Wander or Bust is an Elite Daily travel series that follows young women/femme-identifying travelers all over the globe to record their journeys as they experience the thrill of the far-flung and unknown.
They'll track their budgets, where they stay, where they eat and drink, and where they took that amazing Instagram that got them ~maximum exposure~. The internet is full of travel advice, but none from young millennials just like you. Read on for the tips no one else gives you, and when in doubt, get on the plane.
Here's Jemima Skelley's Wander or Bust guide to Bucharest and Brașov, Romania.
My Name: Jemima Skelley
What I Do: Freelance Writer
Where I Live: Sydney, Australia
Where I Went: Bucharest and Brașov, Romania
How Long I Stayed: Five days and four nights
My Spending Style: I like to budget, but still enjoy myself.
THE GAME PLAN
Where I Got My Recommendations: The r/travel subreddit and various Facebook groups for female travelers
Exchange Rate At Time Of Travel: $1 USD = 4.34 RON
What That Looks Like IRL: $50 USD = 217 RON
Preferred Payment Method: Cash. At most restaurants and supermarkets, you could pay with a card. But I was traveling with a friend and it was easier to split bills and share costs by paying with cash.
Phone Bill: I had a UK SIM card, as I was traveling around Europe for several months. It cost me £10 ($13 USD) a month for 12GB, and worked all over the EU.
WHAT I PACKED
Luggage Type: Checked — I’d been traveling for about six months at this point, so I had a big backpack. My friend who just came for the five days from London had rolling carry-on suitcases.
The 10 Most Important Items I Packed:
2. Waterproof boots
5. Thermal shirt for nights out
6. Casual sneakers
My extra essentials:
7. Small backpack for day trips
8. Moisturizer for the dry winter air
9. A book for the train
10. Hand sanitizer
What Shoes I Brought: Waterproof boots that look good with jeans or stockings and a dress; Converse sneakers for walking around on dry days.
HOW I GOT THERE
Mode of Transport: I arrived via an overnight bus from Bulgaria, and my friend flew in from London. We got around Romania by train.
Price: My bus was $17 USD, and my friend’s flight was about $55 USD return. A return train from Brașov to Bucharest cost $28 USD.
Extra Costs: The metro from the bus station to our hotel was $1 USD. An Uber from the airport was $12 USD.
Transport Total: $46 USD for me
WHERE I STAYED
Bucharest: Strada Petru Cercel 1, București 030167, Romania. The main touristy area of Bucharest was about a 15-minute walk from the hostel along a main road. It’s in a quiet, residential area, though there are plenty of buses nearby connecting the rest of the city.
Brașov: Strada Republicii 58, Brașov 500030, Romania. It was located off one of the streets in the heart of the old town, right near everything we wanted to see in the city. It was about a 20-minute bus ride from the main train station to Bucharest.
Bucharest: $35 USD/night for two people ($17.50 USD each)
Brașov: $30 USD/night for two people ($15 USD each)
Extra Costs: None
Would I Recommend It To Someone Else:
Bucharest: 100%. I showed up at 6 a.m. after an overnight bus trip and they let me sleep in the reception area until my room was ready. It was clean and comfortable, and there’s a communal kitchen on site if you want to cook your own food or use the fridge.
Brașov: For sure. The location couldn’t have been any better. It seemed like a fun hostel, with organized tours and nightly events. It was the off season when we visited, so it was pretty quiet. It has a daily included breakfast with cereal, toast, and coffee.
Accommodation Total: $65 USD per person
THE FOOD SITUATION
Breakfast-Lunch Cost: $8 USD/day
In Brașov, breakfast was included at our accommodation, but we bought a coffee each morning from a local café. In Bucharest, we ate at a bougie brunch spot, where meals were around $6 USD each. For lunches, we’d normally grab takeaway sandwiches or snacks from bakeries or grocery stores.
Dinner Cost: About $10 USD, including a glass of wine.
Average Total Cost: $18 USD/day
Tip Situation: It’s not mandatory, but restaurant workers have pretty low salaries, so a 10% tip is welcomed.
Food Situation: Oh man, Romanian food is good. Most dishes we saw were all pretty heavy — stews, meat, and starchy vegetables — but considering it was freezing and rainy, it was perfect.
I definitely recommend trying goulash, which is a thick stew. I was a real fan of sarmale, which is made up of cabbage leaves rolled with minced meat served in a rich tomato sauce. If you see a dessert menu with papanasi, be sure to order some. (They’re fried doughnut balls served warm, and topped off with a sweet sour cream and berries.)
Favorite Restaurant: I still frequently think about the meal we had at a Hungarian/Transylvanian restaurant called Pilvax on our last night in Brașov. We both ordered chicken paprikash with spaetzle pasta (small dumpling pasta), which still remains one of the most delicious things I ate during a whole year in Europe.
Location: Pilvax, Brașov — Strada Michael Weiss 16, Brașov 500031, Romania
Price: $8 USD
Honorable Mentions: Another highlight was Caru' cu bere in Bucharest. The architecture is spectacular, with high ceilings, stained glass, and dramatic chandeliers. Their menu is all traditional Romanian food, so it’s pretty meat heavy. I ate stewed meatballs with mashed potato.
Food Total: About $90 USD each
THE NIGHTLIFE SCENE
Nightlife Situation: Bucharest has a lively nightlife scene, especially on Saturdays. There are plenty of rowdy bars and clubs, and it seems like a popular city for a British lads’ weekend. But we skipped all those, and sought out wine bars and trendy cocktail spots instead. It was actually a lot cooler than we’d expected.
Brașov was a lot quieter, especially because we visited early in the week at the end of November. We tried to visit as many spots as possible, and they all had pretty much the same vibe: laidback, young, and fun.
What People Wear Out: It was about 30ºF most nights and rainy, so everyone was bundled up in coats and jeans.
Average Cost Of A Pint: I’m not a beer drinker, but a good glass of wine is about $5 USD. On most menus, draught beer sits around $2.50 USD.
Extra Cost To Know About: None
Last Call: In Bucharest, some bars were open until 5 a.m. on weeknights. We stayed out until about 12.30 a.m. one night, and nothing seemed to be closing. In Brașov, it felt like things wrapped up around midnight. Again, it might be more lively on a summer weekend!
Average Total Cost Of A Night Out: Never more than $30 USD, including a kebab at the end of the night.
Cheapest Bar I'd Actually Go Back To: Tipografia bar in Brașov. By day, it’s a café, by night it becomes a lively bar that seemed to be full of locals. Cocktails run around $3.50 USD, with glasses of wine for $2.50 USD. It was just one of those fun bars where you feel totally at home, so we ended up there both nights we were in Brașov.
Going Out Total: We went out all four nights, and probably spent about $100 USD total on drinks.
HOW I SPENT MY DAYS
What I Spent A Lot On That Was Totally Worth It: Visiting Peles Castle, which is about an hour and a half from Brașov. We got there by public transportation, so it wasn’t too pricey, but it took up a lot of time. It was totally worth it. It’s a beautiful old castle; they actually filmed the Netflix Christmas Prince movies there. You can walk through the castle — which has amazing decor — and check out the sprawling grounds.
Unfortunately, we visited on a Tuesday, when the second floor of the castle is closed to the public. Something to keep in mind when planning your trip.
An entry ticket, plus the train, cost about $13 USD.
What I Spent A Lot of On That Was Totally Not Worth It: Nothing — it was all amazing and everything was low cost.
What I Spent Little Or No Money On That Was Awesome: We did a wine tasting at a small bar called Terroirs in Brașov. We read in an online review that they do wine flights, but it wasn’t on the menu. So we told the bartender we wanted to taste a bunch of wines. We thought we’d end up spending $100 USD, but when the bill came, we were pleasantly surprised it was only about $20 USD each for five really good wines.
Favorite Thing I Did, Regardless Of Cost: Honestly, just walking around the city and trying different bars. It was pretty cold and wet most of the time, so we spent a lot of time inside. Every bar we went to had a different vibe, and because of the low cost of drinks and food, it didn’t feel too extravagant to eat and drink our way around the city for six hours.
Hidden Gem I Found: This super-cool rooftop bar called Closer To The Moon covered in small inflatable igloos. You get inside the igloo — which has a heater and fluffy chairs — and order drinks by WhatsApp-ing a waitress. They have mulled wine and warm cider, and it’s a really cool way to make use of a rooftop bar in winter. There’s an indoor restaurant section, too, which looked pretty good, though we just visited for drinks.
The Photo I Took That Got The Most Attention: A picture I took when I visited Peles Castle (about an hour and a half away from Brașov)
Excursions/Extras Total: $33 USD. (About $25 USD to visit two castles on two separate day trips. We did a free walking tour in Bucharest and gave the guide an $8 USD tip each.)
Best Romania Hack: Try the local wine. It’s really good, and such a good price. I had no idea that Romania was known for having a great wine region. I want to go back in summer and tour around the wineries.
Advice For Anyone Traveling Alone: If you’re alone and want to meet people, you’d be better off visiting in summer. If you’re not into staying in hostels, a great way to meet people is by taking day tours. The hostel we stayed at in Brașov organized a bunch of different trips to the mountains and nearby castles.
Total Trip Cost: $334 USD
Worth It? Definitely. It was a super cost-effective trip, and both cities had their own cool vibe I wanted to explore. I’m a huge foodie, and really got into the food and drink scene there.
This trip offered a good taste of Romania, but I’d love to go back and experience it in the summertime. It’s hard to see and do everything you want when it’s 40ºF and gets dark at 4 p.m.