Getting from Chișinău to Bucharest can be quite the adventure, unless of course you take the one hour flight, however, this option doesn’t fit into everyone’s budget. This means that there are two options left: the bus or the train. As sitting crammed in an overnight bus for 8 to 10 hours didn’t sound like the best option to us, we decided to take the train, and oh, this was an adventure indeed. The train between Moldova and Romania isn’t your regular train, as this train has not changed since Soviet times it will almost feel like stepping back in time. A train filled with stained carpets, red and gold faded curtains, and conductors that walk around shirtless, this train isn’t just about the journey, it is an experience on its own! The train travels almost 600km between the two capitals, and while this doesn’t sound like the longest journey, it will actually take you a rough 13.5 hours to get from one destination to the other. Intrigued? Keep on reading to find out everything you need to know about the Soviet-era train from Chișinău to Bucharest!
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How to buy tickets for the train from Chișinău to Bucharest
While previously it had only been possible to buy tickets for the train at the train station, you can now simply book the tickets online. However, you should know that there are a limited amount of tickets online available, so if you can’t find tickets online, just head to the train station instead as there is a big chance you can still buy train tickets here. We traveled in August, which is high season everywhere in Europe, and people were still buying tickets up to an hour before the train departed! To book tickets online simply head to the website here and select as your destination Bucuresti Nord. There is currently only one train leaving every day from Chișinău at 4.56pm and arriving in Bucharest at 6.20am. Pick from first or second class and simply follow the steps! In August 2019 the prices online were as follows:
- 1st Class ticket in a 2 bed style cabin = $38 per person
- 2nd Class ticket in a 4 bed style cabin = $33 per person
If you are buying tickets at the train station expect to closer to $50 per person for a 1st class ticket, you will find the international ticket office on the right hand side of the train station. Due to the minor price difference online we decided to book the 1st class style so we would have the whole cabin to ourselves.
The Train Station in Chișinău
With only three tracks at the train station in Chișinău you will have absolutely no trouble finding your train. As there are no snacks or drinks sold on the train we highly recommend grabbing some before going to the train station, there isn’t much sold at the train station either. Be sure to pack enough water and food the rest you for the next of the evening and very early morning until you arrive in Bucharest as there is no food sold on the train itself.
How to find your seat: your wagon number and seat number will be displayed on your ticket. The train is always early, so show up 30 min – 15 min in advance to be sure you will have time to find your seat and that you won’t miss your train! When entering the train you will either find the numbers displayed on the door of your cabin, or next to the door of the cabin. A conductor will check your ticket and passport before boarding, and again once the train has left on board, so be sure to keep this handy! It is not unusual for the conductor to take your ticket with, so don’t be alarmed if this happens. If this is something that concerns you just take a photo on your phone as well to be on the safe side. As we had booked tickets online we had simply printed our tickets twice as this happened to us many times before when traveling by train in Ukraine.
The Cabins & Facilities on the Train
Now, we were struggling massively to find out exactly what facilities were available on the train. So to help you out a bit, we thought we would elaborate a bit on exactly what you can’t and cannot find on this train. As this train has been going back and forth on this route since the Soviet era, don’t expect too much, but here we go:
- Plugs: If you are digital nomads like us and rely heavily on having electricity, then make sure your devices are fully charged and you have a power bank with you as there are no plugs in the cabins. We saw a plug in the hallway, but well, this might not be the easiest solution, and who knows if it actually works? Anyhow, as you will be spending most of the night sleeping anyway then this shouldn’t be the important thing anyway!
- Air-conditioning/heating: Planning on taking the train in the summer? Be prepared for a hot and sweaty ride as there will be no AC in the train. If you are lucky then your window might open a little, but if it is 33 degrees outside, like in our case, it won’t help much, just consider it part of the experience! If you are planning on traveling in the winter you might be in the same situation, and you will definitely not freeze to death as the heating apparently has only one level: hot and steamy like a sauna (according to one of our followers).
- Food & Drinks: We have mentioned it above but thought we would mention it again, there is no options to buy food or drinks on the train so be sure to pack enough to last you this 13.5 hour long train ride!
- Washrooms: Washrooms in 1st class were basic but available on every wagon, toilet paper was available at most times but sadly the soap dispenser wasn’t working. We packed some tissues to be on the safe side, which came in handy as they seem to run out of toilet paper from time to time until it got restocked by the conductor.
- Sheets: No need to bring a sleeping bag or your own pillow from home, clean sheets a blanket and a pillow will be provided to you once the train has left. You will even be given a comfy mattress that goes on top of your seat to make your journey even more comfortable.
- Storage: Wondering where to put your luggage? In both the 4-bed cabins as the 2 bed cabins there is plenty of storage available. Below the bottom bunk there is space created for your luggage that you can access by lifting the bottom bunk up. This way you also know your stuff is safe when you are sleeping (should you have the bottom bunk) as you will be sleeping right on top of it!
- Bonus: While this technically isn’t a facility on the train, we thought we mention it briefly for the light sleepers who are reading this! The train can be quite noisy, especially during the summer if you are leaving the window open, so pack some earplugs for a good night sleep!
The Moldova/Romania Border Crossing
So now that you have put your luggage away, made your bed, and are enjoying the view be sure not to get too comfortable and fall asleep just yet as there is still a border crossing, and this is a special one…
Moldova Passport Check: Upon reaching the border Moldovan border patrol will come aboard to check your passport, but not stamp your passport. After that customs agents will stop by for a luggage check, our customs agent just quickly looked in our backpacks and asked if we had brought any cigarettes or alcohol with us. After the border patrol agents and customs agents have left the train, the train will start going back and forth between different tracks and the wagons will be separated, for a very special reason.
Changing The Wheels: Moldova (and other countries in the former USSR) and Romania have different railway track sizes so the train can’t just simply continue its journey across the border, instead the train gets put on a jack and the wheels below the train are changed to fit the Romanian track. The whole process takes roughly an hour to an hour and a half, and for the whole duration you will stay on the train; a unique experience, so find yourself a window seat so you can admire the process off the other wagons! Once the wheels have been changed Moldovan border patrol will come back on the train to stamp your passport.
Romania Passport Check: After the Moldovan border patrol agents have left the train the Romanian border patrol agents will come onto the train to collect your passport. They will check your passport and then take it to be stamped (unless you are an EU citizen), you will get your passport back roughly 15 to 30 minutes later before you continue your journey further into Romania!
Soviet-era Train from Chișinău to Bucharest
And there you have it, everything you need to know about taking the Soviet-era train from Chișinău to Bucharest. While this train is quite the adventure, be sure not to forget to explore the countries and cities themselves too. We absolutely loved exploring Moldova, Pridnestrovie and Romania! Be sure to check out our other articles to make sure you don’t miss out on any unique sights:
Got any questions left about taking the train from Chișinău to Bucharest? Drop your question in the comment section down below and we’ll do our best to answer it. And oh, don’t forget to save it to Pinterest for later!