This is not a typical GRANDPAcking Post. This post is about my personal journey through Transylvania, Romania. It was such a pleasant experience that I felt that it needed to be told. I did not want the experience nor the pictures to be lost. Enjoy.
I travelled by shuttle bus from Belgrade, Serbia to Timisoara, Romania. It was a 5 hour trip that cost US$17.
From Timisoara, I took a train to Sibiu. The trip took 6 hours and cost R$67 / US$16.
Our Road Trip will take us to Sighisoara, Brasov, Piatra Craiului, Busteni, Bucegi Nature Park, Sinaia, and Peles Castle …
The currency in Romania is the Leu (or the ‘RON’). I will refer to them as R$s. At the time of writing:
Over time, these exchange rates will change. Please check the current rates.
MY ADVICE: Catch a taxi. It should only cost about R$10 / US$2.50.
I used BOOKING.COM to book a Single Room (which is not GRANDPAcking Standard) with a Private Bathroom at Casa Marcus. The price was R$99 / US$23.25 per night. I pre-booked 3 nights. I chose a Single Room because Sighisoara is a relatively expensive Tourist Town and it was almost impossible to find a Double Room for less than US$30 per night.
My room was set in a 1200 year old house on a cobbled street. The house had a nice courtyard with a small area where we sat down for free coffee in the mornings.
My room was 1 of 2 set in the basement with a shared fridge. It was very small: about 2 metres wide with just enough room for an open wardrobe and a place to put my suitcase. It had no fan and no aircon (but neither were needed at this time of year). The bed was comfortable.
The bathroom was small but acceptable. The shower had hot water but I had to crouch to get into it.
The wifi signal was poor in the room but acceptable in the courtyard.
We start at the Sighisoara Train Station. We walk 1km south and check out the streets below the Old Town. We, then, ascend into the Old Town itself. We finish with a tour of the Saxon churches and architecture in the cobbled streets and alleyways.
Sighisoara is a beautiful ‘tourist’ trap. It is expensive and GRANDPAckers will struggle to keep within budget. That said, it is worth spending a few days here.
Alas, I had to cut my stay short. I only stayed 1 night. My Romanian friends (whom I met 3 years before in El Nido, The Philippines) called to invite me to join them for a long weekend camping and treking in the Transylvanian countryside.
THE TRANSYLVANIA COUNTRYSIDE:
I had to meet my friends in the Brasov Train Station. From Sighisoara to Brasov you are best to catch a train. I walked back to the Sighisoara Train Station (which was easier because it was down hill). The train to Brasov costs R$6.70 / US$1.60 and takes about 1.5 hours.
I waited at the Brasov Train Station restaurant (on Platform 1) for my friend (Angel) to arrive on his train from Bucharest.
We were picked up my another friend and we drove for 1 hour to Angel’s parents who live in a caravan for 4 months each summer.
Angel’s parents live in a small caravan in a field next to a river. They own the caravan and they pay US$50 per month rent to permanently park it on the land. This rent includes electric.
Beside this field the landowner offers rooms for rent at R$100 per night in an eco-dome. We could either rent a room or pitch our tents with Angel’s parents. Most of us pitched our tents for free.
We based ourselves here for 3 nights. We visited a nearby Shepherd’s House to buy fresh cheese, we cooked traditional food on a wood stove, ate together, and shared home-brew Palinka (a strong traditional Romania spirit similar to Serbian Rakya or Snapps).
Because we had children, were decided to take the ‘easy’ route to the top which takes about 3 hours.
Before taking the (easier) 2 hour walk back down again.
THE SURROUNDING COUNTRYSIDE:
On the Sunday, we jumped in our cars to see a bit more of the Transylvania countryside.
BUSTENI / THE SPHINX:
Three of us were dropped off at a nearby rural Train Station and we caught a train from there to Brasov (about 1 hour). In Brasov, we connected with a train going south to Busteni (about 1 hour). Another friend took my suitcase with him to Brasov so that I could travel ‘light’ with just a backpack.
THE SPHINX WALK:
We walked about 1km from Busteni Train Station to the Cable Car. There was a long queue with a waiting time of at least 2 hours. The cable car costs R$45 / US$11 each way.
Hawkers were patrolling the back of the queue offering a 4WD transfer up into the park for R$50 per person (minimum 7 people). We decided to go up by 4WD. We were in the park 30 minutes later. From our drop off point it was a 1-1.5 hour walk over rolling hills to ‘The Sphinx’.
At the top, we met with a friend of Angel’s: a retired Bucegi Nature Park ranger who now lives in a cabin near the top cable car. We were invited in for a drink and a meal.
Getting back was a problem. The weather was turning bad and we could hear thunder and lightning approaching from the distance. We headed for the Cable Car. It was a 2 hour wait to descend. The cable car was stopped twice for safety: the electric was turned off when the lightning got too close. It is a 15 minute trip.
We walked back to the Busteni Train station and parted. My friends caught the next train to Bucharest. I caught the next train north back to Brasov.
I used BOOKING.COM to book a Studio Apartment (single occupancy) at Studio Apartment Emy. It was a 2.5km walk to my apartment from the Brasov Train Station. I chose the apartment because it was on the edge of the Old Town. I payed R$119 / US$28 per night for 2 nights.
The apartment was set in a courtyard with 4-5 other apartments. It was a good size and included a kitchenette.
We start at my accommodation and walk the streets around the Old Town before entering the Old Town itself.
Brasov has another beautiful ‘tourist trap’ Old Town. It is expensive and GRANDPAckers will struggle to keep within budget. That said, it is worth spending a few days here.
SINAIA / PELES CASTLE:
I walked back to the Brasov Train station and caught the next train to Busteni.
I used BOOKING.COM to book a Double Room (single occupancy) with Private Bathroom at Vila Bianca, Busteni. I chose Busteni because it was cheaper than accommodation in Sinaia … and it was only 8 kms north of Sinaia. I paid R$118 / US$28 per night for 1 night.
I was disappointed with my room. It was a Twin (not a Double) and my ‘Private Bathroom’ was on another floor.
SINAIA / PELES CASTLE:
The next morning, I was down at Busteni Train Station at 9:30am to catch a train for the short distance to Sinaia. I had to wait 15 minutes in the queue for a ticket. The next train was at 9:50am. When I got to the ticket counter, I was told that ticketing for the train was ‘closed’ and that the next train was at 2pm. I decided to walk the 8kms to Sinaia. After 1km I found a bus stop and waited. 30 minutes later, I was on a local bus to Sinaia. The price was R$2.
I was dropped off at the Peles Castle turn off on the main road through Sinaia.
I spent 3 hours walking around Peles Castle and Sinaia Old Town before catching the 4pm train to Bucharest.
The 4pm is a fast train that takes 2 hours to get to Bucharest. Slower trains can take up to 4 hours. To get this fast train, I had to get online the day before and reserve a seat. The price was R$32.
The tour of Transylvania was a wonderful experience made more so by my Romanian friends.
However, I was in Romania in ‘Peak Season’ and it was expensive. GRANDPAckers will struggle to stay within budget in Romania and will find it almost impossible to do so in Peak Season.
MY RECOMMENDATION: The best time for GRANDPAckers to come to Romania is AFTER the 9th of September. This is when the children go back to school and you can get hotel rooms at discounted prices.