Money & costs
Cheaper than much of Europe, Romania and Moldova have nevertheless graduated from the dirt-cheap-trip category in recent years, with basic, modern hotel rooms edging into the €40-per-night level, and a sit-down meal with a beer, some meat and soup costing between €7 and €10 (and higher in Bucharest or Chişinău). Car-hire rates tend to be high too – up to €40 per day – but bus and train tickets are quite cheap (about €3.50 to €7 per 100km by train).
Those looking to save can relish the abundant fast-food stands selling burgers, kebabs and pizza slices (about €1.50 to €2.50), and the abundance of cazare (private rooms) available from entrepreneurs loitering at train stations or the more organised agroturism B&B network, which run about €10 to €15 per person, including breakfast. These can provide lunch and dinner upon request.
For a couple wishing to stay in mid-priced hotels, dine out once or twice a day and perhaps hire the occasional guide or go on guided tours, expect to pay €60 to €100 per day total, excluding travel. Backpackers staying in private rooms, eating only one meal in a restaurant and excluding guides or travel expenses can expect to pay more like €20 to €30 per day.
Some remote areas – such as Maramureş, Transylvania’s Saxon churches, Moldavia’s painted churches, much of Moldova – are far easier to see with a guide or a hired car. Those wanting to go on long-term hikes should consider going with a guide too.
In both Romania and Moldova the only legal tender is the leu (plural: lei), though they are separate currencies in each country and have different exchange rates. In Romania you’ll see many prices quoted in euros, while in Moldova people talk in US dollars. Consequently, this book quotes prices in euros for Romania, and in dollars for Moldova.
After tumultuous times of inflation and devaluation in the 1990s, both currencies are showing signs of stability. Joining the EU could mean a rise in prices in Romania, though many things have already risen to a level comparable to some EU members from Eastern Europe.
ATMs (cash points) are everywhere and give 24-hour withdrawals in lei on your Cirrus, Plus, Visa, MasterCard or Eurocard. Some banks, such as Banca Comercială Română, give cash advances on credit cards in your home currency.
To change dollars, euros or pounds, you often need to show a passport. Be wary of changers with bodyguard goons out front. Some changers advertise juicy rates, but disguise a ‘9’ as a ‘0’ subtly etc. Count your money carefully.
Black market activity is not seen much. Don’t change money on the street.