Romania has one of the most dense and extensive railway networks in the world, although the quality of the system still needs improving. Most of the cities and towns of Romania can be reached by train, with plenty of trains also reaching the countryside areas. The national railway carrier is called CFR (Căile Ferate Române), the company running most of the trains in the country. Although the speed of trains is quite low compared to Western Europe and there are frequent delays, traveling by train in Romania is very safe and one can reach almost any area of the country, including across the mountains.
Types of Trains in Romania
There are three main types of trains used in the country, depending on the distance and destination they are used for. The basic commuter type is called Regio (R) and is mainly used for short distance, with very slow speed and stopping in each station along the way. These should be used by travelers just in special cases where there are no other options like buses or minibuses available. They are pretty cheap and used by people commuting to work on a daily basis, having basic comfort levels. The next type of trains is InterRegio (IR), which are faster and serving longer distances, stopping only for major stations along the way. These are almost twice as expensive as the Regio trains, although still affordable. The comfort is a lot higher than the first type, with some routes having modernized cars. The fastest and most comfortable, but also the most expensive type of train available in Romania is the InterCity (IC) that connects major cities and destinations, without any secondary stops along the way. These trains have modern conditions and facilities, including charging outlets, dining cars, air conditioning and more. These types of trains have almost been taken out of service, because of high prices and low popularity. The InterRegio trains have two comfort classes, with several cars for 1st class, with more space and comfort, but also more expensive. Some InterRegio trains that have long routes and travel during the night will also have couchette or sleeping cars available. Some of the most popular and sometimes secondary routes are served by private companies, although greatly outnumbered by the CFR network. Special types of trains are tourist trains running on narrow gauge railways along scenic mountain routes, offering a unique experience for travelers.
Buying a Train Ticket in Romania
It’s actually pretty simple to buy a CFR train ticket, with the best option to get it directly at the stations across the country, although many villages and small towns might not have ticket booths. Although possible, buying a ticket after boarding is possible when not booth is available or running late, although this will also imply paying a fine and a more expensive ticket. In the past, many people traveled without a ticket and simply bribed the control officers along the way. This is still practiced, although not recommended in the present, as you might be forced to descend in the first station. It is also possible to buy train tickets online in Romania, by using the cfrcalatori.ro website, with all the necessary information available in English. It’s possible to buy a ticket with up to 6 months in advance, CFR offering discounts for groups, return tickets and advance purchases. For example, in 2020, a train ticket for an InterRegio train from Bucharest North to Brasov (166km) costs 48.6 Lei (about 10 Euros) for 2nd class and 70 lei (15 Euros) for 1st class, while the trip takes almost 3 hours.
Important Information about Traveling by Train in Romania
One of the main things to keep into consideration when traveling by train in Romania is to never rely on the schedules when traveling over long distances. Weather conditions, speed limitations and railway works will often mean long delays, although things are better each year. There are no announcements regarding the next stations and this will be especially troublesome for smaller stations, when the train only stops for a minute at most. The best option would be to ask other passengers for help and prepare detailed timetables with each stop along the way. Another important advice is to never descend on other stations along the way in order to buy something, as the train might leave without any notice. The modernized cars will have decent conditions, with small bathrooms/lavatories, but for long distance trains, these might become unusable pretty fast. The average speed of Romanian trains is very low, with only about 50-60 km, allowing you to enjoy the scenery along the way. If you are in a hurry or have further connections from your destinations, allow for at least a couple of hours delays.