Our trip to Romania was definitely an interesting one and as we returned, it became clear that there were a few things that we wish we had known before travelling to this country. This isn’t at all a suggestion that you shouldn’t visit Romania, far from it, there is plenty to see and experience, but there are a few things that you should know before you travel.
- There is information out there that taxi drivers will try to defraud you and over-charge you. It is not an exaggeration. On our first night in Bucharest, we ordered a taxi from our hotel, a place we were told we could trust, and the taxi took us to a location no where near our destination and demanded ten-times the expected price for the ride. We were outraged, but paid, mostly because we didn’t know what else to do. We then found a restaurant nearby and asked for a taxi to take us to our intended destination. After a few minutes, it was clear that the driver did not know where he was going, so we asked him to take us back to our hotel. Upon arrival, the driver asked for twice the price that was displayed on the meter. When going inside to get assistance from the hotel, the driver panicked and forced the other one of us out of the vehicle. Do not trust taxi drivers, know how much it should cost before you get in, and understand that their reputation is duly deserved.
- Visiting Bucharest is like stepping back in time to the 1950’s. Unlike most of the European cities that we have visited, this city was bleak, sterile, and not-particularly welcoming. There isn’t much to see and when we did visit the old town area, where normally you see the most interesting historical architecture, we were surprised to see a variety of sex shops, strip clubs, and massage parlors amongst the various restaurants. It certainly was a different experience from other old towns that we have had the pleasure to see.
- Train travel is not as convenient as other places. We have become quite accustomed to being able to take trains to all of the important destinations, but this is not necessarily true in Romania. You can get from one large city to another, but that is all and you must purchase your tickets in person at the train station. Also, we purchased first class tickets, which wasn’t really necessary as there was relatively little difference between first and second class. It is still a convenient way to travel, but clearly not as nice as transportation in other countries. We ended up taking a shuttle back from Brasov to the Bucharest airport just because it was not only not convenient, but also meant that we had to deal with the taxi drivers of Bucharest once again, so for the same price and time, it was an easy decision.
- The country is in EU probationary status, which means that you are required to go through customs, even when travelling from within the EU. This is not a big deal, but it was surprising since we had gotten used to just showing our passport at the airport gate versus having to spend time going through customs.
- Romania does not use Euros. Once again, this isn’t necessarily a surprise, there are other countries where this is true, but be aware that your bank might flag any transactions as fraudulent. We had obviously let all of our banks know that we were travelling to Romania, so we were surprised when we weren’t able to make a withdrawal from our account. When we contacted our bank, we were told that it didn’t have to do with our travel notification, it is simply that they didn’t trust any transaction emanating from Romania, so withdrawals were disallowed. Obviously this is always the best way to get local currency, so it was frustrating and a surprise, but we were able to work our way around it, but at a higher cost.
- Driving can be quite challenging. We were warned not to rent a car while we were in Romania, which we didn’t, and it was probably for the best. Driver’s are quite aggressive and don’t respect lanes, turn signals, or pedestrians. Basically, it is as simple as driver beware. You need to be defensive, whether walking or driving, and assume that the driver next to you is going to do something erratic and ignore your safety.
As we mentioned, this isn’t meant to deter anyone from visiting Romania, especially since we would recommend that people do visit. We have been to many different countries, some of which were considered to be dangerous or risky. We wouldn’t put Romania in exactly the same category, but it was an eye-opening destination, one which will definitely leave an impression upon us. We enjoyed our time there, but there were definitely some things that we wish we had known before we had travelled, so hopefully this will help you if you should desire to visit Romania.