Bulgaria & Romania: The Black Sea Coast to Transylvania

13 days
Print This Page

About This Experience

Transylvania traditionally conjures images of forested hills, crumbling churches, and of course, “Dracula’s Castle.” While Romania’s heartland definitely delivers all of the above, it also harbors some of Europe’s best-kept secrets, including Sibiu, the city recently dubbed a “Capital of Culture.” Before uncovering Romania’s cosmopolitan capital and quaint Saxon villages, soak up the sun in Bulgaria’s under-the-radar resort towns and golden beaches lining the Black Sea coast. You’ll quickly discover why Eastern Europe is becoming a favorite retreat amongst savvy travelers.

Your Tour Includes

  • Round-trip airfare & transfers

  • 11 nights in handpicked hotels

  • Breakfast daily, 6 three-course dinners with beer or wine

  • Guided sightseeing

  • Multilingual Tour Director

  • Private deluxe motor coach

  • Select entrance fees

How's the weather?

  • Sofia, Bulgaria
  • Varna, Bulgaria
  • Bucharest, Romania
  • Sibiu, Romania
  • Braşov, Romania
  • Istanbul, Turkey
Temperature Precipitation
  • JAN
  • FEB
  • MAR
  • APR
  • MAY
  • JUN
  • JUL
  • AUG
  • SEP
  • OCT
  • NOV
  • DEC

Overnight Flight1 night

Day1

Finish thumbing through Dracula as you fly through the night

Your journey begins with a regularly scheduled overnight flight to Sofia.

Sofia2 nights - hotel info

Day2

Dobre doshal! (That’s welcome in Bulgarian.)

Breakfast (in flight), Dinner

Once touching ground in Sofia, a Go Ahead representative will escort you to your hotel. Settle in and get ready to clink glasses with your fellow travelers at tonight’s welcome dinner.

Day3

Bulgaria’s biggest city is one of Europe’s best-kept secrets

Breakfast

St. George Rotunda, St. Alexander Nevski Cathedral icon collection

Compact yet cosmopolitan, Sofia is one of the European Union’s newest and most walkable capitals. With a local leading the way, pass the parliament building, Viennese-style royal palace and the restored national theater, stopping along the way to admire the golden Ottoman domes that distinguish Sofia’s skyline. Amid a cluster of modern buildings, step into the city’s oldest structure, the St. George Rotunda. Enter the Aleksander Nevski Cathedral, home to Bulgaria’s best-kept collection of religious icons. And continue your journey to the Hagia Sophia, a Byzantine cathedral decorated in some of the country’s oldest mosaics. The afternoon is free to wander away to make your own discoveries.

Veliko Tarnovo1 night - hotel info

Day4

Feel the Old World among crumbling fortresses and forested hills

Breakfast, Dinner

Tsarevets Fortress

This morning drive to Veliko Tarnovo, a city set against the Yantra River. With a local guide, you’ll encounter scores of ancient ruins and crumbling fortresses that lend the city an Old-World feel. Meander among the Samovodska Charshi district’s high stone walls, balconied homes and narrow, cobbled streets. Further your exploration at Tsarevets Fortress, once a citadel, now a relic of the city’s storied past. Recount your favorite sights at tonight’s dinner.

Varna2 nights - hotel info

Day5

Ride through the countryside and greet the area’s oldest horseman

Breakfast, Dinner

Madara Rider

At the foot of the Trapezitsa and Tsarevets hills, just outside Veliko Tarnovo’s medieval fortifications, discover one last sight: the Church of St. Demetrius of Thessaloniki. After admiring the medieval church, it’s on to Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast. On your way, stop to behold the Madara Rider, an ancient stone carving. Later, in Shumen, enjoy some free time for lunch. Be sure to quench your thirst with some Shumensko Pivo, the city’s local brew, or explore its communist memorials. After the day’s travels, relax in Varna at an included dinner.

Day6

Chill out on the coast, sun on the sand, people-watch in the park

Optional Excursion - Coastal Beauty: Balchik & Kap Kaliakra

Optional Excursion - Taste of Tradition: Bulgarian Music & Dinner

Breakfast

The choices for filling your free day in Varna are endless. Stroll along the maritime city’s ambling beach or take a dip in the crystalline blue waters. Explore the pedestrian promenade or soak in more sun at Primorski Park. You may choose to join an excursion to the coastal village of Balchik and the Kap Kaliakra peninsula for stunning cliff-side views of the Black Sea and a visit to a Romanian queen’s summer villa and botanical gardens. Cap off your evening with an optional dinner, showcasing Bulgarian folk dance and traditional music.

Optional Excursions

Coastal Beauty: Balchik & Kap Kaliakra $99* pp

Further your exploration of the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, discovering what makes this region one of the most sought-after by Europeans. On your way to the coastal village of Balchik, you’ll encounter stunning seascapes. Cliffside views, sprawling beaches and an amazing diversity of sea birds will mark your journey to the small harbor town. Once there, you’ll visit the summer villa and botanical gardens of the Romanian Queen Maria, built in the early 20th century. After Balchik, continue on to Kap Kaliakra, a rocky peninsula jutting out into the Black Sea. From there, you’ll visit the museum and see the remnants of a medieval fortress. Then, seal the day with a scenic drive, traveling back along the coast to Varna.

Optional Excursions

Taste of Tradition: Bulgarian Music & Dinner $99* pp

Folk traditions continue to meld generations upon generations of Bulgarians. Over dinner, sit back and savor the distinctive songs and dances belonging to the local people. The country’s music is known for it’s asymmetrical rhythms (called Bulgarian rhythms), in which musical timing is broken unevenly over longer and shorter beats. Your dinner will take place either in Varna or along the Golden Sands, a resort-town renowned for its swath of gorgeous villas.

Bucharest2 nights - hotel info

Day7

Goodbye, Bulgaria and hello, Bucharest

Breakfast, Dinner

Say goodbye to Bulgaria as you journey to Bucharest. Along the way, stop in Silistra, where you’ll have free time to savor your last Bulgarian meal and explore the historical city’s rare ruins. (Please note: Some groups may stop in Rousse instead of Silistra.) Afterward, cross the Danube River. From there, make your way to Bucharest, arriving in time for an included dinner.

Day8

Only the Pentagon measures up to this city’s massive palace

Optional Excursion - Ceausescu’s Palace

Breakfast

Village museum

Bucharest is an eclectic capital. On your guided tour, you’ll see a range of one-of-a-kind architecture taking inspiration from the Art Deco to Bauhaus to Neo-classical eras. Take in classical buildings on Victory Street, the city’s oldest boulevard. Admire the ornate Triumphal Arch, lavish Savings Bank and Ceausescu’s grandiose palace, constructed under communist regime. Continue through historic and distinctive squares, making your way to the Village Museum. The outdoor museum is the largest of its kind, and allows a glimpse into Romanian village life and folk traditions. The rest of the day is yours to explore on your own or join an optional excursion to take a look inside Ceausescu’s palace.

Optional Excursions

Ceausescu’s Palace $59* pp

Step inside the world’s second largest building (the Pentagon takes first place). Describing Ceausescu’s Palace as ornate would be a complete understatement; this magnificent structure is just one you’ll have to see to believe. Between the beginning of construction in the early 80’s and completion in the 90’s, Ceausescu demolished multiple neighborhoods to construct this momument to his communist regime. The building is now used for multiple purposes, including housing two chambers of Romanian Parliament, meetings, conferences, exhibitions and even concerts.

Sibiu2 nights - hotel info

Day9

Move aside, vampires—Sibiu may be Transylvania’s true calling card

Breakfast, Dinner

Brukenthal art museum, Museum of Pharmacy

Travel into the heart of Transylvania to Sibiu. Traditionally, vampires have been Transylvania’s claim to fame, but slowly and steadily, the region is gaining acclaim for its culturally rich cities. Sibiu was recently designated the EU’s “Capital of Culture” for reasons that will become apparent on your guided tour. Begin in the old town, taking in the towering gates and walls that partially enclose the city. Next, view the Lutheran Cathedral, a breathtaking example of Gothic architecture. Cross the cast-iron Liar’s Bridge, so-called because of the words of young lovers who met here. Traipse through the magnificent Huet Square and its mix of Gothic buildings. Gaze at the impressive collection of European, Romanian and Contemporary art at the Brukenthal National Museum. Then, join your fellow travelers for dinner. Be sure to complement your meal with a glass of wine— Romania is one of the world’s top ten producers.

Day10

Cobble through plazas, stroll along vistas, soak up the best of Sibiu

Optional Excursion - Medieval Transylvania

Breakfast

Sibiu has something for every type of traveler. Fill your free day exploring its churches, sprawling out in its public parks or wandering along its cobbled pedestrian plazas. If you want to experience the medieval Saxon villages synonymous with Dracula, opt for our Medieval Transylvania excursion to Sighisoara and the a nearby fortified church.

Optional Excursions

Medieval Transylvania $99* pp

Want to see where Dracula was born? Travel deep inside the heart of Transylvania and discover the medieval town made famous by Vlad Tepes. First, you’ll stop in the the village of Axente Sever to see the 14th century fortified church built by the Saxons. Then, in the citadel town of Sighisoara, explore the old city, which has remained largely unchanged since the 17th century. Continue your explorations through the village streets, stopping at the City Council Square, the City Museum and Clock Tower before heading back to Sibiu.

Braşov1 night - hotel info

Day11

Whether you buy into the Dracula lore or not—this is a must-see

Breakfast

Black church, St. Nicholas Church, 1st Romanian School, Bran Castle (Dracula's Castle)

With the Carpathian Mountains as your backdrop, make your way toward medieval Brasov. En route stop in Bran for a guided tour of “Dracula’s Castle.” Once in Brasov, take a walking tour of the city’s historic center, narrow alleyways, stone walls and towering Gothic churches. Enter the Black Church, St. Nicholas Church and the 1st Romanian School.

Bucharest1 night - hotel info

Day12

Saunter into these ornate salons and you might glimpse a Klimt

Breakfast, Dinner

Peles Palace

Depart Brasov for Bucharest, stopping en route in Sinaia to discover Peles Castle. Once the summer home to King Carol I, this palace’s decadence is perfectly intact. Explore its parlors, suites and salons (look out for the Gustav Klimt paintings) on your guided tour. Then, depart for Bucharest, where you’ll savor a farewell dinner.

Day13

Bid farewell to Bucharest and board your flight home

Breakfast (excluding early morning departures)

Your adventure draws to a close this morning as you head to the airport to board your flight home.

Print This Page

About This Experience

Transylvania traditionally conjures images of forested hills, crumbling churches, and of course, “Dracula’s Castle.” While Romania’s heartland definitely delivers all of the above, it also harbors some of Europe’s best-kept secrets, including Sibiu, the city recently dubbed a “Capital of Culture.” Before uncovering Romania’s cosmopolitan capital and quaint Saxon villages, soak up the sun in Bulgaria’s under-the-radar resort towns and golden beaches lining the Black Sea coast. You’ll quickly discover why Eastern Europe is becoming a favorite retreat amongst savvy travelers.

Your Tour Includes

  • Round-trip airfare & transfers

  • 11 nights in handpicked hotels

  • Breakfast daily, 6 three-course dinners with beer or wine

  • Guided sightseeing

  • Multilingual Tour Director

  • Private deluxe motor coach

  • Select entrance fees

How's the weather?

  • Bucharest, Romania
  • Sibiu, Romania
  • Braşov, Romania
  • Varna, Bulgaria
  • Sofia, Bulgaria
  • Belgrade, Serbia
Temperature Precipitation
  • JAN
  • FEB
  • MAR
  • APR
  • MAY
  • JUN
  • JUL
  • AUG
  • SEP
  • OCT
  • NOV
  • DEC

Overnight Flight1 night

Day1

Finish thumbing through Dracula as you fly through the night

Your journey begins with a regularly scheduled overnight flight to Bucharest.

Bucharest2 nights - hotel info

Day2

Bun venit! (That’s "welcome" in Romanian.)

Breakfast (in flight), Dinner

After touching ground in Bucharest, a Go Ahead representative will escort you to your hotel. Settle in and get ready to clink glasses with your fellow travelers at tonight’s welcome dinner.

Day3

Only the Pentagon measures up to the city’s massive palace

Optional Excursion - Ceausescu’s Palace

Breakfast

Village museum

Bucharest is an eclectic capital. On your guided tour, you’ll see a range of one-of-a-kind architecture that takes inspiration from the Art Deco to Bauhaus to Neo-classical eras. See classical buildings on Victory Street, the city’s oldest boulevard. Admire the ornate Triumphal Arch, lavish Savings Bank and Ceausescu’s grand palace, constructed under the communist regime. Continue through historic and distinctive squares, making your way to the Village Museum. The outdoor museum is the largest of its kind, and allows a glimpse into Romanian village life and folk traditions. The rest of the day is yours to explore on your own or join an optional excursion to take a look inside Ceausescu’s palace.

Optional Excursions

Ceausescu’s Palace $59* pp

Step inside the world’s second largest building (the Pentagon takes first place). Describing Ceausescu’s Palace as ornate would be a complete understatement; this magnificent structure is just one you’ll have to see to believe. Between the beginning of construction in the early 80’s and completion in the 90’s, Ceausescu demolished multiple neighborhoods to construct this momument to his communist regime. The building is now used for multiple purposes, including housing two chambers of Romanian Parliament, meetings, conferences, exhibitions and even concerts.

Sibiu2 nights - hotel info

Day4

Move aside, vampires—Sibiu may be Transylvania’s true calling card

Breakfast, Dinner

Brukenthal art museum, Lutheran Evangelical Cathedral

Travel into the heart of Transylvania to Sibiu. Traditionally, vampire lore has been Transylvania’s claim to fame, but slowly and steadily, the region is gaining acclaim for its culturally rich cities; Sibiu was recently designated a European “Capital of Culture.” Begin your guided tour in the old town, taking in the towering gates and walls that partially enclose the city. Next, enter the Lutheran Cathedral, a breathtaking example of Gothic architecture. Cross the cast-iron Liar’s Bridge and traipse across the Gothic bridges of Huet Square. Gaze at the impressive collection of European, Romanian and Contemporary art at the Brukenthal National Museum. Later, join your fellow travelers for dinner. Be sure to complement your meal with a glass of wine— Romania is one of the world’s top ten producers.

Day5

Stroll though plazas, take in the vista, soak up the best of Sibiu

Optional Excursion - Medieval Transylvania

Breakfast

Sibiu has something for every type of traveler. Fill your free day exploring its churches, lounging in its public parks or wandering along its cobbled pedestrian plazas. If you want to experience the medieval Saxon villages synonymous with Dracula, opt for our excursion to the historic city of Sighisoara and the fortified church of Biertan.

Optional Excursions

Medieval Transylvania $99* pp

Want to see where Dracula was born? Travel deep inside the heart of Transylvania and discover the medieval town made famous by Vlad Tepes. First, you’ll stop in the the village of Axente Sever to see the 14th century fortified church built by the Saxons. Then, in the citadel town of Sighisoara, explore the old city, which has remained largely unchanged since the 17th century. Continue your explorations through the village streets, stopping at the City Council Square, the City Museum and Clock Tower before heading back to Sibiu.

Braşov1 night - hotel info

Day6

Whether you buy into the Dracula lore or not—this is a must-see

Breakfast

St. Nicholas Church, Bran Castle (Dracula's Castle)

With the Carpathian Mountains as your backdrop, make your way toward medieval Brasov. En route, stop in Bran for a guided tour of “Dracula’s Castle.” Once in Brasov, take a walking tour of the city’s historic center and towering Gothic churches, including the St. Nicholas Church.

Bucharest1 night - hotel info

Day7

Explore palatial parlors and you might glimpse a Klimt

Breakfast

Black Church,, 1st Romanian School, Peles Castle

This morning, visit the Black Church and the 1st Romanian School before departing Brasov for Bucharest. Stop en route in Sinaia to discover the well-preserved Peles Castle and explore its parlors, suites and salons on a guided tour. Then, arrive in Bucharest.

Varna2 nights - hotel info

Day8

Welcome to Bulgaria

Breakfast, Dinner

This morning, board a ferry to cross the Danube to Silistra, Romania, where you will have free time for lunch. Check out the varied historic sites, including a Roman tomb, a medieval fortress and an Ottoman fort. Please note that some trips may cross the Danube by bridge instead of ferry, arriving in the historic town of Rousse instead of Silistra. End the day in Varna, where you can share dinner with your travel companions.

Day9

Stroll along the coast, relax at the beach, people-watch in the park

Optional Excursion - Coastal Beauty: Balchik & Kap Kaliakra

Optional Excursion - Taste of Tradition: Bulgarian Music & Dinner

Breakfast

The choices for filling your free day in Varna are endless. Stroll along the maritime city’s ambling beach or take a dip in the crystalline blue waters. Explore the pedestrian promenade or soak in more sun at Primorski Park. You may choose to join an excursion to the coastal village of Balchik and the Kap Kaliakra peninsula for stunning cliff-side views of the Black Sea and a visit to a Romanian queen’s summer villa and botanical gardens. Cap off your evening with an optional dinner, showcasing Bulgarian folk dance and traditional music.

Optional Excursions

Coastal Beauty: Balchik & Kap Kaliakra $99* pp

Further your exploration of the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, discovering what makes this region one of the most sought-after by Europeans. On your way to the coastal village of Balchik, you’ll encounter stunning seascapes. Cliffside views, sprawling beaches and an amazing diversity of sea birds will mark your journey to the small harbor town. Once there, you’ll visit the summer villa and botanical gardens of the Romanian Queen Maria, built in the early 20th century. After Balchik, continue on to Kap Kaliakra, a rocky peninsula jutting out into the Black Sea. From there, you’ll visit the museum and see the remnants of a medieval fortress. Then, seal the day with a scenic drive, traveling back along the coast to Varna.

Optional Excursions

Taste of Tradition: Bulgarian Music & Dinner $99* pp

Folk traditions continue to meld generations upon generations of Bulgarians. Over dinner, sit back and savor the distinctive songs and dances belonging to the local people. The country’s music is known for it’s asymmetrical rhythms (called Bulgarian rhythms), in which musical timing is broken unevenly over longer and shorter beats. Your dinner will take place either in Varna or along the Golden Sands, a resort-town renowned for its swath of gorgeous villas.

Veliko Tarnovo1 night - hotel info

Day10

Venture from heritage sites to rolling hills

Breakfast, Dinner

Madara Rider, Church of St Demetrius of Thessaloniki

Today’s first stop is Madara Rider, a UNESCO world heritage site. This enormous rock carving—depicting majestic horseman, eagle and dog—dates to A.D. 710. After free time for lunch in the city of Shumen, continue toward Veliko Tarnovo. Stop to admire the Church of St Demetrius of Thessaloniki, located in the foothills of the Trapezitsa and Tsarevets hills. Arrive in Veliko Tarnovo in time for an included dinner.

Sofia2 nights - hotel info

Day11

Feel the Old World among crumbling fortresses and forested hills

Breakfast

Tsarevets Fortress

On a guided walking tour, meander among the high stone walls, balconied homes and narrow, cobbled streets of the Samovodska Charshi district. Explore the Veliko Tarnovo Tsarevets Fortress, once a citadel, now a relic of the city’s storied past. This afternoon, transfer to Sofia.

Day12

Bulgaria’s biggest city is one of Europe’s best-kept secrets

Breakfast, Dinner

St. George Rotunda, St. Alexander Nevski Cathedral icon collection

Compact yet cosmopolitan, Sofia is one of the European Union’s newest and most walkable capitals. With a local guide leading the way, pass the parliament building, Viennese-style royal palace and the restored national theater, stopping along the way to admire the golden Ottoman domes that distinguish Sofia’s skyline. Amid a cluster of modern buildings, step into the city’s oldest structure, the St. George Rotunda. Enter the Aleksander Nevski Cathedral, home to Bulgaria’s best-kept collection of religious icons. Continue your journey to the Hagia Sophia, a Byzantine cathedral decorated with some of the country’s oldest mosaics. The afternoon is free to wander away to make your own discoveries. Bid farewell to your travel companions at tonight’s included dinner.

Day13

Bid farewell to Sofia and board your flight home

Breakfast (excluding early morning departures)

Your adventure draws to a close this morning as you head to the airport to board your flight home.

Extend Your Stay

Add Belgrade, Serbia $549*

The Serbian capital is home to many architectural relics that hint at it's storied past—first settled in the 4th century by Celtic tribes, it was later populated by Romans before becoming a Serbian stronghold through the Middle Ages up until the Ottoman invasion. Today, it is a standout cultural hub of south eastern Europe.

Belgrade3 nights - hotel info

Day13

Stop in Nis, where East meets West

Breakfast

Transfer from Sofia to Belgrade, Serbia, stopping en route in the historic city of Nis. Long a gateway between East and West, Nis houses Roman ruins, a Turkish fort and countless WWII sites. Grab lunch among the cafes on Tinkers Alley during your free time.

Day14

Say hello to Serbia with a panoramic tour of Belgrade

Optional Excursion - Traditional Serbian Dinner

Breakfast

Kalemegdan Fortress

See the sights of Belgrade, from the panorama of Republic Square to the shops and cafes of Knez Mihajlova street. Your overview includes a guided tour of Kalemegdan Fortress, as well as views of the Cathedral of Saint Sava and Tito’s Memorial. Tonight, opt for a night of traditional Serbian food and music.

Optional Excursions

Traditional Serbian Dinner $65* pp

Experience a traditional Serbian dinner in the heart of Belgrade. Sample Serbia’s signature dishes, such as grilled meats, a cheese plate and bread-and-cheese pie while being serenaded by guitar players performing the local Tamburasi-style folk music.

Day15

Belgrade is yours for the day—or you can sip on wine in Navi Sad

Optional Excursion - A Day in Navi Sad: Sightseeing & Wine Tasting

Breakfast

Explore Belgrade on your own. Alternatively, join an optional excursion to the city of Navi Sad for a day of sightseeing and wine tasting.

Optional Excursions

A Day in Navi Sad: Sightseeing & Wine Tasting $109* pp

Start your day with a visit to Fruška Gora National Park, taking in the incredible landscapes and sweeping green countryside. Then, tour one of the ancient Serbian Orthodox monasteries in Fruška Gora. Take some time to relax with a stop in the wine region of Sremski Karlovci, where you'll learn about the wine and honey production of the Zivanovic family. Once you’ve had your fill of wine and honey, enter the impressive Petrovaradin Fortress on the way to Navi Sad, the second-largest city in Serbia. Enjoy free time in Navi Sad for lunch, followed by a sightseeing tour of this culturally rich city.

Day16

Savor the last moments of your adventure

Breakfast (excluding early morning departures)

A Go Ahead representative escorts you to the airport for your morning flight home.

Passport & Visa

In order to enter Bulgaria and Romania (as well as Turkey on the tour extension), U.S. and Canadian citizens need a valid passport with an expiration date extending at least six months beyond the date of reentry. A visa is also required for U.S. and Canadian passport holders to enter Turkey on the tour extension. Effective in 2014, U.S. and Canadian passport holders must obtain an electronic visa prior to arrival in Turkey. You can get an e-visa by visiting the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. The cost of a visa for entry into Turkey is $20 USD for U.S. citizens and $60 USD for Canadian citizens (payment is subject to change without notice). If you’re not a U.S. or Canadian citizen, you must contact each country’s consulate for your specific entry requirements.      

Health

There are no major health risks associated with traveling to Bulgaria and Romania. Especially during the summer months, take proper care for sun exposure. While no vaccinations are required for entry into these countries, be sure to check with your doctor or healthcare provider for the latest updates and overseas travel recommendations.       

Transportation / Walking on tour

Round-trip flights arrive in Sofia, Bulgaria and depart from Bucharest, Romania (or Istanbul, Turkey on the extension). All other transportation is by private motor coach. While most destinations on your tour are accessible on foot, some cities may require some use of public transportation. Buses serve most cities and surroundings. Taxis are also available. Make sure the meter is running and always ask for a cab number and receipt.

Clothing & Packing Tips

To ensure you’re comfortable while out exploring, we recommend packing lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that can be easily layered. For sightseeing, we suggest bringing a sturdy pair of walking shoes or sneakers, as well as a lightweight sports jacket or rainwear. If you’re planning a visit to a high-end restaurant or performance, you may also want to bring dressier attire. Also, please remember that it’s preferable to avoid showing bare legs or shoulders during visits to churches or other religious sites (entrance may be denied on this basis).

Baggage Allowance

Airlines have varying weight restrictions on luggage. Some airlines may impose additional charges if you choose to check any baggage; be advised that you are responsible for any such costs. Contact your airline for detailed information regarding luggage size and weight restrictions for your flight, but please note that Go Ahead travelers are restricted to one checked bag per person due to storage limitations on motor coaches and other internal transfers, which may include train connections or flights. One carry-on bag is also permitted, provided that it does not exceed 45 total inches (length + width + height).  Make sure you label your baggage and carry valuables, medication and documents in your carry-on bag.

Cuisine

In Bulgaria, expect to indulge in lots of fresh vegetables due to the area’s warm climate and amazing growing conditions. Lettuce may not always be in the mix, but salads will be an integral part of every meal. Another mainstay is the soup known as chorba. Among the most popular is the tripe variety, which Bulgarians use as a hangover remedy. You’ll also find lots of yogurt dishes,  including a delicious cold soup called tarrator (a blend of yogurt, cucumber and dill). Pork is the country’s meat of choice, and you’ll find it in countless combinations of soups, stews and mains. If you have a sweet tooth, round out your meal with a kazanlak (the country’s take on the doughnut). And, when clinking glasses with your fellow travelers, be sure try some of the local spirits, such as rakia or menta.

Currency

The Bulgarian lev, Romanian leu and Turkish lira are the currencies you’ll be using on your tour. Better rates of exchange are usually found in Bulgaria and Romania. We advise using a combination of small amounts of cash (for arrival and emergencies), as well as ATM/debit cards and credit cards, both of which are accepted in Bulgaria and Romania. We suggest that you inform your bank and credit card company of your travel plans, so that they won’t confuse your international purchases for fraudulent charges.       

Tipping

At the conclusion of your tour, it's customary to offer your Tour Director and driver a gratuity. We recommend tipping in your tour country’s currency, the equivalency of $3USD/CAD per person per day for your driver and $6USD/CAD to $9USD/CAD per person per day for your Tour Director. If applicable, we also recommend the equivalency of $2USD/CAD per local guide. Tips can only be paid in cash. Please keep current local currency exchange rates in mind when tipping.

A Land of Contrasts

Visiting Bulgaria and Romania, for me, was a bittersweet experience. I met many lovely people, the cities and countryside are beautiful, the architecture in Bucharest is impressive, the Black Sea lived up to all my expectations. Underlying the pleasure and the beauty, however, is the history, including recent history, of this area. Tangible consequences of past events are ever-present in both countries. We had a fabulous tour director who strove to present us with a balanced perspective on what we were seeing and experiencing. Highlights for me included both capital cities, lunching on the coast of the Black Sea, the Carpathian Mountains, strolling through medieval towns, the stunning scenery of Transylvania, enjoying delicious local dishes and beverages, and most of all, interacting with many wonderful local folks. The past and present overlap in these countries, where shepherds and their dogs watching flocks, horses pulling carts, and primitive agricultural methods co-exist with up-to-date technologies and facilities. I would urge those who plan to visit Bulgaria and Romania to learn something of the histories of these countries ahead of time. I recommend the historical novel, "The Last Hundred Days" by Patrick McGuiness as a good book to give the reader a sense of the deprivation, injustice, and brutality of the years of Ceausescu's rule in Romania. That the end of the story is just less than twenty-five years ago is sobering. The trip was a worthwhile experience in every way. Though some of the realities of these countries are harsh, the resilience and stamina of the people are inspiring. The natural, and often unspoiled, beauty of the countryside is awe-inspiring. Travelers need to know that road access to some areas is limited (not what we are used to in North America!), so choices were made regarding how to best reach certain towns that required us to travel over the same roads more than once. The scenery made the drives worthwhile in my opinion. The hotels we stayed in were lovely and conveniently located.

review photo review photo

5 / 5

Traveled On: 9/17/2013

Number of Past Tours: 7

From: ON

Tour Director: 5 / 5

Tour Value: 5 / 5

Off the Beaten Path

The reason I went on this tour was that it is not a major tourist destination, as compared to much of Europe. From the shores of the Black Sea to the Mosques of Istanbul, this was a great experience. GoAhead has again put together a very informative and interesting adventure. I learned a lot about how the past history, recent and ancient, influences what we see today. I do wish we had more time to spend at both Bran Castle and Peles Palace. While Brasov was an interesting place, we could have spent less time there and more at Bran (Dracula's) Castle. I found Bucharest to be more cosmopolitan than I had imagined. Overall, a very worthwhile trip!

5 / 5

Traveled On: 5/13/2014

Number of Past Tours: 10

From: CT

Tour Director: 4 / 5

Tour Value: 5 / 5

Go Ahead Does it Again!

This was a great experience from start to finish. I never thought I'd see countries that were forbidden in my youth. The people were warm and friendly everywhere and the sights--ancient and modern--truly impressive!

5 / 5

Traveled On: 5/13/2014

Number of Past Tours: 11

From: DC

Tour Director: 4 / 5

Tour Value: 5 / 5

Ill-done optional and extension

Overall, the tour was good and I enjoyed it. However, there were two areas that I definitely feel need adjustments: 1. The first was the Bulgarian Folklore Dinner. The evening would barely have been worth half the price. The food was average at best and the 'folklore evening' quite disappointing - four dancers who performed about half hour to 45 minutes and were decidedly mediocre. I would NOT recommend this optional to anyone, and it has made me wary to reserve further optional folklore evenings on tours. 2. The second disappointment was the manner in which the day of Bran Castle was conducted. Dracula's Castle is a huge draw for travelers to that area, and we were quite excited for it. However, on that day, we spent several hours 'exploring' an old school and two churches, and having lunch in Brasov. That would be okay except we only had 1.5 hours at Bran Castle. Barely enough time to have the castle tour, with no time to wander on our own or to spend leisure at the (almost) first real souvenir shops. We could, and should have spent a great deal less time in Brasov with the school and churches, then had lunch up at Bran Castle; there are plenty of restaurants available, and we would have had plenty of time to enjoy the castle and the castle tour and the shops. There is only other thing I will say. Which is why did the tour extension to Istanbul happen? Every tour I have taken, this one included, states that the extension requires a minimum of 10 travelers. What happened on this extension?

3 / 5

Traveled On: 5/13/2014

Number of Past Tours: 3

From: AZ

Tour Director: 3 / 5

Tour Value: 3 / 5

 

Dear Alice, It was such a pleasure speaking with you last week and hearing more about your experience in Bulgaria and Romania! As we discussed this is a fairly new tour for Go Ahead and your feedback is greatly appreciated as we continually look to hone our tour itineraries and ensure the most enjoyable, memorable and cultural experience is had at your destination. You highlighted some really great areas of opportunity to make this tour even more wonderful. I agree that Bran Castle is an important part of this itinerary and more time there for lunch and shopping is certainly a change that we can look to make moving forward. As for the extension of the tour in Istanbul- you are correct in your knowledge that we typically need a minimum of 10 travelers for an extension to actually take place but in certain cases Go Ahead may have the ability to run the tour with less than the usual minimum and if we can do so we certainly will. Our goal is to accommodate your travel plans as you have made them. I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to share your review online and for speaking with me last week. We would love the opportunity to travel the world with you again soon! Best Wishes, Nicole

Posted by Go Ahead Tours on June 30, 2014

Paul

Paul did an excellent job as he shared many of his personal experiences and when nothing had been planned he was able to plan an activity. I have found many tour companies add too much free time and there is only so much shopping a person can do.

5 / 5

Traveled On: 3/18/2014

Number of Past Tours: 1

From: MN

Tour Director: 5 / 5

Tour Value: 4 / 5

Still needs some work but good

First, the good, and then the not so good! Tour Director Paul is by far the best, most interesting, and knowledgable tour director that we have had after 8 tours with GAT. For those who might be booked on future tours and have the honor of having Paul as a tour director, consoder yourself very fortunate It has been said that communism can devistate a country for years after it has been abolished. These two countries are perfect examples. Even though communism has been gone for some 25 years, the reminants in every aspect can be redily seen in both the cities and it's people. Now for the not so good! Too much travel and bus time. Itinerary needs some tightening up. Some of the church stops can be either eliminated or replaced with other attractions. I noted that in the national museum in Sofia, our group, despite other visitors who were in the museum at the same time, were constantly watched by what appeared to be a minder. I must add that we even had a local tour guide aside from the Go Ahead tour guide. I found no valid excuse for this conduct on the part of the museum employees given the above listed accompanyment of our group and the fact that the few other museum goers were on their own with no minder. Again, another museum in Sibiu, several of the group were treated very rude by a museum employee. Again, no excuse whatsoever. Certainly, if a venue such as a museum has ill feelings for select tourist, then they should let the touring firms know in advance in order that such firm can avoid these locations. If a tour / hotel advertises that the room has air conditioning, then it should be provided rather than the front desk telling the guests that it will "be fixed" when it is known that such is not provided or cannot be used. In sumation, I can certainly appreciate that GAT is expanding it's tour selection to post communist countries such a Romania and Bulgaria. However, it must be understood by both the tour company and the tourist that perhaps memories of the past may still exist in these regions and in the minds of it's people. For this reason, visitors from certain areas of the globe may get a taste of distrust from the locals, especially in the hotel and tourist oriented venues. Flight itineraries must be carefully looked at especially for seniors. Less than one hour is not enough time to get from one end of Amsterdam airport to the other. Missed ones flight in many of these countries can be a very costly and streeeful venture!!! As stated above, this tour, as interesting and educational as it is, still needs further evaluation in the areas of places that will be visited and itinerary related issues. It boils down to the fact that we visit these areas of the world not as political representatives but as learners of other cultures. Our visit is in good faith and friendly curiosity to these countries.

4 / 5

Traveled On: 3/18/2014

Number of Past Tours: 8

From: TX

Tour Director: 5 / 5

Tour Value: 5 / 5

Transylvania Time Trip

The fall foliage in Romania was lovely and the Carpathians were topped with snow. The scene is set for harvest. And the harvest is by hand! We encountered farmers with hand scythes, rakes, hoes and shovels. The stalks (corn or hay) was carried by horse-drawn wagons to barns or stacked in sheaths in the field. Rarely did we see mechanized farm equipment. Romania is still quaint and charming . the Saxon fortified towns were beautiful.

5 / 5

Traveled On: 10/1/2013

Number of Past Tours: 7

From: TX

Tour Director: 5 / 5

Tour Value: 5 / 5

Romania and Bulgaria

While both countries were fantastic I really enjoyed Romania. Medieval fortified churches, Castle Bran, Gypsy towns, Soviet era factories, horse drawn carts in daily use and a chance to talk to local people. The entire trip was very informative. I learned a lot.

5 / 5

Traveled On: 10/1/2013

Number of Past Tours: 11

From: CA

Tour Director: 4 / 5

Tour Value: 5 / 5

Bul/Rom

The tour was very good - all spots on itinerary were very interesting to visit. Many of the spots visited were challenging to reach, and one needed a lot of stamina and climbing ability to achieve the goal. The hotels were great, and the food was good. It is not a tour for everyone, but we enjoyed it.

4 / 5

Traveled On: 10/1/2013

Number of Past Tours: 2

From: FL

Tour Director: 4 / 5

Tour Value: 4 / 5

Too much time on the bus

Comments on our recent Bulgaria and Romania tour. We were dissatisfied with the tour in many respects: the main one being "too much time on the bus". The round trip between Sibiu and Brasov was unnecessary and should be eliminated with an overnight stay in Brasov . Specific comments: The logistics were poor as evidenced by the last minute change in the Sofia hotel. We were arriving a day early and had made a reservation at the original hotel and thus had to spend a half day switching hotels. Then, the information about us was not forwarded to our tour leader. She had our names but nothing else. We are part of the tour and our information (city & state) should have been given to her. The radios arrived late and our Sofia tour guide had a soft voice and needed the radio to be heard. The fiasco on the last day with the road to the Peles Castle in Sinaia being closed was poor advance planning.. Local tour guides: We thought the local guides were generally poor. You need to point out to them that the attention span of tourists is only 5 or at most 10 minutes. The only one we thought to be effective was the one in the Bran castle. She had a distinctive voice and kept her presentations to 5 minutes. The most egregious was the one in Veliko Tarnovo who went on & on so that we found that the significance of the fortress was lost in her torrent of words. We noticed that she appeared to be talking with her eyes closed. The stays in Sofia and Bucharest were too short; both should be 3 nights. The way it was now there was no time to visit the cities on our own and both had several interesting museums presenting the cultures of the two countries. To fit in the extra nights, the stay in Veliko should be eliminated with the tour of fortress being shortened and the stop at Madara Rider skipped. As we noted above the 3 night stay should be reduced to 2 with a stay at Brasov replacing it. We were disappointed in the optional Black Sea excursion in that we didn't get to see much of the Black Sea coast. The supposedly scenic drive back from Kap Kaliakra was hardly that. Too much time was spent on the bus during the Translyvania tour. Were there any fortified churches closer to Sibiu to make the bus time shorter?

2 / 5

Traveled On: 9/17/2013

Number of Past Tours: 5

From: NM

Tour Director: 5 / 5

Tour Value: 3 / 5

Show More Reviews
Q&A