We have just spent 5 nights in Timisoara which is located in western Romania near the Serbian border.
I found it to be a little ‘ho hum’. We, now, head further east into Transylvania … our first ‘port of call’ is the historical town of Sibiu.
The currency in Romania is the Leu (or the ‘RON’). I will refer to them as R$s. At the time of writing:
Over time, these exchange rates will change. Please check the current rates.
Online information says that (for Sibiu) you can catch a shuttle bus with Vertrantis from Autogara Super Imposer located 2 kms west of the Old Town. They have buses leaving daily at 6:30am and 11am (and 4pm???).
On Saturday morning, I walked there to buy a ticket. You cannot buy a ticket at this Bus Station … you have to phone them. It is a shuttle bus with limited seating … so, you are advised to reserve your seat. The lady at the Bus Station gave me 3 phone numbers. I returned to my apartment and called each number. No-one spoke English. I went to their website. You cannot book online but you can send a booking request. I sent a booking request in both English and Romanian. The price was quoted as R$75. They never replied.
I looked for a ‘Plan B’ and found Amarilia. Amarilia have an ‘on-line booking system’. On Sunday afternoon, I booked a seat on their 9:45am Monday bus to Sibiu. They say that the shuttle leaves from the OMV Petrol Station opposite the Timisoara Nord Train Station. I could have paid the R$75 online using my Credit Card but something told me not to … I ‘ticked’ to pay cash to the driver at pick up.
That Sunday afternoon I went to the OMV to make sure that I knew where it was. I also checked that the shuttle stopped there.
I was at the OMV and waiting at 9:15am. At 9:50am a big bus arrived. Some Romanian youngsters got off … they said that they were going to Sibiu and that the bus left at 11am from outside the front of the Train Station. I joined them. At 10:30am they decided that they were going to catch the 4pm train instead. They said that the 11am shuttle left from either the OMV or the Train Station … they were unable to find out.
I walked back to the OMV. A lady there helped me. She called the bus company. The 9:45am had already left from the Super Imposer Bus Station !!!??? but the 11am was on schedule to leave from the OMV. We waited. At 11:30am we called again. No answer.
I gave in and walked to the Train Station. I bought a ticket to Sibiu via a connection in Arad. My 2nd class ticket was discounted down from R$75 to R$67.
The Timisoara-Arad train left at 1:04pm and was scheduled to arrive in Arad at 2:13pm. On this short trip, you are not assigned a seat. It is an old train … even the doors don’t close properly when it is moving. 2nd class has cubicles that sit 6 people.
My train arrived in Arad late at 2:37pm. The Arad-Sibiu train was scheduled to leave at 2:41pm and arrive in Sibiu at 8:45pm. I just managed to change platforms and get onto my 2nd train in time … we pulled away 1 minute later. It was going to be a long day …
On long distance journeys you are assigned a car number and a seat number. It didn’t seem to make any difference … a lady was already sitting in my seat. 2nd class on this section of the trip is tables of 4 seats.
I am told that even the train system in Romania does not always run to schedule. This trip was OK … we arrived in Sibiu only 20 minutes late at 9:05pm.
I have been travelling full time now for 5 years. I have never had this much trouble finding a bus. Timisoara doesn’t have a proper Bus Station, information is conflicting and confusing, nobody speaks English, it is hard to reserve a ticket (physically or online), you cannot guarantee your seat, and your bus may not actually turning up.
Catch the train.
It has a population of about 148,000. Sibiu was, formerly, the centre of the Transylvanian Saxons and, later, the capital of the Principality of Transylvania.
The old town centre began the process of becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. In 2007, Sibiu was the ‘European Capital of Culture’. The old city of Sibiu was ranked as “Europe’s 8th-most idyllic place to live” by Forbes in 2008.
The Old Town is only about 1 square km and it is split between the Lower Town (where the poorer people used to live) and the Upper Town (where the more affluent people used to live).
I spent 3 years travelling through Latin America. I went to many ‘Old Town Centres’ … some dating back to the 16th Century. IMHO, Old Town Sibiu betters all of them.
This is what GRANDPAckers can expect to find within 1 km of the Old Town Centre at short notice in late August:
PLEASE NOTE: HOTELS usually display prices INCLUSIVE of TAXES. But many search sites (like HOTELS) don’t provide a ‘private bathroom’ filter, so be careful with some of the cheap hotels and make sure that you read the room details. HOTELS does not do well in the Romanian marketplace.
AIRBnB / HOLIDAY RENTALS:
PLEASE NOTE: Other sites (such as Homeaway, FlipKey and VRBO are also worth a look).
GRANDPAckers are unlikely to find accommodation within our price range at short notice. Start looking months in advance to get the best prices. You will be lucky to find something for under US$30 / night. AirBnB may be your best bet for stays of 7 days or more.
The private bathroom was small but adequate.
The wifi was very good and fast enough to stream video.
Sibiu accommodation is not cheap. That said, I thought that my Studio Apartment was good value for money (for Sibiu!).
WHERE TO STAY:
Try to keep southeast of the Cibin River, northeast of Strada Dealului, northwest of Boulecardul Corneliu Coposu, and southwest of Strada Abatorului.
Don’t worry if you have to go 1-2 blocks out of this target area. The surrounding streets are still pleasant … but, don’t stray too far or you will just be in ‘any old city’ and miss out on the ambience.
Have a look yourself:
EAT & DRINK:
There are several supermarkets around town. This makes a ‘Self Catering’ option viable. In fact, this may prove to be the only option for GRANDPAckers. Read on …
You won’t find anything within the Old Town walls. If you eat inside the walls, expect to pay premium prices: R$25 upwards.
You will find a selection of cheap eateries in Piata Teatrului.
A local 500ml beer in a supermarket will cost about R$2. A 2.25L about R$6. Expect to pay about R$8-R$10 for a local 500ml beer in ‘typical’ cafe and R$20 if you want something more ’boutique’.
In Romania, breakfast is unlikely to be included in your hotel rate. Expect to pay an average of R$20 for a cheap local Breakfast with tea / coffee.
Expect to pay an average of R$20 for a cheap Lunch with fruit drink.
Expect to pay an average of R$35 for a cheap Dinner with a Fruit Juice / 500ml Beer.
Obviously, if you had Self Catering accommodation, you could bring in groceries and eat more cheaply … but, for comparative purposes, this is not GRANDPAcking Standard.
You cannot pay the driver. You will need to either:
- Swipe a ‘touch’ visa card inside the bus; or
- Buy your ticket at the machine at the bus stop.
The ticket machines work in 3-4 different languages. You need the exact cash. You pay R$2 per trip.
You will find several Bureau de Changes which charge 5% of the online exchange rate as a fee.
INTERNET / WIFI:
Don’t trust your hotel to provide good wifi in our GRANDPAcking price range.
There are 3 main providers in Romania. The top 2 are Orange and Vodafone.
Their 6 Euro plan was discounted to 5 Euro / US$5.50. This 28 Day Plan included 60GB of data, 2000 SMSs, and 300 minutes of Talk Time. At that price, I didn’t think twice.
HEALTH & SAFETY:
You will notice a large number of smokers here … not as many, perhaps, as in Turkey / Bulgaria / Serbia but still more than in Western Europe. No surprise when a pack of 20 costs only R$18. Smoking in bars and restaurants (even inside) is common.
There is no reason to feel unsafe. As always, exercise normal levels of caution … don’t make yourself an obvious target.
WHEN TO GO
The summer is May through to September.
WHAT TO DO:
The city of Sibiu (and its surroundings) is one of the most visited areas in Romania. It holds one of the best preserved historical sites in the country and many of its medieval fortifications have been kept in an excellent state.
The Sibiu area has many significant museums with 12 institutions housing art collections, paintings, and exhibits in decorative arts, archaeology, anthropology, history, industrial archaeology, history of technology and natural sciences.
The city also lies close to the Făgăraș Mountains (a popular trekking destination), close to the Păltiniș and Arena Platos ski resorts (both winter holiday destinations), and it is at the heart of the former Saxon communities in Transylvania renowned for their fortified churches.
OPEN AIR MUSEUM:
Catch bus number 13 from the Train Station or at any stop along Boulevardul Corneliu Coposu. The ticket is R$2 each way. The bus takes you about 5 kms southwest to the Zoo. Walk 500 metres further southwest to find the entry to the Open Air Museum. Entry is R$25.
You can finish your day at the adjacent zoo for an extra fee.
Read About – GRANDPAcking Costs if you don’t know how to interpret my figures.
My costs are broken down into:
- Cost of Existence: The basic costs of just being there
- Cost of Living: The additional costs that make being there fun
COST OF EXISTENCE (COE):
I DID NOT EXIST to GRANDPAcking standard. I had a nice Self Catering apartment, I bought groceries, and I ate my meals at home.
My accommodation was R$150 / US$36 per night.
I already had my working and topped up Vodafone SIMcard.
I averaged R$27 each day on Food and Water.
My COE worked out to be about R$133 (US$32) per day.
COST OF LIVING (COL):
I DID NOT LIVE to GRANDPAcking standard. I spent quiet evenings at home.
Living Costs: I averaged about R$4 / US$1 per night on drinks.
Entertainment: I spent R$29 on my 1/2 day trip to the Open Air Museum.
Shopping: I spent R$36 shopping.
In / Out Costs: I spent R$67 for the train from Timisoara.
My total COL was about R$169 (US$41) / day. This was 79% of my budget.
COSTS FOR 2 GRANDPAckers:
Again, costs are broken down into Cost Of Existence (COE) and Cost Of Living (COL).
COST OF EXISTENCE (COE):
Accommodation: I have booked you something at a long term / booked well in advance rate of US$30 / night.
Transportation: I have budgeted a return bus trip on a local bus each week to somewhere within a 1 hour drive.
Communications & Fees: I have budgeted a 28 day Vodafone Promotional SIMcard Package.
Food & Water: Your budget averages about R$152 (US$37) / day for 2 people. This is to eat all of your meals in Cheap Restaurants.
Your COE is about R$272 (US$66) / day. This is 28% OVER budget.
COST OF LIVING (COL):
This leaves you nothing to LIVE on.
I am really glad that I came. I adore these sorts of places … so much ‘character’.
You cannot holiday here on a GRANDPAcking budget. BUT, it is so nice that, it is worth coming … just make up your overspend with savings made elsewhere (perhaps in neighbouring Serbia or, to a lesser extent, Bulgaria).
Could you afford to retire here on a GRANDPAcking budget? NO.