So, you’re thinking of visiting Romania in 2023, eh? GREAT choice! After the Covid pandemic (no restrictions in force anymore) and shock caused by the war in Ukraine (not affecting Romania at all!) - locals in Romania are very excited to welcome you!
So if you're looking to travel to Romania and find out what's the best way of getting here and what transport options you have - this article is for you. You'll learn about flights and Romanian airports in Transylvania, entry points by car or train, convenience of travel, costs and more useful tips that will make your trip-planning easier, cheaper and stress-free! We highly recommend you also check our complete travel guide for visiting Romania to get more practical info on how to plan your holiday here. Or our blog on the best things to do in Romania to get inspiration from locals!
The first thing you should know is that travelling in Eastern and Southern Europe isn't as easy as in Western Europe because of weird or difficult to pronounce names, lots of alphabets (Latin - Cyrillic - Helenic) and cross-border travel info that's harder to find in English or updated, and is sometimes unreliable or old. Transport infrastructure isn't as developed too, with fewer highways and old trains running on railways built by the communist regimes in the regions.
If you're looking to visit more than one country in the region, you will need some serious planning. But if you're planning to travel only to Romania then your choice on how to get here will depend mainly on how much time you want to spend on your holiday traveling, budget and what kind of experience you’re looking for: just get me here or I want an adventure!
So here is the essential info on how to get to Romania and the pros and cons of each option:
1. Flying to Romania: lots of options & cheap!
I’ll start with this because it’s by far the and way to travel to Romania. Why?
There are 5 low cost carriers flying on 7 Romanian airports spread all over the country from more than 60 locations in Europe! And that’s not including the typical major airlines flying on Bucharest Otopeni (the main international airport).
During the Covid pandemic, some routes were suspended especially long-distance overseas flights that were mostly used by tourists. But now traffic seems to be picking up again on all airports around the country. The reason for this is because there are almost 3,5 million Romanian expats most of living in Western European cities. So lots of Romanians going home or families visiting them means flights to/from Romania are always 50-75% full. And during major Orthodox holidays they're fully booked - so be sure to book yours in advance
The largest airport in Romania is Bucharest Henri Coanda International (official website) located in Otopeni (20 km North from Bucharest, 140km away from Brasov) where you have the usual selection of international airlines: Lufthansa, British Airways, Air France, KLM, etc. The Romanian national airline is Tarom which operates around 30 routes in Europe, Africa and the Middle East and internal flights in the country. Last time we've been with them ticket prices were similar with those of major airlines and flight conditions are decent.
The main low cost carriers in Romania are WizzAir, BlueAir and RyanAir who operate a lot of routes from European cities to Romanian airports all over the country. Some also have internal flights. Make sure to check their websites to see which days they fly and how this fits with your plans to visit Romania.
- Local tip: most low cost carriers regularly run discounts on tickets to Romanian airports and when they introduce a new route to our country they offer REALLY cheap prices - €40 for a round trip!
There are airports in Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca, Timisoara, Sibiu, Iasi, Bacau, Craiova, Suceava and Oradea. There are lots of flights from the UK, Spain, Italy, Germany and other major cities in Western Europe. On average, flight time is about 2-3h. So you're spoiled for choices, especially if you want to visit Transylvania!
Prices for low-cost flights start from as low as 15€ per way and usually range between 60 - 120€ for a round trip. Beware around major holidays - lots of Romanians living abroad come home so expect higher prices and full flights. Other than that - the best time to visit Romania is during March - October.
- European cities with most connections: London, Manchester, Dublin, Brussels, Rome, Milano, Torino, Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, Frankfurt - Koln area, Munich, Hamburg;
- Romanian cities with international airports: Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca, Timisoara, Craiova, Sibiu, Oradea, Iasi, Suceava
- Low-cost carriers flying to Romania: Wizz Air, BlueAir, RyanAir, EasyJet and FlyDubai
Bottom line - flying to Romania is the best way to travel to our country. Whether you're planning a city break, an extended holiday or even traveling in the region, flying here will save you precious time and there are many ways you can find cheap flight tickets. This way you can focus on planning your trip and spend your budget exploring our country and having a good time!
When packing for a trip to Romania, medium-sized suitcases and a backpack are ideal. Big enough to fit all of your essentials, but not so large they're difficult to carry around, especially if you're planning to go in the countryside or the mountains. Plus, a medium-sized suitcase will fit in the overhead bin on most planes. If you are traveling with carry-on only, pack light with your essentials. Everything else you can buy here from the usual retail brands or if you go in a shopping mall.
2. Driving to Romania - an Eastern European road trip!
If you’re a fan of the roads, enjoy a driving challenge and want to experience some scenic routes along the way – drive your way to Romania! I've personally done various road trips from here to neighbouring Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary, and as far away as Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Croatia or Greece. The main roads in the region are generally good and linking with Romania is easy, but some routes are quite heavy on traffic. Google Maps and Waze offer accurate info and will be your trusted friends for navigating these parts.
Border crossing points are located all over Romania's land borders - for a full list, map & real-time info on waiting lines and important notices, check the official website of Romanian Traffic Police here. If you're entering Romania from the Western border, consider stopping for 1 night in Oradea or Timisoara.
After the 2015 refugee crisis in Europe, standard verifications were reintroduced so expect a routine check from border control agents. You need to have your ID ready and sometimes open your trunk. There will be 2 checkpoints - when exiting a country and entering a new one, but this shouldn't take more than 30 min - 1 hour, depending on traffic. Again, beware of major holidays when expats come home! Once you're on Romanian roads you will need a vignette (road tax) which is electronically generated based on your license plate and can be purchased from small shacks you will see after crossing into the country, or from most gas stations.
The roads leading to Romania are in very good condition and relatively easy to navigate. When not on highways, expect some reckless drivers here and there, lots of trucks, the odd horse cart, bikers and village folk walking on main roads. If you’re an experienced driver under regular conditions (aka not tired), pay attention and stay out of risky situations, you’ll be fine.
Police in the region - that's a tricky one: some know English, some don't. If you get pulled over, stay in your car until an officer comes to your window, and prepare your driver's license, vehicle identification document (registration) and your ID. Also have the car's insurance on hand. The speed limit on highways is usually 130 km/h and on standard E-marked roads 110 km/h, but be sure to check road signs. Popular gas stations: Shell and Mol (Hungary), Lukoil, Petrom, Rompetrol (Romania), Nis (Serbia), OMV (Romania+Bulgaria).
- there is a road tax in Romania called vignietta; you can buy one online, from gas stations or from small shops after crossing the border checkpoint;
Driving in Eastern Europe is a great way to discover the culture of the region and see local life outside of major cities - guaranteed to surprise you! We recommend doing some research and advance planning to get your geography right: people in Eastern Europe are very proud of their origins and don’t like it when their nationalities get confused by visitors. It might be confusing at first with so many small countries, but it's also a way of respecting the locals, particularly if you're asking for help, meal or accommodation.
As always, when it comes to renting a car there are lots of local and international companies to choose from. In my experience, the big, popular brands are not always well serviced in smaller countries so what I do is use a search engine like Discover Cars to compare prices, cars and companies before making a choice. I don't know about you but for my peace of mind I like to get a full insurance on my rental car!
So, if you’re considering an Eastern or Southern European road trip I think it's a great travel experience to have that will open your eyes for this lesser-known part of the world!
3. Trains to Romania & free sightseeing!
Finally, if you don’t feel like driving, but still want to see some scenic landscapes and have an Eastern European experience – why not travel by train?
There are direct trains to Romanian cities from Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Sofia, Thessaloniki and Istanbul which either stop in border cities like Oradea and Timisoara or head to Bucharest.
There’s also the famous Orient Express train ride which runs from Paris to Instanbul and stops in Romania in Sinaia to visit Peles Castle and in Bucharest.
The regular train routes like Viena/Budapest - Bucharest pass through several major cities in Romania (Oradea, Cluj, Brasov) so that's a good option to consider for getting to Romania. The train from Bucharest to Istanbul is operated by the Bulgarian National Railway so you have to look there. The Romanian National Railway Company - CFR (website) operates a route Bucharest - Sofia - Thessaloniki (Salonic) usually during warm season. Interrail and Trainline sell train tickets to Romanian cities from European destinations - check them out!
Most of these cross-country trains in Eastern Europe operate with 1-2 hour delays and travel at low speeds, which makes a journey with them quite long (10+ hours). Prices range from 40-80€ one way depending on travel conditions and distance. Double check timetables (online + call the departure train station) and pack enough books + food. Travel conditions inside them are fair and decent, though they might look old and unkept. They're generally ok, clean and safe and offer free sightseeing!
As far as I know, using an Interrail pass to navigate Eastern Europe doesn't bring a lot of advantages since many of these cross-border trains run only during Summer season and their prices are cheaper if bought on the spot or with some time in advance directly from the operating companies.
4. Taking a bus or coach to Romania
The last option on the list and, unfortunately, the one I know little about, is travelling to Romania by bus. The cities and capitals of Eastern European countries are connected by bus routes, but you will need to research them locally and double check on departure times and prices.
One thing I can tell you is that FlixBus is operating routes in Romania and another major bus line operator is Eurolines. Taking the bus might be a solution for short distances, but on longer routes such as Bucharest - Sofia or Budapest - Cluj-Napoca expect around 8-12 hours on the bus, depending on traffic.
So that's it - I hope this article on different ways to travel to Romania was helpful for planning your trip here. You should also check our local guide on getting around Romania to see how to navigate our country which is the largest in the region! For more travel tips also check out the 10 things you should know about visiting Romania.
If you're looking for inspiration on what to visit and to, have a look at our handpicked tours in Romania or our list of 'must see' sights of Transylvania. If you still need help - drop us a line!
Your Romanian Friend