How to Stay Safe When Visiting Romania

How to Stay Safe When Visiting Romania

  • “How about we visit the “land of Dracula” this year?”
  • “You mean Romania? Is it safe? Besides the vampires, you know…”


Did we read your mind? :) If yes, then this article will answer the question is Romania safe to visit? How friendly are Romanians with tourists? What are some common safety concerns tourists should know about when visiting Romania, including tourist traps and scams?

To answer this question we need to consider multiple aspects of safety for a country in general and for tourism in particular. I hope by the end of this article you’ll have a better idea of the (few) risks tourists should expect and how to avoid them so you have a holiday without incidents in Romania.

Even if you’re traveling on your own, are a solo female traveler or an elderly one.

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Our country is still an undiscovered - yet beautiful - destination slowly emerging on tourists' radar. Travelling to Eastern Europe is often seen as adventurous or even risky which is why you’re maybe unsure what to expect before making any travel plans.

The former communist countries in this region were closed for foreign tourists before the 1989 revolutions. Then, many earned a bad reputation as they were underdeveloped economically, went through significant through political turmoil and were unaccustomed to Western Europe tourism.

But much has changed in the last 30 years and Romania in particular has made lots of steps forward in terms of visitors safety. Sure, there are still some issues to consider - like everywhere else in the world! - but nothing major that should discourage you from visiting our beautiful country.

So let’s take a closer look at this topic:

Misconceptions about safety in Romania

If you’ve never been to Romania before, or don’t have friends who have, you may have heard certain horror stories or prejudices about our country. The most common ones include:

  1. Romania is where Dracula’s Castle is and there’s nothing else to see here
  2. Romania is still a communist country (LOL), poor and underdeveloped
  3. Romanian people are gypsy (ethnic Rroma) who engage in lots of petty theft
  4. Romania is a corrupt country unsafe for foreign visitors
  5. what else...?


These are based on tales of foreign travelers who visited our country in the 90s and early 2000s when our country went through what I call its wild west period of social, political and economic turmoil. The Romanian communist regime under dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was one of the most oppressive and brutal. So our country had a bumpy and tricky transition period in the early years of 'freedom'.

In front of the Palace of Parliament, Ceausescu's masterpiece
Communist Walking Tour: History, Megalomania & Hidden Sights

Start from: Revolution Square next to the Rebirth Memorial (The patatoe)

See details


But since Romania joined the European Union in 2007 a lot changed. And as generations turned in recent years, the economy, lifestyle in big cities and standards for international travel and tourism is very similar to what you’ll find in other European countries.

We’re a bunch of friendly people who like to enjoy life alongside friends and family. We’re hospitable to the point of overwhelming, hard working and honest, and a bit too conservative.

We’re overly proud of our country because we know how much tourist potential it has and how it’s not promoted at all. We're constantly complaining about our politicians, underdeveloped national roads and how our football teams are not as good as they used to be...

So if you’ve got an open mind and want to explore an off-the beaten path destination, the welcoming people of Romania, our rich history and beautiful landscapes of the Carpathian mountains will surprise you.

Marius, the founder of Romanian Friend, out with tourists for a traditional meal

2. General Safety Profile of Romania

Overall, Romania is one of the safest countries to choose as a travel destination. Don’t take my word for it - the Global Peace Index and other related metrics speak volumes. In 2023, Romania ranked 31st as a safe destination, ahead of Greece, France, or Italy.

And while other safety studies may point the opposite, if you look closely at the criteria they measure you'll see they have little to no impact on foreign tourists.

We had a grand total of 0 (zero) terrorist incidents so far. And the probability of this happening is quite low, I think, because Romania is not a major player on the geo-political stage. Ethnic and religious minorities live peacefully with Romanian nationals.

Gun laws are strict so there are no safety issues around mass shootings. You won't hear of random street attacks or hate crimes targeting random people either.

The Ukrainian-Russian war at our Northern border is not a threat because Romania has been part of the NATO alliance since 2005. So if Russia would attack us or another member state (including Poland or the Baltic states), all the alliance members would collectively respond.

And by now it’s pretty clear that Russia is not the military power everyone thought they were... :)

Street protests can happen, especially in Bucharest, for socio-economic reasons or against our politicians. But they've never turned violent, like the ones in France for example. And there are no strikes that paralyse the country either.

  • Safety in major cities for tourism

Our country’s major cities for tourism, besides the capital Bucharest, such as Brasov (one of the most popular), Cluj-Napoca, Sibiu, are safe and will feel very familiar to the frequent traveler.

We wrote a guide specifically on Bucharest safety because our capital didn’t have the best reputation in the early 90s and 00s but things have changed a lot since then.

So as long as you use your common sense and take general precautions like keeping an eye on your belongings (especially travel documents), not waving wads of money around and not getting drawn into obvious tourist scams, you’ll be fine.

  • Safety in rural areas

Our country is also safe in rural areas, especially in the main tourist regions of Transylvania, Bucovina and Maramures where you’ll find the most popular tourist attractions and things to do in Romania.

Sure, you need to be extra careful at crowded tourist attractions such as Bran Castle, Romania’s #1 tourist hotspot, or Sighisoara Citadel, the most popular UNESCO world heritage site. But this is true everywhere in the world!

On the flipside, there’s nothing to worry about while riding horse-drawn carts through villages!

Public Transportation Safety Tips

Inner-city travel is usually safe and comfortable using the extensive bus and tram networks. Taxis and ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Bolt are very convenient, cheap and safe, even in smaller towns.

Pickpocketing may be something to guard against, like in any major city, but with the most basic type of protection - like keeping an eye on your bag in crowded areas, ddduh! - you’ll be ok.

Our country boasts a wide range of public transportation options and you might want to check our travel guide for public transport in Romania for more info on how to travel between urban areas and across the country.

So next I’m going to share some travel tips on how to stay safe while traveling in Romania.

Driving in Romania really is an adventure

  • Driving and road safety in Romania

Unfortunately, Romania is known for having the highest number of road accidents and deaths caused by aggressive or reckless driving.

This is due to the underdeveloped infrastructure of national roads (mostly one-lane roads) and heavy traffic. So many drivers with powerful cars engage in risky or reckless manoeuvres.

This is by far the biggest risk for foreign tourists who want to rent a car in Romania. Sadly, local news and social media are filled with news of such accidents. It's also what drives up the homicide rate in our country - but accidents are not the same thing as murders!

So besides being a responsible driver who can keep his cool, you also need to be a cautious one. If you see other drivers being impatient, or trying to overtake you - let them pass and keep your distance.

  • Local insight: the alcohol tolerance for drivers in Romania is ZERO! There are severe sanctions if you are found driving under the influence.


The best way to stay safe and enjoy a stress free holiday is to go with a tour guide who is experienced driving on Romanian roads. You won't have to worry about the dangers of this and can enjoy the picturesque views this offers.

If you're going to remote areas expect to find a lot of dirt roads and potholes. During bad weather or snow these roads become difficult to navigate and take much longer.

Even though locals rely heavily on Waze and Google Maps to get around, these don’t offer any info on road conditions so it’s best to get local, on-the-ground info.

Travelling to areas in the Romanian Carpathian Mountains may require a certain level of driving skills too. Expect winding or exposed roads at high altitudes, steep turns, climbs and descends, and even animals appearing by the side of the road.

And if you’re planning to drive during winter in Romania make sure your rental car is equipped for snow conditions. Winter tyres, snow chains, a shovel, enough gas and preferably a four-wheel drive for some areas.

Oh, and if you’re not from the European Union, having an international driving permit is a must if you want to drive or rent a car in Romania.

Romania has lots of traditional mountain villages to see

  • Are trains in Romania safe?

A firm YES and they’re actually a good alternative to driving. The only problem is railway infrastructure is old so trains go slow with an average of 70km/h...

Delays are common so make sure you have enough food and water with you cause most trains don’t have a restaurant cart.

Night trains with sleeping carts are a good option especially for longer routes such as Bucharest - Cluj-Napoca or Bucharest - Timisoara (although we recommend getting an internal flight instead). While more expensive, they’re safe, compartments are small (2-6 people) and the whole wagon is locked and guarded by the train personnel.

Trains are old too and train stations in small towns or villages don’t look great - but don’t let that discourage you. They’re generally safe and even if you see odd people, they won’t bother you as long as you mind your own business.

Common sense advice: don’t leave your personal belongings unattended in an empty compartment. You can take your small bag to the restroom, but you should always ask someone to look after your bags while you are gone. People will help, especially young or solo travelers who might need the same favor.

Any problems on board should be signalled to the personnel who usually travel up and down the train trying to keep things safe and check tickets.


  • Is traveling by bus in Romania safe?

This is another safe and reliable option especially on routes where trains are not viable options. Operators usually invest in new buses, offering modern travel conditions, the buses are on time, and the journey is pretty much okay.

There are scheduled toilet breaks in restaurants and gas stations along the way. As a foreign tourist, let your presence be known to the driver so that they can look for you after each stop. Not everybody speaks English, but they will try to help you.

You may see maxi-taxis connecting remote areas or small towns. There have been cases of companies operating without a license, overcrowding the vehicles, driving recklessly and some causing accidents.

Romanian authorities have tried to clear out these pirate companies but some may still be operational. It’s good to ask locals for recommendations. But if you’re not getting an official ticket or a receipt, their service is most likely not registered and you shouldn’t use it.

Common taxi scams and how to avoid them

This is probably the only real safety concern tourists need to be aware of when traveling to Romania. Like everywhere else in the world, some pirate taxi drivers will target foreign visitors arriving at airports or train stations and offer their services in an unusual way.

Here are some common taxi scams you should be aware of:

  1. taxi drivers who claim their metre isn't working and offer a price range instead
  2. saying the meter is on their phone
  3. leading you to an unmarked car
  4. negotiating fares before starting the ride


Authorised taxis have a company logo on both sides with their license number, visible phone numbers, daytime and nighttime fares clearly displayed (between 2.5 and 5 Lei/km) and a visible black box that shows the applicable rate and total price of the ride.

Easy rule to follow: if the metre doesn’t work for whatever reason (confirm before getting in) or the driver has an unusual, suspicious behavior - don’t get in the car.

Taxi scams can happen in Bucharest, Southern and Eastern parts of Romania, but are rarer now than they used to be, say, 10 years ago. Bucharest Airport taxis or those in the Old Town area were notorious for scamming tourists or people who had too much fun :) - but our article and this guide will help you stay safe.


  • The best alternative to taxis

Nowadays everyone is using ride sharing apps such as Bolt and Uber which operate in almost all the major tourist cities in our country.

They’re convenient, safe and drivers are user-reviewed. You can pay by card without having to worry about cash and change.

My suggestion is that you check both when ordering since fares and drivers availability may differ.

Personal safety tips. Crimes, petty theft and others

We have so far concluded that Romania is generally a safe country without any major security concerns. Now let's look at individual risks.

  • Crime rate

The crime rate is typically low and usually limited to densely populated low-income areas where tourists wouldn’t go anyway.

Cases of assaults and armed robberies are very few, particularly since local laws prohibit regular citizens from carrying fire weapons or other objects that fall into the weapon category.

The level of violent crime in our country is very low and when they do occur, it’s usually in the countryside predominantly in the poorer regions of North-East or in the South.

Common reasons for violent crime include local feuds spurred by alcohol or the occasional person ‘with problems’ as societies like to discriminate…

So, unless you plan on getting into a love triangle with a beautiful Romanian lady - of which we have plenty :) - you should be safe.

  • Petty theft and small crimes

As a tourist, your main concern should be when visiting tourist attractions and crowded public areas.

Police officers are out on patrol in the city center, major squares or urban areas where public events take place. So the streets are generally safe.

Unlike other European countries, Romania is not a preferred destination for immigration. So you don’t have to worry about common scams associated with these groups.

  • Personal story: in 2015 when I was visiting Rome someone approached me and before I knew it he tied a bracelet around my wrist. Then he began asking for a donation while his friends gathered around me blocking my way… while the 'gift' or bracelet trick is common, you don't have to worry about it in Romania!


Sure, cases of phone, wallet or bag snatching may occur. But the overall rate of small thefts hasn’t increased in recent years and tourists are not particularly targeted.

You can protect against small thefts if you are aware of your surroundings, keep an eye on your belongings, travel in a group, and do not attract too much attention as a foreign traveler.


  • Electronic payments and credit card fraud

Making card payments with credit cards or debit cards (including from your phone) is safe and convenient. They're widely available and can be used everywhere from small shops and cafes in small towns or to pay for hotel rooms and restaurants in big cities.

When going in rural areas it’s best to have cash on you for personal expenses around 150 lei per day (about 20 Euro) since ATMs and card payments are less frequent in remote areas.

One common form of petty crime targeting everyone is ATM fraud where some ATMs have been tampered with to copy your card details. Just look for big banks such as BCR, BRD or Banca Transilvania that usually have ATMs under surveillance and you’ll be fine.

But do guard your phone and bank cards, especially in crowded tourist areas or in public transport where credit card fraud may happen through ‘skimming’ your card details and then replicating them.


Emergency services, travel insurance and hiking safety

Being a European country, the universal emergency number is 112 and an operator will patch you through the emergency local authorities (police, fire station or ambulance) depending on your needs.

This applies even if you're in the mountains and in need of special assistance or medical evacuation.

Although I hope you won’t run into any medical problems while visiting Romania, it’s better to be prepared. So let’s talk a little about the medical services in Romania and public hospitals.

  • Medical emergencies and travel insurance

Health care in our country is public (state supported) meaning it’s free and open to anyone who has a EU health insurance or private insurance.

There are private healthcare providers too (eg. Medlife, Sanador, or Regina Maria) with clinics and private hospitals in major cities. But most of them require an appointment.

However, in case of an emergency you will be taken to a public hospital, as private hospitals do not have ER rooms. Otherwise, you don’t need special medical provisions for Romania.

I don’t know about you but I’d rather be safe and worry free when travelling so I always take out travel health insurance. I recommend you do the same.


  • Pharmacies, vaccines and small health issues

As for pharmacies, you’ll find them everywhere. Literally, everywhere, in all shapes and sizes. Pharmacists are very helpful and whatever you need they’ll find a way to help you.

The recommended vaccines are the ones recommended for the rest of Europe, with a mention of rabies, not from stray dogs since this problem was taken care of in most big cities, but from wild animals in case you intend to go hiking.

Find the list of vaccines and recommendations here or check your local government services for the latest information and related travel advice.

There are no restrictions or requirements regarding Covid-19. Remember those times? :)

Drinking tap water is generally safe in bigger cities, even if you hear locals with different opinions on that.

When travelling in the countryside, choose bottled or filtered water instead. Do what the locals do. Don’t be surprised if you get served water from a well either.

On this subject, if you have special dietary needs it may be wise to bring your own food before travelling into remote areas. You’ll find plenty of shopping centers in larger cities (Auchan, Carrefour, Kaufland).

And if you’re planning to explore the Romanian national parks, you’ll find lots of springs with fresh water.

Not drinkable water is are marked as NEPOTABILĂ (not for drinking) signs. You will surely see these on trains and at certain public taps.

During summer food poisoning can be a problem in the Black Sea resorts due to improper storage or cooking. Choose popular restaurants, with good reviews or in major shopping centres, and don’t eat anything that smells or looks unusual.


Animal encounters

If you’re planning to go on your own and explore the most popular hiking trails in Romania one extra significant risk to keep in mind is coming into direct contact with wild animals.

Romania is home to the largest population of brown bears in Europe. Local news frequently show their ‘expeditions’ looking for food around mountain cabins and resorts, villages and small towns.

That’s why we strongly encourage you to go with a licensed hiking guide who knows what to do to prevent such encounters and is equipped with a first aid kit pepper spray if needed.

Out on a hike, you may also come across wild boars, and, probably the most dangerous of all, vipers.

The horned viper and the European common viper, usually found in the Western regions of the Carpathian mountains, and the steppe viper, in the Danube Delta, have dangerous venom. They are most active in March - April when they come out of hibernation, like hungry bears.

You need immediate medical attention and a special anti-viper serum to be administered if you get bitten by a viper.

So it’s best to pay attention when you go hiking, have proper gear and clothing, and ask locals for any info if you’re planning to go alone.

Safety tips for solo female travelers

Solo female travelers are generally safe in Romania, especially in public spaces, major cities and popular tourist attractions.

Use your common sense and apply general safety measures. Avoid groups of rowdy men in the evening, especially if they seem drunk. Avoiding walking alone during nighttime, especially in poorly lit areas, is also good advice.

Staring (to the point of uncomfortable eye contact) is quite common in Romania, a country where looks are very important. Try to ignore it. In most cases, it doesn’t mean anything, just curiosity or bad manners, especially if you also happen to look or dress different from locals.

You are more likely to notice this unpleasant feature of Romanian culture especially when visiting a small town or rural areas.

In any case, keep your friends and family informed about your whereabouts and travel plans. Remember 112 the emergency phone number which can be called from anywhere.

Conclusion

By now I hope you got the general idea: Romania is a very safe country to visit and there’s no specific travel advice you should be aware of.

Generally, public safety risks are low, crime rates don't impact tourists and both rural and urban centres and tourist areas are safe to explore if you follow a few simple safety rules and use your common sense to evaluate any risks.

So if you had any concerns or were on the fence about visiting Romania, I hope this article gave you some peace of mind.

Now it’s time to start planning your trip! You’ll find lots of resources on our website and if you need any help don’t hesitate to contact us.

Your Romanian Friend,

Doriana

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