Planning Summer Trip to Romania, France and ________? Advice needed!

Lille, France

Surprise! I’m planning to travel to…Europe this summer! Romania, France and….well, I hope to figure it out (or have a rough idea) soon. Maybe you can help?

So, first, how this came about… The truth is–I was sort of considering Sri Lanka or Bolivia or Mexico. Then, an interesting invitation was extended to me right around the time I realized that I’d accumulated a good number of points on one of my credit cards. (My ticket may be quite cheap–keeping my fingers crossed that the miles work out just right.)

Suddenly, Europe started looking good. Really good.

An Invitation to France

Who’s the mystery invitation from?

Back in 2010, I met a really cool French woman in Damascus, Syria. We traveled to Aleppo together, shared a room and met up with an Armenian-Syrian friend of hers. We had a great time together, dining, shopping and sight seeing. Haggling over the price of olive oil soap in the souk and eating fantastic food, like cherry kabob.

All I can say is that being with them is what made the experience so wonderful.

Recently, we were chatting on Facebook about travel and she said, “Hey…if you don’t have any plans, you’re welcome to come to France and stay with me…” Wow, I thought. That would be wonderful. I really like her and think it would be awesome to experience French culture with her. I also tend to say yes to special invitations. You never know if they’ll be extended again.

Place Rihour, Lille, France.

Lille–near the Belgium Border

Sv (my friend is private and doesn’t use her real name on Facebook) lives in Lille, by the Belgium border, by the way. This is great because one of the things I want to do is visit WWII sites. And that would set me up nicely for that. (She’s already told me that I’ll need to rent a car to do it–if I don’t go on a tour–and that’s cool. I’ll do whatever it takes.)

Infantrymen of The Highland Light Infantry of Canada examining the wreckage of the Landing Ship Infantry (LSI) in which they came ashore on D-Day. Normandy, France, ca. 7-8 July 1944

Meanwhile, for the longest time, I’ve wanted to go to Romania. I made a new friend from there who was visiting here in the fall and we’ve kept in touch via e-mail. He’s offered to be my tour guide in Bucharest should I visit there.

I like that idea for many reasons, one of which is his interest in WWII. He’s is a war buff and knows so much. When we chatted here in NJ, it was mostly about the war. So I’m sure hanging out with him would be great.

Anyway, I’ve now come up with this cool idea. Why not make this all part of one bigger trip–Romania AND France?

The big question is–what else?

Sure, I could just focus on these two countries and I know it would be great. But it’s easy to want a bit more in Europe. So many countries, so close together. How could you not want to squeeze in something more? :)

The other question is how to get around….

I know the trains are cool. I’ve taken them before (in Denmark, Germany, Czech Republic and Poland) and I’m sure I’ll be on them at various times. But sometimes, if covering a lot of distance, flying with budget airlines is a lot more reasonable.

Possible Itineraries

1. Follow Dracula’s Trail

Fly open jaws into Romania and stay there for a couple weeks. Then go to Hungary and Austria (several days in each)….then go to France from there. Run over to Belgium for some beer and chocolate, of course. This would involve mostly train travel. Fly home from Paris or Brussels.

Bran Castle (Dracula's Castle)

2. Romania, Croatia….a tiny bit of Germany, then France.

In this scenario, I’d also fly open jaws (into Bucharest, then out of Paris or Brussels). I’d use trains early on, but then fly one way from Croatia to Germany. Maybe see the Black Forest (Freiburg is 5 hours from Paris by train and provides good access), then over to Paris and Lille. And yes, still get some yummy stuff in Belgium as a side trip. (PS: the only part of Germany I’ve visited is Berlin.)

Road to Postira 2010

3. Crazy Idea…Romania, France…and London (or Ireland?)

Have I gone off the deep end? No. It’s just that where my friend lives in France isn’t too far from certain ferries that can take you to the UK in a few hours. It’s so darn close. If I went to London, I’d only stay there for a night or two (since it’s expensive).

There’s a longer journey (18 hours–yup, that’s long) that’s also appealing–one that takes you to Ireland. It might seem crazy, but I think it might be fun. I have always wanted to go to Ireland. If I did this, I’d build in more time because I’d want to get out to the countryside. And I’d fly home from there, of course, to avoid backtracking to France. No need to be on that ferry again!

View from the summit ofthe hill behind Coolatore House

Length of the Trip: 4-6 weeks

As a college professor, I do have the entire summer off. That doesn’t mean I want to be away for all of it, however. I’d really like to be in NJ for most of July. I have some writing to get done and I want to spend time with my friends and family.

Also, I may be taking another trip later in the summer–to the West Coast. I want to save time for that.

Knowing me, I’ll probably compromise. No 4 or 6, but 5 weeks. That sounds just about right. Or maybe 5.5? :)

When? Soon :)

I’m hoping to leave the end of May and to return late June or, most likely, early July. Based on previous experience, I do not want to be in Europe in July and/or August. So damn crowded! June’s even pushing it, but that’s the best I can do.

Reformed Church - Sibiu Romania with Negoiu Peak

Your Thoughts/Advice?

Soon, I’ll be Googling like crazy, trying to figure all of this out. For now, though, I’d love some advice from those who have visited these countries and get Europe in general. It could save me time and energy, which I’d greatly appreciate.

Buying My Plan Ticket

I’ve got to do this soon. I don’t want to get stuck paying too much while using up my credit card points. It means I must make decisions in a few days. I’m 99% sure I want to start in Romania and end in France. I can’t think of a good reason to do it the other way around, can you?

Or if I went for that final option, then I’d probably fly home from Ireland. Dublin? Belfast seems really far away.

Where to Go

Aside from Romania and France, where would you go? Have you been to Croatia? Hungary? Which route would you take and how would you do it? I don’t want to rush, so I don’t want to cram in too many countries. My main focus is Romania and France. But a couple more could be nice… :)

PS: I need to keep this affordable and plan to couch surf for part of it. And I don’t think I’ll be in France for more than 10 days or so (but who knows). So that would leave 25 days for Romania and _________. :)

Trains and Planes

Do you know anything about rail passes, etc? I know I’ll be using trains. I just don’t know how that will all play out. I will need some flexibility. I can’t buy tickets yet…

I know I’ll be using regional European airlines to score some cheap flights at some point. Any tips re: which airline? Are there any to avoid?

Car Rental

I can’t drive a 5-speed. (I suppose I could do it if a friend were having a heart attack and I had to get them to a hospital.) I know–lame American thing. Any advice re: renting an automatic car in France? In Romania, I’ll probably just take buses and trains and maybe a tour or two.

Thank You!

As always, I appreciate you, the reader, whether you’re along for the ride, offering advice or whatever. Thanks for your interest!

44 Responses to Planning Summer Trip to Romania, France and ________? Advice needed!
  1. Jeruen
    April 14, 2013 | 6:26 pm

    I guess heading to the northeast of Germany is a bit of a detour for you, but if you find yourself in Berlin, let me know. Always cool to meet cool travel bloggers in person!
    Jeruen recently posted..DGfS 2013: Day 1My Profile

    • CB Driver
      April 15, 2013 | 1:28 am

      Hi, Jeruen. I wish! I loved Berlin when I was there and it would be great to meet you. On this trip, it’s probably unlikely–but hey, you never know. Thanks! :)

  2. Laura Zera
    April 14, 2013 | 10:47 pm

    Ooooh, how fun! I think you can get to an astounding number of places in Europe because of all the transportation options, it just depends how active you want to be, e.g. getting up early to catch trains, etc. It’s always so tempting because yet another country is just a hop and a skip away!

    My take on it would be to leave England/Ireland for a different trip, but that’s just me. Also, look into some of the cheap flights on the discount carriers, e.g. Ryan Air and EasyJet. You can get entire days back in the time you save on taking trains, although there’s always a higher cost to get to/from airports over train stations.

    If you want the name of a guide in Romania, I can give you contact info for one in Brasov. He took my husband and friend and I around to the castles in 2011 and then ended up hanging out with us another day just for fun. He was really great. I loved it there, and it’s also a nice break on the wallet compared to western Europe.
    Laura Zera recently posted..The Thorn Birds as Children’s Lit: My Post for Jeri Walker-BickettMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      April 15, 2013 | 1:31 am

      Laura–Hi and thanks for writing. It’s funny how travel to Europe can seem overwhelming, probably because of all the options. Those cheap flights make so much so possible!

      I’m sort of inclined to skip the UK idea, too, now that I’ve been thinking about it. I went to Barns & Noble and of course, my eye went right to the Ireland guidebook. But when I took a peek, I thought–hmmm, I’d want to see more than just a little. And perhaps that would be great on a different trip, one that includes Scotland. So…maybe I’ll scratch that one off the list. We’ll see, though. I keep telling myself, “Hey, what’s 18 hours on a ferry?” LOL

      I would love the name of the guide in Romania–definitely!! I could see myself spending some real time there, so that would be great. How were his prices?


      • Laura Zera
        April 16, 2013 | 12:37 am

        The guide’s name is Florin Bana and this is his website: Because we were three journalists, a tourism resource helped arrange it so that the tour was done for the cost of gas and a tip, but Florin was SO great that we tipped him more than a regular tour would have cost! And if he’s not the right tour resource for you, I’m pretty sure he’d be happy to help you find someone/something that fits what you want.
        Laura Zera recently posted..The Thorn Birds as Children’s Lit: My Post for Jeri Walker-BickettMy Profile

        • CB Driver
          April 16, 2013 | 11:02 am

          Thanks so much, Laura. Good to know! I love recommendations like this.

  3. Helene
    April 15, 2013 | 1:53 am

    I’ll be in Poland at some point this summer, I’m told the salt mines are a must as well as the history and architectur, also Hungary for the gypsy violins and the rest (like food). Starting in Croatia (Taking my mum’s ashes home to Split and Omis. My sons tell me their favourite place in Croatia was the island of Hvar. I’ll be interested in what you find in Belgium, that’s another place I want to go and do some research as my parent were caught up in the post WWII ‘scam’ of getting displaced persons in as coalminers with the promise of free citizenship after 2 years, then re-negged the agreement to ‘once a coalminer always a coalminer’ so another ‘escape’ had to be engineered. I’d be really interested in how to find more information on that and whether there are archives with the names of people and which mines they worked in. Oh, so much to explore.
    Helene recently posted..The Australian OutbackMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      April 15, 2013 | 10:22 am

      Hi, Helene. Very cool that you’ll be in Poland. I’ve only been once and just saw a tiny bit. As I mentioned over on FB, I’d dying to go to the Wolf’s Lair. I could be very satisfied with a few days in Warsaw and that–then move on.

      Are you really starting in Croatia?? I was thinking about going there. I wonder if our paths will cross somehow. Hmmm. Was your mom from Split? What’s this island of Hvar? I’m intrigued. What exactly is your nationality? Russian, Polish, ____? ___? Just wondering…

      Sorry to hear about your parents being scammed that way. That sucks.

      Let’s keep chatting! We’ve obviously got some common interests. I’m fascinated by anything related to WWII.

  4. Nate
    April 15, 2013 | 5:48 am

    Hi Lisa…

    What about Belgium or the Netherlands?

    Wouldn’t be far from where you will be based?
    Nate recently posted..The Balkans – Is This As Cheap As European Tourism Gets? Update: YesMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      April 15, 2013 | 10:18 am

      Hi, Nate! I was thinking about that actually. Every time I travel, I meet people from the Netherlands and each time, I really like them. They are so incredibly open-minded and cool and so, I’d love to check out their country. That could work very well!

      And…Belgium is right there–and on the way. Hmmm. This could work! I just have to try to watch $$. If if do this, I’ll definitely couch surf.

      I do have my eye on Croatia, too….looks so damn beautiful!!!

      Um, what’s that I see in your ‘Comment Luv’ link? Must get over there and check out your post. I’m intrigued by that area…

      • Nate
        April 15, 2013 | 10:24 am

        Yep! Croatia/Serbia/Macedonia are MUCH cheaper than Western Europe…(especially Macedonia, and it’s a pretty amazing place)!
        Nate recently posted..The Balkans – Is This As Cheap As European Tourism Gets? Update: YesMy Profile

        • CB Driver
          April 15, 2013 | 10:27 am

          If you could just pic one, which would it be? I don’t want something super complicated. Just beautiful, interesting….maybe a beach… I would like to visit a site or two where battles were fought or where there’s a decent museum or day tour about it. That area has always fascinated (but confused) me. I’d like to learn more. And I’m curious about the people, too. How were they?

          And how much for a private room in a hostel or a low-budget (v basic but decent/clean) room? Is the transportation tricky or not too bad?

        • CB Driver
          April 15, 2013 | 10:29 am

          Oops–never mind a few of those Qs. I just looked at your post, which is fantastic! I’m so glad you’ve listed places where you’ve stayed. That is SO helpful.

  5. Laurel
    April 15, 2013 | 9:51 am

    How exciting! I would go with option 2 since it includes Germany and then hopefully we could meet up in Munich :). Look forward to hearing which option you choose.
    Laurel recently posted..Neuschwanstein: The Most Overrated Castle in GermanyMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      April 15, 2013 | 10:14 am

      Hi, Laurel–thanks! Munich, huh? Hmmm. That would be really cool. Have heard great things about it! And would love to meet you!

      Would Munich be the best way to do this if I wanted to see the Black Forest? Get myself there and travel to Freiberg? From there, I can get to Paris in 5 hours by train, then head over to my friend’s place. Maybe I could couch surf in Germany (if I go). I think that would be fun. I’m 1/8th German. :)

  6. Hogga
    April 15, 2013 | 10:14 am

    super jealous!

    • CB Driver
      April 15, 2013 | 11:05 am

      Come meet me in Amsterdam! LOL We’d get into trouble there…

  7. Laurel
    April 15, 2013 | 10:31 am

    Munich is a fun city, but the real gems lie outside of the city. I’d be happy to be your tour guide :). Munich is about a 5 hour train ride I believe to Freiberg. We have an extra room if you need a place to crash for a couple of nights.
    Laurel recently posted..Neuschwanstein: The Most Overrated Castle in GermanyMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      April 15, 2013 | 10:35 am

      Hi and thanks so much for both offers. Very cool of you! I’d love for you to be my tour guide–I’m sure you know the best places to visit–and I appreciate the room offer, too. Will keep all of this in mind if Germany becomes more of a possibility! Danke! :)

      How’s your German, btw? Better than mine, I’m sure. :)

  8. Amanda
    April 15, 2013 | 9:29 pm

    How exciting!! Europe is never a bad idea, in my opinion. :)

    And YAY Romania! I love Romania. I would definitely vote for pairing it with Hungary. Both countries are cheap, have decent trains/buses, and have a LOT to see/do; some really stunning cities and villages!
    Amanda recently posted..A Tundra EducationMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      April 15, 2013 | 10:03 pm

      Hi, Amanda. Thanks for the suggestion!

      I’m still in the early stages of planning this, so I don’t know much yet. I’m wondering how cheap these countries actually are. Can you tell me how much a private room in a hostel would be, for example? And maybe a train ride from R to H? How about meals? Also, have you been to Croatia? If so, what did you think?

      I’m eager to take this trip, but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to afford it (well, the Western European side of things). I’ve heard that rental cars in France are like $150 or more a day (for a 5-speed) and that some of the WWII tours cost about as much. That’s out of my price range. It also seems that you need to make reservations for rooms and transportation in advance. I’m spoiled because I don’t normally have to do that.

      So–any info on prices that you have would greatly be appreciated. Thanks!

  9. Victoria
    April 16, 2013 | 6:45 am

    Hi CB,
    I also agree re itinerary 2. Croatia is beautiful (well the Dalmation Coast is) it is also relatively cheap for Europe and budget travellers have been doing the coast for years so there’ll be cheap accommodation etc. It’s also quite different to France and Romania. I’ve also heard that Montenegro is amazing.
    Driving in France is easy, especially for an American. You’ll be able to rent an automatic car (ie no shift) without a problem, it’s just slightly more expensive. Car rental isn’t as expensive as you mention above. Check out Europcar, they’re usually competitive. For the WWII tours you might be able to find a charity or organisation that offers tours, it’s so much better to do them with someone who has an interest or even better was there. Good luck!
    Victoria recently posted..A visit to North KoreaMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      April 16, 2013 | 11:16 am

      Hi, Victoria. Thanks for the excellent suggestions! The Balkan region is definitely intriguing to me. So the car rental prices aren’t as high as I think? That’s good news. I’ve seen some scary prices–and for the tours, too.

      At the moment, I’m having some reservations about this trip because of what I think it might cost. I may have to shorten it because I don’t know if I can afford it the way I was thinking I might. I tend to be a low-budget traveler who goes to developing countries, so this is a new experience for me (sort of) and is, strangely enough, I’m finding it challenging! :)

  10. Dyanne@TravelnLass
    April 16, 2013 | 10:52 pm

    At first I was going to suggest Greece (it’s arguably uniquely idyllic and likely among the cheapest European destinations just now), but I see now that you’ve got a whole ‘nuther great plan.

    All I can say is…

    Arghhh! A sobering reminder that – while I’m frantically trying to explore this half of the globe (Asia, based here in Vietnam) – there’s so many OTHER wondrous corners of Europe!

    Soooo many places. So little time. Anyone know of a good cloner? 😉
    Dyanne@TravelnLass recently posted..Wordless Wednesday: Here’s To All the Runners of the WorldMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      April 18, 2013 | 11:52 pm

      Greece sounds cool!

      But guess what? Since our last interaction here, I’ve come up with a ‘nuther ‘nuther plan–LOL. Believe it or not, I’ve got a sudden urge to go to…


      Long story. Will have to write a post. I think I can pull it off because I’m a teacher and can get the ‘general license,’ which just means having certain documents with me for when I return here. Still looking into it.

      Re: cloning…I wish! Imagine that… I’d want one to work on this blog. :)

      • Dyanne@TravelnLass
        April 19, 2013 | 12:54 am

        Cuba – now that sounds like a most interesting plan (not to mention, lots cheaper airfare-wise, no?)

        And yes, cloning – TELL me about it, as I struggle to peck no less than 4 new posts (that are loooong overdue) on – but my two week Laos Elephant Festival caper nearly 2 months ago!

        Indeed. Where’s a friendly clone or two when you need one. 😉
        Dyanne@TravelnLass recently posted..Wordless Wednesday: Here’s To All the Runners of the WorldMy Profile

        • CB Driver
          April 20, 2013 | 9:44 am

          True, the airfare would be much lower. I just have to work out some of those tricky logistics. I think it should be fine, but must read everything carefully and get a letter from my dean, etc.

          Laos Elephant Festival caper??? LOL That sounds like fun. I look forward to checking that one out. :)

  11. Travel Man
    April 17, 2013 | 7:30 pm

    I know you’ll enjoy your trip and I can’t wait to see pictures. Great post
    Travel Man recently posted..Apr 13, Travel Europe CheapMy Profile

  12. Maria
    April 18, 2013 | 9:21 pm

    add Slovakia to the itinerary

    • CB Driver
      April 18, 2013 | 11:29 pm

      Would you believe that I’m thinking about adding Cuba to itinerary and removing Europe–LOL!

      • Maria
        April 19, 2013 | 6:20 am

        Yup, I’ll buy that. From the 3rd post I ever read on Chicky Bus, I have come to expect, the unexpected! *grin*
        Maria recently posted..Wordless Wednesday – Mount KinabaluMy Profile

  13. flip
    April 19, 2013 | 3:31 pm

    Oh wow! I’m envious, this is gonna be an epic trip. I’m excite to read about your future posts about Romania (and Dracula of cours).

    Safe Travels :-)
    flip recently posted..Top 15 Philippine Travel Blogs for 2013My Profile

    • CB Driver
      April 20, 2013 | 9:43 am

      Hi, Flip. Know what? I’m actually rethinking this trip. I’m not sure I can afford it, to be honest. The more I look into it, the more expensive it seems.

      I’m now considering Cuba! That’s not cheap either, but it’s more affordable for me. Also, I speak Spanish.

      Now, I just have to work out the logistics…

  14. Travel Man
    April 20, 2013 | 11:11 am

    Hello Flip. If your looking for the last place I would recommend looking into Bulgaria or maybe the Czech Republic (Prague). Both are beautiful places and I am pretty sure you will enjoy your time at both.
    Travel Man recently posted..Apr 13, Travel Europe CheapMy Profile

  15. John
    May 2, 2013 | 8:28 am

    I’d definately recommend Serbia. When I visited Belgrade about 6 years ago I was pleasantly surprised at how much there was to do there, especially with all the history etc.

    • CB Driver
      May 12, 2013 | 9:29 am

      Hi, Johan. Thanks for the tip. I’m very interested in Serbia and that region. Looks fascinating! For now, I’ve put the trip on hold. May go to Cuba instead. If I do Europe next year, I’ll keep your advice in mind!!

  16. Melissa Adams
    June 26, 2013 | 9:03 am

    If you ever find yourself close to Amsterdam, look me up: I’m sure you’d be an interesting guest…with a travel philosophy very similar to mine!

    • CB Driver
      June 26, 2013 | 9:21 am

      Hi, Melissa–and thanks so much! I just checked out your CS profile. You sound very interesting, too! I’d love to hear the story behind the Guatemalan jail incident.

      I’m sure I’ll be in the area in the future and will keep your info just in case. Thanks!

  17. Melissa Adams
    June 26, 2013 | 11:20 am

    CB Driver,
    I hope you’ll also check out my blog,, if you need any inspiration for visiting my beautiful adopted city. ~ Melissa

    • CB Driver
      June 26, 2013 | 11:45 am

      I will definitely take a look–great name, btw!

  18. Tourist in Romania
    February 22, 2014 | 10:15 am

    Did you get to Romania? I can help you with your travelling to Romania if you haven’t made the trip yet. This country can be really beautiful if you have some guidance. It is difficult to visit it without some advice on the side
    Tourist in Romania recently posted..Vlad the Impaler and a fortress right in the heart of Bucharest: Take up the challenge to visit some really creepy ruinsMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      February 23, 2014 | 10:52 am

      Hi and thanks for the offer! I have not made it there yet. Hopefully, at some point over the next couple of years, I will go. Looks very cool!

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