VISIT RUSE Adventure & solo female travel blog

Ruse, Bulgaria: A Perfect Day Trip From Bucharest

Last summer, I had the amazing opportunity to travel across southeastern Romania and spend five days in Bucharest. I really enjoyed my stay in the Romanian capital but after having seen most of the city’s major sights, I felt the urge to visit somewhere different. That’s when I grabbed a map and realized I was only 90 kilometers away from the Bulgarian city of Ruse. The idea of getting to visit an entirely new country in only a day got me excited instantly. Without hesitation, I pulled up my resources and started planning the perfect day trip across the border.

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About Ruse

Located just across the border along the Danube River, Ruse is the first Bulgarian city you’ll pass through after crossing the Ruse-Giurgiu Friendship Bridge. It’s the fifth-biggest city in the country and well-known for its beautiful neo-baroque architecture, thanks to which Ruse is also known as “Malkata Viena” (“Little Vienna”).

As soon as you get to Ruse from Bucharest, you’ll immediately notice you’re in a different country. While urban Romania gives off a quite unique vibe, slightly resembling other parts of southern or central Europe, Bulgaria completely feels like Balkans: Restaurant menus are fuller of grilled meat, there’s rakija in every corner, and the roads look a little bit less maintained than on the Romanian side of the border.

This makes Ruse double as worthy of a visit. You get to see a beautiful city and experience a completely different culture right across the border. And the best part is, all this is doable in only one day for less than $30 USD as a day trip out of Bucharest!

How To Get To Ruse From Bucharest

Getting from Bucharest to Ruse is no big feat at all if you’re driving your own car. Simply follow the road, cross the border, and you’re there!

As someone who’s never driven a car in her life before, however, I had to rely on public vans and taxis to get me to Ruse. And as you can imagine, figuring out the van schedule in Romania without being proficient in the local language can be a little tough.

So, what did I do?

Part 1: Bucharest To Giurgiu

First, I looked for buses leaving from Bucharest to Giurgiu, the border town on the Romanian side, in the morning. I could not find any ways to cross the border directly by public transportation for that day but there seem to be direct buses on other days. Eventually, I ended up taking an hourly bus from Eroii Revolutiei bus terminal to Giurgiu for about 20 lei (~$5 USD). The ride took about an hour and I was able to pay for it upfront.

As usual for small buses, the ride was quite bumpy and the vehicle was crowded and hot. If you don’t feel comfortable riding such a bus, there are also direct trains from Bucharest Railway Station (Gara București Nord) to Giurgiu. However, traveling by train is more expensive, takes significantly longer, and requires you to buy the tickets in advance. Therefore, I strongly recommend going by bus if you can.

Part 2: Giurgiu To Ruse

After arriving at the bus terminal in Giurgiu, I had to find a way to cross the border. Unfortunately, the terminal was far from both the city center and the border, so my only option was to take one of the rare taxis passing by. I had to wait almost an hour to find a taxi driver who wanted to take me across the border for about 40 lei.

Read more: Top 10 Taxi Safety Tips For Solo Female Travelers

Next, we had to wait another hour in the summer heat in line at the border crossing. Romania and Bulgaria aren’t part of the Schengen Zone yet, so this is unfortunately still a nuisance. I also had to pay a small fee to cross the Ruse-Giurgiu Friendship Bridge connecting the two countries. Once we had crossed the bridge and entered Bulgaria, the driver dropped me off and I paid him a little extra to pay the bridge toll to return to Romania.

Once I arrived in Bulgaria, the city was already nearby so I found a taxi right away to take me to the center of Ruse.

Part 3: Back To Bucharest

Leaving Ruse, I again took a taxi to take me across the border so that I could take a bus back to Bucharest from there. However, when I arrived in Giurgiu I learned that the last bus to Bucharest had already departed. All my essential equipment was in my Airbnb in Bucharest so staying the night in Giurgiu was not an option.

After a relatively long search, I finally found a taxi driver who agreed to take me to Bucharest for 250 lei (~$60 USD). So, if you intend to keep your day trip low-budget, I urge you to avoid this pricey mistake and inquire about the departure time of the last bus when you arrive in Giurgiu!

Missed the last bus? Consider spending a night in Ruse!

Organized Tours From Bucharest To Ruse

Unfortunately, the method of getting to Ruse mentioned above is very tiring and troublesome and sometimes difficult to do if you don’t speak the local languages. Luckily, there are plenty of organized tours that make it a lot easier to visit Ruse on a day trip from Bucharest. You can book them here:

Experiencing Bulgaria During A Day Trip To Ruse

As I already mentioned earlier, Bulgaria feels quite different from Romania. It’s a unique country full of cultural treasures that’s worth spending weeks in. So if your busy schedule allows for nothing more than a day trip, you should make sure to make the most out of this one day!

Food To Try

While Romanian and Bulgarian cuisine share a lot of similarities, there are some uniquely Bulgarian dishes that you must try when in Ruse. And if there’s one single dish to recommend it’s definitely Shopska Salata!

Delicious Bulgarian Shopska Salata.
Just a salad, you think? Wrong!

Although the recipe is very simple, requiring little more than tomatoes, cucumbers, and Bulgarian cheese, it’s probably the single most Bulgarian dish you’ll find and one of the most delicious salads in the world! And since the salad itself is very light, it gives you more room to try other popular Bulgarian dishes, such as kebapche, tarator, and banitsa.

You can find all these dishes in the restaurants by the plaza in the old city center.

Culture To Experience

Although its neo-baroque cityscape itself already makes Ruse worth seeing enough, your trip is not complete without a visit to the Sveta Troitsa Cathedral (English: ‘Holy Trinity Cathedral’). This stunning church was built in the early 17th century and is frequented by pilgrims for the holy relics it houses. And like most Orthodox Christian churches, the Sveta Troitsa Cathedral also has an impressive iconostasis completely made out of wood.

It’s impossible to capture the beauty of this place in words, so let the photos speak for themselves:

An impressive arc inside the Sveta Troitsa Cathedral in Ruse, Bulgaria.
Let this beautiful arc welcome you.
An impressive arc inside the Sveta Troitsa Cathedral in Ruse, Bulgaria.
If you take a step back, it looks like this.
An impressive wooden iconostasis inside the Sveta Troitsa Cathedral in Ruse, Bulgaria.
An iconostasis made completely out of wood. Impressive, right?
One of the many relics displayed in the Sveta Troitsa Cathedral in Ruse, Bulgaria.
One of the many relics displayed in the church.

If you want to learn more about the history of the region, I also recommend you to visit the Regional Historical Museum of Ruse. The museum is located in the recognizable old court building right by the old city plaza.

And in case you have some time left, pay a visit to the Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo! These small monasteries are completely hewn out of rocks and officially recognized as UNESCO world heritage. They are located abot 20 km south of Ruse and easily reachable by taxi. During my day trip, I unfortunately didn’t have enough time to visit these churches but I’d definitely go back to see them.

Souvenirs To Buy

Roses are Bulgaria's specialty!
Bulgaria is famous for its roses – smells like a great souvenir idea to me!

Even if you’re not the type of person who’s fond of souvenirs, I encourage you to pay a visit to Ruse’s souvenir shops. Because besides post cards, fridge magnets, and traditional dolls, these shops also sell one of Bulgaria’s most famous specialties: rose products.

From perfume, to skincare products, to cooking ingredients, you’ll find anything derived from roses. And if you’re not a fan of the flowery scent, your loved ones probably are. A small bottle of Bulgarian rose perfume can be a perfect gift for your mom, best friend, or mother-in-law.

You can find a number of souvenir shops near the cathedral.

Things To Keep In Mind When Planning A Day-Trip To Ruse

When visiting a country for one day only, it’s easy to believe that the rules are the same as where you’re coming from. However, it’s important to keep in mind that there are certain things that vary from country to country and you should be prepared for these differences.

Below are some things you should keep in mind about Bulgaria when coming from Romania.

Valid ID

Remember that Romania and Bulgaria are not part of the Schengen Zone. This means that you’re required to present a valid ID when crossing the border. While for EU citizens, a government ID suffices, non-EU citizens must show their passports.


Unfortunately, neither are these countries part of the Euro Zone, meaning that they use their own currencies. Romania uses the Leu (plural: lei) while Bulgaria uses the Lev (plural: leva). Despite the similar names, you’ll still have to either exchange currency or withdraw money when you arrive in Ruse.


If you know some Romanian, that’s great! However, it won’t get you very far in Bulgaria. Despite the geographic proximity, Romanian and Bulgarian are not as closely related to each other as you might think. While Romanian is classified as a Romance language (closely related to Italian, Spanish, etc.), Bulgarian is a Slavic language (closely related to Russian, Serbian, etc.). However, don’t worry too much about language issues. Bulgarians are extremely friendly and always eager to help. And if you really need it, Google Translate is always there to help you.


Similar to the language issue, there’s also a script issue. Like Russia, Bulgaria uses the Cyrillic script. If you’ve never spent some time trying to memorize this alphabet, you probably won’t understand any written texts in Bulgaria. While it’s very possible to travel around without being able to read, knowing the script will make your trip much, much easier. Luckily, the Cyrillic alphabet is very easy to learn and extremely useful not only in Bulgaria but in many other countries as well.


The Bulgarian city of Ruse is without a doubt worth a day trip from Bucharest. You won’t merely cross a border but experience a neighboring country with its own unique quirks different from what you see in Romania. The city offers a good selection of neo-baroque architecture and impressive religious sites, all accompanied by delicious Shopska Salata. And best of all, Ruse is easily accessible from Bucharest by both public and private transportation and very budget-friendly (as long as you avoid the mistake I did, at least!).

Read more: Constanța, Romania: The Ultimate Guide For Solo Female Travelers


  1. I lived in Eastern Europe for a year and never made it to Romania! I love that your guide includes directions on how to get there. So many don’t!

    1. You should definitely take some time to explore Romania and the Balkans more then! It’s my absolute favorite region in Europe 🙂

  2. Buse looks so beautiful. I am making it my goal to see more of Eastern Europe this year and beyond. Thank you for sharing and I’m totally keeping this handy. 🙂

  3. It’s my goal to save up and travel to Europe and I’m adding this to my list! Thanks for sharing this and will definitely refer to this blog when I had the chance to go in Bucharest!

  4. The Sveta Troitsa Cathedral looks absolutely stunning! Europe is so abundantly gorgeous. And I would definitely love to stay more than just a few days here, get some rose cooking products on the way back as well!

  5. Oooh Shopska Salata looks perfect for a summers day!

    I live how colourful the churches are – I have never seen anything quite like that. I realize you only had a quick taste of Bulgaria…but did this make you want to explore the country more?

    1. Absolutely! I’d love to spend more time in Bulgaria if I get the chance and explore the monasteries, coastline, and flower fields. This day trip was a great appetizer.

  6. We leave the Western Europe – but we have never explored the Eastern Europe yet. This post is inspiring and informative about how to spend a few days in Bucharest – thank you 🙂

    1. The Black Sea Coast is amazing too! I drove down to Mangalia from Constanta and then up to Tulcea to the Danube Delta. There are so many great places in the region!

  7. I have never heard of Ruse before and am really happy to have discovered it thanks to this article! 🙂 The cathedral is beautiful. Will definitely keep it in mind next time I’m in Romania! 🙂

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