advertisement

By Plane

Tarom, the national carrier, operates a timetable of flights between Bucharest and the country's smaller airports; the best deals can only be purchased online (www.tarom.ro). Romania's domestic airports are generally quiet and (with the exception of taxis) hassle-free; you can usually arrive for check-in within 30 minutes of your flight and have plenty of time to spare before takeoff.

By Train

Romania's rail network (CFR) is extensive and quite exhaustive. Trains are relatively comfortable and generally safe, although I've had first-hand experience of luggage being stolen -- keep an eye on your bags at all times, and keep them secured and chained down while sleeping. In many of the newer trains, there is almost no difference between first and second class (except in the price). In the majority of cases, you will be assigned a specific carriage (vagon) and seat (the number beneath the date on your ticket). It's quite possible to plan all rail travel before leaving home, but you'll need considerable patience to deal with the online booking system. Go to the online timetable at www.infofer.ro or go to www.cfr.ro; click on "Train Schedule" to begin searching, bearing in mind that you must enter the Romanian spelling of your departure and destination cities.

CFR's services are categorized by the speed of the journey; the fastest trips are on InterCity (IC) trains; these are the most expensive. Next down the rung are Rapid (R) trains -- slightly more economical but not quite as fast. Avoid Personal (P) trains, which stop at practically every village. While you can book your tickets online, nearly every town and city has a CFR office located in the center, where you can purchase domestic and international tickets in advance. Traditionally, tickets bought at the train station have only been made available 1 hour before the scheduled journey; this bureaucratic tradition seems to be fading, however, with tickets increasingly available several hours ahead of schedule. With the exception of very popular routes -- such as those linking Bucharest with the coast during summer -- it is relatively easy obtain train tickets even minutes before departure. The problem is that ticketing lines can be exasperating, with long waits (many travelers need to make elaborate purchases using state-discounted schemes that require time-consuming paperwork); you are advised to purchase tickets in a timely fashion -- better still, have your hotel do it for you.

In Bucharest, you can make advance train bookings at either the Agentia de Voiaj SNCFR, Str. Domnita Anastasia 10-14 (tel. 021/313-2643), up to an hour before departure, or at Wasteels at Gara du Nord station (tel. 021/317-0369; www.wasteels.ro/en; Mon-Fri 8am-7pm, Sat 8am-2pm), which is good for domestic as well as international trains.

By Bus

The size of the country along with the condition of most Romanian roads makes the thought of traveling overland in a large vehicle nothing short of nightmarish. Some companies run minibus services, but you'll still require a steady disposition.

By Car

You'll need nerves of steel to surrender to Romania's roads and culture of high-speed, aggressive driving; tarmac in some areas is in an unpredictable state of repair, signage is less than desirable, and local drivers are in a terrible hurry. Distances between some destinations, combined with heavy traffic, is another deterrent. You may, however, want to hire a car with a driver in order to get to attractions in some areas; to explore the villages of Maramures and the painted monasteries in Moldavia, for example, this is a necessity, unless you are with an organized tour. If you have car trouble, contact the Automobil Clubul Roman (ACR; tel. 9271), Romania's version of the American Automobile Association.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.