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Romania

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Romania (Romanian: România) is a country on the western shores of the Black Sea; except for Dobruja, it is located north of the Balkan Peninsula. It is a country of great natural beauty and diversity and a rich cultural heritage, including a variety of ethnic, linguistic, and confessional groups. Romania enchants visitors with its scenic mountain landscapes and unspoilt rural areas, but also with its historic cities and busy capital. Over the last decade, it has seen significant development and is one of the most recent members of the European Union. Still, it may surprise some of its visitors who are used to western Europe. It has a listed total of six cultural and one natural UNESCO world heritage sites.

Romania is a large country which can sometimes be shocking with contrasts: some cities are truly modern, while some villages can seem to have been brought back from the past. While it has significant cultural similarities with other Balkan states, it is regarded as unique due to its strong Latin heritage, reflected in every part of Romanian society from its culture to its language. Things for which Romania is famous include: the Carpathian mountains, wine, medieval fortresses, Dacia cars, Dracula, stuffed cabbage leaves (sarmale), the Black Sea, sunflower fields, painted monasteries and the Danube Delta.

Famous Romanians are Constantin Brâncu?i (sculptor), Mircea Eliade (writer, historian, philosopher), Henri Coand? (aviation pioneer - the Coand? effect is named after him), Nicolae Ceau?escu (Romania's last communist dictator), Nadia Com?neci (gymnast), Gheorghe Hagi (former association football player) and Leonard Doroftei (former WBA world champion).

Understand

With a Black Sea coast to the east, it is bordered by Bulgaria to the south, Serbia to the southwest, Hungary to the northwest, Moldova to the northeast and Ukraine in both the north and the east. While its southern regions are usually seen as part of Southeastern Europe (Balkans), Transylvania, its largest region, is in Central Europe.

The country - which joined the European Union in January 2007 - is enjoying better standards since the Communist periods, with foreign investment on the rise.

History

See also: Roman Empire, Austro-Hungarian Empire, World War II in Europe, Cold War Europe

In ancient times the territory of present day Romania was inhabited mainly by Dacian tribes, which were a remarkable, although not very well known, culture. The Dacian kingdom reached the height of its power in the 1st century BC, when their king Burebista ruled from his power base in the Carpathian Mountains over a vast territory stretching from Central Europe to the Black Sea. The intriguing network of fortifications and shrines built around the Dacian capital Sarmisegetuza, in today's south-western Transylvania, has been relatively well preserved through the ages and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

In 106 AD the Dacians were defeated by the Romans and most of their homeland became part of the Roman Empire. Being very rich in natural resources (especially gold), the region prospered under the Roman administration: cities developed rapidly, important roads were built and people from all over the Empire settled here. That's why, despite the fact that Roman rule lasted less than 200 years, a population with a distinctive Latin character and language emerged, which was however influenced by the Slavic peoples with whom it later came in contact.

In the Early Middle Ages Hungarians began to settle in the area today known as Transylvania, which would eventually become part of the Kingdom of Hungary, and later the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Germans also settled in that area (in several waves), some coming as early as the 12th century. In order to protect themselves from the frequent Tartar and Turkish invasions they set about building fortified cities and castles, many of which remain to this day. South and east of the Carpathians the principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia were created in the 14th century. Starting with the 15th century, both of them (and for a while Transylvania too) fell under the domination of the Ottoman Empire.

For a short period in 1600, Michael The Brave (Mihai Viteazu) ruled over all three principalities, thus briefly becoming the de-facto ruler of a unified Romania. The international scene, however, was not yet ready for a unified Romania, and thus his union fell a short while later.

A Romanian national revival movement started in Transylvania in the late 1700s and swept across the Carpathians, inspiring the 1859 union of Moldavia and Wallachia, thus creating the prototype of a modern Romania. In 1918-1919 Transylvania and Eastern Moldavia (present day Republic of Moldova) were united with Romania.

"In 1940, Romania allied with the Axis powers and participated in the 1941 German invasion of the USSR. Three years later, overrun by the Soviets, Romania signed an armistice. The post-war Soviet occupation led to the formation of a communist "people's republic" in 1947 and the abdication of the king." (CIA World Factbook, Romania - Introduction) Between 1947 and 1965, Romania was led by Gheorghiu Gheorghiu-Dej, who had a pro-Soviet stance throughout most of his administration. In 1965, he was succeeded by Nicolae Ceau?escu who was less enthusiastic towards the Soviet Union and maintained a more neutral foreign and domestic policy than his predecessor; but "his Securitate police state became increasingly oppressive and draconian through the 1980s. Ceau?escu was overthrown and executed in late 1989."

Former Communists, regrouped around the Front of National Salvation and later the Romanian Party for Social Democracy, dominated the government until the 1996 elections, when they were swept from power by a fractious coalition of centrist parties (Democratic Convention of Romania, DCR); but after failed reforms and internal infighting the DCR lost the elections in favour of the Social Democratic Party (PSD). Both groups attempted to amend ties with Hungary, which were deeply fractured in the 1980s, when Ceau?escu either encouraged the large Hungarian community to leave the country or exiled them outright (5,000 Hungarians left Romania per year). The 2004 elections brought to power an alliance formed by the National Liberal (PNL) and Democratic parties. They governed with the support of most minority parties in Romania. In 2008 Romania held its legislative elections with the right wing Democratic Liberal Party becoming the winner of the national elections, despite being outrun by a small margin by the left wing PSD. After a poorly-timed 2012 political crisis, the Parliament and the government are now dominated by the centrist Social Liberal Union, a coalition of PSD and PNL).

When the economic, social and political development is concerned Romania is doing well in comparison to other countries in the Western Balkans region and other surrounding countries in Eastern Europe such as Ukraine and Moldova. However when compared to Western Europe, Romania still has some ways to go to reach that level of development that is enjoyed by the Western Europeans.

Talk

See also: Romanian phrasebook

The official language of Romania is Romanian, limba român?, which is a Romance language, close to Latin and Italian. It was formalized in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some 10% of the Romanian vocabulary is of Slavonic origin and less than 5% is from Turkish, Hungarian, or German.

Minority languages spoken in Romania are Hungarian, German, Turkish, and Romany (the language of the Roma, or Gypsies). Russian and Ukrainian can be heard in the Danube Delta as well. French used to be the second well-known language in Romania, since it used to be compulsory in every school; however, it has been mostly replaced by English. A well-educated Romanian who graduated from an average university can usually speak English and another European language, such as French, German, Italian, Spanish, or Russian. However, if you leave the common touristic routes, Romanian is the only way to ask for information. That won't be such a problem; learn some basic words and ask them to write the answers.

In Transylvania there is a large Hungarian minority (6.5% of the population according to the 2011 census), and people speak Hungarian in their daily life. Counties where Hungarian is widely spoken, and where in fact ethnic Hungarians are the majority of the population, include Harghita, Covasna, and Mures. In certain parts of Cluj, Bihor, Satu MareBrasovSibiu and other Transylvanian counties there are villages or towns with a Hungarian majority or plurality.

Although some might speak Russian due to Romania's past as a part of the Eastern Bloc, you should not count on it. About 7% of Romanians understand Russian but only about 4% are fluent in it. The chance meeting one is small, as the Ceau?escu administration and subsequent leaders made learning the language optional, rather than compulsory, and today, English has largely supplanted Russian as the second language of choice among younger people.

Most educated Romanians may be able to make some sense of other spoken Romance languages, such as French, Spanish, and Italian. Other Romanians may understand some Spanish and Italian because of popular TV soap operas from Italy and Latin America.

Regions

Cities

  • Bucharest — the capital of Romania, in which megalomanic monuments, including "House of the People", built during Ceau?escu's reign, overlook medieval neighbourhoods
  • Bra?ov — located in south-eastern Transylvania, its main attractions are the well kept medieval downtown, the nearby luxury resort of Poiana Bra?ov and the proximity to the Râ?nov fortress and the Bran Castle.
  • Cluj-Napoca — the largest town in Transylvania, a major economic center and also a very youthful city, as it has one of the largest universities in Europe.
  • Constan?a — Romania's main Black Sea port and one of the major commercial hubs in the region. The northernmost district, Mamaia, is one of the best Black Sea resorts.
  • Ia?i — the second largest Romanian city, it was the capital of the Moldavian principality until 1861 and then briefly capital of Romania. Today it remains one of the major economic and cultural centres in the country.
  • Sibiu — one of the most beautiful cities in the region, it has the best preserved historical sites in the country, numerous museums and exhibitions, proximity to the stunning F?g?ra? mountains, for which reasons it became the 2007 European Capital of Culture.
  • Sighi?oara — the city's downtown area, the Sighi?oara Citadel, is the last inhabited medieval citadel in Europe and one of the best preserved.
  • Suceava — the main city in Bukovina and the medieval capital of Moldavia; it can be used as starting point for visiting the Painted Monasteries of the region.
  • Timi?oara — the largest town in the Banat region, one of the most prosperous and modernized cities in Romania; it was here that the 1989 Romanian anti-communist revolution began.

Other destinations

  • Corvin Castle - Gothic-Renaissance castle sometimes (wrongly) considered a source of inspiration for Dracula's Castle.
  • Sinaia, Predeal, Poiana Bra?ov, B?ile Herculane, Vatra Dornei, and other ski resorts;
  • Transylvanian Alps within the Carpathian Mountains
  • Painted Monasteries
  • Saxon villages with fortified churches in Transylvania: Biertan, Câlnic, Dârjiu, Prejmer, Saschiz, Viscri
  • Danube Delta, H?rman, Axente Sever
  • The Black Sea resorts

Get in

Getting to Romania is easy from nearly all parts of the world: it is served by an array of transport types and companies.

Romania is committed to implementing the Schengen Agreement although it hasn't yet done so. For citizens of the European Union (EU) or European Free Trade Area (EFTA) (i.e. Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland), an officially approved ID card (or a passport) is sufficient for entry. Other nationalities will generally require a passport for entry.

Travel to/from any other country (Schengen or not) from/to Romania will (as of now) result in the normal immigration checks, although customs checks will be waived when travelling to/from another EU country.

Inquire with your travel agent or with the local embassy or consulate of Romania.

Citizens of Canada, Japan and the United States are permitted to work in Romania without the need to obtain a visa or any further authorisation for the period of their 90-day visa-free stay. However this ability to work visa-free does not necessarily extend to other countries.

If you do need to obtain a visa from outside your own country, try obtaining it from somewhere else beside Budapest, where it can take 3 to 4 days. From Ljubljana the process can sometimes be done in a day because they are not as busy.

By plane

Romania has 17 civilian airports, 12 of which are served by scheduled international flights. The main international airports are:

  • Bucharest's Henri Coand? (Otopeni) Airport is the largest and busiest, it has flights to nearly all the major cities in Europe, to a few Middle Eastern capitals, to all other Romanian cities, but no direct flights to the USA; besides traditional carriers, some low cost airlines such as Easyjet, Vueling or Niki operate flights on this airport.
  • The Traian Vuia International Airport in Timisoara is the second largest in the country; it has flights to several large cities in Germany, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Greece, Ukraine, Moldova, France, United Kingdom as well as to various cities in Romania. The airport is a focus city for low-cost Wizz Air. Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines are also important operators on the airport.
  • Cluj-Napoca International Airport, the largest airport in Transylvania, is served by a growing number of flights from various European destinations; it is one of the many hubs of low-cost Wizz Air, with services to over 10 destinations daily. Lufthansa also serves the airport.
  • Other smaller international airports are located in:
    • Sibiu (flights to Austria, Germany, Britain, Italy and Spain on Lufthansa, Austrian Airways and Blue Air). Focus city for Blue Air.
    • Bacau (flights mainly to Italy and London on Blue Air. Secondary hub for Blue Air).
    • Constanta - The only Romanian airport served by Ryanair (to two Italian destinations). Also served by Air Berlin (from Berlin). A few inbound seasonal charters and a few seasonal domestic flights from Transylvania and Bucharest also serve this airport.
    • Iasi - One daily flight to Vienna and one to Budapest
    • Targu-Mures - Wizz Air focus city, with flights to Hungary, Germany, Britain, Italy, France, and Spain. Domestic flights to Bucharest operated by TAROM.
    • Arad - Flights from Milan.
    • Baia Mare - Only domestic flights from Bucharest.
    • Oradea - Only domestic flights from Bucharest.
    • Satu Mare - A charter flight from Antalya (summer seasonal) and domestic flights from Bucharest
    • Suceava - Only domestic flights from Bucharest.

There are three important Romanian airlines:

  1. TAROM, the Romanian flag carrier, based in Bucharest Otopeni.
  2. Blue Air, the only Romanian low-cost airline, based in Bucharest with a secondary hub in Bacau and a focus city in Sibiu.

Romania has become increasingly attractive for low cost carriers. Blue Air, a Romanian low-fare airline, serves various destinations in Europe from Bucharest (Aurel Vlaicu Airport), AradTargu Mures, and Bacau. A Hungarian budget airline, WizzAir, offers direct flights from London Luton to Bucharest. Several others, including Wind Jet, AlpiEagles, RyanAir, GermanWings, and AirBerlin) already operate flights to Romania. EasyJet operates flights from London, Milan, and Madrid, while SmartWings operates flights from Prague.

By train

Romania is relatively well connected with the European rail network. There are daily international trains to Munich, Prague, Venice, Vienna, Budapest, Zagreb, Belgrade, Sofia, Istanbul, Chi?in?u, Kiev, and Moscow. But due to the poor quality of rail infrastructure in the region, train travel on long distances takes considerable time.

Nonetheless, trains are the ideal way of reaching cities in western and central Romania such as BrasovSighisoaraOradea or Cluj-Napoca coming from Central Europe.

International trains to Romania include the (relatively high standard) EuroCity trains and night trains. Romania is part of the Eurail pass offer.

A cheap way of traveling to or from Romania might be the Balkan Flexipass.

By bus

Even though Romania has not been traditionally seen as a 'bus country', buses are becoming a more and more popular way to reach the country from abroad, especially from the Balkans and the former USSR, but also from Western Europe, e.g. Germany and Switzerland. Even though trains are still the most popular way of getting to Romania from Central Europe, due to good service, train services to the Balkans and former USSR are of a considerably poorer quality and are less frequent (mainly because railway infrastructure in these countries is a lot poorer than Romania's infrastructure). For this reason, a slew of private bus operators (like VioTur.ro) now provide quicker and arguably more comfortable coach services to and from cities such as Chi?in?u, Kiev, Odessa, Sofia, and Istanbul.

A general rule of the thumb on whether you should use bus or train is this: if trains are available just as frequently, and at around the same price, and take around the same amount of time, then definitely use them. Otherwise, consider the buses.

For all information about buses in Romania and online reservations and tickets (i.e. timetables and prices) you can use Autogari.ro ("Autogari" is the Romanian word for bus-stations). They accept also payment with credit card.

By boat

Cruises on Danube are available, very expensive though, starting from Passau or Vienna and having a final destination in the Danube Delta. These cruises will stop in every major port along the road, in Austria, Hungary, Serbia, and Romania. Once in the Delta, you can travel by rapid boats or fisherman's boats on endless channels to watch huge colonies of pelicans, cranes or small migratory birds. You can enjoy a local dish, fishermen's borsch, prepared using different species of fish, but take care, they use the Danube's river water!

It is the only way to travel around the Danube Delta, and the only way to get to the city of Sulina.

There are ferries across the Danube to/from Bulgaria in several ports: from Bechet to Oryahovo (daily) and from Zimnicea to Svishtov (only on weekends). From Calafat to Vidin there is now a traffic bridge, easily accessible by car.

There are reportedly (but not confirmed) ferry connections over the Black Sea from Varna in Bulgaria to Constan?a. The ferry service between Odessa and Constan?a is no longer operating at this time.

By car

You can easily drive into Romania coming from countries in the West, but when coming from the East you will have to drive through Moldova and you may experience troubles there. There is not a direct border crossing between Ukraine and Romania in the south-eastern corner of Romanian Moldavia (Reni/Galati), you must go via Giurgiulesti, which is in Moldova (a small stretch of about 500m). Moldovan border control officers will ask several times for money (ecological tax, road tax... up to €20 in July 2007). Coming from the north (Ukraine), can also be time-consuming, times can vary from one to more than five hours.

Also be aware if you plan to drive to Romania, the road infrastructure is fairly modest compared to Western and Central Europe. There are few motorways and only in the south of the country. The upside to this is that most European roads, which you will mostly be travelling on are well maintained and are denominated with an E followed by a number (e.g. E63), are scenic roads and cross some spectacular scenery of mountains, valleys and forests. The roads especially in Transylvania are built on top of the old medieval routes and there is always something to stop for and visit on your way. Drivers are confronted with a lot of roundabouts, both in towns and outside. The rule for them is straightforward: cars already inside the roundabout have priority, those outside must wait.

On the roads linking Romania to its western borders take particular care as traffic is heavy and most roads have one, or at most two, lanes each way, and on some parts are unlit.

On foot and by bike

On the Ukrainian-Romanian border there is only one point where one can cross on foot: Solotvino-Sighetu Marma?iei. The bridge over the Tisa is old and one could say a point of tourist interest.

Get around

Getting around Romania is relatively hard and inefficient for the great distances that have to be covered in this country (this is after all, the second-largest country in Central Europe, after Poland). The transport infrastructure has been improving quite significantly recently, even though roads remain a weak point. There are three operational highways, that connect Bucharest to the seaside and to the cities of Pite?ti and Ploie?ti, respectively, and several others under construction. Train travel, however, has improved dramatically. Several upgrade projects are underway for several railway tracks, which makes rail traffic on those lines a bit slow for the time being.

By train

Romania has a very dense rail network that reaches practically every town and a sizable number of villages. Although some modernization is taking place, this network isn't in a very good condition, with low speeds and limited train frequency on many routes. Nonetheless trains remain the best option for long distance travel.

Most trains are run by the state carrier, C?ile Ferate Române, abbreviated as (SN)CFR. Many secondary lines are operated exclusively by private companies: Regiotrans, Regional, Transferoviar, and Servtrans.

Trains generally run without major delays, except on lines where there are repair works or during anomalous weather (heavy snow storms in winter, heat waves or floods in summer).

Train types

Three major types of trains are available: Regio, InterRegio, and Intercity. The last two types provide reasonable conditions but Regio trains are best avoided.

  • Regio (R)

These are very slow trains, stopping in almost every station (including some in the middle of nowhere). Prices are dirt cheap, but they provide extremely basic service and are sometimes uncomfortable (no seat reservation, no ventilation to speak of, sometimes crowded, no working toilets in some trains, poor lighting).

They usually have 1970s single-suburban or double-decker cars, with 4 seats per row. Most will not offer 1st class (but if they do it's highly recommended to get a 1st class ticket, it will be less crowded and less miserable than 2nd class).

Western Desiro and French Z-type DMUs have been introduced on some routes, including Suceava-Cacica, Craiova-Sibiu, Sibiu-Bra?ov, Cluj-Teiu?-Bra?ov, Cluj-Bistri?a, Bra?ov-Sfântu Gheorghe. Z-type cars provide a more comfortable seating arrangement but a bouncier ride, which is diametrically opposed to Desiro's improvement. As these newer trains are designed for short-distance travel, expect to be uncomfortable if traveling for a long period of time.

Most of the trains operated by private companies are also ranked as Regio. They are usually cleaner than CFR Regio trains, but rarely run on the same routes.

Example: Bucharest-Bra?ov (166km) by Regio train costs ~23 lei in 2nd class, takes about 4 hours, and has up to 31 stops

  • InterRegio (IR)

Semi-slow trains traveling on medium and long distance routes, stopping just in towns. They are cheap (though nearly twice as expensive as Regio) and offer variable conditions.

Newly-renovated cars have been introduced on several routes including Bucharest-Târgu Jiu and Bucharest-Brasov. However, many consider these cars just as uncomfortable, if not more so, than older cars, with merely an improved visual element. There is little baggage room and little leg-room compared to 1980s carriages.

Some InterRegio trains have connection cars to destinations located on secondary lines; after they separate from the InterRegio train they run as RegioExpress (RE).

Example: Bucharest-Bra?ov (166 km) by InterRegio train costs 47 lei in 2nd class, c. 2hr45min, up to 8 stops

  • InterCity (IC)

The best of CFR's network. They are nearly as comfortable as Western European trains, while remaining cheap by Western standards. All IC trains offer air conditioning, individual reading lights, dining cars, and some will offer power plugs (both in first and second class). Wi-Fi is provided in some dining cars and in business class (where available). They're slightly faster than InterRegio and very clean most of the time.

Some Intercity trains also have Business Class (Standard and Exclusive) cars, roomier than regular 1st class. Standard has plush armchairs while Exclusive has leather armchairs and built-in LCD screens for each seat; both have Wi-Fi.

Travellers with large backpacks should note that baggage storage racks on intercity trains are small, hence they are likely to find Intercity trains less convenient than Rapid or Accelerat. However, experiences seem to vary depending on the particular train, as in some trains this is true only for non-compartmented cars, so it might be worth trying to get a seat in a compartment.

If presented with a choice of Intercity trains (classic cars or "S?geata Albastr?" - Blue Arrow DMUs) it is advisable to choose classic cars, as these are faster, more comfortable trains. S?geata Albastr? are small 3-car diesel trains with slower service (120 km/h top speed compared to 160 km/h).

Example: Bucharest-Bra?ov (166 km) by Intercity train costs 58 lei in 2nd class, about 2½ hr, three stops

  • Night trains

Most InterRegio trains travelling by night also have couchette cars (with six or four beds) and sleeping cars (with three, two or one bed). Conditions are relatively good.

Example: Bucharest-Satu Mare (782 km), ~142 lei/bed (six beds couchette), 14 hours

Getting tickets

Tickets for CFR operated trains are sold at train stations and CFR booking agencies (agentie de voiaj CFR), which exist in any sizable town (usually located in the central area). At these booking agencies and at a few major stations it's possible to buy tickets up to six months in advance for any domestic route and for international trains passing through Romania.

It's also possible to get tickets for domestic routes online through CFR's relatively complicated booking site with up to one month in advance.

All trains types except Regio and RegioExpress require seat reservation (not to be confused with advanced ticket booking).

Several discounts are available:

  • for small groups (10% for 2 people, 15% for 3, 20% for 4 and 25% for 5+)
  • for large groups (25% for groups of more than 30 people)
  • for buying return tickets (10%)
  • for advance ticket purchase (13% for over 21 days in advance, 10% for 11-20 days in advance, 5% for 6-10 days)

People that board CFR trains without a ticket from stations where there are ticket sellers can be fined and have to buy more expensive tickets directly from the train staff.

On lines operated by private operators tickets are usually issued on the train.

For up-to-date timetable information on CFR operated lines see CFR's timetable site. For timetables on lines operated by other companies check.

A complete price list by distance and train type is available online.

Tourist railways

Several scenic narrow gauge railways exist in mountainous areas, but trips on them are mainly available for small groups and not for individual tourists. One notable exception is the Valea Vaserului railway in Maramure? which has tourist runs daily in mid-summer and on weekends in early summer-autumn.

Groups can also rent the former Romanian king's personal train or Ceau?escu's private train but these trips are rather expensive.

By car

Travelling by car or coach is the easiest way and a vast majority, over 60% of foreign tourists, use this way of transportation. The steering wheel is on the left and European driver's licenses are recognized by police. For Americans, a passport and valid US driver's license are sufficient for car rental. If you drive your own car, you must purchase a road tax sticker (the "Rovinieta") either from the border or from the nearest gas station. Driving without one will incur a severe fine.

Rentals can be expensive; avoid the major international rental companies, as well as the "friendly" locals who are willing to rent you their own car. In Bucharest and throughout the country rentals start at €20-30 per day (without fuel) for a small hatchback, go around €65-90 for an average car or lame SUV and may go up to €170-200 for a luxury sedan or a luxury SUV. You may be denied renting unless you are 25 or older.

While Romanians are generally friendly and polite, this doesn't always apply to their driving style. Speeding is common, young (inexperienced) drivers driving performance vehicles are common in cities, angry drivers are the norm in the capital and the accident rates are amongst the highest in the European Union.

City roads tend to be heavily overcrowded, particularly in Bucharest. Beware of hazards, such as double-parked cars, pedestrians, sudden braking to avoid a pothole, or stray animals entering the road (in rural areas). Most intercity routes are 2-lane roads, used by everything from communist-era trucks to modern sports cars. So plan for longer driving times than in other areas of Europe.

Bucharest has a very dense and crowded city centre, with narrow, twisting roads, built mainly in the 19th century, with little traffic in mind. The roads are suffocated by over 1 million cars every day - it is possible to take 2 hours to drive a distance that could be walked in 20-25 minutes. GPS or local guide is a necessity. The best way to travel within Bucharest is either by public transport (as it is very cheap and fairly reliable) or taxi.

If you have a good car and you also like speeding be aware that Romanian police now have high-tech radars to catch speeding motorists. Speed limits are generally 100 km/h outside of a city and 50 km/h or 70 km/h within built up areas. Some police units are equipped with performance vehicles, while others are the standard Dacia Logan cars. Although rare, some highway patrols have BMW bikes. On major roads, motorists in the opposite direction will sometimes flash their headlights to warn that they recently passed a radar trap which may be just ahead of you. Also many national roads and motorways are discreetly watched by Police Puma helicopters. Even small offences are subject to heavy fines by the traffic police (Poli?ia Rutier?), they may even take one's driver's license for an irregular passing. Both hidden and visible speed cameras are becoming common on major roads and highways. Policemen sometimes seem to be more lenient with locals, than with foreigners - however, stricter fining applies for locals than for foreigners (for locals, as few as two or three minor offences will get their license suspended for six months). Bribing is ill-advised as most patrol cars have recording equipment and as of 2008, bribing is less and less accepted, so for a foreigner it is not recommended to attempt this get-away technique - it can easily land you in jail.

The Romanian police have a zero tolerance policy on drunk driving - controls are very frequent - and basically any amount of alcohol in your blood counts as drunk driving.

If you are involved in a car accident while driving and someone is hurt you must stop and wait for the traffic police. Driving away from the scene is considered hit-and-run. Accidents with no injuries can be solved with yourself and all parties involved having to go to a police station and make a statement, but, if in doubt, better phone 112 (Emergency Services) and ask for directions. In most of the cases, after an accident it is mandatory to take a blood test to establish if the drivers had consumed alcohol. Refusal to undergo this test is almost certain to land you in jail - the punishment is usually more harsh than the one for drunk driving.

Many important roads were once medieval trade routes which go straight through the centre of many villages. Passing while driving is the norm rather than the exception as slow moving trucks, horse drawn carts, and non-moving herds of cows often frequent village main streets.

Types of roads

A lot of road infrastructure has been constructed in the past few years, and changes appear rapidly. Therefore, check up te date online sources before you go, as information might get outdated quickly.

  • Motorways (autostrada)
    • A1 - planned to connect Bucharest with cities in southern Transylvania and then proceed to the western border; the only part completed so far is the 126 km long stretch between Bucharest and Pite?ti opened in 1973. The Arad - Timi?oara section was opened at the end of 2011.
    • A2 - connects Bucharest with the Black Sea ports of Constan?a and Agigea. This means that you can avoid Constan?a, if you're going to the other resorts on the seaside.
    • A3 - is supposed to cross Transylvania diagonally from north-west to south-east and then head south to Bucharest. The Bor? - Bra?ov segment, also called the Transylvania Motorway, is the largest road project in Europe; it will connect the Hungarian-Romanian border with OradeaZalauCluj-NapocaTargu MuresSighisoara and Brasov. As of 2015, only a few sections of the A3 are in use: a 55-km stretch between Bucharest and Ploiesti in the south and a 52-km section between Campia Turzii and Gilau, which is part of the southern section of the Transylvanian Highway.

The speed limit on motorways is 130km/h.

  • Expressways (drum expres) - Basically non-grade separated/semi-grade separated dual carriageway. The only completed expressways are the 60 km long Bucharest - Giurgiu (DN 5) road, The Ploiesti Bypass (DN 1), the Cluj East bypass, the Bucharest - Henri Coanda International Airport stretch of the DN 1 (which is grade-separated). The speed limit on expressways is 100 km/h.
  • National roads (drum na?ional), including European Roads (drum european). In the absence of motorways the national roads remain the most important element of the Romanian road system, as they connect the main cities in the country. Thanks to recent investments most of them are in reasonable condition - most of the trunk network being rehabilitated recently. Many have 4 non-separate lanes near cities, some have 3 or 4 non-separate lanes throughout (such as Bucharest-Comarnic and a large part of E85) but many have only two lanes - one per traffic direction (a notable example is DN1 Câmpina-Bra?ov - the 100 km mountain stretch can take 3-5 hours to cross during weekends and holidays. The speed limit on national roads is 100 km/h.
  • Other roads - county (drum judetean) and rural (drum comunal) roads are owned and maintained by either regional or local authorities. These roads mainly link trunk roads with very small towns or villages - few running for more than 30-40 km. The situation of county roads is highly dependent on each of the counties involved - while in Ilfov or Constanta these roads are of decent-to-high quality, in other regions such roads are in a poor to very poor condition compared with national roads. Rural roads are of even shorter nature (under 10 km), some of them being one lane of traffic only, others being covered in gravel only. The speed limit on these roads is 90 km/h.

For all roads, when in a city, town or village, the speed limit is 50 km/h (unless clearly otherwise posted). As such, driving a National Road becomes a constant accelerate-and-brake adventure, one having to be constantly spotting speed limit signs, city limit markers and the behaviour of other drivers.

By bus

Bus can be the least expensive method to travel between towns. In the Romanian towns and cities, you can usually find one or several bus terminals (autogara). From there, buses and minibuses depart for the towns and villages in the nearby area as well as to other cities in the country. You can find timetables on the autogari website.

Minibuses are usually very uncomfortable; some buses are old and slow. Schedules are not tightly followed, and delays of over an hour are not uncommon, especially for inter-city buses. Romanian roads are in a rather bad shape, with most of the trunk network being made of one lane per way roads (fairly similar with British rural roads), and only about 250 km of expressway. Most minibuses employed are small, crowded, 14-seat vans (some converted from freight vans), with some longer routes employing 20-seat mini-buses. For commuter and suburban routes, expect an overcrowded van (25 passengers riding a 14 seat van is quite common, with 40 passenger loads not being unheard of), with no air-conditioning, which stops several times in every village. Inter-city bus travel is only slightly better - most vehicles used are also converted vans, or, at best, purpose-build minibuses, with only some being air-conditioned. Seating is generally crowded, and in most cases there is no separate compartment for luggage. Most have no toilets on board, calling for 30 minutes stops every 2-3 hours. All in all, the experience of travelling by minibus is quite similar to that of traveling in a Russian or Ukrainian marshrutka.

However, buses are the best solution for a number of routes badly served by the railway network, namely Bucharest - Pite?ti - Râmnicu Vâlcea, Bucharest - Alexandria, Bucharest - Giurgiu, and Pite?ti - Slatina.

The comfort of vehicles is steadily improving, at least in Transylvania along the longer routes serving larger cities. You will find buses from respected companies (such as Normandia, FANY or Dacos) which offer punctual and reasonable, though not always sparkling, conditions, and on which a luggage compartment will always be available. Toilet stops still need to be made, but they happen usually in places where you can also buy food or drinks. On Fridays, Sundays, and close to national holidays, these buses tend to be overcrowded, so a reservation by phone might be necessary.

Buses inside the cities are often crowded. This gives pickpockets good opportunities. The pickpocket problem seems to be not essentially worse than in any other European city. Please, pay attention.

By taxi

Taxis are relatively inexpensive in Romania. It costs about 1.4-2 lei/kilometre or slightly more, with the same price for starting. The very low prices make taxis a popular way to travel with both locals and travellers (it can be cheaper than driving your own car) - so during rush hours it may be hard to find a cab (despite Bucharest having almost 10,000 cabs).

A notable exception is the Fly Taxi company that operates from the Henri Coanda (Otopeni) Airport. The price for a ride from the airport to the city centre can be about 70 lei. Either call a taxi by phone to pick you up near the airport or chose the 783 bus line to get into the city. Alternately, you can go to the departure terminal to avoid expensive airport taxis. To do this, after you exit baggage claim, immediately turn right. Literally dozens of taxi operators will approach you and ask if you need a taxi, having marked you as a foreigner (it's their job to do so, after all). Be polite, shake your head no and keep walking. You will pass though about 200 m of shopping and service areas in a little mini-mall connecting the two terminals, and will then arrive at the 2nd level of the departures terminal. Walk out the door and you will see plenty of taxis dropping off passengers. Flag one down and make sure the fare posted on the side is less than 2 lei/km. Technically, they are not supposed to pick up there, but you aren't doing anything wrong by trying, and not many drivers can say no to 30 lei for a trip back to the city centre that they were going to make anyway. Just make sure they use the meter. Beware that recently some wicked taxi drivers have begun using remote controls in their pockets that raise the tariff price suddenly by small increments that are otherwise unnoticeable until the end of the fare. It might be easier to negotiate the tariff price upfront based on your destination and pay that amount at the end.

Kiosks for reasonably-priced cabs can be found inside the arrivals terminal, and the police are constantly watching for pirate taxi drivers. Kiosks are a safe and reliable to hitch a €10 trip by taxi to downtown Bucharest.

Be careful to look at the cost posted on the outside of the taxi, and then to look at the meter to see that you are being charged the same fare. Be especially careful in Bucharest, where some taxis post 7.4 lei instead of 1.4, but the 7 looks very much like a 1. Ask if you're not certain - they are obliged to post and clearly state the tariff up-front. All taxis must have a license - a large, oval metal sign bolted on the sides of the car, featuring the city markings, and a serial number inscribed, usually using large numbers. Do not use any taxi without those markings. Also, do not use a taxi with a license from another city (for example, never use an Ilfov taxi in Bucharest or a Turda taxi in Cluj-Napoca).

The driver may try to cheat you if he sees you are a foreigner. Insist that he will use the meter, or have a Romanian guide with you. Don't negotiate the ride fee in advance, as it may be 2-4 times higher (even more) than the real fee (even if it would seem cheap to you). Check whether it is going in the right direction, follow the way on a map (if you have any!) Do not take cabs from the cab stand in railway stations, unless they are from a reputable company and do not take any of the services of those offering you a cab ride in the train station. They may end up being amazingly expensive (up to €50 for a cab ride that would normally be around €3). If you need a taxi from the train station (or airport), order it by phone from a reputable company (see the city pages for the cities you want to visit) - most dispatchers speak some English as do many taxi drivers.

By plane

Air travel as a means for domestic transport is becoming more and more popular as increased competition resulted in lower prices (sometimes less than the cheapest train or bus ticket). This, coupled with an improved airport infrastructure leads to increases in the number of passengers compared to past decades.

Two airlines offer domestic flights in Romania - Tarom, with a hub in Bucharest and "no-frills" Blue Air with its domestic hub in Bucharest.

In 2010, Bucharest and Timisoara were linked by up to 12 daily flights (operated by Blue Air and Tarom - Tarom operated some of the flights on the routes with A310 wide-bodies), Bucharest and Cluj by up to 10 daily flights (operated by Tarom and Blue Air), Bucharest and Iasi by up to 4 daily flights (operated by Tarom), Bucharest and OradeaBucharest and Sibiu, and Bucuresti and Satu Mare by 2-3 daily flights (operated by Tarom), Bucharest and Suceava and Bucharest and Baia Mare by 1 daily flight (operated by Tarom). Bucharest and Arad are also connected through a daily flights by Blue Air. Constanta and Bacau, owing to the short distance from Bucharest, only see flights a couple of times per week. Frequencies on Saturdays may be reduced, especially to smaller cities.

Prices can begin from as low as 40 lei one way if booked in advance with Blue Air, or through a Tarom 'Superspecial' fare. Even 2-3 days before the flight, it is not uncommon to find tickets for under €35-€50 with a little shopping around. While Tarom style themselves as full-fare full-frill airlines, Blue Air considers itself a low fare carrier, and subsequently, has followed the model of not allowing price aggregation through reservation systems (a la Ryanair, Easyjet or Southwest), and as such, tickets for their flights will not be available through booking engines such as Orbitz or Kayak, but only directly through their website.

Some airports may be fairly distant from city centers, and, while some larger ones have adequate public transport (Bucharest, Cluj, Timisoara, Oradea), in some (such as Craiova or Iasi) you have to rely on taxis. Even so, a taxi fare from any airport downtown should not cost more than €5-10 outside of Bucharest.

Hitchhike

Hitchhiking is very common in Romania, and some experienced hitchhikers say it's the easiest country in eastern Europe. Usually, if you are in the right spot, you don't have to wait longer than 5 minutes. During weekends you may need a bit more patience, as roads are a little emptier. Locals also use this method on a regular basis, especially for shorter distances (up to 50 km). It is not uncommon for people (especially students) to hitchhike intercity (Bucharest-Sibiu, Timisoara-Arad and Bucharest-Ploiesti are particularity common hitchhiking destinations). Increase your chance to be picked up by using a paper with the city where you want to get to - it may save you some time especially if travelling intercity. A good spot is a bus station, road-split, or close to the city limits. Nevertheless, many if not most people will stop (provided they drive alone) - you may end up getting a ride in a 1970s rusty old Dacia or in a brand new Mercedes, in a semi-articulated truck or in a company car belonging to a big corporation. Hitchhiking is typically not dangerous (the highly aggressive, fast and disorderly driving style of Romanians may be more of a danger), but take usual precautions when using this conveyance. Inside city limits, it is not advisable to hitchhike using the traditional thumb-up hand signal, as many drivers may believe you are flagging a taxi or a route-taxi (mini-bus), and not stop. Use a destination paper instead.

It is customary to leave some money for the ride (so called 'gas money', about 1-2 lei/10km), but if you are a foreigner you will not be expected to leave money and nobody will get upset. Most truck drivers and company car drivers will refuse payment altogether. Furthermore, if you tell the driver where you want to get in a city, he or she will make a detour just to drop you off where it best suits you. Say "Mul?umesc"(Mooltsoomesck) (thank you) at the end.

Most Romanians are very talkative, and even if their English, French, German, whatever is extremely rusty, many will more likely than not tell you their entire life story, discuss the entire football season and/or talk politics (usually starting from discussing the poor state of roads even while on a freshly repaired road). In the end, however, hitchhiking is a mostly enjoyable experience, and, if lucky, you may even get yourself invited for lunch or dinner, offered a room for a night, or just meet some very interesting people along the way.

See

Whether you're looking for stunning landscapes, ancient cultural traditions, bustling city life or beautiful historic heritage; no visitor to Romania needs to search for things to see. This country is home to a range of top sights, especially when you'd like to get a feel for the old Europe, the time of monasteries and castles.

Cities and castles

The country's lively capital Bucharest does not top the average traveller's wish list, but if you're willing to look, this city's controversial mix of building styles might just amaze you. Go see the largest parliament building in the world, the 1935 Romanian version of the Arc de Triomph or visit one of the many museums. The impressive Bran Castle, dramatically situated on a Transylvanian hill top, is widely associated with the famous tales of Count Dracula and one of the country's main tourist draws. While there's no clear evidence of this castle being the model for Bram Stoker's stories, the castle surely fits the book's descriptions and has a fascinating recorded history of its own. Yet, there are other interesting examples, including the Neo-Renaissance Pele? castle near Sinaia and Corvin castle near Hunedoara. The still inhabited citadel of Sighi?oara is easily among the most beautiful ones of it's kind. Listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site, it still features many characteristics of a medieval fortified town and is a charming town to visit. Other fine historic towns include Timi?oara, the country's second city, the popular mountain resort Bra?ov and Sibiu.

Natural attractions

For a more natural experience, head to the Danube Delta, considered to most well-preseverd and also one of the largest river deltas in Europe. While it mostly consists of extensive wetlands, it in fact holds 23 different eco-systems. It lies on route for a number of main migratory routes, and more than 320 species of bird can be found here in summer. Besides water systems, Romania is also home to the largest European populations of bears and wolves, inhabitants of it's vast untouched forests. The Rodna National Park and Biosphere Reserve and Retezat National Park are excellent places to experience the country's rugged lands, old-growth forests and stunning mountainous landscapes, or hike to beautiful water falls in Cheile Nerei-Beu?ni?a National Park.

Countryside and monasteries

When planning your trip, make sure to include one of the many monumental monasteries and churches, such as the one in Horezu, a World Heritage Site known for it Brâncovenesc style architecture. Or, head to Southern Bukovina to see some of the wonderful and famous Painted Monasteries. Another fascinating region is Maramure?, listed by Unesco and popular among visitors for its wooden churches and Merry Cemetery. A trip to some of these more remote places of worship comes with the bonus of easy exploration of Romania's lovely countryside where -despite rapid development- old traditions and craftsmanship are still alive.

Itineraries

The following are some possible itineraries for travelling in Romania:

  • Transylvania Triangle Train Tour
  • If you like to drive, follow the stunning Transf?g?r??an Road for some spectacular views and lots of challenging curves.

Do

  • Go to church - Romania is one of the most religious countries in Europe, and the Orthodox church is omnipresent. You will certainly want to visit some churches and monasteries for their beauty and history, but why not take the chance to experience an Orthodox mass? The congregation is usually standing and it is perfectly normal to show up only briefly during the mass so you can come and go at your leisure without disturbing anyone. Show up at any church on Sunday morning, stand quietly in the back and observe. Be suitably dressed, see the section "Respect".
You will experience bible readings, prayers and other rituals accompanied by a short sermon explaining the text. You are not likely to understand much, but you can notice the varying levels of involvement among church-goers, visible in how long and where people stay at the mass, and how often they sign themselves with the cross, or even genuflect. Organized congregation singing is not common but is conducted by a choir with each church-goer joining when he feels like. The choir singing can be captivating, the quality usually reflects the importance of the church. The altar has sections with doors that open and close depending on the church season. You will also see candles sold, they are lit in or by the church in separate trays for the souls of either dead or living people. Try to find out about special holidays and rituals, perhaps the distribution of holy water by the truckload at the baptism of Christ (Boboteaza) or midnight masses at Christmas or Easter (the Orthodox Easter may be off by one or a few weeks compared to the Western). Weddings are often Saturdays, the ritual is very colorful and interesting.
  • Hiking trails come in a wide range of levels, from easy to seriously challenging. From flat delta areas to rugged terrains, the country's national parks make for great starting points and excellent vista's.
  • Winter sports - the Romania mountains house a number of popular winter sports resorts, such as Poiana Brasov (close also to Bran castle), Sinaia and Predeal. While increasingly popular, also among locals, these places remain fairly off the beaten track for most international winter sports fans and remain budget friendly.

Buy

Money

The national currency of Romania is the leu (plural lei), which, literally translated, also means lion in Romanian. The leu is divided into 100 bani (singular ban). On 1 July 2005, the new leu (code RON) replaced the old leu (code ROL) at a rate of 10,000 old lei for one new leu. Old ROL banknotes and coins are no longer legal tender but can still be exchanged at the National Bank and their affiliated offices.

Coins are issued in 1 (gold), 5 (copper), 10 (silver), and 50 (gold) bani denominations, but 1 ban coins are rare, despite store prices ending a lot of times with 99 bani. Do not expect exact change from store clerks, unless your total spending divides by 5 bani. When grossly short on change, clerks may also provide small coffee bags, oranges or similar as substitutes, but they may not accept it back as tender. Banknotes come in denominations of 1 (green), 5 (purple), 10 (red), 50 (yellow), 100 (blue), 200 (brown), and 500 (blue and purple) lei denominations, are made of polymer plastic, and, except for the 200 lei, correspond to a euro banknote in size. However, 200 and 500 lei banknotes are not common.

Romania is relatively cheap by Western standards, you can buy more in Romania than you can in Western Europe and North America, especially local products. However, be advised that although you can expect food and transport to be inexpensive in Romania, buying import products such as a French perfume, an American pair of sport shoes or a Japanese computer is as expensive as in other parts of the EU. Clothing, wool suits produced in Romanian, shirts, cotton socks, white and red wine bottles, chocolates, salami, a wide range of local cheese, inexpensive leather jackets or expensive and fancy fur coats are possible good buys for foreigners.

When exchanging money, it is extremely advisable to use exchange bureaus or to use cash machines (which will provide ready access to most foreign bank accounts). Absolutely avoid black market transactions with strangers: in the best case scenario, you might come out ahead by a few percentage points, but that rarely happens. Most apparent black marketers are actually con men of one sort or another, who will either leave you with a bankroll that turns out to be full of worthless Polish zlotys or will simply engage you in conversation for a few minutes, awaiting the arrival of their partners who will pretend to be the police and try to con you into handing over your wallet and papers. (This con game is known as a maradonist.) Exchanging money in the street is also illegal and in the worst case scenario, you might spend a night in jail as well. It is not recommended to exchange money in the airport either - they tend to overcharge on transactions and have very disadvantageous rates - you should use a card and the ATM for immediate needs (taxi/bus) and exchange more money later while in the city.

You should shop around a bit for good exchange rates. Some exchange offices in obvious places (such as the airport) may try to take advantage of the average tourist's lack of information when setting the exchange rate, and it is not advisable to use them, as the exchange rates may well be quite unrealistic. Prior to leaving for Romania consult the website of the National Bank of Romania for a rough estimate of what exchange rates you should expect. Typical exchange offices should not list differences larger than 2-3% from the official exchange rate. Also, when picking an exchange office, make sure it has a visible sign saying "Comision 0%"; Romanian exchange offices typically don't charge an extra commission apart from the difference between the buy and sell rates, and they are also required by law to display a large visible sign stating their commission, so if you don't see such a sign or if they charge something extra, keep going. Choosing a reasonable exchange office, which is not hard to do with the data in this paragraph, can save you as much as 10%, so this is worth observing. Changing money at a bank's exchange office is also a good idea.

Transactions

Romanian transactions generally take place in cash. Although some places will accept Euro or USD, it is not advisable as you will generally be charged an additional 20% paying by this method, although this is changing. The best method is to pay using local currency - lei (RON). Most Romanians have either a charge card or a credit card - however, they are generally used at ATM machines - on-line payments are relatively new, and some companies still look at them with suspicion - so much so, that they will make you pay on delivery. You can however pay by card in many shops and in most supermarkets. Accepted credit/debit cards are: MasterCard, Visa, American Express (in some places - although this is rapidly expanding because of a very aggressive campaign by American Express) and Diners Club (usually only in hotels, and even then expect stares and incredulity that such a card even exists). Almost all transactions at POS machines (supermarkets, shops etc.) will ask you to enter the card's PIN as well.

Most small towns have at least one or two ATMs and a bank office, with large cities having hundreds of ATMs and bank offices. (It is not uncommon to see three bank agencies next to each other in residential neighborhoods of Bucharest). ATMs are also available in many villages (generally at the post-office or the local bank-office). Romanian for ATM is bancomat. Credit cards are accepted in large cities, in most hotels, restaurants, hypermarkets, malls. Do not expect to use a credit card at any railway station or for the public transport (the subway and RATB of Bucharest, for example, are cash-only because they consider that card transactions would slow down the queues at the ticket booths). Gas stations and a great number of other stores accept Visa and MasterCard. It is advisable to always have a small sum of money in cash (about 50 lei or even more), even in large cities. It is not possible to withdraw any common currency (like euros or dollars) besides lei.

Romanian businesses are not mandated to provide you with full change for every transaction, and frequently their tills are short of small coins in particular. Fortunately many prices are in round multiples of 1 leu, and they are almost always in multiples of 10 bani. Even if a store can change, say a 100 lei note, they will ask you for smaller change first. For very small amounts (say 20 or 50 bani) they might sometimes insist on you buying something of that worth instead of giving you change.

Tipping

The tip is usually 10% of the bill and is expected in restaurants, coffee shops, taxi, hair dressers.

Prices

Romania is generally very cheap, and is probably the cheapest country inside the EU, though it's still more expensive that neighboring Ukraine. However, inflation has struck Romania in many places, and some prices are as high or higher than those in Western Europe, but this is often reserved to luxuries, hotels, technology, and, to an extent, restaurants. However, raw food, transport, and accommodation remain relatively cheap, as does general shopping, especially in markets and outside the capital. Bucharest, as with every capital in the world, is more expensive than the national norm, particularly in the city centre. In the past 2-3 years, Bucharest has become increasingly expensive, and it is expected to do so for some years. However, travellers from Nordic countries will find all the prices in Romania to be amazingly low, especially transport (short and long distance), restaurant food and drinks.

Supermarkets and convenience stores

A good place to shop for food are farmers' markets, although hypermarkets have become popular in Romania such as Auchan, Billa, Carrefour, Cora or Kaufland.

Different from supermarkets are neighbourhood grocery stores called 'alimentar?'. The stores are dim, old Communist-era shops that can be cheaper. These shops, which can best be compared to British cornershops, may be convenient if living in the suburbs or in smaller towns. Despite their seemingly poorer appearance, they sell good-quality food. In 'alimentara', expect strange systems of payment or selection: you may not be able to take items off of the shelf yourself, or one person may tally up your total before another handles the cash, etc. Many locals however actually prefer these establishments, since they offer a personal touch, with many salespeople remembering the preferences of each buyer, and catering specifically for their needs.

Opening hours are extremely predictable and amazingly long. Some shops will have a "non-stop" sign - meaning they are open 24 hours, 7 days a week. Shops that are not open 24 hours are usually open 8AM - 10/11PM, with some keeping open in summer until 2 or 3AM. Supermarkets and hypermarkets are open 8AM - 10/11PM as well, except during some days before Easter and Christmas, when they remain open through the night. Pharmacies and specialized shops are usually open 9AM - 8/9PM, sometimes even later while farmers' markets usually open their doors at 7AM and close at 5 or 6PM.

The countryside fair

A traditional countryside shopping is the weekly fair (târg, bâlci, or obor). Usually held on Sunday, everything that can be sold or bought is available - from live animals being traded amongst farmers (they were the original reason why fairs were opened centuries ago) to clothes, vegetables, and sometimes even second hand cars or tractors. Such fairs are hectic, with haggling going on, with music and dancing events, amusement rides and fast food stalls offering sausages, "mititei" and charcoal-grilled steaks amongst the many buyers and sellers. In certain regions, it is a tradition to attend them after some important religious event (for example after St. Mary's Day in Oltenia), making them huge community events bringing together thousands of people from nearby villages. Such fairs are amazingly colorful - and for many a taste of how life was centuries ago. One such countryside fair (although definitely NOT in the countryside) is the Obor fair in Bucharest - in an empty space right in the middle of the city, this fair has been going on daily for more than three centuries.

Eat

Romanian food is distinct yet familiar to most people, being a mixture of Balkan and Central European flavours, but it has some unique elements. The local dishes are the delicious sarmale, ardei umplu?i (stuffed peppers), m?m?lig? (pr. muhmuhliguh, polenta), bulz (traditional roasted polenta, filled with at least two kinds of cheeses, bacon and sour cream), friptur? (steak), salat? de boeuf (finely chopped cooked veggies and meat salad, usually topped with mayo and decorated with tomatoes and parsley), zacusc? (a yummy, rich salsa-like dip produced in the fall) as well as tocan? (a kind of stew), tochitur? (pr. tokituruh, an assortment of fried meats, and traditional sausages, in a special sauce, served with polenta and fried eggs), mici (pr. michi, with a ch sound like in the word "chat"; a kind of spicy sausage, but only the meat, without the casings, almost always cooked on a barbecue, but may also be cooked with hot water vapours; often served with beer during picnics - mici ?i bere), roe salad, various mashed beans varieties like iahnie (the h is loud).

Other dishes include a burger bun with a slice of ham, a slice of cheese and a layer of French fries, ciorb? de burt? (white sour tripe soup), ciorb? r?d?u?ean? (very similar to ciorb? de burt?, but with chicken instead of tripe), ciorb? ??r?neasc? (a red sour soup, akin to bor? but with the beet root being replaced by fermented wheat bran, with lots of vegetables), Dobrogean or Bulgarian salads (a mix of onions, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, white sauce and ham), onion salad - diced onion served in a dish, tomato salad - diced tomato with cheese, ?orici (pig skin - boiled and sometimes in stew), and drob (haggies) - a casserole made from lamb or pork liver and kidneys. Local eclectic dishes include cow tongue, sheep brain (Easter), caviar, chicken and pork liver, pickled green tomatoes and pickled watermelon.

Traditional desserts include pasc? (a chocolate or cheese pie produced only after Easter), s?r??ele (salty sticks), pandi?pan (literally means Spanish bread; a cake filled with sour cherries), and cozonac (a special cake bread baked for Christmas or Easter). Bread (without butter) comes with almost every meal and dill is quite common as a flavoring. Garlic is omnipresent, both raw, and in special sauces (mujdei is the traditional sauce, made of garlic, olive oil and spices), as are onions.

Generally, there is good street food, including covrigi (hot pretzels), lango?i (hot dough filled with cheese and various other optional seasonings like garlic), gogo?i (donut-like dough, coated with fine sugar), mici (spicy meat patties in the shape of sausages), and excellent pastries (many with names such as merdenele, dobrogene, poale-n brâu, ardelene?ti), thin pancakes filled with anything from chocolate and jam to bananas and ice cream. Very popular are kebab and shawarma (?aorma), served in many small shops.

Popular Romanian snacks that are readily available in shops are pufule?i (very cheap and delicious corn-made snacks) and sunflower seeds, but usual snacks like potato chips and various nuts are also common. Common sweets are halva, halvi??, rahat (Turkish Lokum - "rahat" is also commonly used as an euphemism for feces, meaning that you might hear Romanians talk about rahat a lot when being angry, but they do not actually refer to anything commonly considered edible) and coliv?, a boiled wheat dish commonly used in religious mourning rituals.

Most restaurants in Romania, especially in more regional areas, only serve Romanian food, even though it is similar to Western European food. Especially in Bucharest, there is a wide variety of international food, especially Mediterranean, Chinese or French. There are also fairly plentiful international fast food chains. The interesting truth about these is that they are just nominally cheaper than restaurants, with the quality of the food being of an international standard but quite much lower than that served in restaurants. Therefore, go for the restaurants when you can - they provide a much more authentic and quality experience at prices that aren't much higher.

Vegetarian and vegan travellers can easily find a tasty dish suitable for them if they ask for mâncare de post (food suitable for religious fasting). Because Romanians are in their large majority Eastern Orthodox Christians, fasting involves removing of all the animal products from their meals (meat, dairy products or eggs). Even though Lent seasons only cover a small part of the year, you can find fasting food throughout the year. However, most Romanians are unaccustomed with vegetarianism or veganism; still, you can find such "mâncare de post" all year round; some Romanians fast also outside Lent, on most Wednesdays and Fridays, as part of their orthodox faith.

Drink

Wine

Romania has a long tradition of making wine (more than 2000 years of wine-making are recorded), in fact Romania was in 2014 the 12th largest producer of wine in the world. The best wineries are Murfatlar, Cotnari, Dragasani, and Bohotin. Its quality is very good and the price is reasonable: expect to pay 10-30 lei for a bottle of Romanian wine. Several people in touristic areas make their own wine and sell it directly. Anywhere you want to buy it, it is usually sold in glass bottles of about 75 cl. Many of the monasteries produce and sell their own wine. Most of the individuals wine makers, including monasteries, will allow you to taste it first, but some may not.

Beer

Like all the countries with a strong Latin background, Romania has a long and diffused tradition of brewing beer, but nowadays beer is very widespread (even more so than wine) and rather cheap compared to other countries. Avoid beers in plastic PET containers, and go for beers in glass bottles or cans. Most of the international brands are brewed in Romania under a license, so they taste quite different than in Western Europe. Some beers made under licence are still good - Heineken, Pilsner Urquell, Peroni. You can easily realize whether a beer has been brewed in Romania or abroad and then imported simply by looking at the price: imported beers are much more expensive than the Romanian ones (A Corona, for example, may be 12 lei while a Timisoreana, Ursus or Bergenbier of a full 1/2 litre size will be 2-4 lei. Some of the common lagers you may find around are quite tasteless, but there are some good brewers. Ursus produces two tasteful beers, its lager is quite good and its dark beer (bere neagr?), Ursus Black, is a strong fruity sweet beer, similar to a dark Czech beer. Silva produces bitter beers, both its Silva original pils and its Silva dark leave a bitter aftertaste in your mouth. Bergenbier and Timisoreana are quite good. All the other lager beers you may find, such as Gambrinus, Bucegi or Postavaru are tasteless (in some consumers' opinion). Ciuc is a very decent and affordable pilsner, now owned by Heineken. Expect to pay around 2-3 lei for a bottle of beer in the supermarket and double in a pub.

Spirits

The strongest alcohol is palinca, with roughly 60% pure alcohol and is traditional to Transylvania, the next is ?uica (a type of brandy made from plums - for the better quality, traditional version - but alternatively from apricots, wine-making leftovers, or basically anything else - an urban legend even claims you can brew a certain kind of winter jacket (pufoaic?) to ?uic?, but this is rather a proof of Romanian humor). Strength of ?uica is approximately 40-50%. The best ?uica, made from plums, is traditional to the Pite?ti area. Strong alcohol is quite cheap, with a bottle of vodka starting off between 10 lei and 50 lei. A Transylvanian speciality is the 75% blueberry and sour cherry palinca (palinc? întoars? de cire?e negre), better known as vi?inat? - but is usually kept by locals for celebrations, and may be hard to find.

Sleep

Finding an accommodation in Romania is very easy, for any price. In all the touristic places, as soon as you get to the train station several people will come to you asking whether you need an accommodation, or you can book it in advance. Those people welcoming you at the station often speak English, French and Italian. Moreover, while walking on the street, you will often find cazare written on the houses, that means they will rent you a room in their own house. You'd better book an accommodation in the big cities (Bucharest, Cluj-NapocaBrasov and Iasi), since it'll be quite hard to wander around looking for a place to sleep, but anywhere else you won't find any problem at all.

As with most countries it is often cheaper to obtain accommodation directly with the hotel (either in person or in advance via the internet) rather than through booking agencies. An increasing number of even small hotels will accept reservations via the Internet. Search for the local official tourist guide websites which will have a list of hotels and/or bed-and-breakfasts, then inquire at that site: most have information in English, many have formal reservation webpages. Prices for Four star hotels are much the same as in the rest of Europe, certainly in Bucharest, whilst three star hotels and below can be a little cheaper. A feature of Romanian accommodation prices is that many bed and breakfast establishments (without any hotel star rating) are in fact as or even more expensive than two or three star hotels. Most appear to be more modern than rated hotels.

Rural tourism is relatively well developed in Romania. There is a national association of rural guesthouses owners, ANTREC who offer accommodations in over 900 localities throughout the country.

Education

The oldest Romanian university is the University of Iasi, founded in 1860 (the medieval schools in Bucharest and Iasi are not considered universities). BucharestIasi and Cluj are considered to be the largest and most prestigious university centres, with newer centres of education like TimisoaraCraiova and Galati emerging as cities with an increasingly larger student population. If coming with a mobility grant (Erasmus/Socrates or similar), it is very important to go to the International Office of the Romanian University as soon as possible, as Romanian paperwork tends to be quite impressive and may take some time to be processed. Also, if planning to study in Romania, it is highly recommended to find your own accommodation - most universities do not provide any accommodation, and if they do provide accommodation, the conditions offered are sometimes terrible (3-4 persons sharing a room, with a corridor of 50 or more sharing the showers and toilets is not unheard of - this happens since university-offered accommodation is typically next to free (€15-20 per month) for Romanians, and you usually get what you pay for).

The education system is mediocre at best since 1990 (Romania did not do good in either of the PISA evaluations, being in the lower third of European countries), however reform attempts have been done in the past decade. Attendance is compulsory for 10 years. Universities have started to reduce the number of subsidies so students will, increasingly, have to pay the tuition (tuition is however very low - €500 per year is the norm). With some exceptions teaching methods in universities are antiquated, with formalism, dictation and memorization as the main tools employed - leading to low quality of many establishments (no Romanian university made it in the Shanghai Index). However, there were very serious reform attempts, with some universities (notably the University of Bucharest, University of Iasi, the Babe?-Bolyai University in Cluj and the University of Timi?oara) imposing better teaching standards and interactivity between students and teachers - however much progress is to be done even there. For most subjects, programs are available in Romanian and Hungarian, depending on the university. Some programs are available in English, French and German. Elementary and middle schools are supported by local authorities budget. As with most nations, teachers complain about small salaries. Literacy is nearly universal. According to an EU commission study, about 30% of Romanians speak English (50% in urban environments) and 25% French (40% in urban environments). German is also spoken by about 3-5% of the population (1% having it as their mother tongue).

Stay safe

While violence against foreign tourists is rare, this does not mean you should leave your common sense at home, if you decide to vacation in Romania. Generally crime is limited to petty thefts and common scams, and not much else that would concern the tourist. Avoid city neighbourhoods and villages that are predominantly populated by gypsies and you should not encounter any problems. Wherever you may be in the country, ask trusted locals about the surroundings, they will gladly give you a few pointers.

Although racial prejudice exists in Romania, especially toward those who look like Roma (“gypsies”), hate crimes are rare. Some homophobic prejudice also remains, for instance an annual gay pride parade in Bucharest has been the scene of violent protests in past years.

Emergency phone numbers

Romania uses the pan-European standard number 112 for all emergency calls since 2004. Therefore, this is the only number you will need to remember for police, ambulance and the fire department.

Petty crime

Romania is quite safe, with very little violent crime. Pickpocketing and scams (such as taxi scams or confidence tricks) are present on a wider scale, so exert care especially in crowded places (such as train stations, some markets, urban public transport). Keep your money or valuables in inner pockets of your backpack and always watch your handbag in said crowded areas. When traveling with a cab, always make sure you read and remember the price per kilometer that's written on the outside of the car, because some of the drivers may try to take advantage of the fact that you are not familiar with the prices.

Animals

Romania has a very large population of wild animals, including one of the largest population of wild bears in Europe. Bears are deadly, and even the ones living closer to cities, which loot garbage containers, must not be approached. It is commonplace for bears to visit city neighborhoods situated near mountain forests in search for food (such as in Bra?ov). As such, spotting a bear or wolf is fairly easy. Although usually not dangerous, such animals may become aggressive if care is not taken. If you spot a bear or wolf when hiking, it is advisable to slowly turn around and slowly walk the other way. Local shepherds advise people who are wild camping to camp out in the open rather than under trees where possible to avoid the bears. Under any circumstances, do not attempt to run or try to feed the animal, as it may become disoriented and attack. In 2006, 6 people were killed by wild animals in Romania. There have also been cases in which tourists encountered bear cubs and attempted to feed or play with them. In some cases this has turned out to be a fatal mistake. If you happen to encounter any sort of young animals be aware their parents are somewhere close. The best thing you can do is leave the area as soon as possible, as cuddly and cute as bear cubs may be, their parents are not. Bears are extremely aggressive when they have cubs and will attack at the slightest hint of a threat to their cubs. Please be aware. This is one of the leading causes of attacks by animals on people.

Feral animals such as stray dogs may additionally pose a problem in Bucharest and other major cities, where they are widespread. Some might not be aggressive, but be careful about animals in packs and at night. Some are taken care of by people from nearby housing blocks and these can be especially territorial and can sometimes attack without warning. The number of stray dogs is declining but is still extremely high and overall they are the biggest physical danger especially in remote areas.

Romanian farmers also use dogs for herding and protecting sheep. You'll most likely see this if you're walking near any farms, on dirt roads, or rural areas. You can tell they are sheep dogs as farmers usually attach horizontally-hanging sticks under their necks. If you encounter one of these dogs, it might appear scared at first, and might be looking backwards. It is indeed scared, but it is not looking for retreat: it's looking for its other doggy friends! If you continue walking towards their territory or whatever herd of sheep they are protecting, they will most certainly become more and more defensive, and have no doubt that more and more will appear as you get closer to the herd. In situations like this, you simply need to back off. It's not worth attempting to defend yourself either, as Romanian farmers will get very angry. If you are in a rural area, consider waiting for a horse-drawn wagon or car for hitchhiking: this is the best way to cross such territories.

Corruption

Some visitors may encounter corrupt policemen (Poli?i?ti) and customs officials (Vame?i, Ofi?eri de vam?) first hand, even though this seems to be a declining problem. While it may be tempting to pay a bribe (mit? or ?pag?) to smooth things along on your visit, you should avoid doing so as it only contributes to this problem. It is also illegal to give bribe as well as it is to receive it. Foreigners might receive tougher sentences in Romania.

A piece of good advice for when you find yourself in the situation to be asked to pay a bribe (or just suggested) is to politely reject the proposal, stating clearly that you would not do that. If you are being harassed adopt a swift and determined attitude, and threaten that you will immediately call the police. This will almost surely make whoever is asking for the bribe stop and leave you alone.

Stay healthy

Healthcare

Conditions in Romanian hospitals may vary from the very clean and sparkling, with all the latest technological utilities, to the downright drab, dark and cold. Some hospitals, however, may be, as aforementioned, uncomfortable, with dimness, temperature problems (hot in summer, cold in winter) and outdated equipment, although medical staff are usually experienced. You won't usually face problems such as significant lack of cleanliness.

Remember that your travel health insurance might prove to be insufficient if the medical condition is severe. In this case, you will be asked to pay for the medical services, and prices are not very low compared to Western Europe.

Update: As of Romania's accession to the European Union, citizens of the European Union are covered by Romania's National Healthcare System as long as they carry an E111 European Health Insurance Card, obtainable from their own national healthcare authority and valid for all EU countries.

Dental procedures in Romania, especially those in private clinics, are of an excellent quality. In fact, many Western Europeans come to Romania to have their teeth done for the quarter of the price they pay in their home country. Quality is particularly high in clinics in Transylvania and Bucharest.

Respect

Romanians are quite hospitable. In the countryside and small towns, they welcome foreign tourists and, occasionally, they might even invite you for a lunch. As is common with Romania's Balkan neighbours, Romanians will insist when offering something, as "no" sometimes does not mean "no", and they just consider it polite for you to refuse and polite for them to insist.

You should take some normal precautions to study your hosts first. It is common for friends and family to kiss both cheeks upon greeting or parting. Respect towards the elderly is highly appreciated and is a good representation of your character. The phrases used to greet friends and strangers alike is "Bun? ziua" (Boo-nah Zee-wah) which means "Good day" or "Good afternoon." During morning and evenings, the phrase changes to "Bun? diminea?a" and "Bun? seara", respectively.

At beaches, men wear either speedos or shorts, with the former more common amongst the over 40s, and the latter more popular with the younger crowd. Ladies tend to wear thong bikinis, while topless sunbathing is becoming more widespread.

Refrain from observations that Romanian is a Slavic language or even related to Hungarian, Turkish or Albanian. People might find it quite offensive; in fact, as it was already mentioned, Romanians do not pronounce vowels and consonants the same way as any of their neighbours.

Romanians also appreciate foreigners who do not assume that Romania was part of either the Russian Empire or the Soviet Union (it was only a member of the Eastern Bloc).

Avoid discussing the ethnic animosities between the Romanians and ethnic Hungarians. Hungarians dominate in some areas in Transylvania, and in recent years occasionally inter-ethnic violence has broken out.

Other minority-rich regions include Dobrogea, where Tatars, Turks, and Ukrainians still live today, and also the west of the country, where there are small numbers of Serbs, Slovaks, and Germans. Almost all Jews left the country in the decades after the Holocaust.

Another very offensive misconception is making no difference between Romanians and the Roma people (commonly referred to as Gypsies, although this term is considered derogatory). Confusing the two ethnic groups can offend a lot of people because there is still a lot of prejudice towards the Roma people.

Romanians might dislike having Romania labelled as a Balkan country because of a somewhat negative image of the region. It is not entirely geographically correct either, as most of Romania (all of it except Dobrogea) technically lies outside the Balkan Peninsula.

Connect

Mobile phones

Mobile phones are ubiquitous in Romania. There are five networks - four GSM/3G (Orange Romania, Vodafone, Telekom and DigiMobil) and one CDMA (Zapp). Orange and Vodafone have almost full national coverage (98-99% of the surface of the country), while the German Telekom is expanding quickly.

Tariffs are average for the European Union (€0.08-0.30/min, €0.04 per SMS). Both pre-paid cards and subscriptions are available, and special options for discounted international calls exist with some pricing plans. Roaming is available but is, like in most of the EU, rather expensive. Pre-paid cards or recharge codes can be bought in almost every shop, either rural or urban.

On prepaid SIMs you can activate extra options ("extraop?iune") starting from €5 (+ 24% VAT) in total = 27-32 lei, with a validity period of 30 days, containing thousands (200 -3000) of minutes and SMSs within the same network and up to 100 minutes outside the network, including most European Union fixed land-line networks and two or three mobile networks.

Internet access

Internet access is fast, widely available in urban environments and growing in rural environments. Broadband internet is widely available in cities and towns, through cable, DSL, or home-grown small or medium size ISPs offering UTP connections. Speeds are mostly like Western Europe or the US, with 1-4 Mbit/s downstream for non-metropolitan access being the norm - with prices being around €9-25 for 1-4Mbit/s, with local access significantly faster (10-50 or even 100Mbit/s). The speeds are increasing, home access for 4Mbit/s being available at around €10 per month.

Internet cafs are available in most towns and cities and villages - but in big cities, their numbers are dropping because of the cheap availability of home access. In rural areas, public Internet access is available in 150 remote villages (in so-called "telecenters"). In these "telecenters", access is subsidized by the state, and therefore limited. Computers are usually not available in libraries, or in public places such as train stations.

Wireless access is growing, especially in Bucharest, Bra?ov, Sibiu, Bistri?a, Timi?oara and Cluj with Wi-Fi widely available in University areas, airports, public squares, parks, cafes, hotels and restaurants. Pay-as-you-go Wi-Fi is also available in many venues. If uncertain, look for plazas near the Town Hall, large parks or other important buildings. Most (if not all) McDonald's restaurants in Romania have Wi-Fi access and so do most 3-star (and higher) hotels.

Mobile internet is available cheaply by all the mobile phone companies (using Romanian simcards). Combined 3G/GPRS/EDGE access is priced at 40-80 lei per month with a cap of 5-10GB.

Cable TV

Cable TV is also very widely available, with about 85% of all households being connected. All hotels providing you with a TV set will offer cable TV or digital TV.

Women are amazing. Men are amazing too, but this post is about the female half of the species, specifically about ten women who blog.

One of the best things about travelling is the chance to meet new people. Craig and I are lucky enough to have friends all around the world; some are people we’ve stayed with through Couchsurfing or AirBnB, others are fellow travellers. Still others are members of the ever-growing travel bloggers’ community, which is full of truly excellent people. At a recent blogging festival, I met one of these people: Alys from The Wild Life. Last week, she nominated me for the Sisterhood Of The World Bloggers Award.

Hover over and click 'pin it' to share on PinterestHover over and click ‘pin it’ to share on PinterestI’d never heard of this award before and my search for answers on Google was not particularly fruitful, but it seems to be a way for women to share a bit about themselves and show some love to their favourite fellow female bloggers. Or at least, that’s what I’m going to use it for!

The rules of the award are:

  • State who nominated you.
  • Answer their questions.
  • Nominate ten other female bloggers.
  • Ask them ten questions.

My nominations

There are a lot of awesome female bloggers out there, these ten are some of my favourite people — check them out!

Sherry from Ottsworld.

We’ve known Sherry for almost as long as we’ve been travelling, and have met up with her in several countries. We’re always impressed by her intrepid adventures.

Jodi from Legal Nomads.

Jodi’s another inspiration. Her long-form articles are beautifully written, and though we may not agree about whether or not to eat olives, we love hanging out with her.

Lauren from Spanish Sabores.

As well as blogging, Lauren also runs a food tour company introducing travellers to delicious Spanish food.

Leigh from The Future is Red.

Leigh is one of those genuinely amazing people who it’s always a pleasure to be around. We spent six weeks with her and her husband at their home in Salta, Argentina, and were impressed with their work with indigenous people and underprivileged kids.

Deb from The Planet D.

Deb and her husband Dave are two of the most adventurous people I know — hence their motto “adventure is for everyone”. Deb is an outgoing, friendly person who always seems to have a good word for everyone.

Alisa from Alisa Abroad.

During my year in Alcalá de Henares, I spent a lot of time with Alisa, who worked at the same school as me. I enjoy her blog for its honest reflections on life.

Two female bloggers at the wine fight in Haro a href=There are some awesome female bloggers out there — like our friend Janine (in this photo, covered in wine).

Janine from Carry On Exploring.

If you listen to the podcast, you might have noticed that Janine is one of our best friends. We’ve travelled with her in a dozen or so countries and really enjoy her company — and her blog.

Liz from Young Adventuress.

Liz is a lovely person who it’s always fun to be around, and her blog is one of the most popular travel blogs out there. Plus, she’s living in New Zealand, so there are always lots of lovely photos of home on her site!

Leyla from Women on the Road.

Leyla is a super intelligent, dauntless woman who I have a lot of time for. Her blog is full of really useful advice for solo women travellers, so if you’re one of those, check it out.

Dalene from Hecktic Travels.

We met Dalene and her husband Pete at a blog camp they were running in Ireland, and I enjoyed their company SO MUCH. I also enjoy Dalene’s writing style, which is friendly and inclusive.

Questions for nominees

  1. Why do you travel?
  2. Suitcase or backpack?
  3. What luxury item do you take with you?
  4. Who do you like to travel with?
  5. What’s great about your home town?
  6. Do you ever feel tired of travelling?
  7. What’s the most challenging thing about travel?
  8. Tell me about a moment when you felt really happy.
  9. What have you only recently learned about travel or about yourself?
  10. Which travel destination would you love to go back to?
Trekking up the Roy's Peak track in New ZealandWho do you like to travel with?

Alys’s questions and my answers:

1. Where was your first ever trip abroad to?

I have no idea! My family travelled a lot when I was a child, and my first trip overseas was almost certainly before I turned one year old. It was probably to Australia, though, which is the closest country to our home country of New Zealand.

2. Why did you start your travel blog?

We’d been travelling for about six months and kept making ridiculous mistakes. We started the Indie Travel Podcast to share our errors with people so that they wouldn’t make the same mistakes we had.

3. What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened whilst you were travelling?

When we were in Romania, we were sucked in by a scam. A man approached us as we were walking to our hostel and told us that it had been closed because someone had been murdered there the previous night. He led us to a taxi which charged us an extortionate amount to take us to a “tourist park” where we would be “safe”. I still feel sick when I think about it.

4. What’s your biggest travel achievement?

Keeping on going! We’ve been travelling full-time for almost ten years now, despite setting out with the aim of only being away for three.

5. What’s top of your travel wish list?

I really, really, really want to go to Colombia. We’ve been planning a trip there for four years and it still hasn’t eventuated, for various reasons. We’ll get there eventually, though.

Looking down the Sacred Valley, PeruPeru is the closest we’ve come to Colombia.

6. What’s the best food you’ve eaten whilst travelling?

Argentinian steak has to be right up there, paired with a glass or two of delicious Malbec wine. Yum.

7. If you could learn any language what would it be?

I’d love to be able to speak Chinese, but my attempts to learn it haven’t been very successful. I’m currently working on German.

8. What blog post are you most proud of?

I’ve recently been learning more about the technical side of podcasting. I’m pretty proud of how the Camino Primitivo podcast turned out, as it was one of the first ones that I edited solo.

Female bloggers also walk the Camino PrimitivoOne of the many views on the Camino Primitivo.

9. What’s your best advice for a first time traveller?

Pack light! You really don’t need as much stuff as you think you do.

10. Where are you off to next?

Next week, we are heading to Moldova. This is another destination that’s been on the wishlist for years, and recent changes in visa requirements have meant that it’s finally possible — I’m really looking forward to it!

Share your thoughts

Who are your favourite female travel bloggers? What are your answers to the questions above? Leave a comment below!

The first time I remember hearing about Moldova was the day after my wedding. I was in a second-hand store, buying books to take with me on honeymoon, and I picked up Tony Hawks’s Playing Tennis with the Moldovans. It looked amusing, and I bought it, but I wasn’t sure if the Moldova of the title was a real country or an invented one, like Krakozhia or Tazbekistan.

A small amount of research revealed that it was indeed real, and in eastern Europe, but that travelling there would involve a tedious amount of form filling and back-and-forth to get a visa. Unless, of course, we visited in early October for the annual wine festival, when getting a visa would be slightly easier (but still annoying).

Moldova pinterest pin.Pin me on Pinterest!Moldova sat at the back of our minds for years, always just slightly out of reach for one reason or another. Every year, we examined our calendar to see if this October could be the October we drank wine in Moldova, but it never happened — until this year. When once again researching travel options, I discovered that Moldova had changed its visa requirements, and that Kiwis no longer needed a visa. The decision was made; we’d go.

Sources disagreed as to when the wine festival would be and flights weren’t as cheap as we’d have liked, but we worked it out and finally arrived in Chișinău on October 1, 2015. Unfortunately, the wine festival we’d been wanting to attend for about ten years had been canceled. Well, modified. Instead of a large event in the centre of Chișinău, there were many smaller events, hosted by the wineries themselves; free transport was provided from the city centre and there would still be plenty of wine involved.

To listen, hit play below or find episode 309 in iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud:

In the end, we loved Moldova. The laid-back atmosphere of central Chișinău, the dilapidated grandeur of the government buildings, the ridiculous state of the pavements (apparently vastly improved from when Tony Hawks was there… no uncovered manholes now!). And, of course, the wine. We drank a fair bit of it under the guise of research, and it’s fantastic. In fact, it’s almost enough of a drawcard to convince us to spend considerably more time in this country.

Fact box

Name: Moldova. Location: In eastern Europe, between Romania and Ukraine. Population: 3.46 million. Language: Romanian. Russian is widely spoken in Transnistria. Capital: Chișinău. Known for: Wine. Temperatures: Lows go below 0 in winter and highs in summer hover around 27-30. It’s mostly dry, with rainfalls in early summer and in October. Airport: Chișinău International Airport (KIV), 13km from Chișinău. Takes about half an hour to get into the centre of town by public transport. Currency: Moldovan lei. €1 = 22.4 lei, US$1 = 19.8 lei. Price of a pint: 17-30 lei. Price of a dorm bed: From €8/US$9. Price of a double room: From €15/US$17. Price of a public transport ticket: 2 or 3 lei

Tell me more about Moldova!

If you’re considering a trip to Moldova, do it! The old cliche of somewhere being unspoiled by tourism is true here, so we really felt like we were experiencing the country the way a local might. Many people speak English, especially in hotels, though you’ll need a few words of Romanian to buy bus tickets and in restaurants, though choosing food shouldn’t be a problem; many of the restaurants we went to had a picture menu as standard or included English translations.

The local currency is the lei, and it’s easy to change money in the many exchange bureaus. The booth at the airport gave a very fair rate, though we found a slightly better one at a bank in central Chișinău. That’s pronounced “KISH – ee – now” by the way; we’ve been saying it wrong for years!

Moldovan wine

Wine is an important part of the Moldovan economy, and has been since the country was part of the USSR. In fact, one in every two bottles of table wine, and one in three bottles of sparkling wine consumed in the Soviet Union was made here. Now it’s primarily produced for export, as many Moldovans make wine at home and don’t have any need for the fancy stuff made by the big names. We enjoyed stopping into the small shops to buy a one-litre plastic bottle or two of brandless local wine, but make sure to taste the good stuff too.

The easiest way to do that is to plan your visit to coincide with the annual wine festival in the first weekend of October. It’s usually held in the Great National Assembly Square in the centre of Chișinău; all of the wineries are represented and you can wander from stall to stall tasting as many wines as you like, for free. In 2015 protesters were occupying the square so the festival was modified — free transport was provided to many of the wineries, which each put on free or paid events. Our favourite was the event at Butuceni, which most closely resembled the ordinary festival: the small wineries got together to put on a mini-festival for the small charge of 40 lei.

Mini wine festival in MoldovaThe mini wine festival event was just getting underway when we arrived.

If you can’t visit in October, many of the wineries run tours of their factories that end with a tasting. You’ll have to email the wineries directly for information about times and prices as their websites are all lacking in that regards, though almost all will organise a tour in English at a time that’s convenient for you. Asconi and Cricova are both an easy day trip from Chisinau, and we visited both Purcari and Et Cetera on our way to Odessa.

There are a lot of wines to taste -- Purcari has 16 on offer!Purcari has 16 wines on offer!

Getting to Moldova

Arriving by air means flying into Chișinău International Airport (KIV), about 13km to the southeast of Chișinău. You can catch a taxi into the city if you like, but the cheapest option is minibus number 165. Turn right out of the airport terminal and you’ll find a cluster of vans at the far end of the building. It costs 3 lei per person (with an extra charge for a large bag) and you’ll be dropped on Ismail Street, or earlier if you prefer.

You can also arrive by land from Ukraine and Romania. There’s a once-daily train to and from Odessa, but buses are more frequent. There are three bus terminals in Chișinău: Central, North and South-West. International buses tend to arrive at the North station, which is (confusingly) located on the east side of the city.

Get around Chișinău

Public transport is made up of mini-buses, buses and trolleybuses, and is easy to use if you’re going in a straight line; it’s not so great for connecting odd areas of the city. Mini buses cost 3 lei per journey, pay the driver as you enter. Trolley buses and regular buses cost 2 and 3 lei respectively. You can board from any door and a conductor will find you to take your money; make sure to have small change. You can also walk around the centre of Chișinău without too many problems, though the pavements are in a sorry state.

Victory arch in Chisinau MoldovaThe Victory Arch is one of the symbols of Chisinau.

Get around Moldova

To really explore the country, hiring a car is probably your best option. You can get to many destinations by bus or minibus, but finding out where to catch them, how much they cost, and how long the journey is, can be challenge! Tour companies such as TatraBis provide fairly-priced day tours, which can take a lot of the hassle out of planning, or see below for some day trip ideas.

Accommodation in Moldova

There’s a wide range of accommodation options in Chișinău, from couchsurfing hosts to five-star hotels, and everything in between; since the country is so small, you can base yourself in Chișinău and do day trips to most destinations. We mostly used AirBnB for our stay and had a great experience. You’re more likely to find an English-speaking receptionist at a a hostel or a larger hotel; our one night in a tiny hotel was amusing for the lack of communication that went on.

If you want to explore more of the country, you could consider staying overnight in Soroca, at the Butuceni Eco-resort, or at one of the wineries that offer accommodation (like Purcari winery or Chateau Vartely; Asconi, Castel Mimi and Et Cetera are in the process of creating accommodation).

If you stay at Butuceni, you'll have the chance to try your hand at making traditional food.If you stay at Butuceni, you’ll have the chance to try your hand at making traditional food.

What to do in Chișinău

Pick up a “Hello Chișinău” map from the information desk at the airport, as well as a similarly branded country map. The Chișinău map has the key sights clearly marked, and there’s even a one-hour “city monument tour” marked on it. If you take a photo of each of the key sights, then visit a certain souvenir shop, you’ll be given a small gift — cheesy but fun! There are a range of museums to visit, dedicated to (among other things) ethnography, art, beer, and coffee; take your pick! You should also wander through the central market and shop like the locals for everything from fresh fruit and vegetables, to stationery, clothes and toys.

Delicious and beautiful fruit in the market of Chisinau.

A photo posted by Craig and Linda (@indietravel) on Oct 12, 2015 at 1:56pm PDT

Day trip to Transnistria

Transnistria is an unrecognised breakaway republic in Moldova, propped up by Russian separatists and, in the words of one person we met, “still living in the USSR”. We were warned it was dangerous, but — if anything — our two day trips were a little boring. Of course, one trip wasn’t quite planned.

Make sure to visit the Kvint cognac distillery while you’re in Transnistria: it was our highlight, both for the tour and the extremely high quality and value of the ‘divin’ (cognac) on offer. Other highlights in Tiraspol, the capital, are the soviet-style monuments to war heroes, randomly placed tanks and military installations, and the beautiful churches and Orthodox shrines.

To get to Transnistria you can catch a minibus towards Tiraspol from the Central bus station; tickets cost 37 lei and you can buy them from a small booth before you board the bus. Getting back can be a challenge as return buses to Chișinău don’t leave from the Tiraspol bus station but from a parallel street; we caught a local bus to Bender to see the fortress (bright yellow bus 19, 3 roubles) and then returned to Chișinău from the Bender bus station, which was pretty easy to find. Return tickets cost 30 roubles each.

Inside the Kvint museum in Tiraspol, Transnistria.Inside the Kvint museum in Tiraspol, Transnistria.

Final thoughts

We highly recommend a trip to Moldova, especially if you’re interested in wine — in which case, go in October for the wine festival. To us, it seems like one of those magical places that are almost untouched by tourism, it retains its charm while looking to the future. Of course, this may change now that it’s opening up, so go now! Or at least, next October — maybe we’ll see you there.

To listen to us talk about Moldova, hit play above or check in iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud.

Hear about travel to Northern Romania as the Amateur Traveler talks to Ralph Velasco of photoenrichment.com about the region that he visited leading a recent photo tour.

We talk about the regions of Maramureş and Bukovina, north of Transylvania.

Ukraine has been in the news a lot recently, with Russia taking over Crimea and a passenger plane being shot down in Ukrainian airspace, not to mention the revolution last year. They say all publicity is good, but this kind of news is certainly keeping tourists from the country.

However, our ten days in Ukraine showed us a country that was just going about its business; a pleasant place with friendly people who are angry about how corrupt their nation is. There’s plenty to see and do, and we didn’t feel unsafe at all during our time there.

We only visited Odessa and Kiev, and we spent a lot of our time working, so we can’t talk about Ukraine as a whole. However, we certainly got a taste for the country and are keen to return when I no longer need a visa!

Ukraine podcast

To listen, hit play below or find episode 310 in iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud:

Before you go

Make sure to check if you need a visa or not. US, UK and EU citizens don’t, so Craig was fine, but New Zealanders do. Citizens of many countries require an invitation letter or tourist voucher, which makes the process that much more difficult, but New Zealanders and Australians don’t require this.

Pin me on Pinterest!Pin me on Pinterest!You can apply at a Ukranian embassy at home or while you’re travelling, and the cheapest option takes two weeks to process — it was double the price for a fast service (same-day or overnight). Bring proof of travel insurance, the address of where you’re going to stay, a passport photo, and your flight details if you have them.

We also highly recommend learning to read Cyrillic script. Get an app for your phone or copy out the letters and their equivalent in Latin script, and practice as much as possible. Many things are written in English, but a fair amount is in Ukrainian or Russian only, and if you can at least understand the sounds of the words, you’re halfway there.

Getting there

There are direct flights to Kiev from London and a host of other European destinations; ours were surprisingly affordable. You can also travel overland from many countries, including Russia, Poland, Romania and Moldova. To travel between the airport and Kiev, you can take public transport, but taxis are affordable: we paid 250 UAH door to door. Don’t just hop in any taxi, though, have someone call for you, or call yourself if you speak Russian.

Get around

Both Odessa and Kiev have good public transport systems, though Odessa is small enough to walk around. Kiev has a good metro system; one ride costs 4 UAH (the currency is called the hrivna, pronounced greevna) and you purchase tokens from a ticket counter or a machine before going through a turnstile.

There are also many options for travelling within the country; train seems to be the most popular among locals and method we chose. We went with an overnight train that had three classes, and since a first-class private cabin with two beds only cost 400 UAH (US$18) per person, we decided to travel in comparative luxury. Second class cabins have four couchettes, and third-class is open plan, with four beds on one side of the aisle and two on the other. It’s cheap, but I prefer to be able to lock my door. It’s possible to book online, but we decided to buy our tickets in person at the train station; be aware that credit cards were not accepted, despite the Visa sign on the window.

Kiev funicular UkraineKiev’s funicular is worth a ride if you’re in the area.

What to see in Odessa

Odessa is a beautiful city, charming with its faded grandeur. The city itself is the main attraction, so make sure to have time to wander around to see its buildings and parks. We loved the flat house, the mother-in-law bridge, and the City Gardens. The Potemkin steps require a visit, made famous through a scene in the movie Battleship Potemkin; apparently many of the events in the movie are based on historical fact, but the scene on the steps is fictional. Wander around to the Marine Terminal after going down the steps, and if you’re feeling lazy, you can go back up by funicular.

Whatever you do, don’t miss a visit to the opera. Ticket prices cost less than a cup of coffee in many places, so there’s no excuse! Just seeing the opulent interior is worth the entrance fee, but you also get a high-class performance into the bargain. We saw a fantastic ballet, but all sorts of plays and concerts are put on there. You could also visit the Odessa Philharmonic for another beautiful experience; tickets start at 80 UAH.

Odessa's opera house is beautiful!Odessa’s opera house is beautiful inside and out.

Eat

The place to eat is Deribasovskaya street, with its miles of restaurants and street-food stalls. We loved Kompot, a local mini-chain which serves local food at fair prices and is named after a local fruit drink they serve.

If you like markets, you’ll love Privoz market, which is one of the biggest in the former USSR. It has everything from meat, to clothes, to fruit and vegetables, and was a great place to stock up for our overnight train trip.

There are also a wealth of museums; we didn’t visit any this time, but you can choose from art museums, a literature museum, a maritime museum, an art gallery or two, an archaeology museum or a museum of the cinema. Or stay local and visit the Odessa region museum.

We were excited to go to the beach while in Odessa, and there are at least six to choose from, including party spots and nudist beaches. The weather wasn’t right for swimming while we were there, though, so we just visited one that was close to our hotel.

The flat house is a must-visit in Odessa.The flat house is a must-visit in Odessa.

Kiev

We were amazed by the beauty of Odessa’s churches, and more than one person told us “just wait until you’re in Kiev.” They were right. The religious buildings in Kiev were spectacular, from the sprawling Lavra monastery, to the elegant St. Sophia cathedral, to the blue and gold of St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Cathedral.

We always enjoy cities with metro systems — so much easier to navigate than bus routes! All of the stations are signposted in Latin as well as Cyrillic script and it’s ridiculously cheap. There are three lines, and interchange stations each have two names, one per line. We used the funicular a couple of times, too, as it was on our route: one ride costs 3 UAH and it runs from Podil (by the river) to the upper city.

On our wanders around the city, we visited the main sights: the Mother Motherland monument, the Friendship Arch, Maidan square in the centre of town, Khreshchatyk Street, and a whole bunch of churches and monasteries.

The Mother Motherland monument in Kiev.The Mother Motherland monument.

Lavra

Possibly the highlight of our trip was the visit to the Kiev Pechersk Lavra (cave monastery) which is commonly called “Lavra”. It’s a sprawling complex of buildings, built around a network of caves that were dug out by priests hundreds of years ago. Entrance fees vary according to which buildings you want to enter, and we paid extra to be able to take photographs.

It’s definitely worth heading to the bottom of the hill to have a look in the caves, where you’ll find the mummified bodies of several priests on display. Most of them are covered with heavily decorated shrouds within their glass coffins, but here and there a hand is visible. You’ll have to buy a thin candle for 1 UAH and women must cover their head and legs (skirts and shawls are available for this purpose). It’s a bit of a fire hazard but definitely an unforgettable experience.

Lavra  Kiev UkraineWe couldn’t take photos in the caves, but this is the view from within the Lavra complex.

St Sophia and St Michael’s

These two impressive churches are located within view of each other across a large square. We paid 10 UAH to enter the grounds of St Sophia, and it’s also possible to pay extra to enter the church and climb the bell tower. St Sophia is no longer a functioning church, and is a UNESCO world heritage site for good reason.

Kiev was gorgeous -- Santa Sophia Cathedral blew us away.St. Sophia Cathedral is one of the most spectacular buildings we’ve ever seen — and we’ve seen a few.

Eat and sleep

There’s a full range of accommodation options in Kiev, from hostels to five-star luxury. We found a good deal on booking.com for a boat hotel (yep, a boatel), which was an interesting experience! We ate at small local restaurants, and particularly enjoyed going to Pusata Hata with our Ukrainian friends.

Final thoughts

While we don’t recommend visiting Eastern Ukraine at the moment due to the conflict with Russia, there’s no reason to put off a trip to Odessa or Kiev. Both of these cities have a lot to offer in terms of architecture, food, and a warm welcome from local inhabitants. So check if you need a visa, and go!

To listen, hit play above or check in iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud.

Would you like to visit Ukraine? Have you ever been? Leave a comment below.

Moldova’s one of those countries that doesn’t get much press, though that has been changing recently with the high-profile arrest of its president for corruption. It’s poor and misunderstood, but is rapidly forming new connections with Western Europe and is sharing its spectacular wine with the world.

Geography

Questions about a href=Pin me on Pinterest!

Where is Moldova?

Moldova is located in eastern Europe. It’s a land-locked country that’s shaped roughly like a semi-circle, with Romania to the west and Ukraine to the north, east and south. Its southeastern point almost touches the Black Sea.

Which country is close to Moldova? Which country is to the west of Moldova?

Romania borders Moldova to the west, and Ukraine is to the east. Bulgaria isn’t far away, it’s easily reached through Romania; and Turkey is to the south and south-east, reached through Romania and Bulgaria by bus, or across the Black Sea.

What is the landmass of Moldova? How big is Moldova?

Moldova is quite a small country, especially in comparison to its neighbours Ukraine and Romania. It has a landmass of 33.843 sq km.

What is the capital city of Moldova?

The capital city of Moldova is Chișinău, which is located in the center-south of the country. You pronounce Chișinău “KISH-ee-now”.

Victory arch in Chisinau MoldovaThe Victory Arch is one of the symbols of Chisinau.

General facts

What is the currency of Moldova?

The currency of Moldova is the leu (singular), or lei (plural). One euro = 22.5 lei, one US dollar = 19.8 lei. Credit cards are accepted in many restaurants and in major hotels, but you’ll need cash for most transactions. ATMs are widespread and currency exchanges are located almost every 50m in Chișinău. The exchange office in the airport gives a fair exchange rate.

What language is spoken in Moldova? What is the native language of Moldova?

The official language of Moldova is Romanian, and Russian is also widely spoken. A Turkish dialect called Gaguaz is spoken in some areas.

English is not widespread, though it is now being taught at school from the first year of study. Many younger people and people in the tourism industry speak good English, but it is not common among older people.

You will see English on some signs, like this one at Asconi Winery.You will see English on some signs, like this one at Asconi Winery.

What is the climate like in Moldova?

Moldova has a temperate climate, with hot summers and winters that can be quite cold. Lows go below 0 in winter and highs in summer hover around 27-30. It’s mostly dry, with rainfalls in early summer and in October.

How safe is Moldova?

We found Moldova to be a very safe country. Corruption is a problem at a state level, and there is a big anti-corruption press campaign going on at the moment, as well as frequent protests. Pickpocketing is as common as in other European countries, and because of poor street lighting it’s important to be careful at night. You’re most likely to have problems with the uneven pavements!

Economy and government

What type of government does Moldova have?

Moldova is a parliamentary republic. It was part of Romania until the Second World War, when it became part of the USSR. It declared independence in 1991 and joined the UN in 1992. In 2014 it signed the Association Agreement with the European Union.

What is the economy like in Moldova?

Moldova is the poorest country in Europe and is plagued by corruption. A major part of its production is produce, and since Russia banned produce imports from Moldova in 2014, the fruit and vegetable industry is having major problems at present.

What is the average salary in Moldova?

The current average monthly salary is increasing, it’s currently around 4,900 lei or US$250. The GDP is US$3500.

Why is Moldova not part of the European Union?

Moldova is a relatively new country that is rapidly opening up. It signed the Association Agreement with the European Union in 2014, so although it’s not a member it is associated with the EU, and may be able to join in the future.

Why is Moldova so poor?

It’s a largely agricultural society plagued by corruption. Things seem to be changing now, though, with more connection with the western world and more opportunities for young people to choose alternative jobs.

Et Cetera winery is conveniently located on the road from Chisinau to Odessa, so we visited this morning before finally making it to Ukraine! The highlight was trying wine straight from the vat.

A photo posted by Craig and Linda (@indietravel) on Oct 18, 2015 at 6:37am PDT

Tourism

Do I need a visa for Moldova?

Probably not! On April 28, 2014, Moldova made a huge change to their visa regime which means that citizens of many countries don’t need a visa to enter. So if you’re from the EU, US, Canada, New Zealand, or Australia, no visa is required. South Africans still require a visa. Check the official website for more information.

What is Moldova famous for? What is Moldova best known for?

Moldova is perhaps best known for its wine, which is absolutely delicious. Most Moldovan families make wine at home, so the wineries chiefly produce wines for export. This is a relatively new industry and it’s growing fast.

There are also a lot of amazing religious buildings and institutions in Moldova, including churches and monasteries. There are castles and fortresses dating back to medieval times, as well as historical monuments to visit.

Soroca fortress in MoldovaSoroca Fortress in the north of the country is worth a visit.

What to do in Moldova?

Since wine is such an important part of the culture, visit during the first weekend of October to take part in the annual wine festival. This festival has been running for 15 years and now that citizens of most countries don’t need a visa to enter the country, it’s a lot easier to get to.

There are a lot of wines to taste -- Purcari has 16 on offer!There are a lot of wines to taste — Purcari has 16 on offer!

How much is a beer in Moldova?

In a local restaurant, expect to pay around 20 lei for a small beer (less than €1 or US$1). Check out Andy’s Pizza’s menu for more food and drink prices.

There are a couple of boutique breweries that are worth checking out, though the beer is a little more expensive.

Should I visit Moldova?

If you like wine, definitely. If you want to visit somewhere that’s relatively untouched by western tourism, it’s also a good choice; and if you’re into architecture you’ll also like it. It isn’t full of tourist attractions and getting around by public transport can be a challenge, but I think it’s certainly worth a visit.

Where should I stay in Moldova?

Moldova is a small country and most of its attractions are easily reached within two hours’ drive from Chișinău. You’re best to base yourself there, and you’ll find a full range of accommodation options, from apartment rentals to five-star hotels. Check out Hostelbookers for hostels or Booking.com for hotels.

If you want to get out of the city, consider an overnight stay at Butuceni Eco-resort, or at one of the wineries that offer accommodation (like Purcari or Chateau Vartely; Asconi, Castel Mimi, and Et Cetera are in the process of creating accommodation).

If you stay at Butuceni, you'll have the chance to try your hand at making traditional food.If you stay at Butuceni, you’ll have the chance to try your hand at making traditional food.

How to get to Moldova?

There are direct flights from many European cities, such as London and Milan. Wizz Air is a good budget choice: check options on Skyscanner. You can also arrive by bus or (infrequent) train from Romania or Ukraine.

Which Moldova guidebook should I buy?

Online information about Moldova is scarce (though Moldova Holiday is quite useful) so a guidebook could be a good option. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many available. If you’re travelling there as part of a larger trip, Lonely Planet’s Europe on a shoestring and Eastern Europe guidebooks both include basic information, but their Romania and Moldova guide was last published in 2007.

Do I need insurance for Moldova?

Yes, it’s always a good idea to have travel insurance. We use World Nomads, which allows you to extend your policy and make claims online.

Do you have any questions about Moldova? Ask in the comments below.

Some of the links in this post are affiliates.

Pedro from Guatemala

Pedro from Guatemala

Journeymakers are the people you meet who make your trips more memorable. People who share their spirit & enthusiasm with everyone they encounter.

This month I’m partnering up with American Express for their 100th anniversary to highlight some of my favorite Journeymakers after 5 years on the road.

Who are Journeymakers? The people you meet on your travels who inspire you or somehow make your journey extra special.

The tour guides, locals, or others who find a way to enrich your travel experience.

It was difficult for me to choose, as I’ve met so many amazing Journeymakers during my travels. But these are the people who stand out the most.

Pedro The Volcano Man

Guatemala is where I met my first Journeymaker, Pedro. With my Spanish just as bad as his English, communication was basic as he guided us up the 9000 foot Volcano San Pedro on the shores of beautiful Lake Atitlan.

However you don’t need to speak the same language to make a new friend. Pedro was joking around with us all the way up — stopping to point out his favorite flowers, mushrooms, and birds as we climbed.

When he isn’t growing coffee along the nutrient rich slopes of the volcano, Pedro guides intrepid travelers to the top, clearing a path through the jungle with his trusty machete.

The view from the summit was breathtaking. It’s humbling to know that he hikes this giant volcano every day to earn a living. Makes you appreciate how easy the rest of us have it.

Pedro’s enthusiastic attitude about sharing his knowledge of the local landscape helped make our volcano adventure feel extra special.

Sorina from Romania

Sorina from Romania

Sorina The Gypsy

While traveling through Spain I met a remarkable community of gypsy travelers who live inside abandoned caves. Originally from Romania, Sorina and her friends kindly invited me to hang out with them and spend the night in their cave.

We shared stories, food, and played music all evening. They explained how they support themselves by selling homemade crafts to tourists in Granada. Other members of the community would pop in and join us from time to time.

The next day I helped them all build a vegetable garden.

The generosity of Sorina & her friends will always stay with me — sharing their crowded cave with a complete stranger simply because I was curious about their lifestyle. It made me want to go out and return the favor for someone else.

Thanks to them, my time in Granada was the highlight of my trip to Spain.

Isaac from Panama

Isaac from Panama

Isaac The Jungle Guide

While traveling through Panama, I teamed up with a friend to visit the Darien Gap. We hired a local Kuna indigenous guide named Isaac to lead us through this mysterious wilderness where no roads exist.

Trekking deep into the rainforest in search of rare frogs, birds, and snakes — Isaac used his knowledge of the area to locate animals we’d never have spotted on our own.

But the journey didn’t stop there. Rather than pay for a guesthouse, Isaac invited us to stay with him and his family.

Fishing is a major source of both food and income for the indigenous people living here. We spent an afternoon on the river hand-line fishing in the rain, later grilling our fresh catch for dinner.

Thanks to Isaac’s hospitality and outdoor skills, we received a fascinating glimpse of life in Darien that not many people get to experience.

Rudy from Nicaragua

Rudy from Nicaragua

Rudy The Ex-Soldier

I first met Rudy while searching for street food late one night in the city of León, Nicaragua. After ordering a giant chicken empanada with rice & beans I sat down to eat alone.

Another customer invited me over to join him. “No one should eat alone” he said. A former soldier from the Nicaraguan revolution, Rudy was visiting from Luxembourg where he lives now.

He told me the odd story of Dr. Abraham Paguaga, a famous doctor with magic healing abilities. Together we tracked down locals to verify his tale.

Eventually we ran into a pair of elderly sisters who were treated by the doctor. They invited us in for tea to share how he healed them both from sickness when no one else could.

Thanks to Rudy, I learned something unexpected about an enchanting place. He sparked my curiosity and helped add a layer of intrigue to local history.

Fleming & Ellen from Denmark

Fleming & Ellen from Denmark

Fleming & Ellen The Adventurers

While trekking 10 days across Greenland’s Arctic Circle Trail, I unexpectedly met Fleming & Ellen from Denmark at a remote wilderness cabin 50 miles from civilization.

We chatted for a few hours waiting for the steady rain outside to subside.

At 70 years old, they’ve hiked the 100 mile long Arctic Circle Trail 6 times now. They had also spent a month trekking completely across Greenland’s vast ice cap, pulling their own food & supplies on sleds…

If that wasn’t enough to impress, they’ve both hiked to Everest Base Camp and climbed Mont Blanc (Europe’s highest mountain at 15,777 ft.). They didn’t even start trekking until their 40’s either!

Before we parted ways, these incredibly inspiring senior citizen adventurers gave me tips for crossing a deep river further ahead on the trail, and ideas for my next adventure.

Thanks to Fleming & Ellen, I will never feel too old to seek out challenging new travel experiences. If they can do it at 70, so can we all.

Who Are Your #Journeymakers?

All these people shared their time & kindness with me while enriching my travel experience to help make it more memorable. Have you met any Journeymakers on your travels who deserve to be recognized or thanked?

Visit The Journeymakers Website to create a personalized postcard to thank someone who made your trip extra special.

Remember to share your story in the comments below too! ★

READ NEXT: Things To Do In Playa Del Carmen

Who has inspired or enriched your travels?

American Express

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

Laptop in Malta

There’s a question that I’ve been asked more and more often lately:

“There are so many travel blogs out there today. If I start, I’m going to be so far behind. Do I have any chance of making it a career? Is it even possible?”

A lot of people would say no — but I disagree.

I think now is actually a good time to start a travel blog. There’s more money to be had in the industry. Blogs and personalities become popular much faster. New social networks becoming progressively more prominent. In short, you’re open to a lot of opportunities that I didn’t have.

 

RELATED: How to Start a Travel Blog The Right Way

 

Here are a few tips from 2016 that did not apply to the space until fairly recently.

Chiang Mai Travel Bloggers

Know you don’t have to be the biggest travel blogger of all.

Just a few years ago, only the top tier of bloggers were making a full-time living from their blog, and only a few were making enough money to live anywhere more expensive than Southeast Asia.

That has changed. More people are making decent livings. You still see plenty of bloggers living in Southeast Asia, but an increasing number are living in pricey cities in North America and Europe.

A lot of new bloggers start with the goal of being one of the biggest travel bloggers of all. (Quite frankly, that was my motivation in the early days.) If you do that, you’re going to be chasing it forever. But if you don’t let fame motivate you — if you instead want to have a quality working career — you can absolutely make it happen.

Think of it this way: every TV actor dreams of having Viola Davis or Kerry Washington’s career, headlining a popular Thursday night drama. But you could also be a working actor appearing in small guest roles on everything from Law & Order to Brooklyn Nine-Nine to random commercials and the latest Judd Apatow flick, the kind of person where people say, “I know that face! What’s she been in?”

Those actors still make money from their craft. Many of them have a pretty good work/life balance as well. That’s something to keep in mind.

Kate Quaker Oats Murder

That said — most of the big names have slowed down their travels.

There was a time when the people behind the biggest travel blogs were on the road at least 80% of the time. That’s not the case anymore. We’re very tired.

I’m not going to name names because some people are keeping it quieter than others, but a great many popular travel bloggers have chosen to get year-round apartments with leases and travel far less often. (Most of you know that I am one of these bloggers, having moved to New York seven weeks ago.)

That means that if you have the opportunity to travel long-term, you’re going to be doing so in a way that not a lot of others are doing at the moment. That’s especially good for real-time platforms like Snapchat. More on Snapchat below.

Kate in Albania

Niche is good; personality plus specialty is better.

Niche is always a big discussion — people always talk about how important it is to HAVE A NICHE. You need to open that proverbial fly-fishing blog!

But in this day and age, I see it differently. I think the most important thing is to have a well-developed voice and personality along with a few specialties on which you can become an expert.

Alex in Wanderland, for example, has a specialty in diving.

Young Adventuress has a specialty in New Zealand travel.

Flora the Explorer has a specialty in sustainable volunteering.

These specialties are not the only subjects that these bloggers write about, so I wouldn’t go so far as to call them their niches. But they are areas that differentiate them and give them expertise and credibility. If I needed help with any of those subjects, I would go to their sites in a heartbeat. (Also, it’s worth adding that Liz didn’t even visit New Zealand until she had already been blogging, so yes, it is possible to develop a specialty on the road!)

This is especially important for all the women trying to differentiate themselves as a solo female travel blogger. There are a million of you now, ladies. Work on diversifying.

The most difficult part is developing your voice and personality, and that can only be done by writing, writing, writing.

Smartphone Challenge

Social media is more important than ever.

We’ve entered a time where social media can often eclipse the value of your blog. That was never the case early in my blogging years, but I’m seeing it more and more today, especially with Instagram.

At this point in time, Instagram is by far the most important social network. It’s widely consumed by “real people,” it’s prioritized by brands (translation: this is where the money is), and it allows you to show your strengths. A company may be more interested in advertising on Instagram than anywhere on your blog.

But this means you’re going to throw a lot of time and effort into creating a beautiful, engaging Instagram profile.

Snapchat is another big network on which I recommend getting started. It’s huge among “real people” and it’s still early enough that you can be an early adopter, like me.

Another place that can become a game-changer is Pinterest. Pinterest now regularly drives traffic to lots of my pages that don’t necessarily do well in search.

Other social networks are important. Some people swear by Facebook (and I do quite a bit with it); others live and die by Twitter. And by all means, yes, work on growing your Facebook audience in particular. But if I were you, I’d throw your time and resources into focusing on Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest.

Kate and Brenna in Koh Lanta

The time to get into video is now. Or yesterday.

Video is projected to grow more and more — a year and a half ago, Mark Zuckerberg said that he expected video to be the dominant content on Facebook within five years. I’ve said before that not doing enough on YouTube keeps me up at night. I just feel like I haven’t had to learn all the skills.

There is plenty of room to grow on YouTube — I’d argue that you can grow faster and far more effectively as a travel YouTuber than as a travel blogger. The time is definitely now.

FYI — Travel Blog Success is having a sale on their videography course this week. It’s 35% off. See below for more.

I actually bought the course last year but I need to make creating better videos a priority for this summer.

Angkor Wat at Dawn

I still mean it — get out of Southeast Asia.

This is one of the most controversial pieces of advice I’ve given, and I stand by it. Southeast Asia is tremendously oversaturated in the travel blogosphere at this point in time.

Is it possible to focus on Southeast Asia and still become a prominent travel blogger? Of course it is. You can stand out if you consistently create genuinely original content.

But most people who spend time in Southeast Asia don’t do that. They write “this is what it’s like to cruise Halong Bay” and “here are photos from my day at Angkor Wat” and “the best things to do in Ubud are these” and “this is how awesome Koh Lanta is.”

It’s good stuff, sure, and it will be useful to your readers who aren’t familiar with those destinations, but posts like those will not allow you to gain traction as a travel blogger. Major influencers will not be sharing these posts because they’ve been seen a thousand times before.

If you want to spend extended time in a cheap region, consider parts of Mexico and Central America (inland Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, inland Nicaragua), parts of South America (Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia), parts of Central and Eastern Europe (Balkans excluding Croatia and Slovenia, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, former USSR), and/or parts of South Asia (India, Nepal, Sri Lanka).

Because while plenty of people have written about those destinations, they are nowhere near the saturation level of Southeast Asia.

Bloghouse Mentors: Kate, Lisa, Cailin, Mike, Steph

Travel Blog Success Will Help You Grow Fast, Well, and Efficiently.

I push Travel Blog Success because it’s the best product out there. Why?

  1. The course will teach you so much at a fast rate. If you read the materials and put the work in, you won’t make the mistakes that the majority of bloggers make.
  2. The course comes with discounts and perks. Savings on premium plugins, hosting, design products, conference tickets, and more.
  3. The Facebook community is the best travel blogging group on the web. Forget the giant groups on Facebook — the private Travel Blog Success group is the only place where I give out advice to bloggers publicly, and lots of other experts do, too.

And yes, I earn an affiliate commission if you purchase through that link. 26% on the main course, 15% on the others. But I only link to products that I actually use, like, and recommend. Always have, always will.

What do I always tell people? Wait until the course on sale. Because even though that means I’ll be making a much smaller commission, I’d still rather have you get the maximum discount.

Well, it’s on sale now. 35% off all courses. And since I last wrote about it, more courses have been added in addition to the main Travel Blog Success course:

  • Bloggers, Brands, and Tourism Boards — A course on getting partnerships, both comped and paid
  • Bloggers to Bylines — A course on becoming a freelance travel writer.
  • Videography for Travel Bloggers — A course on becoming a travel videographer or YouTuber.

The sale ends Friday, March 25, 2016, at 11:00 PM ET.

San Juan del Sur Sunset

Because yes: It’s still possible to make it if you start today.

I know some people will disagree with me, but I think that in many ways, it’s a lot easier to get started now than it was when I did in 2010. The market may be crowded, but there is always — always — room for excellent content.

And whether you’re watching a brilliant sunset on a beach in Nicaragua or sitting on your purple couch in your Harlem apartment (which I may be as I write this), the life of a travel blogger is incredibly rewarding. Each day, I feel so grateful that this is what I do for a living.

Note: the links to Travel Blog Success are affiliate links. I only use affiliate links on products that I actually use, like, and recommend. This course is worth every penny and then some!I think now is actually a good time to start a travel blog. There's more money to be had in the industry. Blogs and personalities become popular much faster. New social networks becoming progressively more prominent. In short, you're open to a lot of opportunities that I didn't have.

Hear about travel to the Danube Delta in Romania as the Amateur Traveler talks to Christian Cummins about traveling to this UNESCO biosphere in Europe.

Photo by Fineas Anton

YOU REACH INTO you wallet to pay for your hostel bed for the night, and come up empty. You dig deeper, finding only receipts and pocket lint.

You realize you’re out of money.

Nervous, you excuse yourself from the hostel clerk and rip open your backpack, in search of a secret stash of cash. Nothing. Not even a few coins.

All you have left are some smelly socks, an overdrawn bank account, and an unquenchable thirst for adventure.

What do you do? Pack up your gear, hang your head in shame as you call your friends/parents to send the money for a ticket home? Or do you consider these innovative options for funding a life on the road:

1. Travel writer

Considered by many as the ultimate travel job, writing for online publications can help you buy your next mug of beer. Work your way to becoming the next Hunter S. Thomson by learning about the craft and querying your next inspired idea.

2. Wield that camera

National Geographic may not be knocking your door down, but that doesn’t mean that your photos don’t deserve an audience. Try selling your landscape and portrait shots to travel publications or submit it to a stock photography company such as Shutterpoint.com, Andes Press Agency, and Getty Images.

3. Video journalism

With the advent of Youtube amateur videos are in great demand. Become a backpack filmmaker, set up your own vlog, or simply sell it to tourism sites.

If you’re talented (or even if you aren’t), this is a great way to earn money. Just make sure you’re not taking someone else’s “spot” and check the legalities of performing in a certain area. Or if the police come, you could just run away really fast.

5. Work in a bookstore

It’s a great way to show-off your “intellectual” side whilst devouring the latest books. Keep in mind that most may require a work permit before they hire you. A great alternative is to bunk in Paris’ famed Shakespeare and Company where the owner offers free beds and work in exchange that you promise to read at least one book a day.

6. Online poker

This is the perfect money-making means for risk takers. Many travelers who have funded their trips from their winnings on online poker. Make sure to weigh the risks of wiping out your bank account and developing a gambling problem.

7. Massage

Have you been known to make your dates swoon with your suave massage moves? Maybe it’s time you put your seduction skills to good use by working as a freelance masseuse. Find willing clients on the beach or a location where people are looking to relaaaaxxxx. Invest in some scented oil, clean nails, and your most disarming smile and you’ll have enough funds for your own spa treatment.

8. Farm work

Fruit picking and farm work is one of the favorite possibilities for hippies, idealists, and masochists. Though it is hard labor, it’s a paying job with invaluable perks, like meeting new people, enjoying the outdoors, and having a unique experience.

One of the best resources is Transitions Abroad, Matador’s Guide to WWOOFING and Finding Paying Work in Europe.

9. Construction

If you’d like to fatten your wallet whilst trimming your waistline, then take on some short-term construction work. Who knows, with your newly sculpted abs and beefy biceps, you may find other uses for that tool belt.

10. Work in a hostel

Many hostels hire part-time workers in exchange for cheaper rates on rooms. Cleaning up after travelers may seem pretty disgusting, but it’s an opportunity for quick cash, a free bed, and some new friends.

11. Painting

You don’t have to cut off your ear to get a painting gig, but you can put your artistic abilities to good use by offering your services for home, office, or building refurbishments.

12. Dishwasher or kitchen staff

Grab some leftovers without having to resort to dumpster diving. Experience the stress, camaraderie, and craziness of working in a restaurant’s kitchen. It may even open your eyes to a new career path like it did for bad-ass chef extraordinaire, Anthony Bourdain.

13. For the love of science…or some cash

If you were the type of kid that purposely ignores the expiration date on milk cartons just to “see what would happen,” then this is the job for you. Get prodded and poked by nervous science students in the UK, US, and in Europe with Get Paid to Guinea Pig.

14. Donate blood

So what if you feel a bit woozy? A train to Russia is not cheap. Plus, you’re helping save lives.

15. Modeling

Do you enjoy staring at your reflection on train windows and hostel mirrors? Then throw down that backpack for a few hours and head off to the glamorous world of commercial and print modeling. Often found in the gigs section of craigslist ads and city job sites, these opportunities require little more than a few cheesy poses.

16. Movie extra

Run through the streets of Berlin with Jason Bourne or flee Godzilla’s rampage in Tokyo by working as a movie extra. You can check out casting agencies, local job posts, or even the local couchsurfing group where independent film makers often post openings. It’s a great way to rub elbows with international celebrities (or at least tell your friends you did), earn some fast cash and possibly get discovered.

17. Recycle

Yes, saving the environment does pay. In most European cities, you can get cash back for the bottles you collect. Scour the hostel lounge and trash cans for some empty containers which you can take to the local supermarket where you’ll be given enough change to finally buy that banana you’ve been eyeing.

18. Sports events

Run after wayward golf balls or mop up the latest spillage from the Tae Kwon Do championships. For sports enthusiasts, it’s a great way to earn some money whilst gaining insight on the local games.

19. Trim some bushes

No, not those, pervert. Knock on a few doors and ask if they need any cleaning, yard work, or repairs done. Though you may be chased off by Rover (or Ganesh if you’re in India), with a rumbling stomach, anything is worth a try.

20. Expositions

If you consider yourself a master of setting up tents, then challenge yourself by working at an exposition. Find these jobs on the city classified pages and help put up the displays, tarps and booths for a quick and easy buck.

21. Write content

If you’ve been annoying your friends and family back home with your lengthy emails, then maybe its time to get paid by writing about other things than yourself. Work for a site that pays per hits such as blogit.com and helium.com.

22. Resell stuff

Don’t quite know what to do with that weird doll you got in Romania? Then sell it in your next location. From convincing your bunkmate to buy your lucky charms to auctioning fleamarket finds on ebay, reselling unusual travel goods can turn into quite the lucrative on-the-road business.

23. Handicrafts

If you’ve got a knack for crochet or can weave a basket at hyper speed, then selling some of your crafts can be used towards funding your next bus ticket. At the very least, you could make yourself something warm for those homeless evenings.

24. Festival stalking

One of the best ways to combine a crazy cultural adventure, lots of drinking, and enough dough for your next hangover spot is to work the festival circuit. You could either apply for a gig in one of the stands or push your own agenda by selling homemade space cakes, jell-o shots, or setting up a kissing booth.

25. Sail Away

Sail off towards the sunset by working on a yacht or a cruise ship. You can find work by perusing crew job sites or simply asking people by the harbor if they have any leads. It provides a sense of freedom, a means to sustain to yourself and a way to get to your next stop.  

Being on the road with very little or no cash may seem daunting at first, but the challenge of using your imagination to provide for yourself will make the experience all the more exciting and valuable.

More like this: The real reasons you can't afford to travel
union-jack

Photo: Petras Gagilas

AFTER THE BREXIT SHOCK, more and more Brits are looking to move away from the UK. I don’t blame them. I’m going to start by saying that it wasn’t always like this. About 10 years ago, when I came to study in Manchester, Britain was a different place.

But this was short lived because I arrived in the UK during a dark time for Romanians and Bulgarians who just joined the EU. It wasn’t all bells and whistles, because it took me jumping through a lot of hoops to be able to obtain what back then was called a Yellow Card.

This didn’t stop me, though — I persevered until I got accepted. I went above and beyond to integrate myself. I even learned the slang, so I feel one of “them.”

Throughout the years, I lived a relatively calm and happy life. I had my ups, my downs, no money whatsoever, but good friends and great prospects. In the end, I left my job at Apple, moved to Bristol, got a new job with a digital startup and met my future husband. We formed our own company, we started traveling the world, we became British citizens, we got married, and here we are.

But something, somewhere, went wrong… thus, we decided to leave the UK.

Why we chose to move away from the UK

So what went wrong? I think after a decade of living in the UK, certain things started changing a bit too much and got to us. We are what a Brit would call “middle-class young professionals”. We are a newly married couple with no children, heavily focused on work. We own a digital studio which enables us to be location independent, work long hours and pay taxes in the UK. We loved it. But you know what we also love? Traveling. Good food. Sunshine. Safety. All of which are either impossible, are becoming obsolete or prohibitively expensive in the UK. Let me explain.

The Weather

There are a lot of benefits of having so much rain in the UK. Rain makes this country a green heaven, which is ideal for keeping those beautiful rolling hills everyone loves. There is just one catch. It always rains. Which means an average British person has a wardrobe full of Autumn clothing and about 10 different types of wellies. As much as we once liked the rain, it eventually got to us. It took 10 years for this to happen. TEN YEARS! That’s a decade of rain. We’ve been eating vitamin D and Magnesium to keep afloat, but it comes a time when you are literally on the verge of depression because of lack of sunshine. In fact, when I go on holiday and get off the plane in a sunny destination, I feel like some vampire mole.

Traveling

The UK is not a cheap country. Rent prices are high, and when you add utilities, internet, council tax and all the rest, you end up with most of your salary gone. If you are not careful, it can be a cruel existence whereby you work to live and you live to work.

In reality, it’s hard to justify spending £50 for dinner for two, instead of buying food for 3 days with the same amount of money. It’s difficult to understand why a cold house with zero insulation in the outskirts of Bristol costs £1000 when a fantastic apartment in the centre of Lisbon is half the price.

Traveling is not cheap in the UK either. I still remember wanting to go from Bristol to London and prices being close to £150 for a return train ticket.

Culture

When I first came to the country, I said to my British friend. “I love the British culture.” His reply was: “What British culture?”

The great things about Britain, are the sheer amount of bright minds this country had along its history. There are myriad inventors, writers, rock stars, scientists… But the more you integrate, the more you see the issues too. The drinking culture in Britain seems to outshine the science scene. Theatres are far too expensive for the ordinary worker, but the pints are accessible still, even for the minimum wage. With so much rain and cold stone houses, what is one to do after work, but to pour their misery in a glass of ale and half mumble about their too demanding job and bad living conditions.

The culture in Britain has moved from brilliant to that of hate, racism and ignorance. The great educated gentleman is obsolete and the fine lady is on a verge of collapse.

Food

The core of the British kitchen is the oven, as you might already know from the Great British Bake Off. With sadness I must say, the British cuisine is unremarkable. In fact, let me tell you about the art of British food. We have pies (a variety of them), we have the mighty Sunday dinner, the toad in the hole, the stew, sausages and mash, fish and chips. Sorry, have I forgotten something? I think not!

Don’t despair, though, Britain is a great capitalist country, which means you can purchase anything your heart desires from the supermarket.

Brexit

The internet was flooded with articles about where should the Brits move now that the Brexit happened.

There are few things which surfaced with this whole Brexit situation. We learned that the vast majority of people in this country is racist. Politicians are liars and are now trying to get rid of the Human Rights. The great British government passed “the most extreme surveillance law in the history of western democracy” (to quote Snowden).

The most heartbreaking part is the attitude towards immigrants which Britain seems to have adopted.

After the Brexit vote, people started attacking immigrants, and even immigrant looking Brits. Sadly, the internet is full of these instances and what is even sadder is that we (although both British) felt the effects of this.

This brings me to the last point, which is safety. I used to feel safe in the UK, but for a while now, I am afraid to go around at night. I’m not too sure why, as Bristol is a relatively safe city and I live in a decent neighborhood in the suburbs. But in reality, I stopped feeling safe in the UK a few months ago, when people started assaulting immigrants in the street. From Downton Abbey, the UK became more of a Harry Brown.

But don’t just take my word for it. According to the Global Peace Index, the UK is the 47th safest country in the world (and the 26th in Europe), well below Romania, Hungary, and Botswana.

Will we ever come back to the UK?

We were both European expats who came here to study. We adapted, changed and integrated into the British society. We both naturalized to become British citizens and pledged our alliance to Her Majesty the Queen. We are both honest people, law abiding citizens who pay taxes as individuals and as a company. Our businesses will continue to be UK based and we will continue to pay taxes here.

Will we ever come back? We don’t know.

For now, we made the decision to buy a one-way ticket and see what happens.

Someone asked me when I told them we are moving: “What will you miss most about the UK?”

My answer was: “Scotland!”

This article was originally posted on You Could Travel

In Europe's Shadow: Two Cold Wars and a Thirty-Year Journey Through Romania and Beyond

Robert D. Kaplan

From the New York Times bestselling author Robert D. Kaplan, named one of the world’s Top 100 Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine, comes a riveting journey through one of Europe’s frontier countries—and a potent examination of the forces that will determine Europe’s fate in the postmodern age. Robert Kaplan first visited Romania in the 1970s, when he was a young journalist and the country was a bleak Communist backwater. It was one of the darkest corners of Europe, but few Westerners were paying attention. What ensued was a lifelong obsession with a critical, often overlooked country—a country that, today, is key to understanding the current threat that Russia poses to Europe. In Europe’s Shadow is a vivid blend of memoir, travelogue, journalism, and history, a masterly work thirty years in the making—the story of a journalist coming of age, and a country struggling to do the same. Through the lens of one country, Kaplan examines larger questions of geography, imperialism, the role of fate in international relations, the Cold War, the Holocaust, and more. Here Kaplan illuminates the fusion of the Latin West and the Greek East that created Romania, the country that gave rise to Ion Antonescu, Hitler’s chief foreign accomplice during World War II, and the country that was home to the most brutal strain of Communism under Nicolae Ceaușescu. Romania past and present are rendered in cinematic prose: the ashen faces of citizens waiting in bread lines in Cold War–era Bucharest; the Bărăgan Steppe, laid bare by centuries of foreign invasion; the grim labor camps of the Black Sea Canal; the majestic Gothic church spires of Transylvania and Maramureş. Kaplan finds himself in dialogue with the great thinkers of the past, and with the Romanians of today, the philosophers, priests, and politicians—those who struggle to keep the flame of humanism alive in the era of a resurgent Russia. Upon his return to Romania in 2013 and 2014, Kaplan found the country transformed yet again—now a traveler’s destination shaped by Western tastes, yet still emerging from the long shadows of Hitler and Stalin. In Europe’s Shadow is the story of an ideological and geographic frontier—and the book you must read in order to truly understand the crisis Europe faces, from Russia and from within. Praise for In Europe’s Shadow “[A] haunting yet ultimately optimistic examination of the human condition as found in Romania . . . Kaplan’s account of the centuries leading up to the most turbulent of all—the twentieth—is both sweeping and replete with alluring detail.”—Alison Smale, The New York Times Book Review“This book reveals the confident, poetical Kaplan . . . but also a reflective, political Kaplan, seeking at times to submerge his gift for romantic generalization in respectful attention to the ideas of others.”—Timothy Snyder, The Washington Post “A serious yet impassioned survey of Romania . . . Kaplan is a regional geographer par excellence.”—The Christian Science Monitor“Kaplan is one of America’s foremost writers on the region. . . . In a series of deep dives into the region’s past—Byzantine, Ottoman, Habsburg and Soviet—he finds parallels and echoes that help us understand the present.”—The Wall Street Journal “Kaplan moves seamlessly from sights, sounds, and conversations to the resonance of history.”—Foreign AffairsFrom the Hardcover edition.

Romania: 2017 tourist's guide

Daniel B. Smith

This book addresses tourists and people who want to know more information about Romania. The guide is organized into 46 main chapters, each presenting corresponding county and some ”need to know” advice. This book teaches you general knowledge about traveling and will also get you familiar with Romanian cuisine. Please keep in mind that there are many to be discovered by yourself. You will find basic information about the main tourist attractions, pictures of them, accommodations for each country and useful routes for your journey. Have a great holiday!

Romania: Culture Smart and the description is for Culture

Debbie Stowe

A land of mountains, hills, and fertile plains, Romania is a tourist destination waiting to be discovered. It is a rich and complex country: a place whose cities are home to beautiful parks and vibrant cultural scenes; whose people welcome guests warmly into their homes, sharing the best of whatever they have, and party into the night, suffused by Latin joie de vivre. Buffeted over time between three great powers—the West, Russia, and Turkey—Romania betrays the cultural influences of each, and it can be a difficult place to get a handle on. Culture Smart! Romania provides an indispensable tool for the foreign visitor, digging deep behind the clichés, explaining many of the behavioral quirks of the people, smoothing your path toward better understanding, and outlining the many attractions—cultural, social, and geographical—that await you in this underexplored part of Europe.

Lonely Planet Romania & Bulgaria (Travel Guide)

Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher

Lonely Planet Romania & Bulgaria is your passport to all the most relevant and up-to-date advice on what to see, what to skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Absorb the vibrant landscape by hiking the Carpathians, relax on Bulgaria's Black Sea coast, or experience the kaleidoscope of colours in the Bucovina Monasteries; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Romania and Bulgaria and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet Romania & Bulgaria Travel Guide:

Colour maps and images throughout Highlights and itineraries show you the simplest way to tailor your trip to your own personal needs and interests Insider tips save you time and money and help you get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots Essential info at your fingertips - including hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, and prices Honest reviews for all budgets - including eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, and hidden gems that most guidebooks miss Cultural insights give you a richer and more rewarding travel experience - including folk culture, myths, history, visual arts, crafts, music, politics, landscapes, wildlife, cuisine, and wine Over 70 local maps Useful features - including Top Experiences, Month-by-Month (annual festival calendar), and Outdoor Activities Coverage of Sofia, Bucharest, Wallachia, the Black Sea Coast, Moldavia, Transylvania, Maramures, Crisana, Banat, Plovdiv, Veliko Tarnovo, the Danube, Kazanlak, Sibiu, the Danube Delta, and more

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Romania & Bulgaria, our most comprehensive guide to Romania and Bulgaria, is perfect for those planning to both explore the top sights and take the road less travelled.

Looking for more extensive coverage? Check out Lonely Planet's Eastern Europe guide for a comprehensive look at all the region has to offer.

Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet, Mark Baker, Chris Deliso, Richard Waters, and Richard Watkins.

About Lonely Planet: Started in 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel guide publisher with guidebooks to every destination on the planet, as well as an award-winning website, a suite of mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet's mission is to enable curious travellers to experience the world and to truly get to the heart of the places they find themselves in.

TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice Awards 2012 and 2013 winner in Favorite Travel Guide category

'Lonely Planet guides are, quite simply, like no other.' - New York Times

'Lonely Planet. It's on everyone's bookshelves; it's in every traveller's hands. It's on mobile phones. It's on the Internet. It's everywhere, and it's telling entire generations of people how to travel the world.' - Fairfax Media (Australia)

The Rough Guide to Romania

Rough Guides

The Rough Guide to Romania is the definitive guidebook to one of Europe's most fascinating, scenic, and enigmatic countries.

A full-color introduction highlights all the must-see sights, from the wilds of the Carpathian mountains to the marvelous Delta wetlands, and references the country's many unique festivals. Two full-color sections describe the country's extraordinary religious architecture and its many outdoor activities—from mountain hikes and skiing to bear and wolf tracking. This comprehensive guide includes informed background on Romania's history, wildlife, literature, music, and, of course, Dracula.

Reviews of top hotel and restaurant options cover every taste and budget. Accurate maps and comprehensive practical information help you get under the skin of Romania, while stunning photography makes this your ultimate traveling companion.

Make the most of your time with The Rough Guide to Romania.

Series Overview: For more than thirty years, adventurous travelers have turned to Rough Guides for up-to-date and intuitive information from expert authors. With opinionated and lively writing, honest reviews, and a strong cultural background, Rough Guides travel books bring more than 200 destinations to life. Visit RoughGuides.com to learn more.

National Geographic Traveler: Romania

Caroline Juler

With its historic cities, rolling mountains, villages, and rejuvenating spas, Romania is realizing its appeal as a travel destination. National Geographic's all-new Traveler guide explores every region of this intriguing country, from Bucharest to Oltenia and its painted monasteries to the Apuseni Mountains, celebrated for their limestone formations and underground rivers, to Transylvania's medieval towns. Each guidebook in this series details how to get around and what not to miss... the most gracious hotels and recommended restaurants... the best spots for festivals, wildlife watching, water sports, and more—all presented with the reliable reporting and magnificent photos and maps that are the hallmarks of National Geographic.

Searching For Dracula In Romania: What About Dracula? Romania's Schizophrenic Dilemma (Romania Explained To My Friends Abroad) (Volume 4)

Catalin Gruia

Vlad and the Vampire : The Double Life of Dracula Romania is best known to the world as Dracula’s country. But go there and ask about Dracula and you’ll be puzzled. The Count remained until very recently unknown in his own homeland. Romanian communists banned all vampire fiction until 1990. Even nowadays Romanians have a schizophrenic attitude towards Dracula. They are tempted to transform Dracula into a tourism agent to cash in Western money, but at the same time they’re afraid they may be bartering away their history. Romania’s problem is that Dracula lived for real. He was neither a vampire, nor a count and never reigned in Transylvania. The stories about Vlad III Dracula, a 15th century warlord prince of Wallachia, a small Romanian principality, were horror best sellers long before Bram Stoker’s famous novel. According to a 1499 pamphlet published by Ambrosius Hubler at Nuremberg, “Dracula the voivode was a bloodthirsty man who impaled people and roasted them... and chopped them like cabbages.” To Romanians he is still a national hero. The Romanian national poet Mihai Eminescu called upon Vlad to bring down his wrath upon the guilty. Romania’s schizophrenic dilemma The fact that Bram Stoker chose Transylvania as place of origin for his vampire frustrates many Romanian nationalists, some of whom even bet on Vasile Barsan’s historical theory about a conspiracy against Vlad Tepes – led by king Matthias Corvinus in the 15th century, refined with a vampirical touch in the 19th century by Arminius Vambery, a Hungarian scholar and spy, allegedly Stoker’s informant, and immortalized on the silver screen in the 20 century by Hungarian-born actor Bela Lugosi. “The complete fusion between the fictional Count and the historic figure of the Prince began in 1972, with the publishing of In Search of Dracula by Radu Florescu and Raymond McNally, two historians who argued that Bram Stoker based his vampire on Vlad”, says writer Elisabeth Miller. Bram Stoker’s Dracula directed by Francis Ford Coppola is the most famous Dracula film in history. About the time Coppola’s movie appeared in 1992, Romanians were discovering they could market the fictional Dracula. The government planned to build a Dracula Park hoping to attract a million visitors per year. The project met a huge opposition and its supporters were forced to step back. Dracula Park: the essence of Romanian’s mixed feelings (opportunism and resentment) towards Dracula This book also explores other interesting issues for any Dracula fan: • Where is Transylvania and how did it become the land of vampires? • Why Romanian communists banned Dracula as representative of the “decadent” West? • How was Vlad Tepes myth built after 19th century • Behind the scenes of the Dracula Park odyssey • Dracula’s three castles in Romania • What are the links between Stoker’s Dracula and the Eastern European roots of the vampire myths? • What are the must-see places if you visit Romania in search of Dracula? Searching for Dracula in Romania This travelogue is a very informative, brilliantly written work which will definitely be liked by those who’re interested in vampires, Dracula in particular and Romania. Everything’s described exactly, very knowledgeably and thoroughly – says Ekaterina Buley, President of the Russian Chapter of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula. For behind the scenes information about Gruia's books: -->http://www.catalingruia.com/ -->https://www.facebook.com/ByCatalinGruia

Romania Explained To My Friends Abroad: Take Away Romania

Catalin Gruia

Dear Reader, You should know from the very beginning this is not an exhaustive, academic paper on Romania; nor is it a travel guide of Romania. I’m a simple journalist and this is just my own private Romania – a subjective puzzle of all the things I know from experience to be interesting for foreign tourists. I’ve been working for the Romanian edition of National Geographic for over ten years. Mostly because of my job I’ve met many foreigners – either when they visited Romania or when I went abroad. I guess now I’ve got more friends from the other side of the Earth than from my native land. I’ve learned a lot from them and from trying to answer their questions: • Do Romanians consider Ceausescu a good or a bad dictator? • Are Gypsies dangerous? • Where do vampires come from? • Why did the Saxons leave Transylvania? • How dangerous is it to ride a bicycle in Bucharest? • Why do most Romanian surnames end in escu? • Why do you have so many monks? • Where can I find Gerovital? • Any recommendations, must-see places? • How many Jews still live in Romania? • What are your most interesting traditions? • And so on… I had to research and prepare myself each and every time, for every curiosity they had. After a while, some of these studies became the essays I’ve collected in this book. I’m a fan of Montaigne’s Essays whose model I’ve tried to emulate. Now I’m bold enough to think that if you want a bite of Romania and for whatever reason you don’t have the stomach or the time to sample it here – for a month, a year or a lifetime – this is exactly the book you need!

Exercise normal security precautions

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.

Demonstrations

Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings as they may suddenly turn violent. Follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media.

Crime

The rate of violent crime is low. Pickpocketing (purse snatching, mugging) occur, especially in Bucharest and other urban centres. Be vigilant in crowded areas such as busy streets, buses, subways, trains, train stations and airport terminals.

Organized groups of thieves, which may include children, operate particularly in public transport centres (train stations, subways and buses).

Thefts and assaults occur on intercity trains. Do not leave your compartment unattended and ensure that the door is secured from the inside.

Road travel

Other than major city streets and intercity highways, many roads are in disrepair, poorly lit, narrow, and without marked lanes. Do not drive after dark outside of major cities due to unsafe conditions, including the presence of horse-drawn carts without lights and wandering livestock.

Public transportation

Use only licensed metered taxis that display their price lists. Avoid travelling alone in a taxi to remote areas.

Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

Fraud/scams

Credit card and automated banking machine (ABM) card fraud occurs. Pay careful attention when cards are being handled by others during payment processing. It is preferable to use ABMs located inside financial institutions or large hotels rather than those on the street.

In Bucharest, criminals posing as plain-clothed policemen approach tourists and ask to see their passports and wallet. When the documents are returned to the victims, often some of the money is missing.

See our Overseas fraud page for more information on scams abroad.

General safety measures

Exercise normal safety precautions. Ensure that your personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure at all times, especially on public transportation. Avoid showing signs of affluence and carrying large sums of cash.

Emergency services

Dial 112 for emergency assistance. Call the Romanian Auto Club at (021) 222-22-22 for emergency roadside assistance.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Rabies

Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).

Tick-borne encephalitis

Tick-borne encephalitis is a viral disease that can cause swelling of the brain. It is spread to humans by the bite of an infected tick. Vaccination should be considered for those who may be exposed to tick bites (e.g., those spending time outdoors in wooded areas) while travelling in regions with risk of tick-borne encephalitis.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of vaccination is not required to enter this country.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination is not recommended.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in Eastern Europe, food and water can also carry diseases like hepatitis A. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in Eastern Europe. When in doubt, remember…boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.

Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in Eastern Europe, certain insects carry and spread diseases like Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, leishmaniasis, Lyme disease, tick-borne encephalitis, and West Nile virus.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.


Malaria

Malaria

There is no risk of malaria in this country.


Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, snakes, rodents, and bats. Certain infections found in Eastern Europe, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.

For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.

Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care provider.

High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Standards of medical care differ from those in Canada. Upfront payment is often required for medical care.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

Canada and Romania are signatories to the European Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons. This enables a Canadian imprisoned in Romania to request a transfer to a Canadian prison to complete a sentence. The transfer requires the agreement of both Canadian and Romanian authorities.

Illegal activities

There are harsh penalties for engaging in sexual acts with a minor (the age of consent is 18). In addition, Canadians may be prosecuted at home for sexually exploiting children while abroad. Consult our publication Child Sex Tourism: It’s a Crime for further information on the risks of committing this form of sexual abuse abroad.

It is illegal to photograph government buildings and military installations. Ask permission from local authorities before taking photographs of these locations.

Illegal drugs

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict. Convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Identification

Carry adequate identification at all times. A photocopy of your passport is acceptable, and will help in case of loss or seizure of the original document.

Road travel

Canadian driving licences are valid in Romania for stays up to 90 days. You must carry vehicle registration and proof of insurance.

Traffic laws are strict and local authorities carry out frequent road checks. For more information, call the Romanian Auto Club at (021) 222-22-22.

A motorway vignette (permit) is required to travel on highways. You may purchase these electronic vignettes at a border points, post offices and large gas stations.

There is zero tolerance for driving under the influence of alcohol, and penalties are strict. Convicted offenders can expect heavy fines and jail sentences, and driver’s licences may be confiscated immediately.

Homosexuality

Homosexuality is not widely accepted in Romanian society.

Money

The currency of Romania is the new leu (RON).

The economy is primarily cash-based. You may exchange U.S. dollars and traveller’s cheques in recognized establishments, such as exchange shops, banks and hotels. Euros are more easily exchanged. Carry crisp bills, as well-worn or used banknotes may not be accepted.

Credit cards are widely accepted in major urban centres. Most retailers use personal identification number (PIN) technology for credit cards. Automated banking machines (ABMs) are widely available in major cities and increasingly in smaller towns.

When crossing one of the external border control points of the European Union (EU), you must make a declaration to customs upon entry or exit if you have at least €10,000, or the equivalent in other currencies. The sum can be in cash, cheques, money orders, traveller’s cheques or any other convertible assets. This does not apply if you are travelling within the EU or in transit to a non-EU country. For more information on the EU legislation and links to EU countries’ sites, visit the web page of the European Commission on cash controls.

Climate

Romania is located in a seismic zone. Regions in the south and southwest may be more prone to seismic activity.

Extreme temperatures, in both summer and winter, may cause electricity outages.