Romania has a very dense rail network that reaches practically every town and a sizable number of villages. Although some modernization is taking place this network isn't in a very good condition , with low speeds and limited train frequency on many routes. Nonetheless trains remain the best option for long distance travel.
Most trains are run by the state carrier, Căile Ferate Române, abbreviated as SNCFR (http://www.cfrcalatori.ro). Many secondary lines are operated exclusively by private companies: Regiotrans (http://www.regiotrans.ro/), Regional (http://www.viaterraspedit...), Transferoviar (http://www.transferoviar....) and Servtrans (http://www.servtrans-inve...).
Trains generally run without major delays, except on lines were there are repair works or during anomalous weather heavy snow storms in winter, heat waves in summer.
Getting around Romania is relatively hard and inefficient for the great distances that have to be covered in this country this is after all, the second-largest country in Central Europe, after Poland. The transport infrastructure has been improving quite significantly recently, even though roads remain a weak point. There are several highways under construction, but as of yet none are fully operational. Train travel, however, has improved dramatically. Several upgrade projects are under way for several railway tracks and that makes rail traffic on those lines a bit slow for the time being.
Bus can be the least expensive method to travel between towns. In the Romanian towns and cities, you can usually find one or several bus terminals autogara. From there, buses and minibuses depart for the the towns and villages in the nearby area as well as to other cities in the country. You can find timetables on autogari website (http://www.autogari.ro/?&...).
Minibuses are usually very uncomfortable; some buses are old and slow. Schedules are not tightly followed, and delays of over an hour are not uncommon, especially for inter-city buses. Romanian roads are in a rather bad shape, with most of the trunk network being made of one lane per way roads fairly similar with British rural roads, and only about 250 km of expressway. Most minibuses employed are small, crowded, 14-seat vans some converted from freight vans, with some longer routes employing 20-seat mini-buses. For commuter and suburban routes, expect an overcrowded van 25 passengers riding a 14 seat van is quite common, with 40 passenger loads not being unheard of, with no air-conditioning, which stops several times in every village. Inter-city bus travel is only slightly better - most vehicles used are also converted vans, or, at best purpose-build minibuses, with only some being air-conditioned. Seating is generally crowded, and in most cases, there is no separate compartment for luggage. Most have no toilets on-board, calling for 30 minutes stops every 2-3h. All in all, the experience of traveling by minibus is quite similar to that of traveling in a Russian or Ukrainian marshrutka.
However, buses are the best solution for a number of routes badly served by the railway network, namely Bucharest - Piteşti - Râmnicu Vâlcea, Bucharest - Alexandria, Bucharest - Giurgiu and Piteşti - Slatina.
The comfort of vehicles is steadily improving, at least in Transylvania along the longer routes serving larger cities. You will find buses from respected companies such as Normandia, FANY (http://www.fany.ro/ or Dacos (http://www.dacos.com.ro/)) which offer punctual and reasonable, though not always sparkling, conditions, and on which a luggage compartment will always be available. Toilet stops still need to be made, but they happen usually in places where you can also buy food or drinks. Be aware though that on Fridays, Sundays, and close to national holidays such buses tend to be overcrowded, so a reservation by phone might be necessary.
Buses inside the cities are often crowded. This gives pickpockets good opportunities. The pickpocket problem seems to be not essentially worse than in any other European city. Please, pay attention.
Traveling by car or coach is the easiest way and a vast majority, over 60 percent of foreign tourists use this way of transportation. The steering wheel is on the left and European driver's licenses are recognized by police. For Americans, a passport and valid US driver's license are sufficient for car rental. If you drive your own car, you must purchase a road tax sticker the "Rovinieta" either from the border or from the nearest gas station. Driving without one will incur a severe fine.
Rentals can be expensive; avoid the major international rental companies, as well as the "friendly" locals who are willing to rent you their own car. In Bucharest and throughout the country rentals start at €20 - €30 per day without fuel for a small hatchback, go around 65 - €90 for an average car or lame SUV and may go up to €170 - €200 for a luxury sedan or a luxury SUV. You may be denied renting unless you are 25 or older.
While Romanians are generally friendly and polite, this doesn't always apply to their driving style. Speeding is common, young inexperienced drivers driving performance vehicles are common in cities, angry drivers are the norm in the capital and the accident rates are amongst the highest in the European Union.City roads tend to be heavily overcrowded, particularly in Bucharest. Beware of hazards, such as double-parked cars, pedestrians, sudden braking to avoid a pothole, or stray animals entering the roadin rural areas Most intercity routes are 2 lane roads, used by everything from communist era trucks to modern sportscars. So plan for longer driving times than in other areas of Europe.
Bucharest has a very dense and crowded city center, with narrow, twisting roads, built mainly in the 19th century, with little traffic in mind. The roads are suffocated by over 1 million cars every day - it is possible to take 2 hours to drive a distance that could be walked in 20-25 minutes. GPS or local guide is a necessity. The best way to travel within Bucharest either by public transit as it is very cheap and fairly reliable or taxi.
If you have a good car and you also like speeding be aware that Romanian police now have high-tech radars to catch speeding motorists. Speed limits are generally 100 km/h outside of a city and 50 km/h or 70 km/h within built up areas. Some police units are equipped with performance vehicles, while others are the standard Dacia Logan cars. Although rare, some highway patrols have BMW bikes. On major roads, motorists in the opposite direction will sometimes flash their headlights to warn they recently passed a radar trap which may be just ahead of you. Also, many national roads and motorways are discreetly watched by Police Puma Romanian Helicopters helicopters. Since December 2006, even small offenses are subject to heavy fines by the traffic police Poliţia Rutieră. They may even take one's driver's license for irregular passing. Both hidden and visible speed cameras are becoming common on major roads and highways. Policemen sometimes seem to be more lenient with locals, than with foreigners - however, stricter fining applies for locals than for foreigners for locals, as few as two or three minor offenses will get their license suspended for six months. Bribing is ill-advised as most patrol cars have recording equipment and as of 2008, bribing is less and less accepted, so for a foreigner it is not recommended to attempt this get-away technique - it can easily land you in jail.
The Romanian police have a zero tolerance policy on drunk driving - controls are very frequent - and basically any amount of alcohol in your blood counts as drunk driving. If you are involved in a car accident while driving and someone is hurt you must stop and wait for the traffic police. Driving away from the scene is considered hit-and-run. Accidents with no injuries can be solved between yourself and the parties involved, without having to go to a police station and make a statement, but, if in doubt, better phone 112 Emergency Services and ask for directions.
In most of the cases, after an accident it is mandatory to take a blood test to establish if the drivers had consumed alcohol. Refusal to undergo this test is almost certainly to land you in jail - the punishment is usually more harsh than the one for drunk driving.
Many important roads were once medieval trade routes which go straight through the center of many villages. Passing while driving is the norm rather than the exception as slow moving trucks, horse drawn carts, and non-moving herds of cows often frequent village main streets .
A1planned to connect Bucharest with cities in southern Transylvania such as Pitesti, Sibiu, Deva, Lugoj, Timisoara and Arad, then proceed to the western border. 60% of it has been completed, namely Bucharest-Pitesti opened 1977, Sibiu-Deva Opened 2012-2014 and Timisoara-Arad Opened 2012. The section from Arad to the Hungarian border at Nadlac will be opened in the summer of 2015. This motorway is the top priority of CNADNR the highway company.
A2Links Bucharest with the Black Sea port of Constanta; this road is open for the full length and the first fully completed highway in Romania.
A3is supposed to cross Transylvania diagonally from west to east and then head south to Bucharest. The Bors - Brasov segment, also called the Transylvania Motorway (http://www.autostradatran...), is currently the largest road project in Europe; it will connect the Hungarian / Romanian border with Oradea, Zalau, Cluj-Napoca, Targu Mures, Sighisoara and Brasov. The project was under construction until the contractor, Bechtel, went bankrupt. The works lie unfinished until a new contract is signed. Bucharest-Braşov is also under construction, and the first segment Bucharest - Ploiești was completed in late 2012. The Cluj-Napoca - Turda leg opened in December 2009, and in 2010 it was extended to Câmpia Turzii. Its only utility now is as bypass for Cluj and Turda for motorists going from Oradea to Braşov. The temporary Turda interchange is a bit difficult to use.
A4acts as Constanta's by-pass and the second fully-completed motorway in Romania. There are plans to extend it to south south to the Bulgarian border, but not much has happened so far. It was opened in stages in 2012.
A6intended to connect Lugoj to the Serbian border at Calafat, but so far only the Lugoj by-pass has been completed.
The speed limit on motorways is 130 km/h.
Expresswaysdrum expres - Basically lower-grade motorways, with missing features such as the hard shoulder and a less-secure median. No expressways have been built to date, but a few have been planned, such as Targu Mures - Iasi and Bucharest - Craiova. The speed limit will be 120 km/h.
National roadsdrum national. In the absence of motorways the national roads remain the most important element of the Romanian road system, as they connect the main cities in the country. Thanks to recent investments most of them are in reasonable condition - most of the trunk network being rehabilitated recently. Many have 4 non-separate lanes near cities, some have 3 or 4 non-separate lanes throughout such as Bucharest-Comarnic and a large part of E85 but many have only two lanes - one per traffic direction (a notable example is DN1 Câmpina-Braşov - the 100 km mountain stretch can take 3-5 hours to cross during weekends and holidays. The speed limit on national roads is 100 km/h.
Other roadscounty drum judetean and rural drum comunal roads are owned and maintained by either regional or local authorities. These roads mainly link trunk roads with very small towns or villages - few running for more than 30-40 km. The situation of county roads is highly dependent on each of the counties involved - while in Ilfov or Constanta, these roads are of decent-to-high quality, in other regions such roads are in a poor to very poor condition compared with national roads. Rural roads are of even shorter nature under 10 km, some of them being one lane of traffic only, others being covered in gravel only. The speed limit on these roads is 90 km/h.
Note that for ALL roads, when in a city, town or village, the speed limit is 50 km/h unless clearly otherwise posted. As such, driving a National Road becomes a constant accelerate-and-brake adventure, one having to be constantly spotting speed limit signs, city limit markers andthe behavior of other drivers.The use of radar-detection systems is allowed but unless you are experienced their usage and police strategy they will not help you much.
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Taxis are relatively inexpensive in Romania. It costs about €40-Cent 1.4 - 2 leu/RON per km or slightly more, with the same price for starting. The very low prices make taxis a popular way to travel with both locals and travelers it can be cheaper than driving your own car - so during rush hours it may be hard to find a cab despite Bucharest having almost 10000 cabs.
A notable exception is the Fly Taxi company that operates from the Henri Coanda Otopeni Airport. The price for a ride from the airport to the city center can be about €18 70RON. Either call a taxi by phone to pick you up near the airport or chose the 783 bus line to get into the city. Alternately, you can go to the departure terminal to avoid expensive airport taxis. To do this, after you exit baggage claim, immediately turn right. Literally dozens of taxi operators will approach you and ask if you need a taxi, having marked you as a foreigner it's their job to do so, after all. Be polite, shake your head no and keep walking. You will pass though about 200 meters of shopping and service areas in a little mini-mall connecting the two terminals, and will then arrive at level two of the departures terminal. Walk out the door and you will see plenty of taxis dropping off passengers. Flag one down and make sure the fare posted on the side is less than 2 RON/km. Technically, they are not supposed to pick up there, but you aren't doing anything wrong by trying, and not many drivers can say no to 30 RON for a trip back to the city center that they were going to make anyway. Just make sure they use the meter. Beware that recently some mal intended taxi drivers have begun using remote controls in their pockets that raise the tariff price suddenly by small increments that are otherwise unnoticable until the end of the fare. It's easier to negotiate the tariff price upfront based on your destination and pay that amount at the end.
Be careful to look at the cost posted on the outside of the taxi, and then to look at the meter to see that you are being charged the same fare. Be especially careful in Bucharest, where some taxis post 7.4 instead of 1.4, but the 7 looks very like a 1. Ask if you're not certain - they are obliged to post and clearly state the tariff out front. All taxis MUST have a license - a large, oval metal sign bolted on the sides of the car, featuring the city markings, and a serial number inscribed, usually using large numbers. Do not use any taxi without those markings. Also, do not use a taxi with a license from another city for example, never use a Ilfov taxi in Bucharest or a Turda taxi in Cluj-Napoca.
The driver may try to cheat you if he sees you are a foreigner. Insist that he will use the meter, or have a Romanian guide with you. Don't negotiate the ride fee in advance, as it may be 2-4 times higher even more than the real fee even if it would seem cheap to you. Check whether it is going in the right direction, follow the way on a map if you have any!. Do NOT take cabs from the cab stand in railway stations, unless they are from a reputable company and DO NOT take any of the services of those offering you a cab ride in the train station. They may end up being amazingly expensive up to 50 € for a cab ride that would normally be around 3 €. If you need a taxi from the train station or airport, order it by phone from a reputable company see the city pages for the cities you want to visit - most dispatchers speak some English as do many taxi drivers.
Three major types of trains are available: Regio, InterRegio and Intercity. The last two types provide reasonable conditions but Regio trains are best avoided.
These are very slow trains, stopping in absolutely every station including some in the middle of nowhere. Prices are dirt cheap, but they provide extremely basic service and are sometimes uncomfortable no seat reservation, no ventilation to speak of, sometimes crowded, no working toilets in some trains, poor lighting.
They usually have 1970s single-suburban or double-decker cars, with 4 seats per row. Most will not offer 1st class but if they do it's highly recommended to get a 1st class ticket, it will be less crowded and miserable than 2nd class.
Western Desiro and French Z-type DMUs have been introduced on some routes, including Suceava-Cacica, Craiova-Sibiu, Sibiu-Braşov, Cluj-Teiuş-Braşov, Cluj-Bistriţa, Braşov-Sfântu Gheorghe Covasna. Z-type cars provide a more comfortable seating arrangement but a bouncier ride, which is diametrically opposed to Desiro's improvement. As these newer trains are designed for short-distance travel expect to be uncomfortable if traveling for a long period of time.
Most of the trains operated by private companies are also ranked as Regio. They are usually cleaner than CFR Regio trains, but rarely run on the same routes.
Example: Bucharest-Braşov 166 km by Regio train costs ~23 lei in 2nd class, takes app. 4 hours, has up to 31 stops
Semi-slow trains traveling on medium and long distance routes, stopping just in towns. They are cheap though nearly twice as expensive as Regio and offer variable conditions.
Newly-renovated cars have been introduced on several routes including Bucuresti- Târgu Jiu and Bucharest-Brasov. However, many consider these cars as uncomfortable, if not more so, than older cars, with just an improved visual element. There is little baggage room and little leg-room compared to 1980's carriages.
Some InterRegio trains have connection cars to destinations located on secondary lines; after they separate from the InterRegio train they run as RegioExpress RE.
Ex.:Bucharest-Braşov 166 km, 47 lei in 2nd class, approx. 2 hours 45 minutes, up to 8 stops
The best of CFR's network. They are nearly as comfortable as Western European trains, while remaining cheap by Western standards. All IC trains offer air conditioning, individual reading lights, dining cars, and some will offer power plugs both in first and second class. WiFi is provided in some dining cars and in business class where available. They're slightly faster than InterRegio and very clean most of the time.
Some Intercity trains also have Business Class Standard and Exclusive cars, roomier than regular 1st class. Standard has plush armchairs while Exclusive has leather armchairs and built-in LCD screens for each seat; both have WiFi.
Travelers with large backpacks should note that baggage storage racks on intercity trains are small, hence they are likely to find Intercity trains less convenient than InterRegio. However, experiences seem to vary depending on the particular train, as in some trains this is true only for non-compartmented cars, so it might be worth trying to get a seat in a compartment.If presented with a choice of Intercity trains classic cars or "Săgeata Albastră" - Blue Arrow DMUs it is advisable to choose classic cars, as these are faster, more comfortable trains. Săgeata Albastră are small 3-car diesel trains with slower service 120 km/h top speed in regards to 160km/h.
Ex:Bucharest-Braşov 166 km, 58 lei in 2nd class, approx 2 hours 30 minutes, three stops
Most InterRegio trains traveling by night also have couchettes cars with six or four beds and sleeping cars with three, two or one bed. Conditions are relatively good.
Ex.: Bucharest-Satu Mare 782 km, ~142 lei/bed six beds couchette, 14 hours
Tickets for CFR operated trains are sold at train stations and CFR booking agencies agentie de voiaj CFR, which exist in any sizable town usually located in the central area. At these booking agencies and at a few major stations it's possible to buy tickets up to six months in advance for any domestic route and for international trains passing through Romania.It's also possible to get tickets for domestic routes online through CFR's relatively complicated booking site (https://bilete.cfrcalator...) with up to one month in advance.All trains types except Regio and RegioExpress require seat reservation not to be confused with advanced ticket booking.Several discounts are available:
for small groups 10% for 2 people, 15% for 3, 20% for 4 and 25% for 5;
for large groups 25% for groups of more than 30 people
for buying return tickets 10%.
for advance ticket purchase 13% for over 21 days in advance, 10% for 11-20 days in advance, 5% for 6-10 days;
People that board CFR trains without a ticket from stations where there are ticket sellers can theoretically get fined and have to buy more expensive tickets directly from the train staff.
On lines operated by private operators tickets are usually issued on the train.
A complete price list by distance and train type is available online (http://www.cfrcalatori.ro...).
Several scenic narrow gauge railways exist in mountainous areas, but trips on them are mainly available for small groups and not for individual tourists. One notable exception is the Valea Vaserului railway (http://www.cffviseu.ro/en...) in Maramureş which has tourist runs daily in mid-summer and on weekends in early summer-autumn.
Groups can also rent the former Romanian king's personal train or Ceauşescu's private train but these trips are rather expensive.
Air travel as a means for domestic transport is becoming more and more popular as increased competition resulted in lower prices sometimes less than the cheapest train or bus ticket. This, coupled with an improved airport infrastructure leads to increases in the number of passengers compared to past decades.
Three airlines offer domestic flights in Romania currently - Tarom (http://www.tarom.ro), with a hub in Bucharest, Carpatair (http://www.carpatair.ro), with a hub in Timisoara and "no-frills" Blue Air (http://www.blueairweb.com) with its domestic hub in Bucharest.
Currently 2010, Bucharest and Timisoara are linked by up to 12 daily frequencies operated by Blue Air, Carpatair and Tarom - Tarom operates some of the flights on the routes with A310 wide-bodies, Bucharest and Cluj by up to 10 daily frequencies operated by Tarom and Blue Air, Bucharest and Iasi by up to 4 daily frequencies operated by Tarom, Bucharest and Oradea, Bucharest and Sibiu and Bucuresti and Satu Mare by 2-3 daily frequencies operated by Tarom, Bucharest and Suceava and Bucharest and Baia Mare by 1 daily frequency operated by Tarom. Bucharest and Arad are also connected through a daily frequency by Blue Air. Constanta and Bacau, owing to the short distance from Bucharest, only see flights a couple of times weekly. Note that frequencies on Saturdays may be reduced, especially to smaller cities.Timisoara is also directly connected to most Romanian cities - non-stop daily except Sunday flights exist, besides Bucharest, to Cluj, Iasi, Sibiu, Bacau and Craiova operated by Carpatair. Flights to Constanta from Timisoara operate 4 times weekly also operated by Carpatair.
Prices can begin from as low as 40 RON around €10 one way if booked in advance with either Blue Air and Carpatair, or through a Tarom 'Superspecial' fare. Even 2-3 days before the flight, it is not uncommon to find tickets for under €35-€50 with a little shopping around. Note that while Tarom and Carpatair self-style themselves as full-fare full-frill airlines, Blue Air considers itself a low fare carrier, and subsequently, has followed the model of not allowing price aggregation through reservation systems a la Ryanair, Easyjet or Southwest, and as such, tickets for their flights will not be available through booking engines such as Orbitz or Kayak, but only directly through their website.
Some airports may be fairly distant from city centers, and, while some larger ones have adequate public transport Bucharest, Cluj, Timisoara, Oradea, in some such as Craiova or Iasi you have to rely on taxis. Even so, a taxi fare from any airport downtown should not cost more than 5-10 Euros outside of Bucharest.
Hitchhiking is very common in Romania, and some experienced hitchhikers say it's the easiest country in eastern Europe. Usually, if you are in the right spot, you don't have to wait longer than 5 minutes. During weekends you may need a bit more patience, as roads are a little emptier. Locals also use this method on a regular basis, especially for shorter distances up to 50km. It is not uncommon for people especially students to hitchhike intercity Bucharest-Sibiu, Timisoara-Arad and Bucharest-Ploiesti are particularity common hitchhiking destinations. Increase your chance to be picked up by using a paper with the city where you want to get to - it may save you some time especially if traveling intercity. A good spot is a bus station, road-split, or close to the city limits see Hitchhiking Spots Romania. Nevertheless, many if not most people will stop provided they drive alone - you may end up getting a ride in a 1970s rusty old Dacia or in a brand new Mercedes, in a semi-articulated truck or in a company car belonging to a big corporation. Hitchhiking is typically not dangerous the highly aggressive, fast and disorderly driving style of Romanians may be more of a danger, but take usual precautions when using this conveyance. Inside city limits, it is not advisable to hitchhike using the traditional thumb-up hand signal, as many drivers may believe you are flagging a taxi or a route-taxi mini-bus, and not stop. Use a destination paper instead.It is customary to leave some money for the ride so called 'gas money', about 1-2 RON/10km, but if you are a foreigner you will not be expected to leave money and nobody will get upset. Further, most truck drivers and company car drivers will refuse payment altogether. Further, if you tell the driver where you want to get in a city, he or she will make a detour just to drop you off where it best suits you. Say "Mulţumesc"|Mooltsoomesck| thank you at the end. See Hitchhiking Spots Romania.Note that most Romanians are very talkative, and even if their English / French / German / whatever is extremely rusty, many will more likely than not tell you their entire life story, discuss the entire football season and/or talk politics usually starting from discussing the poor state of roads even while on a freshly repaired road. In the end, however, hitchhiking is a mostly enjoyable experience, and, if lucky, you may even get yourself invited for lunch or dinner, offered a room for a night, or just meet some very interesting people along the way.