As we may all know, Romania is quite possibly one of the most “Eastern European” countries that you can find out there. Beautiful vistas, colourful people and, of course, low prices for everything. Yet before you pick up your backpack and head that way, make sure you acquaint yourself with a few basic dos and don’ts. Here are six things to know before visiting Romania!
Although there are numerous religions practiced in Romania, the most common one is Orthodox. This is important to know because over 95% of the population are believers and they all adhere to religious callings such as Sunday mass, baptism and the intake of wafers. A major don’t in the country is heavy swearing or the rejection of religion. Whereas the younger population has adapted to open-minded standards, the elderly are more than superstitious at times. This religious aspect has also reached into another area: sexuality. Being openly gay in Romania is not illegal but it can land you in a heap of trouble on the streets. The older generation has not adapted to global standards yet and you might find yourself discriminated. Whilst, again, the younger population usually has no problem with this, it is better to be safe than sorry.
2. Looking different:
Having spent decades under a communist regime until the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, Romania has remained somewhat conservative. As mentioned above, there is a major discrepancy between the older and the younger, more technologically advanced, generation. For this particular reason, things like dreadlocks, pink hair or even a punkish look can get you frowns or glances of surprise. While this will not get you into trouble most of the time, you might be stopped a few times to be asked how you grew that hair and where you got those clothes. Stores are another story: if you look different in a supermarket, you will soon find a worker stalking you, making sure that you are not snatching anything. While this may feel a bit uncomfortable, it has no further repercussions.
The Romanian people are some of the most hospitable people in the world because they share a sense of camaraderie through hard times. This is also amplified by the fact that they are religious. Ask a Romanian for help and you will most certainly receive it because they enjoy foreigners. If you are visiting rural areas, you might even find yourself being invited in people’s homes and fed properly with home-made sausages/meat/pork fat and fine bread. Speaking of which…
Do not be surprised to be handed bread with every meal that you order at restaurants. The Romanian people eat bread with almost all of their traditional dishes. Some restaurants make you pay an extra few “Bani” (100 Bani = 1 Leu) whilst others include them in the prices on their menu. It is absolutely normal for them to eat bread with a soup or with a semi-substantial main course. If you are a bread-lover and you don’t get some, feel free to ask for it because they are most certainly going to have some.
5. Railway system:
This is one of the main vices of Romania: the horrible railway system. If you have the possibility, we recommend that you avoid using the trains circulating the country for they are slow, inefficient, dirty and, above all, riddled with all sorts of people that you might not want to get in contact with (sick people, common thugs, conmen and so on). If you have the possibility to choose what to travel with, take to the coaches – they are far more reliable and they won’t subject you to 4-hour delays (yes, such things do happen with the railway system).
6. Pirate cabs:
Although pirate cabs are present almost everywhere in the world, Romania has gotten as far as making public posters for people to pay attention to them. These people will not only linger near public transport hubs, they will be everywhere. This is not that much of a problem in certain cities but Bucharest is plagued by them (especially at the airport and the train station). Always urge your drivers to start their metres and, if you can, check Google Maps in advance so that you won’t be taken on lengthy unwanted joyrides (so that they may extort celestial amounts from you later).
Did you enjoy our list? What experiences have you had in Romania and how have they affected your overall perception of the country? Hit the comment section below and tell us all about it. Oh, and do not forget to check back regularly for some stimulating updates!