Romania has majestic castles, medieval towns, great hiking
and the cheap skiing of much of the 'undiscovered' former Eastern Countries.You'll be floored at how beautiful Romania is
and you'll almost certainly see signs that it's chasing the dreams of the rest of the West.
Area: 237,500 sq km (91,700
Population: 22.5 million
Capital city: Bucharest (pop
People: Romanians (90%),
Hungarians (7%), Gypsies (2%), Germans, Ukrainians
Language: Romanian, Hungarian
Religion: Romanian Orthodox,
Roman Catholic, Protestant
GDP: US$90 billion
GDP per head: US$4000
Annual growth: -8%
Major industries: Agriculture,
Major trading partners: EU
(esp.Germany, Italy, France), Turkey
Member of EU:no
Facts for the Traveler
Time: GMT/UTC plus 2 hours
Electricity: 220V, 50 Hz
Weights & measures: Metric
Tourism: 2.83 million visitors
When to Go
May and June are the best
months to visit, followed by September and early October. At these times, you can visit the medieval painted monasteries in
southern Bucovina, and enjoy them minus the tourist hordes. Spring and autumn are also the best times for birdwatching in
the Danube Delta. Romania has harsh winters, when tourism is centred on the ski resorts like Poiana Brasov and Sinaia. Snow
lingers as late as mid-May, and the hiking season doesn't begin in earnest till June. The resorts along the Black Sea coast
start filling up in late June and stay packed until mid-August.
Romania has a juicy calendar of folklore festivals. Numerous
smaller ones remain unpublicised, preserving their authenticity but making them very difficult for the traveller to attend.
Regular festivals include the Whit Sunday Szekely Pilgrimage, the largest traditional Szekely folk and religious festival
of the year, in Miercurea Ciuc. The Fundata Fair, a traditional folklore fair originally held for shepherds to meet their
future wives, is at Fundata near Bran in June. July sees International Chamber Music Festival concerts in Brasov and Bran.
In August is Medieval Days, a two week medieval arts, crafts and music festival in Sighisoara and the Hora de la Prislop,
a wild dancing festival on the Prislop Pass. The Sambra oilor is a major pastoral festival to mark the coming down of the
sheep from the mountains, held in and around Bran in September, and in December there's the De la Colind la Stea Christmas
festival in Brasov.
Money & Costs
Currency: leu (plural: lei)
Accommodation will be your
biggest expense in Romania. Cheap accommodation is scarce in Bucharest. Expect to pay at least US$25 for a double room with
shared bath in any hotel within walking distance of the centre of most Romanian cities and towns. Accommodation in private
homes in the countryside starts at US$10 a night, including a home-cooked breakfast.
The cost of dining is rising
- Romanians can't afford to eat out, so most restaurants are geared to 'rich foreigners'. In Bucharest it's tough to eat for
less than US$5 per head, not including alcohol. Eating out is cheaper elsewhere, and a bottle of good Romanian wine can be
as little as US$1.50. Seeing a film or play costs about US$1, and entrance fees to museums are about 20 cents. Public transport
is dirt cheap by Western standards. US$1.70 will take you approximately 100km by bus or comfortable express train. Petrol
is around 40 cents a litre.
It's easy to cash traveler's
checks in Romania, but not very easy to replace stolen ones. Only American Express has an office that issues replacements
in Bucharest. Cash-dispensing ATMs accepting Visa/MasterCard are becoming increasingly widespread in Romania. Credit cards
are widely accepted in hotels, restaurants and shops. They are essential for hiring a car, unless you want to pay cash up
front. Marked, torn or very used notes will often be refused at exchanges. Ensure whatever currency you bring is in good condition.
Taxi drivers drive a hard bargain, so always haggle.
Romania's capital - named
after its legendary founder, a shepherd called Bucur - lies on the Wallachian plains, between the Carpathian foothills and
the Danube river. In the 1930s it was known as 'the Paris of the East'. Since then, earthquakes, WWII bombing and Ceausescu
have combined to destroy much of its prewar beauty.
In the 1980s Ceausescu bulldozed
7000 homes and 15 churches in historic southern Bucharest to build a Civic Centre. The focal point of what locals dubbed 'Ceausima'
is the enormous 12-storey House of the People, intended to be the largest building in the world - it's actually the second,
after the Pentagon. Ceausescu - who was executed just as it neared completion - intended it to house the president's office,
central committee and all the state ministries. The Iliescu government did not know what to do with this white elephant -
many people wanted it demolished - but in 1994 decided to use it to house the Parliament and to host international conferences.
There are guided tours, so you'll get a chance to gawp at the ornate 1000-room interior as well as the mesmerising exterior.For a taste of the old, head for central Bucharest, where the 16th century Old
Court Church contains beautifully preserved frescoes. The George Enescu Museum displays the musician's manuscripts and personal
belongings. Also here is Romania's very own Raffles, the Athenee Palace Hotel, centre of early 20th century decadence, and
the meeting place of Olivia Manning's characters in The Balkan Trilogy. It has just had a US$50 million facelift and is the
city's classiest and most expensive hotel. In western Bucharest you'll find Ghencea Civil Cemetery, final resting place of
the Ceausescus. Nicolae's grave is quite ornate and decorated with flowers and candles, but Elena is apparently less revered
by those who still mourn their overthrow. Their son Nicu (Transylvania boss, drunkard, playboy and one-time partner of the
Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci) is buried close by.
Bucharest offers a wide range
of accommodation options, including private rooms, university campuses, hostels and hotels. The main places are in the centre
or around the main train station (Gara de Nord). Bucharest has seen a rapid influx of flashy, upmarket, expensive restaurants
offering international cuisine, but it is still easy to track down traditional Romanian cooking in central Bucharest. This
area is also the focal point for nightlife: you'll find plenty of entertainment here, including bars, nightclubs, theatres
BRASOV, a medieval Saxon town surrounded by verdant Transylvanian
hills, is one of Romania's most visited places. It was in Brasov that the first public opposition to the Ceausescu regime
occurred - in 1987 thousands of disgruntled workers, angered by wage cuts, long hours, and rationing, took to the streets
demanding basic foodstuffs. Ceausescu's response was to call in the troops (three people were killed) and cut rations even
further.Brasov is on of the most popular cities in Romania, especially
among tourists, foreign and local alike. The Teutonic Knights founded it in 1211
and mountains surround it on three sides. In the 15th century, it was heavily
fortified against Turk invasions. Brasov is the site where the first Romanian
book was printed and where the first Romanian school was established. Other historic
places are the City Hall built in 1420, the 190 ft watchtower called the "Trumpeter's Tower, and the Gothic Protestant "Black
Church" built between 1385 and 1477. It is called the "Black Church" because
of the smoke-blackened walls after a fire in 1689. Here one can listen to organ
concerts and see a great Oriental rug collection. The city gates -- "Poarta Schiei"
-- with its four towers, the art museum, the history museum in a medieval setting are also worth seeing. Just outside of Brasov is Poiana Brasov, the most modern ski resort in Romania. It has 10 major ski slopes, swimming pool, tennis courts and Romanian style restaurants.
Like Brasov, Sighisoara is a Saxon medieval town surrounded
by hills in Transylvania. But it is more beautiful and less hyped than Brasov, and has a greater amount of perfectly preserved
medieval buildings. For many, its great drawcard is the Dracula connection - within the walls of the medieval citadel you'll
find the house in which Vlad Tepes was born in 1431 and reputedly lived until the age of four. It is now a bar and restaurant.Sighisoara's other main sights are also inside the citadel walls, with its nine
surviving towers. The clock tower, a history museum and the Church of the Dominican Monastery, which became the Saxons' main
Lutheran church in 1566, are all worth seeing. And don't miss climbing the 172 steps of the covered stairway to the Gothic
Church on the Hill. Just 4km (2.48 mi) northeast of Sighisoara is the village of Albesti, home to the Petofi Sandor Museum,
which commemorates the Hungarian poet who died in battle here in 1848. Sighisoara is well serviced by both local and international
bus and train services.
The town is mentioned in
documents as far back as the 12th century. As they are a mixture of both, its
inhabitants have combined German vigor with Romanian creativity. One of the greatest
attractions of Sibiu is the "Large Square, where you can see the oldest standing house in town and visit the Brukenthal Museum. Cross the Liar's Bridge called this way for young lovers used to date here and tell
each other love lies. Another great attraction is the Evangelical Church, built
during 14th and 15th century. It has two pipe organs, one of which is the largest
in the country with more than 6000 tubes. Sibiu's surroundings host the Village
Museum in open air, the Paltinis Resort -- the highest in Romania at 4370ft -- and during the summer the salted lakes from
Ocna Sibiului are a must see.
ARAD, a beautiful city situated in the western Romania
on the banks of the river Mures is only 30 km away from the Hungarian border. Over the years the Austrian-Hungarian occupation
left a mark in our architecture and life style.Arad's City Hall is a beautiful building which has to its right and left another
two old palaces dated 2 centuries back. The "Cenad Palace" is one of the buildings old enough to justify the beauty of architectural
times it was built in. The town has aprox. 200.000 inhabitants, three quarters
being Romanians and the rest is represented by hungarians, germans, italians, serbs and other minorities in a smaller percentage.
The city of CLUJ-NAPOCA is the most important academic, cultural and industrial center in Transylvania. Considered to be the
historic capital of Transylvania , the city is located in northwestern Romania, and is approximately 200 mi (320 km) northwest
of Bucharest in the Somesul Mic River Valley.
Timisoara, in the Banat region close to the Hungarian
border, is famous as the place where the 1989 revolution began. Numerous memorial slabs to those people who died in the fighting
are encrusted in walls on streets around the town. Most are still honoured with fresh flowers and lavish bouquets.Other main
sights include the Roman Catholic Cathedral and the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral, which are in the town centre on opposite sides
of Piata Unirii, Timisoara's most picturesque square. The town is serviced by plenty of international and domestic trains.
The Black Sea Coast
In Spain it's Benidorm, in
Australia it's the Gold Coast - and in Romania the sun-sea-sand-and-sex brigade head for the Black Sea Coast. CONSTANTA, Romania's largest port and second largest city, is the main transport hub for the Black Sea Coast,
and the gateway to other resorts. International soccer fans may want to pay a visit, as this is Gheorghe Hagi's home town.
The beaches are crowded, but the town itself is picturesque and has some excellent museums. Mamaia, an 8km (4.96 mi) strip
of beach north of Constanta, is Romania's version of Palm Beach, with 61 hotels containing a total of 27,000 beds that fill
up between mid-June and August. If you like lying on overcrowded beaches listening to blaring pop music, head 17km (10.54
mi) south of Constanta to Eforie Nord. Other beach and blaring music resorts are Neptun-Olimp and Constinesti.In summer, Constanta
is accessible by charter flight from European destinations, and by ferry from Istanbul. Buses connect Constanta with other
Black Sea towns. Constanta is well serviced by bus and train.
The Fagaras mountains, in
the centre of Romania, form part of the Carpathians and stretch for some 75km (46.5 mi) south of the main Brasov-Sibiu road.
The mountains are are peppered with more than 40 glacial lakes, the highest of which is Lake Mioarele at 2282m (7484 ft).
The famed Trans-Fagarasan highway cuts through the Balea valley across the mountains from north to south, a mountain pass
which is said to be the highest road in Europe. The Balea tunnel, cutting between Romania's highest mountains - Mount Negoiu
(2535m; 8314 ft) and Mount Moldoveanu (2543m; 8341 ft) - is 845m (52.3 mi) long. The Fagaras mountains offer the most spectacular
hiking in the country, with well marked trails and an abundance of wildlife. The main drawback is the difficulty in getting
there. The trailheads are 8km (4.96 mi) to 15km (9.3 mi) south of most train stations along the Brasov-Sibiu line, and the
region is poorly serviced by bus. The main access point to the trails is Victoria, which you reach by getting off at the train
halt 7km (4.34 mi) north at Ucea. If you have a car, follow the Trans-Fagarasan Highway to Poienari Castle, just over the
border in Wallachia. This was built for Vlad Tepes, and is regarded by Dracula buffs as the real McCoy. You climb 1480 steps
to reach it from the side of an hydroelectric power plant below.
The 5800 sq km (92262 sq
mi) Danube Delta, just south of the Ukrainian border, is Europe's youngest land geologically, and a magnet for birds and birdwatchers.
Amid this wetland of reed beds and waterways, lily-covered lakes and shifting sand dunes, the Danube River completes its journey
from Germany's Black Forest. Just over 14,500 people live on the Delta. Traditional wooden kayaks and rowing boats are the
primary means of accessing the Delta's 57 fishing villages. Ceausescu's project to reclaim 38% of the delta for fish farming,
forestry and agriculture was abandoned after the revolution. Today the Danube Delta is protected, and 273,300 hectares (675,051
acres) of it are strictly protected zones, off limits to tourists and fishermen. If you want to see wildlife, your best bet
is to explore smaller waterways in a kayak or rowing boat or with a local fisherman. There are no shops, so take supplies
with you. And don't forget the insect repellent! The gateway to the delta is Tulcea, with good bus and train connections.
From there you can hire rowing boats and kayaks, or arrange trips with fishermen. You'll need a permit to visit the Delta,
which you can get at travel agencies in Tulcea.
The Carpathian mountains
offer boundless opportunities for hiking, the most popular areas being the Fagaras and Brucegi ranges, respectively south
and west of Brasov. Clearly marked trails traverse most of Romanian mountain ranges and lower-lying foothills. The Carpathians
also offer some of the cheapest skiing in Europe, the most famous resorts being Sinaia and Poiana Brasov. Sinaia offers the
most challenging skiing, while Poiana Brasov is popular with package tours and has the best developed ski school. Romania
has some fabulous caves, but many are not open to the public. Those serious about the sport can arrange to go caving by contacting
local caving clubs for permission to enter them. Climbing and mountain biking are also popular, along with more tranquil activities
like trainspotting and self-pampering in spas around Eforie Nord and Baile Felix. Animal lovers can watch bears and wolves
in the Carpathians and birds in the Danube Delta.
Romanian is closer to classical
Latin than it is to other Romance languages, and the grammatical structure and basic word stock of the mother tongue are well
preserved. Speakers of French, Italian and Spanish won't be able to understand much spoken Romanian but will find written
Romanian more or less comprehensible. Romanian is spelt phonetically so once you learn a few simple rules you should have
no trouble with pronunciation. Romania is the only country with a Romance language that does not have a Roman Catholic background.
It is 86% Romanian Orthodox, 5% Roman Catholic, 3.5% Protestant, 1% Greco-Catholic, 0.3% Muslim and 0.2% Jewish.Bucovina's painted monasteries were the first in the world to be adorned with
frescoes on the outside. Painted in the 16th century, these frescoes also went beyond the confines of religious art, conveying
political as well as religious messages. Painting on glass and wood, a traditional peasant art, has been widespread in Romania
since the 17th century and remains popular today. Romanian literature draws heavily on the country's rich folklore heritage
coupled with its turbulent history as an occupied country . In the 15th century an oral epic folk literature emerged,
and writings in the Romanian language took shape around 1420. Modern literature emerged in the 19th century. Romania's best
known writer internationally is playwright Eugene Ionesco (1912-94), an exponent of the 'Theatre of the Absurd'. Literature
became a tool of the communist party from 1947 onwards. Since 1990 many works have been published attesting to the horrors
of the communist period. Folk music and dancing have long been popular in Romania. Couples dance in a circle, a semicircle
or a line. Modern gypsy music has absorbed many influences and professional gypsy musicians play whatever village clients
Those who live to eat will find life pretty dull in Romania. Restaurants
tend to offer the same things with tedious consistency: grilled pork, pork liver, grilled chicken, tripe soup and greasy potatoes.
Romania's most novel dish is mamagliga, a hard or soft cornmeal mush which is boiled, baked or fried. In many Romanian households,
it's served as the main dish. The other mainstay of the Romanian diet is ciorba (soup). The sweet-toothed won't starve: typical
desserts include placinta (turnovers), clarite (crepes) and saraille (almond cake soaked in syrup). Romanian wines are cheap
and good. Tuica (plum brandy) and palinca (distilled three times as much as tuica) are mind-blowing liqueurs taken at the
beginning of a meal. Noroc! (Cheers!) Avoid the ubiquitous Ness, an awful instant coffee made from vegetable extracts, and
try cafea naturala, a 'real' coffee made the Turkish way, with a thick sludge of ground coffee beans at the bottom and a generous
spoonful of sugar.
Oval-shaped Romania is the
largest eastern European country apart from Russia and Ukraine. It lies on the Black Sea and, moving anticlockwise from the
southwest, shares borders with Bulgaria, Yugoslavia (Serbia), Hungary, Ukraine and Moldova. The forested Carpathian mountains
account for one third of the country's area; another third is covered by hills and tablelands full of orchards and vineyards;
and the final third comprises a fertile plain where cereals, vegetables and herbs are grown.
don't go to Romania for the weather. The average annual temperature is 11°C in the south and on the coast, but only 2°C in
the mountains. Romanian winters can be extremely foggy, with lots of snow from December to April. In summer there's usually
hot, sunny weather on the Black Sea coast. The majority of Romania's rain falls in the spring, with the mountains getting
the most, the Danube Delta the least.
Getting There & Away
Romania is easily accessible,
served by buses, trains and planes galore. There are plenty of scheduled flights to Romania from a dozen or so western countries,
and, with a single plane change, from a great many more. Most flights arrive at Bucharest's Otopeni international airport.
There are also flights to Timisoara,Cluj,Arad,Oradea and Constanta.Romania's
public bus system is virtually nonexistent while fares offered by the very numerous private bus companies operating buses
to the west rarely compete with the inexpensive comfort offered by trains. The exception to this rule is Istanbul. The bus
(12 to 14 hours) is substantially cheaper and faster than the train (17-1/2 hours) - and they've banned smoking on it, which
is just as well since most Romanians and Turks smoke like the proverbial chimney. There are plenty of trains from western
Europe, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Turkey, and Moldova, Ukraine and beyond. Between May and September a ferry plies
the Black Sea between Constanta and Istanbul.
Romania's national airline
TAROM flies at least four times weekly between Bucharest and the other major cities. Unfortunately, the airline has a two-tier
pricing system, making flights more expensive for foreigners. A single fare is usually around US$50, and returns are exactly
double the single fare. Buses are dead cheap and dead slow. It costs about US$2.50 to travel 200km (9124 mi), but buses are
infrequent and only one or two buses a day service most routes. Buses are generally used only for outlying villages and more
Train has long been the most popular way of travelling around Romania. Trains provide a frequent service to most cities,
towns and larger villages within the country. There are five different types of train: personale are so slow ; accelerat
are faster, more expensive and less crowded; rapid and expres trains travel reasonably quickly and serve international as
well as domestic routes; and inter-city trains are no faster than the others (apart from personae trains) but are twice as
expensive and twice as comfortable. Seat reservations are obligatory for all trains (except personale) and this is included
in the fare.
Most towns within Romania have local buses, trams and trolleybuses, and Bucharest has a Metro underground system. Taxis
are available in all cities and towns, but can be more expensive for foreigners.
Although we've tried to make the information on this web site as accurate as possible, we
accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained by any person resulting from information published
on this site. We encourage you to verify any critical information with the relevant authorities before you travel. This includes
information on visa requirements, health and safety, customs, and transportation.