What you should know before you travel to Romania

In this article you’ll find everything you should know before you travel to Romania. Want more information on what to visit in Romania? Check out my Romania section!

Romania used the be the country everyone avoided. If you’d dare to enter, thieves and muggers would be waiting for you. Or you’d simply be eaten by stray dogs. Luckily that isn’t true at all and the country’s bad rep is turning into one of authentic experiences, folklore and history, temping more and more tourists to take the leap. And it should be, as Romania isn’t much scarier than your own backyard, unless you live in the boring Netherlands that is. 




 

When I first searched for information on Romania, all I got were 10 year old newspaper articles and loads of information on the Romanian revolution. I got the general warning: watch out for bears, stray dogs, gypsies… Basically every travel forum said: ‘don’t go.’ I’m sure my friends raised an eyebrow when I told them I’d be there for a month to volunteer in a hostel. The worst part is, this was only 3 years ago.

know before you travel to romania

By now I’ve spent almost 3 months in total in Romania and I’d return in the blink of an eye if you’d ask. What convinced me were travel diaries of many, many bloggers and the voice in the back of my head who kept repeating I should give it a go. I’m glad that I did and I think it’s time Romania got rid of that nasty reputation once and for all!

However there are things you should know before setting foot in this magnificent part of Europe. Certain cultural habits, pet peeves and even superstitions are no strangers to the Romanian people and I believe your journey will be even more amazing if you know some of them upfront. In these 3 months I’ve collected everything I think you should know before you travel to Romania.

 

What you should know before you travel to Romania

 

Safety

The first thing you need to know about Romania is that it’s absolutely safe to travel through, whether you like to travel solo or take your family. Make sure you are cautious, just like in any other country you’ve traveled through and you’ll be just fine. Underneath I’ve listed Romania’s biggest safety ‘issues’.

Wildlife

Bears

Romania holds the biggest population of bears and wolves in all of Europe and although that might sound scary, chances of meeting them in person are slim, especially when you stay within the large cities and have the knowledge on how to avoid them when you aren’t.



In Transylvania people are used to living close to nature and an occasional visitor isn’t a rare sight. Places like Sinaia and Busteni are infamous for having bears near the garbage at night and even bigger cities like Brasov have had bears wandering its Racadau neighborhood.

know before you travel to romania
No bears in central Brasov.

Locals will probably tell you it’s not a big deal and tourist companies even deny of existence of bears close to Brasov’s Tampa mountain. I’ve spent enough time on Brasov’s local Facebook pages to know the slightly different truth. Here’s how you keep yourself out of the bear zone:

  • When in Transylvania, make sure you don’t go near the garbage bins at night.
  • Don’t wander off into the woods alone.
  • Make a lot of noise when walking through the forest. Bears don’t seek you out so if they hear you coming, in most cases they will just go away. You can hang pots or cans on your backpack or cling something together repeatedly. You can also sing a bunch of nice marching tunes.

Want to see a bear? The Zarnesti Bear Santuary is a great (and fair) place to see wild bears in captivity.

Stray dogs

Another kind of wildlife in Romania are stray dogs. 10 years ago it was believed there were half a million of them in Bucharest alone. A few incidents later most of them were picked up from the streets by the government and yes… they were killed. Bucharest still isn’t stray dog-free, but chances of meeting a pack in the touristic center are slim to none.

During my time in Romania I’ve seen a few strays, almost always alone and sleeping peacefully. The only time I had a problem with dogs, they actually belonged to someone. I’d say keep an eye on those nasty sheep dogs before you start freaking out about anything else. The general rule is: don’t come near a dog and you should be fine.

know before you travel romania

 

Traffic

Busy and chaotic in Bucharest, drunken truck drivers in the countryside. That’s the best I can do for describing traffic in Romania. Be a responsible driver, don’t overestimate mountain roads and stay away from other cars as much as possible. Also, don’t be surprised when you see a horse and carriage on the road as it is a common way to get from A to B anywhere outside of the cities.



Driving in Romania isn’t as dangerous as in some countries, traffic rules still matter and there’s a zero tolerance policy for drinking and driving. It’s just that not everybody’s paying attention to that.

Read: How to road trip Transylvania

 

Public transportation

Romania has a well-developed bus and train network, which you can use to get to most touristic places. Both are comfortable methods of travel, however, taking is bus will save you some money.

Read more: Tips on train travel in Romania

 

Crime

Romania used to be widely associated with crime, however, for tourists this shouldn’t be a problem whatsoever. The general ‘city trip rules’ apply in Bucharest and other major cities. Watch your pockets like you would do in London, Amsterdam or Berlin and don’t fall for petty theft like street games or performances.

Another thing Romania is famous for is the large population of Romani people living in Romania, often referred to as ‘gypsies’. This is a very complex issue involving racism, exclusion, crime and loads of hatred that is widely spread throughout the country. For tourists this generally means getting warned over and over by concerned taxi drivers (who you should watch out for, too) and avoiding busy places like train and bus stations as much as possible.

Taxi drivers are terrible everywhere and in Romania it’s not any different. Make sure you always have the meter running or agree on the price before you get into the car.

Read: How to get a taxi in Bucharest.

know before you travel romania
Poenari fortress, definitely not a tourist trap!

 

Tourist traps

The most tourist traps I have encountered were based on the story of Dracula. When you go to Transylvania, many, many places will advertise that they have something to do with this man. I’ve written an article about Dracula tourism in Romania which I recommend to read if you’re interested in visiting Bran castle and other places linked to Dracula.

Tip: bring a student card to tourist attractions if you happen to have one. It will safe you loads of money.

 

Conversation

The Romanians are friendly, hospitable people. They love their country and therefore they are generous in giving you information on everything there is to see. They also love their own traditions and many of them are religious. 81,4% of the country’s residents is identified as Eastern Orthodox (2011).

There is so much to learn about Romania so be sure to poke around for information. Many people in the big cities speak English or German. Conversations about (homo)sexuality are still not appreciated, although the younger generations usually don’t seem to have a problem with it anymore.

Locals love it if you try to speak some Romanian, they’ll even try to help you. Not only is it the decent thing to do when visiting another country, it’s advised when traveling to smaller – and lesser known – towns and villages. In I’ve connected deeply with my supermarket cashier who not only taught me how to count, she explained thoroughly to me what items to bring to a perfect Romanian barbecue.

know before you travel romania

 

Money

Don’t worry about not being able to get your hands on those beautiful (and unbreakable) lei. Banks are everywhere! Make sure you spend your cash wisely though, as small change isn’t always available. Especially when shopping in the morning whipping out a hundred lei bill can come across like pulling a gun from your purse and placing it right on the cashiers forehead. Shop in the afternoon for spending the big bucks or grumpy cashiers will await you!

Random money fact: did you know the Romanian Leu is made of plastic? It’s can’t be teared up (I dare ya!)

 

Cultural habits

A random collection of things you should- and shouldn’t do when in Romania.

  • Always finish your plate when invited at someone’s house. In restaurants it’s less strict.
  • Be aware that the portions you order are absolutely huge! No need for starters are they are usually the same size – and price – as a main course.
  • Vegetarians beware, Romanians love their meat! In Bucharest it’s possible to eat vegetarian – and even vegan – food, smaller cities can be challenging. Pizza is always a great idea if there’s nothing else to eat.
  • Romanians love to shout at each other in traffic. No need to wait for a bitch fight, it’s usually just a lot of swearing. About each other’s mothers…
  • Traveling by train while superhot outside (and inside)? Tough luck! Romanians are – somehow – very afraid for draft. Opening a window – or God forbid two – can start a serious argument in your wagon. Bring loads of water and sit through it.
  • Never put you bag on the floor. It should be on the seat or on your lap. Don’t know why but every Romanian will tell you this.

 

How to get to Romania

The easiest way to get to Romania is by flying there. Bucharest is home to the country’s main airport, but many other cities can be reached through air travel as well. Timisoara and Cluj-Napoca are just two cities of many. However, together with Bucharest, these places are affordable for flying.

Check out airfare rates here.

From Central Europe and the Balkans, you can also take a train or bus to Romania. From Budapest (Hungary) you can take a night train that goes all the way to Bucharest. It also makes several stops in Romania on the way. From Bulgaria it’s also quite easy to travel to Bucharest by train or bus.

Need more information? I’ve written a guide for train travel in Romania.

 

If you happen to read this before traveling to this wonderful country, please trust me and let your anxiety go. As always, if there’s anything you want to know don’t be afraid to ask on social media or via posting a comment below.

I would love to hear your experiences in Romania! Feel free to fill in everything I’ve forgotten to mention so that others can have a wonderful – and safe – journey too.

 

know before you travel romania

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46 Comments

  • Reply
    Hilary no tabi
    August 31, 2014 at 19:54

    Interesting post. I saw it in my inbox a while ago and I’m glad to finally read it. My grandmother was Romanian so I’ve always wanted to visit. Hubby didn’t have a good experience when he travelled alone there many years ago. I’m hoping we can all go at some point and create our own I pressions. Thanks for posting this and I’m looking forward to part 2!

    • Reply
      The Brave Dame
      September 1, 2014 at 17:19

      Thanks, Hilary! I think a lot has changed over the past few years, so I would definitely recommend your husband to ‘try again’. 🙂

  • Reply
    Anonymous
    November 9, 2016 at 11:08

    You should not put your bag on the floor because you will loose money 🙂

    • Reply
      The Brave Dame
      November 9, 2016 at 11:12

      Good to know! 😉

      • Reply
        roxana
        August 27, 2018 at 03:13

        yes , have not put bag on the floor because we have a superstition about that. bag on the floor = you ll become poor in future

        • Reply
          The Brave Dame
          September 6, 2018 at 11:00

          Thanks for clearing that up! I’ve been wondering for quite a while about that.

        • Reply
          DW
          May 19, 2019 at 12:14

          I learned this from a friend who lived in China, with the same reason.

        • Reply
          Lucian
          May 29, 2019 at 22:35

          that might explain why I’ve been poor all my life.. but I’m going to change that now that I know

          Your posts are great and really accurate! I’m glad to see you’ve enjoyed Romania as it is

  • Reply
    Adrianna
    April 19, 2017 at 17:59

    Hi! I’m traveling solo to Romania this August and was wondering what you think is the best thing to see/do when you’re there ?
    Thanks!

    • Reply
      The Brave Dame
      April 19, 2017 at 19:31

      Hi Adrianna,

      Cool, I hope you’ll enjoy your trip!

      It all depends on what you like to do. I have a post about road tripping Romania where I’ve mentioned a few destinations worth visiting. You could also check out the Romania section on my blog, I’ve written about that country quite a bit.

      When you go in August, I’d suggest going for the mountains as it is nice and breezy there. Bucharest is amazing but very hot! Do let me know what you would like to do, and I might be able to help 🙂

      Best,
      Rose

      • Reply
        Anonymous
        April 19, 2017 at 23:09

        Rose,
        I’m staying at a resort in Brasov for the weekend and then I’m staying for an additional week. I was considering backpacking? I also have a friend in Budapest I may visit. Do you have any suggestions for hostels ? I’m 20 so I want to meet people who are younger.

        • Reply
          The Brave Dame
          April 20, 2017 at 13:28

          Backpacking is a great idea! There are also many things to visit close to Brasov, such as Bran and Rasnov. I’d suggest visiting Sibiu as there’s plenty to do in summer. I’ve stayed at Smart Hostel, which was pretty great for meeting people. In Brasov I would really recommend Boemia hostel, very mixed crowd over there but nice!

          Let me know if you need any further help! 🙂
          Rose

          • Dragomir Valentin
            August 4, 2017 at 13:19

            Hello to all, first off all, please excuse my english. I came across this article, about Romania, and i was very impressed.My name is Valentin and i am Romanian, i live in Sibiu, and i love my country, i travel a lot all around europe, but i will never emigrate nowhere. This article is very acurate, i only can complete that Romania, is the most safe country in Europe, or the countries that i seen. The mountains are great, and in my city (Sibiu) all spring-summer and fall, we have everiday some events, festivals, concerts…etc, right now is Redbull Maniacs, the most hard enduro competition. If someone want to came to Sibiu, i can provide informations about this lovely city, and i can help, with the tourist informations.

          • The Brave Dame
            August 4, 2017 at 15:29

            Hi Valentin! Thanks so much, I’m glad you’ve enjoyed my post! There’s one about Sibiu as well, feel free to add stuff in the comment section! We need more locals like you around here! 😉

        • Reply
          Kevin
          June 12, 2017 at 19:08

          There are tons of hostels in Brasov. I would suggest getting as close to the center as possible. There are always loads of young people roaming the streets. There are a lot of younger people at a few clubs (even though some of us old people hang out there too). If you come by train from Bucharest, you will pass through some great hiking territory, so keep your eyes peeled for future opportunities.

  • Reply
    Brigitta
    May 19, 2017 at 16:13

    As a Romanian myself, I couldn’t agree more with you in all of the aspects!
    A well-written article, thank you for sharing it with the world 🙂

    (I am definitely following your blog 😉 )

    • Reply
      The Brave Dame
      May 20, 2017 at 12:39

      Thank you, Brigitta! Glad you feel the same!

      • Reply
        Dawn Hartung
        March 26, 2018 at 22:16

        I am planning on going to Romania in Feb 2019, for my birthday. How safe is it, for a single white woman from the United States? I want to travel in the Carpathian mountains. I have never travelled, but have always wanted to go to Romania since I was a little girl, my great grandmother was from the border of Romania and Hungary. What is a hostel? My email address is dawnhartung40@gmail.com

        • Reply
          The Brave Dame
          April 1, 2018 at 13:00

          Hi Dawn, there’s an email waiting for you! 🙂

  • Reply
    Carolyn
    September 25, 2017 at 13:51

    We will be in Romania visiting Transylvania for 2 weeks in November. I love trains but most blogs are vague about them. Any tips? We will be traveling from Bucharest to Brasov, Sighisoara, and Sibiu. We also want to visit Ruse. Is the border crossing into Bulgaria really as slow as people claim? We can’t wait to visit! Loved your blog!

    • Reply
      The Brave Dame
      September 26, 2017 at 13:58

      Hey Carolyn!

      There’s a post about train travel in Romania on this site, if you like. Traveling by train through Romania is quite easy, although the fast connections only exist between Bucharest and Brasov and Bucharest to Constanta. There will be plenty of trains going to and from the places you mentioned so don’t worry about that.

      I haven’t been to Ruse by train but I have heard similar stories about it. I found the trains (and schedules) in Romania and Bulgaria quite similar and not that slow to be honest. When you stick to the time tables on https://www.cfrcalatori.ro/

      I hope you have tons of fun exploring Romania! Let me know how your trip goes!

  • Reply
    Jon
    January 9, 2018 at 23:06

    I plan on flying to Cluji-Napoca from the United States. I then plan to rent a car and drive to Alba Iulia to visit. Does this seems reasonable to you.? Any cautiousness I should be aware of? Also, do you know anything about these two cities? Very informative overview of Romania and enjoyable read. Thank You

    • Reply
      The Brave Dame
      January 12, 2018 at 17:35

      Hi Jon! That seems quite reasonable! If you go on the DN1/E81 to Alba Iulia, I think you could make it in 2,5 hours.

      I haven’t been to Alba Iulia, but I’ve heard it’s quite nice. Do check out Sebeș, which is right below Alba Iulia, the red rock formations there are well worth a visit! Cluj is simply amazing! You can find a bit more information here. Have fun and don’t forget to tag me in your photos! 🙂

      • Reply
        Jon
        January 13, 2018 at 01:10

        Thank you so much for your valued insight. I will keep you posted
        when I travel there!

  • Reply
    Jon
    February 15, 2018 at 16:44

    Do you know if I can rent a car at the airport in Romania with my US driver license?

    • Reply
      The Brave Dame
      February 15, 2018 at 16:51

      Hey Jon! I believe you’re required to have an European or international license.

  • Reply
    Jon
    February 15, 2018 at 16:47

    Do you know if I can rent a car at the airport in Romania with my US driver license?

    • Reply
      James
      May 14, 2018 at 19:41

      Go to AAA before you leave the US and get an international drivers license. You’ll need $15 and tow passport photos. You don’t need to be a member and it’s good for a year.

      • Reply
        The Brave Dame
        May 15, 2018 at 12:15

        Hey James! Thanks for the additional info! Very helpful! 🙂

  • Reply
    Libbie Griffin
    May 31, 2018 at 16:18

    I’ve just discovered your blog because I’m beginning to plan a trip to Romania and Bulgaria next year. This is excellent information — very helpful!

    I will be following your blog on BlogLovin’ and digging into your older posts to see what I can learn. By the way, I love the name of your blog. I, too, am a scaredy cat who loves to travel to new places.

    Libbie

    • Reply
      The Brave Dame
      June 1, 2018 at 12:37

      Thanks Libbie! Both are excellent destinations! Let me know if you have any questions!

      • Reply
        Anonymous
        June 30, 2018 at 10:48

        Romania is very safe, you will not have any problems at all, especially if you travel country side or small cities. Like everywhere in the world in big cities, if you will go alone at 2 am in some bad area of Bucharest you may encounter problems but otherwise it is more safe than Germany, France or Italy..etc. People in general are friendly and open to strangers and willing to help you whit info. The best time to travel is April to September, or if you like snow dec – jan.

        • Reply
          The Brave Dame
          July 8, 2018 at 14:25

          I agree. I’d rather walk around in Bucharest at 2 am than in my hometown!

  • Reply
    Nadine
    January 6, 2019 at 06:41

    Hello Rose. I am so happy to have read your honest and tactful comments about your travels in Romania (as well as everyone else’s). My husband and I will be traveling in Romania in fall of this year. We have received many cautionary warnings about the country and I feel they are over-exaggerated. I am hoping you may give me some peace of mind! My biggest concern is our train travel between Cluj-Napoca and Sighetu Marmatiei. Do you think there will be any issues finding a train with a dining car? Safety issues? Do you know what the station in Sighetu is like when arriving later at night? Thank you for any tips or advice!

    • Reply
      The Brave Dame
      January 28, 2019 at 12:16

      Hey Nadine! Thanks so much! Don’t worry about what people are saying about Romania, I’m guessing they’ve never been there? Romania isn’t really different from other countries: train stations can be a bit dodgy at some places and taxi drivers are usually not great. However, I’d rather get into a taxi in Romania than, let’s say, Paris.

      I haven’t been to Sighetu Marmatiei, so I don’t know what it’s like during the evening. As anyway, make sure you make sensible choices: do not leave your luggage unattended, do not get into a random taxi, etc. Do you stay in the center of the town? It’s not a big place so the easiest thing to do is walk to your accommodation.

      About the train: I haven’t seen a dining car anywhere on trains in Romania. I saw that the connection from Cluj-Napoca to Sighetu Marmatiei is a R-train. These types of trains are not as luxurious and fast as the IR-trains but still fine. I’d suggest you bring your own food on the journey, just to be sure. On bahn.de you can also check for details on the train itself, in this case it just says “R-train”, which indicates there is no dining car (or maybe Bahn doesn’t know about it). Checking there is usually a good method to see what you’re getting yourself into.

      Other than that, have a blast! This part of Romania is absolutely stunning! Enjoy! 🙂

  • Reply
    Anonymous
    January 28, 2019 at 17:08

    Thank you!

  • Reply
    DW
    May 19, 2019 at 12:34

    Hello, thank you for the articles on Romania. I am unexpectedly traveling to Transylvania this July, with my own (nice) sheep dog. It was an adventure just to buy train tickets with him (travel from Vienna to Brasov on the overnight train, through Budapest, complicated because three countries, hope it goes ok…). Found dog-friendly lodging easily 2 months in advance. I am very excited to go. Will peruse your articles now. (And in general, solo female traveler from US, with dog, and Europe is safer than at home, with high quality of life for dog…not everywhere is the same, and for legitimate reasons, but it is remarkable to walk around Zagreb late at night and feel completely safe. He gets a lot of love everywhere, though I do wish Austrians would stop feeding him 🙂 Romania is in the EU and not high-risk rabies, which actually is easier travel for me than neighboring countries. Will see what dog Jack makes of it. He can be a little too friendly with bears. Thanks again, happy travels.

  • Reply
    DW
    May 19, 2019 at 12:38

    Hello again, your photos here are fantastic. May I ask how you got those of you?

    • Reply
      The Brave Dame
      May 19, 2019 at 14:50

      Thanks so much! I just asked people around me to take a photo 🙂

  • Reply
    stephany
    May 28, 2019 at 08:36

    Hi! Last year I made a trip to Romania with a group of close friends. We made a nice trip and we decided to visit Bucharest, Brasov and Sibiu in a rented car. It was sooo beautiful and we had nice weather. I`m in love with historic streets, the mountains landscapes and people kindness We used car rental services from Premium Rent ( https://www.premiumrent.ro/en ) and we were very happy with the comfort of the car that we had at our disposal for 5 days because we had travel a lot 🙂

    • Reply
      The Brave Dame
      July 3, 2019 at 12:45

      Hi Stephany! Thanks for the recommendation! I’ll make sure to try it out as soon as I’m back in Romania!

  • Reply
    Carrie
    September 27, 2019 at 23:06

    Great article, I am so glad I happened upon it. I really enjoyed reading it.
    I am planning a solo trip to Romania for next fall, would you recommend renting a car and camping?

    • Reply
      The Brave Dame
      September 29, 2019 at 19:51

      Thanks so much, Carrie! Fun, fall is perfect for renting a car and exploring the country! I don’t know about camping to be honest. The weather can be quite unpredictable during this season but it depends on what kind of camper you are. Did you know there is an article about road tripping Romania?

  • Reply
    Nadine Waarne
    October 12, 2019 at 23:25

    Hello! My husband and I just spent 3 weeks in Romania. We flew into Cluj to visit, then rented a car to drive to Sighetu Marmatiei where we toured the small villages in the area with a guide for two days. Upon our return to Cluj, we used the train throughout the rest of our travels to Sibiu, Sighisoara, Brasov, Sinaia, and Bucharest. Some trips were booked online beforehand and some at the station right away. Some train platforms and stations lacked basic signs and we just sort of had to wing it and chat with locals to ensure we were on the right line and about to board the right train – all part of the fun! We never felt unsafe or concerned about our belongings. The Romanian people and other travellers were all great. We lucked out with dining cars on two different legs – a welcome sight for some cold beers. We did note that the train cars were awfully warm and, despite pulling the windows open for air, many people closed them right back up! We actually didn’t even take our seats on one leg as standing by the window to ensure it stayed open was our only way of bearing the warmth! I guess one takes in all in stride while travelling. For anyone who plans to visit the country, I highly recommend it. It is beautiful.

    • Reply
      The Brave Dame
      October 15, 2019 at 16:50

      Hi Nadine! So glad to hear you had a fun trip! About the windows: Romanian people are quite superstitious and they believe they get really sick if you open the windows. I had the same thing in summer, when I felt I was being boiled like an egg, haha!

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