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  • Mar 2017

    All starts on a long backpacking journey that brought me to Australia, New Zealand and then South East Asia when I was 21 years old. I then got myself to Beijing and taking the Transmongolian  train for a week I got to Moscow. From there to Riga, Ireland and finally back home to Italy. I had mainly stayed in hostels and camp grounds and even if it wasn't my first time in such kind of accommodation I knew that was what I wanted to do once I got back to Europe. I simply felt I had to try it. Most travelers in their early 20`s talk about opening a hostel or a bar abroad, its a nice dream. I like to put ideas into actions so with little money and little experience I ventured out to Bulgaria. Why Bulgaria? I had been to Bulgaria several times before and noticed the lack of hostels in Varna where I went scouting the market with a friend. After looking at many buildings I settled with a run down restaurant called Waikiki that was very popular years before. It was a hard gamble: starting with the language that I never learned, to being alone in a foreign land, to set up a business I had only experienced as a customer and all of this in a very hard to find villa in the hills of Evsinograd, some kilometers out of the city. I am still amazed on how people find the hostel! In the cold winter of 2007 I bought a banger of a van and headed to Ikea in Bucharest which was the closest to buy bunk beds, linen and all I would need. I began with only 24 beds... Opening day, 1st of May 2008... The landlords, 2 Minnesota hitchhikers, 1 volunteer and 2 friends.   The first month was hard... hostel was empty, no bookings, the little money I had left was diminishing by the day. I could barely sleep at night for the stress and thinking about what I would do when it failed. Some friends came to visit and some isolated booking. But in mid June word of mouth kicked in with the season and I was full! I was safe and happy. I worked very hard: ironed the linen, put out the breakfast, cleaned, checked people in and out, entertained everyone day and night, took people out and slept deep and relaxed in my tent so I could rent my room out and make the most out of that first season. It was an amazing feeling to have succeeded and I have the fondest memories of that hard beginning. Every year after that we added dormitories and made deals with neighbors who where renting their villas out so that at the end we had nights with over 70 people: tents in the garden, parking and terrace, guests and staff sleeping on all sofas and on mattresses in the common area and I even had nights so full that friends of mine slept on the tables! In the first years X Hostel Varna guests would only go to Varna city and to the beach and hot springs close to us but then we started going to Golden Sands so the epic parties started with loads of free alcohol included: Foam party, Beach Party, Club Crawls, Singles Parties, boat parties and so on. And one day 4 guests came to me and said we loved this place so much that we decided to make an X Tattoo , I was almost in tears at this huge sign of appreciation. So the Tattoo went strong, so much that now over 140 people have one!   Chris was the first to join the X Hostel family: first as a guest while being a peace corps volunteer, then as volunteer, manager and finally as business partner who would take X Hostel Varna a step ahead each year! In 2011  I met up with Alfie and Nahir, and after visiting Alicante in 2012 we opened X Hostel Alicante that also has Phil as business partner, who I met as a guest of X Varna in its first years. Alicante`s vibe is unique: a quiet provincial town and at the same time with a roaring nightlife. Great tapas, weather, sea and atmosphere overall. The hostel runs like a family with evenings on the roof terrace and days on the beach. In 2012 we also had the opening party for X Hostel Bucharest with a NYE party people are still talking about. Then after more months of refurbishing we managed to open all the dorms and private rooms. At first we had sauna, Jacuzzi, free welcome beer in our pub but guests still complained so we keep changing our offers and services: now we have a newly refurbished pub with a huge screen, new sound system, furniture, games, bitcoin atm and much more. Still: big city guests and weekenders are not as guests you find in Varna and Alicante. This year we also opened a new business in the neighbors building we bought in Bucharest. We have Central Guesthouse: only private rooms facing a garden connected to the entrance of the hostel.   The 3 hostels after that sadly no longer exist: X Hostel Tallinn - was a 1 big dorm operation right in the heart of the city bought from a dodgy American scammer; hostel was so cozy that all guests would always do things together. I got very involved with expats and locals in Estonia and spend some wonderful months setting up and running the place. Many great friends and a special new year party need to be mentioned! Unfortunately the landlord was a cheat jealous of this business so after repeatedly cutting gas and water and us calling the police we made a deal, he would refund me the investment and I left with a great experience and a first business that closed. X Hostel Budapest - We bought the former stoners hostel called California from another dodgy individual. Business went really well... maybe too well or people had too much fun. The neighbors petitioned and manage to close us down after 3 years. Other issues ensued: a manager stealing a lot of money and other problems. On a good note: we bought the 270 sqm building that is in a nice location and we will probably open a non hospitality business there soon. X Hostel Malaga - Opening and first month were Paradise: a wonderful and fun city to live in. Then we left a new partner in charge that cheated the others going on his power trip so it ended in a lawsuit with the dissolution of the firm. Anything better that being still connected to Mr. M. Some year ago I also started looking at new projects and at the same time started 2 Escape Rooms in the Bucharest hostel and Camp X in the mountains near Curtea de Arges. Camp X was a week long `military experience: you would pay a flat fee and get yourself to camp. Here you would receive uniform, equipment and training. It was full on with camouflage trainings, group assault, airsoft battles, ambushing, anti-sniper tactics. Sleeping in huge tents, morning push ups, shooting and survival training, some hand to hand combat and so on. Would of been EPIC. Unfortunatlly business partners for that venture had many issues so that it made it impossible to go past the fun and tought testing period.   Escape Games became a huge hit. We made great business in Bucharest, tens of thousands of people played, all major firms did team-buildings,  3 music videos where shot in our thematic rooms. We expanded to Sofia, Brasov and Golden Sands with our own games. Then we decided it would be easier to manage and more profitable to just sell games to people who wanted to open this kind of business. We now own the most popular firm of Escape Room Design worldwide with over 450 games in 62 countries. Our last project is Axe Throwing arenas. We opened our first one here in the hostel in Bucharest and we will let you know how it goes.. .   The story will go on!          

  • Mar 2017

    So you’ve traveled all the way to Bucharest and even if your experience has been amazing you still feel the need for a change of scenery we have a secret for you: leaving will be hard... not because of that beauty you met in the club or the friends you left at X Hostel... it`s more about the land transport infrastructure. So get ready for an adventure! TIP: Most trips take loooooooong. Buy some food, bring water and a lot of patience. Buses but especially trains are a great opportunity to see the countryside and to meet other interesting travelers. Never plan too far ahead nor believe the arrival time, just enjoy  the journey; bring a good book or enjoy some music if you are not a people`s person. Romanian railroad system offers trains to the main capitals of the neighboring countries as well as a few of the cities with seasonal activities. SECRET: Bucharest does not have one bus station... many are scattered throughout the city. Good luck finding the right one... Bulgaria has two main destinations. Its capital city Sofia and the seaside resort Varna where our other X Hostel is. For Sofia there is one train available daily that leaves from the North Train Station (Gara de Nord) daily at 12.45. The fee for this trip is 100 RON (22.22EUR).  There is also a bus available daily from the Filaret Bus station located centrally in Bucharest daily from 6:30 , 13:00 . 16:00 and 22:30. The ticketing system on the bus works on a first come first served basis and can be acquired after boarding from the driver for 120RON (26.6EUR). When it comes to Varna there is a daily train leaving North Train stations daily from 12.45 with a rate of 100 RON (22.22EUR) but we recommend the early morning buses that leave a few times a week at  7am from Piata Constitutiei (in front of the Parliament): it takes about 5 hours.   TIP: To be walking distance to X Hostel Varna get off at the St Konstantin i Elena stop just before Varna city. For all bus timetables use this site. Other popular destinations from Bucharest include the capital of Hungary: Budapest . The availability of trains for this route is ampler and includes a sleeping variant upon request. There are two options when it comes to securing a ticket – buying it on the spot or making a telephone booking. With the booking option the price becomes lower. Available trains are daily from 5:45 14:00 17:45 21:25. With a booking their prices is 135RON (30EUR) for a seat or 180RON(40) for a sleeping car.  Without a booking the price becomes 210RON(46.66EUR) and 290RON(64.44EUR) respectively.   SECRET: if you book non refundable and non changeable tickets with a few weeks in advance you can save about 40% of the ticket! In order to reach the Serbian capital, Belgrade, there is a train at 21:25 daily. Its price is 130RON(28.88EUR). For the capital of Moldova, Chisinau, there are daily buses from 8 in the morning hourly and a daily train from the North Train Station at 19:15 for the price of 133RON(29.55 EUR). When it comes to trains that do not travel internationally there is a wide array of options to reach every major city in the country.   Brasov – there are trains running almost every hour of the day and a few more during the night. Depending on the duration of the trip their prices are either 24RON(5.21EUR) or 48.5RON(10.5EUR). Cluj Napoca - At the moment there are five daily trains to the capital of Transylvanian - 06:00 12:15 16:25 18:45 and 22:00. The price ranges from 90 to 100RON(20EUR to 22.22EUR). Constanta - In order to get to the main seaside hub you'll need to take one of the 8 daily available trains. They start early in the morning with the last one leaving North Train Station at 20:20. Price wise the trip is close to 60RON(13.33EUR). TIP: for most train schedules click here . Romanian train schedules: http://www.cfrcalatori.ro/  

  • Mar 2017

    Being half Irish it is my duty to host a party to prove stereotypes are often true: we drink, we are fun and we can party. See the event on facebook HERE Bring your leprechaun looking friends, wear your greenest outfit and join us for a great night. Jameson Whiskey and Ursus Premium (we don`t have Guinness but it`s bottle is green) wll be discounted for the whole night. We will have Irish drinking songs playing throghout the evening. Bring your instruments and join in! What better way to spend Saint Paddy`s day than  to make new friends and be merry? Remember: we don`t get drunk, we get more Irish!

  • Mar 2017

    Day trips from Bucharest Brasov and Bran Castle Brasov is a town about 2/3 hours from Bucharest in the heart of Transylvania. The town and the castle are the most popular places to take a day trip to from Bucharest. There is an authentic old town and it's also the place to access the ski resorts. When you're there you can see: The Black Church Rope Street Catherine’s Gate Tampa Mountain Only 30 km away from Brasov is Bran Castle, of the most beautiful castles in Romania, also known as 'Dracula's Castle'. You can get there by city bus or car. Constanta Constanta is a popular resort town on the shores of the Black Sea, and is one of the oldest towns in Romania. It is easy to reach by public transport and is a great place to visit in summer to beat the heat. Be sure to head up the Minaret Tower for great views of the city. Other things to do in Constanta Constanza casino The Greek church Genoese lighthouse The Museum of national history The House with Lions Carol I Muslim Mosque Wallachia and the Real Dracula's Castle One of the best day trips from Bucharest is Wallachia and the 'real' Dracula’s Castle. The Poenari Castle, currently in ruins, is the real home to Vlad the Impaler. Vlad, or 'Dracula' who used it as his fort. The castle is located in the foothills of the Fagaras mountains, close to Curtea de Arges, one of the oldest and most historically important towns in the area. You can easily visit both the castle and the town in the same day. This day trip is quite far from Bucharest so be sure to leave early so you have the whole day to spend there. Transfagarasan Highway The Transfagarasan highway is a road originally built for Military and National Security purposes, but today it exists as a scenic 150km route up and over the Carpathian mountain range in Romania. Top Gear called it the most beautiful highway in the world for its scenic views and natural beauty. It's possible to get a guided tour however the best way to explore is to drive yourself. Please note the highway is only open during the summer months.

  • Mar 2017

    Bucharest is the ultimate destination for travelers on a budget, as well as being a super affordable city, there are an abundance of things to do, completely free! - Free walking tours With Walkabout Tours you can see centuries of history with a knowledgable local guide. Visit famous churches, see ruins and learn about Bucharest's colourful history in a fascinating 2.5 hour tour. Tours leave every day at 15:00 from Unirii square. - Casa Popolurui (Parliament Palace) Visit the second largest municipal building in the world, and the heaviest building in the world. You can enter the building for a fee, however it is worth the visit just to walk the perimeter and see the sheer size of Nicolae Ceausescu's ill-fated 'Project Bucharesti'. - Stavropoleos Monastery Located in the lively Old Town amongst vibrant bars and restaurants, this tiny church built in 1724 is home to stunning wood and stone carvings and has a courtyard with tombstones dating back to the 18th century. Opening hours are 07:00-20:00. - Cismigiu Gardens These expansive and picturesque gardens were opened in 1860 and are home to a huge artificial lake, over 30,000 trees as well as exotic plants brought in from Vienna. Those with children will enjoy the large playgrounds, and there are plenty of small kiosks and cafes selling ice cream, drinks and snacks to enjoy on one of the hundred of seats around the park. On the weekends and when the weather is nice you will find the gardens bustling with people young and old playing and relaxing in the sunshine. - Jewish History Museum Over 800,000 Jewish citizens lived in Romania before they fled or were forced to leave during WWII. For those interested in some of Bucharest's more somber and moving history, the Jewish History Museum shows off many of the Jewish contributions that shaped Romania into the vibrant and cultural country it is today. This museum is free to enter but donations are always appreciated.

  • Mar 2017

      If you’re one of those people who absolutely loves food and is anxious to try whatever a country has to offer in terms of gastronomy when you’re travelling, then you will be pleased to find out that the Romanians do not fall short when it comes to the variety of traditional dishes to offer you. First off, you should know that, as we say it, a Romanian’s favorite vegetable is pork. So most of the cooked meals here have as main ingredient pork meat. And our favorite salad, Boeuf Salad, which even though has Russian origins, it is traditionally made at important festive occasions such as New Year’s Eve, or Christmas, cannot be made without big quantities of homemade mayonnaise. So no, we’re not big fans of healthy eating. Most of the dishes we call traditional or national are also claimed by other countries of the region, such as the famous sarmale, or mici. But that does not make them any less traditional and you will find that each place, even a few hundred kilometers away cooks very differently even dishes with the same name. Transylvanian food for example is a little bit different from Moldovan one, and some of the dishes they prepare in one region you will probably never find in another. If you go to the south of the country you will notice that people eat more fish than the ones in the north.   Here are some things you should definitely try when travelling to Romania: A great starter is for example smoked animal fat, which we call slanina afumata and we serve it with red onions or green fresh ones, a good bread and salt. In some areas it can be seasoned with garlic or paprika, but most of the times is simply smoked.   Sarmale is a traditional main course we mostly serve at festive occasions. It’s minced meat - usually pork but it can also have beef meat or sheep - with rice and other ingredients and then wrapped in either pickled cabbage rolls or wine leaves. Having grown up with a grandmother from Moldova who makes them very small and full of meat, whenever I go to other areas in the country I am surprised to be served sometimes very big ones with mostly rice as ingredient, or from only vegetables (when the Romanians are fasting). Mamaliga (Polenta or cornmeal), is our most common garnish, and we usually combine it with a big variety of meat - sausages, liver, and simple pork meat - and an egg on top, and we call this a Moldovan Stew. It can also be served with just cheese and sour cream as a starter or a “lighter dinner”, or, you can always have it just with milk. Mici. There cannot be a Romanian barbecue or picnic with friends without mici, mustard and beer. These little rolls of minced meat makes happy even the most grumpy Romanian after a hard day at work.   Ciorba Radauteana or Ciorba de Burta. For most Romanian a day cannot pass without a soup of some sort. We cook a huge variety of soups , ciorbe, or bors, from only vegetables, or every kind of meat or fish. My very two favorites are Ciorba de Burta which is a soup made with tripe - cow’s belly - and with egg and cream, seasoned with garlic and vinegar. It goes perfectly with a chili pepper and a must have with it is also freshly baked bread. Or if you think tripe is too much for you, you can try it’s lighter sister, Ciorba Radauteana which is made with chicken instead. Also an absolutely amazing choice. And no meal should end without a dessert, and one we really love is Papanasi or Cozonac, or any kind of Pie, whether it is with sweet or salty cheese, apples or pumpkin. Papanasi are basically big and small donuts with sour cream and jam on top. Simple, and delicious. Yummy. These are only some of the few things you can try when travelling through Romania. There is a huge variety of dishes and if you spend more time in our beautiful country and have time to visit more areas of it, always ask the locals or the waiter at the restaurant for other recommendations.   I also add this to the MUST TRY: Eggplant salad, Baked Pumpkin slices  or baked Corn, pancakes - thin and with jam as we make them , goulash - common in Transylvania, smoked cheese, homemade sausages, beans and pork chop, beans soup in bread or zacusca. POFTA BUNA!

  • Mar 2017

    Travelling is not all about sightseeing, traditional food, specific folk music or taking selfies in front of majestic buildings or famous statues; sometimes travelling is about you! FESTIVALS IN ROMANIA 2017 May 2017 SOUNDART Festivaluri: Soundart Festival Location: Quantic Club, București Data/hour: 4 May 2017 (00:00) - 7 May 2017 EAST EUROPEAN COMIC CON Festival: East European Comic Con 2017 Location: Romexpo, București Date/hour: 5 may 2017 (00:00) - 7 may 2017 June 2017 3 DAYS - A FRIENDLY MUSIC FESTIVAL Festival: 3 Zile - A friendly Music Festival Loc: Quantic Club, București Date/hour: 2nd of June 2017 (00:00) - 4th of June 2017 METAL-HEAD MEETING Festival: Metalhead Meeting Loc: Arenele Romane, București Date/hour: 24th of June 2017 (17:00) - 25th of June 2017 AIRFIELD FESTIVAL Festival: Airfield Festival 2017 Loc: Aerodromul Măgura, Sibiu Date/hour: 29th of June 2017 (00:00) - 3rd of July 2017 DAKINI FEST Festival: Dakini Fest Date/Hour: 29th of June 2017 (18:00) - 2nd of July 2017 July 2017 SHINE FESTIVAL 2017 Concert: Shine Festival 2017 Location: Arenele Romane, București Date/hour: 1st of July 2017 (00:00) - 2nd of July 2017 GARANA JAZZ FESTIVAL 2017 Festival: Gărâna Jazz Festival 2017 Location: Poiana Lupului de la Garâna, Garana Date/hour: 6th of July 2017 (10:00) - 9th of July 2017 ELECTRIC CASTLE FESTIVAL 217 Festival: Electric Castle Festival 2017 Location: Castelul Banffy, Bonțida Date/hour: 13th of July 2017 (00:00) - 16th of July 2017 FANTASTIC SUMMER FESTIVAL Festival: Fantastic Summer Festival Date/hour:  17th of July 2017 (00:00) - 20th of July 2017 WAHA FESTIVAL 2017 FestivaL: Waha Festival 2017 Location: Bățanii Mari, Covasna Date/hour: 20th of July 2017 (12:00) - 24th July 2017 RED MUSIC FESTIVAL Festival: RED Music Festival Date/hour: 21st of July 2017 (00:00) - 23rd of July 2017 TRANSYLVALIENS FESTIVAL Festival: Transylvaliens Festival Location: Ludoș, Sibiu, Ludoș, Sibiu ARTMANIA FESTIVAL 2017 Festival: ARTmania Festival 2017 Location: Piața Mare din Sibiu, Sibiu Date/hour: 28th of July 2017 (00:00) - 29th of July 2017 MURMUR FESTIVAL Festivaluri: Murmur Festival Loc: Cetatea Făgăraș, Făgăraș Data/ora de începere: vineri, 28 iulie 2017 (00:00) - 30 iulie 2017 August 2017 UNTOLD FESTIVAL 2017 Festival: UNTOLD Festival 2017 Location: Cluj Arena, Cluj-Napoca Date/hour: 3rd if August 2017 (00:00) - 6th of August 2017 SZIGET 2017 Festival: Sziget 2017 Location: Insula Obudai, Budapest, HUNGARY Date/hour: 9th of august 2017 (00:00) - 16th of August 2017 INFO FESTIVAL Festivaluri: Rockstadt Extreme Fest 2017 Location: Cetatea Râșnov, Brașov Data/ora de începere: joi, 10 august 2017 (00:00) - 14 august 2017 SUMMER WELL 2017 Festival: Summer Well 2017 Location: Domeniul Știrbey, Buftea Date/hour: 12th of August 2017 (15:00) - 13th of August 2017 September 2017 AWAKE FESTIVAL Festivaluri: AWAKE Festival Location: Domeniul Teleki, Gornești Date/hour: 1st of September 2017 (00:00) - 3rd of September 2017 GEORGE ENESCU FESTIVAL 2017 Festival: Festivalul George Enescu 2017 Location: Sala Palatului, București Date/hour: 2nd of September 2017 (19:00) - 24th of September 2017 BALKANIK FESTIVAL 2017 Festival: Balkanik! Festival 2017 Location: Grădina Uranus, București Date/hour: 8th of September 2017 (00:00) - 10th of  September 2017 October 2017 OLD GRAVE FEST Festivaluri: Old Grave Fest Loc: Fabrica, Bucuresti Date/hour: 13th of October 2017 (17:00) - 14th of October 2017 MAXIMUM ROCK FESTIVAL Festival: Maximum Rock Festival Locatio: Arenele Romane, București Date/hour: 13th October 2017 (18:00) - 14th October 2017 RITES OF THE BLACK MASS Festival: Rites of the Black Mass Location: Quantic Club, București Date/hour: 20th of October 2017 (00:00) - 21st of October 2017   Maybe you want to go to Paris and buy a 75 ml channel no. 5 perfume bottle or have dinner in a fancy restaurant and go back home, or you plan a trip to Mexico just to visit The Frida Khalo museum and then… go home the next day. You see…it’s not compulsory to visit each and every famous place in a city, you just need to go with the flow and Really enjoy your holiday. I guess the most important thing when travelling is mingling with the people, looking at how they live, hear their stories, laughing with them, and try to tune into each countries specific humor. Probably the best way to get to know locals is to go where there is plenty of them: FESTIVALS! I love my country and this is why I’m going to talk about a few festivals in Romania and Bucharest that are worth taking part in. Romanians are cheerful , talkative and very funny so you will feel the Romanian vibe at first hand, especially at festivals. First on my list is the Medieval Festival which takes place in Sighisoara on 29-31 of July. Sighisoara was Inhabited by the Transylvanian Saxons and kept an authentic medieval atmosphere that resides in its citadel. If you want to see a medieval fortress in its full blossom than be there in July. The spring colors will race the themed ones, which means those of the  medieval dresses, jewelry, crafts, braided locks, traditional desserts. Girls dress up as medieval ladies and boys as knights, everything is so peaceful and merry! You can rent or even buy the costumes. Keep in mind it is not mandatory to dress up! What can you do at the festival? Once you entered the citadel you can enjoy medieval concerts, dances, chivalry contests; buy jewelry and clothes made by craftsmen or just drink a couple of cold beers in the narrow streets. Some youngsters might come talk to you and predict your future or you can even have a fake wedding with contracts and all. Relax its just a fake one!!! If you are like me be prepared to spend a lot of money on hand made jewelry and clothing, its really beautiful and the fabric for clothing is usually velvet, cotton or even silk. So, if you want to leave behind Facebook, viber, WhatsApp, Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez, this fairy-tale town awaits all travelers who believe in knights and their princesses!   The next festival I recommend is something really smart, but then again organizing this kind of festivals should be common sense!! SOUNDART is an outdoor event which connects every form of art. In the very same place you can watch live concerts, see  new book releases,  artsy workshops and exhibitions. SOUNDART Festival takes place in Bucharest on 4th-7th of May in Quantic Club. It can’t be too bad: bringing together literature, live music and painting...  Why waste time on 1 exposition when you can have all forms of art in the same place. Romanian people are really bright and quite fascinating, we speak many foreign languages and having foreigners for a symposia would be a thrill for us! Why get bored, when you can get smart! Dress and think nerdy!   Are you a Movie Freak? Then you should be present at Transylvania International Film Festival, which takes place in Cluj Napoca, 2-11.06. It’s the most important international feature film festival in Romania. Throughout the years TIFF’s Lifetime Award was given to acclaimed figures such as Sophia Lauren, Nastasia Kinski, Vanessa Redgrave, Catherine Deneuve, Franco Nero. I`m sure these names convinced you on how important this festival is. This Transylvanian film festival encourages all movie genres that have convincing plots and also peculiar current themes such as sexuality, ethnicity, current social problems, family and man-woman relationship. You can be a volunteer at this special event or be a part of it once you buy a ticket. These are the numbers for TIFF 2016 79 000 tickets 248 selected films from 64 countries 400 screenings 1100 attending filmmakers, actors, distributors, sales agents, producers, and festival programmers 250 attending journalists 330 volunteers   See you there, for I am sure to be there!   Andra

  • Mar 2017

    Shopping in Bucharest is an experience not to be missed out by any visitor of Romania's Capital. There are plenty of shopping centers, supermarkets, open-air markets, fashion boutiques, stores, antique, art and souvenir shops, malls and bookstores which cater for a large range of shopping tastes and needs. Malls and shopping centers in Bucharest Bucharest `s Malls and shopping centers stand out as, perhaps, the most rewarding and complete shopping opportunities, guaranteeing clients that nothing between famed designers clothes and foodstuff is left out.   Unirea Shopping Center  - is situated downtown, near the Old City (Old Town) on Unirii Square (metro station Unirii).  There are 250 shops to choose from. Here you can find: large fashion stores, especially in the ground floor, such as H&M, Zara, New Yorker, etc. Restaurants in the food court of the top floor and some well-known fast-food chains such as  Mc Donald's and KFC.                                                         However, if shopping is one of your favourite activities and you are the type of person who likes to check every store before taking a buying decision, you might want to try Bucharest’s larger shopping mall, which is AFI Palace Cotroceni, situated in the western area of the town, not far from the city centre (20 minutes by car from Universitatii Square or Polytechnica metro stop). Here you can find: International fashion stores such as H&M, Zara,Nike, Benvenuti, Bershka, etc. restaurants: Hot Grill Studio, Ninotto, Pizza Bonita, Gusto Dominium etc and some well-known fast-food: Mc Donald’s and KFC.   Cinema: Prices for a 3D movie is about 8 eure and 6 euro for 2D.                                 Supermarkets and Markets in Bucharest   Besides the supermarkets located within the major shopping centers and malls in Bucharest, there are plenty of other supermarket options which complement the comprehensive picture of grocery shopping opportunities in Bucharest, like the Mega Image or Billa you find on every corner. Carrefour  Unirii – commercial complex located behind Unirea Shopping Center  working hours : 24 hours Obor Market - A few big market halls where you can find almost everything...food, products, groceries,fish, vegetables, fruits, wines or spirits,books, jewels,clothes, toys, fishing rods and baits, electronic products. Souvenir and folk art shops in Bucharest Understandably, foreign tourists might want to purchase something to remind them of their stay in Bucharest. Traditional souvenirs and folk art works are ideal in this respect. There are plenty of shops scattered throughout Bucharest who cater for this category of tourists, especially within the major shopping centers, but not exclusively.   Souvenir Shop- Old Town A piece of Romania to take back home: Traditional ceramics, Embroidered traditional blouses, Ceramic figurines, Traditional wood art, Fridge Magnets, I love Romania kind of T-Shirts, Postcards, calendars/ Badges, pins, Photo Albums, Travel Guides, Maps and much much more…. Cărtureşti Carousel - Old Town  It's a place where you can find time for relaxation and also buy some nice items besides books: chocolate, gifts, wine, toys and so on. Located on 55, Lipscani street, the bookstore is comprised of six levels totaling 1000sqm. Cărtureşti Carousel is a living experiment in the old cultural center offering a space for reading, socializing and artistic exploration in the heart of the city. A bistro on the top floor, a basement and a multimedia space dedicated to contemporary art gallery on the first floor, the library is preparing to tell a new story in a street with a vibrant commercial tradition.  

  • Feb 2017

    From Bucharest airport what should I take to get into the city center? Taxis, Uber or airport shuttle bus?   Bucharest Airport is called Henri Coandă International Airport and it is also know as Otopeni (OTP) as the town it is in. There is free wifi at the terminal! UBER I converted to Uber and I m not going back to using taxis. Here are a few reasons: Uber are cheaper than taxis in Bucharest. A ride to X Hostel Bucharest from the Airport will cost you about 40 ron (9 euro) depending on traffic Cars are newer so therefore safer Drivers don`t smoke, curse, are well dressed and mannered You cannot be ripped off: you see your trip and in case of a dispute you can contact Uber for a refund If you are a first time user you can use my code for a 15 ron discount: danielec95ue Usually Uber drivers speak English No tips expected/requested and no need to change cash at the airport (always a bad deal) It is very easy to use: install the app, sync your credit card, request a car, insert your destination: X Hostel Bucharest, Central Guesthouse, Strada Balcesti 9   Airport shuttle bus 783  You can take Bus 783 into town, which stops underneath the arrivals hall (just follow the signs). This line leaves for the city centre (stopping at Piata Victoriei, Piata Romana, Piata Universitatii and the X Hostel Bucharest stop Piata Unirii) every 30 minutes during the day, and then every 40 minutes through the night. Purchase a Card from the little booth to the right hand side as you exit: there is an automatic ticket machine or a kiosk where you can interact with a human seller. A return journey is 9 lei for the Express bus (you can use your return at any later stage), and its a ticket just for this airport to city bus.  If you want a taxi find the right Taxi Bucharest One of the first warnings given to tourists in most countries is to not let taxis rip you off. Stepping out of the airport, this is one of the initial experiences of a country we encounter, so tired and sometimes over excited, we are oblivious to what is happening right in front of us as we ache to get to our destination. Basically we walk around with a big cash register on our head. Bucharest is no exception to this rule and the taxi system is perhaps a little notorious for blatantly overcharging patrons. But we can take solace in that it’s not just foreigners they try to rip off. They will try it on with anyone, including locals. The funny thing is normally taxis are one of the cheapest and easiest ways to travel around the city...if you get it right. Here are a few hot tips to keeping your precious cash where it belongs, in YOUR wallet! Fighting dodgy taxi drivers is Bucharest’s top tourist-related problem. It leaves a bad first/last impression when tourists get victimized right out of the airport or train station. The police take infringements seriously, but you must do your part by ordering them, or at least getting the number of taxi, and company (take a photo), or licence plate. You can’t report a taxi rip-off unless you can pinpoint exactly who it was. Avoid the independents and head for the trusted established taxi company. Easier said than done, you moan. Here’s how to put the ‘spot the difference’ skills you learnt as a child to good use. Look for an emblazoned name and phone number of the company they are with. Some independents will try to do the same but with a keen eye, you’ll learn the difference. Look for about 1.39 or 1.40 lei per kilometer. Always ask if they give receipts first. If no, go on to the next one, or if you must get in, record the name of the company and taxi number. That way, if something goes wrong you can report it.  Reliable taxi firms are Meridian and Speed Taxi. Ignore the hustlers At the airport, ignore any taxi drivers who approach you as you leave arrivals. You can order a taxi using the multi-language easy-to-use touch screens in the arrivals hall to choose from a wide range of reputable Bucharest taxi companies, all with tariffs in plain sight. Once ordered the screen will tell you how long the taxi will be and its ID number and you wait outside. Easy peasy. Well so long as you can manage to get yourself into the right one, that is!. Another trick is to walk through to Departures and pick up a standard cab as it drops somebody off (following all our tips of course).             Group transfer A great alternative to taxis and city buses is a private shuttle firm that will pick your group up and drop you off at destination. GoThor.ro does just this. When you book 5-star accommodation for your guests (or X Hostel Bucharest & Central Guesthouse), you should not ignore the quality of the airport pick-up service so relying on common taxi services is not really an option. As you know, the first impression is extremely important. Go Thor helps you make an excellent first impression to your guests, especially if this is their first time they travel in Romania. Go Thor provides premium airport shuttle services in Bucharest: -        Luxury Cars -        Personalized Services -        Dedicated Staff -        Promptness The superior traveling experience is made possible by our limousine cars and the specially trained Go Thor staff, details that add a touch of elegance and distinction. Drivers who speak English or if necessary, translators for any other foreign language, personal security agents when required, accommodation personnel available from arrivals to meet your guests, are details that we take care of for each shuttle to and from the airport, carefully scheduled with our customers. Depending on the number of passengers and estimated amount of luggage, we choose the most suitable cars with either 4 or 8 seats. Upon request, we can provide separate luggage transport to the airport or from the airport when your guests are rushing to an important meeting or when your guests do not go directly from the hotel to the airport.   Use technology to your advantage and plan ahead Call or book online using Meridian or Speed Taxi. Some of Bucharest’s taxi companies now have iPhone apps using your phone’s GPS to get a taxi straight to you quicksmart. Check out Star Taxi. Or get your establishment to order it, i.e. when leaving a hotel, hostel, or restaurant ask them (nicely) to order you a taxi. Useful addresses and links. Read carefully One single tariff will be displayed on the driver and passenger door of all taxis. A lot of taxis will try to disguise how much they charge per kilometer. Whether this is by blocking the door, or not displaying clearly how much by adding other numbers such as Tariff 1. Generally be sure not to pay more than 1.69 lei per kilometer. Otherwise do a Johnny Walker and keep walking.     Areas to avoid Be extra vigilant in areas such as Gara de Nord, Baneasa Airport, Bucuresti Mall, Piata Universitatii, Piata Unirii and the Old Town/Lipscani area. Avoid scary taxi drivers, especially at night. If you don’t think you can take this guy in a fight, then don’t take his taxi. Yes, this may seem discriminatory, but when you’re taking taxis off the street at night, the odds are high you will get in some kind of argument.       Be smart   Arming yourself with knowledge is a safe tactic in any situation. So keep these tips in mind: Remember you ARE the customer, and ask first. Taxis should be catering to your needs, not the other way around. You should have no problem finding an English speaking driver, and verify he knows where the place is, and even that it should be between X-Y lei. If not, move on to the next one. Make sure the meter is on. And watch it. Carry small change. “I have no change” is not the response you want to hear. Because you won’t get it! Do your research. If you can, google the address first to get an idea of directions and how long it should take. If taking a taxi to X Hostel, it is good to say near Piata Unirii. There is another road that sounds like our road, and the taxi will take you there for a bigger fare, just to have to bring you here after. Speak up. Pay attention. Learn a little Romanian. Tell them you’re onto their game if you smell something fishy that’s not the Ciorba de peste. It is expected of Romanians to question everything, you should too. Don’t make yourself an obvious tourist...put the camera away.

  • Feb 2017

    I will spare you the usual... of course if you will come here you should go see the all buildings other blogs talk about. I`ll give you recommendations I would give to a traveling friend, not a sterile list copy-pasted in all other top 10 Bucharest list. A little myth busting:   We have guests coming expecting a demolished 3rd world city with horse and carts speeding on the broken roads, rabid dogs, corrupt police and threatening gypsies. You couldn`t be farther away from reality: It is one of the safest cities in Europe with violent crime being very rare. Do mind your wallet. Police presence is big but they will not even look at you unless you are looking for trouble. Gypsies despite their bad reputation abroad are not a threat at all. They mind their business as anyone else. In the old town some Roma women will try to sell you a rose, that`s all. Horse and carts you will find in the villages out from the city. Who needs a car when the world is going green? Rabid dogs are gone are a thing of the past. Architecture is wonderful here; sure it is not as ancient as Rome or sparkling as Dubai but it has its charm. Young Romanians usually speak many languages, with English as a must, and are very curious and open with foreigners.   Here is my personal top 10: 1 NIGHTLIFE It is the best I have ever experienced and for all kind of people and style. There is the old town commonly called Lipscani: an only pedestrian district with hundreds of bars, restaurants, cafes, clubs, karaokes. Spring to Autumn its great to sit outside having a drink and people watching. The over the top clubs: for the overly beautiful girls and overly rich guys. Wanna-be kind of place, totally recommended experience, dress up and take your credit card. Live like a millionaire for a few hours and enjoy the views of beauty from your prive` table before going back to reality. The super-cheap: mainly for students where a beer can be 1 euro and shots too cheap to resist.  Folk clubs with Manele, sometimes if you have bad luck its live. A mind-blowing experience. I cannot deny the stereotype: hot girls and cheap alcohol. 2 PARKS So many parks to choose form. At least one in each district of the city. In most you can rent bikes for free, rent pedal or rowing boats. People go there to run, relax and enjoy: you will find food, drinks and often restaurants, cafes and bars. Do try the corn on the cob 3 VALEA REGILOR The valley of the kings... somehow is what the beautiful pasajul Macca-Villacrosse is most known as. Here you only find lots and lots of water-pipe cafes. Also known as hookah, shisha, narghilea. Perfect for an afternoon meetup with friends or a pre-club session. 4 AUTOSERVIRE & KEBABS Kebabs are just about everywhere in the city and some serve 24h. Forget fancy dining! Autoservire is what you need: take a tray, you look at the food, all ultra-traditional and yummi, point at it, pay, eat. Best served by middle aged women in dodgy looking eating places with plastic chairs and tables. Very cheap and very Romanian.  5 GARDENS Lots of the best city restaurants, cafes and bars have their own urban jungle. They are very hard to spot but well worth the search. 6 THERME Possibly the best spa in the world. Indoor and outdoor hot water pools, saunas with all kind of lights, salts and one with a movie theater inside. A slide area, a pool with artificial waves, pool bars... the non plus ultra chill experience. Just avoid the crowds, nobody likes too many people. 7 ESCAPE ROOMS We had among the first and best Escape Rooms in Bucharest inside X Hostel. Then competition grew huge and we stopped operating games but focused on selling the concept. Now we are in 63 countries with over 450 games. But Bucharest has very challenging and high quality games. If you never tried this experience shame on you but here`s your chance. 8 CEAINAIRIE Another little secret: tea houses can be cool! Some have board games and all are so uniquely stylish. Great for a night off from drinking. 9 PROTESTS People care! Whether is to block the government from making a law allowing them to steal with impunity or to protect the environment from corporations the people of Romania take to the streets. These protests are peaceful, with satirical signs, dogs, kids, families, flowers given to the police, music, flags... something moving to watch. The new Romania is this: European, fierce, kind heated, peaceful and with a good sense of humor. 10 THE PEOPLE It might not be the most beautiful city in the planet, for sure you will not find the best customer service, people will come late at meetings and bureaucracy is still a burden of its recent socialist past... but who wants the boredom of a perfect city? Bucharest biggest asset is its people with their heritage of Dacians, influences in culture from ancient Rome to the Ottoman Empire, with its minorities and superstitions; what else to say when the world`s most famous Vampire is their national hero? With virtually no immigration and a tiny expat community you can live like the locals in a way you cannot do in other cities of Europe. Locals in my foreign eyes are full of contradictions: conservative but daring,  melancholic but positive, rough but tender, patriotic but open minded, flirty but stern. I have a love and hate relationship with this city and its people. There must be a reason that of all the world I chose to stay here, I do hope you will find the same joy and great experiences as I did.