Railways in Romania (CFR Călători)

The national railways company in Romania is CFR (Căile Ferate Române). Their net of rails is quite well spread and most towns of interest are covered by trains. However in the mountainous area and especially in extreme North Romania the rails are few and usually the trains have many speed restrictions to obey to. Romania is served by a very diverse bunch of wagons and engines, from aging diesel engines all the way to close-to-modern air-conditioned ICE wagons.

For any updated information, one can always check the CFR timetable and other useful information at their websites or, which are quite helpful and also have an English version. For international train schedules check

The trains

CFR Călători, the passenger service division of CFR, operates several types of passenger train:

  • Personal trains (P) also known as commuter trains, are the most abundant type of train on the CFR passenger network. They are used for two main purposes, as shuttle, or commuter, trains, linking towns with neighbouring villages, and linking neighbouring cities with each other. Personal trains have the lowest average speed (34.3 km/h in 2004) and the least-comfortable (usually oldest) rolling stock, and have a reputation for being very slow, crowded and generally unkempt which is only gradually changing. Personal trains operate mostly on local routes and stop at every station. Train fares for this type are the cheapest, since no supplement is paid, only the base fee, based on distance. Seats are not reservable.
  • Automotor train (AM) stands for a local automotive train (see above), which is made of only one (rarely two) automotive wagon, used more and more rarely on routes such as Arad - Vaşcãu or Braşov - Zãrneşti. The wagons were built somewhere in the beginning of the 20th century and are a very picturesque way of "enjoying" a trip. No seat reservation is required and the price of the ride is the same like a regular Personal one.
  • Accelerat train (A) (fast trains) are used for medium- and long-distance services that stop only in towns or cities. Accelerat trains use marginally better rolling stock than Personal trains, and have higher speeds. They are also more expensive, requiring the payment of a supplement alongside the base fee. Some services of the Accelerat type require a reservation. Accelerat trains are also used for cross-regional long-distance routes. Despite the long distances, Accelerat trains tend to stop in every town (even though they bypass villages) and hence are very popular, though they are seldom used for express travel between two large cities.
  • Rapid train (R) are significantly faster and more comfortable than Accelerat and Personal trains, and are the ones most commonly used for long-distance express travel between major Romanian cities. In 2011 all "Rapid" trains are modern cars. Rapid trains operate only on main lines between key population centres, making stops only in major towns and cities. Unlike Accelerat trains, they don't provide cross-regional long distance services, focusing instead on highly-travelled routes and making few stops. For long distances, it is recommended to book a sleeperette (you can choose between 4-6 passengers in a compartment).
  • InterCity (IC) stands for a close-to-modern train with air-conditioned wagons. The train has most times red, open Western wagons and all trains have a dining car, running only at daytime. The bathrooms are usually proper and the service - better than on other trains. Most IC trains only run on weekdays.
  • EuroCity (EC) and EuroNight (EN) are international trains which are usually run by CFR in partnership with another national carrier, depending on the origin and destination of the route. For example, the night train from Belgrade to Bucharest is run as a EuroNight train, and there is both a EuroCity and a EuroNight train from Budapest to Bucharest via Arad. EuroCity trains are almost always comfortable and modern, even though not perhaps as comfortable as InterCity, since they generally use the same rolling stock as Rapid trains. EuroNight trains use modern sleepers and have a generally good safety record.

Sleeping on train

This is a good means of avoiding to pay for the accommodation, especially on routes such as Bucharest - Suceava (for the monasteries in N Moldavia) or Bucharest - Timişoara. Though the cheapest way of doing that is by taking an overnight Accelerat in a 2nd class seats wagon, it is not much more expensive to go by a sleeping wagon - sometimes on the very same train. Basically one has three options on domestic routes: a couchette wagon ("vagon-cuşetã"), a 2nd class sleeping wagon ("vagon de dormit clasa a doua") and a 1st class sleeping wagon ("vagon de dormit clasa întâi"). The 2nd class sleeping wagon has 3 beds in berth, while the 1st class version has 2 beds in a berth; on some selected international routes there are single compartments as well. In addition to this, on the routes Bucharest - Chişinãu (Republic of Moldova) and Bucharest - Kiev (Ukraine) / Moscow (Russia) / Lvov (Ukraine) / Minsk (Belarus) / Harkov (Ukraine) there are only 2nd class Russian standard sleeping wagons (4 beds / berth). All sleeping wagons running in and through Romania have wagon attendants, yet that mans nothing, watch your stuff and lock the door (most compartment doors on the sleepers can be locked from the inside or at least chained).

Buying your ticket

There occur many confusions as referring to the Romanian train tickets simply because the system is a bit complicated and nobody explains it clearly. A basic train ticket on a certain A - B route is made up of the following different parts:

  • the base ticket (the Personal rate);
  • the selected train supplement (the Accelerat or Rapid or IC / EC / EN / ICE train supplement);
  • the seat reservation (compulsory for all trains except for the Personal).

Now, there are two ticket systems: in either Bucharest and Ploieşti (coming soon in other main stations as well), they have introduced a computer system for the ticket offices and you have only one cardboard sheet with all the data you need (train number, price, departure / arrival hour a.o.). In most other stations though they still have the old system, which means that for a Personal train you get a small easy-to-lose ticket, for the other trains you get at least 2 small such tickets, one of which is the P train ticket and the other being the supplement and the seat reservation. Make sure not to lose any of them. The ticket selling system not being computerized, the system is very slow and painful. Every station on a certain route receives the seats allocated for it by phone 1 hour before the train arrives in that specific station. If the allocated seats are all sold out, you will be given only the ticket, without a seat, which means that you will probably have to stand in the train hall. If the clerk in the station is kind enough though, he/she has the possibility of calling for some "spare" seats to other stations, but most times they will not go out of their way to do so for you.

We wrote about this complicated issue only to explain the reason for which train tickets are sold in the station office only 1 hour before the train departs and not longer before. If you want to be sure you have a ticket booked, you have to refer to a CFR Agency ("Agenţie de Voiaj CFR") at least 24 hours before the train departs (sometimes the same day, but not always). Their commission is very small, so there is no need to worry about that. Find CFR agencies in most towns and cities. In Bucharest alone it is possible to book train tickets by phone and then to collect them from a special office in Bucharest North Station.

Bucharest North Station

Despite its bad reputation, the station is safe for those, which are well awake and keep an eye on their stuff, avoiding to spend more time than needed there. There is an ATM in the main hall to the right lane and next to it there is one of the Bucharest exchange offices with the worst rates. In any situation, that exchange office even is far better than changing your money with God knows what "friendly" person you "happen to meet" in Bucharest North Station. At the end of line #2 there is a tourist information office, which will help you with any query you might have, including taxis, tips and all. Never take any of the taxi drivers which hang around in the station and only take taxis which bear a banner for one of the trustworthy companies in Bucharest, such as: Perozzi, Valentino, Cobãlcescu, Meridian, Mondial, XXL, Nova, Leone, Rodelle a.o. There also is a metro entrance within the station and the tube can take you to the city centre as well (take one stop towards Dristor 2, get off in Victoria 2 and change the lines for the one towards IMGB, then get off in the second stop, in University Sq. and you\'re in the centre).

Train schedules

Bucharest and other parts of Romania can be reached by regular trains from Vienna, Budapest, Prague, Warsaw, Venice, Belgrade, Sofia, Thessaloniki, Istanbul, Sofia, Harkov, Moscow, Lvov, Minsk.

For further information, refer to the official website of the CFR: Romanian rail system.

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