EuroVelo route 6 (the Black Sea Route,) runs both sides of the Danube here, so there is a choice to ride on the Romanian side or the Serbian side. The EV website notes that the Romanian side is “under development” while the Serbian is “fully developed.” Neither are on bike paths, it’s road cycling both sides, so I can only imagine that the Serbian side is signposted, but it’s just one obvious and continuous road. The Romanian side definitely isn’t signposted, but it is also just one really obvious road.
We chose the Romanian side. The overwhelming majority of cyclists choose the Serbian side. There are pros and cons for each, so below are the things we factored into our decision. Hopefully it will be useful to anyone who’s unsure which route to take.
The road between Orsova and Drobeta-Turnu Severin. The single biggest reason people choose Serbia is to avoid this stretch of road. It is a very busy international highway, it’s single lane and used by a large number of lorries. The first half has lots of parking areas to stop. There are a number of bridges, and the road narrows over them. There are paths on all the bridges, but it wouldn’t be easy to get on them with a bike – big kerbs would mean you’d have to get off at each of the bridges to use them. They are the pinch points though, because of the lack of passing room. There are two tunnels on the stretch. The first about 50 metres long, the other is tiny. The first tunnel was not well lit. We got off and used the path to walk the bikes through, which was safe from the traffic, but in the dark with uneven paving it wasn’t great. We found the traffic was in waves, rather than being continuously busy. There were stretches with no traffic at all. The shoulder is minimal (and none on the bridges or in the tunnels) and it is full of debris and banked tarmac. We rode it on a Saturday morning, in case that’s relevant. The first half was by far the worst. The second half had a wider shoulder and good view. I actually enjoyed this part of the ride, but Richard didn’t and found the whole thing dangerous. However it wasn’t the traffic that was the problem for him, but the debris and missing drain covers that meant we had to weave away from the edge of the road sometimes.
The scenery. Word is that the Romanian side looks more dramatic, so cycling Serbia and looking across is better. I honestly find this hard to believe, or at least that it can’t be significant. The scenery from the Romanian side was spectacular. The rock sculpture of Decebalus is on the Romanian side, and I don’t think it can be seen from Serbia. If you do have a hankering to see all the scenery, then there are boat tours. The main stops for these are Tekija in Serbia and Orsova in Romania.
The road conditions. The condition of the road in Romania was amazing. The one caveat is some missing drain covers on the stretch talked about above, and the few miles of downhill into Orsova. It is supposed to be in worse condition on the Serbian side, with pot holes being a bit of a problem.
The traffic. Other than the Orsova-DTS stretch, the Romanian side was an incredibly quiet road. The Serbian side is busier hands down, but it’s still not really heavy traffic.
The hills. No comparison, the Serbian side is far, far hillier.
The tunnels. There are two tunnels on the Romania side (both of the on the Orsova-DTS stretch.) There are many tunnels on the Serbian side. We could see them from across the river, some of them are very long and some of them are very uphill (going West to East.) There are reports of them not being well lit and some of them being badly potholed.
The bridges. I haven’t seen this mentioned in trip reports or forums, but the Serbian side has some very long and very high bridges. I am scared of heights and have a big problem with this kind of thing. There was one bridge in particular I could see from the other side that I don’t know if I could have gone on it.
Prices. Serbia is cheaper.
Dogs. Romania has a stray dog problem, notorious amongst cyclists. On this route it was domestic dogs that caused us problems, because they are just left free to roam and they defend their territory. We had one bad dog chase right before one of the only climbs, and the adrenaline dump from that was really unhelpful.
Intangible. Serbia is incredibly friendly, and the people we spoke to just wanted to stay there. We liked Romania, but it’s hard to argue how welcoming Serbs are.
Conclusion. We chose Romania, primarily because seeing Decebalus was a big draw for us. If I could do it again I would still choose the same. The uphill tunnels and the high bridges far outweigh the busy stretch of road for me, but everyone’s different.