A tourist in Craiova – Backpacking Romania

A tourist in Craiova – Backpacking Romania

In July I spent 2 weeks backpacking around Romania. The first city I arrived in was Craiova, Romania’s 6th largest city and the capital of Dolj County. It’s not the most exciting city but it has an airport and a few things to see.

 

The flight 

 

I flew from Liverpool UK to Craiova Romania in July. WizzAir has cheap flights Craiova and it’s only a 3 hour £12 train journey to Romania’s capital Bucharest.

I booked my flight 3 months in advance and it cost £13. I found it via Skyscanner and purchased it on the WizzAir website.

 

Liverpool - Craiova flight
Liverpool – Craiova flight

 

WizzAir has a one bag carry-on rule. This is then broken down into the size of the carry-on – large bags (56x45x25 cm) you have to pay for, and small bags (42x32x25 cm) are free. On this flight they were really strict about this policy. A staff member checked the bag size at the gate to see if would fit in their measurer.

My backpack is actually over the small bag size by a few cms but as I’m tall the bag doesn’t look that big relative to me and they don’t stop me.

 

Flight delay

 

Two older Romanian ladies were prevented from boarding as they had two backpacks each and they started kicking off at the WizzAir staff, shouting in Romanian.

The Liverpudlian staff asked the queuing passengers if someone could translate as the ladies yelled louder and louder.

Eventually someone translated and they settled. Only to open their second backpacks and start to angrily put all their clothes on, throwing their stuff everywhere. One of the ladies ended up wearing a baseball hat, 2 T-shirts, jumper, 2 coats and a scarf.

We finally boarded 45 minutes late. While queueing to board and on the flight it became apparent I was one of the few English people there. This was confirmed when 20 mins into the journey the cabin crew stopped speaking English and only spoke Romanian. I just nodded like I knew what they were saying to me.

It was a late flight, I arrived in Craiova at 3am and had booked a hotel (Helin Aeroport) by the airport for the first night. The hostel in the city centre didn’t have anyone on at 3am plus it can be dangerous finding a small place in a new city at that time of night. The airport hotel cost £27 for the night.

 

Craiova Airport
Craiova Airport

 

I took a Romnicon taxi outside the tiny airport to the hotel. The taxi co-ordinator tried to talk to me but I didn’t know any Romanian. He was about to give up but luckily I had written the name of the hotel on a piece of paper.

There was a little kitten outside the airport – alone and scared. There was nothing I could do. It was heart breaking.

 

Little kitty
Little kitty

 

Accommodation 

 

When I arrived at the hotel I was accosted by three stray dogs. Tales of stray dogs in Romanian are very true. While they aren’t too noticeable inside the cites and the Transylvanian tourist areas, once you leave these they are roaming everywhere. I’ve read many blog posts saying these dogs aren’t around. That’s because these blogger didn’t leave the cities and stayed in the richer areas of Romania.

The dogs barked and tried to follow me into the hotel. I was too tired to care.
I checked in. The lady on reception gave me a key, I tried asking what time check-out was but she didn’t speak any English.

While it was a 4* hotel, there was no air-con in my room and bathroom door didn’t close. Romanian star ratings might be different from Western European ratings.

 

Helin Aeroport - a Romanian 4* hotel
Helin Aeroport – a Romanian 4* hotel

 

Hostel

The next day I got taxi to Hostel Alfredo near the city centre. After 10 minutes of explaining where I wanted to go – showing the taxi driver the name and address of the hostel, then on google maps, and with him shouting aștepta (wait) at me, he finally started to drive.

At the hostel there were more language problems when I asked how much the room was. The man wasn’t able to answer so I handed over a 50 RON note for the night and got a few coins back. On the plus side the room was nice and central with my own bathroom. This was a bargain.

 

Hostel Alfredo – €9 a night
Hostel Alfredo – €9 a night

 

I left my stuff and set out to explore the the city.

 

SIM card

 

As I had two weeks ahead of me in Romania I bought a mobile SIM card. I went to the Orange store and it cost 40 RON (£8) for a monthly SIM, with unlimited Romanian calls, 2,000 minutes calls abroad and 4GB of data. You can shop around and find SIMs with more data but 4GB was enough for 2 weeks and I was heavy on the internet use. Luckily another customer spoke English and helped me out as the staff in the Orange store didn’t.

 

Museum of Art Craiova

 

The main tourist attraction in Craiova is their museum of art. This museum is located in Jean Mihail Palace. It’s a very beautiful building and worth going to just for that.

 

Museum of Art, Craiova
Museum of Art, Craiova

 

I walked inside but saw nowhere to buy a ticket so I asked the security guard and he just pointed to go straight in. Downstairs there were 3 rooms with a ping pong table, large chess board and mini football posts. I’m guessing this is modern art?

 

Modern Art? Craiova
Modern Art?

 

Upstairs there were actual paintings, which I tried to enjoy but a woman working there followed me around and not at a distance but only a few feet away. It freaked me out.

 

Beautiful decor, Craiova
Beautiful decor
Main art gallery
Main art gallery
Alexandru Pascu painting
Alexandru Pascu painting

 

I spent some time looking at the paintings by Alexandru Pascu and then headed to Prefecture Square as I’d seen this mentioned on many websites about Craiova.

 

Prefecture Square

 

Prefecture Square
Fountains at Prefecture Square
Statue of a man feeding pigeons
Statue of a man feeding pigeons

 

Prefecture Square is just a concrete square with not much shaded seating. The park next to it, the ironically named English Park, is a lot more beautiful and a nicer place to relax.

 

English Park, Craiova
English Park

 

Craiova is also home to the largest natural park in Eastern Europe, Nicolae Romanescu Park in the south of the city. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to visit but it’s good to see if you like nature.

 

Madonna Dudu Church 

 

I enjoy visiting churches so I went to check this one out. It’s open to the public. While there’s nothing special inside, there’s a big, run down, haunted mansion around the corner. I didn’t take any photos as there were children playing outside with a large Doberman dog.  But I suggest walking around the streets and checking out the architecture.

 

Madonna Dudu Church 
Madonna Dudu Church
Inside Madonna Dudu Church
Inside Madonna Dudu Church

 

Street Art

 

Even though Craiova is an industrial city it has some beautiful street art. I enjoyed walking the streets in the sun and taking photos of the colourful designs.

 

Backstreets of Craiova
Backstreets of Craiova
Street art and bars, Craiova
Street art and bars
Craiova centre
Craiova centre

 

Drinking in Craiova 

 

I sat down at one of the tables outside a bar in the historic centre. I ordered a draft beer for 7 RON (£1.40). Well I tried to order a beer. This was the most difficult ordering of a beer I have ever experienced. I still don’t know what the problem was, maybe they wanted me to order food as well. I put it down to the language barrier and lack of English speaking tourists. Eventually the beer arrived and I enjoyed some people-watching.

As it was difficult to communicate with the waiters I left and bought cans of local beer from the supermarket. I went back to my hostel room to plan my trip to Bucharest the next day.

 

Golden Bräu Original
Golden Bräu Original

 

Cost

 

This was the first city of my Romanian trip. The flight to Craiova cost £13, taxi from the airport to the hotel and then the city were £2.50 each, the hotel was £27 and the hostel was £9. Entry to the museum and churches were free. I spend £8 on a SIM and £15 on food and beer.

Total = £76

This cost was so high because I stayed in a 4* hotel on my first night.

 

Overall

 

Craiova is a very small city that only needs a maximum of two days to see.

It was interesting to visit a city in Romania that’s not geared towards tourists (like Bucharest, Brasov and Cluj Napoca are). It had more of an industrial feel with some nice parks in the middle. While the art museum is located in a beautiful building and there are a few outside bars, these aren’t anything special.

If you have limited time I would recommend skipping or not going out of your way to visit Craiova. I ended up here because of the cheap flight. The lack of spoken English and difficulties with communication made me feel like an outsider. Perhaps if I had been with a local I might have discovered more.

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