What means “self guided trip”?
Means, you walk by yourself, there is no guide involved. You can walk with your family, friends or alone by yourself.
Size of the group:
Most guesthouses can accommodate up to 4 couples in different rooms. If there are more then 3 people in a party, you can get extra discounts (depending the program) There are special prices for families with children.
We selected the best available accommodation in each region. Some regions are better developed (and also busier) then others and where possible we offer guestrooms with private bathrooms.
Criteria are location, comfort, a second language spoken, access to telephone, capacity (we prefer smaller units) In case there aren’t private bathrooms, then there is one or more shared bathrooms. In many cases there aren’t any other tourists as the rate of occupation is still low in many remote mountain regions.
Most of the guesthouse included have already more then 5 years experience with tourists. At many places the owners (or children) do speak fluently English, others a few words, others understand simple English words, but don’t speak. Sometimes they even invite a neighbor that speaks English, just to please you. Romanian people are extremely hospitable and do a lot of effort to accommodate you.
We offer mostly full board because there aren’t any restaurants in the remote villages. For a few trips we offer bed and breakfast in town because you don’t stay in a guesthouse, but in a hotel. In that case it is more interesting to let you choose your meal in a restaurant because the half board formula is not always the best option in the hotels, especially not for small groups.
At the guesthouses you get soup or starter, main dish and dessert. Drinks are not included. Most of the products come from the farm or village.
Breakfast: a large variety of products are served and there is enough served so that you can make your own lunch packet for noon. Drinks, extra fruits or sweets can be bought in the shop or market in the villages or towns.
Diet food or vegetarian food is possible, just let us know in advance so that we can warn the guesthouses in advance. Last minute is often impossible or poor prepared
Your luggage will be transported to the next destination. Your luggage is absolutely safe with the owners or drivers. Since 2009 we started offering back packing trips. These trips are the same as the ones with luggage transport and you will get a discount of 40-60 Euro (depending the program).
Romania is still very much under-developed in the tourism segment. Active holidays are almost inexistent. Romanian tourists do travel to the mountains during the weekends or holidays, but stay mostly in the guesthouses to eat and drink. Hotspots are of course visited. But you will hardly meet somebody along the trails. Most busy places are Brasov , Risnov and Bran, (hiking between Brasov and Bran), Sibiu and Sighisoara (medieval Saxon towns), Ice cave (Aries trip) and for the rest you’re pretty much on your own. You will occasionally meet tourists in the guesthouses, but as soon you’re of the beaten track, again you’re alone. Many guesthouses have only an occupation rate between 5 and 10 % on a year base.
We tried to offer a variety of programs and put different accents for each program. All the trips are made for the large public with a normal physical condition. This doesn’t mean there isn’t any effort required but you don’t need to be an exercised sportsman to make the trips. If a lot of climbing is involved, distance are kept shorter. In some cases where there is a longer trip, we also offer a shorter version. Additional you can also include extra days of rest.
We offer also hiking trips in different regions. In this way you will see more from Romania the when you would have chosen for a trip in one region. The transfers can be done with private car or rental car. Public transport is only an option if you really have a lot of time. Tourist regions are rarely well connected by public transport.
Small children do remarkable well during the hiking trips and 6-7 year olds walk easily 10-15 km a day. Trips that suit families with children very well are the hiking trip with donkey. (the 2 week trip has mainly shorter distances and several roundtrips where you stay 2 nights at the same accommodation) Another trip is the 10 day Aries hike where you stay each time 3 nights at the same accommodation and can skip easy one day hiking.
We are extremely flexible and can adept about every program to your wishes. We propose trips between 6 and 14 nights but you can model a trip to your preferences as long you keep the order of the days. (we have physically no time to change or rewrite descriptions during summer) This means you can start with day 3, or end with day 6 or whatever. Additional there might be a small fee to pay if we have to bring you somewhere or pick you up.
If you make s shorter trip, the price changes and generally the price of the total program is divided by the number of nights of the standard program and multiplied with the nights you really stay. In some cases 2 hikes spread over 2 days can be combined in one. As the owner (or driver) is also transporting the luggage to the next destination, you can also skip a day walking and let you drive.
Maps, GPS, road description and direction:
There aren’t any good hiking maps in Romania, so far. A good hiking map is a map with a scale 1:20.000 up to 1:30.000. Most likely the military has them, but they are still “top secret” and not available. So we have to do with less. We have maps going from 1:60.000 up to 1:100.000. Because these maps are not detailed enough, we provide additional a detailed road description. A compass is very useful for a lot of trips as we often use compass headings as extra help. From 2011 on GPS coordinates will be offered for all trips.
Is it difficult? No, you just need to take a bit care.
First of all, we use existing trails and don’t make unnecessary detours. Means, since ancient times people follow a river or a ridge to get from A to B. The reason is clear, the area is flat and often there isn’t any dense forest near the river. The ridge: it’s easier to follow a ridge and stay mainly on the same altitude then to go up and down all the time. Further, we follow existing marked hiking trails if they are available. Sometimes we marked the right track at intersections.
We often provide 2 or 3 indications for the same place. An example: At the intersection you take right, descending to the north. First indication: right, second “descending”, third “to the north” one should be enough, but you might be at a different intersection because; you miss-interpret something, you skipped a paragraph, or you walked wrong. In that case you know the reality doesn’t correspond with what you see. You walk back till where you’re sure it all fits, or you change your direction if you know more or less where you are on the map.
A compass is a useful tool because we often use the compass headings as well. You don't need to shoot with the compass, it is just a useful tool that helps you out to take the right track.
We had over the years thousands of tourists of all ages, for many of them it was the first time, and we never, really never lost someone or had to search for somebody. Of course it happens that people walk wrong or end up where they didn’t suppose to end up. Most of the time they find the right track by themselves, sometimes we can help out with the mobile phone, and all the time they arrived at the destination. The local people are extremely helpful and often bring you right on the right track.
Wild animals: there are still wolves and bears in the mountains in Romania but the chances you see one are almost zero. The reason, they are wild, nocturnal and scared of people. As well wolf and bear smell you a long time before you cross their path, they are already a long time gone before you arrive. There is one exception, the Brasov area where the bears are used to people (because they are often fed by tourists) and the danger is not in the forest, but at the border of the town and in the mountain resort Poiana Brasov. But even there, the bears don’t appear during the day, mostly during the night or at dusk.
May be one important remark: you walk mostly in inhabited country, not in pure reservations. So bears or wolves are not supposed to be there. They have more remote area's where no people are living.
So what to do: There are almost as many theories are there are bears, but here some tips: An aggressive attitude most likely stimulates aggression in the bear. So better don't take chances. Most case studies show that you better don't look him in the eyes, but don't turn around either. So generally facing his direction, you talk normally and walk slowly backwards. Is the bear really aggressive (most likely the case with a she bear with cups) she will charge in a lot of cases up to a meter in front of you. (Mostly without directly attacking) Keep cool.... and talk normal and walk back. If she really attacks, pepper spray might help, but be sure you have the thing pointed in the right direction (if you can find it fast enough) Spray to nose and eyes. But there is no guarantee that the bear will stop in his tracks or avoid you. You still might get kicked or run over. Play dead. You still might expect some aggression after you're "dead" so you should protect vital organs and face. (so lay face down, knees tot the chest and hands in the neck) About all bear incidents stopped at that time. If it's really not your day, try to defend you with all what you have...
An aggressive bear turns his ears back and growls and remains on 4 legs and prepares the attack. A curious bear stays on his back legs, this is almost always an imposing attitude to scare or warn you. If you're with several people, stand together, the larger the groups the more impressed the bear will be. If you have food, you might try to throw it in his direction. (this is not recommended by wildlife people as the bear might try to get food from each hiker- but that should be the last of your problems during an encounter. The forest people will take care of the bear later on)
If you see a bear at a large distance, stay still and look for a way around, or even walk back. Taking a picture might be very tempting, be sure you're flash doesn't light up. It might have been the cause of sudden bear attacks in Romania, although it is not proven.
Places where you might encounter bears:
Southern Carpathians: More danger in some area's (yearly dozens of encounters, sometimes even with fatal results. But don't panic, most of the time human behavior was the cause of the problem:
Most problems occur at night around Brasov and Poiana Brasov as backpackers sleep with food in their tent. The bear is interested in the food and will attack all what is in it's way to get to the food. In other cases the bears attacked tourists that were taking pictures of them or feeding them.
Insects: mosquito’s are rare in the mountains and not much of a problem.
Ticks: there are ticks and especially the grassland where a lot of sheep graze are at risk. But if you use common sense, there shouldn’t be a problem. There aren't any badly tick infested animals in the mountains because the game population isn't as dense as for instance in Germany or Austria where the density of the animals is artificially high because they are fed by the hunters. See also at: http://www.LymeDiseaseAssociation.org
Your car: Your car is perfectly safe at the guesthouses, pensions or hotels. Just use common sense when you park your car in the towns or tourist hotspots. Don't leave valuables visible for all to see. So far we absolutely never had problems with car theft, break ins or whatsoever. We don't say there aren't any car thieves at all in the country, they just don't operate in remote regions.
You are very safe in the mountains. There are of course pick pockets in Romania (as in any other country) but these people hardly operate in the mountains as there is hardly somebody to steal from. Some care has to be taken and common sense to be used at busy places such as train stations and tourist hotspots. (Bran castle for instance) By all standards, Romania is a very safe country, there are no terrorists, no bomb attacks, no extremists, rarely a hold up or bank robbery. There is organized crime, but not in the villages or in the mountains and not in the towns of Transylvania .
Some advice: avoid drunks and don’t mix in fights. Avoid contact with gypsies and especially don’t take pictures if they don’t agree. Of course not all the gypsies will cause problems but it is impossible to distinguish bad from good. Over the years we had 2 times tourists that got robbed by gypsies, each time when they were “chatting” or had a friendly “conversation”. Some gypsies ask money if you take a picture, but as conversation is often hardly possible it is difficult to know what they want and we had tourists that were thrown stones at after they took pictures and didn’t want to pay for it. Others were invited to visit a gypsy house and were supposed to pay for the visit….To other tourists they tried to sell their children. So our advice is: say friendly hello and let them in peace.
In the unlikely event that something happens to you, all emergencies are free of charge. Unfortunately the state hospitals aren’t always the best. Therefore it is useful to have additional a travel insurance coverage. We immediately come to help you out or (if the distance is too big we’ll send somebody locally.) Pharmacies you only find in the towns, so if you need medication, you better provide in advance. Of course we’ll do whatever is possible or needed to help out with emergencies.
You’ll need a little pocket money along the road to pay for your drinks in the guesthouses and along the road. There are some souvenir shops, but rarely in the mountains. You don’t need to bring a lot of cash with you, there are ATM’s in each town and some larger villages. So wherever you trip starts, you can pin money before you go up in the mountains.
The mobile phone network covers almost all the country and can be very useful for emergencies. You might not have always the best connection down in the valley, but as soon you’re on higher ground, it works. You can reach us 24 hours on 24 and we do answer each phone call as long we are connected with the network. (it sometimes happen that we don’t have coverage when traveling through the mountains)
In case you get lost, don't panic. Don't call the national emergency number unless it is really necessary. The Romanian police takes things very seriously and send right away the mountain rescue brigade to the area. Summer 2009 2 tourists called around 17 hours directly the national emergency number and at 20 hours (3 hours later) a team of more then 20 people were starting a search and rescue. We didn't know about this as they only called us that they were lost 1 hour after they called the national emergency number (and even never mentioned that they called mountain rescue). As we knew more or less in what area they were it was easy to give them a compass heading where they certainly would arrive and could be easily picked up. There was absolutely no need to call mountain rescue, certainly not at such an early hour. So far the service remains free, but if more of this happens, we wonder for how long.
Of course in case of injury or sickness or extreme weather conditions you should call as soon as possible. The before mentioned case shows how fast the mountain rescue works. In case you call us, most likely, we are earlier in the region to help out or to organize and/or conduct a search and rescue.
Getting at the starting place of your trip and back again:
Plane: there are now cheap flights from almost anywhere in Europe to Romania. You can fly directly to Cluj Napoca from Paris Beauvais, London Luton and Dortmund. In other cases you still have to combine flights. Romania is very well connected with Italy and Spain as many Romanians work there. Sometimes you can combine 2 low cost flights and end up with a price under 150 Euro.
Most interesting airport for all trips in Transylvania : Cluj Napoca. (train connection to Maramures and Sibiu or Brasov ), bus connection to Aries trips, by train or car to Gilau and Vladeasa Mountains or Apuseni Mountains .
Bucharest for Brasov or Saxon villages trip, eventually also Sibiu.
Public transport: All trips can be reached by public transport. But as distances are long and traffic slow, you might need to stay an extra night in the beginning or at the end of your trip. Train tickets can now be reserved 1 month in advance, bus tickets not at all.
See links at our Travel Info page at: http://www.greenmountainholidays.ro/travelinfo.html