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First time american visitor in need of guidance

Saginaw, Michigan
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First time american visitor in need of guidance

Hello!

I am a 29 year old American man planning a trip to Romania and in need of some advice and recommendations. If any of you could help, it would be greatly appreciated.

The primary reason for my trip is to visit a girl I met online from Iasi. However, I am also simply in need of a break, and a getaway from my stressful American life and looking to expand my view on the world. This will be my first significant international trip (previously only venturing into Canada briefly), and I speak only English (though I am slowly learning a bit of Romanian).

Our plans are very much still undecided and that is why I come here to this forum for help. What my friend and I do know is that we would like to spend a couple of days in Iasi, and nearby area just basically visiting, and then from there go traveling around the country and more or less experiencing whatever there is to experience. Of course, my friend has some more ideas on this than I do, and I am sure she will be a great tour guide for me, but I want to help expand her knowledge as well.

Also, dates are not yet firm, but probably around early October. Between about 7 and 12 days in duration but again, that is not yet decided.

I am planning to rent a car (although it seems interesting to me that so few places there seem to have automatic transmission cars - which is all I have experience with).

Both of us want to simply explore what there is to see, and spend some time together doing it. I personally am also interested in history and culture of a place so foreign to everything I know.

So, in summary to keep this post from getting any longer… Can anyone provide me with their thoughts for such a trip? Any recommendations, to-dos, to-donts, things to consider, etc? Anything would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,

Tony

Bucharest
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1. Re: First time american visitor in need of guidance

I suppose you've already heard there are all sorts of scams involving girls you meet online, but hopefully this isn't the case here.

As recommendations, if you're interested in history and culture definitely visit southern Transylvania (the historical cities Sibiu, Brasov and Sighisoara, the old German villages, castles, fortresses etc.) and the rural northern regions of Maramures and Bucovina (villages stuck in the middle ages, old wooden churches, medieval monasteries etc.).

To get an idea about what else you could visit also check the official tourist info website http://www.romaniatourism.com/

Especially check this list of major attractions:

www.romaniatourism.com/main-attractions.html

To answer some of the other things in your post, you'll be able to get by even if you only speak English, younger people (under 35) here usually know this language.

Renting a car isn't absolutely necessary (on some routes public transport is a faster/more convenient choice), but if you do rent one use local companies (they're relatively reliable and a lot cheaper than the international ones). Although cars with automatic transmission are indeed rare, most rental companies have at least one or two of them; book them early.

Edited: 23 June 2010, 13:02
London
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2. Re: First time american visitor in need of guidance

As Alterme said, watch out for scams!

Further, Iasi is an absolutely beautiful city itself. You could start from there and work your way around to the painted monasteries, and pretty much to all Moldova area...

Saginaw, Michigan
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3. Re: First time american visitor in need of guidance

I have indeed already heard about some confidence / romance scams, and I thank you greatly for your concern, but I really do not believe this to be one of those cases. I have a hard time believing that a scammer would flat out refuse an offer of money from me, provide me with her home address, multiple phone numbers, or various other aspects of her and her families life that i either know for fact to be true or that are logical. Additionally we talk with each other via webcam virtually every day. I thank you for your concern and words of warning though and I will of course continue to be vigalent.

Also I thank you for the recommendations. The Sibiu / Brasov area does interest me indeed as does the northern areas you mentioned. I have looked at those websites briefly (will look again when I have more time) and also this website. One thing I found quite interesting was the Transfagarasan Highway. I've never heard of this before but it looks breathtaking. I will consider this as well.

Some other things I wonder if I should consider... Bucharest. I'm wondering if there would be much to see there. I've heard mixed reviews. Some people saying simply to stay far away from Bucharest, and some saying its a must visit. I'm not really in to big cities in general, but if there is something specific worth visiting there I would consider a visit. I would imagine there are some museums, historic (revolution era) sites to visit? Is the Palace of Parliament much to see? Can you visit inside it? Is it anything more than just a giant building?

Also, the black sea coast area (Constanta). I am unsure on this... being that I am from Michigan and very accustomed to shoreline, do you think I would find much here of interest? Anything that makes it really unique? Based on what I have read it is mostly just kind of a college kid vacation area. Lots of clubs and such I mean. Or have I been mislead?

In general, how crazy would it be to take such a trip mostly by the seat of our pants. Only with the basics planned well ahead of time(my flights, first night or 2 in Iasi, car rental) and just deciding on what to do each day, depending on what we have done the day before? How busy are the hotels around early October? Would we have trouble finding good accommodations? Would we either save or lose much money on hotel rates for not reserving them ahead of time?

I do understand that a car is not absolutely necessary, but I think the additional freedom one would give us will be very desirable. You have said to use local car rental companies. Can you recommend any in Iasi?

Again, thank you all for everything. I will continue to browse this website as well as all of them linked to help me develop a plan, but I believe the personal level of advice here in the forum is even more valuable. :)

Sibiu, Romania
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4. Re: First time american visitor in need of guidance

By the "seat of your pants" is the best way to see Romania. As soon as you start planning more than a couple of days ahead you are lost :)

If you have Romanian friends then they can probably arrange travel and accommodation all over the country. Listen to them.

Bucharest
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5. Re: First time american visitor in need of guidance

The Transfagarasan is indeed a must-do if you'll be traveling by car; in October you could meet some winter weather up there, but it should still be open.

I'd say Bucharest is worth a day, it's an interesting place in its own way (sadly many tourists expect to be perfectly similar to the other, more historical, capitals in this region like Prague or Budapest.)

The Palace of Parliament can be visited on the inside and it's quite impressive. The other major sites are the Village Museum (a large outdoor exhibition of old traditional homes gathered from villages around the country) and the old quarter (a small surviving part of

There are of course numerous museums (the most interesting would be the National Art Museum and the History Museum), various old churches worth seeing, parks, concert halls, theaters, thousands of clubs/bars/restaurants etc.

As you already guessed the part of the Black Sea coast around Constanta and south of it isn't particularly interesting; in that area there are just typical seaside resorts. Anyway in October there's not much to do there because most hotels, clubs and restaurants will already be closed (holiday season only lasts from May to mid September).

The interesting parts are further north along the coast at the end of the Danube Delta and inside the Delta, which is a truly unique region. October isn't really the best time to visit, but if the weather remains relatively good you could try to spend some time there.

You won't have many problems finding hotel rooms on the spot; prices are generally the same as when booked in advance.

Note that in many cities pensions (guesthouses) are a better accommodation option than hotels (same quality, far lower prices); in predominantly rural areas these pensions are in fact the only available option.

For car rentals you could try http://www.autonom.com/en/iasi-rent-a-car or www.eurocars.ro/Iasi/car_rental.en.html

Saginaw, Michigan
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6. Re: First time american visitor in need of guidance

You have all been quite helpful with this information. Multumesc!

Regarding these "pensions"... I am not familiar with this term. Do you know if that is the same thing we would call a "Bed and Breakfast" here in North America?

A couple of other questions at the moment... Are the tourist destinations like the museums and historical buildings mostly self guided? I would assume so, and that makes me curious if they often cater to english speaking guests in terms of multilingual display descriptions and such? Or should I be expecting my Romanian friend to be a very tired translator by the end of the day? lol

Regarding driving... Are maps there quite reliable? Or would a GPS be recommended or of much use?

Additionally, are there any websites or online maps I can find that give a representation of how long it usually takes to drive from one location to another? I mean either a listing of city to city or better yet by main roadway segment? From what I gather, the road conditions there greatly vary and so I would assume that a typical direction mapping website would not be very accurate (if there are even any that support romania at all).

Thanks again!

Bucharest
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7. Re: First time american visitor in need of guidance

Yes, pensions ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pension_%28lodging%29 ) are basically the same type of accommodations as Bed&Breakfast, just that breakfast isn't usually included in the price.

The major museums have optional guided tours in English.

Maps are reliable enough and relatively easy to find (at any bookstore, at many gas stations etc.).

You could use http://www.viamichelin.com/ to plan your routes and find out the distances between cities; keep in mind that the real average driving speed is around 50 kmh (~30 mph).

Pennsylvania, USA
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8. Re: First time american visitor in need of guidance

Snerto

It seems you find yourself in the same situation I was in about 7 years ago. Coming to Romania for some adventure in travel and to meet a girl. ( she's now my wife ) You may contact me in a private message so we can chat or trade ideas in private.

A few things I can suggest. Rent the car. ( you can find automatic for a few bucks more per day. Get this at the airport.) Don't worry too much about planning ahead. Finding decent accommdations should not be hard. Stay away from the coast on this trip at this time of year. Buy a map, with this, it is almost impossible to get lost in Romania as many roads have few places to turn other than those that lead to small villages. I would also not rate too high on the list of things-to-do, visiting bucharest. While this is a nice place to spend a day or too, I'd save this for a return trip. Depending when your flight arrives, you may want to find a hotel near the airport. ( I can suggest a place, also great to stay the night before your outbound flight ) I believe the drive to Iasi will be about 7 hours without stopping.

Will you be staying with your friend in Iasi? or do you plan to stay in a hotel while there? I suggest to have her rent an apartment, the monthly rate should be less than you pay for a few nites in a hotel. Just to be cautious, I would certainly have a place to stay for the full 10 or 12 days. A place you paid for so you are not fully dependent on your friend. This will allow you some freedom while there and alleviate any family or relationship tensions they may arise.

Hope to hear from you soon...... and if not, enjoy this experience.

The Coach

Sebes, Romania
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9. Re: First time american visitor in need of guidance

I'd recommend visiting the Danube Delta..if you have time...it's a really unique place.

http://www.deltadunarii.ro/

http://www.indanubedelta.ro/

Saginaw, Michigan
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10. Re: First time american visitor in need of guidance

Thanks again to you all! This much so far I am sure of... I will rent a car well in advance, and reserve a hotel room for the first 2 nights at least. Other than that I will only loosely plan things and decide to experience whatever we wish when the time comes, when I will definitly remember all of your suggestions.

I am sure I will have more miscellaneous questions in the weeks and months to come and given how helpful you have been so far I will be sure to ask them here as well.

Thank you!

To The Coach - Congratulations to you and your wife! I would love to talk with you in private and will send you a message soon. Thank you for reaching out! :)