I am now one week into my visit in Maramures and I continue travelling solo. Apart from the long walks I am taking daily in the snow, I am also visiting sites and villages. I am every day on the move, talking with locals and discovering the customs and traditions in the area. It is true, I am Romanian and I have the advantage of knowing the language, but everything else is new to me. In my days of traveling, I figured out some tips that anyone interested to visit Maramures (and Romania) might find useful. These will help you make the best out of your trip in Maramureș. Some are more general for Romania, some are specific for Maramures.
1.Where to fly
The closest big airport from Maramures area is Cluj-Napoca. There is also an airport in Baia Mare, which is currently closed for works, but when it opens it might get more international flights. Other options are Satu-Mare or Oradea.
2. Rent a car rather vs public transport
The first wins. If you want to get the best out of your trip, the most convenient way is to rent a car and go around. That is because you will want to get off the public transport track and visit remote places and also because the network of public transport in Romania is time-consuming and not very good. I tried to rent a car in Baia Mare, it was not very easy, but I did manage to find someone at Autunom. Of course, the fact that I did all the diligence from one day to another and that it was the holidays season did not help either :). So my advice would be to rent a car from a bigger city, like Cluj-Napoca (check the airport website) or get a car well in advance for the other small towns.
3, Foresee more time on the road
So, you are set and on the route…. if any app/GPS tells you that your foreseen route will take 2 hours, foresee at least 2,5 – 3 hours. It is a mountain area, with wonderful roads, but rather dangerous and very busy. Don’t over-do it and plan to do 10 things in the same day You will only be stressed, tired and disappointed. I decided to go for short driver – up to 100 km a day and that goes just perfect.
4. Wrap up well
Very important aspect if you will travel in winter. I got to travel at – 20 degrees but I did not feel constrained by the freezing cold. I still played in snow and enjoyed the landscape. If you come from a warmer country (or anyway, a country that doesn’t have below -10 degrees), I advise to buy your cloths from Romania; they are warmer and sometimes cheaper. It is important to get good jacket and boots to be able to fully enjoy the nature in winter time. I also found quite good this article on how to stay warm, as I am preparing for -24 degrees in the coming 2 days.
5. Don’t worry, we are oh-so-connected
This is more of a note for the ones travelling for the first time in Romania, not an advice. One thing that I can guarantee is that Romania is very well connected. Wherever you will go, you get good Internet connection, wether you are in a city cafe or at a guesthouse in the middle of nowhere. This is one of the best things about my trip: easily connected if needed, totally disconnected if I wish so…. My tip: if you stay more then one week, get a local SIM card (for 6 euros, I got 3 GB of Internet and 200 national minutes).
6. Visit the wooden churches on the inside
There are eight UNESCO heritage churches in the area. I was surprised when I got there to see that they are locked and I could visit them only from the outside. But, on the site, it is usually written a mobile number where you can call and someone will come and open for you. It’s worth having a bit of patience and seeing at least 2-3 of them from the inside as well.
7. Drop the travel guides, listen to the locals
You can read loads of travel guides, which will give you the highlights and yes, you’ll be mesmerized by what you will visit. However, I learned to listen more to the locals and go where they advise. Like this, you get off the touristic track and you deep dive into the authentic life of Maramures. At each stop I did, I asked what is best to see around. And this is the way to make the best out of your trip in Maramures.
8. My three not-to-miss things in Maramures
I will post soon few routes and highlights for Maramures, but I know already what is definitely not to be missed here: (1) a trip with Mocanita, (2) Sapanta Merry Cemetery and (3) the village of Breb, Budesti. They are thousands of other things not to be missed, these are my top three.
9. Do some research beforehand
Even if I am Romanian and I have some knowledge about the traditions, I was caught off guard in my trip in the region, because I did not know the history of a place or a well-known custom. So I found it useful to make some research beforehand about the sites or the traditions. Another thing is also that on the actual site, you might not find any information (for example at the wooden churches) and this can be confusing; therefore, it is more interesting to have the info in advance and know what you look at.
10. Have some cash with you
We are a well connected country, but sometimes you just need cash. If you decide to buy something from a local artisan, you will need cash. Or if you would like to buy fresh fruits from the side of the road, again, you’ll need cash. If you simply want to donate to a church that impressed you, again plastic will not help. I always keep 200 lei with you (that is around 50 euros) and found it useful.
11. Be aware of the weather
Especially in winter time, check the weather and stay somewhere cosy if it is snowing. Don’t adventure yourself, even if you are looking for adrenaline. You might say this is common sense, but I continue to feel like I need to emphasise this this specifically in Maramures, where the roads go through the mountains. In other seasons, things are much easier, but the beauty of winter is worth it….