The Romanian seaside started to be a popular holiday destination, and most Romanians spend their weekends there, during summer. But there is a small village, with a big audience. A place for everybody. Vama Veche.
Vama Veche used to be a place for a certain type of people.
Yes, Romania has a seaside and there is a place for anyone. No matter how snobbish you are (hopefully you are not), you will find something to enjoy. But once you get used to a place, it’s hard to change your perception and habits and not go there anymore. Yes, I’m stuck in my memories.
EDIT: Finally, I wrote a list of the Best Beaches in Romania, which includes some alternatives to Vama Veche.
I visited Vama Veche for the first time when I was 17 (that was over ten years ago), and I crashed into a friend’s tent. Lots of Vama Veche stories and years later, here I am today, writing about my most recent experience there.
Vama Veche, the village
Firstly, I have to mention we are talking about a village on the seaside. A small one! It’s a walking distance to the Bulgarian border. The name “Vama Veche” means “the old customs”. Because it’s near the border, I guess.
Because of its location, people started decades ago to go there and enjoy a chill and quiet time spent by the sea. More and more people started coming, and half a century later (I have no idea when this trend started) it’s a filthy, crowded and expensive village in the middle of nowhere. By the seaside.
Hearing about this place for the first time, it was this nonconventional place, with lots of people, rock music, where everything was cheap. A mixture of hippies, punkers and rockers or white laces skinheads.
And probably a bit more drunk people than you are used to seeing on the street.
My first time there I was kinda scared of these people who were obviously from a group because they all had a resembling appearance. It’s not like you see everyday skinheads groups on the street.
Notice I used past tense. Today the place is the same, but different people visit it.
Vama Veche today (and why I can’t stand it anymore)
So the economy says something like if the demand is high then the price goes up. Whatever, I have no idea about the economy. But today I find a disgusting, commercial village, overcrowded and crazy expensive.
The funny part is that no matter your budget, chances are you will not find accommodation for the next weekend if you don’t book it in advance. I rather go travel abroad than spend an insane amount of money for staying in a place where people used to get drunk and sleep on the beach.
As a Romanian, living in Romania, once more, I expect prices accordingly to the living standards. Not west European countries. I refuse to pay 1.5 -2 Euros for a beer in a supermarket. All over the country that’s a price for a restaurant, where a waiter serves you, and probably it’s not more than 2 Euros with a tip. I’m talking about good restaurants.
Yes, it’s full of supermarkets which have restaurant-level prices. No, I don’t want to be part of this.
Accommodation in Vama Veche
Accommodation? Yes, it’s full of villas, houses, campings, hotels and hostels. It’s crazy expensive. Probably you will end up paying at least 40 Euros for a night during the weekend. Yes, for Europe it’s cheap, but for a village in the middle of nowhere, it’s ripping you off. And don’t set your expectations too high. It’s only a place to sleep.
People used to sleep in tents. Nowadays, not so much. It’s not a “thing” anymore. Although there is a famous camping site there, quite big and very hipsterish. Even that place is expensive. I bet it’s because of the colours.
But that “thing” that was making this place special, was exactly this: not being so pretentious. Cheap was a trademark of this place. And that’s part of what made it famous.
The famous Romanian seaside village, Vama Veche
As years passed by, the parties there became bigger, lasted longer, more bars were built, some withstand the many transformations of the village, where some did not.
It’s one place of which most tourists and travellers have heard by, and this makes it even more commercial and destroys its authenticity.
As one famous travel blogger wrote, Wandering Earl, “Only when the dark sky began to lighten did we start to feel a little tired” as “Bolero” was playing at Stuff (a beach bar). That’s how crazy the party is, and it goes on and on.
It is famous. Maybe a bit too famous.
The feeling of freedom associated with Vama Veche is gone
Freedom. That’s why people were coming here in the first place. No judgments were made because the judgemental people were not there to see it. I think that’s why they chose this place, a bit further away, in the first place. To escape, get away from the crowd.
I remember my first time there. I made some random friends just by walking on those few streets.
Now there are more streets, more houses, more people. The oldest street, the one leading from the national road to the beach is called the main street and maybe there were another two or three paved streets.
Being part of a small, far away community, even for a day, was feeding this need we all have: uncertainty.
The experience was more thrilling as you were able to get to know new people, over the fireplace which was set ad hoc on the beach, singing some well-known songs.
I used the word freedom because nobody was bothered by the others. It was free to enjoy it, and nobody had a smartphone to broadcast live what was meant to stay there. Or a Facebook account.
Enjoy it or leave it. That’s what it always meant to me. And now it’s time to leave. As any travel: it’s about the experience and not the place. But the place has changed, the people have changed, the experience is different.
Conclusion: Why I don’t recommend Vama Veche
It’s an expensive village. Not exactly clean, filled with overcrowded shops and places to eat. I see no reason why I should enjoy this.
The beach is not the best one from the Black Sea, the sand resembles more like shells and stones, and the water is not the best if you are not a good swimmer.
Yes, it’s quite famous, but its fame came at a price. A price every one of us pays, once we set our foot there.
This used to be a bohemian place. Today is another overpriced tourist trap. It’s sad to see this, but I will always have my memories. Maybe it’s time to make new ones. Now I’m searching for a new place to enjoy the Romanian Seaside.
And you’re looking for awesome beaches, which aren’t as crowded and mainstream as Vama Veche has become, check out the list I wrote about the Best Beaches in Romania.