Transylvania vacations advice

TRANSYLVANIA HOLIDAYS ADVICE


TIPS FROM OUR FRIENDS IN TRANSYLVANIA

TAKE PART IN LOCAL EVENTS


Laura Vesa, tour leader of our Transylvanian tour partners Transylvan, shares the joys of getting involved: “The 'Measurement of the Milk' takes place during April in villages all over Transylvania and neighbouring Maramures. It's a lovely gathering with traditional food, music and sometimes dancing. I travelled by tractor with the shepherds and all along the way they were cheerfully singing before we arrived at the shepherds' camp at the foothills of Gutai Mountain. The camp had been beautifully decorated in colourful ribbons and fir tree branches. Sheep were then blessed by the priest before milk was measured so families would know how much cheese they'd be able to take when the sheep are returned on St Dimitri's Day. It was a lovely day of fun, learning and celebration.”

Advice on when to go


Count Tibor Kalnoky, our supplier and owner of several authentic Saxon cottages, including the Prince of Wales' nature retreat, shares his local knowledge of Transylvania and offers advice for travelers: “Autumn is gorgeous due to the wonderful colours of the forest, the green fields dotted with purple saffron and the special autumn blue sky above the snow-tipped mountains.”

Tom Harari, from our supplier Exodus, suggests the best seasons to travel to Transylvania: “The best experience is soaking up the atmosphere of the country itself. Horse-drawn carriages, alpine meadows where shepherds graze their sheep and make cheese, Saxon villages… it’s just like being in a fairy tale. Watching wild bears from hides is an experience that's hard to beat - spring is the best time. And in winter, the weather is normally crisp and clear with a coating of snow, a true Winter Wonderland.”

Appreciating the landscapes


Count Tibor Kalnoky: “Don't rush around in order to see and experience everything. It's not possible. Not only is there so much to see, but travelers usually underestimate the required time and effort to get from A to B. I'd recommend choosing two or three 'base-camps' situated on strategic points between regions, and stay there between three and five days each. Transylvania is incredibly diverse in its landscape and culture. Landscapes can alternate within a few kilometres, as well as the local cultures. Crossing a river, you might find that the architecture in the village on the other bank is not the same as in the area you just passed.
On his first visit to Transylvania in 1998, HRH the Prince of Wales was immediately struck by the precious legacy of this area and said he was ‘totally overwhelmed by its unique beauty and its extraordinarily rich heritage.'”

HEALTH & SAFETY IN TRANSYLVANIA


TRAVEL SAFELY IN TRANSYLVANIA

Health


Travelers from within the EU should obtain a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) when visiting Transylvania so as to be entitled to free health care and emergency medical treatment.

An EHIC isn’t the same as travel insurance so make sure you take out comprehensive insurance including cover for non-emergency treatment, any activities you wish to undertake and emergency repatriation.

If you’re visiting Transylvania during the summer then take care when walking through long grass as ticks are prevalent and can give a nasty bite that could lead to infection or worse. Vaccinations are available for some tick-borne diseases, and it’s also a good idea to try and avoid bites by wearing neutral coloured clothing, applying insect repellent (20mins after suntan lotion) and avoid sitting in long grass. Check your body for ticks after a day spent outdoors and if you find one then grip its head and mouth area with tweezers and pull directly out of the skin. The bite should then be thoroughly cleaned using soap and water or an alcohol-based solution.

Tap water is safe to drink in Transylvania. Take along a reusable bottle to fill up at your guesthouse before heading off on a hike and avoid drinking mountain spring water unless it’s been boiled and purified first.

SAFETY


The emergency number in Romania is 112.

If you’re planning on tracking wild animals then go with an experienced guide to get the most from the experience. Sighting wolf, lynx or bear tracks is a massive thrill although coming face to face with a fully grown brown bear in the wild is something else entirely. Wild animals will avoid human contact wherever possible but sometimes the scent of food from your backpack or campsite might prove too much to bear (pardon the pun). Unexpected encounters can also result in an unwarranted attack so make sure you’re prepared to announce your presence unless you’re tracking with an expert who knows when and where to hide.

Hikers in the more remote regions of Transylvania should always take necessary precautions to ensure their experience is memorable for all the right reasons. Buying a local SIM card is one way to try to get phone coverage in the mountains and adding the local mountain rescue number to your phone book is also advisable. Pack clothes for all seasons, always tell someone where you’re going and when you intend to be back, and check local weather forecasts on the day to ensure you’re ready for all eventualities. Safer still – go with a guide.

Transylvania has some wonderful marked hiking and horse riding trails through the Carpathians and surrounding forests so stick to them wherever possible to avoid getting lost and stranded out in the wilds, as well as to avoid damaging the environment. Practise map reading, even when following a recognised trail, carry enough water, avoid walking in the dark by starting early, and wear hiking boots that are already worn in.

Potholes are a problem so take care when driving and avoid driving after dark to ensure you don’t get stuck in a rut or encounter a local driver who thinks they’re Mihai Marinescu. Livestock can also be a concern whilst driving in rural Transylvania so go slow around bends and be prepared for cattle crossing, horse drawn carts or locals stopping for a chat.

Give feral and stray dogs a wide berth and walk away from them slowly rather than breaking into a run. Don’t feed them either as they’ll never leave you alone. Carrying a big stick and a few large stones as a precautionary threat is one idea although non-aggressive action is definitely the best way to stay safe. If bitten by a dog, seek medical attention at least within 48hrs; rabies is present in Romania.

TRANSYLVANIA TIPS FROM OUR TRAVELLERS


RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN THERE

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travelers are often... other travelers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful Transylvania travel tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your vacation - and the space inside your suitcase.
“Once you have slowed down for your first horse drawn cart you will quickly immerse yourself into driving Romanian style. With so much to see from amazing volcanic lakes to Saxon fortified villages a car is essential to get the most out of your time.” - Martin Davis

“Where else would you be allowed to be pulled up hill a few kilometres on a sledge attached to a 4x4 Lada.” - Lois Carrington King

“Be aware of the language difference. Up in the mountains they do not speak Romanian – they speak Hungarian! Your Romanian phrase book will not help you here.” - Mark Stickley

“Romania is a very poor country by UK standards so be prepared to see what we would call real poverty, with unsurfaced roads, water standpipes in the villages and crops being cut and collected by hand with no mechanisation in the area.” - Margaret Norah

“Take the organised trip which visits a local working watermill, a woodcarving family who date back 16 generations and the village blacksmith - all things you wouldn't be able to do independently and utterly fascinating.” - Sue Jameson

“The local school does not have many resources, so if you can fit it in your luggage, pens, notebooks, art supplies are welcome and can be distributed by your guides.” - Kiki Robinson

“Bring some local currency for tips, including some smaller denominations - I found it difficult to spend the larger currency notes I'd got from the bureau de change at the airport. Other than tips, beware the local unlabelled alcohol!” - Rebecca Dunn
Photo credits: [Top box: Paul White] [Appreciating the landscape: Horia Varlan] [Review 1 - Gerhard Loupal: Cristian Bortes] [Review 2 - Margaret de Costa: Paul White]

Written by: Chris Owen
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