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 www.mersultrenurilor.ro or www.infofer.ro, which are quite helpful and also have an English version. For international train schedules check www.bahn.de.
CFR Călători, the passenger service division of CFR, operates several types of passenger 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).
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:
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.
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).
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.