I’ve wanted to explore Eastern Europe for the past several years, having heard wonderful things about the region and its relative affordability in comparison to the rest of Europe. So when an economical fare popped up combining Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey on a single trip, I decided to jump on the opportunity. The plan was to spend a total of 17 nights between the three countries: ten in Romania, three in Bulgaria, and four in Turkey.
Bucharest, the capital of Romania with a population of about 2 million people, was the first stop on the trip. While the city itself doesn’t have a ton of tourist attractions, it is a cool place to wander for a few days and serves as an excellent launching point to captivating Transylvania towns of Sibiu, Brasov, and Sinaia.
Flight: Back in January 2016, The Flight Deal found that Turkish Airlines was offering some affordable round-trip economy class fares to Eastern Europe in the spring. Luckily, one of the inexpensive routes was from the San Francisco to Bucharest Romania. The itinerary required a connection in Istanbul but included a free stopover there, as well as an open-jaw option to Sofia Bulgaria. Thus, I could visit three separate destinations for the same price – $628.
Hotel: Bucharest has a decent number of options from the big-brand hotel chains, which I prefer due to the expected consistency. I had short-listed a few hotels with my selection criteria prioritized in the following: 1) cost; 2) convenience to public transportation; 3) proximity to local cafes/restaurants; and 4) brand. Here’s how I ranked the following Bucharest hotels:
- JW Marriott Bucharest: Pricey and not convenient to most attractions or interesting neighborhoods.
- DoubleTree Hilton Unirii: Required multiple bus transfers from airport; not convenient to most attractions.
- Hilton Athenee: Good neighborhood, but long walk to airport bus route and significantly more expensive than comparable hotels.
- Park Inn Bucharest: Good neighborhood and competitive pricing, but long walk to airport bus route.
- Mercure City Center Bucharest: Best location within a neighborhood, short walk to transit, and competitive pricing.
Hotel Review: I ended up booking the Mercure City Center Bucharest Hotel at an average cost of $83 per night. And the stay was fantastic. It had the amenities of a big-brand hotel, but in a modern, boutique-like setting.
No visa required for Romania, as US citizens are granted 90 days of stay within a given six-month period.
USD equaled about 3.93 RON (Romanian Lei), at the time of travel in April 2016.
10 hours ahead of US Pacific time, or UTC+02:00.
Romanian is Latin-based, making it slightly easier to recognize street names and signs.
Points of Interest
Bucharest is a city of contrasts with its Orthodox churches juxtaposed and communist-era buildings. Aside from strictly visiting the sites that fit that description, Bucharest does have a growing cafe and restaurant scene, particularly in the neighborhoods of Old Town, City Center, and Dorobanti.