Romania & Ukraine Travel

Traveling through Romania and Ukraine for the first time in April of '09.
Right now I am looking at visiting:
Sighisoara, Brasov, Curtea de Arges (to see Poenari Castle) and Bucharest while in Romania.

I'm trying to get up to L'viv(Lvov) Ukraine but seeing nothing but multi-day (24hr+) train rides from Bucharest; this is according to DB Bahn.
Wanted to get over to Odessa and up to Kiev, but if it takes this long to get around I will just settle for L'viv.

Anyone have tips on traveling via train in Romania and Ukraine?

Is the only option from Bucharest to travel to Northern Romania, spend a night then depart to L'viv?
Have also looked for cheap flights out of Bucharest to Ukraine, but have had no luck there too.

Any help or suggestions will be greatly appreciated!

Posted by Bea
OH, OH, USA
1157 posts

The official Romanian train info is at www.cfr.ro (they have an English section too).
Where in Nortehrn Romania do you want to travel? Sighisoara and the other cities you meantioned are not in the Northern Romania, they are in the center.
There are some mini-buses you can take from Bucharest to different areas, especially larger towns. You can find them usually around the train station (Gara de Nord). They are much cheaper than trains.
I believe there is a schedule somewhere on the internet, but I don't know. Maybe a google search would help you.
I don't know where Lvov is in Ukrain and if it's a big city city or not, but there are a few kinds of trains in Romania, slow, Accelerat, Rapid, Intercity, International ones (don't know the names of) The last two are the the fasteast, but the more expensive ones. I don't know if you looked at these type of trains and the travel time is 24hrs.
You can check for cheap flights at skyscanner.com

Posted by Arnold
Denver, CO, USA
1000 posts

I have done quite a bit of research on this topic since I was planning on traveling in these countries this summer. However, due to limitations on vacation days for my wife, I have modified my route to avoid Romania and Moldova and get to Ukraine via Slovakia.

Here is what I found. To get to Odessa from Romania, you have to go through Moldova and then have the additional problems of having to avoid the break away entity of Trans-Dniester. There now seem to be buses from Chisnev that avoid TD and go to Odessa (about 6 hrs I believe).

If headed for Lviv, you will have to head north from Sighisoara into Ukraine and then onto Lviv. This is going to be a long journey. You may want to try to get to the border in Romania, get across and then buy another ticket/train to Lviv. In my reserach, the train guages between Ukraine and the EU are quite different which then results in a couple of hours at the border changing the wheels of the train.

The best place for research is the thorn tree forum on the Lonely planet website. You can check out what other travelers have done and pick up useful tips on crossing some of these borders.

My current plans are Sarajevo-Belgrade-Szeged-Budapest-Eger-Kosice(Slovakia)-Lviv-Kiev. Getting from Kosice into Ukraine (Uzhgorod 2 hrs) seems to be easy and short - however this will still involve an all day travel journey since it will be another 6 hrs to get from Uzhgorod/Chop to Lviv.

One thing I have found is that flights within the Ukraine itself are quite cheap. From Lviv to either Kiev or Odessa is reasonable - check out SkyEurope, Ukraine Airlines?, and Aerosvit. Hope this helps

Posted by ciao ciao
none
79 posts

Arnold..

I swear you are always 1 trip idea ahead of us...

we were pondering Romania, Moldova and Ukraine with a dabble in Poland for next year.

Thanks for your research..

Judge.. please report back when you return!

Posted by aok
Bucharest, Romania
41 posts

Well, yeah, if you have to start from Bucharest then there aren't other options to get to Lviv than going through Northern Romania. The fastest way to do it is this:

1)take a night train (or fly) from Bucharest to Suceava;

2)after you get there in the morning, take a bus or shared taxi across the border to Chernivtsi in Ukraine (there is a direct train from Bucharest to Chernivtsi, but it's faster to cross the border by bus);

3)take a bus or train from Chernivtsi to Lviv;

Another option would be to take the night train from Bucharest to Sighetu Marmatiei (also in Northern Romania), cross the border into Ukraine on foot to Solotvino and take a train to Lviv from there - but this would mean backtracking through Brasov.

There are also direct flights (not very cheap, though) to Lviv from Timisoara (a city in western Romania) with the airline Carpatair (which also flies from Bucharest to Kiev, as you might have already find out).

You can check train timetables (within Romania) on http://infofer.ro/ and bus timetables on http://www.autogari.ro/?&lang=UK

Avoid using minibuses called "maxi taxi" (they are crowded, uncomfortable and frequently have accidents) and "Personal" type trains (they are extremely slow and usually dirty).

On another note, while you're in Romania you should absolutely visit Sibiu (it's relatively close to Sighisoara).

Posted by aok
Bucharest, Romania
41 posts

And the most direct route from Bucharest to Odessa does pass through a small part of Moldova, but it goes nowhere near that separatist region of Transnistria (however, it's true that for a part of it there's no public transportation, you have to rely on hitchhiking).

If you desperately want not to pass through Moldova, I think there's a once-per-week ferry from Constanta (3 1/2 hours east of Bucharest) to Odessa.

Posted by Arnold
Denver, CO, USA
1000 posts

Aok - thanks for all the details. I had forgotten about the Carpatair flights though I had seen this mentioned somewhere before. I will check into these again - if this is viable, I will likely spend more time in Romania and then fly rather than take the long route through Hungary.

Posted by Edgar
San Jose
2 posts

I have traveled from Ukraine to Romania. I strongly suggest if you have a lot of time take the train but the trains are very slow. For example from Kyiv(Kiev) to Bucharest it will take 17hrs. You need to buy food when the train stops and the restroom are not pleasant. At the border of Ukraine and Romania the border guards from Romania would asked you for money even though Romania is part of the EU. The trains in eastern europe are very slow. You will be very tried.

Two things I would suggest: Spend time in Lviv(good city to visit) and then go to Kyiv. I took a carrage train called the Grand Tour. The train travels from Kyiv to Lviv and Kyiv to Lviv. The carriage is first class and the only email that I have is semenova@ghgroup.com.ua and if the email still work ask them for their telephone. They 9 hrs ahead of you. You will get confirmation by email. You will need to pick up your ticket at the Grand Hotel. Inside there is a travel agency. There you can buy a airplane ticket to go to Bucharest. If you decide to take the train. The train leaves at night and arrives in morning from Lviv to Kyiv. If you have no hotel. Go to hotelcentral.com and you can even ask them to have a driver to pick you at the train station to take you to your hotel. They will give the price to pay the driver. Best of luck

Posted by Arnold
Denver, CO, USA
1000 posts

I did some checking on the Carpatair flights from Timisoara and found that the international flights seem to be cheaper than the internal flights. Hence, would definitely recommend making your way to Timisoara and then flying from there to Lviv.

Agree with Edgar that the distances in these countries are vast and trains slow - that is why I intended to cross into Ukraine by bus/mahrustska and then catch the train to Lviv.

Posted by Judge
SALT LAKE CTY, UT, USA
2 posts

Thanks for all the info everyone! = )

I decided to take the flight from Bucharest to Timisoara then up to Lviv. This will save me a lot of time.

Posted by Steven
Santa Rosa, CA, USA
1 posts

My wife and I took a train from Kiev to Odessa (and back). The trip was about 8 hours. We booked a private suite, otherwise, you will be in a room that sleeps 4. I suppose this could expose you more to the culture (guard your valuables), but I would recommend getting your own suite. I think the best thing to do is travel overnight. Our train left Kiev at night and we arrived early in the morning. If you need the creature comforts of home, there is a McDonald's near the train station in Odessa and it has a beautiful patio with a view of trolley cars running up and down the street. I would recommend bringing some food and beverages with you on the train. You'll need your passport both to buy the tickets and to board the train.

We'll be back in Kiev this fall an will probably be back on the train.

FYI, the people on the street and in the (non-western) stores will appear to be very cold and brisk. If you find yourself invited to someones house, you'll be treated like royalty. So if someone gives you a difficult time at the store, don't sweat it. They also prefer exact change at the register, which can be quite fun as you try to count their currency. Furthermore, let your bank know that you're going over there so they do not freeze your credit/debit cards once the transactions start coming through.

Posted by Dwayne
Lviv, Ukraine
1 posts

With regard to Edgar's message about Romanian Custom & Immigration officers asking for money...my wife is Bulgarian and myself a U.S. citizen. We have an apartment in both Sofia, Bulgaria and Lviv, Ukraine (Lviv is by the far the more beautiful city since unlike Sofia, was not bombed out), and divide our time, somewhat, between the two cities. For the last 10 years, we have traveled regularly by the overnight train Lviv, Chernitvsi, Bucharest, Sofia, and never once during that time have we ever been asked for money by the officials on that train either Ukrainian, Romanian or Bulgarian.

Of course, on less well traveled trains it may occur, but I have always found those trains albeit slow, comfortable, safe and effective for the purpose.