Romania travel guide
There aren’t many countries in Europe where farmers still drive horse-drawn wagons and covered markets dominate over shopping malls, but then Romania isn’t quite like other places.
While other Eastern European countries have become fertile ground for boutique hotels and international restaurants, this traditional country still clings to its dog-eared charm – and good on it.
The first post of call for most travellers is the bustling capital, Bucharest, which was once known as ‘Little Paris’ due to its sophisticated charm. Crammed with grand architecture, fascinating museums and traditional restaurants, it’s well worth a few days exploration. So too are the resorts along the Black Sea Coast, which surprise many with their stunning sandy beaches and ocean panoramas.
Ultimately, though, Romania remains defined by its small, rural communities, many of which still depend on ancient agricultural practices. From the isolated villages clinging to the Carpathian Mountains to the Saxon towns of Transylvania, a tour of Romania’s backcountry will uncover traditional ways of life and a treasure chest of cultural gems.
It is, of course, practically illegal to talk about Transylvania without mentioning the legend of Dracula. The Romanians are all too well aware of the interest in Bram Stoker’s fictional vampire and the castle at Bran (supposedly the spot that inspired Stoker’s story) has been transformed into one of the country’s top tourist attractions.
Elsewhere the forests covering the Carpathian Mountains shelter some of Europe’s last remaining brown bears, wolves and lynxes, while racoon dogs and rare muskrats gather around the rivers.
While Romania offers travellers the chance to immerse themselves in a defiantly traditional way of life, that isn’t to say the locals don’t appreciate their creature comforts. The natural spas scattered across the country purport to cure everything from rheumatism to heart disease, and make a luxurious finale to any Romanian adventure.
238,391 sq km (92,043 sq miles).
19,372,734 (UN estimate 2016).
90.9 per sq km.
President Klaus Iohannis since 2014.
Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu (since January 2017) was removed from his office on June 21 by parliament in a no-confidence vote.
230 volts AC, 50Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins are standard.
Last updated: 13 March 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Maintain at least the same level of personal security awareness as in the UK. There is a risk of petty theft in large towns, especially Bucharest. Pickpockets and bag snatchers operate in crowded areas, particularly near exchange shops and hotels, on public transport (especially to the airport), in the main railway stations and inside airport terminals.
Organised attacks by groups, often including children, occur. The most common method is of distraction while several people, often the children, attempt to snatch watches and jewellery from pockets or from around the neck and wrist.
There have been reports of a scam involving thieves who present themselves as plain-clothes policemen. They flash a badge and ask to see passports and wallets. They count the money and give the documents back, but when they return the wallet, some of the money is missing.
Valuables including passports have been stolen from hotel rooms. Use the hotel safe and carry a photocopy of the information pages of your passport as ID.
There have been reports of credit or debit cards being ‘copied’ when used for payment in some bars and restaurants.
You will need to pay a road toll ‘Ro vignette’ to use the national roads. You can buy the vignette (sticker) at border points and at most petrol stations. Failure to display the sticker may lead to a heavy fine.
Observe the speed limit at all times. Make sure your vehicle is roadworthy and you have with you all documentation, including evidence of insurance.
It is illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol. Don’t drink any alcohol if you are driving.
In winter, equip your car for extreme conditions. Road conditions are variable and secondary roads can be in a bad state of repair. Driving standards can be poor. Look out for double parked cars, people suddenly braking to avoid a pothole, horse-drawn carts, livestock and stray dogs, particularly in rural areas, running in front of the vehicle.
Carry the following equipment: first aid kit, fire extinguisher, red warning triangles and a fluorescent jacket.
If your vehicle is damaged before you arrive in Romania, ask a Romanian Customs or Police Officer to write a report on the damage so that you have no problems when leaving. If any damage occurs inside the country, a report must be obtained at the scene of the accident.
In 2015 there were 1,893 road deaths in Romania (source: Department for Transport). This equates to 9.5 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2015.
Yellow taxis in Bucharest should list prices on the side of the vehicle and display a company name. There are frequent reports of foreign visitors being overcharged by taxi drivers.
Thieves operate on trains, so make sure all valuables are safe.