We are sure many people ask themselves this question after deciding to visit Romania, and we can tell you that there is no correct or definitive answer. It pretty much depends on the type of traveler you are. If you like to be independent and discover things by yourself, just rent a car and hit the road. But if you want to have a good understanding and leave the country with a global image and a better insight into its life and history, you should book an escorted tour.
Further on, we will give you a few reasons why traveling in a group with a guide is, at least for the moment, a better option to discover Romania.
1. Narrow and busy roads
Romanians are nice and hospitable people, but they are not used to seeing many tourists, so there is no proper infrastructure.
Most of the roads are narrow and crowded, and most Romanian drivers are aggressive and always in a hurry. They do not like to slow down because of you or to be patient until you find your way in their country.
When you travel in a group, you don’t care about this because you don’t have to drive!
2. No parking spaces
There is a chronic lack of parking spaces in Bucharest and almost all Romanian cities. During Communist times, there were few cars in the street (and almost all of them Dacias), so nobody thought about creating parking spots. However, after the revolution and credit liberalization, every family bought at least one car, and traffic became a nightmare.
Parking in any Romanian city is a real pain. Prepare yourself to spend hours trying to find a good parking spot. Even around the historical sights, the situation is not better. And watch out for those nice guys with large gestures offering their parking spot. You will end up paying a lot for it or with your car scratched.
Once you book an escorted tour, it will be the driver’s job to find a parking spot.
3. Weak transportation network
Back in the ‘80s, Romania enjoyed an extensive network of railways. You could travel by train to almost any corner of the country, and delays were rare and unlikely. , However, nowadays, the network infrastructure has deteriorated, and the delays are now all too common and unpredictable. Still, travel conditions are rather good, especially if you use the fast trains and pay for First Class.
For some routes, buses or minibusses could be a good travel alternative even if the ticket prices are higher. But, unfortunately, the high number of accidents in the last few years reduced the popularity of these means of transportation.
In terms of high-speed roads, Romania is way behind other European countries with only around 500 km of highways:
Bucharest – Constanta: Highway A2, around 210 km
Bucharest – Pitesti: Highway A1, around 110 km
Bucharest – Ploiesti: Highway A3, around 60 km
Sibiu – Deva: Highway A1, around 110 km
So to cross the country from east to west or from north to south will take you more time and effort than expected, and be prepared to see lots of imprudent and aggressive driving.
If you are thinking about traveling by plane within Romania, at the moment, Tarom, the national carrier, flies between Bucharest and Baia Mare, Oradea, Timisoara, Cluj, and Sibiu. However, the fares are not very low, and you need to book your ticket far in advance to get a good price.
4. Bad or no travel signage around tourist sights
As mentioned before, Romania is not a very travel-friendly country because we are not used to seeing so many foreign tourists. This is why the main signs are in Romanian, although you might see one in English just by chance. Still, the problem is not very serious because, unlike our neighbors Bulgaria and Ukraine, we use the Roman alphabet and not the Cyrillic.
If you get lost searching for a citadel or another old site, stop and ask a young person. Usually, the young people speak good English, and they are happy to help.
5. No English in the countryside
While most people in the cities speak English (especially young people), it is quite difficult to find an English speaker in the countryside. So make sure you have GPS in your car or at least a good Romanian – English conversation guide.
“How do I get to…” = “Cum [Koom] ajung [ajoongh] la …”
6. Watch out for unexpected closings
The Ministry of Culture administers most museums and castles in Romania under the central administration. Like everything under government administration, the museums are not very well-managed and are not really interested in having many visitors. For their employees, fewer visitors mean less trouble. So prepare yourself for many tourist sights to be closed during the holidays even if there was no indication on their website. And often not even the employees know about it in advance.
7. Not all the hotels are the same
If you travel on your own, you have to choose the hotels by yourself. Unfortunately, this is not always easy because conditions vary greatly from one place to another, and many hotels are very good at hiding the dirt under the carpet.
When you travel in a group, the agency will choose the best hotels in each town based on previous experience, so that you will be able to enjoy an authentic atmosphere, good food, and friendly service.
8. Personal safety
We don’t want to say that Romania is not a safe country for foreign tourists. Actually, we believe it is. But still, when you travel in a group, you are really safe. Friends will surround you, and the guide will make sure that nobody and nothing will ruin your experience.
9. Better historical and social insights
No matter how much you read or study about Romania, listening to a good Romanian guide is priceless. He can offer you personal feelings and insights that you cannot get elsewhere. And of course, he can recommend the best places, the best views, and the best experiences to make your trip truly memorable.