Although Romania has plenty of public and private transportation options that are very affordable, maybe you have decided that renting a car is the best thing for you. Renting a car can allow you to be independent and to run on your own schedule. You won’t have to worry about waiting for a bus or being delayed by a train that is half an hour behind schedule. The public transportation systems in place in Romania are quite robust, but renting your own car will allow you maximum freedom.
Before you jump to the decision of renting your own car, however, there are a couple things you should note. First off, you have to be at least 21 to rent a car (age could be higher depending on the vehicle) and you have to have had your license for at least one year prior. In addition, if you are under 25 years old, you may have to pay higher fees for being a “young driver”.
Second is that manual cars are the norm in Romania. It might be possible to rent an automatic car at a higher price, but the great majority of the cars that are available to rent are all manual. If you don’t know how to drive a manual, you should either learn how before you head out, or reconsider driving in Romania.
Also important to note is that in Romania, if you are American or Canadian, you need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to be able to legally drive. If you have not heard of an IDP before, it could be because many other European countries allow you to drive with your American or Canadian licenses. Romania, however, is one of the countries that requires more documentation. Fortunately, it is easy to get an IDP.
If you live in the US, there are two places that are legally allowed to issue an IDP: AAA and the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA). If you already have your American driver’s license, then it will be easy to get your IDP. An IDP is basically just a translation of the license that you have. When you get your IDP, it will just be a piece of paper that you will carry around in conjunction with your actual license.
Rules of the Road
Driving in Romania is really not that different from driving in most Western countries. It will feel a bit different from driving in the US or Canada, in that the cars and roads are smaller. Driving in Romania will feel the same as driving in most European countries (except maybe Ireland or the UK).
In Romania, you drive on the right side of the road. Seat belts are mandatory at all times, and children under 3 years old (or under 135 cm in height) must be strapped in a car seat. When it comes to alcohol, Romania has zero tolerance for buzzed driving, so the legal limit is 0.0% blood alcohol content (BAC).
Romanians tend to drive quite aggressively, especially in the bigger cities. If aggressive driving intimidates you, it would probably be in your best interest to avoid driving too much in the big cities, or at least to avoid rush hour. In the bigger cities too, there tend to be a lot of speeders.
You can follow the flow of traffic, but keep in mind the speed limits. Limits will be marked, but in general it is 130 km on highways, 100 km on European and national roads, 90 km on regional roads and 50 km within towns. Because there are many people who enjoy speeding, it is also common practice to for cars to flash their headlights in warning of a speed trap up ahead.
Though you do not have to do this, keep this in mind for in case someone gives you the warning.
Romania tends to get a bad reputation for the condition of the roads or for how dangerous it is for foreigners to drive there. Really, these are more myths than anything else. Driving in Romania might be a bit different than driving in your home country, but it is not particularly dangerous or difficult to drive in Romania. Some of the side streets are unpaved or unmarked, but again using ordinary caution will suffice when driving through Romania.
Alright, so you know about getting your International Driving Permit and you are familiar with the basic rules of the road – what about actually renting the car once you land in Romania?
Romania has some of the major car rental companies, such as Avis and Hertz. However, you are sometimes able to get a better deal with some of the local Romanian car rental companies, such as Autonom or Magrenta. These two car companies are reputable, provide decent service, and have a fair amount of locations throughout the country.
Other than knowing some of the companies, renting a car in Romania is the same as renting just about anywhere else. You will have to provide your ID/license and likely will have to leave a security deposit.
A couple extra tips about renting a car in Romania is that you should make sure that your car is insured – whether by the car rental company (sometimes there is an extra fee) or by your home car insurance company. You should also make sure you know what conditions apply to the car rental and what kinds of fees the company might charge for incidentals, like a minor scrape.
As long as you are a calm and experienced driver, driving in Romania will not be difficult! However, driving in Romania can be stressful for some, and if you are looking for a relaxing vacation it might be good to consider other forms of transportation, such as buses, trains, or internal flights. The great thing about renting a car though is having your own freedom and being able to set your own schedule. We hope to help you make a well-informed decision that will be serve you!