…an escape from the Schengen Zone You may be researching whether to visit Romania or Bulgaria because you’ve run out of days you can spend in the Schengen Zone. The great thing about both countries is that they are part of the EU but NOT yet full members of the Schengen Zone. Thus you get a different set of days here (depending on your passport).
Romania Travel Resources If you’re going to Romania, we have a goldmine of resources for you to take advantage of! First, check out this guide to planning a trip to Romania. It’s a good starting point for planning your trip. Next, check out all the things to do in Transylvania and things to do in Bucharest. You can also check out our Instagram guides to Sibiu, Brasov, and Bucharest – more are on the way. You can also read about the best Romanian castles, the Romanian food you should try on your trip, or how to plan some epic day trips from Bucharest. Where to Stay in Romania We’re in the process of creating comprehensive guides on where to stay in different Romanian cities, but for now, we recommend checking out Booking.
Between Bran Castle, Corvin Castle, and Raznov Fortress, you really won’t run out of fairy tale-esque places. You can even visit Clay Castle, the future eco-hotel that looks like it’s been ripped from a Disney cartoon storybook. …you’re a salt tourist If you’re a salt tourist like me (yes, it’s a thing) you’ll want to make sure you spend some time in Cluj. Nearby is the Salina Turda salt mines, a spectacular underground world where you can explore the mine while taking advantage of the health benefits you’ll get from spending so much time underground breathing in the salty air. …you will travel for Dracula Everyone knows that Bram Stoker, the inventor of Dracula, actually lived in Ireland and never set foot in Romania.
These days DO NOT count towards your day in the Schengen Zone. For specific visa requirement for both countries, check out our guides to planning a trip to Romania and planning a trip to Bulgaria. …budget-friendly travel While neither Romania or Bulgaria is likely to break the bank, we love that both offer affordable luxury options. If your goal is to come here for a week or two, you can enjoy one or two levels nicer on your accommodations, meals, and tours compared to a similarly priced trip in Western Europe. If you come to either Balkan country with the ability to spend $75 USD per day or more, you’ll find your money stretches very far. For those traveling on tight budgets ($35 USD or less), you’ll find ample hostel options, cheap eats, and free activities that will help you have an amazing trip without blowing a hole in your budget.
…you’re prepared to visit more than three cities Romania is a large country, and you really can’t get to know it if you don’t get out of Bucharest, Sibiu, or Brasov. In fact, you don’t really know anything about Romania at all until you’ve seen its undiscovered corners like Moldavia and Bucovina, not to mention the Danube Delta. Just seeing the capital and Transylvania hotspots will not cut it here, so if you only have time to check out two or three cities, stick to Bulgaria, where you can experience a lot by spending time in Sofia, Plovdiv, and the coast. Romania is perfect for those who want to road trip.
Choose either Romania or Bulgaria for… Here are four great experiences awaiting you no matter which country you choose to visit! …stunning Orthodox monasteries While I personally prefer Bulgarian monasteries to Romanian ones, if I’m being completely honest the truth is that you can’t go wrong either way. My favorite Bulgarian monasteries are Rila Monastery outside of Sofia, Transfiguration monastery outside of Veliko Tarnovo, and Shipka Church (okay, not technically a monastery but simply stunning nonetheless).
In Romania, you have to check out the painted monasteries in Bucovina and Horezu monastery in the southern Carpathian mountains. …winter fun It’s kind of a well-kept secret abroad, but the Balkans are an awesome place to be in winter! There are amazing Balkan ski resorts in almost every country, but Bulgaria and Romania are both truly blessed. In Bulgaria, I love visiting Borovets. It’s easy to get to Borovets from Sofia, there are great Borovets restaurants to enjoy, and the slopes are famous for being a great budget-friendly way to enjoy a ski vacation without sacrificing quality. If you find yourself leaning towards a trip to Romania, check out the ski resort town of Poiana Brasov. While I personally preferred enjoying the outdoor hot tub to being cold, you’ll find the slopes are just as great as the apres ski.
If you want to kick the Dracula tourism up to high gear, spend your Halloween in Transylvania. Allison and I were able to spend the spooktacular holiday in the region a few years ago, and we had a blast at the kitschy shows and themed parties happening in the region. …you want to shop til you drop While you won’t leave Romania or Bulgaria empty handed, we do have to admit that we love the craft scene in Romania more. In fact, so many of our favorite Romanian souvenirs are textiles and handicrafts. There’s also amazing local Horezu pottery and of course, amazing Dracula-themed gifts to bring home with you. Yes, we love Bulgarian souvenirs (especially rose and lavender products), but we prefer shopping in Romania.
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It has epic scenic drives, like the Transfagarasan Pass. Of course, like any Balkan road trip, you’ll want to give yourself extra time in case a political protest or flock of sheep cause a traffic jam. Choose Bulgaria if… Here are five reasons you should choose Bulgaria over Romania. …you think a trip isn’t complete without good food and good wine While both Romanian food and Bulgarian food offer some great dishes, I far prefer Bulgarian cuisine, which has more variety and incorporates cultural influences from Turkish and Greek food. Also, Bulgarians love to eat vegetables, while it was hard to come by a vegetable in certain parts of rural Romania (other than raw red onions cradling slivers of pig fat, of course). Beyond the local cuisine, the restaurants in Sofia are leaps and bounds ahead of the restaurant scene in Bucharest.