usually independent travelers, but are getting older so have hired private drivers/guides for most of the days. On our trips, my husband often has trouble with the water. Did you have any issues? Did you drink bottled water? One other question, I always like to read biographies or historical novels about the countries we will visit. Do you happen to have any recommendations?

Posted by
10681 posts

I've been to both a couple of times. Both absolutely wonderful. But, the food in Bulgaria was among the least impressive of any place I have ever been. Still, I would jump at the chance to return. If any out there enjoy fly fishing, both are good choices. If you aren't into driving yourself, a private guide with a car is only a few hundred Euro a day. Actually, the last trip which was Sofia to Istanbul only ran about $300 a day for room, driver/guide and car and we traveled very comfy.....

Posted by
15 posts

This is in response to Ellen's post. We are also independent travelers, but are on the cusp of resorting to tours and guides, no need to explain. The important thing is you "keep traveling" as long as possible. We always drink bottled water ( we just buy a gallon jug at a market and refill our water bottles) so I have no experience with local water. I also buy a small bottle at every meal as everything is very inexpensive in these countries.
As for historical novels on these countries, we haven't looked into them. My husband does like to read some history prior to traveling to a new place so he appreciates the significance of the things we see. The guides will provide you with a wealth of information on the sites you visit with them.
One last thing, be prepared for a lot of walking up and down hills and on cobblestones. Take your time, bring water with you and stop and rest when needed. Because these countries are not handicapped accessible you must be able to handle some physical exertion to see the sights.
I hope you enjoy your trip. Bulgaria and Romania are beautiful, memorable countries.

Posted by
6062 posts

Thank you for providing all this info! You had a unique trip which is probably not likely to be replicated by many (US travelers) via car due to sheer distance (primarily that 7.5 hour segment), but it was very interesting to read. I appreciate all the inputs.

Posted by
15 posts

I realize our style of traveling does not work for everyone so find what works for you. We have taken tours and there are definite benefits to taking a tour or getting a guide. We actually enjoy the planning and research involved in these trips and learn a lot before we ever leave home. All the incidents (like the 7.5 hour drive) just add to the adventure and experience.

Posted by
10681 posts

There is no wrong way, as long as you build good memories and learn about the world.

Posted by
42 posts

Thank you for this post! As I’m planning my trip a year away, I find this level of detail extremely helpful! If you were to spend three weeks in one city in Romania or Bulgaria and take day trips and overnight trips from there- what city would you select as your main city? I usually Air BB at the main location with hotels in between.

Posted by
867 posts

"The Hole in the Flag" is a wonderful book written by Romanian American poet and author, Andrei Codrescu about the events of the Romanian revolution in 1989 and then further events some years later. It is an insightful, confounding, riveting account of what happened in Romania and is still happening. I highly recommend it for anyone planning a visit to Romania, to give some useful understanding of the craziness of that time and how history continues to unfold in Romania in strange ways. I read it before my first visit in 1995. Codrescu weaves together historical and sociological insight with many stories of people's lives. I see that "The Hole in the Flag" continues to be available on Amazon (and hopefully also at your local independent bookstore!).

Posted by
6062 posts

Last year, I rented an apartment with all the amenities for 200 bucks
a day. I think it's very cheap.

$200 per night lodging in Bulgaria is considered cheap? It's not even cheap in the US which has a higher standard of living and wage rates.

Posted by
16591 posts

Golly, the quality/believability of the spam on this forum sure is declining.