Romania Tours and Travel Guide
Romania Attractions & Landmarks Guide
Usually a stop on an itinerary that takes in several Balkan countries in a quick few days, Romania deserves more time and admiration than most travelers give it. Rising steadly since the revolution in 1989 that threw off the shackles of communism, Romania joined the European Union in 2007 but still feels distinct in language, culture, and currency.
Romanians are especially eager to welcome travelers and show them around, whether it’s through the budding hip neighborhoods or historic streets of Bucharest (not to be confused with Budapest), to the castles and Carpathian Mountains, or out along the sandy shores of the Black Sea. Larger and more diverse than you can probably imagine, Romania is increasingly considered a must-visit Europe destination for travelers of all kinds.
Why Visit Romania on a Tour?
There are so many reasons to visit Romania. Whether you’re traveling alone, or with a group with different tastes and interests — Romania has something for everyone.
Romania is one of the most bio-geographically diverse countries in the European Union. From the Danube Delta, to the Carpathian Mountains, to the beaches of the Black Sea, or the tumbling waterfalls, you’ll never struggle to find a place to hike, kayak, drive, swim, and explore. There are several tour options for thrill seekers and adventurers.
Are you not so much of an outdoors person? Are you more of a history buff? Perfect, Romania is the place to be! Romania has seen several titanous empires — the Romans, the Greeks, and the Ottomans have all left their mark on this Eastern European nation. Several cities, like Constanța, are living museums that exhibit the country’s deep-rooted history.
The country’s proximity to the Black Sea has allowed it grow into a cultural epicenter. Walking through the cobbled streets of Romania’s cities, you’ll notice several styles that reflect history. Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance influences are exhibited through the nation’s looming castles, while the cinder-block buildings depict the Communist rule that defined the latter half of the 20th century.
Like strings of thread, these diverse influences are interwoven into Romania’s rich tapestry of culture and history. Check out some of the medieval tours that explore the magnificent castles that Romania is known for!
If you prefer exploring something other than the cities, the Romanian countryside will captivate you. As tradition is very important to Romanians, you will be able to see well-preserved homes and heritage in the Saxon villages that have remained unchanged. Each village holds their own unique charm and several are even home to World Heritage Sites!
If Romania’s bio-geographical, cultural, and historical diversity didn’t convince you to immediately book a flight, this will: Romania is rated one of the cheapest destinations in Europe. Visiting the country is extremely good value for money. Although the Romania is part of the European Union, their currency is the Romanian Lei (RON). Currently, USD$1 is equivalent to RON4.25 (Updated May, 2019). What a steal!
Eastern European cuisine is often attributed with potatoes, meat… and more potatoes. Romania is not exempt from this stereotype. The national dish is sarmale, a cabbage roll stuffed with pork and rice.
However much like the country’s buildings, Romania’s food reflects its history. German, Hungarian, Austrian, Greek, and Turkic influences shape Romanian cuisine, so you might encounter familiar tastes, but also experience totally new combinations!
Vegetables and fruits are also included in Romanian cuisine. In fact, Romanians pride themselves on their fresh produce, which is free from any genetic modifications. Want to know what a tomato really tastes like? Visit a local farmer’s market, and try it out for yourself!
Romanian food is the perfect comfort food, but the nation is also noted for their gastronomy. The Sibiu region, known for its culinary festivals, was awarded the European capital of gastronomy this year! If you want to try traditional food with a modern twist, Sibiu is the place to be.
In fact, each region in Romania offers their own twist on traditional cuisine. If you ever find yourself near the Black Sea, try Ciorbă de Peste, a fish soup. The version served near the Danube Delta is made from a variety of freshwater fish that are native to the area.
Fancy something a little more adventurous? Romania uses the “whole-animal” concept, so you’ll be able to try out some dishes out of the ordinary. Try Ciorba de Burta, which is made of beef tripe, or Cighiri, which is fried hog stomach filled with ground pork, liver, heart, lungs, onion, eggs, and garlic.
Romanians eat three times a day, with dinner being their biggest meal. Don’t be surprised if you start eating at 10pm. If you’re invited to dinner at home, be prepared to be stuffed. The host will provide you with an abundance of food, and will expect to be complimented on their cooking. You are expected to finish your plate, as leaving leftovers may be a sign of disrespect.
No matter what you eat, make sure you arrive to the dinner table with an empty stomach, as most meals are served with a hearty side of mămăligă (polenta, which is boiled cornmeal, similar to grits) and cheese!
Romania and Dracula
The first thing that pop into people’s minds when you say “Romania” is usually Dracula.
The inspiration for Bram Stoker’s character is Vlad Tepes (also known as Vlad the Impaler), who ruled the region from 1456 to 1462. To this day, his reputation is controversial, as he was notorious for impaling his enemies, but also brought prosperity with his rule.
Bran Castle, also called Dracula’s castle, is a looming fortress often associated with Bram Stoker’s novel. However, if you want to visit the castle Vlad Tepes lived for most of his life, visit Poienari Fortress. This impenetrable fortress stands on a cliff overlooking the Arges River. If you visit the fortress, be prepared for the 1,462 steps that lead up to the castle’s ruins.
25 miles north of Bucharest lies Snagov Monastery, which is where the presumed ruins of Vlad Tepes lies. It can be accessed by a pedestrian bridge or a boat, as the monastery is located on an island within Lake Snagov.
Sighișoara is one of the most well-preserved medieval towns in Europe. Cobbled streets, gothic castles, and intricately designed churches define this town. It is also known for being the birthplace of Vlad Tepes.
While a lot of the tourist attractions in Romania capitalise on its ties to pop culture, it’s important to note that Romania has a lot to offer, other than vampires.
What are Romanians like?
The society is hierarchical, with respect given to the elderly. Family and tradition is highly treasured in Romanian society. For this reason, they participate in very elaborate ceremonies to celebrate their culture..
When you first meet a local, they are generally reserved and quiet. Refer to elders as Domnul (“Mr.”) and Doamna (“Mrs.”). When you develop of personal and close relationship, you can refer to them by their first name, and they’ll open up to you more.
When you become more familiar, you can greet your Romanian friends with two kisses, one on each cheek, starting with the left. If you are invited into a Romanian’s home, you can bring flowers. However, make sure you give an odd number of flowers, as even numbers are used for funerals.
Romanians have a keen sense of humor that may take some time to get used to. Their jokes can be ironic and devoid of political correctness, but their humor is good-natured. Be prepared to be a subject of their joke; no one is safe — not even themselves, as they often poke fun at themselves as well.
Cultural Travelers Will Be In Their Element
There are certainly family-friendly events and activities, though many foreign travelers are not yet bringing their families, and most will require a fair amount of walking (and may not be appropriate for strollers due to uneven streets and sidewalks).
In Bucharest, by far the largest city, the city has some crime, primarily in the form of pick-pocketing when it comes to tourists. It is safe to walk the streets at night, in fact you can really experience the Romanian love for late night dinners this way. As always, try not to display high value property or make yourself a target, and you’ll most likely have no problems.
Things to Know Before You Go
What’s the Weather Like in Romania?
Romania has four distinct seasons, with freezing winters, and scorching summers. Mountainous areas and the northern part of Romania, such as Maramures and Bucovina tends to be colder, while the southern region (Bucharest, Black Sea Coast) can be incredibly torrid, especially in the summer.
When is the Best Time to Visit Romania?
Each season in Romania has its own unique charm — it all depends on what you want to experience during your time in Romania.
The climate from January to March is incredibly frigid — which makes it ideal for winter activities. There are several ski resorts in Romania. If you’re doing a tour of the medieval castles during this time, the temperature sets the mood. If the dreary cold gets you down, don’t fret! Warm yourself up with a piping hot bowl of soup.
In April, the spring blossoms bring new energy and color to the country — especially after all that snow! Meadows, gardens, and hills are colored with the flowers, perfectly complementing the Easter celebrations that happen throughout the region.
May in Romania is notorious for rain. Visitors may actively try to avoid this climate, but this time of the year is magical, as that’s when the birds start to stir at the Danube Delta.
June to August marks the most popular time for tourists to visit Romania. Be prepared for the sweltering hot weather — especially if you’re in the southern region. This is the best time to hike the Carpathian mountain range — the weather is much milder up there, and it’s the perfect way to escape the bustling cities!
If you’d prefer to escape the crowds, September to October is a great time to visit Romania. You’ll also get to witness autumn in full swing around September.
There is no “best time” to visit Romania — it all depends on what your curiosities are, and which parts of the country you want to discover! From skiing, to kayaking, to walking and hiking, each season offers a different aspect of what makes Romania so unique.
Currency & Costs in Romania
Though they are formally part of the European Union, Romania has yet to adopt the Euro as their currency, instead using the Romanian ‘lei’ (often signified as RON). The lei is a relatively stable currency, usually in the area of 4 lei for $1.
This makes Romania a cost-friendly European destination, as a meal can be anywhere from $5-$10, and beer and wine are often just $2-$4.
Prices are higher for tourist-heavy activities like visiting the castle and ‘traditional’ dinners in big cities, but on the whole you can stretch your budget a lot farther when traveling in Romania than in Western European countries like Switzerland.
Safety & Security in Romania
For the most part, Romania is a safe country. In smaller towns and villages, the biggest hurdle to feeling completely comfortable will be the language barrier, as many older Romanians may not have a strong grasp of English. In major cities or top tourist sights, expect English in abundance, as well as police presence.
Overall, transportation is safe, but make sure you check your meters if you’re traveling by taxi. Scams and rip offs are rare, but if you ever encounter a driver who refuses to use a meter, there are several other transportation options, such as the train, bus, or Uber in the cities.
Of course, as with visiting any foreign country, be careful with your valuables and watch your pockets. With the proper precautions, you should be good to go.
While Romania is welcoming for all kinds of travelers, those who love to immerse themselves in new cultures and history will greatly enjoy Romania. Romania has also become a top spot for music festivals in the summer months.
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