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Are you planning your trip to Romania but don’t have too much money to spend? First, you should know that, compared to Western European countries like France, Germany and the UK, Romania is less expensive when it comes to travelling in the country, eating in a restaurant, and buying food or local drinks. Second, Romania has a bucolic countryside, with villages that will make you travel through time, as well as lovely people and mouthwatering food. And a trip to the countryside will surely be less expensive than a city break. But regardless of your choice of destination, here are some great tips for travelling on a budget in Romania.
While a flight may seem expensive compared to a bus ride, the low-cost companies Wizz Air and Blue Air propose cheap flights to plenty of cities in Romania, from Bucharest to Cluj to Constanța to Iași to Oradea. But if you target the lowest fares, fly to cities with smaller airports like Sibiu, Brașov or Timișoara, as the costs are lower than a flight to Bucharest or Cluj-Napoca. That depends also on where you want to go. However, be aware that the price doesn’t include checked luggage, but allows you to take a carry-on bag of 8-10 kilos for free.
Starting your trip on one city and finishing to another will help you save the money for the return trip to your arrival city in Romania, especially if you want to see as much as possible in a short time. You can, for example, start your trip in Bucharest and end in Cluj. Check the flights available to your city, and you may find several options for going and coming back.
The local currency is Romania is the RON, or leu. Both the US dollar and the Euro are stronger currencies, so everything may seem cheap to you. Nonetheless, be careful with the exchange rate. If changing at a big bank like BRD, BCR or ING may seem safer, it is also more expensive. For a better rate, change in the local exchange agencies. Look for those who have ‘no commission.’ You can also use your card when paying at gas stations, supermarkets and some restaurants. However, for souvenirs or small grocery stores, you will need RON. The same goes for the countryside, where exchanging or withdrawing money may be difficult as there are not many banks, ATMs or exchange bureaus.
When you say cheap accommodation, you usually think about hostels or Airbnb. That works very well in the cities, but in the countryside, there’s an even better option: sleeping in the locals’ houses. Imagine a traditionally decorated room, picturesque scenery surrounding you and warm people greeting you. Add to that amazing food cooked by your host! A real treat for a small price. To give you an idea, a dorm room with 6-8 beds in a hostel costs about 50-60 RON (10-13€) per person, a private room for two around 130-150 RON (28-32 €) per room, while a private room in a local’s house costs around 30-50 RON (8-11€), adding another 20€ if you want the three meals included. However, if you want the ‘no money’ sleeping experience, consider Couchsurfing.
If you want to save money on food, have your lunch at restaurants that serve ‘Meniul Zilei’ – the Daily Menu. You can have it for 15-20 RON (3-5 €). The hours when you can have it varies from restaurant to restaurant, usually between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. However, if you plan to cook yourself, buy groceries in cheap shops like Lidl or Profi, or in the local markets.
When moving from one city to another, the cheapest option is to take the train. However, it goes very slowly. So if you have enough time to spend on a train ride, it can be a good option. For a faster option, choose ridesharing with BlaBlaCar. The website offers rides with locals, between cities or villages. And it’s all safe as the drivers are verified beforehand, plus you get to know the locals. When it comes to transport in the city, a bus or tram ride will cost you about 2 RON (0.50€). But if you search for transport in the middle of the night, think about taking UBER or a taxi as they are not too expensive.
In Romania, most major cities offer a Free Guided Tour of 1-2 hours, which is a great way to discover the city and to find out its history, told by a local. While you don’t have to pay anything for it, if you enjoyed the tour, you should leave a tip at the end. Just tap Free Guided Tours and the name of the city, and Google will give you all the info needed.
Drinking in a bar in Romania is way cheaper than in Western Europe’s bars. You can find a bottle of beer for around 5-8 RON (1-1.50€) and a glass of wine for 10-15 RON (2-3€). The best deal is to buy local beers, like Ursus, Ciuc and Silva. As Romania has a lot of local breweries, the local beer is always cheaper than an imported one. The same goes for the wines: if you buy in a local shop, you can have a bottle of good Romanian wine for 25-30 RON (5-6€).
If you don’t want to pay to use your phone’s data or for making international calls, there is some great news: since June 2017, roaming charges have been eliminated in the European Union. So you can use your national minutes and internet like in your own country. Nonetheless, since Romania has one of the world’s fastest internet connections and Wi-Fi in most public places, cafés and restaurants, why use your own mobile internet?
While museums aren’t usually free, you can get a discount rate or enter for free if you are a student or you are less than 25 years old. Regardless, for 10-15 RON (2-3€) you can visit most museums, and if you are around for Museum Night or the first Saturday of the month, you can enter most museums for free. This does not apply to very touristic places like Peleș Castle, where the entrance fee is about 25-30 RON (5-6€).