Cold War spy movies aside, I have no idea of what it would be like to drive from Frankfurt Germany to Bucharest Romania. Being a child of the cold war era, it is not a acation idea that would have been considered possible
So, I have the opportunity to drive there and then fly home to the US.
Anybody have driving experience? Border crossing experience? Do I need to get multiple visas at great cost and danger to myself or is it an easy thing to accomplish?
And I oddly enough need the answer fast as the german part of the trip will occur 16 July - if I cant manage to arrange visas or whatnot, then the Romanian part of the trip needs to be called off…
I’ll assume you’re a US citizen, in which case http://www.travel.state.gov is always a good place to start for information about foreign countries. From the side menu, select “International Travel Information” and then “Country Specific Information” from the drop-down menu. Or follow this link. Select the country you want to visit (Romania, Germany, Austria and probably Hungary unless you really want to go a different route).
You’ll get visa requirements as well as road safety information, which is at least a start.
Somewhat off-topic, I know someone who drove a truck from Germany to Iran during the Cold War as a sort of paid ‘vacation’, but it was more of an exciting thing than relaxing and leisurely.
Well, ten seconds of googling reveals that U.S. citizens don’t need a visa to travel to Hungary or Romania (not a guarantee; don’t plan your vacation based on my ten seconds of research). However, the drive takes 20 hours. How many days were you planning to do it in?
You shouldn’t really have a problem. If you’re American, you don’t need any visas for any of the countries you’ll be passing through. Your most direct route is going to be through Vienna, Budapest, and crossing over in Szeged. While this route is nice, you can take a slightly longer route going through Transylvania, which’ll add maybe two hours or so to the trip, but has some nice worthwhile scenery and stops along the way. Instead of turning south once you get to Budapest, you’ll head due east, past Nyiregyhaza. I forget exactly which border town crossing we usually take. I want to say it’s Csenger-Satu Mari, but it appears there’s a closer border just southeast of Nyirbator.
Anyhow, if you approach Bucharest from this direction, you go through the heart of Transylvania. I highly recommend stopping in Sighisoara, a UNESCO world heritage site, and an absolute gem of a medieval town. It’s also got notoriety for being the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler. Anyhow, if you’re into Vlad Dracul, this route can also take you through Brasov, whose surrounding area is the site of Dracula’s Castle. Also, towns along this route include Cluj (4th largest city in Romania) and Sibiu, a picturesque and culturally noteworthy town.
This is if you want the scenic route. The more direct route will take you through Szeged (stop in town and get some of their famous fish soup, if you like that sort of thing) and Timisoara.
Well I would rather not end up in a Bond movie … i am not much of an adrenaline junkie =)
I do not have any firm schedule for that part of the vacation, and 2 days to drive 20 hours is what I would do in the US, so perhaps 3 days driving each way, and a week or so in Bucharest.
Dracula is interesting, but I am not a buff, though I really do like scenery.
I was more concerned with border crossings, road conditions and availability of food, drink and gas along the way, some of the roads that Tony Bourdain take on his rambles are pretty primative and being a gimp makes roadside emergencies troublesome, though I will have a healthy 20 year old romanian [male] friend as a traveling buddy, and the car is reasonably new and in good condition.
Um, yeah, no problem on any of these counts. It’s not until you hit Eastern Hungary or Romania that things start getting to look a little less Western (at least in my opinion). But you’re not traveling through the middle of the Sahara here. There’s plenty of towns, gas, and food along the way. You’ll be fine, especially if you have a Romanian traveling buddy.
edit: I’m not a Dracula buff, either, but threw that in there because a lot of people tend to be fascinated by him. The northern route is interesting not for the Dracula connections, but for the scenery and medieval towns along the way. I really do think Sighisoara is one of the world’s off-the-beaten-path gems (although it has gotten glowing mentions in travel magazines in the last decade or so). If you like medieval towns, then Cluj, Sighisoara, Sibiu, and Brasov are up your alley.
Oh, one thing I should ask about: whose/what car will you be driving? Rental companies may have restrictions about taking the car that far out east and, if you’re borrowing it from a friend, you will need the car papers, proof of insurance, and usually some sort of documentation stating you are allowed to use the car if it’s not your own or rented (if I’m remembering correctly).
Also,you should check on whether the roads you will be traveling on require the purchase of vignettes (road tax stickers). Some Austrian and Hungarian, as well as all Romanian roads require purchase of a toll sticker.
There shouldn’t be any border problems as all thes countries are part of the EU. Depending on the state of the Schengen treaty there might not even be any border booths, but just a sign saying you entered another country.
edit: All countries are part of the Schengen treaty, but appearantly it hasn’t been officialybeen put in place for Romania, so you may still have a border crossing there.
As has been stated above, most border crossings in the EU are now barely noticeable - no different from crossing from one state to another in the USA. For some countries you need to buy a “vignette” (road tax sticker that goes in your windscreen) if you want to use the motorways (freeways).
As long ago as 1999 I took a road trip from the UK to Hungary and back with no border hassles. In this days you needed a visa for Romania, and I never got organised to go that far, but it should be hassle-free now.
This reminds of the No Reservations episode where he was forced into attending a Halloween party at Dracula’s castle and spent the whole time griping about how cheesy it was. Not that I could blame him, as it looked like he had stepped in a Rocky Horror Picture Show convention.
Even back in the days following the collapse of the Soviet Union, it wasn’t all that bad. I was running a crew in Sofia, Bulgaria and two of my workers (Americans) drove there from Brussels without issue. That was around 1991, when border guards were still being used and food/gas could be a problem.
I drove Timisoara-Frankfurt and Frankfurt-Timisoara last year, and I will do it again this year. Once you’re out of Romania, it’s very easy driving, because you can take motorways. On the other hand, if you only take motorways, you don’t get to see anything. I would only recommend doing this in Hungary, because if you travel by roads parallel to the motorway, there are a lot of speed restrictions (30-50 km/h), for no good reason (other than to ticket drivers), and it’s really, really nerve wracking.
ViaMichelin is really good for choosing a route (including stopovers, sightseeing, short, economical routes), it can also give the prices for road taxes. You can buy the vignettes from border shops or from gas stations. In Austria, Hungary, and Romania you have to buy a vignette which is valid for a few days (something like 3 to 7), and costs a few euro. I don’t think you need a vignette for Germany.
Border crossings in Germany and Austria are not noticeable, and between Hungary and Romania you have to wait for 5-15 minutes. I have no idea how thorough the customs officers are with non-Europeans, but they don’t usually check for anything.
I think that the most time consuming part of the journey will be through Romania, as there are no motorways, and the road is full of trucks, carriages and bikes, and looong villages.
You don’t have to worry about food! There are plenty of good restaurants along the way, and you don’t even have to tip ;). I’d worry more about accommodation. In Germany and Austria it’s impossible to find a room (or an open hotel!) after 6 o’clock.
For buying gas, it’s better (cheaper) if you go off the motorways.
The road Quartz is talking about is the Transfagarasan, and it really is gorgeous.
Do you have to stay in Bucharest for a week, or do you want to?
Um - you do know that the Cold War is over, and Rumania has now joined the EU (after all the countries between it and Germany, too)? The highest problem the Europeans have with Rumania is the extremly high corruption. And of course the basic infrastructure is not yet up to Western Europe - things will look more basic, grey, poorer. But there will be food and gas, and in general, Rumanians will try to attract tourists, because tourism is always a good industry when other avenues are difficult.
But where in the world do you get the idea of adventure or danger? True, if you work at it, you can stumble upon gangs of teens or thieves in Rumania, but you can also find them in Frankfurt or Berlin, if you look hard enough. Doesn’t mean it’s the Wild West in 1845 or Chicago during Al Capone, though.
You might get ripped off or cheated by people at gas stations, but again, that could also happen in Italy (or at least, it was warned against in the 80s, don’t know how prevalent it still is.)
You will need Euros for the German part, and you should know how to drive a car with a gear shift, or order an automatic.
You don't need a visa. Germany, Austria and Hungary are signataries of the [Schengen](http://www.axa-schengen.com/en/schengen-countries) agreement, so you'll have to show your passport only once, when entering for the first time into one of these countries. Then you'll be able to move freely into any country which is part of the treaty, without any kind of border check. In your case, from Frankfurt to the romanian border, you'll know that you've crossed a border only when your cellphone provider will send you an SMS to inform you that you've changed the network; there will be no border checks.
As you can see from the map above, Romania is not yet a full member of the Schengen agreement, so when crossing from Hungary to Romania there will be a border check. It should not take long (20 minutes, at most). You don't need a visa, assuming you're an american citizen. Presenting your passport is enough, according to the official website of the romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Ministerul Afacerilor Externe) [here](http://www.mae.ro/index.php?unde=doc&id=12838&idlnk=3&cat=5) (in english - have a look especially at the Annex 2).
You should have no difficulties in finding food and gas.
As previously mentioned in the thread, in Austria, Hungary and Romania you'll need to buy a 'vignette' for using the roads in the respective countries. As far as I remember, you can buy it from gas stations. For Germany you don't need one, as its price is included in the fuel price.
I’ll second Pullykamel’s recommendations about visiting Sibiu, Brasov and (especially) Sighisoara. One week for Bucharest is really too much, unless you have no choice :). Speaking of Sighisoara, at the end of July (last weekend of the month) a medieval festival takes place into the city; I’ve never been there during the festival, but I’ve heard that is quite nice. This webpage may also be helpful.
You could also visit Peles castle, located in Sinaia; it is on the way from Brasov to Bucharest.
You can exchange euros to local currency (in Hungary and Romania) easily, but you should avoid doing so at the border (or close to it), as the exchange rate is usually bad (for you). The safest way is to do it at a bank office.
Very reassuring - I am accustomed to the US with gas stations and food available everywhere =)
The car belongs to my traveling buddy, I wasn’t actually planning on a road trip, but he just got his license this spring and wants to go back to visit friends but is frankly scared of a thousand + km drive alone, and I have been driving for some 30+ years =) I am planning on printing out the basic driving regs and info Ill need for each country we pass through so I know what is required of me. Better safe than sorry!
Holy shit that is neat! It all depends on if our route passes that way or not. I would hate to have to drive that in a deuce and a half!
Very handy to know. I will make sure that we get the vignettes.
That is one of the episodes I have seen. I do agree that it was like rocky horror, but in the locals defense, it was halloween. I love cheesy costumes for halloween parties =)
darn, I was hoping to get spiffy stamps in my passport. I suppose I can save the vignettes =)
Well, it is an impromptu sort of thing, as I said, Vlad is scared to make the drive solo as his license is brand new and I have been driving longer than he has been alive =) and I dont have a job right now so I have the time to bum around a bit. We are visiting another person I know somewhat, so it will be interesting.
I can drive anything from a nash metropolitan to a deuce and a half, manual, automatic or handicapped hand controlled =) right hand or left hand drive =)
I’m mainly going along as the driver for Vlad, so sightseeing is minor =) I need to avoid most castle tours because they in general are probably not wheelchair friendly, and Vlad isn’t touristing, he is going home to visit friends. I’m actually fairly happy hanging out in a coffee house or park watching people and reading, and doing coffee and light snacking if I can find something local that wont kill my diabetes.
I have to admit, I am having fun planning this, there seem to be some great picture ops along the way, and since I need to stand up and stretch every couple hours so my knees and hips don’t lock up, I may have some interesting pictures when I get back [if I can get hubbys cheap little digital camera workign right]