Romania is a jewel in the Eastern Europe with its fairy tale landscapes. But there also lies, in stark contrast, its soviet past still experienced through the brutalist layout of Bucharest, its capital city. If you are visiting Eastern Europe, set aside atleast 5 days to tour this amazing country and this guide would help you get the best of Romania in limited time.
Romania Itinerary – Essentials
Route taken (overnight locations): Bucharest – Brasov – Sibiu – Bucharest
Mode of Transport: Rental car from Avis Romania.
Pro Tip: Driving is the most convenient way to travel around Romania as it is not as well connected by trains and buses as Western Europe. Also most of the roads are two-laned highways where not everyone respects speed limits.
Total duration: 5 days with overnight stays in 3 cities
US and Canadian citizens as well as citizens of Australia, New Zealand and most European countries do not need an entry visa to visit Romania, for stays up 90 days, accumulated during a single visit – or multiple visits – within a six-month period.
For other nationalities, you need to have a visa to enter Romania. The easiest would be to obtain a Schengen Visa from one of the Schengen countries (Romania is not a Schengen country). Romania allows visitors with valid Schengen visa to enter their country. A valid Schengen visa would mean that it is a multiple entry visa with a validity date covering your entire stay in Romania.
Day wise itinerary
Day 1: Bucharest – Peles Castle – Brasov
Arrived early morning at Bucharest OTP Airport and picked up our AVIS car from the airport rental car kiosks. Wouldn’t say it was our quickest experience in picking up a rental car especially as there was slow paper work as well as delays in picking up the car from their garage which wasn’t on the airport premises.
Pro tip: Be careful to check your car for any scratches, defects before you take it as there are instances (atleast with other more local rental companies) where renters were charges for pre-existing damages
First overnight stay at Brasov, about 185 kms north of Bucharest. But stop on the way at the stunning Peles Castle, in the Sinaia region. Spend a couple of hours before you head on to you final destination in Brasov for the night.
Day 2: Brasov – Rasnov – Bran Castle – Brasov
You are officially in Transylvania. Brasov is a small city in central Romania surrounded by the Southern Carpathians and is the gateway to the famed Transylvania region. With an early start, its time to take your car out again for a day trip to Rasnov Fortress and Bran Castle.
Rasnov is a 30 mins drive from Brasov. Rasnov fortress was built by Teutonic Knights as protection against invading Tartars and was later enlarged by the local Saxon population. The fortress sits on a hill to which you can walk or take the bus (tractor bus) which is run by the Rasnov tourism authorities. You can spend quite some time around the premises based on your interest and the amount of time you have. Tractor ride: 5 LEI per person; Rasnov entrance: 15 LEI per person.
The Bran Castle is another 45 mins drive from Rasnov. It is often dubbed as the Dracula castle but in reality there is no proven history that Vlad the Impalor (who is said to be the inspiration behind the book) was associated with this castle neither did Bram Stoker visit this castle. But for some reason the name has stuck to it and the castle authorities schedule multiple shows involving the story of the Dracula. Bran castle entrance: 36 LEI per person.
If you had an early start (we didn’t but still made good time) you should be able to come back to Brasov by early afternoon. Use the rest of the afternoon to go around Brasov to see town centre in Brasov and the Black Church. You could also take the funicular up the hill with the Holly wood like sign but we skipped it. Instead we hung around the town centre soaking in as much of the spirit as possible.
Day 3: Sighisoara – Sibiu
Again a fairly early start from Brasov to your next destination – Sibiu. But not before a pit stop at Sighisoara. Because Sighisoara is the real deal when it comes to Transylvania’s connection with Count Dracula – Vlad the Impalor was born in Sighisoara. And its also one of those colorfully pretty towns in Romania that look to be right out of a fairy tale.
The total journey from Brasov to Sibiu via Sighisoara is about 3.5 hrs with Sighisoara being exactly halfway. Wander around the town in Sighisoara – you can get a walking tour map from the tourist office and fill in on lunch before your onward journey. Must see in Sighisoara is Vlad’s house which is not turned into a restaurant.
Arrive in Sibiu by early evening and take s stroll into town centre. Again take a map of the old town centre and plan your way around the centre. There are 2 main squares in the town centre – the bigger one is where the tourist office is while the smaller one is near the Bridge of Lies. This town is a delight to walk around in even if you have no intention to see anything specific. We were extremely lucky to be in Sibiu during 100 years of Romanian union and also the Internation Theatre festival which added more fun to our stay. And not to mention everywhere you go you will find houses spying on you with their droopy but open eyes!
Day 4: Sibiu – Corvin Castle – Sibiu
Today you can take a day trip to Corvin Castle (Hyunadi or Hunedoara castle) which is 130 kms from Sibiu but with most of the road on a 6 kane highway will take you only 1.5 hours. Interestingly the last town you pass by is an abandoned steel factory and you may have a feeling that you are probably on the wrong track. But you are in all probability not , because only when you park the car and start walking towards the castle would you start to see its beauty. Although the original castle dates back to the 15th century, what stands now is mostly rebuilt recently post a devastating fire.
Once back in Sibiu, spend the rest of the afternoon idling around the town or specific places of interest because this is would be the last night in magical Transylvania.
Day 5: Sibiu – Bucharest
Its finally time to go where it all began, leaving aside the theatrics, its time to go back to Bucharest for a final night of stay before heading out of Romania. Its a long 4 hrs journey traveling about 280 kms. You would have plenty of time to spend in Bucharest to be amazed at the stark contrast that this city is to the rest of what you have experienced in Romania so far. We had a bit of an accident on the way so our journey was set back by another 5 hours so we reached Bucharest only by 5pm just in time to return our car at the AVIS centre without being charged a penalty.
The most important monument of Bucharest is the colossal Parliament building also know as the People’s House is the heaviest building in the world weighing 4,098,500,000 kilograms and the second largest administrative building in the world next to only the Pentagon. The square in front of the parliament has been the stage for recent anti-government protests. There is also a public park just adjacent to the Parliament building which although nothing to write home about can be a good place to sit down and watch the Romanian citizens.
From the Parliament square you can walk to Bucharest Old Town centre which is so different to the rest of Bucharest. Before the world war, Bucharest was called the Paris of the East and rightfully so. However much of it was destroyed in the War and a long Communist rule didn’t help its cause either. But walking along the streets of the old town you will be able to see remnants of this beauty and chance upon many an amazing architectural specimens.
Day 6: Back home
Its the final day in Bucharest. While we had a very early start to the day, at 7 am, as we were heading into Sofia you may be able to spend some more time here depending on your travel plans.
Hope you enjoy your trip to Romania and till then, Happy Travels!!