Saturday, January 08, 2005

Travelling offshore

One factor of running a software development company in Liverpool with an offshore development office in Romania, is that you get to travel a lot.

Our software development office is located in Timisoara which is in the west of Romania. There are several ways to get there.

You could fly to Otopeni airport in Romania's capital city Bucharest and then get the train to Timisoara. However, the journey from the airport to the train station is a pain - the airport taxi drivers are agressive to say the least and charges are outrageously high. There is a cheap bus ride into town but this might be complicated if you can't speak any Romanian. You do need some Romanian to buy a train ticket. Watch out for the men and boys who try to 'help' you with your luggage outside the station. Some mean well but others just want your money. Bucharest Nord station is not very comfortable by Western standards (it was badly lit when I was last there, there were no platforms (literally) and it was very dirty) but I like its Eastern European atmosphere. There were stalls selling food and there is a McDonalds (if you must). The train journey to Timisoara is approximately 11 hours. Always travel first class in Romania and when possible it's cheap enough to take a sleeper carriage. Although train travel in Romania is very cheap and the trains are almost always on time (I don't want to sound un-Patriotic but that's more than you can say for the UK), there is a much better way to Timisoara.

The best route is to fly to the capital of Hungary Budapest and then by minibus to Timisoara. Flights from the UK to Budapest are frequent and getting cheaper all the time. I have been forced to fly from Manchester airport, changing planes most often in Germany or Holland. Manchester is a great airport but it's a 45 minute drive from Liverpool and it costs £50 or so for parking. There is now an airline flying direct from Liverpool airport to Budapest at incredibly low cost (well, half what I have paid in the past). It's ticket-less, you don't get a seat allocated and I guess they won't be offering bottles of wine on a £24.99 flight but it's a great deal (actually the return flight cost £4.99!). The airline is mentioned on the Liverpool Airport web site.

Once in Budapest you can go by train but, just like in Bucharest, this can be a painful experience. I travel to Timisoara by minibus. I organise it through a company called Recreation. At the moment it costs 35 Euros each way and although some of the drivers drive a bit too quickly for my liking, the vehicles are very comfortable. Sometimes you get to meet other people, often Romanians or Americans. The journey takes around 5 hours. Some of the route through Hungary is on motorway.

Alternatively Timisoara has it's own airport. Flights from Manchester to Timisoara are very expensive. Flights to Timisoara from London Heathrow are cheaper but you have to get to Heathrow and back (I did it by coach and it was not a pleasant experience - the over night coach drive was a really unpleasant experience). The cost of a taxi ride into town is about 7 Euros, which is lot given that the journey only takes about 20 minutes (the drive from Budapest takes around 5 hours and costs 35 Euros).

No comments: