5 Myths Busted By a Visit to Romania

Like many countries, Romania has been on our radar for years. I actually had a great opportunity to visit Romania in 2002, on the several month backpacking trip I met Bell, right after finishing university. At the time I was staying at a hostel in Budapest and a few people I met decided to catch a train together to Transylvania. I could have continued my journey through Bulgaria, with company, to stay with family in Athens. But on that trip I met a couple people who didn’t have the nicest things to say about Romania, and in travel forums, there were a few things frequently said that made us a little hesitant to pull the trigger on a visit. While Romania is the second poorest country in the Europe Union to Bulgaria, it’s a fascinating country in transition, and we’re happy to say that we can now personally dispel several things some people complain about.

Romanian Parliament in Bucharest, People's Palace

1) It’s Hard to Travel in Romania with English

Some people complain that they found it difficult to travel in Romania while only speaking English. And perhaps this is perspective, because Bucharest isn’t Amsterdam, where everyone speaks English. However, 40% of Romanians speak at least a moderate amount of English. We didn’t partake in any organized tours in Romania and were fine organizing trains and buses ourselves on the ground. Most people who work at hotels and train stations speak a moderate amount of English and we found Romanians generally helpful. Is traveling in Romania more challenging with English than the Netherlands? Yes, but is it hard? Not really, because if one Romanian doesn’t speak English there’s a great chance the next person will.

2) Romanians Are Rude

Caru' cu Bere, classic Romanian restaurant in Bucharest
 

Like anywhere, there are cultural differences and sometimes Romanians come off as being a little more gruff and less polite than English speaking cultures, but this doesn’t mean they’re rude. It’s not the custom in some cultures to interact with the same pleasantries as nations like the USA, Canada, England, Ireland and Australia, but approach people with a smile, respect their country and you’ll find most Romanians to be very helpful and nice people. We were even given free shots by a friendly bartender in Brasov who knew nothing about this website.

3) Aggressive Wild Dogs are a Major Problem in the Cities

cute wild dog on Romanian street
This apparently was a big problem in Romania in the recent past, but the government has gotten better at solving this. We saw very few stray dogs in the centers of Bucharest and Brasov. And one stray dog in Brasov was extremely cute and friendly, we saw him repeatedly and Bell even named him “Dracula.” He really grew on us and we honestly wanted to take him home after we found him huddled up sadly on our final night, which was pretty cold. There were a couple bigger wild dogs that approached us in the gardens of Bran Castle (Dracula’s Castle), but they weren’t at all aggressive and the occasional mean looking wild dog can be found pretty much everywhere on the planet. The problem isn’t as bad as many people say because during our week long stay we never once felt threatened by a single dog. So this isn’t something that should put you off from visiting Romania, unless you have a serious fear of dogs.

4) Romanians Will Constantly Try to Rip You Off

 

The vast majority of Romanians are very honest people. In fact, after purchasing our first pastry in Bucharest, the cashier made a mistake and gave us more money back than she should have, which we were of course honest in returning. We even received an excellent currency exchange rate at Otopeni International Airport (and airports and train stations are notorious for giving terrible exchange rates). On a side note, the currency exchange booths in the departures terminal did give bad exchange rates, but the bank inside the airport gives an excellent one. During our week long stay, we didn’t have any transactions where anybody tried to short change us. Of course it could happen, but it’s definitely not prevalent.

Like many places though, we found taxis to sometimes be a problem when they didn’t want to run the meter. Taxi drivers at both Bucharest and Brasov train stations asked a flat fee significantly higher than the honest metered fare (we usually ask drivers to approximate before entering a cab). In those cases we just said no thanks and found taxi drivers who would run their meters, making taxis extremely inexpensive in Romania (we traveled 15 minutes from our hotel in the old town of Bucharest to the train station for the equivalent of $2 US). Sometimes we couldn’t find a taxi to run the meter so we just negotiated a fair price for both parties, around $5 for a moderate distance. Taxi drivers can be a problem everywhere, they certainly can be in our current home of Boston! While many taxi drivers are honest, you certainly can’t judge an entire nation by this profession.

With all this said, Bucharest is a big city, so you should take the same precautions here as you would in any city in the world.

5) Romanian Food Isn’t as Good as Many Other Countries

Moldovian goulash with mamaliga (polenta with cheese) at Caru cu Bere
Romanian food can be…downright amazing! Our recent nearly four week trip through Europe also saw us visit France and Belgium, two of the best countries in the world for food. But a couple Romanian dishes we ate very much so competed for the best meal of our trip. One of which was a beef stew called Tocana de Vita with Mamaliga (polenta with cheese), which we ate at Hanu Lui Manuc in the old town of Bucharest. The dish had been marinating for 12 hours, and was definitely just as delicious as the wonderful stews we ate in Belgium and France.

Romanian desserts are more hit and miss than Belgium and France but we found wonderfully fresh and delicious pastries from a couple middle eastern patisseries, and some of the Romanian patisseries were also very good. Sweet pretzels (covrigi) are one of the most common Romanian dessert, with chocolate filling and honey and walnut being two of the most prevalent flavors.

A lot of travelers also complain that Romania isn’t good for vegetarians as the dishes are very meat centric. While this is generally true, most restaurants in Bucharest and Brasov had a nice salad selection. To balance our meals we usually split one heavy Romanian meal and one salad main, comparable to a Greek salad. Of course, some vegetarians may want more than just salad, in which case, the selection can be limited.

We really enjoyed most of the food we ate in Romania, and we didn’t eat anything extremely expensive. We almost chose to visit Sicily instead of Romania because we enjoy food a lot and the island has a reputation for amazing food. While eating in Romania, we didn’t wish we were in Sicily instead. Now the cold wet weather in Transylvania, that’s another other story…

Best Websites for Booking Accommodation in Bucharest?

You’ll often find the best hotel prices on booking.com. Consider booking hotels in advance with free cancellation. We stayed at the Europa Royale Bucharest. While it’s not amazing, our stay was good and the location is great.

Families and budget travelers can find awesome value on apartments on Airbnb. If you’ve never used Airbnb, sign up here for a $40 credit off your first stay! Just be sure to book apartments with consistently good reviews.

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Have questions about traveling to Romania? Email me at alex@wanderlustmarriage.com and I’ll be happy to assist you!

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16 thoughts on “5 Myths Busted By a Visit to Romania

  1. Romania has been my favourite country in Europe ever since my first visit in 2000. I have been twice more since, and often consider moving there (maybe next year). I have always found the people in Romania the most helpful and friendly on my travels around Europe and, being very much a meat and potatoes girl, I love the food there. Romania also has some of the most spectacular scenery in Europe.

    I’m so glad you are dispelling the myths so that other people will visit!!

  2. I wrote about some of the same stuff and (mostly) agree:
    1) We were fine with English. Most people speak at least a few words. We actually switched to Spanish or French a few times and were understood.
    2) Romanians are not the smoothest, we call them gruff. Some are rude and unfortunately they outnumber the really nice ones. But over a month there we also met a few really nice people along the way…but that’s the way it is with generalities…
    3) Lots of wild dogs as you say. But like you no aggressive behaviour. I usually find wild dogs better behaved than dogs cooped up in backyards that can get frustrated…
    4) Taxi drivers trying to rip us off was a constant. Otherwise no, very honest.
    5) Food was fine…but what put us off was the cigarette smoking. Almost all in Romania allow smoking and they don’t just smoke, they chain-smoke. We frequented very few restaurants.

    Frank (bbqboy)

    1. Thanks for the interesting comment, Frank!

      You said “I usually find wild dogs better behaved than dogs cooped up in backyards that can get frustrated,” That’s an excellent point!

      Indeed, cigarette smoking everywhere can be really bothersome to some people. We’re both ex-smokers but even when we smoked we didn’t enjoy smoking inside restaurants. We always believed people should step outside while other people are eating. Most of Europe has already banned this, but Romania is behind the times in this area. On the flip side, it’s an interesting cultural experience and we still enjoyed the food!

  3. Romania of Youtube is not my REAL depressive sad Rumania with hot and arrogant women.i am leaving coz i cant get a decent woman who can appreciate my cuteness and photo memory and brains.I saw some Europe after 1991.
    I am 33 and Greekmacedonian sadly with Rumanian passport.I dont want to die in Rumania i prefer even Poorest Country of Africa Asia or Iberoamerica to that so called European country which claims to be a Son of Rome !
    In Rumania if u speak perfect Rumania and u are a kind honest shy guy you are mocked by all women of all ages as stupid.

  4. There are no more stray dogs in Bucharest! I recommend you to visit: Bigar cascade, mud volcanoes, Turda Salt Mine, The Danube Delta, Transfagarasan.

  5. Regarding rudeness. I have a conference at Bucharest, Romania. In the internet i got confused with the visa process. Whether with a multiple entry Schengen visa, was it possible to travel to Romania was my question. I called up the Romanian embassy in New delhi, India and after repeated calls, finally a person who spoke english in a romanian accent picked up. He was so rdue that he repeatedly kept asking if you have any doubts travelling to Romania ask us or else ask the people concerned with Schengen. He even asked if it is a joke. My first experience made me think should I really go ?

    1. Sorry to read that. Don’t let this discourage you from your business trip to Bucharest. I imagine Romanian bureaucrats can be particularly rude somtimes- it’s probably nearly impossible to remove these people. There’s always going to be a few bad apples everywhere. Best of luck organizing your trip! And have fun when you get there!

  6. “4) Romanians Will Constantly Try And Rip You Off”

    Romanians will constantly try TO rip you off. “And” is incorrect

    This is the proper expression. English is not an easy language, but if you just think about what you are writing you’ll get better results

    1. The mistake has been changed. Thank you for your service, Grammar Police agent. Anonymously scolding people over the internet for little mistakes is no small undertaking. Please pass along the website that you run so we can see what real perfection looks like and marvel at its glory.

  7. I stayed in Romania for about five months as an exchange student. While it’s getting to be a long time ago, everything was horribly disorganized (the tour of the university included seeing stacks of books in the “library” with three women sitting around supposedly there to help you find what you need – ?), getting ripped off was rampant, and it seemed as though no one wanted foreigners in their country (“Romania is for Romanians!”). An orphan told me in his language that he didn’t like Romania. I am most disappointed by Romanians who deliberately taunt and harass people who travel there to help the orphans. This seems common. So maybe now it’s better and maybe it’s easier to navigate the country than it was just a few years after the revolution. However I would say it’s much better to visit for a week or two than to try to live there. By the way, the Romanian English accent grates on my ears! Not many Romanians speak good English (they know it mostly from seeing the translation on the screen when they watch movies). Thanks for writing about your experience and letting me vent!

    1. Sorry you had that experience. Seems like an interesting time to have been living in Romania. Thank you for sharing your story!

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