Romania Travel Guide – Everything You Need to Know

Romania, a captivating Eastern European destination, is a hidden gem awaiting discovery by travelers. With its diverse landscapes, rich history, and vibrant culture, Romania offers an array of experiences for tourists. From the mystical castles of Transylvania to the picturesque Carpathian Mountains, this country invites exploration and adventure.

What’s the Best Time to Visit? 📅

The best time to visit Romania as a tourist depends on your interests and what you want to experience. Romania experiences distinct seasons, each with its own charm:

  1. Spring (April to June): Spring is a beautiful time to visit Romania when the landscape comes alive with blossoming flowers and lush greenery. The weather is generally mild, and it’s an excellent time for outdoor activities like hiking and exploring the countryside. This is also a good time to visit cities like Bucharest and Brasov, as the weather is pleasant.
  2. Summer (June to August): Summer is the peak tourist season in Romania, with warm and sunny weather. It’s an ideal time for hiking in the Carpathian Mountains, exploring the countryside, and enjoying outdoor festivals. Popular destinations, like Bran Castle and the Painted Monasteries, can be crowded during this season.
  3. Autumn (September to November): The fall foliage in Romania is stunning, and this is an excellent time for nature enthusiasts. The weather remains pleasant through September, making it a great time for exploring the outdoors. September is also the grape harvest season, so wine lovers can enjoy wine tastings at local vineyards.
  4. Winter (December to March): If you’re a fan of winter sports, Romania’s Carpathian Mountains offer opportunities for skiing and snowboarding. Popular winter destinations include Poiana Brasov and Sinaia. The cities, especially Bucharest, take on a festive atmosphere during the holiday season.
  5. Transylvania in October: October is a special time in Transylvania when you can experience Halloween-themed events and visit the region’s famous castles, like Bran Castle (commonly associated with Dracula).

The best time to visit Romania depends on your interests. If you prefer milder weather and fewer crowds, spring and autumn are excellent choices. For outdoor activities and festivals, summer is ideal, while winter is the best time for winter sports enthusiasts. It’s essential to plan your visit according to your interests and check the weather conditions for your chosen season.

What’s the Best Way to Get Around? 🚌

Getting around Romania as a tourist is relatively straightforward, with various transportation options available. Here are the best ways to explore the country:

  1. Train: Romania has an extensive and reliable train network, making it an excellent way to travel between major cities and regions. The trains offer various classes, including express and sleeper trains for long-distance journeys.
  2. Bus: Buses are a common means of transportation, especially for traveling to smaller towns and rural areas. Numerous bus companies operate, and bus services are generally affordable. Some routes may be slower due to road conditions.
  3. Car Rental: Renting a car gives you the freedom to explore the countryside and off-the-beaten-path destinations at your own pace. Romania’s road network is generally in good condition, but be prepared for hilly terrain and winding roads, especially in the Carpathian Mountains.
  4. Domestic Flights: Romania has several airports, and domestic flights are an option for covering longer distances quickly. However, flights are less common for domestic travel compared to trains and buses.
  5. Metro: Bucharest, the capital city, has a metro system that’s convenient for getting around the city. It’s an efficient way to avoid traffic in the busy capital.
  6. Tram and Trolleybus: Bucharest and a few other cities have tram and trolleybus networks, which are useful for short-distance travel within the city.
  7. Taxi: Taxis are widely available in cities and are reasonably priced. Ensure that the taxi has a working meter, or agree on a fare in advance.
  8. Cycling: Romania offers some scenic cycling routes, especially in rural areas and along the Danube River. Several cities, like Sibiu and Cluj-Napoca, have started promoting bike-sharing programs.
  9. Horse-Drawn Carriages: In some rural areas, especially in Maramureș, you can experience the local culture by taking horse-drawn carriage rides.
  10. Ferries: In regions with lakes and rivers, ferries are an option for scenic travel. For example, you can take a ferry ride on the Danube River.

When traveling within cities, public transportation options are readily available. In rural areas and smaller towns, however, services may be less frequent, and it’s essential to plan your journeys in advance. Additionally, English may not be widely spoken in more remote areas, so having a translation app or some knowledge of basic Romanian phrases can be helpful. Overall, Romania’s transportation system provides a variety of options for tourists to explore this beautiful country.

What’s the Official Language?

The official language of Romania is Romanian. While English is not as widely spoken in rural areas, you’ll find that many people in urban areas, especially those involved in the tourism industry, can communicate in English. Here are some basic Romanian words and phrases that can be helpful for tourists:

  1. Hello – “Bună ziua” (Good day) / “Salut” (informal)
  2. Goodbye – “La revedere”
  3. Please – “Te rog” (informal) / “Vă rog” (formal)
  4. Thank you – “Mulțumesc”
  5. Yes – “Da”
  6. No – “Nu”
  7. Excuse me – “Scuzați-mă”
  8. Sorry – “Îmi pare rău”
  9. How much is this? – “Cât costă asta?”
  10. What is your name? – “Cum te numești?” (informal) / “Cum vă numiți?” (formal)
  11. My name is… – “Mă numesc…”

Romanians generally appreciate when visitors make an effort to speak their language, even if it’s just a few basic phrases. It can enhance your travel experience and show respect for the local culture. However, as mentioned, English is often spoken in tourist areas, making it relatively easy to communicate with locals.

Where to Stay? 🏨

Romania offers a range of accommodation options to suit various preferences and budgets. Whether you’re looking for luxury, historic charm, or budget-friendly stays, you’ll find suitable places to stay in Romania. Here are some options:

  1. Hotels: Romania has a variety of hotels, ranging from international chains to boutique hotels. Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca, and other major cities offer luxury options, while smaller towns may have comfortable and more affordable choices.
  2. Guesthouses and Bed and Breakfasts: In rural areas and smaller towns, guesthouses and B&Bs are popular options. These accommodations often provide a homely atmosphere and interactions with locals. They can be an excellent way to experience the country’s traditional culture.
  3. Hostels: Romania has hostels that cater to budget-conscious travelers. These are common in cities like Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca, and Brasov and provide shared dormitory-style rooms or private rooms at more affordable rates.
  4. Pensions: Pensions are small, family-run guesthouses found in various regions of Romania, offering a mix of comfort and local hospitality.
  5. Historic Inns and Castles: Romania is known for its historic inns and castles that have been converted into accommodations. These can provide a unique and atmospheric experience, especially in Transylvania.
  6. Resorts: Romania boasts several mountain and spa resorts. Poiana Brasov and Sinaia are well-known for winter sports, while the Prahova Valley is a popular spa destination.
  7. Apartment Rentals: In cities like Bucharest, you can find apartments available for short-term rentals on platforms like Airbnb. This can provide the comfort of a home away from home.
  8. Rural Homestays: In rural areas, you can arrange homestays, where you stay with local families and experience traditional Romanian life. This is an authentic way to immerse yourself in the culture.
  9. Camping: Romania offers camping opportunities in many natural areas, including the Carpathian Mountains and the Black Sea coast.

When choosing where to stay in Romania, consider factors such as your budget, the region you plan to visit, and the type of experience you’re seeking. It’s advisable to book accommodations in advance, especially during the peak tourist seasons, to secure your stay. Romania’s tourism industry is growing, and the country offers a variety of choices for travelers seeking comfort and unique experiences.

What to Eat? 🍽️

Romanian cuisine is hearty and flavorful, with influences from various cultures, including Turkish, Hungarian, and German. When visiting Romania as a tourist, be sure to try these must-try Romanian dishes and foods:

  1. Mămăligă: This is Romania’s version of polenta, made from boiled cornmeal. It’s a staple and is often served as a side dish or the base for other dishes.
  2. Sarmale: These are cabbage rolls stuffed with a mixture of ground meat, rice, and herbs. Sarmale are a classic Romanian comfort food, often enjoyed during holidays and special occasions.
  3. Mici: Also known as “mititei,” these are small, grilled sausages made from a mix of ground meat (usually a combination of pork, beef, and lamb) and spices. They’re often served with mustard and bread.
  4. Ciorbă: Romanian soups are famous, and ciorbă is a sour soup made from meat (usually pork or chicken), vegetables, and sour cream. One popular variation is “ciorbă de burtă” made with tripe.
  5. Mămăligă cu brânză și smântână: Mămăligă served with cheese and sour cream is a simple yet delicious dish.
  6. Papanași: These are Romanian doughnuts, typically made from cottage cheese, deep-fried, and served with sour cream and jam.
  7. Mucenici: A dessert made to celebrate the feast of the 40 Martyrs, mucenici consists of twisted dough pastries that are boiled and then baked or fried. They are usually flavored with honey and walnuts.
  8. Salam de Sibiu: This is a sweet sausage made from ground hazelnuts and cocoa. It’s a popular dessert in Sibiu, a city in Transylvania.
  9. Tochitură: A hearty stew made from pork, sausages, and smoked bacon, often served with mămăligă and fried eggs.
  10. Cabbage Stew (Varză a la Cluj): A traditional dish in Cluj-Napoca, it features sauerkraut stewed with pork.
  11. Eggplant Salad (Salată de vinete): Roasted eggplants are mashed and mixed with onions, garlic, and mayonnaise, creating a creamy and flavorful dip.
  12. Zacusca: A savory spread made from roasted red peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant, often served with bread or as a side dish.
  13. Drob: A traditional Easter dish, drob is a lamb-based dish mixed with vegetables, herbs, and eggs, then baked or boiled.
  14. Cabbage Rolls (Varză călită): A variation of sarmale, this dish features cabbage leaves cooked with sausages and bacon.
  15. Polish Doughnuts (Gogoașe): These doughnuts are popular in Romania, especially during holidays.

Romania’s cuisine offers a mix of comforting and unique dishes, often made from locally sourced ingredients. Be sure to explore local markets, restaurants, and street food vendors to savor these traditional flavors during your visit.

What to See? 🔍

Romania offers a wealth of stunning and culturally rich places to visit. Here are some must-see destinations and attractions for tourists:

  1. Bucharest: The capital city is a vibrant mix of old and new, featuring impressive architecture, museums, and a thriving arts scene. Explore the historic Old Town, visit the Palace of the Parliament, and take in the local culture.
  2. Bran Castle: Often associated with the Dracula legend, Bran Castle is a picturesque fortress in Transylvania. Explore its history and enjoy the stunning views from the castle.
  3. Sibiu: This charming Transylvanian city is known for its well-preserved medieval architecture, cobblestone streets, and vibrant cultural scene. Don’t miss the Brukenthal National Museum and the Council Tower.
  4. Sighișoara: Birthplace of Vlad the Impaler (the inspiration for Dracula), Sighișoara is a beautifully preserved medieval town with a historic citadel.
  5. Painted Monasteries of Northern Moldova: These UNESCO World Heritage sites are known for their stunning frescoes and are a testament to the artistic and religious heritage of the region.
  6. Transfăgărășan Highway: This winding mountain road, often dubbed “the best road in the world,” offers breathtaking views of the Carpathian Mountains and is a must for scenic drives.
  7. Peles Castle: Located in the town of Sinaia, this Neo-Renaissance castle is a masterpiece of architecture and design. Explore its ornate rooms and beautiful gardens.
  8. Danube Delta: This unique and biodiverse region is a paradise for nature lovers. Take boat trips to explore its waterways, observe wildlife, and savor fresh fish dishes.
  9. Cluj-Napoca: A lively city in Transylvania, Cluj-Napoca is known for its historical architecture, vibrant arts scene, and vibrant student population.
  10. Turda Salt Mine: This underground amusement park and museum is located in a salt mine and is a fascinating and unique attraction.
  11. Retezat National Park: Explore Romania’s pristine nature in this national park, known for its hiking trails, waterfalls, and diverse flora and fauna.
  12. Timișoara: Known as the “Little Vienna,” Timișoara boasts a rich cultural heritage and a lovely historic center.
  13. Maramureș: This region in the northern part of the country is known for its traditional wooden churches, rolling hills, and unique rural culture.
  14. Peleș Castle: Situated in the Carpathian Mountains, Peleș Castle is an opulent Neo-Renaissance palace that is a true architectural gem.
  15. Hunyad Castle: Also known as Corvin Castle, this medieval fortress is one of Romania’s most impressive and is often associated with Gothic legends.

Romania’s diversity offers travelers a wide range of experiences, from exploring historic cities to hiking in the Carpathian Mountains and delving into the country’s rich cultural heritage. Whether you’re interested in history, nature, or culture, Romania has something to captivate every traveler.

What to Do? 📸

Romania offers a wide range of activities and experiences for tourists. Here are some must-do things to make the most of your visit to this beautiful country:

  1. Explore Castles and Fortresses: Romania is home to a multitude of castles and fortresses, including Bran Castle (Dracula’s Castle), Peleș Castle, and Corvin Castle. Explore their history and admire their architecture.
  2. Take a Scenic Drive: Drive the Transfăgărășan Highway or the Transalpina for breathtaking mountain scenery and beautiful landscapes.
  3. Visit Painted Monasteries: Discover the Painted Monasteries of Northern Moldova, adorned with intricate frescoes and rich cultural history.
  4. Hike in the Carpathian Mountains: Enjoy the pristine nature and hiking trails in the Carpathians, with opportunities for both beginners and experienced hikers.
  5. Sample Romanian Cuisine: Savor traditional dishes like mămăligă, sarmale, and mici. Don’t forget to try local desserts like papanași.
  6. Experience Traditional Villages: Visit Maramureș and other regions to experience the culture and traditions of Romania’s rural areas. Enjoy wooden churches, unique wooden gates, and charming villages.
  7. Attend a Folk Festival: If your visit coincides with a local festival, be sure to attend and witness traditional music, dance, and celebrations.
  8. Relax in Thermal Baths: Romania has a number of natural thermal baths and spa resorts, including those in Baile Herculane and Sovata.
  9. Explore the Danube Delta: Take a boat trip in the Danube Delta to observe wildlife, see unique flora, and experience life in remote fishing villages.
  10. Discover Romanian Art and Culture: Visit museums and galleries in cities like Bucharest and Cluj-Napoca to explore Romania’s rich artistic heritage.
  11. Go Wine Tasting: Romania has a growing wine industry, with wineries in regions like Dealu Mare and Cotnari offering tastings of local wines.
  12. Experience Local Markets: Explore traditional markets like the Obor Market in Bucharest or the Sibiu Christmas Market for local crafts, food, and souvenirs.
  13. Participate in Outdoor Activities: Engage in outdoor adventures like horseback riding, mountain biking, and paragliding in various regions.
  14. Witness the Merry Cemetery: Visit the unique “Cimitirul Vesel” in Maramureș, where colorful tombstones celebrate the lives of the deceased with humor and art.
  15. Explore the Transylvanian Villages: Walk through the charming villages of Transylvania, which are known for their beauty and history.
  16. Visit Timișoara: Known as the “City of Revolutions,” Timișoara has a rich history and a vibrant cultural scene. Explore its squares and historical architecture.
  17. Attend a Traditional Dance Performance: Experience the energy and grace of traditional Romanian dance in local performances.

Romania’s diverse landscapes and cultural heritage offer a wide array of experiences for travelers. Whether you’re interested in history, nature, or culture, Romania has plenty to offer. Don’t forget to interact with the friendly locals, who can provide insights and recommendations to enhance your trip.

Culture and Safety 🦺

Culture:

  1. Respect Local Customs: Romanians value politeness and respect in social interactions. Greetings are important, and using polite language and gestures is appreciated.
  2. Gifting: If invited to a local’s home, it’s customary to bring a small gift, such as flowers, sweets, or a bottle of wine.
  3. Dress Code: While in larger cities, dress is modern and casual, more rural and traditional areas may expect more modest attire. When visiting churches or monasteries, it’s advisable to wear clothing that covers shoulders and knees.
  4. Tipping: Tipping in Romania is customary. In restaurants, it’s common to leave a tip of 10-15% of the bill. For services like taxis and hotel staff, rounding up or leaving a small tip is appreciated.
  5. Gestures: Common hand gestures can have different meanings in different cultures. Be aware of local customs to avoid unintentional misunderstandings.
  6. Language: While many Romanians, especially in urban areas, speak English, it’s appreciated when visitors make an effort to learn a few basic Romanian phrases. This can go a long way in building positive relationships with locals.

Safety:

  1. General Safety: Romania is considered a safe destination for tourists. Violent crime is relatively low, but like in any country, it’s essential to take standard precautions, such as safeguarding your belongings.
  2. Scams: Be cautious of common tourist scams, such as overcharging in taxis or unauthorized tour operators. Always use reputable services and check for official permits when necessary.
  3. Pickpocketing: In crowded areas and on public transportation, be vigilant against pickpocketing. Keep your valuables secure and be cautious with your belongings.
  4. Traffic and Driving: Romania has narrow, winding roads, especially in the mountainous regions. If you’re driving, take care on the roads, and be cautious of wildlife. Use seatbelts and drive defensively.
  5. Natural Hazards: Romania experiences occasional earthquakes and severe weather. Pay attention to local alerts and follow safety instructions in case of natural disasters.
  6. Health Precautions: Ensure you have proper travel insurance that covers medical emergencies. Familiarize yourself with local healthcare facilities and have any necessary vaccinations, such as for tick-borne diseases if you plan to hike.
  7. Emergency Numbers: Know the local emergency numbers, such as 112 for police, medical services, and fire.
  8. Currency Exchange: Use reputable exchange services or banks for currency exchange. Be cautious of unofficial street money changers.
  9. Cultural Sensitivity: Be sensitive when discussing Romania’s history, especially topics related to communism and recent political history.

Overall, Romania is a welcoming and safe destination for tourists, and respecting local customs and taking standard safety precautions will contribute to a pleasant and enjoyable visit. As always, staying informed about the local conditions and being aware of your surroundings is essential when traveling.

Conclusion

For tourists visiting Romania, an enchanting journey awaits, filled with historic treasures, natural wonders, and warm hospitality. Whether you’re wandering through medieval towns, savoring traditional Romanian cuisine, or embarking on outdoor adventures, Romania promises an unforgettable travel experience in the heart of Eastern Europe.