When it’s a cold, cloudy and rainy day, the idea of sitting on a train for 9 hours, which ordinarily does not invoke a great deal of excitement, doesn’t really sound so bad at all. And this is a good thing considering that today is such a day and I’m actually on such a long-distance train right this very moment, the Inter City 569, traveling from the northwestern Romanian city of Timisoara to the Romanian capital of Bucharest.
I only arrived in Timisoara early yesterday afternoon from Belgrade, Serbia and at the time I was a little naive about the train system in Romania. I simply assumed that I would have many options to travel to Bucharest and that the 550 kilometer distance would be covered in around 5-6 hours.
So when I discovered that the fastest train option left at 6:00am, and still took 9 hours, I had no choice but to prepare myself for a long travel day. With that said, I was definitely looking forward to once again traveling by train as the train systems of Bosnia and Serbia, where I have been over the past 10 days, were not covered by my Eurail Global Pass. As a result, I mostly traveled by bus. (**For EU citizens, when you purchase an InterRail Pass, the Serbian train system is included.)
And during that time away from the trains, I started to miss the comfortable seats, the space to wander and stretch my legs and even the clickety-clack of the wheels on the tracks. Hearing that clickety-clack right now, as I write this post and as we pass through the city of Dobreta Turnu Severin, has admittedly made this lengthy journey significantly easier to digest.
However, despite being back in a wide, soft, reclining train seat, I can’t stop thinking about how I actually almost missed the train this morning.
If there’s a common mistake that every traveler makes at least once (or 100 times in my case) while on the road, it is not checking to see if they have crossed into a different time zone when traveling to a new country. So had I not randomly woken up at 4:16am this morning, which I discovered was actually 5:16am when I suddenly had a feeling I might have changed time zones the day before, I would have missed the train.
After a crazy 6 minutes of brushing my teeth, getting dressed and packing up my stuff, I checked out of the hostel and the staff called me a taxi, which arrived at 5:40am. Luckily, I reached the train station 5 minutes before the 6:00am departure time and after a quick sprint across the tracks, I jumped on board and chose a random seat. Somehow, I had made it.
The train began to roll out of the station shortly after and I could barely stay awake, but unfortunately, before I could fall asleep, the ticket collector came around. And after looking at my Eurail Pass for five minutes she proceeded to give a few shakes of her head, a couple wags of her finger and then place such a mean look on her face that I felt as if my arrest was imminent. Then, just when I began thinking about the conditions of Romanian prisons, she suddenly walked away without saying anything and I decided to stare out the window at the brown fields passing by.
Naturally, five minutes later she returned, this time with another ticket collector, one who spoke a little English. They both sat down and the man immediately said to me, “We have a big problem”. But then I just sat there for a few more minutes as the two ticket collectors looked at my Eurail Pass over and over again, pointing to random words, shaking their heads to each other, glancing at me every once and a while and writing things down in a small notebook. While this was going on I was preparing myself to face that ‘big problem’ but instead, and quite out of nowhere, the man just handed me back the Eurail Pass and welcomed me on board.
That was it. They walked away again and I never did find out what was the big problem.
So, fully relaxed and without having been handcuffed, off to sleep I went amid the relaxing atmosphere of another European train, enjoying a lovely 3 hour rest that just ended about 30 minutes ago. The train is now quite empty, it’s a quiet, warm ride and the dark gray clouds outside have begun to lift at least enough for me to see the river we’re traveling next to. Checking the schedule, it appears that the next major stop, coming up in about an hour, will be the city of Craiova and from there, we shall begin the final stretch to Bucharest, a city that I really know almost nothing about, but one that I am certainly eager to delve into.
While this is my own adventure and my posts are always my own words based upon my own personal experiences, I must make a note that Eurail.com has provided my Eurail Pass as part of their Blogger Project for 2011.
Join 21,000+ people and get your weekly travel inspiration.
New blog posts, honest updates from my 21 years of constant travel, personal recommendations and the best of travel from around the world.
Strictly Necessary Cookies
Strictly Necessary Cookies should be enabled at all times so that we can save your preferences for cookie settings.
If you disable this cookie, we will not be able to save your preferences. This means that every time you visit this website you will need to enable or disable cookies again.
3rd Party Cookies
This website uses Google Analytics to collect anonymous information such as the number of visitors to the site, and the most popular pages.
Keeping this cookie enabled helps us to improve our website.
Please enable Strictly Necessary Cookies first so that we can save your preferences!
I had a problem with one of my eurail passes, I think in Germany? It was because we needed to present the pass at the ticket vendor first to be given a specific ticket for our train. I’m not sure if thats something that is always required, but we didnt have any more issues after that.
Hey Tara – I had heard of that as well but whenever I went to the ticket office, they told me I didn’t need a ticket and that I could just board the train. I think you need to get the ticket ahead of time if you’re traveling on popular routes as the trains are more crowded and a seat needs to reserved.
When I was selling Eurail passes at a bookstore I worked at back in the late 90s, none of Eastern Europe other than Hungary was even included on the pass. Nice to see times have changed. Now we just need Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Albania, and Macedonia to get decent networks and we’ll have it all!
Can’t wait to hear about Bucharest. People either love it or hate it.
Hey Erik – That would be ideal if those countries had networks that could be included on the pass as well, but it’s definitely a good start with Romania and Bulgaria being included these days. You can now make it all the way across Europe and almost to Istanbul! And I was a fan of Bucharest…it took some time to get used to and discover, but in the end, I really enjoyed my time there…
I am in a totally love-hate relationship with Bucharest. Been there at least ONCE a year between 2003 and 2010. However, there were times when I hated it with all my life and only several times when I enjoyed it.
I gladly skip it if i didn’t have things to do there BUT for a foreigner it’s a nice experience to compare how Eastern European capitals have evolved after 1989.
Hey Cristina – I agree that every place we visit has something to offer as we can always learn something. I’ll actually be heading back to Bucharest tomorrow for one last look!
Probably those officers were trying to understand what are written in the Eurail Pass. By the way, in my opinion the experience of catching up the schedule of any means of transportation just a few minutes before the departure time is one of the ‘adventures’ or ‘beauties’ of traveling 🙂
Hey Bama – You’re right, I think they could not read the Pass and were just trying to find a few words they could understand. And yes, as long as I make the train or bus, then just getting on board at the last minute is certainly the kind of adventure that keeps traveling interesting!
We certanly enjoy reading your adventures,
keep on rolling.
sorry we missed your call
love Grandma and Leo
I’m very interested to read about your experiences in Romania! I’m hoping to travel for a couple of weeks in Romania (and then a couple of weeks elsewhere in Eastern Europe) next summer. I suppose it’s a good thing that I don’t mind long train/bus/car rides!
Hey Amanda – There will definitely be a few posts about Romania coming up shortly! And yes, if you’re already mentally prepared for long journeys, you should be perfectly fine in this part of the world 🙂
If you need any help, Amanda, let me know . I live in Romania 🙂
Thanks, Cristina! I’ll definitely shoot you an e-mail for some tips!
I’ll gladly help. You can follow me at @whygogreece btw 🙂
Learning the right time zone for the country you are visiting is an important lesson. It seems like this would be an obvious no brainer, but time zones can be trickier than you think. For instance, I just returned from Costa Rica and this country is one hour different in all of the other surrounding countries. Is this because they are in a different time zone? Nope, it is because they currently do not practice daylight savings while other countries in the same time zone do. Glad you made your train.
Hey Ted – There are some odd time zone inconsistencies out there in the world and it seems that more and more often, some countries are just deciding not to change their time during daylight savings, or changing their time at random times of the year, making it all the more complicated. Of course, it doesn’t take more than a simple question to a local to find out the correct time, something I clearly failed to do!
Seeing as you’re travelling through Europe by train, thought I’d ask if you’ve seen the films Before Sunrise/ After Sunset. The first one was filmed in Vienna and the beginning takes place on a train going through part of Europe- They’re good films if you get chance to watch.
Hey Clare – I have not seen those films…but I’ll try and check those out when I can. Thanks for the recommendation!
“That was it. They walked away again and I never did find out what was the big problem.” Wow! That would bring me a box of angst with bows on it.
My flight from the Spain to the US I was greeted after boarding by a ground crew member with manifest in hand to verbally ID my single checked bag – now the flight had major problems on the outbound leg so I wasn’t sure if it was extra customer service or a problem he was dealing with. It was never explained to me why they wanted the verbal ID and I was the only passenger asked. *shrug*
Glad to hear its passed and you’re well on your way again.
So now you should be in Bucharest, fancy for a coffee?
Hey Corina – I’m actually in Brasov at the moment 🙂 I had a quick visit to Bucharest the first time but will be visiting again in about 8 days from now. So let’s definitely plan for a coffee! I think I’ll be back in the city around the 6th of November….
You were fortunate to travel only 9 hours.
From Arad (which is 50 km north of Timisoara) it usually takes 12 (yes!) hours to get to Bucharest on the same type of train. As you probably saw already, IC and Rapid are only named like that b/c they are clean not b/c they are fast. Still, for 100 euros return trip, it’s much better than a flight from Timisoara (especially since we fall short on the budget carriers thing here in Romania).
If you are ever again in Timisoara , Oradea, Arad or Deva, I’d love to meet up and share some travel stories! 🙂
Hey Cristina – I guess I did get lucky with that train as I had heard ahead of time that the IC and Rapid trains did not really live up to their names 🙂 But I was perfectly happy with the journey in the end.
And I will certainly let you know if I do make it back to your region and of course, if you decide to jump on a train to Bucharest any time soon, please let me know as well!
don’t have any plans to go to Bucharest any time soon , but do keep in touch. who knows where we could bump into each other 🙂
I have also used the trains in Romania and had a -politely said- disappointing experience. The trains were bad, slow, and about 30 min away from the capital we were stopped for about 1 hr.
The worst train I’ve been on though was in Bulgaria. I still remember that it smelled as if I was in a horse stable.
Hey Maria – It’s funny because I heard similar stories from others but I’ve had only great experiences with trains so far in Romania. They have all been on time and all have been comfortable as well. I hope my luck continues!