Looking for a travel guide to Romania – that land of cobblestone streets, castles, AND DRACULA??? Me too! Which is why I brought in a local to share her best Romanian travel tips. Let’s all book tickets now!
Hi, I’m Mickey, a Romanian expat, born and bred in Bucharest, who landed in the U.S. by way of a dimpled musician. I geek out about language learning at Panglossity. I would love to give you a few tips about visiting Romania.
Must go in Romania
Once dubbed Little Paris, is a city with a lot to offer to the history buff traveler. Don’t miss the the Old City Center, an entirely pedestrian area full of architectural gems. Enjoy a frappe in a 1890s cafe, dine alfresco on a cobblestone street and shop in hip stores along Lipscani street.
You can also visit the Bucharest Village Museum if you want to see how Romanian peasants live. With its oldest construction dating back to 1722, this museum-park combo boasts around 120 dwellings from all the regions of Romania. So here’s your chance to peek inside cozy little houses transplanted from remote villages straight into the heart of the city. The ticket is valid for an entire day, so you can take your time exploring old mills, crooked inns and charming homesteads.
Only a two-hour train ride from Bucharest, was built in the 1870s by Romania’s German King Carol I of Hohenzollern, to serve as a summer residence and venue for political and cultural functions.
The castle is representative of the German Neo-Renaissance style, but the art connoisseur can easily discover elements of the Italian Renaissance, Gothic, Baroque and French Rococo styles, because of the mix of craftsmen that worked on the construction. Give yourself at least 3 hours to visit and be wary of the weekend crowd. Tour guides are available in several foreign languages.
A popular tourist destination because it hosts the oldest inhabited medieval fortified town, which likely dates back to the 12th century. It is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you plan to visit in July, you can hang out with knights and court jesters during the Medival Festival. But keep in mind that you haven’t experienced a jam packed festival until you’ve experienced one in a brick wall citadel.
Must do in Romania
Buy handcrafted souvenirs
Romania has been experiencing a handmade boom in the past 5 years. Take advantage of the talent of young artisans and buy your souvenirs from them. The selection is abundant, their ideas are creative and most of their crafts are eco-friendly.
Make sure you sample the local wines
Romania is known as a producer of good and affordable wine. If you’re not that much of a wine lover, the local beer is good too. However, I would recommend trying the wine first. Start with Feteasca Regala, Grasa de Cotnari and Busuioaca. Before you drink, say “Noroc” which translates as “Good luck”.
Must eat in Romania
A lot of Romanian dishes are made with ground beef. Vegan choices are still fairly uncommon even though vegetarian dishes are an option in most restaurants. Almost all menus are also written in English, so you can make an informed choice. However, make sure you ask about allergens, as Romanians are not that used to food sensitivities.
A Romanian traditional dish made with seasoned minced meat wrapped in sauerkraut or vine leaves. It is traditionally served with polenta (mamaliga), sour cream (smantana) and chilli pepper (ardei iute). The vegetarian version replaces the meat with mushrooms and rice.
A French-borrowed choix pastry filled with vanilla ice cream. You can get it as a dessert at a restaurant or, more commonly, from a Cofetarie (a confectionery store).
Salata de vinete
This eggplant salad is a vegan spread made out of smoky grilled and chopped eggplants with white onion and a dash of herbs and olive oil.
Cultural tips for travel in Romania
Romania is a cash-based economy. It might have been a while since you last had to pay cash for everything, but be prepared to do so during your trip to Romania. Some restaurants and clubs will be able to accommodate your card swiping tendencies, but having enough cash with you every day is your best bet.
Even though it’s been a member of the European Union since 2007, Romania has not yet made the transition to the Euro currency. The Romanian currency is Leu. Change your money through official exchange offices or banks.
Obey traffic laws. In cities especially, people tend to disregard traffic laws and indicators. If you see someone jaywalking, never follow their lead. Romanian drivers are not known for their courtesy and patience.
Cheap travel tips for Romania
Make use of the public transportation system. In addition to being walkable, large cities have a reliable and affordable public transportation system, which includes buses, trams and trolleys. Don’t spend your money on cabs as they can sometimes be a rip off for foreigners.
The Bucharest subway has electronic display informing you of all the other means of transportation that it connects to at every stop. Most subway trains also display this information in English. Newer buses also have panels with this sort of information. The rail network is cheap and fairly reliable, as long as you choose to travel by Inter City trains.
As in most cities, Airbnb is cheaper and more authentic than most hotels. Here’s a beautiful apartment in Bucharest for $32 a night and here’s an apartment in Sighisoara for $37 a night. If you’ve never used Airbnb before, here’s a $40 credit towards your first booking!
Thanks for sharing, Mickey! Have any of you guys been to Romania? Any tips to share?