Review: Night Train Bucharest to Sighetu Marmatiei, Romania

In this review, we travel in a private sleeper on a CFR night train from Bucharest to Sighetu Marmatiei in Romania.

Romanian railways

The first leg on my long trip to Mariupol would be a night train from my home town of Bucharest to Sighetu Marmației, located right on the Romanian-Ukrainian border in Maramureș County.

This night train is one of the many in Romania which are operated by CFR Călători, the passenger subdivision of the state-owned Romanian Railways (CFR stands for Căile Ferate Române).

The only other company which operates a domestic night train in the country is privately-run Astra Trans Carpatic, which runs a sole sleeper on the Arad-Timișoara-Bucharest route.

I’ve travelled quite a few times before on the Bucharest to Sighetu Marmatiei night train as it’s one of the most convenient ways to reach the border with Ukraine from southern Romania.

Besides, this CFR night train takes you along some of the most scenic stretches of railway in Romania.

night train bucharest sighetu marmatiei
The route of the night train from Bucharest to Sighetu Marmatiei. ©OpenStreetMap

Bucharest Gara de Nord

My night train journey started at Bucharest’s main railway station, called București Gara de Nord in Romanian.

Although the exterior of Gara de Nord is rather impressive, the ageing station is a bit more basic on the inside.

However, you can find all the facilities you might need at Bucharest Gara de Nord as there are plenty of coffee shops, fast food restaurants, kiosks and a supermarket to stock up before your journey.

As Bucharest Gara de Nord is a terminus station, night trains which commence here are typically shunted from the nearby rail yards into the station some 15 minutes before departure.

Indeed, when I arrived at the station my train was already waiting for departure at one of the platforms.

bucharest gara de nord sighetu marmatiei night train sleeper
Bucharest Gara de Nord. ©Paliparan
bucharest gara de nord
Old-school train departure board at Gara de Nord. ©Paliparan
bucharest gara de nord platform
At the concourse, there are several digital screens on which the platforms are announced of arriving and departing trains. ©Paliparan
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My night train to Sighetu Marmatiei was already waiting for departure at the right side of the platform. ©Paliparan

CFR Călători Night Train Bucharest to Sighetu Marmației
Train IRN1641 – Departure: 9.05pm – Arrival: 9.56am (+1)
Duration: 12h51m – Distance: 606 kilometres
Carriage 4, seat 41
Private sleeper compartment – Costs: 59 EUR

About the Sighetu Marmației night train

The CFR night train to Sighetu Marmației exists out of a couple of through carriages which are attached to the main train with destination Baia Mare.

Therefore, at stations such as Bucharest Gara de Nord you will often see this train listed as ‘Baia Mare’ if you look at the departures screen!

When the train reaches the station of Beclean pe Someș at 5.33am, the Sighetu Marmației through carriages are decoupled from the Baia Mare train and form a separate train which heads out on a branch line towards Sighetu Marmației.

In fact, the Baia Mare night train does not only have through carriages for Sighetu Marmației, but also carriages which serve Cluj-Napoca and Bistrița.

It’s a common way for railways to run trains, as for a big part of the journey all these carriages can just be hauled by a single locomotive, which is of course cheaper than running four separate trains!

baia mare sighetu marmatiei night train cfr bucharest gara de nord sleeper romania
The 9.05pm night train to Baia Mare, with through carriages for Sighetu Marmației, Cluj-Napoca and Bistrița. ©Paliparan
sighetu marmatiei night train
Destination shield on a carriage window showing the most important stations where the night train to Sighetu Marmației halts. ©Paliparan

Boarding the train

Travelling on a sleeper train through Romania is a throwback in time, albeit in a rather good way for most.

CFR sleeper carriages are generally a few decades old and therefore have quite some wear and tear, but I always find them cosy and comfortable.

Although train travel in Romania tends to be slow with average speeds hardly topping 50kph (31mph) and delays being quite common, it is certainly cheap.

I paid just 59 EUR for my train ticket from Bucharest to Sighetu Marmației, which included a sleeper compartment for private use (called ‘dormit single’ in Romanian).

A berth in a shared 2-person sleeper compartment would set you back €46 on this route, a bunk in a 4-berth couchette compartment would be €30 (or €27 in a 6-berth couchette) while a 2nd class seat would cost you 20 euro.

You can simply book your night train online at the CFR website after which you will receive a PDF ticket by e-mail, which you can print or just show on your phone to the carriage attendant when you board the train.

Sleeper compartment

My sleeper compartment on the train from Bucharest to Sighetu Marmației is the most common one you will find on night trains in Romania.

With their dark wood colours, these sleeper compartments certainly ooze a lot of old world charm.

In fact, these night train carriages were originally built for the German Sleeping and Dining Car Company (DSG) and acquired second-hand by CFR.

Each compartment has two berths, with the upper one being reachable by a small ladder.

Although there can be quite some wear and tear in these carriages (for instance, the window handle was broken in my compartment) they are generally clean and comfortable.

When it came to the most important things, I had no reasons to complain as the bed sheets were fresh and crisp and the heating/air-conditioning system worked well.

In each sleeper compartment you will find a coat rack and a small nightstand, which doubles as a washbasin when you open the lid.

Below the mirrored storage cabinet (or inside it in some carriages) you can find a standard European power socket.

Inside this storage cabinet you can also find a basic amenity kit containing a toothbrush, toothpaste and washcloth, as well as a complimentary bottle of water.

Toilets are shared with the other passengers and can be found at either side of the carriage.

For your baggage there is plenty of storage space on the floor, on a small luggage rack above the window, or right above the door in a recess from your compartment over the corridor ceiling.

sleeper carriage romania
The corridor of a sleeper carriage with the doors to the individual compartments being visible on the left-hand side. ©Paliparan
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My private sleeper compartment on the night train to Sighetu Marmației. ©Paliparan
compartment sleeper train romania
Although there is quite some wear and tear in these old sleeper carriages, the compartments are perfectly clean and have fresh and crisp sheets. ©Paliparan
coat rack
Each sleeper compartment has a coat rack to hang up your jacket and clothes. On this picture, you can also clearly see the locking mechanism on the door which allows you to lock your compartment at night. ©Paliparan
nightstand
Nightstand in the corner of my sleeper compartment. ©Paliparan
washbasin sleeper train
If you open the lid of the nightstand, you will find a small washbasin in your compartment. ©Paliparan
amenity kit cfr
Inside the mirrored storage cabinet, you can find a complimentary bottle of water and basic amenity kit. ©Paliparan

Bucharest departure

The train departed on time from Bucharest Gara de Nord as we made our way north towards the first stop at Ploiești.

Although there is no WiFi internet on sleeper trains in Romania, 4G mobile coverage is generally quite good throughout the country so if you have free roaming it’s easy to stay online.

As the night train to Baia Mare/Sighetu Marmației doesn’t have a restaurant wagon, you are highly advised to stock up on a few drinks and snacks beforehand.

My train meal for the evening consisted out some jumări (pork cracklings), cheese, bread and hummus with za’atar, which I washed away with two craft beers from Hop Hooligans.

train snack beer
Little train snack for the ride to northern Romania. ©Paliparan
romania station
Passing by some rural stations north of Bucharest. ©Paliparan
koen beer train
Yours truly enjoying a beer in his cosy train compartment. ©Paliparan

Mountain stations

After the stop at Ploiești, the train approaches the Carpathian foothills and slowly starts to climb up.

If you travel this route in summer, you will have some great views of the Carpathian Mountains at sunset as the train halts at mountain resort towns such as Sinaia, Bușteni, Azuga and Predeal.

As I was travelling in winter and it was already dark, there wasn’t much to see in terms of scenery apart from a look at the stations en route.

Just after Predeal, the train reaches the highest point of the Romanian passenger railway network at 1,033 metres above sea level.

From there, it’s downhill again until the railway line reaches the city of Brașov in the region of Transylvania at the other side of the Carpathians.

sinaia station
Sinaia is the main mountain resort town in this part of the Carpathians. ©Paliparan
azuga station
Stop at Azuga station, with the station departure board showing ‘Baia Mare’ as the destination of our train. ©Paliparan
azuga railway station
Azuga railway station covered in the winter snow. ©Paliparan
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Brașov station. ©Paliparan

Time to sleep

At the station of Brașov, the train makes a 15-minute scheduled stop.

Here, the locomotive is decoupled from the front of the train and attached at the other end as we reverse course for our loop across the Transylvanian plateau.

During the night, the train will traverse the Székely lands of Transylvania in the counties of Covasna, Harghita and Mureș which are predominantly inhabited by the Hungarian-speaking Szeklers.

The stop at Brașov signalled that it was time for me to go to sleep, as I wanted to wake up early the next morning to enjoy the scenery in northern Romania.

Each sleeper compartment can be locked from the inside – which you are highly advised to do at night when you go to sleep.

You therefore don’t have to worry about safety on board a night train in Romania as long as you take normal precautions and don’t leave valuables unattended.

Each sleeper wagon in Romania also has its own carriage attendant who will look after the security of the passengers on the train.

Morning in Maramureș

One aspect which I always love about travel on sleeper trains is waking up in the morning to entirely different surroundings than the last time you peeked out of the window in the evening before going to sleep.

That was certainly the case on my night train from Bucharest to Sighetu Marmatiei as the views from my sleeper compartment over the snowy hills of Maramureș in northern Romania were fantastic.

maramures night train sighetu marmatiei bucharest cfr sleeper
Waking up to some fabulous scenery in Maramureș. ©Paliparan
sunrise train
Sunrise as seen from the train. ©Paliparan
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Beautiful winter landscapes on my sleeper train journey from Bucharest to Sighetu Marmatiei in northern Romania. ©Paliparan
Săcel station
The small station of Săcel. ©Paliparan

Scenic railway line

Although the night train from Bucharest only arrives in Sighetu Marmatiei at 9.56am and I could have slept longer, I was happy that I got up early at 7am.

If you travel to Sighetu Marmatiei by night train, you don’t want to miss out on the stunning scenery along the route in the early morning, which in my opinion is one of the best of all railway lines Romania.

With its many viaducts from where you have perfect views of the valley down below, this line even slightly resembles the famous Semmering Railway in Austria.

maramures valley snow
From the train, you have great views of the valley down below. ©Paliparan
night train view
View from the CFR night train to Sighetu Marmatiei. ©Paliparan
valley romania railway line
As the railway line is built halfway up the hillside and runs over a series of viaducts, you have some great views of the valley below. ©Paliparan
iza station
Iza station. ©Paliparan
view train maramures sighetu marmatiei
View from my compartment just after the night train passed Iza station. ©Paliparan

Vișeu de Jos

One of the more important stops on the railway line to Sighetu Marmației is Vișeu de Jos.

Although Vișeu de Jos (Lower Vișeu) itself is just a small village, it is located just a few kilometres away from the much larger town of Vișeu de Sus (Upper Vișeu).

Vișeu de Sus is a sizeable market town and popular tourist destination due to its proximity to Maramures Mountains Natural Park (Parcul Natural Munții Maramureșului).

In Vișeu de Sus you can also find the Mocăniță, a highly scenic narrow-gauge forestry railroad on which regular steam train excursions are held for tourists.

maramures snow hills scenery
The sun is rising over the snow-capped hills of Maramureș. ©Paliparan
maramures hay bales
Traditional hay bales are a common sight in Maramureș. ©Paliparan

viseu de jos station
The station of Vișeu de Jos. ©Paliparan

Vișeu de Jos to Leordina

From Vișeu de Jos towards the station of Leordina, the railway line runs mostly parallel to the main provincial road.

The morning views from my night train compartment remained fantastic as the rising sun coloured the skies in gorgeous pastel colours which contrasted vividly with the layer of snow covering the fields, forests and mountains of northern Romania.

viseu de jos railway
Departing Vișeu de Jos. ©Paliparan
maramures countryside winter
Fantastic morning views from the night train over the Maramureș countryside in northern Romania. ©Paliparan
road railway line
Here, the railway line runs parallel to the main provincial road. ©Paliparan
sunrise maramures
It was a glorious morning as the rising sun coloured the skies in some beautiful pastel colours. ©Paliparan
maramures village
The road and railway line pass through some traditional Maramureș villages. ©Paliparan
train view
View from the train. ©Paliparan
romania landscape winter
Beautiful winter landscapes of northern Romania. ©Paliparan
telegraph pole romania maramures night train cfr sleeper sighetu marmatiei
Crooked telegraph pole. ©Paliparan
leordina station
Leordina station. ©Paliparan

Bistra river

One of the reasons why I love the Bucharest to Sighetu Marmatiei night train so much is that this journey keeps surprising you with its diverse scenery.

At the moment you think that the scenery cannot get any more beautiful, you ride on a stretch of railway line which is even more scenic than the couple of miles you rode before.

That’s certainly true of the part of the line when the railway runs parallel to the icy waters of the Bistra river.

When you travel on this railway line you really don’t want to take away your eyes from the window for even a second.

bistra river sunrise maramures
Sunrise over the Bistra river. ©Paliparan
river bistra view sleeper train romania
At this point, the railway line runs parallel to the River Bistra for a while. ©Paliparan
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View over the Bistra river. ©Paliparan
maramures winter
The fields and mountains of rural Maramureș. ©Paliparan

Authentic villages

The night train from Bucharest to Sighetu Marmatiei gives you a great impression of rural Maramureş.

Maramureş is arguably Romania’s most authentic region and from the train window you can certainly see a lot of cute villages with their traditional wooden houses.

There is just something unbelievably picturesque about travelling through Maramureş by train on a cold winter day and seeing the smoke rise up from the chimneys of all the village houses.

Especially the part around the village of Petrova was superb when it came to such picture-perfect rural views.

petrova maramures sleeper train cfr
The village of Petrova as seen from the CFR sleeper train. ©Paliparan
romania maramures winter sleeper train
With views of traditional villages and snowcapped mountains, a winter ride on the Bucharest-Sighetu Marmatiei sleeper train is one of the most picturesque in all of Romania. ©Paliparan
village church
Village church. ©Paliparan
maramures wooden houses
In this part of Maramureș you can still find many traditional wooden houses. ©Paliparan
winter view romania bucharest to sighetu marmatiei night sleeper train cfr
Lovely winter view from the Bucharest to Sighetu Marmatiei night train. ©Paliparan
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Passing through the village of Petrova on our way to Sighetu Marmatiei. ©Paliparan
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View from the Sighetu Marmatiei sleeper train. ©Paliparan
smoke village houses
Smoke coming from the village houses. ©Paliparan

River gorge

Again, when you think that the scenery cannot possible get any better, the Sighetu Marmatiei night train will keep on surprising you with some more breathtakingly beautiful Romanian landscapes.

About one-and-a-half hours before arrival at Sighetu Marmației, the railway line follows the course of the Bistra river as it meanders through a narrow gorge.

With the mountains rising up high on both banks of the river, you really do not want to miss the views at this point of the journey.

You can clearly see that the border with Ukraine is not too far away at this point as some of the station names become bilingual with also the Ukrainian town name being written in the Cyrillic alphabet below the Romanian name.

Some towns in this part of Maramureș have a large ethnic Ukrainian minority or can even be fully Ukrainian, just like there are some towns across the border in Ukraine with a large Romanian minority.

In other parts of Maramureș you might also find bilingual or trilingual town signs with the Hungarian name added as well.

bistra river gorge
The train follows the Bistra river into a beautiful gorge. ©Paliparan
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At this point of the journey, the terrain becomes more mountainous. ©Paliparan
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View of the Bistra river and the surrounding mountains from the train. ©Paliparan
bistra maramures
Arriving at the village of Bistra. ©Paliparan
romanian ukrainian sign
Around Bistra, the station names are written in both Romanian and Ukrainian. ©Paliparan
bistra dog snow
Bistra station dog. ©Paliparan
wooden houses maramures
Traditional wooden houses as seen from the train. ©Paliparan
maramures mountains bistra
Mountain scenery around the village of Bistra. ©Paliparan
rising morning sun
The rising morning sun. ©Paliparan
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Spectacular view of the Bistra river and surrounding mountains. ©Paliparan
river gorge bistra
At this point, the river valley is narrowing into a gorge. ©Paliparan
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Bistra river gorge. ©Paliparan
bistra river gorge maramures night sleeper train sighetu marmatiei cfr
The CFR night train service to Sighetu Marmatiei keeps on surprising you with beautiful views at every bend. ©Paliparan
wooden suspension bridge bistra river maramures
Wooden suspension bridge over the Bistra river. ©Paliparan

maramures valley cfr sleeper night train sighetu marmatiei romania
After a while, the valley widens out again. ©Paliparan

Valea Vişeului

The last major stop of the Bucharest to Sighetu Marmatiei night train is Valea Vişeului.

At Valea Vişeului, the train halts for about 15 minutes as the train again reverses its course and the locomotive needs to be attached at the other end.

Valea Vişeului, which is located at the confluence of the rivers Bistra and Tisza, seemed to be a busy stop as quite some people from the village boarded the 2nd class seating carriages of the train.

For many locals, this railway is a lifeline as it gives them access to all the shopping, education and employment possibilities in the regional hub of Sighetu Marmației.

Besides workers and women going on a shopping trip you will therefore also see quite a lot of high school students on the train.

Since January 2023, you can take a connecting train train at Valea Vişeului directly across the Romanian-Ukrainian border on a reconstructed railway line towards Rakhiv.

Valea Vișeului scenery train
Scenery between Bistra and Valea Vișeului. ©Paliparan
Valea Vișeului
Approaching the village of Valea Vișeului. ©Paliparan
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The River Bistra as seen from my train compartment. ©Paliparan
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Railway bridge over the Bistra river. ©Paliparan
winter landscape romania ukraine bucharest sighetu marmatiei train
At this point of the journey we are getting close to the border as the mountains in the distance behind the treeline are on Ukrainian soil. ©Paliparan
valea viseului night sleeper train cfr romania sighetu marmatiei
Valea Vișeului. ©Paliparan
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Remote village house in Valea Vișeului. ©Paliparan
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Passengers getting on the train at Valea Vișeului. ©Paliparan
valea viseului station
Valea Vișeului also has a bilingual station sign and a dog. ©Paliparan

Last stretch towards Sighetu Marmației

With the CFR night train having reversed its course, we could now embark on the final stretch towards Sighetu Marmatiei.

Although it is a good 45 minutes from Valea Vișeului to Sighetu Marmatiei and there are still some fine views from the window, the scenery on this part of the line pales in comparison to all the splendour from the previous two hours.

In case you are still asleep at this point, the carriage attendant will most likely knock on your compartment door about half an hour before your destination to make sure you are awake in time for your stop.

maramures night sleeper train sighetu marmatiei cfr
Departure from Valea Vișeului on the final stretch towards Sighetu Marmației. ©Paliparan
winter sun
The winter sun was shining bright this morning. ©Paliparan
railway line bucharest sighetu marmatiei train
The landscape on the final stretch towards Sighetu Marmației. ©Paliparan
train window view
View from the window towards the front of the train. ©Paliparan
hay bale
Hay bale between the trees. ©Paliparan
lunca la tisa bucharest sighetu marmatiei train
Halt at Lunca la Tisa. ©Paliparan
bocicoi station
The trilingual station sign at Bocicoi, with also the Hungarian (Nagybocskó) and Ukrainian town name (Великий Бичків) written.
landscape sighetu marmatiei cfr night train sleeper
As the CFR night train gets closer to Sighetu Marmatiei, the landscape becomes more flat. ©Paliparan
level railway crossing bucharest sighetu marmatiei train
Level railway crossing. ©Paliparan
tisa cemetery bucharest sighetu marmatiei train
Cemetery in the village of Tisa. ©Paliparan
tisa village maramures
Passing by the village of Tisa. ©Paliparan

Trip report index

This article is part of the ‘Mail From Mariupol: A Pre-War Trip to Ukraine by Train‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:

1. Review: Night Train Bucharest to Sighetu Marmatiei, Romania (current chapter)
2. At the Sighet-Solotvyno Border: From Romania Into Ukraine
3. Review: Solotvyno to Rakhiv by Bus
4. Review: Hotel Europa, Rakhiv, Ukraine
5. In the Land of the Hutsuls: A Visit to the Town of Rakhiv
6. Rakhiv to Mariupol: Riding Ukraine’s Longest Train Route
7. A Tribute to Mariupol: Memories of a Pre-War Visit
8. Ukrainian Railways Mariupol to Kiev Train in Platzkart
9. Review: Ibis Kyiv Railway Station Hotel
10. Review: Kyiv-Pasazhyrskyi Station First Class Lounge
11. Ukraine Night Train: Over the Mountains to Mukachevo
12. Review: Latorca InterCity Train Mukachevo to Budapest
13. A Short Stopover in Szolnok, Hungary
14. Review: Ister Night Train Budapest to Bucharest
15. Epilogue: Witnessing the Ukrainian Refugee Crisis at the Border

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Koen

Koen works as a freelance journalist covering south-eastern Europe and is the founding father and editor-in-chief of Paliparan. As a contributor to some major Fleet Street newspapers and some lesser known publications in the Balkans, he travels thousands of miles each year for work as well as on his personal holidays. Whether it is horse riding in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, exploring the backstreets of Bogotá, or sipping a glass of moschofilero in a Greek beachside taverna, Koen loves to immerse himself into the local culture, explore new places and eat and drink himself around the world.

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4 thoughts on “Review: Night Train Bucharest to Sighetu Marmatiei, Romania

  • April 13, 2022 at 4:14 am
    Permalink

    Thank you for your great review, i have down this route so many times but never in the winter usually april to nov.
    You are right the train compartment is amazingly pretty…i always think who else slept in it….history on wheels…
    Sighet is worth visiting…very much still Authentic in Romania
    Incidently I lead “Family Roots/Routes Journeys”

    Reply
    • Avatar photo
      May 3, 2022 at 10:22 pm
      Permalink

      Agree, Sighet in itself is a very nice town with a couple of highly interesting sights!

      Reply
  • May 3, 2022 at 8:38 am
    Permalink

    Thank you so much for providing such a detailed information. I’m right now planning my way back home to Ukraine. And it is quite hard to find some info on trains. That helped me a lot!

    Reply
    • Avatar photo
      May 3, 2022 at 10:23 pm
      Permalink

      Have a safe journey back Anastasia. Godspeed & Слава Україні!

      Reply

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