Images of haunted forests, dark monasteries and Dracula’s castle are usually the first thoughts that come to mind when talking about Romania. But there’s more to this country than vampires and haunted castles. Savvy travelers book cheap flights to Romania for excellent skiing options in the mountain region, and unparalleled nightlife in Romania’s capital Bucharest. But before Romania was a popular tourist destination, it was a communist country struggling to survive. Thanks to increased tourism, however, Romania’s economy has flourished and travelers continue to book flights to Romania every year.
It’s likely you’ll encounter a few vampire hunters on your flight to Romania. The country’s most famous tourist destination is Transylvania, home to Bran Castle, where Count Dracula was said to visit. Sitting atop a cliff, legends of vampires roam the castle quarters and wait patiently for nightfall. Situated just behind Transylvania are the Carpathian Mountains. Nature-enthusiasts book flights to Romania for amazing skiing and hiking trails in the mountains. If sun and surf is more your style, head toward the beaches of the Black Sea. For the night-lover, a stay in Bucharest will be a highlight of the Romania trip. Stylish restaurants, booming nightlife and plenty of bars and attractions keep the city alive with character and charisma.
Romania has four distinct seasons. The best time to visit is between May and June or September and October, when the cool spring and fall months make for a comfortable sightseeing. It’s hot from July to August and very cold and snowy from December to March. It rains throughout the year, with spring and summer seeing the most moisture.
The summer months, July and August mark the peak tourist season in Romania. May to July is a good time to look for cheap flights to Romania. The weather is pleasant and the tourist attractions are uncrowded.
In general, the winter months; however, this is when skiers and snowboarders head for the slopes of Poiana, Sinaia (known as Carpathians Pearl), Busteni, Predeal and Azuga. For the best holiday experience aim to visit in either the spring or September where the weather is lovely but there are far fewer crowds.
It’s advisable to book your flights to Romania at least two months in advance when you can as this will help you find the cheaper flight tickets. Although the winter season is quiet and cheap flights are found easily, it is still worth securing your flight tickets early to get better deals. If you can be flexible with your travel dates, then you’ll find some absolute steals.
When you depart for Romania from Dallas or Portland, expect flight times that last roughly 12-1/2 hours, while those leaving Chicago typically spend just under 11 hours in the air. If you’re in San Diego, you usually touch down in Bucharest in approximately 14 hours. Keep in mind that flight times don’t count boarding times or time spent taxing before departure and upon arrival. These factors can add up to half an hour or more both ways to your trip, and if you don’t take a direct flight, you should also allow for time spent between connecting flights.
Though there are no direct flights to Romania offered by U.S. carriers, you can fly most major airlines to European hubs, such as London and Paris, and then take connecting flights into Bucharest and other Romanian cities. International carriers that take you on the last leg of your journey include Lufthansa, British Airways, Air France, Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines, among many others.
Since January through March trends bitterly cold away from the Romanian coast, travelers should pack with an eye toward comfort and warmth. Be sure to take warm clothing, including heavy coats, clothing you can layer such as sweaters and thermal-knit shirts, thick socks, head coverings, gloves and boots, especially if you plan on heading into the Carpathian Mountains or indulging in winter sports.
Things start warming up in April and May tends toward rain, so pack for versatility in those months. Include some cold weather and rain gear along with lighter pieces you can layer. Sturdy, waterproof shoes are also a must during either month. The warm weather begins in June, then heats up consistently through June and August. This makes lighter clothing an imperative. September and October are still warm but more balmy than hot, but temperature dip back to bitter cold in November and December. If you keep the climate in mind and pack accordingly, you should stay cozy no matter when you travel.
The 780 Express lines connects Bucharest airport with the city center and is probably the safest and easiest way to travel. It’s cheap and efficient and you can find the bus from the airport. The only other option is to hail a taxi. It is highly recommended to book a taxi in advance before you travel and, if you feel the need, give them a password to tell you once you land. Fake taxi drivers run rampant in Romania and you can get confused and end up in the wrong vehicle, so make sure to keep your wits about you and refuse all drivers unless you have either booked it in advance or have made sure it is a legitimate taxi.
Most of the major car-rental companies are represented in Romania.
Public transportation is decent. Several bus companies offer reasonably priced services between the cities and there is a well-developed railway network as well. Tickets are inexpensive. Finally, taxis are plentiful in the country. It’s a good idea to settle on the fare in advance.
A major part of Romania’s charm comes down to its unspoiled natural beauty. Country-dwellers live timeless rustic lifestyles that differ wildly from more modern European areas, with horses and carts comprising the primary mode of transport in many areas. Locals wear colorful garbs that bring to mind the styles of the Middle Ages, and many still farm the way their ancestors did.
Travelers looking to immerse themselves in this unique culture should visit some of the traditional villages around Maramures and take in the native color. Here, you can find artisans who create their wares using the ancient techniques, including woodworkers who care exceptionally ornate pieces with tulnics, traditional tools resembling alpenhorns. You can find everything from handwoven tablecloths and shawls to delicious local foods and potent fruit liqueurs in these areas, making careful exploration a must.
Winter sports enthusiasts flock to the Romanian mountains for amazing skiing and snowboarding. These majestic mountains include the Apuceni, Bucegi and Carpathians, and these ranges also make an impressive destination for those who love stunning landscapes. You can find tours that cater to a wide range of active pursuits, which include guided alpine and forest hikes that let visitors explore the countryside and take in the old-world atmosphere.
Of course a visit to Romania should always include a side trip to Transylvania, the home of the legendary Vlad the Impaler. More than just Gothic castles and eerie ambiance, Transylvania boasts incredible scenery that includes rolling hills, lush valleys and sprawling mountains, and colorful art and architecture provides a little something for those who enjoy cultural exploration more than time in the great outdoors. The city of Sibu offers visitors an array of top-notch museums and restaurants, and Brazov boasts lots of medieval artifacts amid a cosmopolitan setting, blending the old with the new to create a pleasant vacation destination.
When departing from Romania, you typically leave through Bucharest Airport, and international airlines here take you to hub cities, including Rome and London, for return flight to the U.S. via carriers such as Turkish Airlines, British Airways, Aeroflot and Elitalia. Bucharest Airport sits approximately 16.5 kilometers from downtown, and you can take the 780 Express line bus to the airport from downtown, with buses running every half hour, day and night. You can also get a taxi to the airport from within Bucharest, but if you’re traveling to the airport from another Romanian city, your best bet is catching a transfer connection from a Henri Coanda Express train.
(prices quotes are from London)