Even on it’s stereotypes alone, wild bears, Gypsies and Dracula’s Lair, Romania is an adventure no real traveller can resist, especially when it is one of Europes last true off the beaten track destinations. But whilst travel in Romania has a lot of challenges it is also extremely rewarding.
Romania is still considered an off the beaten track European destination by many, that is if it is considered a destination at all thanks largely to its history and subsequent poor image and reputation, but nowhere is as eager to defy its reputation and travellers preconceptions as Romania. So forget all you think you know about this country and just visit. You will have your mind blown.
The stunning countryside – cleaved in two by the rugged Carpathian mountain range – holds its own against any country in the region and is covered by stunning pine tree forests and smooth meadows and farmland, broken only by awe inspiring castles that instantly evoke the works of Bram Stoker. It major cities still show some marks from its communist past, as do its people, but also show a spirit of rebirth and vibrancy that is hard to find anywhere else in Europe.
Romania does still bare a lot of scars from its communist rule, and this is evident primarily in the elder generations who may appear standoffish at times, but on the whole most Romanians are quite friendly and outgoing, and eager to shake of the shackles of the past. In any other respect Romania’s culture and ettiquette customs are very similar to many other European countries, but it still falls on the conservative side. So always address people with polite formality if meeting them for the first time.
Citizens of the EU can enter and stay for up to 90 days, and visas are not required. Visas aren’t required for the majority of other countries, but check with your local consulate before you travel in case this has changed.
There are no specific vaccinations necessary for any visit to Romania beyond the routine vaccinations most Europeans receive throughout their lives, and the country has a good health care system that is easily accessible. Health insurance is still absolutely essential, and members of the EU should carry an EHIC card for access to any reciprocal healthcare.
Crime and Safety.
Romania has in the past had a reputation for petty crime such as pickpocketing and in some areas that isn’t entirely unjustified. However, with reasonable common sense safety precautions and a good level of situational awareness and common sense there is no more to worry about than there would be if you were still at home.
Costs and money.
The unit of currency in Romania is the Romanian Leu, or the RON (Romanian New Lie). It can be difficult exchanging some currencies within Romania, and always check the commission rates of any exchange booth. ATMs however are frequent and easy to use.
Romania is not as cheap as it was just a few years ago, but is still very cheap by European standards. A budget traveller can look to get by on around £15 – £30 GBP a day, whilst midrange travellers can look at £50 GBP a day, and the sky is the limit dependent on the level of comfort travellers want and what they want to do.
When to go.
Winters can often be very harsh in Romania and can make any hiking or mountain activities near impossible, but spring through to Autumn are great times to visit.
Piatra Neamt is the capital city of Neamt county and is one of the most picturesque cities in Romania. With a stunning location nestled into the Eastern Carpathian mountains and some truly wonderful architecture, Piatra Neamt also holds a lot of museums, churches and other cultural institutions but also has a youthful energy and vibrancy about it and truly feels like a city on the verge of something really big.
Designated as a UNESCO world heritage site, this picturesque 16th Century medieval village will transport you straight inside the pages of Bram Stoker’s famous novel and keep you enraptured with it’s faded charm. With winding cobbled streets, Burgher style houses, medieval walls and clock towers this truly beautiful part of Eastern Europe is perfectly preserved and holds its own against any other in the region.
Okay, it doesn’t have the best of reputations, but ignore all of that. There is nowhere better in Romania to see the absolute juxtaposition of the old communist rule, with Stalinist architecture and a harsh, concrete landscape, with the heady mix of fine dining and a pulse pounding nightlife as Romania’s youth move away from the past.
The Carpathian Mountain Range.
This is a truly stunning mountain range that has easily earned the myths and legends attributed to it. Hike to the top of numerous peaks or simply enjoy the view from the surrounding countryside, you will enjoy them either way.
Very Romanian in design and feel, Brasov has it’s own unique flavour too, with an old town littered with Gothic and Baroque architecture that harks back to its 12th Century founding by Teutonic knights, but it also has sprinklings of Renaissance buildings throughout the city, perfect for a country undergoing it’s very own rebirth.
Ceahlau National Park.
Ceahlau national park is a wild and stunning part of Neamt County in Northern Romania and has a number of well marked hiking routes of various difficulties, including to the famous Duruitoarea Waterfall. The town of Durau is the jumping off point for any trek here, but it is possible to hike to the mountaintop and stay overnight in a basic mountain lodge too.
Dragos Voda Bison Reserve.
The visitors information centre is a bit sparse when it comes to conservation education, but they have made an effort to build an education centre for children and more importantly this reserve is one of the few places in Europe where Aurochs – or European Bison – still live in the wild, and they are doing a great job in conserving and protecting the species.
Hiking through Ceahlau National Park is an absolute must do when you are in Romania, the forest itself surrounding the Duruitoarea Waterfall are unbelievable and feel almost untouched by mass tourism, but it is the views from the top which are worth all the effort it takes to get up there.
Go museum hopping.
You really can’t appreciate Romania until you can appreciate it’s long and colourful history. Luckily Romania is chock full of amazing museums, from large national history museums to smaller niche ones that focus on specific cultural or historical aspects of the country.
Climb underground in the Turda Salt Mine.
Okay, stop giggling at the name. I know this sounds more like one of those insufferable school trips from your childhood, but trust me, you will be amazed by this spectacular man made cave system inside the disused salt mine.
Go Vampire hunting.
Okay, not literally, obviously, but what visit to Romania will be complete without a visit to Bran Castle? The inspiration for the home of Bram Stoker’s protagonist! It isn’t easy to get to but it is definitely worth it, and getting a guide to explain the real history of the castle itself is a must, as the actual history is far more interesting and entertaining than even the story of Dracula himself!