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ADV RidesRiding Romania: What You Need to Know

Riding Romania: What You Need to Know

Explore the land of looming forests, iconic mountain passes and Vampires.

Published on 09.18.2019
For most people, Romania and especially its mountain region of Transylvania is associated with Count Dracula. For adventure and off-road riders, Romania is best known for the Red Bull Romaniacs, one of the world’s toughest hard enduro races. Motorcycle travelers know Romania because of its two spectacular mountain roads, the Transalpina and Transfagarasan, said to match – if not surpass – other famous European biking roads such as the Stelvio Pass in the Alps.

In reality, Romania is all that and more. After spending several weeks riding Romania on my Suzuki DR650 as well as a few days riding a Yamaha WR250 on some gnarly single tracks in Transylvania, I was left stunned, impressed, and intrigued by all that Romania has to offer. As off-road motorcycle riding is getting more and more regulated and restricted in most of Western Europe, Romania remains the one truly “wild” country where off-roading is still legal just about everywhere you go. Add the breathtaking Carpathian views, rich local culture, friendly and generous locals, and amazing local cuisine and wine, and you’ve got a perfect recipe for adventure.

Here’s what you need to know about riding Romania:

On Road: Carpathian Routes

Riding Romania Carpathian Mountains
Transalpina road. | Photo: Giuseppe Milo

If you’re planning to stick to pavement for the majority of your Romania trip, the Transalpina and Transfagarasan roads are a must. Both of these roads are spectacular when it comes to hairpins and mountain views, and as they are located within a day’s ride from each other, it’s best to plan to ride them both.


Transalpina (Route DN67C) is an older road crossing the highest motorable mountain pass in Romania, the Urdele Pass, rising over 7,000 feet above the sea level. Transalpina was built over an ancient Roman road by King Carol II in the beginning of the twentieth century, and it boasts some steep switchbacks and tremendous views of the Southern Carpathian Mountains. Riding the high passes of Transalpina, you’ll travel through a vast, untouched mountain country and see nomadic shepherds walking alongside their animals. Wild donkeys frequent some sections of the Transalpina looking for treats from travelers. There are several off-road tracks shooting off of the main Transalpina road, and you may explore those along the way. Transalpina starts at a small town of Novaci and ends in Sebes, stretching for 82 miles. The most spectacular section is between Novaci and Obarsia Lotrului; to truly enjoy all the twists, hairpins, and mountain vistas, I would recommend riding the Transalpina from South to North (Novaci to Sebes).

Riding Romania off-road
There are several off-road tracks shooting off of the main Transalpina road that you can explore along the way.

Transfagarasan (DN7C), another breathtaking mountain road, is located a little East of Transalpina, between the towns of Bascov and Cartisoara. This 94-mile road crosses the Fagaras Mountain range and is called “the most beautiful road in Romania.” Word has it, Romania’s former dictator Nicolai Ceausescu built the Transfagarasan just to surpass the Transalpina. Whether the story of Ceausescu’s ambition is true or not, the Transfagarasan is an awe-inspiring route offering multiple hairpin switchbacks and dramatic mountain scenery.

Riding Romania transfagarasan road
Transfagarasan road. | Photo: Nacho

Both of these roads are closed during winter months due to heavy snowfall, and the best time to ride them is between May and late September. There are plenty of accommodation and meal options in the towns and villages along both routes.

Off Road: The Trans Euro Trail

Although off-road riding in Romania is legal, it’s always good to be mindful and stick to routes provided by local riders. Trans Euro Trail Romania is an excellent resource for the best off-road routes in Romania, with free GPX file downloads available. The TET follows the spine of the Carpathian Mountains offering excellent tracks for both easy gravel riding and more technical trails.

Riding Romania Trans Euro Trail
Trans Euro Trail – Romania.

If you prefer to improvise, the best region for riding Romania off-road is Transylvania. Dense forests, mountains, valleys and gorges make up a true off-road paradise here, and Transylvania is the most popular off-road destination for local riders as well as travelers. Keep in mind that there are bears, wolves and other wildlife in the Transylvanian woods, so if you choose to wild-camp, make sure you don’t leave any food in your tent or on the bike.

If you’re designing your own route as you go along, be mindful of private land and national parks. Off-road riding is not permitted in some of the national reserves and parks, and you should always ask the locals whether there are any private property restrictions. Most of the time, there will be signs indicating whether the land is private or whether there are any other restrictions. Wild camping is legal on public lands.

Riding Transylvania Romania
If you prefer to improvise, one of the best regions to ride Romania off-road is Transylvania.

Off-road riding in Romania is very diverse: you may stick to easier graded dirt and gravel roads, or you may choose to tackle technical hill climbs, rocky terrain, gnarly single track, forest trails, and just about everything in between. I chose to ditch my loaded pack mule, the DR650, for a few days, and explore Transylvania on a hired Yamaha WR250 with local riders. I wanted to test my skills of more technical riding and see whether I had what it takes for my own debut at Romaniacs next year, as well as to ride with the locals and see all the hidden gems I could find. You can absolutely do plenty of off-road riding on your own adventure bike in Romania, but if you’d like to try out the more technical terrain, there are plenty of dirt bike rental options available, especially in Transylvania.

Food, Money, and Vampires

My favorite cities in Romania are Brasov, Sibiu, and Sighisoara, all located within the borders of Transylvania. All three have exquisite Old Towns, excellent accommodation, food, and wine options, and can be a great home base to explore Transylvania.

Romanian currency is the leu (one US dollar is about 4.30 leu), and hotels and restaurant meals are still very affordable here. I stayed at an Airbnb apartment in the very heart of Sibiu Old Town for $22 and had a two-course dinner and a beer at a good restaurant for $12. Prices in smaller towns are even lower; gas costs around $1.3 per liter. Food, fuel and lodging options are plentiful everywhere throughout Romania, and all gas stations, supermarkets, hotels, and restaurants accept card payments. Do carry some cash just in case (some 70-100 leu), but for the most part, Romania has a great infrastructure for travel. Locals in bigger towns and cities speak good English, and in small villages, hospitality and generosity makes up for the language barrier.

Dracula Castle Romania
The town of Bran is home to the world-famous Dracula Castle — a medieval fortress situated against the backdrop of the looming Carpathian Mountains.

If you’re curious about the Count Dracula legend, visit the small town of Bran located some 18 miles south-west of Brasov. The town is home to the world-famous Dracula Castle, a medieval fortress situated against the backdrop of the looming Carpathian Mountains. The Dracula legend was based on Vlad Tepes, a medieval ruler of Transylvania who was notorious for being exceptionally cruel and ruthless. He was known locally as “Vlad Dracula”, “Dracula” meaning “son of the dragon” or “son of the devil” in Romanian. Centuries later, Irish writer Bram Stoker took the term “bloodthirsty” literally and wrote his famous novel “Dracula”, where the local folklore tales and history blended together creating a myth of a vampire. Thus the legend was born, and to this day, Transylvania and the Bran Castle are associated with Dracula. Whether you believe in vampires or not, Bran is a beautiful, picturesque mountain town worthy of a visit – especially on two wheels.

Cheat Sheet: Quick Romania Facts

Borders. Romania is part of the European Union, but because it is nestled among both EU and non-EU countries and is not part of the Schengen Zone, it still has borders with its neighbors Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Moldova, and Ukraine. This means that going into Romania overland, you’ll need to cross a border and show your passport, but no carnet de passage or visa is required. Border crossings in and out of Romania were quick and efficient both times and took about five minutes.

Bike Insurance. When it comes to motorcycle insurance, the European green card is sufficient in Romania. If you’re a non-EU citizen or your bike is non-EU plated, MotoCamp and Stara Elena in Bulgaria both sell EU green card motorcycle insurance for global riders. Since I have an Arizona-registered bike, I had to get the motorcycle insurance from Moto Camp and paid 100 Euro (around $110) for two months.

People and Events. Romanians are avid motorcyclists, and there’s no shortage of local riders enjoying the Carpathian twisties or the off-road trails, especially on weekends and holidays. Romania also hosts several events, such as the Red Bull Romaniacs hard enduro rally, the 4V Rally, a cross-country roadbook navigation race, and an annual Horizons Unlimited adventure riders’ meet aimed at overland travelers.

Red Bull Romaniacs
Photo: Hila Tiberiu | Red Bull Pool Content

Motorcycle Rentals. If you’re planning to fly in and hire a bike locally, there are several motorcycle rental options across Romania. If you’re looking for a larger adventure bike, Moto Rentals, based in capital Bucharest, might be your best bet. On the other hand, if you’re looking to ride off-road in the Carpathian Mountains, Enduro Escape has a fleet of capable dirt bikes based near Brasov, Transylvania.

Whether you’re planning on riding Romania on or off the road, the best time to visit is between mid-April and mid-October. Spring time usually is rainy and muddy, whereas summers can be quite hot but in the mountains, the weather remains pleasantly alpine. Fall is a beautiful time to travel Romania: the tourist crowds subside, the weather cools, and the Carpathians are awash with bright colors of red and yellow as the leaves turn. Romania, with its breath-taking nature, genuine local hospitality, and the countless off-road tracks and trails crisscrossing the entire country, is truly an adventure riders’ El Dorado in Europe, and I know I will be back again soon.

Author: Egle Gerulaityte

Riding around the world extra slowly and not taking it too seriously, Egle is always on the lookout for interesting stories. Editor of the Women ADV Riders magazine, she focuses on ordinary people doing extraordinary things and hopes to bring travel inspiration to all two-wheeled maniacs out there.

Author: Egle Gerulaityte

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September 19, 2019 12:28 pm

Thanks a lot for this nice report! I would highly recommend to check the local road conditions before planning a trip in pre-season. The Transfagarasan mountain pass is often closed until around mid-June after a snow rich winter.

September 23, 2019 10:01 am

I am planning my ride from California to Bolivia. Would you be kind enough to let me know how you would go about it?

Based on what I read from your posts would you suggest buying a bike in each country, not registering it (since I am a tourist) and then selling it to a native before crossing the border?

One bike per country? or you believe I can go through a few countries and sell the bike in another country in south america.

Thanks in advance

Shane Koopman
Shane Koopman
July 12, 2021 7:11 pm

Great article – thanks and looking forward to visit in person


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