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Johnny's Guide to Romania: Bucharest and Transylvania for Digital Nomads

I flew over Bucharest exactly two years ago having no idea where it was or thinking I would ever end up here, yet here I am on a train leaving Romania after an amazing week of traveling. To be honest, I hated my first day in Bucharest and if it wasn't for the fact that we had already booked and paid for two nights at our hotel we would have left sooner.

But as fate would have it, combined with my rule that I try to always stay a minimum of 2 nights wherever I go, I ended up finding a few hidden gems that made me think completely different about the city and the country. I was also fortunate enough to have found the lesser known towns and castles in Transylvania as the famous Dracula's castle in Bran was a complete tourist trap and would have made me hate the country even more. Keep reading to find out why Romania is actually well worth visiting and to find out why the coworking space in Bucharest has the nicest coworking space I've been to anywhere in the world.





How to Get to Bucharest



Coming from Burgas, Bulgaria we assumed it would be easy to make it to the capital city of Romania as it seems like it would be a common route. However, it seems that there's no real reason for people to travel to and from those cities so it ended up being a bit of an adventure trying to figure it out. Luckily, Ksenia, the Russian-Bulgarian girl I met in Burgas helped us figure it out as nothing was in English, no one at the train station spoke it enough to help us, and the internet was lacking any clear answers. So here is what we found.

There are no direct trains, buses or flights from Burgas to Bucharest. If it wasn't a Tuesday (or whatever days it doesn't run) we could have taken a bus to Vargas and a bus from there. So instead we took a bus from Burgas to Ruse which is a small town on the border of Romania, then another shuttle van to the capital. Overall it was a fun adventure and not that difficult once we figured out the route, but unlike other parts of Europe, trying to figure out how to get anywhere here in the East is much more difficult. Getting out of Bucharest however is a different story as there are plenty of flights here as well as a train to the capital of Moldova which we're currently sitting on as I type. You can also take a train from Bucharest to Sinaia where the castles I talk about below are based. 



In the city center of Bucharest, Romania


Where to Stay in Romania 



Bucharest: As long as you are within a few blocks of the Old City you'll be fine as everything is walkable or a short/cheap Uber ride away. Try to stay closer to the Unirea Shopping Center portion of the city as that's where all of the good restaurants and coworking spaces are as well as the park. We made the mistake of booking last minute and stayed at a place called "Hotel Relax Comfort Suites" which was old, run down, and not recommended as they overcharged us upon checkout.


Transylvania: We chose to stay in Sinaia instead of Bran or Brasov as it was closer to Bucharest where we had to go back to afterwards to catch the train to Moldova plus I liked the idea of staying in a nice mountain resort town. It's also far nicer to stay in hotels for a minimum of two nights instead of packing up and moving your stuff after just one. We stayed at International Hotel Sinaia which was incredible and actually a very good value especially when you split the room like when we did as it includes an amazing breakfast, sauna, steam room, gym access and free parking. 



Our room at Sinana in Transylvania


Walking Tours



You'll want to do the free walking tour in both Bucharest and Brasov as they were both a great way to see the city. Brasov itself is much more beautiful as it is an old fortress town and has a mountain you can either hike or take a lift up to see the views from. Bucharest itself wasn't that interesting and felt extremely unsafe which made it hard to enjoy. There were tons of homeless people, Roma Gypsies and pushy Romanian touts, and scammers. If you go out at night, make sure you wear pants with tight front pockets or zippers as there are a lot of pickpockets. 

There were a ton of bars around the old city but reminded me of a super touristy towns like Phuket, Thailand. Overall, Bucharest wasn't my favorite place to be as a tourist and even though I'm sure I could figure out how to live there as a local without getting mugged, there are far better places in the world to live where you don't have to deal with the downsides. Brasov however was extremely safe, beautiful and easy to walk around, just a bit boring after a few hours. Sinaia is even safer as it's a tiny mountain town with the exception of falling icicles if you happen to visit in the winter. 



One of the restaurants introduced on the walking tour


Where to Eat in Romania



In Bucharest you have to eat at Caru' cu Bere. It's the oldest beer house in Bucharest and has great atmosphere, amazing house beer and really good food. Have a house beer and the Mititei sausages. 

For breakfast or brunch go to Hanu' lui Manuc also in Bucharest as it is inside an old fortress that served as a safe place for caravans to park and be protected by archers overnight. The bone marrow and eggs with toast was also an incredible breakfast that I'd love to have everyday if I could.

In Sinaia we ate at the Forest Restaurant inside the Ioana hotel which was pricey but had top quality food and wine including a tasting room. I had the Oxtail which I loved but would have loved to have tried the slow cooked beef if I would have had the foresight to order it 4 hours in advance. The nice thing about this place is as long as you don't go crazy over ordering and having two bottles of wine like we did, you can have a gourmet meal for a reasonable price. 

As for what must eats are in Romanian cuisine, personally I didn't love it. I tried the Sarmale cabbage rolls, Ciorba rădăuțeană tripe soup, Zacuscă de vinete eggplant paste, as well as the michi sausages and all of it was pretty good but none of it makes me crave it again in the future.  


With the crew at Forest in Sinaia, Transylvania


Risotto, Oxtail, Potatoes and Spinach


Castles to Visit 



Everyone goes to Bran's Castle as it's famously called "Dracula's Castle." We fell for the same trap and instantly regretted it. The line to get in was 1.5 hours long and the inside was cramped, overcrowded as well as non-spectacular to see. Then I learned that Dracula never actually lived there and neither the book nor movie were based there either. If you want to visit the real castle that Vlad the Impaler aka Count Dracula actually lived, go to the Poenari Castle ruins.

My favorite castle was Peles Castle in Sinaia just a few minutes from the International hotel. It was beautiful, had a huge weapons collection from around the world and looked stunning both from the inside the outside. We only visited the first floor but you can optionally pay to visit the apartments upstairs to see how they lived. Another castle that I would have loved to visit but was a bit too far for us was Corvinesti Castle in Hunedoara.


One of the rooms inside the Peles Castle

The war room Peles Castle

Armor and Knights of Peles


Therme in Bucharest  



At some point while you're in Romania, make sure you check out this amazing indoor outdoor spa as it's one of the coolest things I've ever seen. If you like pools, saunas and steam rooms, this place has it all and is gigantic. They even have an entire section with three floors of waterslides, some of which were so insane that they would definitely be illegal in the U.S., so protect your head and try not to fly off of the slide as they are intense.

For those like me who would rather relax, get the Elysium package which gives you access to an entire floor of themed saunas including one which has a movie theater built in. Therme is right by the airport so even if you just have a couple hours i'd highly recommend going. We took an Uber from the old city and paid around ten bucks U.S. so it was definitely worth it. They also have food, drinks, and rent things like towels and robes and even swim wear so you can really just show up. 

Big thanks to my buddy Francis Wolff for telling us about Therme, I never would have found it if it wasn't for you. Also for your suggestion to stay at International in Sinaia, it was awesome! 


My buddy Sam inside the Sauna-Cinema in Therme


Here's a video of us at Therme:




Coworking in Bucharest 



I was really surprised how nice of a coworking space we found in Bucharest. Impact Hub may have been the best coworking space I've been to anywhere in the world in terms of layout, comfort, and design. There are a lot of coworking spaces that look nice in photos, but use uncomfortable chairs or are laid out poorly. Impact Hub somehow figured out the perfect placement of their kitchen and social area to encourge people to mix and mingle and take breaks. With tons of natural lighting, comfortable chairs, accessible power outlets, and a huge event space downstairs it was almost perfect.

The only things that it was missing was a room to record podcasts or video or audio interviews. They did however have a very small skype booth and enough space in the common area and the event space downstairs to take calls. 

I was also impressed to find that they had a good sense of community, a lot of people were friendly enough to introduce themselves and they had two girls on staff who's job was to make sure people interacted. Most people there were Romanian and there wasn't an international digital nomading scene here like in Chiang Mai. If I had to move to Bucharest, I would definitely cowork out of Impact Hub as it was an awesome space. 


My desk at Impact Hub in Bucharest, Romania


Overall Thoughts on Romania



I went from dreading my first day in Romania to finding parts of it that are more beautiful than anywhere else i've been in the world. I have no reason to live in Bucharest but with Therme being so close as well as having an amazing coworking space, I can see why it could potentially be a great place to base yourself if you have Romania roots or another reason to be here. Transylvania on the other hand is gorgeous and a must visit. 

We rented a car and drove for hours around the mountains in the opposite direction, on purpose just to see more. We bought baskets of fresh berries for $2.50 and loved seeing what the mountain roads had in store for us while listening to an audio book of Bram Stoker's Dracula. I know I can't separate the two but I would say, going to Transylvania is a must do sometime in your life whether it's now or when you're retired and want to spend a week slowly exploring the mountains. 

Having spent a few days in Bucharest I can say it was worth visiting, and you could easily spend one day doing the walking tour then another at Impact Hub and go to Therme for 3.5 hours one of the evenings. As for Transylvania, spend at least two nights there as it's a beautiful place to wake up in every morning. Brasov is worth seeing for a day and Peles Castle is a must. If you can rent a car with a friend, downoad Dracula on audio book and enjoy the ride through the moutains!  


P.S. bring a raincoat as even in the middle of the summer it can rain


Warm Regards,


Johnny FD


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Post a Comment

  1. "As for Transylvania, spend at least two nights there as it's a beautiful place to wake up in every morning."
    Haha, it's like saying "as for California, spend at least two nights there as it's a beautiful place"
    Transylvania is not a place. It's a 40,000 sq mi *region*, with over 7 million inhabitants. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transylvania

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You'll be surprised how many people go just to see Dracula's castle for one night and leave! But you're right, it's a huge area that deserves a lot more exploring!

      Delete

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