Public transport in foreign countries is often the harder way to travel. It means keeping to timetables, sharing compartments with complete strangers, often not really knowing where to get off and of course delays. We took the initiative in Romania, of all places, to hire a 9 nine seater van in the hope that it would get us to exactly where we wanted to go, when we wanted, without too much trouble. Driving in Romania was an experience. We introduced a few house rules that we stuck to ensure we, to stayed on the road, travelling in the right direction, with all passengers feeling well. Below is a quick breakdown of the advice we’d pass onto others who are looking to drive in Romania.
Tip 1: Get a GPS and Efficient Map Readers
Unless you’ve got a sense of direction like Bear Grylls, then I would not venture out too far onto Romania’s roads without a GPS and a front seat passenger who can read, operate and get the GPS to stick to the windscreen proficiently. We had each of these, apart from the one time when the GPS fell off the screen, at a point where we were trying to get out of Bucharest. In our fluster we managed to take a wrong turn, but Henry managed to put us back on track with a well executed u-turn across tram tracks in front of an oncoming tram.
Tip 2: Trust in Thy Co-Drivers
Luckily Henry was graced with a co-driver even McCrae would have been happy with. Liam and I took the reigns as GPS operators, map readers, refreshment suppliers, general banter providers and key sight spotters. Co-drivers (like Liam and I) keep the vehicle on the road the passengers up to date with trip progress and ensure that those in the seats behind are not in any discomfort (other than alcohol induced)
Tip 3: Develop Key Phrases for Driving Safety
It’s not uncommon to need to take abrasive action when driving in Romania. Often there are 2 lanes but 3 cars trying to fit into them, or sometimes 2 lanes but one of them also has a tram track running through it. To ensure Henry was spatially aware on the road, we came up with the key phrase ‘Lane Creep‘ a technical driving term for Bucharest when the vehicle you’re in may be creeping across into the lane on the right hand side (drivers are on the left of the car). A good shout of ‘Lane Creep’ lets the driver know they need to slowly move back into the lane a bit – avoiding knee-jerk reactions later down the road when a car comes flying up on the right.
Tip 4: Corners need Warner’s
You’d think that a blind corner was not a terribly safe place to pass another vehicle right? Romanians like to challenge this theory on a trip by trip basis, if there’s a gap it’s worth a crack. Keeping to the right hand side of most corners is a smart idea, it will help to avoid any oncoming cars who have decided to rip out into your lane as they pass the other car coming toward you. An awareness of this tip combined with a good dose of anti-lane creep should keep you safe. As a co-driver, always throw out a warning to the driver about the potential risks of the next corner
Tip 5: Donkeys are not a Man’s Best Friend
Even for a animal loving man like our driver Henry, donkey’s proved to be a pest on the roads. While we didn’t have any serious coming to blows with the midget 4 legged horses, we saw a number around. Perhaps it’s more the drivers of the donkeys and their carts that would pose the problem. I’d assume that, like those corner passing idiots, the donkey drivers are opportunists too and are more than happy to play a game of car chicken to see how late they can leave it to pull out into the flow of traffic.
Tip 6: Police are Your Friends, Don’t Freak Out
On our way down from the the fort at Rasnov, we learned a lesson about what not to do if confronted by a police car. The short version of advice is: if you encounter a police officer on the roads, do not (as much as your are compelled to), turn into a one-way street which they police car is driving down, so that you are effectively driving at him in the wrong direction. Henry thought this was the way to do things and quickly found out that it wasn’t. Luckily it didn’t result in any conversations with the officer in the car, but it put Henry back on the straight and narrow keeping a good eye on his speed. Sub -Tip: Try and find any speed limit signs you can, there are not too many of them meaning you’re never quite sure if you’re speed or just annoying the cars behind you.
Tip 7: Don’t Talk to Hungover Passengers when Driving in Romania
One of the mornings we had a fragile man in the back. Glenny had pursued a beer drinking conquest the night before and was not in a great shape to be taking a 2 hours ride in a van. Our learning here was that if someone is hungover, don’t talk to them – they don’t want to hear it. If it is necessary to speak to the hungover subject, nominate one of your co-drivers to act as an intermediary and contact the sack of sh*t at appropriate times.