In Europe

Overnight Train from Sighet to Bucharest

The overnight train from Sighet to Bucharest isn’t the fastest way to cross the country. But for me, the 15 hours on the train overnight beats driving 9 hours––by a long shot. It was also a nice way to decompress after completing my heritage trip to Sighet, learning about the Jewish history of the city––where my great-grandmother was born––as well as the surrounding region into Ukraine.

The overnight train leaves Sighet once a day, departing at 4 pm and arriving in Bucharest at 6:30 am the next day. Train schedules will make it look like there’s a transfer in Beclean pe Someş in the middle of the night, but the train simply changes its service name. You don’t actually get woken up to switch trains.

My ticket for a private cabin was 292 RON or about €59 / $67. That’s about what I was spending for my lodging in Sighet and Bucharest per night. For me, it was worth it to ensure privacy, especially since it was still pandemic season and the prospect of sharing would’ve been exceptionally unappealing.

Finding my cabin was plenty easy. I was warned that the trains hadn’t been updated since the dictatorship. Sure, it didn’t have that “new train smell” you might find on the TGV in France, but it was still plenty comfortable. Anecdotally, the bed felt more comfortable than I remember with the overnight train to Vienna.

Eventually, a conductor came by to check my ticket. And that was that. No food service or anything of the kind, so make sure you pack snacks, sandwiches, a dinner––whatever you’ll need. Then, just sit back, relax, and enjoy the views shift from relatively flat Sighet to the more mountainous Maramures Mountains Natural Park and Rodnei Mountains National Park.

Tip: I set my own alarm approximately 15 minutes before our arrival, thinking that’d be plenty of time for me to throw my pants on and get ready to disembark. But about 30 minutes before we pulled into Bucharest, I found myself in a dreamy state between sleep and consciousness. There was this loud tapping. It slowly pulled me out of my dreams and back into the train.

Over time I wondered if a woodpecker latched itself to the side of the train. But as my brain started waking up and thinking more logically, I realized that a woodpecker probably couldn’t train surf. So what was the tapping? I sat up with a start, realizing it was someone at the door. They must’ve been knocking for several minutes. I quickly started throwing on my pants, but not before they gave up and started opening my door. I was shirtless and unbuckled when an older man peeked his head in.

“We are almost there,” he said curtly before continuing on.

So just keep that in mind. You might have your own plan for waking up, but Romanian Railways has another.

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