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Romania Trip Report

I don’t usually do real trip reports, but this one deserves it.

I had a few free days in Budapest so I looked on GoogleFlights to see where I could go and get back in 4 or 5 days, quickly and on a budget.

The best option seemed to be Bucharest for about $100 each way on Tarom Airlines. So I booked it and went looking on line for a reasonably priced guide.

I found Diana Simpetru and had a brief conversation on WhatsApp. Nothing worse than being stuck with someone that rubs you the wrong way so I always talk to the guides before I hire one.

She recommended the Moxy Hotel in old town. $65 for a good 3 or low 4 star was a bargain. Turned out to be very nice and in the perfect location She told me the best way to get from the airport was Uber and be warry of taxis. The only problem with the Uber was my cell phone couldn’t get a signal at the pickup location, so I had to go back into the terminal to place the order, wait till the last minute (tracking the car on my phone) then run to the pickup spot. The trip in was uneventful and the driver was a good kid with suggestions for my stay.

My flight arrived pretty late, so I googled wine bar and found one about a 4 minute walk from the hotel. There were 4 people inside and I sat at the bar. I just said bring me anything red. They produced 4 bottles, and we began a free wine tasting. I was hungry so they produced bread sticks and olives. Then the four others left and the management locked the door and we sat and drank and talked for a few hours. Place is called “Corks” and I suspect I will return.

I spent the early morning wandering Old Town, having breakfast and coffee. Then at about 11, as arranged, and on time, Diana showed up in a rented car, double parked in the street in front of the hotel and we had coffee and talked about what comes next. We did a driving tour through town to the opposite side of town, left the car and walked back to the hotel. Exactly what I wanted to see. Great old architecture, communist trash architecture, local people and local cafes for more coffee and snacks. In all about 4 hours.

That evening we went to dinner at a place with Romanian music and dancing and very good Romanian food and wine. As nice as the place was the bill was a fraction of what it would have cost in the U.S. Then we headed out to see some of the Bucharest nightlife. It was St. Patrick’s Day. Two places with live entertainment, the second one particularly good as it was 70’s and 80’s rock, which is my generation.

I got home to the hotel and sat at a table on the street in front and had a nightcap and watched the people go by until a bit too late for me.

The next morning she was on time again and we headed up into the snow covered mountains stopping at some beautiful observation places and a very interesting little restaurant with a view for lunch. After lunch first Braun Castle then Brasov and dinner in another place like the one in Bucharest but this one with a view of the city from above. Perfect.

Returned to the hotel pretty late so back to the streetside table and a beer before bed.

The next day my flight out was at 2pm so she sent me first to a Moldovan spa. Actually, a somewhat mature woman with little English that ran the business out of her home. The style of service reminded me of a bayna I used to go to in Kyiv and we talked a lot about Odesa. Then an uber to the airport and back to Budapest.

For a quick escape it could not have been better. I went to much of Romania years ago but a lot had changed. Bucharest is a fascinating city and Brasov was more beautiful than I had remembered. But the key here was a personable guide. I am more about people and culture than museums. The long conversations about life here and there and her personal experiences and knowledge of the places we went are what made it a good trip.

Posted by
855 posts

Thanks for your trip report and recommendations. Hope to get to Romania in the next few years!

Posted by
315 posts

Thank you for the trip report, sounds like a very interesting and fun experience! Does Diana have a website per chance? I searched online, but wasn't able to find her.

Posted by
18761 posts

Apparently its being built now. She's been working out of one of those guide clearing house sites.

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

Finding good guides is a challenge. I generally only hire for about a third of the trip unless its a short stay like this one way, but even to do that I research the heck out of them, and when that isn't enough, I get them on a WhatsApp video call and interview them. They can make or break a trip sometimes.

When I find a good guide it makes the destination more attractive to return to, so i keep in touch. Ive got guides in Bulgaria and Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro and Ukraine that have drawn me back a few times each.

Prior to the trip Diana contacted me a few times to make sure i was comfortable with the details and how to get from the airport and a place for dinner the first night. Really went overboard with the service. I told Diana I might return in the fall and she sent pictures from a tour this week and the reference they sent her afterward.

Diana …

Our mistake that we did not made this tour the first day of arrival to
Bucharest My wife and I came to Bucharest with no preparation and we
just were moving around right left and center based on Google
searched, my advise is to go first with Diana to tell you the what are
the best things to be done, where to go and the how. She is English,
French and Spanish speaker, she is a fun personality and knows exactly
about Romanian culture, Bucharest germs and she is very helpful. Some
people believes that when they travel they can do it by their own, you
will miss a lot without Diana. Thanks Diana, my wife and I really
enjoyed the time and the great tips that you gave us.

Amr & Wessam April 2023

Posted by
3070 posts

We've been to Bucharest. In 2014, the post-commie reconstruction was well underway, with most of the streets being repaved, new sidewalks with openings for trees being laid out of beautiful concrete blocks, and so forth. We also had a great time in restaurants - Caru e Biro (beer wagon) restaurant was touristic, but worth it, with dancing waiters and great food.

I hope we will go back for a tour of S Romania, Bulgaria, and European Turkey. Maybe in 2026.

Posted by
1 posts

After I booked with Diana, I don't find words to describe how well the tour with her was it. She is such a nice lady, educated and professional. She totally gave me a great Rumanian experience for a full day tour. I wish I could stay longer in Rumanian and went to all the amazing places we talked about it when I was with her during my tour. I will totally come back to Romania for at least 7 days and of course book with Diana again.
Spend only 12 hours in Rumanian wasn't enough, but it was worth it.

Posted by
3034 posts

Mister E, I'm also about people and culture. After reading the 720th sign at a museum my eyes start to glaze over.

Thank you for your trip report.

Posted by
18761 posts

There are a few exceptions, but I have seen all the western Christian churches I want to in a lifetime .... now Orthodox is a different matter ... still. And synagogues and mosques still work for my interests. I learned the prayer so I could get deeper into the moment at one particular mosque. In good conscience, I had to mumble a few lines, but I suspect the god of Abraham will forgive me.

Still my preference is back streets, people maybe street food ... in the street, stories of life, politics, sleeping in the park, drinking Raci out of unmarked bottles, vomiting Raci with locals.

Posted by
91 posts

Mister E or anyone else who can help:

Who was your good guide for bulgaria and their contact info, ie email, website, and phone number?. RS has cancelled our aug 20 bulgaria tour so am wondering if there is any way at this late date we could hire a private guide to take us around perhaps following the RS itinerary. I have no idea how this works as I’ve never done it and have no idea how the cost stacks up. Ill post on the Bulgaria site as well. Thanks.

Posted by
91 posts

I just read your post from december 2019 stating at that time your costs for a car and driver in bulgaria have typically been between $150-200 per day. I know prices have gone up but were those prices per person? There are 2 of us. And do you have to pay extra for all the guides expenses, hotel room, meals, etc? If i can find one this last minute (probably fat chance), that sounds like the way to go.

Posted by
18761 posts

It was with the guide above. I suspect it's gone up since then. I think that trip was 2017. Plus hotels which are maybe $50 even today.

Posted by
2 posts

I want to thank Mr. E for his recommendation of Diana Simpetru as a guide for Bucharest. Diana says she can be contacted by email at [email protected] or by Whatsapp or telephone at +40-745-410-763.

We had a short stop in Bucharest at the end of a river cruise, the afternoon before we flew home in June 2023. Since the cruise line provided a brief bus tour of the city with a visit to Ceausescu's over-the-top Primaverii Palace, we were more interested in learning about "real life" in Bucharest than in guidebook sites - and Diana accommodated our request well! She met us at our hotel, walked us to Old Town while describing some of the historic sites along the way, and - at our prompting - took us to a characteristic Romanian restaurant, actually a former church building from the 1700s. She ordered some typical Bucharest entrees, and we had a very interesting conversation about life in Romania now and before the 1990s, and about the differences she noted when visiting the U.S.

Diana is well-informed, enthusiastic, and adaptable to changing requests - a very good choice as a private guide. Her fee (25 euros/hr. for this tour) and the restaurant prices were both very reasonable. Thanks to Mr E for an excellent suggestion!

Posted by
18761 posts

I am happy it worked out well for you. She is unique. Very "real". I will possibly be making my 4th trip to Romania in the fall. Still trying to decide what to do. Or maybe just stay in Budapest or return to Montenegro or return to Bulgaria or return to Slovakia. Never know till it happens. But if it is Romania, I will call her again.