In my opinion, Romania doesn’t get near the attention it deserves as a travel destination. It’s a country full of cultures, beauty, great food, and lovely people. For the budget-minded traveler, it’s a perfect place as well. Living and traveling around Romania is extremely affordable. Romania also has a fairly well-developed and robust rail system making it easy to explore this beautiful country by train journey.
I’ve put together some tips on how to travel around Romania by train. I hope you find them useful!
Planning your train journey online
Many people think of Romania as being an undeveloped country. While it may not be as developed as western European countries, it most definitely isn’t completely stuck in the Middle Ages either. Although, there are certainly villages you can visit that do appear to be stuck in time.
You can look at timetables and purchase rail tickets online via CFR’s website. This is essentially the national railway system. Near the upper right corner of the page, you’ll see a British flag. Click on that to have the site switch to the English language.
You can click on the Buy CFR Tickets button to look at the time schedule, or you can use the timetable search. They both provide the same info, but if you’re using the timetable search you’ll have to come back to the home page to actually purchase the tickets.
Note: To purchase the tickets or search using this function, you will need to register for an account. It’s a pretty painless process, though.
In the From and To fields, begin entering characters, and a list of choices will show up. I usually ignore the Via field, but you would use that if you were planning on making stops along the way.
The next window allows you to indicate a time range. If you know you don’t want to leave before 9 AM, you can indicate that here, or if you want to arrive at the final destination at a specific time. If you have no specific timeframe, just click on search.
For domestic travel, there are basically 3 train types:
- R or Regio. These are known as the “slow train.” They move slower, make more stops, and therefore take longer to get to your final destination. They are also the cheapest choice, sometimes being half the cost of an IR train.
- IR or InterRegio. These are faster than the Regio trains and are also a bit more expensive. They travel faster than the R line but make a lot of stops.
- IC or InterCity. The IC line is the fastest and most expensive. It is often referred to as the express train. It travels much faster and makes fewer stops.
If you check under the Durata column, you’ll find the duration of the trip. A time of 05:54 means the journey will last 5 hours and 54 minutes. Definitely check out this column when trip planning as the differences between trains can be quite significant.
Terms you need to know
- Rang refers to the type of train (R, IR, IC)
- Tren is the train #.
- Statia refers to the originating and destination stations.
- Ora is the time schedule with Ple being the time the train departs the origination station and Sos being the time of arrival at the final destination for your journey.
- Pret means price. You click on this link to find out the price for this particular train (see below).
- Servicii refers to the types of services on the train: restaurant car, 1st-3rd classes, couchettes, sleepers, etc.
Pricing the ride
When you click on the Pret link, a small new window will open.
If a child under 10 or a student is traveling, or if you are purchasing a round-trip ticket, click on the Full ticket dropdown menu and make the appropriate selection. Next, under Reservation, select the class or service you wish to examine, i.e., 1st class, sleeper, etc.
Now you’re ready to find our the price. Click on the directional arrow found in the lower right corner. Now you’ll be looking at this window:
Under the word Price is listed the cost of the ticket in Romanian leu, abbreviated as RON.
If you wish to change your search, click on the X to close this window. In the original window, click on the Modificare button in the original window. To reverse the routes to see the timetable for a return trip, click on the Intoarcere button.
The minimum advance time to purchase a ticket online is 24 hours.
Once you’ve logged in, you’ll get the search funtion. Likely, you’ll have to click on the British flag again to get the site converted to English. The site is optimized for Internet Explorer. Supposedly, once you have typed in at least 3 characters of a station name, you’ll get a menu. I use Chrome and have not had this function work, so I have to type in the whole station name.
The rest of the process is user friendly and intuitive. Once you’ve purchased the tickets, you will receive an email with your receipt followed by another email with a PDF attachment. The attachment is your train ticket which you have to print out. Any group of 2 or more is a mini group, so you will likely have 1 ticket with all your names on it.
Deciphering your ticket
If you purchased your ticket at the station, your ticket will look like this:
These are the areas you want to pay attention to:
In the red box are the locations for the origin and destination (shown in military time). The top time is the departure and the bottom is the arrival.
The green box shows the information you’ll need to get to your correct seat. The first set of digits is the date or travel. (If you’re from the US, please note that dates are done differently in Europe and much of the world. The 1st number is the day, 2nd is the month, then the year. So, October 13, 2013, would appear as 13-10-2013.)
Next is the train number. You’ll note in this example, it’s an InterCity train. The train # will help you find the correct platform as well as verify that you are about to board the correct train.
Now you need to find out which car you need to board. This is found next to the train number and is listed as Vagon. In this case, we would look for car #2. Your seat number is located below this line, on the left, and is just a number. On this journey, the seat we need to look for is number 71.
Before you get on the car, you’ll notice a series of numbers on a window or near the door. You want to enter the door that shows the range your seat falls within; however, it’s no big deal if you enter the wrong door. Just make sure you’re on the right car since each car uses the same set of numbers (each car has a seat 71).
This is a lot easier to decipher since the ticket will be bilingual. Also, online tickets do not need to be printed out. You can use a digital copy or the ID# found on the ticket. The conductor can verify the ticket via the ID#. I usually store it on my Kindle Fire and just show them the document on that.
If you have children under the age of 18, you’ll benefit from booking online as well. Any group of 2 or more is considered a mini group. Under this option, people under the age 18 (youth) get the same discount as children.
Buying tickets in person
In our experience so far, the ticket clerks know enough English to make things fairly easy. If you have children that qualify for a reduced fare (10 or under, or a student) here are the words you may need:
- copil (pronounced like coh-peel) is child; copii (coh-pee) means children
- elev (prounced eh-lehv) is student; however, the word “student” is also easily understood. For multiple students, the word is elevi (eh-lehv-ee).
If they don’t know how to tell you the numbers in English, they’ll either put the price in a calculator or print out a receipt and show you. Most of the stations we’ve used accept credit cards, but it’s easier to just have cash on hand if you can. There is usually an ATM near or in the station in larger cities.
First vs. Second Class
Generally speaking the only real difference between these is 1st class is more expensive. For most trains there is no difference in the services provided. You get a tiny bit more room simply because there are fewer people riding in 1st class, but that’s about it. There might be some difference on some trains, but for the most part there really isn’t.
The train journey itself
If you have a long train ride, make sure to bring food. There are often roaming vendors (but not always!) selling snacks and drinks, including coffee or hot chocolate, but if you want a meal and there is no restaurant car, you’ll wish you had brought food. Trains with restaurant cars do not seem to be common. It’s a good idea to have small denominations of money on hand, too.
It may seem like a lot of information, but it’s really simple, especially once you know the right words and how the info appears on your ticket.
One thing you always want to remember when riding the trains in Romania is to bring your own toilet paper. There is rarely any in the bathrooms on board.
Seeing Romania by train is a great experience. The trains are comfortable, and the countryside views are often quite stunning, especially spring through fall. The frequency of trains make using them for daytripping quite easy. You’ll also have a chance to see some of the smaller villages which appear to have been left behind by the modern world. You can access most of the country via rail, and its location to other borders makes it easy to do international travel by train.
It’s hard to go wrong with a travel journey in Romania!
Have you traveled by train? What was your best experience?