Ultimate Balkans and Transylvania Trip Notes

Trip Overview

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Discover the treasures of the Balkans and Transylvania on this immersive 19 day adventure packed with the perfect mix of charm, culture, history, architecture and scenery. Go back in time to a world of Saxon villages and hilltop citadels in Transylvania as you delve into the myths and legends of Dracula. Bathe in the turquoise waters of the sun-drenched Adriatic coast. Witness the incredible ancient ruins of Athens. Experience the quirky and historical capital cities of Sofia, Skopje, Tirana and Belgrade. Uncover the hidden gems and wonders of Transylvania and the Balkans on this ultimate adventure!

Duration : 19 Days

Destination : Balkans / Transylvania, Romania

Start/Ends in : Bucharest / Athens

Group Size :13-35 People

Age Req. : 18+

Trip Theme : Classic, Overland

Departs : April to December

Arrival Details

The group welcome meeting with you guide and other travellers is held around 18:30 at the hotel lobby on Day 1 of your tour, unless otherwise notified.

Meeting Point:

The meeting point for this tour is:

Hotel Inter Business – Bucharest – 4 Star or similar

Address : Bulevardul 1 Decembrie 1918 56B, București 032468, Romania

Phone : +40 21 345 5500

Emergency Number: +44 (0) 208 099 75 36

Airport Transfers:

All tours starting in Bucharest include arrival airport transfer if your flight lands in Bucharest on the first day of your tour between 5am and 11:30pm.

To arrange your airport transfer please email us the following information at least 2 weeks before your departure date. [email protected]


Travel Date, Flight Number, Local Arrival Time, Name/s of the Passengers

Highlights

Belgrade: One of the oldest cities in Europe and the only one built on the confluence of two rivers, also known as the city that never sleeps

Budva: Budva is a town in Montenegro and known for best nightlife on the Adriatic Sea, it’s known for sandy beaches and nightlife.

Dubrovnik: This complex is one of the most beautiful and strongest fortified systems in Europe, but the lively streets show that there is more!

Kotor: Kotor is a fortified town on Montenegro’s Adriatic coast, in a bay near the limestone cliffs of Mt. Lovćen.

Mostar: Mostar is a city in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and known for the iconic Stari Most (Old Bridge) and the jumpers off the bridge.

Ohrid: Ohrid is a large town in North Macedonia on the shore of Lake Ohrid and a UNESCO heritage site since 1980.

Sarajevo: Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia, is a compact city on the Miljacka River, the center has museums commemorating local history.

Shkodra: Shkodër or Shkodra is the fourth largest city in Albania and one of the oldest places in the Balkan peninsula.

Skopje: Skopje is the capital and largest city of the North Macedonia and it lies in the heart of the Balkan Peninsula region.

Sofia: Sofia is the capital and largest city of Bulgaria.ıt has rich history from Roman and Ottoman Empires. Also famous with it’s night life.

Tirana: Tirana is the capital and largest city of Albania.It is also culturel and economical, politically center of the country.

Trebinje: Trebinje is a small sized city situated in the Trebišnjica river valley in south eastern Herzegovina, about 30 km by road from Dubrovnik.

Plovdiv: Hilly Plovdiv old town is famed for its photogenic and winding cobbled streets and beautifully preserved Ottoman-era townhouses.

Veliko Tarnavo: Veliko Tarnavo is one of the oldest towns in Bulgaria. Its history dates back to more than five thousand years ago.

Bucharest: The capital of Romania has everything to keep the traveler satisfied with a cosmopolitan downtown and historic sites.

Sinaia: A town in central Romania’s Bucegi Mountains, the 17th-century Sinaia Monastery was once a royal family Residence.

Brasov: A medieval town set in the heart of Transylvania’s Carpathian Mountains, Brasov is the launchpad for the dazzling castles in the region.

Sighisoara: Sighisoara lies on the Tarnava Mare River in Mures, Romania, right at the historic region of Transylvania. It hosts a spectacular UNESCO-heritage citadel.

Targu Mures: Targu Mures is the 16th largest Romanian city, with 134,290 inhabitants as of 2011. It lies on the luminous Mures River.

Tirana: Tirana is the capital and largest city of Albania. It is also the cultural, economical, and political center of the country.

Cluj Napoca: The unofficial capital of Transylvania beckons with its myriad modern facilities scattered across Saxon and Hungarian monuments.

Salina Turda: Salina Turda is a salt mine in the Durgau-Valea Sarata area of Turda, the second-largest city in Cluj Country, northwest Romania.

Sibiu: Sibiu is a city in Transylvania, central Romania. It’s known for Germanic architecture and in its old town, the legacy of the 12th century.

Athens: You will fall in love with the perfect combination of culture, history, and the dynamic contemporary life in one of the oldest cities in the world.

Kalambaka: Kalambaka is a town and the seat of the Municipality of Meteora in the Trikala regional unit, part of Thessaly in Greece.

Itinerary

Please note that the itinerary may be subject to small changes depending on the conditions during the tour. Alternative accommodation of similar standards may be used depending on the group size and hotel availability.

Welcome to Bucharest! At the airport, keep an eye out for the Travel Talk sign for your transfer to the hotel. At the hotel around 7pm, have an informal welcome meeting with your guide and fellow travellers. After you get all the critical information about the tour, head out for our optional group dinner around 8:15pm and walk the streets of Bucharest.

Accommodation : Hotel Inter Business – 4 Star or similar

Included Activities :

Welcome Meeting

Optional Activities:

Group Dinner

After a hefty breakfast at the hotel, it’s time to launch our discovery of the fascinating Romanian capital, Bucharest. Follow your guide as we visit unmissable landmarks of the city starting with the Revolution Square, Arc of Triumph and Romania Athenaem. Learn about the unique culture and vast history of the city as we continue to the famous Opera House, National Military Club, Dimitrie Gusti National Village and the Palace of Parliament, each building presents a different perspective to the Romanian culture and an artwork in itself. After some personal leisure time for you to explore this gorgeous city on your own terms, return to the hotel following a long day of discovery.

Accommodation : Hotel Inter Business – 4 Star or similar

Meals Included : Breakfast

Included Activities : Bucharest City Tour

Entrance Fees : National Village Museum – EUR 5

Today’s the day we set course for the fascinating region of Transylvania. Drive through misty forests of lush green towards our first stop at Peles Castle in Sinaia, a beautiful neo-renaissance castle in the Carpathian mountains. Just as we start to warm up to this unique atmosphere, goosebumps creep in… Prepare for the legendary Bran Castle, also known as the Castle of Count Dracula! This iconic sight is where legend and reality blend together to create the timeless stories of the vampires. Continue deep into Transylvania to Bravos, a fascinating town surrounded by medieval Saxon walls and embellished with gothic & baroque architecture. Starting with the cobble-stone Piaţa Sfatului (Council Square), visit famous landmarks as the Black Church and Muresenilor House Museum before checking into our hotel.

Accommodation : Hotel Cubix – 4 Star or similar

Meals Included : Breakfast

Included Activities :

Visit to Peles Castle

Visit to Count Dracula Castle

Brasov Sightseeing

Entrance Fees :

Dracula Castle Bran – EUR 8.5

Ready to follow the footsteps of Count Dracula? Our journey continues to Sighisoara after making a stop at the Clock Tower. Soak in marvellous views of Sighisoara Citadel, the Dominican Monastery, The Church on the Hill (Biserica din Deal), and Dracula’s House while listening to your guide about the colourful background of the town. Next stop will be Targu Mures, a small town yet an important seat of Transylvanian parliaments since 1500s, having survived the Mongol invasion. Have a small tour around town to see the Synagogue Quo Ante, Targu Mures citadel and the Culture Square. Our next stop will be the unofficial capital of the Transylvania region, Cluj-Napoca! Tag along your tour leader for a sightseeing tour of the colourful town, visiting the Union Square, St. Mihail Church and Matthias Corvinus Monument. Then make way to our 4-star hotel following a long day of discovery with spare time to scroll through your photo reel.

Accommodation : Hotel Premier – 4 Star or similar

Meals Included : Breakfast

Included Activities :

Sighisoara Sightseeing

Targu Mures Sightseeing

Cluj-Napoca Sightseeing

After breakfast at the hotel, we depart for the salt mines of Turda. This fascinating geologic wonder first produced salt for the region in antique times and has been active since the 11th century! Continuing to Hunedeoara Castle, also known as the Corvin Castle, learn all about the vibrant history of the Transylvanian citadel from your local guide. Our next stop will be the fairytale-like town of Sibiu. Presenting marvellous samples of Germanic architecture, Sibiu’s legacy dates back to Saxxon settlers from the 12th century. Tag along your tour leader to view landmarks such as Brukenthal Palace, Piata Mare (city square), Lutheran Cathedral, Holy Trinity Cathedral and the Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. Finally, relax at our comfortable 4-star hotel following a day filled with cultural adventure or continue to explore Sibiu as you wish.

Accommodation : Hotel Plaza 35 – 4 Star or similar

Meals Included : Breakfast

Included Activities :

Visit to Salina Turda (Salt Mine)

Hunedeoara Sightseeing

Sibiu Sightseeing

Entrance Fees :

Salina Turda – EUR 7

Corvin Castle – EUR 7

It’s time to bid farewell to Romania as we embark our ride for Ruse, Bulgaria via Bucharest. Upon arrival, start exploring the colourful town at the Freedom Square. Walk with your expert guide to visit unmissable sights such as the Sveta Troitsa Church, Opera House, Courthouse, Regional Historical Museum and Regional Library Lyuben Karavelov.

Accommodation : Hotel Dunav – 4 Star or similar

Meals Included : Breakfast

Included Activities:

Ruse Sightseeing

After breakfast at the hotel, our journey takes us to Veliko Tarnavo, the City of the Tsars. The historic capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire displays the unique Bulgarian architecture from the medieval age. Uncover the vast history and gems including Tsareverts Fortress and the Holy Forty Martyrs Church before moving on to Etar Architectural-Ethnographic Complex, an open-air museum with well-preserved samples of Bulgarian culture and craftsmanship. Moving on to Kazanlak, famed for its roses, we will stop along the Rose Valley and visit a Rose oil factory. Extensively familiarised with the Bulgarian culture, finish the day with a good night’s rest in Plovdiv.

Accommodation : Hotel Best Western Premier – 4 Star or similar

Meals Included : Breakfast

Included Activities :

Veliko Tarnavo Sightseeing

Visit to Etar Ethnographic Complex

Visit to Rose Valley

Entrance Fees :

Etar Architectural-Ethnographic Complex – EUR 3

Tsarevets Fortress – EUR 3

Fill up at breakfast at the hotel as we prepare for a city tour of beautiful Plovdiv. Launching our tour at Old Plovdiv in Nebet Hill, visit the Balabanov and Georgi Mavridi House, witness the impressive St. Konstantin Church and Elena Church, and proceed to Roman Amphitheatre of Philippopolis and Stadium – some of the best-preserved samples of Roman architecture in the world. Then we continue to visit the Citadel Door, Castle Streets and St. Nedelya Church. Having explored the marvels of Plovdiv, we embark for Sofia! Upon arrival, discover the Bulgarian capital on a panoramic city tour covering all the unmissable sights of the city and learn about its rooted history.

Accommodation : Hotel Vega – 4 Star

Meals Included : Breakfast

Included Activities :

Plovdiv City Tour

Sofia Panoramic Tour

After a substantial breakfast, hop on the bus and make your way to the Serbian capital, Belgrade. With stunning views over the Danube and Sava rivers by the mighty medieval Belgrade Fortress, head to the heart of the capitol. Starting off at the vibrant pretty shopping street, Knez Mihailova, filled with cafes, shops and charming sites, kick off the walking tour to discover the incredible landmarks Belgrade has in store and their marvellous histories.

Accommodation : Abba Hotel – 4 Star or similar

Meals Included : Breakfast

Included Activities :

Belgrade City Tour

Next stop Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s capital, the city that has been through it all! It is where the Western and Eastern Roman Empire split and where people of many nations and religions met, lived and warred. You can still see many reminders of the Yugoslav War in bullet holes and cannon marks all around town. Though, still an oriental beauty with a unique twist, and a delight to discover on your walking tour in the old town. The city offers endless delicacies to taste, but the specialty is lamb.

Accommodation : Hotel Ibis Styles – 4 Star or similar

Meals Included : Breakfast

Included Activities : Sarajevo City Tour

Entrance Fees : Catholic Church – EUR 1

Today, we drive for the amazing Adriatic shore, but first a stop at Mostar! As you arrive in this dreamland, walk through the Old Town of this Herzegovina pearl, see the iconic highlights Old Bridge – Stari Most, and the old čaršija (market). Enjoy your lunch with an amazing view at one of the local venues, discover the old town and make sure to try the delicious Turkish coffee. In the afternoon, we ride to Trebinje for our overnight stay.

Accommodation : Hotel Central Park – 4 Star or similar

Meals Included : Breakfast

Included Activities : Mostar City Tour

Entrance Fees : Kravice Waterfalls – EUR 30

Get ready for a long day at Dubrovnik, the “Pearl of the Adriatic”! With its well-preserved majestic walls encircling the whole town and its sea of terra-cotta roof tiles, giving life to the “King’s Landing”, the whole town is an amazing UNESCO World Heritage Site. Even the drive down to town from the mountain-side is a breakth-taking highlight in itself! We start off with a guided walking tour of the Old Town and marvel at the millennial history of this fairy-like town. Walk atop the mighty walls, discover cute narrow streets, taste delicious seafood or jump off into the crystal-blue waters. In the evening, we return to Trebinje for a good night’s rest.

Accommodation : Hotel Central Park – 4 Star or similar

Meals Included : Breakfast

Included Activities : Dubrovnik City Tour

Optional Activities : Dubrovnik Boat Trip – EUR 40

Entrance Fees : Dubronvnik City Walls – EUR 15

Next stop Montenegro! Arrive in Kotor after a scenic drive an meet its calming natural beauty and characteristic architecture, a less-crowded version of Dubrovnik with its impressive medieval citadel. Following a walking tour of the old town with your expert local guide and some free time, make your way to the popular touristic hub of the region, Budva. Your guide will take you on a brief walking tour of the vibrant summer town with great food, impressive views and lively nightlife.

Accommodation : Hotel Park or Hotel Sato – 3 Star or similar

Meals Included : Breakfast

Included Activities :

Kotor City Tour

Budva Walking Tour

Hit the road after breakfast, next stop Albania! A panoramic city tour of Tirana will introduce the best preserved and most beautiful samples of Albanian architecture, and drop us off at the town centre for some free time to discover the bustling Skenderbeg square. In the afternoon, continue towards Ohrid, Macedonia and check-in to your comfy hotel. You can rest up after a long day, or join the optional Balkan night with dinner.

Accommodation : Hotel Sileks – 4 Star or similar

Meals Included : Breakfast

Included Activities :

Panoramic Tour of Tirana

Ohrid Walking Tour

Optional Activities : Balkan Night With Dinner – EUR 30

Start off the day with a guided city tour of Old Ohrid hosting hundreds of chapels and churches scattered all around. In the afternoon travel to Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, for the night.

Accommodation : Hotel Panoramika – 4 Star or similar

Meals Included : Breakfast

Included Activities : Ohrid City Tour

Optional Activities : St. Naum Tour – EUR 20

Prepare to discover the beautiful Skopje with a guided sightseeing tour filled with stunning architecture, grand monuments and unique history. Pose with the famous statue of Alexander the Great or walk through the Macedonian Arc de Triumph. The city has countless landmarks and a vibrant street life with many cafes and bars around. In the afternoon cross the border heading towards the second largest Greek city, Thessaloniki, for the night.

Accommodation : Hotel ABC – 3 Star or similar

Meals Included : Breakfast

Included Activities : Skopje City Tour

Starting off the day with a panoramic Thessaloniki tour on the bus, depart for Kalambaka, the gateway to Meteora. Meteora is famous for its breath-taking scenery and ageless monasteries, almost suspended between the earth and sky. The town hosts one of the largest and steepest complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries, literally named as “middle of the sky”. The World Heritage-listed site is out-of-this-world with its unique landscape of immense monolithic pillars and huge rounded boulders hosting monasteries on top, and one of the most visited locations in Greece. Each monastery has a central courtyard surrounded by chapels and living cells of monks, who have inhabited the region since the 11th century – for far less than the first inhabitants from 50,000 years ago. Later in the afternoon, hop on the bus for Delphi.

Accommodation : Hermes Hotel – 3 Star or similar

Meals Included : Breakfast

Included Activities : Meteora Tour

Eat up at breakfast, you will be discovering Delphi and all its wonders. Built high atop the cliffs with spectacular scenery, the town made its name in ancient Greek mythology. Chosen as the centre of the earth, here is where the famous powerful Oracles of Delphi resided. UNESCO World Heritage Site of Delphi had a tremendous influence in the ancient world, uniting many city-states under the Hellenic spirit as displayed in rich monuments and ancient stories. In the afternoon, embark on a scenic drive to Athens. As you get your bearings and all the information you need about the capital from your guide, arrive at the hotel to freshen up. Prepare to cap off the amazing tour Greek-style; bring in the mezes, it’s time to do some Sirtaki!

Accommodation : Arion Hotel – 3 Star or similar

Meals Included : Breakfast

Included Activities : Delphi Tour

Have your final breakfast on us and start bidding farewells to your travel mates before checking out of the hotel (11:00). Time to start counting days for your next adventure with Travel Talk!

Meals Included : Breakfast

Inclusions & Exclusions

The tour price covers the following services:

Accomodation : 4 star hotels

Airport Transfer : Arrival transfer on day one.

Meals : 18 breakfasts

Transportation : Air-conditioned modern non-smoking coach or mini-bus

Guide : Services of experienced Travel Talk local guides licensed by the Ministry of Tourism

Sightseeing: Bucharest, Count Dracula Castle in Bran, Sighisoara, Targu Mures, Cluj-Napoca, Salina Turda Salt Mine, Corvin Castle, Sibiu, Ruse, Veliko Tarnavo, Plovdiv, Sofia, Knez Mihailova, Danube, Belgrade Fortress, Mostar Bridge, Mostar Old Town, Dubrovnik Old Town, Kotor & Budva, Skenderbeg square

What is NOT included in the tour price?

  • Any flights not mentioned above
  • Travel insurance
  • Meals not stated above
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Tips & gestures
  • Entrance fees to the sights and museums
  • Optional activities
  • Other services not stated in the itinerary

Hotels & Accomodation

Solo travellers will be roomed with another solo traveller of the same gender in a twin or triple room, or can upgrade to a solo room by paying the single supplement. You may choose the solo room option when booking online or contact us to arrange a private room. Your tour leader will allocate rooms upon arrival at the starting hotel in accordance with the rooming lists, last minute changes may not be guaranteed.

HOTEL INTER BUSINESS – BUCHAREST – 4 Star

Set in a business and shopping area of Bucharest the hotel offers comfortable rooms and free WiFi. Only a 3-minute walk from the metro station, a supermarket and shopping center are just across the boulevard.

HOTEL CUBIX – BRASOV – 4 Star

The spacious Hotel Cubix ofers comfortable and spacious accommodation in Brasov, only 100 meters from the Business Park. With a prime location, it also features an enjoyable bistro bar.

HOTEL PREMIER – CLUJ NAPOCA – 4 Star

Located at the heart of Transilvania’s Cluj Napoca, Hotel Premier is a business class hotel with on-site dining alternatives. Find a full range of tourist services, in a tasteful, refined, and comfortable environment.

HOTEL PLAZA 35 – SIBIU – 4 Star

Situated 1.3km from Great Square, Plaza35 hotel provides wonderful views of Sibiu and a fully equipped kitchenette in each room,. It is also located very close to The Council Tower of Sibiu, Albert Huet Square, and Transylvania Sports Hall.

DUNAV PLAZA HOTEL – RUSE – 4 Star

Dunav Plaza Hotel is situated in the heart of Ruse, right at the Svoboda square. The hotel’s various restaurants serve international dishes and a diverse selection of wines with a lovely atmosphere.

BEST WESTERN PREMIER PLOVDIV HILLS – PLOVDIV – 4 Star

Best Western Premier Plovdiv Hills provides comfy accommodation with a restaurant, bar, and a shared lounge. Each room presents city views, and guests can enjoy access to a garden and a terrace.

HOTEL PARLIAMENT – BUCHAREST – 4 Star

Parliament Hotel is just a stone’s throw from Palace of Parliament, which holds the 1st position in the Guinness World Records for the largest administrative building (for civil use).

GRAND RIGA HOTEL – RUSE – 4 Star

Grand Hotel Riga is the largest hotel complex in Ruse. This hotel is located on the bank of the Danube River and only 400m away from the central town square.

Distances

Please find below the approximate driving times between the destinations visited in the Balkans. We will always strive to take a short break every few hours to enable passengers to stretch their legs, purchase snacks and use wash facilities during long drives. Please note that crossing borders may take only several minutes or up to a few hours, depending on how busy the border control is. The driving times listed below do not take into account the waiting time to cross the border.

Sofia – Belgrade: 400 km – 4.5 hrs

Belgrade – Sarajevo: 290 km – 5 hrs

Sarajevo – Mostar: 130 km – 2 hrs

Mostar – Trebinje: 120 km – 2 hrs

Trebinje – Dubrovnik: 32 km – 1 hr

Trebinje – Kotor: 80 km – 2 hrs

Kotor – Budva: 23 km – 30 mins

Budva – Tirana: 180 km – 3.5 hrs

Tirana – Ohrid: 135 km – 2.5 hrs

Ohrid – Skopje: 170 km – 3 hrs

Skopje – Sofia: 240 km – 4 hrs

Budgeting

Please note that entrance fees to sights and optional activities are not included in the tour price. Optional activities are not operated by Travel Talk and may require a certain number of attendees to run. Your guide will be happy to inform you further about the available optional activities at the start of your tour. Optional activities are also listed under each day in your tour itinerary.

Optional Activities

Kravice Waterfalls — EUR 30

Dubrovnik Boat Trip — EUR 40

Balkan Night With Dinner — EUR 30

St. Naum Tour — EUR 20

Personal Spending

Balkans

The Balkans region covers Europe’s three great southern peninsulas and is comprised of 12 nations, meaning there’s multiple currencies that you will handle throughout your tour. The main currencies include Serbian Dinar, Bosnian Mark, Kuna (Croatia), Lek (Albania) and Euro (Greece). We recommend carrying extra Euros which are accepted in most larger hotels or shops across the region. Here you will find the average cost for a meal or drink and advice for best practice in tipping.

Meals

Lunch at restaurant : US$ 7-10

Dinner at restaurant : US$ 12-15

Ćevapi at a stall : US$ 3-5

Baklava : US$ 1-2

Drinks

Bottle of water : US$ 0.5

Coffee : US$ 1-3

Tea : US$ 1-2

Bottle of beer : US$ 1-3

Tipping

Tipping is not compulsory in the Balkans region but is appreciated for good service. If satisfied with service, then we suggest leaving a tip of ~10% in restaurants. While at bars or taxis, rounding off the amount is considered sufficient. Your Guide and Driver would also appreciate tipping as a sign of gratitude at the end of your tour.

Shopping

No holiday is complete without a little shopping, like many other Balkan destinations you will find that there is some great shopping and purchases to be made in Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina. From the standard tourist souvenirs to fine boutique jewellery and clothing shops, souvenirs you are bound to find something to satisfy the shopping itch.

Budva is the beating heart of shopping in Montenegro. Filled with fashion shops and boutiques that sell everything from traditional products to designer clothing and fine jewellery, the Old Town is the perfect place to go if you’re looking to shop until you drop.

The cosmopolitan city of Belgrade offers quality shopping encounters with a range of luxurious shopping malls and supermarkets, local bakeries and street markets worth exploring. The city centre is packed with boutiques and souvenir shops selling traditional textiles, Serbian pottery and historic memorabilia from the Yugoslavia days. The open-air bazaars of Bulevar Kralja Aleksandra are worthy of a stop to hunt down some uniquely Serbian souvenirs.

Transylvania

The Romanian Leu (RON) is the official local currency in Romania. Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted except in some small vendors.

Personal Spending

Coffee: 5 RON (1 EUR)

Sandwiches: 6 RON Baht (1.20 EUR)

Fresh pastry: 3 RON (0.60 EUR)

Local beer: 6 RON (1.20 EUR)

Water (1.5L): 4 RON (0.80 EUR)

One-way public bus ticket: 2.50 RON (0.50 EUR)

Mid-range restaurant meal: 25 RON (5 EUR)

Tipping

Tips are a common reward for service staff in Romania. For a restaurant meal, you can tip around 10-15% if tip is not included in the bill. Your tour guide and driver will be especially appreciative and honored with this kind of traditional gratitude at the end of your tour.

Shopping

Like most countries, Romania has no shortage of shopping centres and malls. However, it’s far more interesting and rewarding to shop with the locals at the markets. Mostly every village has its own market and in some you’ll even find that the goods are transported by horse drawn carriage. From fresh produce, dairy products, intricate pottery, handmade rugs, wood carvings and ceramics. You’re sure to find some beautiful finds. Don’t be afraid to haggle either, that’s all part of the fun!

Essential Information: Balkans & Transylvania

Passport & Visas

If you’re from the UK, Australia, New Zealand, United States or Canada, you can enter the following Balkan countries for a touristic stay of up to 90 days without a visa: Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, BosniaHerzegovina, Bulgaria, Albania, North Macedonia, Greece. Passport validity entry requirements may change per nationality. We generally recommend to have a passport with at least 6 months of remaining validity.

If you are travelling to Romania for 90 days or less and hold the passport of one of the 60 countries listed, including UK, Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada, you are not required to apply for a visa on arrival. Please check the official Romania government website for the list of countries, as it may be updated from time to time. If you intend to stay in Romania for more than 90 days, then you will need to apply for a visa. As Romania is also not included in the Schengen zone, visits to Romania will also not count towards your 90-day visa free limit in the Schengen area.

This information is provided only as a guidance, we strongly advise that you check with the consulate or embassy as this information can change at any time and with little notice. It is your responsibility to make sure that all the required travel documents are ready when travelling.

Travel Advice

We are closely monitoring the latest travel updates to Balkans and Transylvania, and following the advice of the UK Foreign Office. For the latest travel advice from UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), please visit: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/ and https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/romania

We recommend all travellers to check their Government National Travel Advisory prior to their departure:

Australia – https://www.smartraveller.gov.au/

Canada – https://travel.gc.ca/

New Zealand – https://www.safetravel.govt.nz/

USA – https://travel.state.gov/

Travel Insurance

All passengers travelling with Travel Talk are required to have personal travel insurance before participating in any of our tours. Your guide will collect your travel insurance details on the first day of your trip. It is your responsibility to make sure you have an adequate and suitable travel insurance for you in place, you may read more at https://www.traveltalktours.com/travel-insurance

Health & Safety

The health and safety of our passengers, staff and communities visited is of utmost priority. As we monitor and comply with the official advice from the UK Foreign Office, as well as World Health Organization and government authorities regularly, we have implemented several policies and precautions on our tours for your wellbeing. You may find our Safe Travels Protocols at https://www.traveltalktours.com/safe-travels

Travel Talk Adventures has received the Safe Travels stamp by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), which allows travellers to recognise companies around the world that have adopted health and hygiene global standardised protocols – so consumers canexperience ‘Safe Travels’.

Please make sure to regularly check your Government’s travel advice before travelling and be well-informed of any requirements. Your tour guide will also notify you of the regulations and protocols to follow throughout your trip with us.

Please note that if any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary or possess a potential risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, we reserve the right to remove them from all or part of a trip.

Please consult with your doctor for the latest medical travel information and any vaccinations you may need. We recommend that you bring any personal medical requirements and medications with you as these may be difficult to obtain while on tour.

Weather

The Balkans is a geographically diverse region spanning over multiple countries and 500,000km2, hosting various climates. However, it is fair to expect a somewhat continental climate with hot summers and cool winters, and a milder Mediterranean climate on the coastline.

The Summer months of July and August are considered Europe’s busiest with high temperatures attracting flocks of locals and travellers to the breath-taking coastal regions. The shoulder seasons of April to June and September to October are also considered a great time to visit the Balkans. During these months, the weather tends to be milder, with the major tourist cities less populated. The Winter months between December and March are quite colder with occasional snow. Meanwhile, the coastal regions of Croatia, Montenegro and Albania are known for their significantly warmer winters than the Central Balkans.

Check out our weather guide for the best time to visit the Balkans.

travel to the Balkans

The best time to visit Transylvania depends on what kind of experience you’re after. If you’re looking for nice weather, you’re best to go either side of summer from April to June, where you’ll find pleasant weather and wild-flower filled meadows in spring with average temperatures from 16-20°C. Or head to Transylvania from the end of August to October, where you’ll also find comfortable temperatures and beautiful autumnal colours as you enter the colder months. July and August are peak summer months, however it can get uncomfortably hot, especially in cities like Brasov and Sibiu, so you’re best to visit either side of the peak summer months for decent weather in more comfortable temperatures. 

Autumn is a great time to visit, especially as the mountains and forests begin to change colour from all the foliage. Plus, Transylvania is the birthplace of Dracula after all, so there really is no better place to celebrate Halloween and get into the spirit of it! The winter months in Transylvania from December to February can be quite magical, with snow covering the fairy tale-like villages, horse drawn carriages, and snowy alpine trails. In December you’ll be in for a treat with plenty of Christmas markets and festivities, making for the classic Christmas scenes.

For more, check out our Romania weather guide.

Money Matters

The Balkans region covers Europe’s three great southern peninsulas and is comprised of 12 nations, meaning there’s multiple currencies that you will handle throughout your tour. The main currencies include Serbian Dinar, Bosnia Herzegovina Mark, Croatian Kuna, Albanian Lek, Macedonian Denar and Euro (Montenegro, Greece). Euro is easily convertible to the local currencies and may be accepted at certain locations, however it is always more advantageous to pay in the local currency

The Romanian Leu (RON) is the official local currency in Romania. You can get Leu from ATM’s using your debit card or travel card — withdrawing cash on credit card is less favourable. Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted except in some small vendors.

Credit and debit cards are widely accepted in major cities and tourist sites across the Balkans and Transylvania. However, if you are travelling off the beaten track, come prepared with a small stash of cash on hand for inexpensive purchases at small shops and vendors, entrance fees or small meals. ATMs can be easily found in many places across the cities.

We recommend you do not exchange bulk sums of money at the airport, as the exchange rates are usually more favourable in the major cities. Your tour leader will be happy to help if you need any assistance.

Please remember that everyone has different spending habits, some prefer to spend more on souvenirs, some on experiences and others on a night out! Make sure to budget your trip to your spending habits for shopping, drinking, and tipping.

Tipping is not compulsory in the Balkans region but is appreciated for good service. If satisfied with the service, then we suggest leaving a tip of ~10% in restaurants. While at bars or taxis, rounding off the amount is considered sufficient. Your Tour Leader and Driver would also appreciate tipping as a sign of gratitude at the end of your tour.

Eating & Drinking

Balkan cuisine is vast and diverse in itself while also carrying hints of Greek, Persian and Turkish cuisines. While some popular regional recipes have shaped according to the tastes of each country, there are plentiful unique dishes to each area. Balkans food is typically known to be a hearty, meat-heavy cuisine with a large sharing aspect involved. So, if you are eager to dive straight into the Balkan culture through its food, be sure to try these iconic dishes. For more, check out our Balkan food guide.

Ćevapčići: Small finger-sized skinless sausages made from beef, lamb, pork or veal and served inside a flatbread.


Ajvar: Like pesto is to Italy, Ajvar is to the Balkans. The sauce is served with almost any meaty order and consists of mainly roasted red peppers and garlic.


Dolma: The most eaten Dolma dish consists of rice wrapped in leaves. The filling and wrap can vary widely, but in the Balkans region dolma’s made of onion, zucchini, cabbage, meat and stuff tomatoes are common.

Pljeskavica: A round patty made of beef, lamb, pork or veal, depending on where you are visiting in the Balkans. It is common to eat these patties plain or on a bun with ajvar spread, like a Balkan-style burger!

Čobanac: This hearty meat stew, originally from Croatia, is cooked in a cauldron hung over an open fire pit.

Banitsa: This Bulgarian inspired dish is made of eggs and cheese baked into a flaky, melt-in-your-mouth pastry. Other varieties of the dish include yoghurt, honey, pumpkin or spinach.

Stuffed Pepper: A common Balkan food, stuffed peppers are usually filled to the brim with simple ingredients including meat, rice, paprika, tomato sauce, onions and garlic.

Baklava: Baklava is a sweet syrupy layered pastry with honey and nuts, quite popular in Greece, Albania and Turkey.

Gozleme: Thin savoury pancakes filled with cheese, mushroom, spinach, or potato

When it comes to drinking – Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Bulgaria all offer unexpected delights for wine-lovers! The Balkans region is known for its diverse range of affordable drops. Along with the classic beer destinations, a number of young brewers from the Balkans have managed to put their name on the ‘beer map’ with Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece home to fantastic micro-breweries. Finally, ‘Rakija’, ‘Raki’ or ‘Rakia’ is by far the most famous spirit of the Balkans, which can be made of almost any fruit!

Essentials to Bring & Internet

-Face mask/cover and hand sanitiser enough for your personal use throughout the trip – See more at https://www.traveltalktours.com/safe-travels/

-Travel Documents: Passport, Visa (if required), flight or transport ticket (and photocopies)

-Travel Talk Tour Voucher (printed or digital)Travel Insurance Policy (and photocopy)

-Personal medical kit and medicine

-Money (cash, credit card, travellers’ cheques)

-Power Adapter

-Reusable water bottle

-Ear plugs and eye mask

-Sun protection – hat, sunglasses, sunscreen

-Comfortable, closed walking shoes

-Wind/water proof jacket

-Warm clothes, hat, and gloves for cold weather

-Sandals, swimwear, shorts for warm weather

Internet Access

Complimentary Wi-Fi is available in most hotels, some cafes, and restaurants visited during Travel Talk tours. If you come from another EU Country, you may be able to use your phone without any additional roaming charges, please consult with your mobile provider. Make sure to enable data roaming on your mobile if you
wish to use 3G/4G abroad, although the connection may be unreliable in smaller towns and rural areas. Purchasing a European SIM card for the duration of your tour may be a cost-effective option. Your guide will be happy to advise on this.

Culture and Traditions

The Balkans region of Europe is particularly rich in folklore and traditions. Ethnic diversity is one of the Balkans’ most characteristic social and political features. It has been said that the Balkans have produced more history than they can consume. The region has not been controlled by only one government since the Roman Empire, and it continues to compete with the East-West divide since the Empire’s split in the 4th century. Your Tour Leader will provide immense detail of such events throughout your tour, but here is a light preview to get you started!

Albania: Religious practice in Albania is diverse with several religions including Islam, Christianity and Judaism all co-existing peacefully. Until fairly recently, the beautiful landscapes, fortress towns and dazzling beaches of Albania were merely a rumour for most travellers. But, with the end of communism in 1991, Albania opened its gates to tourists.

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Boasting a unique East-meets-West atmosphere that blends Ottoman and AustroHungarian histories, Bosnia the former-Yugoslavian nation is a treasure-trove of natural beauty, culture and history. The country still holds scars from its heart-breaking civil war of the 1990s which finished only 20 years ago. In Bosnia, coffee is not only traditional, but a way of life. Bosnian coffee is strong, thick and served from a metal pot into a handle-less tumbler. In terms of religious beliefs, Bosnia is and always has been a melting pot. The Ottomans brought Islam, Catholicism came from the west, and Orthodox Christianity from the east. All of which have added to the vast history and charm of this marvellous country.

Croatia: A land steeped in history, captivating traditions, and cultural heritage. The colourful Croatian culture is deeply rooted in its vast history and reflected in its wonderful architecture and monuments. The country holds its cultural richness with a mixture between European, Mediterranean and Balkan traditions. The Slavic heritage of Croatian people is especially evident throughout the display of charming festivals and national holidays, where cities and villages come to life in traditional costume, folk music and feasts. The bulk of Croatia’s cultural and traditional festivals take place in the country’s capital, Zagreb, in the Spring and Autumn. Although, Dubrovnik and Split also offer a lot in the way of heavyweight music, culture, and drama.

Bulgaria: The culture of Bulgaria is based on an interesting blend of Thracian, Slavic and Bulgar traditions, along with the influence of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Many ancient customs remain, such as Thracian fire dancing, which is recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage! Even today, Bulgaria still has a strong folkloric tradition that pervades many aspects of art, literature, music, celebrations, and daily life.

Serbia: Still considered well-off the tourist trail, Serbia is located in the heart of the Balkans and is considered diverse, welcoming and full of culture. The capital city, Belgrade is particularly famous for its nightlife, and this has more to do with an inherent desire to celebrate at any occasion. The Serbian people are a proud nation and closely tied to the Serbian Orthodox Church. The church plays such an important role in the history of the Serbian people that it is difficult to separate them entirely, and religion still plays a vital role in the lives of many ordinary people.

Montenegro: Montenegro is a country of diverse cultures, influenced by its location and junction between Eastern and Western Europe, drawing influences from Ancient Rome, Byzantines and the Ottomans. Generally, Montenegrins are immensely proud of their culture and traditions with art, music, and food major composites of culture in Montenegro. Eastern Orthodoxy is the predominant religion and play a crucial role in daily life, while groups of Catholic Christians and Muslims also coexist peacefully.

North Macedonia: Even by Balkan standards, North Macedonia’s history is characterised by complexity and controversy. It was not until 1991 that the country officially attained its status as an independent nation, having been previously incorporated into the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia at the conclusion of World War II. With the collapse of European communism came Macedonian independence. Ethnic North Macedonians – who make up the majority of the population and are largely Orthodox Christians, and the country’s notable Albanian Muslim population tend to share certain common values despite their differences.

Romania: As the land of mythic legends and dark tales,  Romania’s customs and traditions are still to this day a key part of Romanian culture. Romanian traditions tend to be passed down from generation to generation, and are a way to further connect with their rich folk culture. Although much of Romania has been influenced by modern Western Europe, ancient traditions and an orthodox-Christian religion still remains strong, with a great importance placed on family networks and values. Romanian costumes and ornaments are colourful and intricate, used traditionally in their dances and festivals. Although Romanian people may seem reserved when first meeting, they are known to be hospitable and warm, with a great sense of humour. You’ll find yourself charmed by the fairy tale-like villages, mythic legends, majestic mountains, and rich culture and traditions of Romania.

How to Dress

In general, there are few dress restrictions in Eastern Europe. However, when visiting churches, monasteries or other religious sites modest dress is required – shorts or open-shoulder tops may not be permitted, for both men and women. It is important to cover from shoulders to knees as a sign of respect and women are also often required to wear a headscarf at religious sites.

Solo Travellers

We have many solo travellers joining our tours. Solo travellers will be roomed with another traveller of the same gender. If you would like a private solo room, subject to availability and a single supplement, please contact us.

Rules to Follow

We are committed to ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone. We do not tolerate any form of violence (physical or verbal), bullying or harassment involving customers, partners, Travel Talk staff or locals. Sexual relationships between a tour leader and a passenger are forbidden.

We will not tolerate any illegal activity, including but not limited to: use and possession of illegal drugs, trespassing, and disrupting public order. If you consume alcohol, please ensure that you drink responsibly and follow the local laws and regulations.

If someone is acting inappropriately regarding these matters, please notify your tour leader immediately or contact us on the emergency contact number provided below.

You must follow the advice of your tour leader and local officials regarding health and safety measures. We operate all tours under Safe Travels protocols for the wellbeing of our passengers, staff and communities visited. Please ensure that you have read the https://www.traveltalktours.com/safe-travels/ and are fully prepared for your trip.

Your tour leader has the right to remove from the group anyone not abiding by these rules, with no right of compensation or refund. See more at https://www.traveltalktours.com/booking-terms/

Please remember that our travellers come from different parts of the world and will have various needs and preferences. Be understanding and patient with your fellow travellers, and always strive to be on time.

Responsible Travel

We believe that travel is a force for good and show our support through various initiatives and charity organizations, as well as keeping the principals of responsible and sustainable travel at the core of our ethos. These values are engrained in our business culture and the design of our trips just the same. Together with you, we strive to make a positive impact on local people and economies, respecting the local culture, environment, social fabric and customs; encouraging respectful and meaningful cross-cultural exchange. Read more at https://www.traveltalktours.com/responsible-travel/

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Monday - Friday: 09:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Saturday: 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Sunday: Closed
W. Europe