Addresses are written as Str. Eroilor 24, III/36 in the case of apartment buildings, ie Street (Strada) of Heroes, number 24, third floor, apartment 36. Some blocks have several entrances, in which case this is also given, eg scara B. Each district of Bucharest has a sector number, while in some towns each district (cartier) is named. In small villages, houses simply have a number and no street name. Streets, boulevards (bulevardul), avenues (calea or şoseaua) and squares (piaţa) are commonly named after national heroes like Stephen the Great – Ştefan cel Mare – or Michael the Brave – Mihai Viteazul – or the date of an important event, such as December 1, 1918, when Transylvania was united with the Old Kingdom.
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Generally, costs are still reasonably low in Romania, particularly when it comes to dining and public transport. If you’re on a tight budget, you could get by on around £20/€25/US$30 a day, staying in a hostel or private accommodation, eating in cheap diners and using public transport. Those on a moderate to mid-range budget (cheap to mid-range hotels, better restaurants and car rental) can expect to spend around £60/€75/US$85 a day. If you want to splash out on the best hotels, restaurants and car rental, count on spending upwards of £100/€130/US$145. In Bucharest, and, to a lesser degree, the coast, costs are appreciably higher than elsewhere.
Museum admission charges are extremely low, the typical fee being €1–2, though some of the major attractions (such as the Palace of Parliament and Peleş Castle) will charge around three times that amount – moreover, these attractions often levy a fee (often at least the equivalent of the amount it costs to actually get in) for the use of cameras/camcorders. The more expensive hotels, flights, car rental and excursions are sometimes priced in euros, but must usually be paid for in lei.
Crime and personal safety
Romania remains generally safe, and it’s unlikely that you’ll have any problems; violent crime against tourists is almost nonexistent and petty crime rare. The major thing to watch out for is pickpockets, in particular on public transport in Bucharest, where thieves are adept at relieving tourists of their belongings; wearing a (hidden) moneybelt is advisable. Take care on overnight trains, shutting the door of your sleeper compartment as securely as you can (there are no locks) and keeping valuable possessions close at hand.
If your passport goes missing while in Bucharest, telephone your consulate immediately; anywhere else, contact the police. Thefts and other losses can be reported to the police who will issue the paperwork required for insurance claims back home, though only slowly and with painstaking bureaucratic thoroughness.
One of the legacies of Ceauşescu’s systematization policy of the 1980s, when people were forced to move into concrete apartment blocks, was that thousands of dogs were abandoned and left to roam the streets. The problem is not nearly as bad as it once was, but stray dogs remain a common nuisance, particularly in the cities, and you’ll see plenty of them wandering the roadsides; should you feel threatened, just walk on slowly.
For all emergency services dial 112.
Culture and etiquette
Although tipping is not obligatory, it is polite to round the bill up to a convenient figure in restaurants and when taking a taxi. In common with much of the Balkans, smoking is commonplace, but as of March 2016 smoking was officially banned in any indoor public space, including all restaurants, cafés and bars.
Most public toilets are acceptable enough, and usually charge a small fee, particularly in the larger train stations. In any case, you should carry a supply of paper. “Barbaţi” means men and “Femei” means women.
It’s rare for Romanian men to subject female tourists to sexual harassment. Romanians (both male and female) are highly tactile, so you may find yourself being prodded more than you care for. Most trouble is alcohol-fuelled, so it’s best to avoid going alone to any but the classiest bars. Within earshot of other people, you should be able to scare away any local pest by shouting Lasaţi-ma in pace! (“Leave me alone!”) or calling for the poliţia.
220 volts; a standard continental adaptor enables the use of 13-amp, square-pin plugs.
Citizens of the EU, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand can enter Romania with just a passport and may stay in the country for up to ninety days. Similarly, most other European citizens can enter the country without a visa, though can only stay for thirty days. However, visa requirements do change, so it’s always advisable to check the current situation before leaving home.
Gay and lesbian travellers
The communist regime was relentlessly homophobic, and sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex were illegal. The law against homosexuality was repealed in 2000, but the majority of the population remains largely unsympathetic towards the gay and lesbian community, and there are very few manifestations of gay life, even in Bucharest. That said, the first Gay Pride was held in Bucharest in 2005 and is now an annual event (now called Bucharest Pride) usually taking place in late May or early June. Elsewhere, Gay Film Nights is a gay and lesbian film festival held in Cluj, though it’s not an annual event and the date does change. Accept (021 252 5620, acceptromania.ro) is a Bucharest-based organization involved in the promotion of gay and lesbian activities in Romania, and they also offer counselling and HIV testing services.
No vaccinations are required for Romania, although having hepatitis A, polio and typhoid boosters would be wise if you’re planning to stay in remote areas where hygiene can sometimes be an issue. There’s a reciprocal health agreement between Romania and Western countries (including the UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand), so emergency treatment (excluding drugs) is free.
Summers can be blisteringly hot, particularly along the coast, so make sure you take a high-factor sun cream, and strong insect repellent if visiting the Danube Delta. Conversely, conditions in the mountainous regions, particularly at higher altitudes, can present potential dangers – take appropriate clothing, sufficient provisions and equipment, and keep an eye on the weather. Tap water is safe to drink practically everywhere, though bottled water (apă minerala) is widely available. Avoid any contact with stray dogs, as there’s a very slight risk of rabies.
All towns and most villages have a pharmacy (farmacie), where the staff – in the big towns at least – may understand English, French or German. Pharmacies are typically open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 6pm, though all cities and most towns should have at least one that’s open 24 hours – failing that, dial the emergency number displayed in the pharmacy window.
In Bucharest, the British and American embassies can supply the address of an English-speaking doctor or dentist, and there’s a special clinic for treating foreigners. In emergencies, dial 112 or ask someone to contact the local casualty (staţia de salvare) or first-aid (prim ajutor) station, which should have ambulances. Each county capital has a fairly well-equipped county hospital (spital judeţean), but hospitals and health centres (policlinics) in smaller towns can be poor.
For all emergency services dial 112.
Even though EU health-care privileges apply in Romania, you’d do well to take out an insurance policy before travelling to cover against theft, loss, and illness or injury. A typical travel insurance policy usually provides cover for the loss of baggage, tickets and – up to a certain limit – cash or cheques, as well as cancellation or curtailment of your journey. Most of them exclude dangerous sports unless an extra premium is paid.
Wi-fi is widespread and invariably excellent. Nearly all hotels – of any description – offer free wi-fi for their guests. Most cafés, even in the smaller towns, now also have wi-fi, though you’ll be obliged to make a purchase. With wi-fi so ubiquitous, internet cafés are now the exception rather than the rule, and even then most of these places are full of kids playing games, while connections can be slow; expect to pay around €1 per hour.
There are several laundries in Bucharest, but elsewhere they can be almost impossible to find; it’s usually a choice between washing clothes yourself or paying a hotel to do it.
Post offices (poştă) are usually open Monday to Friday from 7am to 8pm, and on Saturdays from 8am to noon. Stamps (timbru) and prepaid envelopes (pliicuri) can be bought here. Sending mail home from Romania costs around €0.70 to overseas destinations – and takes about five days to Britain, and two weeks to North America and Australasia.
Nearly all the best maps of Romania are published outside the country, but they are available through most good map outlets, including a few shops in Romania itself. The country map published by the ADAC (the German motorists’ association) is very detailed (at 1:500,000), as is the Szarvas/Kárpátia/Top-O-Gráf atlas (including city plans), which can be bought at Shell fuel stations in Romania (and through Stanfords bookstore in the UK). Other quality maps are produced by Falk (1:1,000,000), Cartographia (1:750,000) and Szarvas/Kárpátia/Dimap (1:700,000), along with a Kümmerley & Frey map of Romania and Bulgaria (1:1,000,000), and the GeoCenter Euromap (1:800,000), which includes Moldova. Cartographia and Falk also publish good maps of Bucharest, while Top-O-Gráf/Freytag & Berndt produce maps of Transylvanian cities such as Cluj. DIMAP also publishes maps of most tourist areas.
The maps produced by the national tourist offices are fairly poor, though just about adequate for motoring, but the campsite and cabana maps are useful for hikers. There are also good hiking maps of the major mountain massifs, by Editura Pentru Turism and Abeona in Bucharest and Editura Focul Viu in Cluj (available from bookstores as well as tourist offices). Hikers should also look out for the booklet Invitaţie în Carpaţi; the text is Romanian, but it contains detailed maps of the region’s 24 main hiking areas, showing trail markings, huts, peaks and so on. It’s reproduced in The Mountains of Romania.
Western newspapers are almost impossible to track down in Romania, though the more upmarket hotels may have same-day editions. Of the listings magazines, Bucharest In Your Pocket (inyourpocket.com/bucharest) is by far the most informative and up to date, and often features spin-off guides to other parts of the country.
Romanian television offers the standard diet of news, soaps and gameshows. Once restricted to two hours a day, with half of that devoted to Ceauşescu’s feats (ironically, it was TV that played a crucial role in his overthrow), these days there is no shortage of programming. Any decent hotel will have satellite TV, with CNN and BBC World most likely to feature. More annoyingly, many restaurants deem it necessary to feature huge plasma screens. Like many of the foreign-language programmes on Romanian TV, films at the cinema are shown in their original language with Romanian subtitles.
Romania’s unit of currency is the leu (abbreviation RON) – meaning “lion” (plural lei). Coins (bani) come in denominations of 1, 5, 10 and 50; and there are notes of 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, 200 and 500 lei. The exchange rate is currently around L5.70 to £1, L4.40 to €1 and L3.90 to US$1 – for current rates, check xe.com.
If you need to change money, you’re best doing so at a bank (banca); these are generally open Monday to Friday between 9am and 4 or 5pm. Alternatively, private exchange offices (casa de schimb valuta) can be found in just about every town and city; in the bigger cities they are everywhere, and some may even be open 24 hours. You don’t usually need to show your passport but it is worth taking just in case. As a rule, neither exchange offices nor banks charge commission. If taking cash, a modest denomination of euros, pound sterling or US dollar bills is advisable. Make sure that you get rid of any unwanted lei before you leave the country, as it’s unlikely you’ll be able to change them once outside Romania.
Cash machines (Bancomats) are ubiquitous, even in the smallest towns, including many railway stations. Credit cards are accepted in most of the better hotels, restaurants and shops.
Opening hours and public holidays
With the exception of shopping malls, which are usually open 9am to 10pm, shops are generally open from 9 or 10am to 6 or 8pm on weekdays, with department stores and some food stores opening from 8am to 8pm Monday to Saturday and from 8.30am to 1pm on Sunday. If you’re trying to sort out flights, visas or car rental, be aware that many offices are closed by 4pm.
Museums (muzeu) are generally open Tuesday to Sunday from 9 or 10am to 5 or 6pm, though some do also close on Tuesdays. For the opening hours of post offices, banks, pharmacies and restaurants, see the relevant sections in town accounts of the Guide.
Public holidays in Romania are on January 1 and 2 (New Year); Easter Monday; May 1 (Labour Day); December 1 (National Day) and December 25 and 26 (Christmas).
Public payphones are still to be found in most places, but the near-ubiquity of mobile phones means they are seldom used. The main mobile phone providers in Romania are Orange, Telekom and Vodafone. If staying for any length of time you might as well buy a local SIM card from any of these providers (typically costing €5), which you can then top up by voucher, available from phone shops or street kiosks. All mobile numbers are designated by a phone code beginning with 07. Calling a mobile from within Romania, you must dial all the numbers; calling from abroad, you need to drop the “0”.
Romania is two hours ahead of GMT, seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time and ten hours ahead of Western Standard Time: clocks go forward one hour for the summer at the same time as in other European countries.
Ensure that you pick up as much information as possible before you leave your own country, as getting hold of it in Romania is nigh on impossible; even where you do, there’s very little available in English. The Romanian tourist board has a site at romaniatourism.com, with a UK branch at 12 Harley St, London W1G 9PG (020 7224 3692), and another at 355 Lexington Ave, 19th Floor, New York, NY 10017 (212 545 8484). Frustratingly, tourist offices in Romania remain few and far between, though most, but by no means all, cities will have one; you may also chance upon the odd one in smaller towns – opening hours tend to be Monday to Friday 9am to 4pm, though in the bigger cities and along the coast, some keep longer hours and also open at weekends. Elsewhere, most places should have an agency (usually more concerned with selling package trips) where you might be able to extract some basic advice, and possibly a map.
Travellers with disabilities
Very little attention has been paid to the needs of people with disabilities in Romania, and there’s no sign of any change in attitude. Getting around is a major problem, as public transport is often inaccessible and cars with hand controls are not available from rental companies. The only place where facilities for disabled people are likely to be anything like comprehensive are in some of the classier hotels. Perhaps the best solution is to book a stay in a spa, where there should be a degree of level access and some awareness of the needs of wheelchair users. Make sure you carry a prescription for any drugs you need, including the generic name in case of emergency, and spares of any special clothing or equipment, as it’s unlikely you’ll find them in Romania.
Travelling with children
Most of the better-quality hotels cater for children, while most restaurants (at least those of a decent standard) should be able to provide highchairs for younger children and babies. Most car rental firms provide child or baby seats for a small extra charge. Most supermarkets, and many smaller shops, are well stocked with the requisite nappies (diapers), baby food and so on.
In big coastal resorts and at Poiana Braşov there are kindergartens for the benefit of holidaymakers. The most obvious child-friendly destinations are the beaches along the coast, which, on the whole, are clean and safe, while there are enough water parks and fairgrounds in most resorts for further stimulation. You’ll also find that most large towns have a good puppet theatre (Teatrul de Păpuşi). Rail transport is free for under-5s, and half-price for under-10s.
Work in Romania
Opportunities for working in Romania are relatively few. The most traditional form of work abroad, teaching English, is one option. The British Council (jobs.britishcouncil.org) recruits TEFL teachers and provides information about study opportunities and teacher development programmes in Romania. International House (ihworld.com) also offers TEFL training and recruits for teaching positions. They have branches in Bucharest, at Str. Lanariei 93–95 (021 335 4490, ih.ro), and in Timişoara, at B-dul C.D. Loga 11 (0256 490 593, ihtm.ro). The TEFL website (tefl.com) is also worth a look. A few organizations offer work in Romanian orphanages: these include Volunteer Romania (volunteerromania.co.uk) and Projects Abroad (projects-abroad.org).