9 Things to Know Before Visiting Romania

Vlad Tepes, Visiting Romania

Romania seems to be in the midst of a tourism resurgence, with visitor numbers growing the last few years after a sharp decline a decade ago. This is nothing but good news, as this Eastern European nation is able to captivate travellers with its old-world charm and natural beauty. I think those that decide to venture to this intriguing country will come away smitten, just as I have. While there’s plenty to say about this diverse and wonderful country, here are 9 things I think you should know before visiting Romania to make your time here easier and more enjoyable.

 

1. Size

Simply put, Romania is a pretty big country. In fact, it’s the 12th largest in Europe. This means that unlike some European countries, you can’t just quickly cross from one side of the country to the other. Also worth noting is that while many of the big tourist destinations of Transylvania are generally only an hour or two apart, the capital of Bucharest is not close by at all. In fact, Bucharest isn’t that close to a lot of the country’s main tourist attractions, so plan accordingly.

Palace of Parliament, Visiting Romania

 

2. Entry and Visas for Romania

While Romania is part of the European Union, it is not yet part of the Schengen Area that allows free movement between countries, something many EU countries currently benefit from. This means that when entering Romania you will go through passport control and visa requirements vary. For visa information, here is one place to start, but at the time of writing travellers from Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada and most of Europe did not require visas.

Crossing the border from Hungary to Romania, our train was stopped and border police came aboard. They collected passports, took them away and then returned them. This may seem alarming for some people, that people would take off with your passport without saying anything, but it is fairly common practice in Eastern Europe. Interestingly I didn’t receive a stamp, but it didn’t cause any issues when taking the bus out of Romania to Bulgaria.

 

3. Getting Around when Visiting Romania

For those looking to explore Romania using public transport, you’re in luck. Romania has a fairly extensive network of trains, buses and minibuses that can take you most (but not all) places. To help you navigate the public transport network, the Autogari website will show you all the options available to you and I swear by it. I found it to be one of the most comprehensive transport sites I’ve seen and it never let me down once.

Starting with rail, the train network stretches across the entire country and connects through Hungary to most of Western Europe. Most of the time, trains have allocated seating but this seems to be very loosely followed. Unfortunately, due to significant construction works on many stretches of the train network, expect delays and fairly serious ones at that.

The network of buses and minibuses that run throughout the country is generally faster and still great value for money. You may have to switch buses for longer routes, but again trust in Autogari, it will tell you all that. Tickets for intercity buses/minibuses are bought at the station office and for local buses, you buy them from the driver.

It’s worth noting, that in nearly every major city and town, the bus and train stations are usually several kilometres from the city centre. This brings me to my next point.

Oradea Tram, Visiting Romania

 

4. Taxis

When travelling, I usually try to avoid taxis and use public transport to get around destinations where possible to save money. Surprisingly, taxis in Romania are incredibly cheap and are even almost competitive with public transport. Naturally, you should make sure that they are official, showing their prices on the door and ensuring that they use the meter.

The two times I was ripped off by taxis in Romania were when I was wearily heading from train stations after a long journey. As such, I probably wasn’t very smart in my choice of taxi and ended up paying twice what I should have. Still, being overcharged only 4€ lessens the sting somewhat. Overall, I would advise against taking taxis from the train stations of the big cities, namely Bucharest and Brașov.

 

5. Money

Speaking of Euros, they’re not much use in Romania. That’s because the national currency of Romania is the Leu, or New Leu (RON). Yes, there was an Old Leu (ROL), but the country did away with it due to rampant inflation. The only time you should come across the ROL is on currency exchange apps or websites, so don’t worry too much about it. As of August 2016, the exchange rate is very roughly 5 RON to 1€.

Because the cost of living and wages in Romania are relatively low, you may encounter problems getting change for larger notes. In my experience, you may have trouble getting change for a 50 RON note (roughly 11€) or higher. The best places I found to break large bills was in restaurants, supermarkets and mini markets.

Bank, Visiting Romania



 

6. Language

It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that the national language of Romania is … Romanian. Romanian is a romance language similar to French, Italian and Spanish, with several other minor influences including Slavic and Turkish. The similarities with the other major latin-based languages mean that if people do speak a second language, there’s a good chance it is either Italian, French or Spanish. As for English, you are more likely to find people associated with tourism or hospitality and who are younger, that speak it.

A few basic phrases to help you get by include Buna which means ‘Hi’ or ‘Hello’; Mersi for ‘Thank you’ similar to French; Bine for ‘Okay’; and Da and Nu for ‘Yes’ and ‘No’.

 

7. Covrigi

While not overly critical, I couldn’t help but include on this list my favourite Romanian snack, Covrigi. These baked goods are essentially a local form of pretzel. They can be found in small kiosks in every major town and city. They generally come either plain, with sesame seeds or poppy seeds, but you can also find sweet ones with chocolate and jam inside. You will frequently see small queues on the street for these popular and tasty snacks, partly because they are so cheap, at 1 RON for savoury ones and 2 RON for sweet ones. Cheap, simple and delicious!

Covrigi, Visiting Romania

 

8. Vlad the Impaler

It would be fair to say that Vlad the Impaler may be the most well-known Romanian internationally. A historical figure who was used as inspiration for an icon of pop culture in Dracula, Vlad Tepes comes up a fair bit when travelling around the country (see here and here). The thing is, the people of Romania seem fairly ambivalent about this medieval Prince outside of the draw he has on tourists.

In fairness, it makes sense. As a historical figure, Vlad Tepes was not an incredibly successful or long-lasting ruler. He is best remembered for his particularly vicious approach to impaling his enemies – the Ottomans – and less so for his actual time as ruler. Vlad was actually only Voivode (roughly a Duke) for 6 short years that ended in defeat at the hands of the Ottomans and his imprisonment. He was later released and managed to reclaim his throne, only to be killed a year later under unclear circumstances.

So while this 15th century ruler may be quite interesting to historians and history lovers (eg. me), he’s not all that relevant or important to modern Romanians.

 

9. Diversity

It seems to be the case that often when people visit Romania, they only make time for Bucharest before venturing onward. While Bucharest is a fascinating city with plenty to see, it’s certainly not representative of the whole country. In Bucharest you will see the lasting impact of communism through its buildings and layout, but that’s not the case in other places. In the city of Sibiu and the town of Sighișoara, instead you’ll find charming medieval old towns that show what the towns looked like hundreds of years ago. Different again is the Baroque and Art Nouveau architecture of Oradea, a city on the western border of Hungary.

And it’s not just the cities and towns that are different. The landscape changes wildly depending on where in the country you visit. You have the huge and dramatic Carpathian Mountains near Brașov in the centre of the country; there’s the tranquil rolling hillsides of the northern Maramures region; the vast plateaus and plains like the one Bucharest is found in; and the coastline by Constanţa on the Black Sea. Basically, if you have the option to spend a little more time visiting Romania, take it so you can see more of what the country has to offer.

Maramures Fields,Visiting Romania

 


What other things would you like to know before visiting Romania? Have you visited Romania and have other insights to share? Please share them in the comments below.

*Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one and make a booking, I may make a small commission, but at no extra cost to you. 

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36 Comment

  1. Oh this is great David, I love your tips for a great travelling experience! I now how much you love Romania and it’s nice to have an insight into how you travelled 🙂 So glad you addressed Vlad, you know how I love to talk about him and the mystery surrounding his “fame” lol. Thanks for sharing this information.

    1. David says: Reply

      Thanks Angie. Haha, well aware of your fondness for that topic.

  2. Very informative! I hadn’t considered Romania, but it might just make it onto the list 🙂

    1. David says: Reply

      I’d definitely recommend it Clair, it’s a fascinating part of Europe.

  3. Such a wonderful place to visit looking at your photos. If I had not read this article I wouldn’t think to visit Romania. Looks interesting and you provided great tips and information. Thanks for sharing! Another place to put on my bucket list 🙂

    1. David says: Reply

      Glad you enjoyed the photos Stephanie. Part of my goal behind sharing posts like this is the hope that people will consider visiting Romania, because it’s worth it.

  4. Anisa says: Reply

    Did not know most of these points, so thanks for sharing. I love pretzels so definitely want to try the Covrigi! Thanks for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard.

    1. David says: Reply

      The Covrigi were certainly a happy surprise for me. Glad I can share a little insight into Romania with you.

  5. I need to make more time for exploring Europe and especially Eastern Europe as it’s one of my favourite regions. Very useful tips and great to know that there is a website that covers public transport which is super useful! I would love to see the Romanian countryside as it appeals to me more than the cities!

    1. David says: Reply

      If you’ve got the opportunity to see more of Eastern Europe I’d go for it, there’s so much to see. Hope you find this useful Lex when the time comes to visit.

  6. Fabulous tips for those intending to visit Romania. I didn’t know any of this either. It pays to listen to someone who’s been there! 🙂

    1. David says: Reply

      Thank you Lyndall, glad I could show you a few things about this interesting country.

  7. Anda says: Reply

    I’m glad you like my country of origin, David. I was born and raised in Romania but have been living in California for the past 30 years. Fortunately the Romania I know compares very little to the one you seem to like today. Many things have changed there for the better since I left. Two things haven’t changed however: the spirit of the people is still the same and so is the beauty of the country.

    1. David says: Reply

      I can imagine Romania was a vastly different place 30 years ago Anda. I really did enjoy the country and while I don’t talk too much about them here, I really did enjoy getting to know the people.

  8. Nice post! I am planning to do a bit more travelling in Eastern Europe and Balkans in the coming years and this was a great little read! I have a good friend from Romania, Brasov and I am especially excited to see the Bran Castle, also known as the Dracula’s Castle. Thanks for sharing!

    1. David says: Reply

      Thanks Kreete, I hope you find this and my other posts on Romania useful in your upcoming travel. Brasov is a great city to visit and it’s great that you will have a local to show you around. While Bran Castle is neat, you may be disappointed by how little it has to do with Dracula, other than its name.

  9. Thanks for this! My husband is going to Romania for work in two weeks and, since I’m not going with him, I hadn’t looked into anything about visiting. This is very helpful and I like your writing style. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    1. David says: Reply

      I’m sure your husband will have a good time Ava, even if it is only for work. Glad I could help you learn a little about where he’s going.

  10. Barry says: Reply

    Very detailed post David. Not visited Romania yet but plan to do one day and these tips will come in very handy, especially things like passports, border control and taking a taxi. Have pinned it to my travel Europe board for later.

  11. Lolo says: Reply

    This was very useful! Glad to know as an American I wont need a visa to travel there! I’ve saved this for later because we talk about doing a huge road trip around many of the Balkan states. 🙂 #TheWeeklyPostcard

    1. David says: Reply

      Glad I could help Lolo. As with any travel, I’d double check visa requirements before you go, but as of now it’s all good. A big road trip through the Balkans sounds fantastic, it’s one of my favourite parts of Europe.

  12. Garth says: Reply

    Great read David, and really detailed for getting around. We’ve been ripped off a couple of times too in taxis from train stations, happens everywhere I guess … Bucharest is on my list and good point on the size of the country, as we hope to do a big Eastern European tour in the future.

  13. Lisa says: Reply

    Hi David..I have enjoyed your whole series on Romania. You give alot of detail and of course great tips. Would be a country I would consider visiting because of your posts. My friends visited there a couple of years ago, they enjoyed it but said the people were not always helpful or friendly. What’s your thoughts on that part?

  14. This really intriguing. Thanks for introducing Romania so well.

  15. I don’t know very much about Romania so this is useful information. Romania hasn’t been on my travel radar, but maybe it should be.

    1. David says: Reply

      Thanks Donna, I hope you choose to go there one day and find some of this useful.

  16. Great to learn that Romania has so much variety of things to see from architecture to landscapes, it sounds like a country I’d be very interested in. Thanks for bringing up the visas and details about money, always good things to be aware of no matter where you travel! Covrigi definitely sounds tasty, I’m always up for a pretzel-like snack!

  17. The more I read about Eastern Europe, the more I want to spend time in the region. Good to know about the diversity of the countryside, especially the more Medieval old towns. Thanks for all of the details!

    1. David says: Reply

      I’m a big fan of Eastern Europe Rob. I’ve spent more time exploring there than Western Europe the last two years and am constantly amazed at what it holds to offer. For every famous Western tourist attraction, there are 5 in the east.

  18. Vyjay says: Reply

    This is quite a comprehensive guide for visitors to Romania. Not too many posts on Romania and hence this is welcome. I agree Romania is coming into its own as a tourist destination and is going to be one of the hotspots in the coming years.

    1. David says: Reply

      Thanks Vyjay, Romania will continue growing into a bigger tourist market. There’s simply too much on offer for people not to notice it.

  19. Oana says: Reply

    Before opening the article I kind of expected to read about everything you wrote except for number 7: COVRIGI :))). I have to admit that going back to Romania, the first thing I bought was a covrig! So cheap and tasty!

    1. David says: Reply

      Haha, glad I was able to surprise you. Covrigi are just plain awesome! Such a great snack.

  20. Thank you David for a great, concise yet very informative, post. I truly enjoyed reading your story and – with your permission – will share it with our social media friends. Also loved the reactions of your audience, I see that your stories are read by sophisticated and well-educated travelers. Thanks again!

    1. David says: Reply

      I’m glad to hear you enjoyed reading it Simion. Please feel free to share any of my Romanian posts, I would greatly appreciate it! Thank you for stopping by.

  21. Cheryl B. Montoya says: Reply

    In regard to Prince Vlad Tepes (Dracula) he is highly regarded here in Texas, particularly in Austin and San Antonio; I first began defending his case nearly 59 years ago when I was growing up in Comanche TX. For many years I have written articles and given lectures about Vlad Tepes; it disappointed me to read that this has taken on less importance in Romania in recent times; here in this part of Texas, we claim him as one of our own — an individual with high ideals and great expectations. We take our history seriously and mince no words in the presence of visitors — we do not entertain them; we teach them. — Cheryl B. Montoya, San Antonio TX

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