Romania Travel Tips from Locals
Travelling to Romania has become a new trend in the past decades since the country has opened up to tourism and started inviting tourists in one of a kind nature and offering unique experiences. It is quite unfortunate that many still believe that Romania is still a communist-like country, with closed borders and not travel-friendly. But this cannot be further from the truth. Romania’s not that different from the more developed western countries, has plenty to offer from its well preserved natural wonders and should be on your Eurotrip list. Yet, there are some things for a first traveller to know before planning their Romania trip. From safety to English as a broad language to transportation, here’s a list of Romania travel advice given by the locals:
Best time to visit Romania
Most certainly, most Romania travel advice invites to make a trip here in spring and autumn when the country is filled with lush forests and the countrysides display an amazing gold and brown hues in the autumn and of fresh green in spring. The temperature is just right for every type of activity. If you want to heat to the Black Sea Coast, then summer is at its best for sunbathing and dipping into the sea. However, summer becomes quite hot and can easily reach 38 C. Winter offers plenty of fun on the ski slopes but this one too can become quite extreme with snowstorms and temperatures below -20 C. Make sure you check the weather before and everything should be fine.
Dracula’s not that grim, nor is Romania
Since your Romania trip would feel incomplete without a taste of Dracula, you might want to check the local history and adjust your expectations. Count Dracula, the vampire has some connections with the medieval ruler, Vlad the Impaler and as many stories have originated in Transylvania, don’t expect to see Dracula references everywhere. There is indeed Bran Castle, the supposed home of Vlad and while some of its stories are related to Dracula (and of course, local tourism features him a lot), the castle was the royal residence of Queen Mary of Romania and it’s filled with royal history. Yes, it is on a grim cliff and has a dark aura but that’s not thanks to vampires. But rural Romania and especially Transylvania with thick forests and dark legends imply more of the vampire legends than the major landmarks.
Tap versus bottled water
Although meeting consumption standards, tap water is not the safest nor the tastiest which is why it’s recommended to stick to bottled water. It doesn’t cost much, can be found literally everywhere and it costs a few cents. After all, bottled water comes from local mountain springs so at least you get to taste the freshness of mountains if you can’t actually go visit them.
Public transportation and Uber is an easy and quite affordable way to get around.
In large cities and especially in Bucharest, people rely heavily on the metro system, buses and trams. You can get 3 rides for 1EUR or 2 by metro; there are daily, weekly and monthly memberships available that are the cheapest in the entire Europe. The network connects all arteries in cities and you can even opt to rent out an electric scooter (Lime) to get you from one point to another.
Yet trains are slow and often have delays.
Travelling in Romania especially by train can take a lot of time due to slow trains. It can take 3 hours to get from Bucharest to Brasov, 7 to Iasi and 9 to Timisoara if the schedule is respected. However, you get to pass through amazing landscapes that take the boredom off your mind. The “high speed” trains are quite modern and tickets can be purchased online too – which is indicated since the queues in the stations can be quite big at times. But if the train is not your thing, then try a bus or BlaBlaCar which are the faster alternatives.
A Romania trip can be quite affordable.
An affordable travelling to Romania can be done easily with 30-40 EUR per day but you can easily manage with even less than that. Some hostels can be as low as 10 EUR per night, private accommodations start at 20 EUR per night and there are many food courts with affordable meals (as little as 3 EUR per entire meal). Keep in mind that Bucharest is a bit more expensive than the rest of the country and still – more affordable than most countries in Europe.
Although the situation improved significantly in recent years, there are few stray dogs on the streets nowadays, and especially in the outskirts of cities. This happened as most of them were taken by the government and put into dog houses. Some of them were even adopted as there have been many programs encouraging people to adopt. Now it might be possible for you to still see a couple of strays on the busy streets but most of them are friendly. They know that if they need to survive, they have to gain people’s sympathies. Countryside strays can be wilder and not used to people but as long as you avoid them, you should be fine.
“Do they speak English in Romania?” – yes, more than you’d think and surprisingly better than you’d expect. This is also thanks to many companies who moved their headquarters here or created shared service centres and thus English is required at both corporate work but also in most of the areas of activities. Since Romanian is a Latin language, it’s easy for Romanians to speak and understand Italian, French and Spanish as well. Overall Romanians learn quickly a foreign language and they love to use them whenever they have visitors from abroad.
Google Maps is quite a useful tool
Google Maps is synced into every Romanian bus, tram and metro line and provides accurate information about routes as well as departure and arrival times. You can type in the exact address and it will get you there; it can also see traffic jams and suggest alternative routes. Moreover, it can provide information about opening hours at different places and also provides pictures of museums, hotels and restaurants together with reviews from others. If you’re driving, Waze is the driver’s alternative to Google Maps. All this is sustained by a 4G network of the internet that is both affordable and reliable but also Europe’s fastest data traffic internet.
The borderline is closed
For EU passports, visiting Romania is easy with both passports and national identity documents. Yet, Romania is not part of the Schengen Area which restricts the flow of commodities and meaning the border is closed. If you were used to crossing countries like France, Germany, Austria and Hungary without even noticing when making the transition and only realizing the road signs change their language, Romania by land travel requires a passport to go through. It’s just something to be aware of as sometimes you have to wait at the border in a queue.
Currency exchange rates are great in most Eastern European countries, which means that there is almost no setback if you exchange your money in Euros or USD. Even money changers in town centres located right smack can offer very good exchange rates without commission. In Western Europe, you cannot get that! It is advisable you also have some cash RON with you as some restaurants, especially those in more remote areas do not accept card payment. Also, most taxi drivers don’t take cards and usually charge a lot more in EUR than in RON.
Safety in Romania
Last but not least, Romania is indeed very safe for travellers, contrary to popular belief. The country has a low crime rate and among the strictest gun laws in the world. It is not a very popular tourist destination, therefore there are few tourist scams. Instead, as always, you should be aware of pickpockets, take care of your belongings, and take care when driving as Romania’s traffic and driving environment can be quite agitated. Among the main aspects to keep in mind, these are the most important ones in terms of safety tips:
- Keep your money safe: use cards as much as possible and withdraw only a small amount you’ll use for the day. Also, make sure to have a small bag or money belt locked
- Avoid scams – although not quite likely to happen in Romania, most are related to taxi drivers overcharging tourists. Make sure the taxi meter is on or check out alternatives
- Don’t possess or consume drugs – it goes without saying, available everywhere, not just in Romania.