Practical guide to Transylvania
In this practical guide to Transylvania you’ll find out more about:
- How to get to Transylvania
- How to get around
- Where to stay
- What to visit
- What to eat and drink
- Things to do
- Things to know before visiting
Transylvania, this magical land in Central Romania is what I call home. There’s no part of it where i wouldn’t feel in my element. Except the underground amusement park in Turda Salt Mine. That place is pretty surreal.
When it comes to Transylvania, people tend to know very few things about this region. When I googled Transylvania, I was surprised to see the questions people were searching for: Is there a place called Transylvania? Is Transylvania real? Is Transylvania a country?
Although, I do hope these questions were asked by non-Europeans. #faithinhumanity
Transylvania is real, people! Well sort of. If you call mysterious castles, exciting cultural life, unspoiled nature and medieval cities real- then yes, it’s pretty real.
Even the Lonely Planet chose it as The Best Region of 2016!
Transylvania is unlike any country you’ve visited before. It has something that makes it magical.
It’s probably because of the whole Dracula thing: the more you tell people they live in a magical land, the more they believe it 🙂
The dreamy countryside, living traditions and the vibrant cultural life: traveling to Transylvania will capture your heart. (The cheap prices will probably do too. And the hospitality of the people. Oh, and the cheap beer.)
Hey, we even have an international music festival held in a castle. Yup, in a freakin’ CASTLE! Which, btw, is the coolest festival ever.
Let’s see why Transylvania has to be your next destination in Europe:
Because it has an underground amusement park in a salt mine!
And if that will not convince you, I don’t know what will 😀 (But I have a few ideas.)
Transylvania can be very “balcanic” (not sure if this is a real word) sometimes: but you can easily forget your frustrations after you spend here a few days.
Yes, you’ll probably get frustrated now and then, that’s the truth. There are no highways, everything kinda works backwards, you’ll get a culture shock at one point, public transport is often delayed, the customer service could be improved.
And to be honest: that’s what I love about Transylvania.
It is spontaneous, full of surprises and a bit chaotic. 🙂
It is one of those “undiscovered” places in Europe: you probably won’t get annoyed about other tourists ruining your perfect shot, there are no overpriced “boutique hotels” (to be honest, nothing is overpriced), and the scenery is pretty epic.
Oh, did I mention we have the fastest internet in Europe? (Hello, digital nomads!)
How to get to Transylvania
Transylvania is a historic region located in central Romania, surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains.
Cluj-Napoca is the biggest city in Transylvania, with several bus and train connections to other capitals and with an international airport. It is the most approachable city in Transylvania.
International airports in Transylvania: Cluj-Napoca (CLJ), Sibiu (SBZ), Targu Mures (TGM) Timisoara (TSR) Oradea (OMR).
There are several budget airlines flying to cities in Transylvania, including: Wizzair, Blue Air, Ryanair.
Bigger airlines that fly to Transylvania: Lufthansa, Turkish Airline, LOT, Austrian Airlines.
By bus and train: the major cities have regular bus and train schedules from/to Bucharest and Budapest also.
How to get around in Transylvania
It’s time explore Transylvania- you’re not here to only visit only one city, right?
Keep in mind that Transylvania has 50 km of highway. You will not be getting from one city to another in less than 30 minutes, sorry (even if it’s 50 kms away). So take your time and enjoy the view!
Renting a car in Romania:
In my opinion the best way to get around in Transylvania is by renting a car. Most of the natural attractions in this region can not be easily reached by public transport (sadly). Bigger cities offer rent-a-car possibilities at reasonable prices (from 15 Euro/day).
Getting around by train:
It is cheaper than in Western Europe, but also be prepared that sometimes you’ll have to deal with delays, no air-conditioning, and even a lack of hygiene. But the scenery is very pretty!
You can buy your train tickets from cashiers in train stations. Be sure to write your destination down in Romanian, as lot of the cashiers unfortunately don’t speak English. Although in major cities you can find ticket machines, I wouldn’t advise you to use them: I heard of a lot of them are broken or don’t have an English menu. I always chose to buy ticket from the cashier 🙂
Getting around by bus:
The major cities are connected by a regular bus schedule. You can check the schedules on autogari.ro. You can buy some of your tickets online on the website. There are several companies where you have to reserve your seat on the phone. Be sure to always check!
Not all cities are connected by buses, so be sure to always check the train schedules too!
Hitchhiking in Transylvania:
As there often is a lack of transportation possibilities between short distances, people often use hitchhiking to get around. It’s popular among locals also, not just the adventurers.
The drivers sometimes will ask you for money (depending on the distance), but I usually say at the beginning that I will not pay for hitchhiking.
I hitchhiked to and from most of the major cities in Transylvania for free 🙂
The online form of hitchhiking, also very popular among the people. You can also check some Facebook groups for ride sharing.
Taxis in Transylvania:
Taxis are available in almost every city (even the small ones) and it’s a popular service among locals. Taxis are a relatively cheap way of getting around in cities- especially during night when there is no public transport available.
In small cities you can expect that they will take you to the next village for a fair price. That’s how I usually get home too 🙂
Where to stay in Transylvania
There are three major cities that are “tourist hubs” in Transylvania: Cluj-Napoca, Sibiu and Brasov.
These cities are in a perfect location if you want to explore different regions of Transylvania.
Where to stay in Cluj-Napoca
Landmarks you can visit nearby: Turda Salt Mine, Cheile Turzii, Belis Lake
Where to stay in Sibiu
Landmarks you can visit nearby: Sighisoara, Transalpina, Transfagarasan, Biertan fortified church, clay castle at Valea Zanelor
Where to stay in Brasov
Landmarks you can visit nearby: Dracula Castle, Rupea Castle, Rasnov Castle, Poiana Brasov, Predeal, Sinaia, Peles Castle
The rural side Transylvania
There are so many great places if you’d like to stay somewhere magical.
A lot of the accommodations are so-called pensions – they are usually guesthouses run by families.
If you want to support local businesses, book your accommodation with the Transylvania-based hotel finder: Search hotels in Transylvania!
What to visit in Transylvania
Oh boy, where do I begin?
Cities to visit in Transylvania
Cluj-Napoca, Sibiu, Brasov, Sighisoara, Targu Mures, Alba Iulia, Miercurea Ciuc.
Castles and fortresses in Transylvania:
Biertan fortified church
Alba Iulia fortress
Harman Fortified Church
Viscri fortified church
Natural wonders of Transylvania:
Turda Salt Mine, Turda Gorge, Bicaz Gorge, Transfagarasan road, Transalpina road, Retezat National Park, Szent Anna Lake, Gyilkos Lake, Bear Lake, Rodna Mountains, Székelykő, mineral waters in Szeklerland, Garden of dragons.
Scenic roads in Transylvania
Transfagarasan, Transalpina, Olt valley, Jil valley, Szeklerland
For more information about the landmarks, you can visit the official tourism website of Romania
check back later, as I’ll be updating this post soon with detailed guides!
What to eat and drink in Transylvania
Try everything that is local (this goes to any country you visit) 🙂
Most of the Transylvanian dishes are based on meat- basically we eat meat with meat. Beside meat, you can find a variety of dishes that are based on vegetables too!
The following traditional foods can be found in almost every restaurant: mici/mititei (grilled ground meat rolls made from a mixture of beef, lamb and pork with spices), sarmale (stuffed cabbage), ciorba de burta (tripe soup), ciorba de fasole (traditional bean soup), gulyás (traditional Hungarian dish, also popular in Transylvania), zacusca (mix of vegetables spread on bread), salata de vinete (a creamy aubergine paste), varza a la Cluj (it’s the same as sarmale, except they don’t stuff the cabbage).
Oh, my, and there’s the chimney cake: kürtős kalács. It is made of sweet dough, cooked over charcoal and different coating is added (cinnamon, sugar, minced walnuts, cocoa powder, coconut).
If you’re on a budget, check for daily meal offers (Meniul Zilei) or just have a ciorba (usually is a big bowl of soup enough for a meal).
Transylvanians are proud of their palinka/palinca, so if they want you to taste their palinka- don’t refuse it! Palinka is a strong, home-made plum brandy. Really strong. Like you will forget where you are- strong.
There are also several kinds of beers that are made in Transylvania, are very good: Timisoreana, Ursus, Ciuc, Csiki Sor- just to name a few. Note that most of the beers are 0.5L. If you want to drink a draught, you can ask for a “bere la halba”.
Things to know before visiting Transylvania
The currency in Transylvania is RON (Romanian Lei). 1 Euro = 4,6 RON (04.2018), 1 Dollar = 3,7 RON (04.2018).
Exchanges can be found in each city, and they usually change currencies well. Be sure to always have cash with you, as there are a few places where you can’t pay with credit card.
The official language in Transylvania is Romanian, however there are a significant number of people who speak Hungarian. In major cities younger generation speak English, but in the rural/not touristy areas you’ll have to use body language 🙂
The main roads are in good condition, but the others might need some improvement. Drive carefully!
If you are visiting Romania by a car, be sure to pay the road tax. You can buy the so-called Roviniete at gas stations when entering the country. Or you can buy them online on their website.
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