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By now, you are all considering your trip to Transylvania and are wondering on how to proceed. By mid March, I’ll send all of you a detailed Travel Kit that will include all the logistical details you need, such as:
But keep in mind that our participants come usually from all across USA, Canada, Europe and Australia, so it is rather difficult to meet before taking off for Budapest. Once you get everyone's contact information, I suggest you contact them and set up a meeting place in Budapest.
Remember: you are responsible to get to the pick up place/time on your own. So, for the flight over, we strongly suggest to avoid Bucharest. Although a lot of progress has been made, it is not the friendliest place for a first contact and it is more expensive than it should. The next capital city in line is Budapest (Hungary). Once you arrive there, take the InterCity or the EuroNigh trains (which costs around US$175 return) to Simeria or Sighisoara, depending on the program. There are a couple of direct trains from Budapest. It is easy (and safe) to get by train from Budapest to Simeria and Sighisoara, but it does take a while. There are several airports in Transylvania, such as Sibiu, Timisoara, Targu Mures, Cluj-Napoca, but there are not that practical.
TRAIN RIDE TO THE PICK UP SPOT
As far as the train ride from Budapest is concerned, you can use the German Railways site to figure out your "international" rides and their schedules. If you are travelling through Romania prior to the pick up, you can check out the different possibilities on the Romanian Railways site. The English version seems to have disappeared at the moment. Both would allow you to "virtually" plan the train ride (however, in the latter case, the ticket HAS to be purchased in the station and not on-line: the site is only for Romanian trips, that is within its national borders - if you take the train from Budapest, you might be able to go through a travel agent). However, there are also quite a few private trains that would not be listed on the Romanian Railways site (for more information, have a look at: www.regiotrans.ro ).
To sum up, here are some suggestions for taking the train:
- use the German Railways site for international schedules
- your train form Budapest might be sold out before you get to the train station, so it could be a good idea to buy your train tickets in advance (count at least 5 hours between your plane landing and your train)
- you will have to be at the train station in Budapest at least 2-4h before your train leaves
From Budapest to Simeria and Sighisoara, there are usually at least 2 direct trains daily.
A TRAVEL SUGGESTION
Land in Budapest 2-3 days early and buy your train ticket early! When you land in Budapest, you can either take a cab straight to the hostel (it is much more interesting if there are 2-3 people taking the cab) or the bus to the train station and a cab from there (the hostels are not very far from the station). The one problem we run into every second year is that one or two pieces of luggage are delayed or sent to the wrong place. And the luggage is usually lost in the US (JFK airport and Delta are infamous in that respect), but as I said, it is not that often. In case it happens, I'll give you an address where to instruct the airline to send your luggage and it usually gets there in a few days. We always eventually retrieved all delayed luggage.
Take the overnight train to Simeria or Sighisoara – depending on the program - on Saturday (especially if you are traveling in groups) and get a sleeper – it comes in 2, 4, 6 bunk bed compartments and you can lock the door. It is always a good idea for you to have some Romanian currency (RON) with you before you take the train.
FAQ. This will be my first time traveling and I am a bit nervous. What do I do when I get to Budapest?
First of all, we never had any major problems with our participants in Budapest for the past 13 years. In Budapest and in Transylvania, safety is just a matter of common sense. Whatever you do to be safe at home will keep you safe in Budapest. So don't worry... You can chek out the blogs of some of our past participants in About Us - Blogs section for some insights. Sometimes in March, we’ll provide you with the contact information of everyone in your team and a Travel Guide so you may better organize your trip. Once in Budapest, I strongly suggest that everyone checks in the same hostel (or couple of hostels). Reservations will need to be done at least a month in advance, especially if you arrive there around the same time. So get together, figure out the 2 hostel options you like, and make reservations once you know when you get there. The hostel people might even be able to arrange for an airport pick up, especially if there are several of you traveling around the same time (it doesn't hurt to ask!!!). For the exploring part, Budapest has beautiful castles, museums, their Parliament building is amazing, etc... You will need to figure out what you want to see. I personally recommend that you go to one of the Turkish baths and soak for a few hours - so relaxing... The historical 16th century baths are extraordinary (both in terms of architecture and service). My favorites are: the smaller and cozy Király Bath (Király Fürdő), and larger and gorgeous Gellert Baths, and the architectural wonders of the Rudas Bath (Rudas Fürdő), and the more upscale Rácz Hotel & Thermal Spa... Google them and find your favorite!!!
Here's a good web site to eplore: Budapest Tourist Guide. It is quite helpful