Having heard of Romania (and Romanians) for as long as I have had an interest in travelling, very wrongly I had always associated the country and its people with extreme poverty and a place of bad crime and corruption. While not every country is perfect, having visited Bucharest the capital of Romania I can assure you that this is far from the case!
In the unfortunately short visit I made to the capital I found it modern, cosmopolitan city with a lot going for it! The city centre was also very safe to walk around day or night. The people I met I found very friendly and were appreciative that tourists had chose to visit their city and country.
In this post I am going to go into detail of what I got up to in my city Romania city break and my advice for you to get the most out of the city if you are planning to visit!
5 bits of useful info when visiting Bucharest and Romania in general.
- Although Romania is in the EU, it is not however within the Schengen travel area of Europe so there are no ‘inter-Schengen’ flights to get there. Also if you are crossing a land border you will have to show your passport to get in. Although there are terms and conditions involved, if you are required to get a visa to the Schengen area you do not need to get an additional visa just to go to non-Schengen Romania. For more info click here
- Romania does not use the Euro but instead uses the Romanian Leu (which can be seen on price tags as ‘RON’), although rates can change you can expect to get roughly 5 leu to the pound
- In Romania they use the type F plug outlet like much of the rest of continental Europe
- If you were to hire a car out when in the country, driving is on the right (left hand drive vehicles) and speeds are in KM/H
- If you have a european data usage then you will be able to make and receive calls and texts as well as use data all at 4G within the capital
Getting here and getting around…
Getting to Romania from the UK is relatively easy! I was able to find return flights from Manchester via Amsterdam to Otopeni airport (which is the major operating airport for the capital) for just under £200 return with KLM. Although a transit via Schiphol was needed to get the full way, the layovers were long enough to not require any rushing around but not too long to find yourself getting board!
KLM are a great carrier to fly with, even in economy!; with free seat selection (under 24 hours before departure), inflight food and drink inclusive on all flights and don’t forget the very generous legroom aboard their 737’s. I will definitely not hesitate to fly with KLM again.
Once on the ground in the arrivals area of Otopani airport you’ve got a couple of options for getting into the city; taxis are readily available, their is a public bus that goes straight into the main square and also Uber is available in the Bucharest area. I opted to get an Uber to where I was staying and the journey cost around RON50 for a 50 minute journey, it did half the time getting back to the airport after my trip. The reason for the longer journey into the city was on the day I arrived the Pope happened to be visiting and so a lot of roads were closed, causing some seriously bad traffic!
Another option whilst in the city is the underground metro system which is surprisingly rather expansive of the city, you can get across the city on a train in around 15 minutes. Its so easy to ride the metro.. just get into a station and their are ticket machines that take cash or cash and are in a range of languages. The easiest thing I found to do was to but a basic ticket which was valid for 2 entries to the system and this cost RON5 (around £1). Unfortunately the metro doesn’t go as far as the airport so don’t rely on it for that, but getting around the capital, its great!
Where to stay…
Like all other European trips I take I have a good look through HostelWorld to see where I can stay, luckily I didn’t need to make much of an effort with where I was staying in Bucharest as there was one place that stuck out from the rest immediately.. Podstel!
Although actually two hostels owned by the same people, Podstel Bucharest where I was staying in the south of the city has won several HostelWorld awards. Not only has Podstel won the best hostel in Bucharest, but also the best hostel in the whole of Romania!
I was also completely unaware of the fact until I checked in that the two owners of Podstel were in fact British and from Kendal which is not very far away from where I live at all!
You will not get bored during your stay in either Podstel, with loads going on including; talks and events in the hostel itself as well as walking tours of the city and organised outings, you will definitely be wanting to extend your stay!
To read the reviews yourself and book your stay click here!
What to do and see…
Bucharest has got so many impressive sights to see dotted around the city, listed are just a couple of must see’s however there are some really impressive landmarks dotted all around the city.
Palace of the Parliament
One of the most iconic landmarks of the capital! Completed in just 1997 at the demand of the then dictator Nicolae Ceausescu this building is huge! Although you can take various tours of the building and some of its 1100 rooms. The outside is one of the most impressive sites you can see in the whole of the city and it can be seen visibly from quite far around! A must see if you are in the city for any length of time!
King Michael I Park
I was very surprised to find that Bucharest has some great parks to walk around, one of the biggest in the city is named after King Michael I. When I visited it was a great sunny day and the park was packed! They are free to get in and walk around and there are loads of stands inside so if you fancy an ice cream or a beer you can get it in here!
When I was visiting Bucharest there was some kind of event going on in the park and besides a big stage and various stands selling things there were also these 2 huge hot air balloons ready to take off!
Arcul De Triumf (Arch of Triumph)
If you are flying into Otopani airport and take a vehicle into the city centre then there is a good chance that you will actually drive around the Arch which is located in the north of the city on your way from the airport and back again.
The latest construction of the arch was unveiled in 1936 after a replacement of the original wooden version that was built in 1878. It was built originally so after Romania gained its independence from the Ottoman Empire, the nations troops could march under it. Whilst there nothing major to do as a tourist around it besides enter the park from nearby, it sure is a spectacle to see!
Strada Lipscani Area
Around the street of Strada Lipscani and the streets coming off of it there are countless bars, cafes and restaurants. The majority of the occasions I eat out instead of eating with the hostel I came around here with some of the other people I’d met and found some really good places to grab lunch, an evening meal or even just a beer as a break from walking around the city all day. It takes about 10 minutes to get to this area from the Palace of the Parliament building so its very close! See what’s in the area for yourself here
My intention was to head up to Brasov one of the full days I was in the country however due to the lack of time, unfortunately I didn’t get out of the city! Hopefully I get to go back to Romania in the future and if so I will definitely get to Brasov or even one of the other areas in this large country!
Romania really surprised me in many ways, it may not be one of most cleanest or prettiest cities in Europe and has visible problems with poverty and basic things like maintaining roads etc. what is here is well worth a visit and the Romania people are some of the most friendliest I have met in my home continent yet!
What are you thoughts? have you been to Romania? let me know in the comments below!