I could have easily flown from Budapest to Bucharest instead of taking the train between the two cities. Hands down, the reason I chose to take the train is because of the scenery I would get to see. Being able to experience what one town looks like from the next is what makes being on the train one of the best experiences you will ever have. Suffice it to say, I did take the night train but that is because I wanted to arrive in Bucharest during the day and not have to try and find my way from the airport to the hostel if I were to arrive much later in the day. Now you know some of my reasons for choosing the train; scenery and arrival time….
Before I get to my experience on the train, I should state that I had booked a six person couchette until someone at Maverick Hostel in Budapest talked me out of it. I was telling him that I was heading to Bucharest next. His words, not mine, were that Bucharest was interesting. I said interesting how, “good interesting or bad interesting.” He said “interesting bad”. I told him the type of booking I made for the train and he said I should make sure the door to the couchette was locked and to keep an eye on my things. I shouldn’t have taken his words to heart since that is how it is nowadays. But I did take his words to heart about the couchette.
This is when I went online to see how much it would cost for the sleeper compartment. I found they have three person and two person compartments. I was going to book the three person compartment, decided against it, and booked the two person sleeper car for a little bit more. It turns out it cost me $112 US for this type of booking. I should have done this in the beginning because it cost me this amount for this booking and the other ticket was non-refundable. I could have paid a little bit more for this type of ticket to begin with and saved myself the headache of hoping I could get this reservation booked before I left. Lesson learned: sometimes it is better to pay a bit more for the added security and nicer accommodations then trying to save money.
One thing to remember if you have learned anything from this lesson of booking train accommodations is couchettes are mixed and sleeper cars are same sex compartments.
Onto the journey after my experience of making a new booking was great! I showed up a little early and found the car where my sleeper would be. Now I did have to ask the attendant if I was at the right car because I wasn’t sure how to read the ticket. Basically the ticket will have the type of train you will be on which in this case was the EN473, the car # and the seat #. I believe I was in car five and then I needed to look for 22 which was one of the numbers listed next to the door which was open when I arrived. Then you look for the same number when you step into the compartment. For me, number 22 was the bottom bunk. I was grateful for this since I didn’t want to have to climb to the top bunk to sleep. Since I had booked the two person sleeper then one of the beds was pushed back to make room for the two beds in the compartment and not three since some of the cars are made for three people to use.
As you walk into your hotel room on wheels, you will find the beds on the left, wash basin next to the window, cabinets which open up with bottles in one of the cabinets and hangers if you want to hang up anything. There is even a ladder in the room for use if you are not lucky enough to have the bottom bunk. There aren’t any toilets or showers in the room since they are located at the end of the corridor to the car you are in. As for food options; there is a dining car on the train. I am not sure if it was open all night but it was open when I walked in for a drink while I was on the train. I mean, I didn’t need to buy any food since I had come prepared and brought a couple of sandwiches and a chocolate croissant (yummy!) with me for this trip. I probably wouldn’t have even gone to the dining car but I was talking to Howard who was in the next compartment and he invited me to join him in the dining car. From talking to him, I found out he was heading to Ploiesti since he is working on genealogy on his family. His research had taken him from Connecticut to Romania where his grandmother had ties to the community.
While talking to him, he gave me some advice about traveling, he said “if something isn’t going to cost a lot and it will take the stress out of your vacation then you should do it”. Choosing the sleeper car ended up being the best choice for me because it took the stress out of being on the train alone. The added benefit was that I had the sleeper car to myself. The other person whom I was due to share the room with didn’t show up. Another benefit with these types of accommodations is that you can lock the doors to your compartment and there is an attendant in the sleeper car which gives you the added security. Not sure if you would have attendants in other sections of the train but happy I did for the car I was in for the night.
Much of the night was quiet, minus armed officials, coming in at the last stop in Hungary and then again at the first stop going into Romania asking for my passport. Looking over my passport, they stamped it and went on their way to the next compartment. Other than that, I slept as much as I could before waking up to the sun coming through the window of my hotel room on wheels. Looking out the window, I could see the change from Hungary to Romania. Hard to explain the villages I was seeing but seemed very lived in. Areas dusted with snow after leaving Brasov behind me. I finally made my way to Bucharest at noon the next day after stepping foot on the train at 7:00 pm the previous night.
By Britchi Mirela (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ro (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/ro/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons
Be prepared to deal with two time changes if traveling from Budapest to Bucharest during Daylight Savings Time. I knew it would be an hour’s difference between the two cities. In saying that, I forgot I would gain another hour on top of that because of the time change. Thus, I gained two hours with this trip.