Gentle haggling is common in crafts markets; in all other instances you’re expected to pay the stated price.
Dangers & Annoyances
Romania is a relatively safe country, but there are some common scams to be aware of.
Watch out for jacked-up prices for tourists in Bucharest restaurants, taxis that charge extortionate fares (call for one from companies recommended by your hotel), and a lifted wallet if you’re not careful in public squares or jam-packed buses – pretty much like anywhere in the world. Outside the capital, and away from touristy zones like Braşov, you’ll probably end up being surprised you were ever concerned.
Stray dogs are an annoyance, but rarely pose a danger. Avoid the temptation to pat them. The best strategy is to stay out of their way and they'll stay out of yours.
A Hostelling International (HI) card yields a token discount in some hostels (but note that an HI card is normally not necessary for staying in most private hostels). You can become a member by joining your own country's Youth Hostel Association (YHA) or IYHF (International Youth Hostel Federation); see www.hihostels.com for details.
Holders of an International Student Identity Card (ISIC) are privy to many discounts in Romania. A full list (in Romanian) of ISIC discounts as well as many helpful hints for student travellers in Romania can be found at the local ISIC website www.isic.ro.
Embassies & Consulates
The website Embassy Finder (http://embassy-finder.com) maintains an up-to-date list of consulates and embassies around the world. Embassies are located in Bucharest, while several countries maintain consulates in other cities around the country. New Zealand does not maintain an embassy in Romania; official affairs are handled through the country's embassy in Belgium.
Emergency & Important Numbers
|Romania's country code||40|
|International access code||00|
|Ambulance & other emergency services||112|
Entry & Exit Formalities
All international visitors to Romania are required to have a valid passport (EU members must carry a valid EU ID card). The expiration date of the passport should exceed your travel dates by at least three months, though some airlines will not allow passengers to board unless the passport is valid for at least six months.
- You’re allowed to import hard currency up to a maximum of €10,000 or the equivalent.
- Goods valued over €1000 should be declared upon arrival.
- For foreigners, duty-free allowances for items purchased outside of the EU are 4L of wine, 2L of spirits and 200 cigarettes. For more information, go to www.customs.ro.
Generally not required for stays of up to 90 days. Passport holders of EU member states can stay indefinitely.
Citizens of EU countries do not need visas to visit Romania and can stay indefinitely. Citizens of the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Japan and many other countries can stay for up to 90 days without a visa. Other nationalities should check current requirements with the Romanian embassy or consulate in their home country. As visa requirements can change, check with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (www.mae.ro) before departure.
Note that Romania, while a member of the EU, is not part of the EU's common border and customs area known as the Schengen area. In practice, this means that regardless of nationality you will have to show a passport or EU identity card when entering from EU member states Hungary and Bulgaria, as well as from non-EU states Ukraine, Moldova and Serbia.
Although largely informal in their day-to-day interactions, Romanians do observe some (unspoken) rules.
- Visiting Always offer to remove your shoes when entering a private home.
- Invitations It's polite to bring flowers or a bottle of wine to a private party.
- Greetings Shake hands with men, women and children when meeting for the first time and when saying goodbye. Close friends normally greet each other with an air-kiss on both cheeks.
- Church Dress appropriately when visiting a church or monastery (no short pants or uncovered shoulders). Talk quietly and respect any bans on the use of cameras or mobile phones.
Public attitudes toward homosexuality remain generally negative. In spite of this, Romania has made significant legal progress in decriminalising homosexual acts and adopting antidiscrimination laws.
- There is no legal provision for same-sex partnerships.
- Bucharest remains the most tolerant city in the country, though here, too, open displays of affection between same-sex couples are rare.
- The Bucharest-based Accept Association (www.acceptromania.ro) is an NGO that defends and promotes the rights of gays and lesbians at a national level. Each year in June the group helps to organise the six-day festival Bucharest Pride, with films, parties, conferences and a parade.
- Travel insurance is not compulsory to enter Romania but a decent policy that covers medical expenses, theft or loss is always a good idea.
- Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.
Checking insurance quotes…
Romania is well-wired, and the majority of hotels, above a basic pension or guestroom, invariably offer some form of internet access, normally wi-fi, for you to use with your own laptop, smartphone or tablet device.
Many bars, cafes and restaurants offer free wi-fi for customers, though the strength and reliability of the signal can vary considerably. McDonald's and KFC outlets nationwide offer free wi-fi for customers.
Finding a Computer
Finding a computer to use for a few minutes of internet access has gotten harder as many hotels have dropped the former practice of making a computer terminal available for guests.
- Larger hotels will sometimes have a 'business centre', though this may incur an added fee.
- The situation with internet cafes is much the same. As more Romanians purchase their own computers, the number of internet cafes has dropped.
- Internet cafes normally charge 4 to 6 lei per hour.
- Other options include the tourist information offices, which may have a terminal available for a few minutes of gratis surfing, or the local library.
Foreigners in Romania, as elsewhere, are subject to the laws of the host country. While your embassy or consulate is the best stop in any emergency, bear in mind there are some things it cannot do for you, like getting local laws or regulations waived because you're a foreigner, investigating a crime, providing legal advice or representation in civil or criminal cases, getting you out of jail, or lending you money.
A consul can usually issue emergency passports, contact relatives and friends, advise on how to transfer funds, provide lists of reliable local doctors, lawyers and interpreters, and visit you if you've been arrested or jailed.
Romanian police take a dim view toward illegal drug use of any kind, including cannabis, as well as obvious displays of public drunkenness.
- Newspapers Catch up on current affairs with the Nine O’Clock (www.nineoclock.ro), an online daily newspaper. Foreign papers can be found at some bookshops and gift stores of upmarket hotels.
- Radio State-run Romanian Radio is the main broadcaster, operating on AM and FM; programs are in Romanian.
- TV Televiziunea Română (TVR) is the state broadcaster, with six channels and regional studios in large cities. There are several private channels, including Pro TV and Antena 1. Programs are in Romanian, though movies are often broadcast in their original language and subtitled.
ATMs are widely available. Credit cards are widely accepted in hotels and restaurants.
ATMs (cash points) are everywhere and give 24-hour withdrawals in lei with a variety of international bank cards, including Visa and MasterCard.
- Romanian ATMs require a four-digit PIN.
- Before leaving home, inform your bank where you're going, so the card security company does not (protectively) block your card once your Romanian transactions start coming through.
International credit and debit cards, including Visa and MasterCard, are widely accepted at hotels, restaurants and shops in cities and large towns. In rural areas, you'll often need to pay with cash.
- American Express cards are typically accepted at larger hotels and restaurants, though they are not as widely recognised as other cards.
- Credit-card transactions require a PIN number, so it's best to work the details out with your bank prior to departure.
- You will need to have a valid credit card if you plan to hire a car.
- Credit cards can be used to get cash advances at most banks.
The Romanian currency is the leu (plural: lei), listed in some banks and currency exchange offices as RON. One leu is divided into 100 bani. Banknotes come in denominations of 1 leu, 5 lei,10 lei, 50 lei, 100 lei, 200 lei and 500 lei. The coins come in 50 bani and relatively useless 10 bani pieces.
- The leu is a stable currency that has more or less held its own with respect to the euro and US dollar in recent years.
- Despite the fact that Romania is a member of the EU, the euro does not circulate. There is little point in converting your money into euro prior to arrival, since you will have to convert it to lei anyway.
- Some large hotels may quote rates in euro, but this is done for the convenience of international travellers. Hotel bills paid for with a debit or credit card will be charged in lei at the prevailing exchange rate.
- Try to keep small-denomination (1 leu and 5 lei) notes on hand for shops, transport tickets, cafes and tips for waiters. Using the 100 lei notes that ATMs often spit out can be difficult in practice.
|New Zealand||NZ$1||2.90 lei|
For current exchange rates see www.xe.com.
The best place to exchange money is at a bank. You'll pay a small commission, but get a decent rate.
You can also change money at a private exchange booth (casa de schimb) but be wary of commission charges and always ask how many lei you will receive before handing over your bills.
You will usually need to show a passport to change money, so always have it handy.
Never change money on the street with strangers; it's almost always a rip-off.
- Restaurants Tip 10% of the bill to reward good service.
- Taxis Drivers won't expect a tip, but it's fine to round the fare up to reward special service.
- Hotels Tip cleaning staff 3 to 5 lei per night or 20 lei per week to reward good service. In luxury hotels, tip doormen and concierges 5 to 10 lei for special assistance as warranted.
- Personal services Tip hairdressers and other services around 10%.
Shopping centres and malls generally have longer hours and are open from 9am to 8pm Saturday to Sunday. Museums are usually closed on Monday, and have shorter hours outside high season.
Banks 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday; 9am to 1pm Saturday (varies)
Museums 10am to 6pm Tuesday to Friday; 10am to 4pm Saturday and Sunday
Offices 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday; 9am to 1pm Saturday (varies)
Post Offices 8am to 7pm Monday to Friday; 8am to 1pm Saturday (cities)
Restaurants 9am to 11pm Monday to Friday; 10am to 11pm Saturday and Sunday
Shops 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday; 9am to 2pm Saturday
The Romanian Postal Service (www.posta-romana.ro) is slow but reliable and fine for sending letters and nonessential parcels home. Buy stamps in post offices, as letters must normally be weighed to determine correct postage.
Delivery time within Europe is one week; overseas letters will take seven to 10 days.
If you'll be travelling during public holidays it’s wise to book ahead, as some hotels in popular destinations may be full.
New Year (1 and 2 January)
Orthodox Easter Monday (April/May)
Labour Day (1 May)
Pentecost (May/June, 50 days after Easter Sunday)
Assumption of Mary (15 August)
Feast of St Andrew (30 November)
Romanian National Day (1 December)
Christmas (25 and 26 December)
- Smoking Prohibited in all public indoor spaces, including all hotels, bars, clubs and restaurants, though the rules may be spottily enforced.
Taxes & Refunds
Value-added tax (VAT) is a sales tax levied on most goods and services. In Romania the rate is 20% on most goods. Restaurants and hotels must always include VAT in their prices. It’s sometimes possible for visitors to claim a refund of VAT paid on goods.
Domestic & International Calls
Romania has a modern telephone network of landlines and mobile (cell) phones. It's possible to receive and make direct international calls from anywhere in the country. Romania's country code is 40.
- All Romanian landline numbers have 10 digits, consisting of a zero, plus a city code and the number.
- The formula differs slightly depending on whether the number is in Bucharest or outside of Bucharest. Bucharest numbers take the form: 0 + two-digit city code (21 or 31) + seven-digit number. Outside of Bucharest, numbers take the form: 0 + three-digit city code + six-digit number.
- Mobile-phone numbers can be identified by a three-digit prefix starting with 7. All mobile numbers have 10 digits: 0 + three-digit prefix (7xx) + six-digit number.
Calling Within Romania
- If you are calling from within Romania, to reach a landline outside of Bucharest, dial 0 + three-digit city code + six-digit number.
- To reach a landline in Bucharest, dial 0 + 21 (or 31) + seven-digit number.
- To reach any mobile number, dial 0 + three-digit mobile prefix + six-digit number.
Dialing From Abroad
To reach a Romanian landline from abroad, dial your country's international access code, then 40 (Romanian country code), then the city code (minus the zero) and the six- or seven-digit local number. For example, a call to a landline in Bucharest from abroad would take the form: international access code + 40 (country code) + 21 + seven-digit number.
- For a mobile number, use the three-digit mobile prefix instead of the city code. A call to a mobile number from abroad would follow the form: international access code + 40 (country code) + three-digit mobile prefix + six-digit number.
- To call abroad from Romania, dial the international access code in Romania (00), then the code for the country you want to call, then the area code and number.
Local SIM cards can be used in European, Australian and some American phones. Other phones must be set to roaming.
Romanian mobile (cell) phones use the GSM 900/1800 network, which is the standard throughout much of Europe as well as in Australia and New Zealand and many other parts of the world. This band is not compatible with most mobile phones in North America or Japan (though multiband phones do work across regions). Ask your provider if you're uncertain whether your phone will work.
- Using your own phone and SIM card in Romania could expose you to expensive roaming fees, particularly for long calls or data downloads. A cheaper option is to buy a prepaid Romanian SIM card, which gives you a temporary local number and charges local (cheaper) rates for calls, texts and data transfers. These cards only work with phones that are 'unlocked' (able to accept foreign SIM cards).
- Prepaid SIM plans start at about 20 lei per card and usually include some bonus minutes. They are offered by all three of Romania's main carriers: Vodafone (www.vodafone.ro), Telekom Romania (www.telekom.ro) and Orange (www.orange.ro).
- Buy prepaid SIM cards at any provider shop or independent phone seller. You can top up cards at phone shops, newspaper kiosks and even some ATMs. Shops around the country also sell new or used phones that can be used in conjunction with local prepaid SIM cards.
- The situation is more complicated if you have a smartphone like an iPhone or Android device that may not be easily unlocked. With these phones, it's best to contact your home provider to consider short-term international calling and data plans appropriate to your needs.
- Even if you're not using your smartphone as a phone, it still makes a handy wi-fi device. Switch off the 'data roaming' setting to avoid unwanted roaming fees.
Pay Phones & Phonecards
- Public phones usually require a magnetic-stripe phonecard, which you can buy from post offices, newspaper kiosks, and some tourist offices and hotel reception desks.
- Phonecard rates start at about 10 lei and allow for a certain number of impulses (minutes).
- It's possible to dial abroad from a pay telephone.
- All of Romania lies within the Eastern European time zone, GMT/UTC+2, one hour ahead of most of continental Europe. Romanian local time is two hours ahead of London and seven hours ahead of New York.
- Romania observes daylight saving time, and puts the clock forward one hour at 2am on the last Sunday in March and back again at 3am on the last Sunday in October.
- The 24-hour clock is used for official purposes, including transport schedules. In everyday conversation people commonly use the 12-hour clock.
- Public toilets are few and far between and often not very clean. Use better facilities in restaurants or hotels when you have the chance.
- Toilets are labelled toaletă or simply 'WC'.
- Men should look for 'B' (bărbaţi). Women’s toilets are marked with an 'F' (femei).
- The fee for a public toilet is usually 1 or 2 lei, collected by a toilet attendant sitting at the door. Have small bills ready.
- Some toilets have a plastic bin by their side – this is for used toilet paper.
- The Romanian National Tourist Office (www.romaniatourism.com) maintains a wonderful website with a trove of useful information. There's a large English-language section on festivals and events, accommodation and tips on what to see and do all around the country.
- Romania’s national network of tourist offices has made encouraging strides in recent years. Nearly all big cities (with the notable exception of urban centres in Wallachia like Craiova, Ploieşti and Piteşti) have decent tourist offices. Tourist information can still be tough to track down in rural areas.
- If you turn up in a city that doesn't have a tourist office, you're pretty much on your own. Local bookshops or newsagents can sometimes sell a local map, but don't expect much help from local travel agencies. They are far more preoccupied with outbound travel by Romanians than with assisting visiting foreigners.
Travel with Children
Travelling with children in Romania shouldn't create any specific problems: children often receive price breaks on local transport and for accommodation and entertainment; age limits for particular freebies or discounts vary from place to place, but are not often rigidly enforced; basic supplies for children are easily available in cities.
For general suggestions on how to make a trip with kids easier, pick up a copy of Lonely Planet's Travel with Children.
- Romania is not well equipped for people with disabilities, even though there has been some improvement over recent years.
- Wheelchair ramps are available only at some upmarket hotels and restaurants, and public transport is a challenge for anyone with mobility problems.
- Romania Motivation Foundation (www.motivation.ro) is a local organisation with offices around the country to assist people in wheelchairs and with mobility issues. It has a good website in English for people confined to wheelchairs.
- Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
Volunteering options in Romania usually centre on helping abandoned children or children with special needs. Organisations often have a religious or Christian undertone, and volunteers are typically expected to pay for the experience.
Volunteer Romania (www.volunteerromania.co.uk) is run by a British couple, based near Deva in Transylvania. Volunteering is done in two-week intervals throughout the year, working with orphaned or disadvantaged children.
Global Volunteers (www.globalvolunteers.org) offers one- and two-week volunteering projects helping orphans and teaching English. Volunteers pay for the experience (a two-week slot is US$2295, including lodging, food and insurance).
Sites like www.volunteerabroad.com list many other options.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures Romania uses the metric system.
Working in Romania is possible only with a valid work permit issued by the Ministry of Labor & Social Protection (www.mmuncii.ro; Romanian only) and in conjunction with a Romanian employer. The procedure for obtaining a permit should be initiated before arriving. Working in Romania also normally requires a long-stay visa. The website of the Romanian Ministry for Foreign Affairs (www.mae.ro) has information in English on steps for obtaining such a visa.
Just Landed (www.justlanded.com) is a helpful resource for sorting out the bureaucracy and getting started.