romania guide, bucharest guide, brasov, sighisoara, dracula


 City & Country Guides > Europe > Romania

Romania is an exceptionally rewarding place, its landscape is both varied and beautiful. Romania is still a relatively poor country but slowly, but surely it is moving further away from its' communist past (the communist regime under CeauÇescu was overthrown in 1989). Bucharest on first look may not appear the most beautiful of capital cities, but there is plenty to see and do, including a lot of spectacular architecture. Transylvania is perhaps the most popular tourist stop in Romania, apart from it's 'vague' connections with the Dracula myth, it has the snow covered Carpathians, which offer hiking, mountaineering, skiing and snowboarding. It is also served by an excellent train network which connects Central and Eastern Europe.


Romania is not yet part of the EU, but visitors from the EU will not need a visa if you are planning a stay of no longer than a month. The currency is the lei which at the moment has about 40,000 to the pound and 30,000 to the dollar! You are advised not to take traveller's cheques as only some banks will change them, your best bet is to rely on ATMs which are present in any major town or tourist spot or dollar bills. Crime and scams do exist in Romania, especially at train stations and other busy places, basically as long as your sensible and don't wave your riches about you should be OK. The weather in Romania is very pleasant in the summer, but quite cool in the winter, as you would expect up until the end of March, the mountain regions get very cold, and weather can be very changeable, so always seek the advice of local people.


Getting there and beyond

If you plan to fly into Bucharest it is advisable to book in advance if you want a cheap deal, as Bucharest is not as popular as some of the other European capital cities, we flew from London Heathrow via Munich, and got a return ticket some 3 weeks in advance for £170 including taxes, although the further in advance you book the more chance you stand of getting a direct flight and something cheaper. From the airport you can catch a bus (#785) which costs about 20p, takes you to the town centre, but beware of pickpockets. Alternatively catch a licensed taxi (some of these firms are recommended), which should cost no more than £5 to the centre of Bucharest. Always negotiate a price first, as we heard stories of some travellers getting ripped off and paying up to £70! Taxis are useful for getting about the towns as they only cost no more than £2 for a 10 minute journey and you only need to round up the amount to the nearest thousand lei. If you are going from Bucharest into Transylvania, then the train station (gare du nord) offers a large selection of trains (either express - fast, more expensive 'tourist' trains, rapide - cheaper but reasonably fast with compartments, accelerat - stops at more places than rapide but a bit cheaper or the standard trains which are much cheaper, slower and very crowded. Alternatively you can get into Romania on the train from Hungary.

If you plan to drive or cycle be aware that the roads, apart from the major roads (of which they're are few), are in a terrible state pitted with potholes, so a journey that would take 2 hours on a good road could take 3 times as long. Cyclists should also note that Romanian drivers seem to have little regard for everything else on the road, so beware!



Accommodation in Romania is reasonably cheap, and you can always find a hotel or a hostel in the more major places. In the smaller places it may be possible to stay with a family.

Hostel Elvis - This hostel chain is a good, friendly place to stay, they have hostels in Bucharest, Brasov and Sighisoara. The Bucharest hostel is run by an aussie not surprisingly called Elvis, it is situated a 5 minute cab ride from the centre and costs $12 a night. There are few private rooms, but all the dorms are clean and sleep up to 12 people. There is free breakfast in the morning, in which you get free use of the kitchen. On top of this you get a free beer, free cigarettes and 1 hour free Internet. There is also a TV room with a disturbing amount of satellite channels! The Brasov hostel is housed in a ski-style chalet villa, they have more private rooms and is perhaps the nicest of the three. Once again you get all the free stuff, and look out for Ronnie, the mad Romanian! The Sighisoara hostel is only 2 minutes walk from the station and was still having it's bar and games room built when we were there, but the people who run it are very pleasant and will want to make your stay as enjoyable as possible. All three hostels will book rooms in advance for you at their other hostels, they will even meet you at the train station. This chain is set to grow in Romania and is highly recommended.

Hostel Elvis (Bucharest) - Str.Avram Iancu nr.5, Sector 2, Bucharest,
Hostel Elvis (Brasov) - Str.Democratiei 2B, nr Piata Unirii, Brasov
Hostel Elvis (Sighisoara) - Str.Libertatii 10, Sighisoara

Hostel Elvis now have a tourist information desk under train line 2 at the train station open 7am - 11pm everyday, they will arrange transport to the hostel for you for no more than 45,000 lei.

Hotel Poienita - About 1.5km out of town (just follow the signs from the centre) set in rural surroundings, this hotel is clean, cosy and affordable and is just as cheap as the hostel if you prefer the quieter option. Rooms for 4 are about 215,000 lei per night and cabs to the centre cost only 20,000 lei.


Things to do


The Palace of Parliament - The largest administrative building in the world after the Pentagon, it was built by Caeucescu back in the 1980s, and it is possible to go inside and look around.

The Royal Palace

Former Communist HQ

National Theatre

The Village Museum

Lake Snagov - About a 40 minute cab ride from Bucharest will take you to Lake Snagov where you hire a boat to row to the monastery on the island where it is rumoured Vlad Tepes (aka Dracula) is buried. The Hostel Elvis chain run excursions to Snagov, but make sure you agree all cab prices up front at the start.

Brasov and around

It is advisable to hire a driver for a day if you plan to go out to the many places in the Brasov area, we were staying at Hostel Elvis and they sorted out a driver for the day for about £5 per person.

Cable Car - Take the cable car up to get excellent views of Brasov, make sure you take the path to the right that starts to go downhill, after about 5 minutes you'll reach the viewpoint. The restaurant and the 'bar' at the top by the cablecar station might as well be avoided as they seem to still be stuck in the 70s, and only face the back.

Rasnov - The fort at Rasnov gives excellent views of the surrounding area. (approx 1 hour needed, walk up from the town and get your driver to meet you at the top)

Bran Castle - Ignore the tourist hype when you arrive, this place has very little to do with the myth of Dracula, but in it's own it is a very interesting place to visit.

Moiecia de Jos - Situated approximately 10km from Bran, it has an excellent restaurant and some lovely countryside for walks

Skiing and boarding - Ask your hotel and hostel about the local ski resorts, they are considerably more cheaper than the rest of Europe.


The Clocktower - By a museum pass at reception, skip through the rather dull museum and head for the views of Sighisoara at the top.

The Torture Museum - Should be renamed the Torture Room, it only has 4 exhibits and unless you've already paid for it, it's probably not worth the fuss.

Vlad Tepes House - Where Vlad the Impaler was brought up, houses a tacky restaurant, and a beer cellar on the ground floor, worth a look just for the novelty of being in Vlad's house.



It would be virtually impossible to spend more than £10 in one night at a restaurant, most meals will cost around £3 and up to £6 in the more expensive places. Most meat dishes are priced by weight, so ask how much you will get, as you could end up getting charged twice as much as you think. Unfortunately, Romania is not big on Vegetarian food, as meat is the main dish, but they do serve 1 or 2 dishes suitable for vegetarians in most restaurants, and the Salads are well worth checking out. As a rule, you will get either soup or salad as a starter, followed by a main course. Some of the dishes I recommend are: Sarmale (Stuffed cabbage leaves), Mititei (Highly seasoned forcemeat balls broiled on the gridiron), legume asotate sote (carrots, peas, beans, maize), Cartofi Natur (boiled potatoes), Cartofi Taranesti (country style potatoes), sote de ciuperci (sautéd mushrooms), babic (smoked mutton sausage), Takziguit Potatoe (Baked potato with a sour cream and chive sauce), Goulash Soup, Roast Boar Meatballs and don't forget to try the Bear!

Burebista (opposite US consulate) - Lavish restaurant with top quality game meat accompanied by traditional Romanian music that circle the tables. You get a free starter and they also have bear meat on the menu, but beware of the bullet like roast boar meatballs, they taste wonderful, but if you're not careful they'll go flying across the room! One word of caution, be aware that they work out the price based on the weight of the meat, so expect to pay more. Saying that a full meal for 4 still worked out at around £5 ahead with 2 courses, beer and wine.

Burebista (NR Villa Elvis) - The same chain as the one above, perhaps not as nice though. The food is still excellent, but watch out for the Venison steak which works out very expensive.


Bella Musica (Str Muresenilor) - Basement vault dating back centuries accessible through the archway next to the music shop. One of the best restaurants in Brasov, you get a free spirit and homemade tortillas with chili sauce. If your Romanian isn't good ask for an English menu, oh, and the goulash soup is recommended.

Blue Corner (Through arch opp Orthodox church in the square) - Up market restaurant serving high quality food, the small salads are anything but small and can be shared between two if you are having a main course. Recommended dishes are Takziguit Potatoe (Baked Potato with sour cream and chive sauce) and the Spicy Trout.

Taverna - The most expensive restaurant in Romania allegedly, although affordable to the reasonably affluent traveller not on a shoestring. It has exclusive alcoves, candlelight, wine waiters and chilled music. A main course with starters and two bottles of wine came to about £10 per person.

Moiecia de Jos

Restaurant Cheile Gradistei (Chela 32) - Situated some 10km from Bran Castle this place is the perfect stop off for lunch. It is essentially a large alpine style house with its own waterfall and swimming pool, and don't forget to try the Palinca (Plum/Apple clear liquer)!


Rustic Cafe - Probably the best place to eat and drink in Sighisoara, you are served your food on big wooden platters. The bar itself can get quite busy at night, so get there early to get seats.

Joker - Unfortunately we either went on a day when they were under staffed or the service was ridiculously bad. recommended in a few 'reputable' guides, this place is best avoided, it took us 45 minutes to get drinks, and over 1.5 hours to get our food, which when it arrived was undercooked, and the waiter appeared not to want to listen to vegetarian and special dietary demands by putting ham in a vegetarian omelet and putting egg all over a steak. Oh and the meat was stringy.....



Bars & Clubs

Beer is very cheap in Romania, approxiametly 30p for local beer and up to £1 for bottled European beer (Tuborg is the most popular). Vodka is very cheap, only about 20p for a double, but beware their doubles are often a whole glass with a separate glass for a mixer! Palinca (Tuica) is the national drink, it is a plum/apple clear liqueur that tastes pretty foul, but warms you up nonetheless! For the non-alcoholics among you, coffee and soft drinks are widespread, but tea is quite rare.


Walhalla (Blvd Dacia 62) - Cool basement bar with Viking paraphernalia adorning the walls and table service

Bar Nautica - Formerly Erik The Red, the bar is in the shape of a boat in the middle of the room. Playing up to date tunes, popular with the affluent Bucharest locals.

Twice - Probably the best nightclub in Bucharest, with chilled vaults for the quieter drink and a couple of floors playing techno upstairs for the dancers among you. Open till 7am with a free cloakroom.


Festival 39 (Str Muresenilor)- The best bar in Brasov is owned by a Cuban and plays great Jazz music. Its open till 2am most nights and serves great cocktails at affordable prices.

Saloon (Str Muresenilor 11-13) - Dark drinking bar popular with tourists.

Bistro d'Art - Sophisticated bar with good cocktails but a limited food menu.

For Sale Pub (Bdul 15 Noiembre 24) - Old style ranch bar with free nuts to enjoy with your beer, most of which end up making up the floor. Service quality varies.

Piano Bar (Bdul 15 Noiembre 78) - 70s style hotel foyer supposedly with live piano music each evening, however, there was nothing on when we went, and its quite a trek from the centre.

Britannia Arms (Str Republicii) - The cheapest drinking den we found, where beers are 30p and a double vodka sets you back 15p! Plays loud music and is full of students.

Sirul Vamii (Berane) - Basement bar off the main street with wire cages, sky sports, cheap drinks and a large European food menu.


Bar De Zi - Small pokey local bar with a battered old pool table, only advisable if your on a real budget or want to become part of the local's curiosity!

Rustic Cafe - Probably the best place to eat and drink in Sighisoara, you are served your food on big wooden platters. The bar itself can get quite busy at night, so get there early to get seats.

Club B - Officially Club Dracula housed in the citadel, it is essentially a pool hall, disco and games room rolled in to one. Drinks are cheap, except the cocktails and some of the techno is positively ear splitting!

Vlad Tepes House - A small basement beer cellar (room) sells cheap drinks in historic surroundings.


Info supplied by Andy Webb


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