Romania is known for many things. From ancient medieval castles and alluring wooden monasteries to some of the most stunning landscapes in Europe. But there are also a few other details worth noting. For example, Romania has some of the fastest internet in the world; and it’s safer than many European countries. Here are a few things you should know before visiting Romania!
It’s Outside the Schengen Zone
One of the points that makes Romania such a perfect destination is that while it is part of the European Union, it is outside the Schengen area. This detail is more important for travellers who do not hold EU passports.
Certain non-EU residents are only allowed in the Schengen for 90 days out of every 180. Considering the vast majority of mainland Europe is Schengen, making long-term travel tricky. Thankfully, any time you spend in Romania won’t have any affect on your visa in the other 26 Schengen countries.
Romanian Internet Speeds are FAST
Although there are many reasons Romania is quietly growing into a hub for digital nomads, internet speed is one of the most significant. Even when we were in the far reaches of the country, in the villages of Maramures, our online connection was better than we’d had in almost any other country.
According to Speedtest.net, Romania is the 5th fastest internet on the planet!
The Romanian Language is Romantic
What came as a rather pleasant surprise to us when we first arrived in Romania was how familiar the language is. Unlike the dreadfully difficult Hungarian and Slavic languages spoken in surrounding countries, Romanian is actually a romantic language.
The other four romantic – derived from Latin – languages are the much more common French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. If you have even the slightest grasp of any of these, Romanian shouldn’t be a problem.Numbers 1 through 10 for example:
Tap Water is Mostly Fine to Drink
Although some sources often say that tap water in Romania is unsafe to drink, everyone we spoke to said otherwise. Many locals do drink bottled water, but this often seems to be a flavour preference rather than a safety issue.
The reason we included “mostly” here is that in some cities, while the water itself is perfectly fine, older piping can lead to quality issues.
We drank tap water for our entire two-month visit, without any issues; even in remote villages. However, if you are concerned, consider buying a steri-pen.
Renting a Car is Cheap
Romania is the perfect road trip country. Even though very affordable and well-connected transit options exist, there’s something special about the freedom of having your own vehicle.
Being able to visit popular sights before the crowds, or stop and take in the magnificent scenery at will is an unsurpassable luxury. Thankfully, rental costs in Romania are so cheap – we paid $12 a day – even budget backpackers can afford to indulge.
Drivers are Intense
If you decide to rent a car in Romania, understand that driving here can be a little overwhelming. From our experience, many Romanians tend to treat road rules more like loose guidelines. This is especially true the farther away from large centres you get.
Passing on the right and left is common, as is disregarding speed limits altogether. It’s not dangerous per se, but knowing what to expect ahead of time helps.
Dracula was a Prince
Bram Stoker may have embellished the folklore surrounding Dracula, but the man, in essence, did exist. Inheriting from his father the title dracul, from the Hungarian ‘Order of the Dragon’, the real Dracula may be more terrifying than the myth.
Vlad III, the impaler as he would eventually be known, was the prince of Wallachia. Before the territories of Moldavia and Transylvania joined Wallachia to form modern-day Romania, Vlad gained notoriety for his infamous execution methods.
Romani ≠ Romanian
Contrary to common thought, gypsies are not from Romania. And while the name may suggest otherwise, the Romani people are actually an ethnic group from northwest region of present-day India.
It’s important to understand that there is some controversy amongst Romanians regarding their Romani population. Bigotry, degradation and outspoken racism are not uncommon. Technically, the word gypsy itself, though regularly claimed by travellers and nomads alike, is widely considered a derogatory term.
Romania is Safe
Several people had concerns when they heard we were visiting Romania. I assume, much like our time in the Balkans several years back, the name itself raised images of a troubled past. Long gone is the communist regime of Ceausescu and the horrors that came with it.
Romania today is entirely safe. Ok, so maybe not entirely, no country can make that claim. But according to Safe Around, Romania ranks safer than many popular countries; Italy, the United Kingdom and the USA included.
Follow the same precautions you would in your own country and you should have nothing to worry about.
You Must Try the Cheese
In addition to several delicious aspects of Romanian cuisine, they have some incredible cheese. One style in particular, is the quintessentially Romanian Brânză de burduf.
Hailing from the mountains of Transylvania, this semi-soft, sheep’s milk cheese is produced in a unique manner. Fresh cheese curd is finely chopped, salted and hand mixed in a wooden bowl. The mixture is then aged for up to three months in tubes of pine bark; which gives the cheese its distinct flavour.
Morning Drinking Happens at the Market
When visiting local markets, don’t be surprised if you’re given capfuls of plum brandy. “It’s natural” they say as a selling point, I assume they mean organic, or at the very least that it’s homemade.
Plum brandy is common around the country, especially in smaller towns, and we encountered it often. During one excursion in Sibiu, several stalls approached us with bottles, eagerly offering samples – at 9:30 am.
Be warned, this stuff can pack a punch.
90s Music is Still Totally Rad
I know, this is such a cliché when it comes to Eastern Europe, but it was proven truth during our visit. On the three separate occasions that we used Bla Bla Car to get around Romania, the drivers, young and old, all played classic hits from the 90s.
By no means is this to say they’re behind the times. Today’s top-40 is still heard in abundance; it just seems Romanians have an affinity for this era. From Coolio to Ace of Base, in cafes and public spaces; love it or hate it, it’s thriving in Romania!