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2024 Travel Guide for First Time Visitors in Romania

A practical, up-to date travel guide

2024 Travel Guide for First Time Visitors in Romania

If you're planning to visit Romania in 2024 for the first time (or returning!) and are looking for a complete, up to date travel guide with essential advice and practical Romania travel tips to plan your holiday - this article is for you.

As locals we'll tell you the most important things to know about visiting Romania, up to date info about our country and the best way to plan an amazing holiday here!

But first - is Romania worth visiting?

In short - YES! For the long answer - in this post we've linked to many of our articles about Romania's tourist attractions, best things to do, natural beauty, local culture and traditions.

So if you need help with planning your trip don't hesitate to contact us - that's what we're here for! We have a network of 50 best guides all over the country and created authentic Romanian experiences and trips you won't find anywhere else :)

This travel guide was last updated in January 2024. So, let's get started:

The Lower Town of Sibiu

Quick facts about Romania

Located in Eastern Europe, Romania is the 9th largest European country by surface with a very rich and diverse geography as you'll soon find out. It ranks 6th by population (approx. 19 mil) composed of 85% Romanians and other ethnic minorities such as Hungarians, Germans, Italian, Turks or rroma.

Romania is a NATO member since 2004 and part of the European Union since 2007. The local time in Romania is Eastern European Time (EET) +02:00 GMT

Our country is made up of 3 historical regions: Wallachia (South), Transylvania (North-West) and Moldova (North-East). The capital of Romania is Bucharest with approx. 2,2 mil. The next major cities are Cluj-Napoca and Iasi, the unofficial capitals of Transylvania and Moldova.

There are many reasons why it's worth visiting Romania. Main attractions and tourist destinations include:

  1. lots of famous castles starting with the famous Bran Castle, Corvin Castle or the ex-royal residence Peles Castle built by King Carol I, and 140 more!
  2. interesting UNESCO World Heritage sites: the 400-year old Wooden Churches of Maramures, the 500-year old Painted Monasteries of Bucovina, the 700-year old Sighisoara Citadel or the 2,000 year old ruins of Dacian Fortresses
  3. incredible nature with great hiking opportunities in the wild Carpathian Mountains which earned our country the title of Europe's last wilderness reserve or relaxation at the sandy beaches of the Black Sea coast
  4. eclectic sights mixing communist landmarks such as the huge Palace of Parliament) with historic sites and medieval cities such as Brasov, Sibiu and Targu Mures in the center of the country
  5. unique sights such as the impressive underground Turda Salt Mine, the haunted Hoia Baciu forest or the thrilling Transfagarasan Highway
  6. the miracle that is the Danube Delta - 3rd best preserved biosphere in the world and home to over 300 species of birds

Romania is also famous for its well preserved rural life which is like a time-bubble, living history museum. Small villages scattered around picturesque hills where villagers lead a simple, peaceful and archaic way of life, growing their own food and keeping traditions alive.

There are three traditional regions where this can be best experienced aka lived each with its own hallmarks, traditions and flavours of Romanian cuisine.

  1. the famous South-East Transylvania with its main attractions: Saxon villages and fortified churches, castles, medieval towns
  2. the traditional Maramures region (upper North-West) with its Wooden Churches and folk costumes
  3. the spiritual Bucovina region (upper North-East) with its 500-year-old Painted Churches and egg-painting traditions

If you want an authentic experience of Romanian countryside you'll need at least 2 full days in any of these regions and to travel by car.

Romanian history is like Game of Thrones but without the fantasy part: at the intersection of Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian and Russian (later Soviet) empires, our history is full of twists and turns in the middle ages. We were always caught between the wars, domination and power plays of foreign power (hence the many castles in Romania and historical sites!).

Our history is a testimony of our nation's resilience, cultural identity and goal to unite the three historical regions into one independent state which happened only in 1918.

As for Romanian culture and people, you'll see Romanians are very friendly and hospitable who love enjoying life, food and socialising. Our Latin blood and cultural affinity for Western Europe lifestyle mixes with a Balkan vibe and Eastern traditional values inspired by our Christian Orthodox religion. The best Romanian movies do a great job of showing this.

Although there are some prejudices and misconceptions about our country and people, those who've visited our country were pleasantly surprised and impressed by what it can offer - and we hope you'll be too! And if you're wondering who are some famous people from Romania - you might be surprised!

Now, on to the practical stuff with things to know and the latest information about visiting Romania:

1. Entry requirements & visa

Entering Romania is quite easy as visa requirements for tourism or short stays under 90 days are relaxed. On the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website you'll find lists of countries for which a visa is or not required.

Besides having a valid passport (or ID if you're from the European Union), for other travel documents needed also check the conditions of entry.

Besides European Union nationals, citizens from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Israel, Australia Singapore, don't need a visa when they enter Romania if planning to stay under 90 days. Make sure to double check entry requirements on your own too.

Holders of a Schengen visa with multiple entries (and slots still available and valid!) are not required to apply for a Romanian visa for entry.

You can apply for a visa online on the Ministry's (only) official website.

2. Romanian currency, exchange houses and card payments

The Romanian currency is RON or informally called Lei. It comes in plastic, almost indestructible notes of 5, 10, 50, 100, 200 and 500. There are also some smaller-don’t-matter coins.

Although some prices in Romania may be displayed in Euro using Euros for cash payments is NOT accepted and if someone offers you an ‘in-house’ exchange rate - you should check official rates before accepting.

  • 1 Euro is about 5 Lei and 1 USD is about 4,6 Lei - check official exchange rates published by the Romanian National Bank here)

Paying by card is very safe and widespread in Romania in all shops, restaurants, hotels or tourist attractions. But not in taxis, farmers market or artisan fares where you need to have cash. Debit cards issued by VISA, MasterCard and Maestro are widely accepted everywhere, but American Express cards may not always work. If you're using credit cards from a non-EU bank, make sure it's authorised for international payments.

When travelling in the country or in the mountains cash is king so always have Lei with you and plan your budget ahead. Some guesthouses or restaurants in the countryside don't accept card payments, especially credit cards, so ask in advance.

There are plenty of ATMs in Romania (bancomat) to withdraw money from. The most common banks with safe & secure ATMs are BCR, BRD or Banca Transilvania. For fees, check with your local bank. In the countryside or mountainous areas it's harder to find ATMs but every village or small town should have one near the city hall.

What currency to bring when travelling to Romania: Euros, US dollars, UK pounds or Swiss francs are the easiest to convert anywhere. When you arrive don’t use exchange offices located in airports for more than 20 € / $ / £ for taxi fare as they usually have very bad rates aimed at unsuspecting tourists. You'll find lots of exchange bureaus (casa de schimb) in Romania, easily recognisable by their yellow or white street boards indicating rates offered.

  • Pro tip: rates at exchange bureaus are usually better than at banks and 90% of them don't charge any fees

View over Brasov, one of the best preserved medieval towns

3. Is Romania cheap to visit? Tourist budget and holiday costs

Up until 2020, Romania used to be known as a cheap destination but this changed in the last 3 years... why?

The hospitality and tourist sector were strongly affected after two hard years of Covid-19 and a low 2022 caused by the invasion of Ukraine war-scare.

Many guides had to get regular jobs while small operators and guesthouses lowered their value-for-money ratio and/or closed shop. Meanwhile, the 'surviving' businesses and guides raised their prices to keep up with demand and rising costs.

  • We have a network of 50+ guides and partners all over the country, so we witnessed the disaster firsthand while trying to stay alive. Since 2017 our mission has been to support local communities by including their services in our tours. So if you book a tour with us you'll directly help small businesses and people in Romania!

The wider European economic context (energy crisis, inflation) coupled with higher local taxes meant everything got more expensive in Romania by 20-30%.

The good news (ironically!) is prices increased all over Europe - and the world too, since the global economy is not doing great. So on a relative scale Romania is still cheaper to visit compared with most European countries if you plan your holiday well or go off-the-beaten path.

Key info:

  • generally, the value-for-money you get in Romania for tourist activities (e.g. guided tours, wine tastings, fine dining, SPA etc) is very good
  • prices in major cities where the main attractions for tourists are (Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca, Brasov and Sibiu) or on the Black Sea Coast are higher compared to other ones, but on the flipside they have lots of choices for every budget, so shop around!
  • in small towns and villages, prices for meals and accommodation are on average 20-30% lower

A reasonable budget per day if you're planning to travel to Romania is between 30-60 Euro for accommodation, meals and small expenses. In restaurants a main course is around 25-50 Lei (5-10 Euro), soups around 10-20 Lei (2-4 Euro), soft drinks start from 1,5 Euro while alcohol from 2 Euro. Entrance fees to tourist attractions range between 4-15 Euro

For a better idea of how expensive Romania is, for a 3-day city break in Bucharest or Cluj-Napoca budget around 200 - 350 Euro in total for 2 people (excl. flights and guided tours) with generous meals and drinks included, tickets and local transport. A 7-day guided tour starts from 2,000 Euro per person for 2 people, depending on hotels, activities and itinerary.

Tipping in Romania is very common and usually expected. Service fees or coperto is not included when going out in restaurants (unless expressly mentioned!) and a 7-10% tip on top of the bill is common. If you’re really happy with the service you can go up to 15%.

Tips for small, personal services (body care & cosmetics, hotel concierge, drivers, etc.) are also welcomed. Tipping tour guides is also common on average 10-15% of the tour price. And if the guide doesn't say anything (because they're usually uncomfortable asking!) - just do what feels right to you.

This is Transfagarasan Road one of Romania's top attractions

4. Romanian geography and natural attractions

Romania has been blessed with a rich and diverse geography with lots of natural attractions which makes it one of the most beautiful countries:

  1. the Black Sea coast with fine sandy beaches
  2. the Danube River creates the Danube Delta with vast waterways and lakes
  3. picturesque hills and old-growth forests in Transylvania
  4. the wild, impressive Carpathian Mountains (also known as Transylvanian Alps)

Check our selection of hiking tours with licensed guides

Going as high as 2,544m (at Moldoveanu, the highest peak) the Romanian Carpathians and their foothills take up almost 45% of our land surface.

With over 100 peaks over 2.300m altitude, lots of trails for all difficulty levels offering incredible natural landscapes and a wildlife population that earned us the title of Europe's last wilderness reserve - this is a great place for your next hiking holiday. Our article on best hiking trails in Romania will tell you more.

In terms of natural attractions, besides the many national parks (Piatra Craiului, Bucegi, Apuseni being the most famous), I would also mention the Muddy Volcanoes, the Romanian Sphinx or the 7 stairs canyon.

5. Getting here. Public transportation in Romania

The simplest and most convenient way to travel to Romania is to fly here. Besides the main airport (Bucharest Otopeni), there are 9 airports in big cities served by low cost airlines (Wizz Air and Ryan Air mostly) with flights to over 100 destinations in Europe. This is because there are close to 4 million Romanians living abroad so there's a lot of commuting. If you plan well and in advance, you can find tickets as cheap as 60 Euro round-trip.

Besides a Southeastern Europe and Romania road trip, you can also get here using direct trains from Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Sofia or Thessaloniki. We prepared an article on travelling to Romania with additional information on this topic.

Public transport in Romania is a little more challenging. Unfortunately road and railway infrastructure is underdeveloped. There are few highways and mostly one-lane roads which are heavy with traffic (including trucks) so driving 100 km by car can take 2h. And though there are lots of train stations in the whole country, because tracks are old trains go slow (average of 80 km/h). At least they're cheap!

For short distances (>200 km) a car, train or bus is a good choice. For medium or long distances (over 300 km) you should consider breaking your itinerary or catching an internal flight (eg. from Bucharest to Cluj or Timisoara). Visitors to Romania are well advised to have travel insurance before getting here. Our guide on public transportation in Romania will have more info on this.

6. Weather. Best time to visit Romania

Romania has a temperate continental climate which used to be codename for standard weather. But in the last 10 years the effects of climate change are starting to show. We wrote a bigger article on the best time to visit Romania describing the weather and with visiting tips for each season.

In short, for sightseeing trips come anytime April - October when the weather is fair, warm and days are longer. Peak season for holidays is 1 Aug - 15 September so if you're planning to travel to Romania then, make sure to book everything in advance!

The best time to go hiking and for outdoor activities in general is from late Spring to mid October but this depends on where you're going. For example, in mountains at altitudes of over 2,000m (eg. Fagaras, Retezat or Bucegi) there can still be snow until late June and weather is unpredictable. High season for hiking is Aug-Sept when there's less rain and fair weather.

For wildlife tours - we follow nature's rhythm. Animals - especially brown bears - are active from late Spring to late Autumn, depending on how warm and cold it is. The best time to visit with the highest chances of seeing wild animals is during Summer, but these trips usually have complex logistics, go into remote areas and are in high demand - so book them in advance!

  • Local tip: our personal favorite time to visit Romania is Autumn: starting from early September a superb array of gold, orange and brown will cover the vast Carpathian woodlands

The best time to visit the Danube Delta is April - October when nature at its best: lush vegetation in full bloom, birds nesting or playing around and lots of fish.

Compared to other countries, the peak holiday season by the Black Sea Coast is shorter, typically from 15 July - 30 August.

Winter in Romania is quite cold, but not humid. In mountainous areas there's lots of snowfall, but less so in the plains. The Romanian ski resorts come alive during the winter months of Jan-Feb but you can also take a cable car ride outside the season.

the UNESCO World Heritage site Ruins of Dacian Citadels

7. Medical emergencies

In Romania the emergency number is 112 and an operator will ask if you want to talk to the police, fire or medical services.

There are no particular health concerns you should be aware about. No special insects or food issues around here either. As vegetation is very diverse and rich, those with pollen allergies should be prepared.

As regards medical services most hospitals are public and state-owned so they will take care of any walk-ins or emergencies - and settle insurance matters after. But you still need travel insurance, even if from a foreign issuer, whether you travel to Romania or anywhere else in the world.

Unfortunately healthcare in Romania is severely underdeveloped and understaffed so better lower your expectations of what a hospital should look like and how you should be treated. But medical staff is usually kind and will do their best to help you.

There are plenty of pharmacies in all urban areas and you can easily get the usual over-the-counter pills for colds, aches, indigestions or bruises.

Finally, we highly recommend you have a travel insurance. For citizens of the European Union countries, the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) which offers health coverage EU-wide is a good option.

8. Is Romania safe to visit?

Is Romania a safe travel destination? Yes! There are NO terror attacks, violent protests or civil disturbances here. We have very strict firearm regulations - so no crazy people with guns either.

So is Romania safe for travellers? Yup, and even though you may have heard or read scary stories about traveling in the Balkans, just do what you normally do when in 'tourist mode:' don’t look for trouble, beware of pickpockets or suspicious people, ignore drunkards and people pushing their services to tourists (like taxi drivers in North Train Station), be careful at night and don't disrespect people, traditions or clearly stated rules.

This applies to female and solo travelers as well.

We wrote an extensive article with Romania safety travel advice that will answer everything.

You may have heard stories about the rroma ethnic minority (improperly called gypsy) and how they're usually involved in small thefts, cons and begging. While their reputation might be bad, not all are like that. Most of the time you will see them as beggars, even using their children for money - but don't get fooled and give them anything as you're only perpetuating the cycle and not really helping them.

On our tours in Transylvania we take people to typical Rroma villages to find out about their culture and lifestyle in an authentic way firsthand.

9. Where to stay in Romania. Hotels and guesthouses

Romania offers lots of accommodation choices for all budgets, requirements or styles. All of them are listed on either or AirBnB.

In the most visited cities you'll find a large selection of hostels, hotel rooms and boutique guesthouses. Lots of apart-hotels too. It's best to book them before you travel to Romania as walk-ins are rarely a good idea.

The other tourist cities are not that big so even if you're not staying in the "old town" or "union square" area (usually the city centre and most crowded areas), it will probably be a 5-15 min walk away. Besides walking, I personally like to keep my healthy routines while traveling and found some easy travel workouts to do.

When visiting the traditional tourist regions of Romania (Transylvania, Maramures, Bukovina, Danube Delta) accommodation usually means a family-owned guesthouse offering bed and breakfast in a small village. These are called pensiune or casa - no hotels or restaurants here. Most of them offer a private rooms with en-suite WC and half board we suggest you take it since there are likely few alternatives to eat out.

For hiking trips villages at the base of the mountains usually have lots of guesthouses. But sometimes the hiking trails begin a little further away so you'll need a car or guide to get there. When going deeper in the mountains you'll have at most 1-2 choices to stay in, usually mountain cabins or chalets. Romania's hiking infrastructure is not well developed and hut-to-hut hiking is not possible for this reason.

Due to their very limited accommodation options and very high demand, we highly recommend you book your hiking trips in advance (min 2-3 weeks).

There are many good reasons to explore the Romanian countryside (the best place for culture trips), and here's another one: to stay in the many charming, authentic or luxury guesthouses. In recent years locals bought and restored old boyar (aristocrat) manors, traditional village houses (like King Charles did in Viscri), built modern eco-luxury villas, or converted large old farmhouses into agro-tourism cottages straight out of a fairy tale. See some inspiration here and make your trip to Romania memorable!

Traditional folk singers in Maramures

10. Romanian people and society

Romanian people and society is generally conservative and adheres to traditional values, especially older generations who grew up in the 45 years of Romanian communist regime.

Spending quality family time and having good relationships is important in our society. There are lots of destinations and facilities for this, which is why you should consider a holiday with the kids in Romania.

85% of the population is Christian Orthodox so major religious holidays like Easter or Romanian Christmas are celebrated through public holidays (when all tourist attractions are closed by the way).

Religion plays an important role in our society, especially in rural areas where people dress up and go to church every Sunday. There are lots of historic churches valuable for small communities where priests enjoy great influence.

But beyond their religious function, Romanian churches are worth visiting because they are a unique place to discover authentic Romanian culture and folk traditions. Romanians, though being the majority of population in these parts, were historically persecuted (especially in Transylvania) for our faith, language and culture by foreign rulers. So churches were the only safe havens and community spaces Romanians had.

But Millennials and younger generations are very liberal, open-minded, friendly, tech-savvy and influenced by Western lifestyle and values. Most, if not all, young people speak English, are very eager to help foreign visitors have a good time in Romania and will quickly teach you Romanian words to get around.

  • Pro tip: Romanians like to complain about politics, the economy and time in traffic, and love talking about sports, Romanian food and where to go when traveling to Romania – so pick any of these topics to start a conversation :)

Go on a brown bear watching tour in Transylvania

11. Romania travel tips no one will tell you about

As a frequent traveler myself, I spend A LOT of time doing online research to see what are the most popular places to visit and interesting things to do in a new place. I compare tours, prices, check public transportation, read forums, travel blogs, Instagram - the usual!

But this becomes confusing and stressful when planning to visit Romania because of outdated, incomplete or vague info. There's no official travel portal or assistance from Romanian tourist authorities. Tour operators compete on prices on Viator and similar websites - not on value or authentic experiences.

That's why I started this website in 2017 and partnered with the best and friendliest people. We want you to have a great experience and a memorable holiday when you travel to Romania and here's our advice on how to do that:

  • third, decide the basics like how many days you have for your holiday, what's your budget and what are the best places to start or end your trip
  • fourth, beware that most tourists who travel to Romania underestimate how big the country is and want to do / visit too much in too little time! For example, if you want to visit a traditional region like Maramures or Bucovina where tourist sights are spread in the surrounding areas, you'll need 2-3 days on top of the time needed to get there by car; the same if you want to visit the Danube Delta which can be done only by boat!
  • finally, think about what kind of holiday do you want in Romania? to visit as much as you can and go from one place to another? to go hiking and see wildlife? to experience traditional village life through slow travel (the best way)? Romania has much to offer but because it's quite big and traveling is slow - you can't have it all!

Once you're clear on the above, here's how we can help you:

  1. a a do-it-yourself holiday: book places to stay on your own, use public transportation to get around and book day trips from different cities (more time + energy + hassle for you, but cheaper and we can give you a disccount)
  2. we prepare a fully guided private trip for you with as much as you want, within your budget, using our best guides, expertise and local connections (a couple of emails/calls with us, no stress for you, and an amazing value-for-money holiday)
  3. if you need help deciding or making a plan - we know everything about tourism in Romania and are happy to help - just contact us

Important: because Romania is such an underrated and undiscovered tourist destination, tourist numbers are very low so 90% of tours in Romania are private except for city tours and a few day trips to the main attractions such as Bran Castle, Peles Castle, Sighisoara Citadel or Transfagarasan Road. All our hiking tours are private too because we don't combine people with different hiking experience and fitness level.

In 2024 we run 2 shared, small-group tours with fixed departures in the Summer so check them out:

12. Romania means MUCH more than Dracula Castle...

Romania is very popular thanks to Count Dracula touristy stories surrounding the famous Bran Castle known by its touristy name Dracula's Castle.

But there's so much more to do here other than visiting Bran Castle thanks to a fictional Hollywood character loosely connected to our history. Even though most tourists visit Romania looking for Dracula legends, once they're here, find out about the other main attractions and meet locals - surprise and wonder sets in!

The capital city Bucharest is a bustling city of contrasts. Though rough on the edges it is by far the most diverse and attractive for tourists. The main tourist cities of Brasov and Sibiu are famous for their Old Town with medieval architecture. But Cluj Napoca, Timisoara, Oradea or Iasi have their own stories to tell.

But Romanian culture and spirit is best experienced when traveling in rural areas - perhaps on horse drawn carts . The ageing locals who preserved the traditional, authentic Romanian village life have done so by keeping a low profile, away from civilisation and busy "modern" life.

The charm of Transylvania that made the UK's King Charles fall in love with Romania and buy village houses here can't be experienced on a touristy day trip from the capital to Brasov and Dracula Castle.

  • `Local tip:`we created the first volunteer trip in Romania that combines tourist activities (hiking and wildlife watching) with hands-on environmental work at a typical rural farm, a tree nursery and for wildlife conservation. This will be a great experience for conscious travelers

You need to go deeper into rural areas with a tour guide who has the connections to show you around, meet locals, enjoy Romanian cuisine with home-grown food and experience their way of life firsthand. You need to slow down - which is rare in the fast-paced world of today - and a ride on horse-drawn carts will help with that :)

Sadly, time is passing for our elders. Many Romanian villages have been abandoned and lost their ways since younger generations moved to larger cities. And if you add Romania's underdeveloped tourism and public transport infrastructure in the mix, then you'll see why our honest and friendly recommendation for the best way to experience Romania is to hire a local guide. Here are 3 reasons why:

  • first, for a decent price you'll have less stress with planning and driving (not easy!), and you'll actually understand what you're visiting instead of just taking a picture! besides learning about our history and culture, our guides have connections to locals, lesser known places and sights you wouldn't be able to find on your own, especially in rural areas
  • second, since 2017 we at Romanian Friend personally built a network of 50+ guides and partners all over the country; our guides are licensed and specialised in certain travel types (culture, hiking, wildlife, etc.) or regions, and deliver exceptional services so you get great value-for-money when visiting Romania; we've welcomed over 10,000 travelers on our tours and are proud of our reviews
  • finally, we created tours that support responsible, inclusive and eco-friendly travel so if you travel to Romania and book with us, your visit will directly benefit local people and communities; this is our mission

Our guides will organise home-hosted meals for you

13. Open your mind and heart to Romanian people

Final tip: if you visit Romania, spend some time to get to know locals. Romanians are very hospitable, thoughtful and warm people. They enjoy having guests and will treat you like family, feed you till you drop (literally!), bring out their best wine or tuica and generally go out of their way to make sure you have a great time. In our guide to Romanian cuisine we explain how so much of our culture and social life is connected to food, hospitality and enjoying meals together.

But so much hospitality and friendliness towards strangers might seem too much at first, or even make you feel uncomfortable. But this is just how Romanians are and an integral part of our culture: family, friends and community play a big role in Romanian life - even if Bram Stoker never mentioned this in his Dracula novel! If you have the chance, go to any Romanian festival and you'll see what I mean :)

Abandon any pre-conceptions about Romania and open your heart and mind while you're here, explore the country and meet locals. Let them show you what a beautiful country we have. Despite the uncertainties of travel, Romania will still surprise you, I'm sure of it. Why?

Because I've heard this so many times from our clients:
Wow, I never thought Romania has so much to offer!


So that's it - I hope this will make it easy for you to travel to Romania and have a memorable holiday! I started Romanian Friend as a one-stop-shop to promote my country and its people, so you'll find everything you need on this website.

And if there's something missing, you have a question or need help with planning - just contact us - happy to help!

Your Romanian Friend (and founder)


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