So maybe you have been all over Western Europe, but you want to explore more of Eastern Europe. Or maybe this is your first trip to Europe ever, and you have chosen Romania as your destination. Maybe you are studying abroad, or you want to visit the town where your grandma was born. Whatever the reason for your visit, if this is your very first time to Romania, you are probably going to be in for a culture shock. Although you can just experience the shock without reading about Romanian culture first, reading the following tips will help you blend in a little bit better when you visit the country. These tips will also hopefully help you avoid any accidently rude encounters!
1. Finish your plate
This doesn’t matter so much at restaurants, but if you are visiting Romanian friends or relatives, make sure that you eat everything that is served to you! It is perceived as rude if you don’t finish everything you are given. Also note that Romanian portions are sometimes large, especially at restaurants.
2. Don’t leave your purse on the floor
This one is a little more of a superstitious thing. You won’t be perceived as rude if you leave your purse on the floor, but maybe a bit daft. Women should keep their purse in their lap or on a chair. The superstition is that the person who leaves their purse on the floor will lose their money and end up poor.
3. Be wary of your surroundings
Romania has a bad rap when it comes to safety and crime. Yes, when traveling in a foreign country you should always be wary of surroundings – being a foreigner in any country can make you stick out as an easy target for petty theft. But Romania is no more dangerous than any of the Western European countries. Romania is very safe, and tourism is rapidly growing in the country.
4. Don’t expect Romania to be dirt cheap
Romania is much cheaper than Western European countries, which is also why it is growing as a popular destination for tourists. However, if you have been to Southeast Asia, don’t expect Romanian prices to be comparable. Yes, Romania is cheap, but you will still need to budget accordingly. You could get by on $50/day, if you try to spend the least amount possible, but it is also very easy to spend much more than that.
5. Not everyone speaks English
Don’t expect to be able to travel the whole country just speaking English. Of course, monolingual English speakers can travel throughout Romania just fine, but they will not be able to communicate with everyone in English. Learn a couple phrases in Romanian – the locals will love if you give their language some effort and show interest in their culture! Beyond Romanian, if you speak French or German you could try using those languages too. If you know any other Eastern-European languages, you could have luck with those too!
6. The trains in Romania are not the same as in France or Germany
If you have traveled by train “all around Europe” you might think you will be a pro at the Romanian train system too. It’s not that Romanian trains are that hard to figure out, but they are simply not as new and efficient as those found in Western Europe. The trains are old and slow and sometimes delayed. Add buffer time to your itinerary. Also note that train stations are not as plentiful in Romania as they are in some Western countries. You will likely have to figure out the bus systems too, if you are relying on public transportation.
7. Driving in Romania is not like driving in the US
Maybe you have been to Europe before and you already know this. But the roads are very wide in the US, the cars are big in the US, and everyone drives an automatic car in the US. None of these are true in Romania: the roads are narrow, sometimes unpaved. The cars are small. Most people drive a manual. Because of these differences, driving in Romania can be stressful. But luckily there is plentiful public transportation – between both buses and trains. There are also taxis and other private transportation that you can look into if you want travel freedom, but don’t want to have to drive yourself in this new country.
8. Speaking of taxis…
Like we mentioned earlier, Romania is a relatively safe country. There is always some danger when you hop inside a taxi cab, but most of the danger is theft of your money through hiked-up fares. Before you agree to a ride, make sure you speak to the driver and agree on a price – either the price for the whole ride, or the per-kilometer price.
9. Know the exchange rate
Whenever you travel to a different country, it is good to look up the exchange rate ahead of time so that you know how much your money is worth. Some stores will exchange your money for a fee, but it is often best to exchange at a bank or to just withdraw local currency from an ATM machine. In Romania, the local money is called leu, or lei for plural. Sometimes banks list the currency as RON. The symbol for the money is a capital L.
10. Try the food!
You are in a new country, be open to new experiences. Even if you don’t like everything you try, at least you can say you tried it. What is particularly good are all the fresh breads! Bakeries are abundant throughout the country, and you can walk into a bakery and buy fresh bread and pastries for as little as $0.50! And when it comes to bread, you really can’t go wrong.