Overland travel: The roads of Romania

How did we experience traveling Romania in a large size overland vehicle? What were the pro’s and cons?

We believe there is no perfect overland vehicle. No car or truck fits all. It’s just a matter what works best for you (see “5 questions helping you choose the right overland vehicle“)

In the past we have travelled very happily with a Landrover Defender 110 and Jeep Wrangler JK Rubicon Unlimited. But eventually our needs and dreams changed and made the switch to a larger size truck. How did that go for us in Romania?

Romanian towns

It is rather easy to drive a large size overland vehicle as ours in Romanian towns. The roads are wide enough to let us through and the height has not been an issue. If we were bigger (> 12ton or 6×6 truck) making a U-turn would have been problematic in many mountain towns.

Unexpectedly, our 3m68 height was even an advantage here. This way we could look over the rows of fences that often form a wall between the gardens and the road. Plus we were able to  simply throw out our garbage out the window right into the public dumpsters. You have to appreciate the small things right ☺

Speed-wise we experienced little problem with keeping up with the smaller cars in town. But it was the breaking distance and speed we had to be extra attentive for.

• When you spot a pedestrian in the vicinity of a crosswalk you better be ready to stop. If you don’t and the police is nearby, you risk losing your drivers license.
• There is also the problem of many inexperienced drivers on the road. Talking also from experience of driving with one of them, having your driver’s license in Romania doesn’t mean you can drive a car – especially in the little towns. So be careful! Romanians who have their driver’s license for less than 2 years are required by law to have a yellow exclamation mark sign on their car window. But this sign is often on the front window instead of the rear, making it more difficult to recognize them.

Depending of the region you’re in the roads in and between towns can be in a poor state. The unavoidable shaking makes these roads far less comfortable in a large size truck than regular size car, even with our air suspension seats.

Warning! Romania still has many unsecured railroad crossing. Thus, keep your eyes open. Plus most of these crossings are “bumpy”. The Romanians crawl over them so slowly you would think they have no suspension at all in their cars.

Romanian cities

Most large Romanian cities keep trucks like ours out (weight limit or simply no trucks allowed). Instead there is a “transit” route that goes far around. Even vehicles above 3.5 ton can sometimes experience difficulties. On top of that, these cities have no parking lots on the outskirts where you could leave your vehicle behind if you still want to have a look around. A problem we would not have faced with our Jeep or Defender.

Scenic Routes & Offroad passes

transfagarasan-romania-terratrotter

The Transfagarasan Highway and the Transalpina – the most famous scenic roads in Romania- have not been any problem for our truck.

Note: Don’t believe the 3m60 height restriction sign in front of the tunnel on the Transfagarasan. We had at least 30cm left.

sportscar-romaniaAlthough Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear said the Transfagarasan Highway to be “The world’s best road” (S14E01), we enjoyed it the least from all the scenic roads we have driven in Romania. For us it wasn’t any more special than many other curvy mountain passes we have driven in the past. Watching the many race cars coming from the other direction however did make it entertaining.

Our top 3 roads

106E – from Săliște to Dobra. A relaxing road winding through colorful picturesque towns.

pitoresque-town-romania-terratrotter

66A/66D – from Lupeni to Băile Herculane. Although officially a main road on the maps, it really is not. It quickly turns into a “restricted” gravel and dirt road taking you through the woods of Domogled Valea Cernei National Park. You will have little cell service here and will be mostly on your own. This is not a trip for those who fear narrow roads or scratches – although we probably helped clear the path. We would recommend to calculate at least 2 days for this road and even more if you want to add some hiking while you are there.

national-park-romania-terratrotter

Transalpina (DN67C or the King’s Road). This pass stretches across the Parang Mountains and contains numerous winding curves.

transalpina-romania-terratrotter

Other roads we enjoyed

571 – from Moldova Nouă to Cărbunari. Another mountain road (mostly grid) taking you through the woods with friendly wood-hauling truckers. (i.e. limited space for bush camps, but at least one peaceful one next to a stream)

woods-romania-terratrotter
Rucar-Bran Pass (DN73). This mountain pass is another famous route in Romania. It takes you from Southern Romania to Transylvania, via Bran Castle (one of Dracula castles) and the Piatra Craiului Mountains, which is considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Romania (contest of July 2008). The green pastures, the sheep herds and villages along its way definitely contribute to its magic.

Overall, we had a fantastic time driving through Romania our expedition truck.


More about our trip to Romania:

  1. Our next destination: Romania
  2. Setting up camp in Romania
  3. Danube Delta (incl. video)
  4. Romania – Serbia – Slovenia

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