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Moving to Romania

Expats moving to Romania will find it both challenging and rewarding. For many, Romania conjures images of snowy mountains, medieval castles and, of course, Dracula. A relatively safe country, new arrivals soon learn that Romania has far more to offer, especially as the country grows as an international tourist destination and a gateway to business in Eastern Europe.

Situated along the western edge of the Black Sea, Romania's geography encompasses the beaches on its eastern shores and the Carpathian Mountains, which give way to rolling hills, forests, farmlands and rustic villages. Romania’s capital, Bucharest, stands on the banks of the Dambovita River and is the most popular destination for expats moving to the country. 

Expats looking for work in Romania often move to its capital and generally find employment in construction, engineering, IT, communications, software development or teaching English. Although salaries in the country are some of the lowest in Europe, this is offset by the low cost of living in Romania

Foreigners wanting to move to Romania will need to obtain a work permit. As with many ex-communist countries, the process involves a fair amount of bureaucracy. However, EU citizens find it easier than expats moving from other parts of the world. 

The country is a key transport hub for Eastern Europe and has a comprehensive transport network with air, water, road and rail transportation available. Large amounts of money are also being invested in the national infrastructure.

Residents have access to public healthcare, although most expats choose to use private services. Similarly, although public education in the country is free, the majority of expat send their children to international schools in Romania. Although many expats may feel restricted about where they send their children to school, accommodation in Romania is varied enough to suit any expat's needs and budget. 

Expats moving to Romania are treading off the beaten track when it comes to worldwide expat destinations. But, as an EU-member state, it welcomes business and trade and is eager to make its mark on the business world. Despite this, there are some adjustments that new arrivals make, as most expats experience elements of culture shock. As the official language in the country is Romanian, while a small proportion of the population speaks German, Hungarian and Vlax Romani, English-speaking expats will need to get used to how scarcely spoken their language is. English is spoken more often in larger cities such as Bucharest, Constanta and Brasov, as well as tourist destinations.

Romania offers expats a range of outdoor destinations to explore, interesting cuisine, fantastic cultural sights and opportunities, and a jumping-off point from which to explore a meeting-point between Eastern and Western cultures.

Essential Info for Romania

Population: Over 19.5 million

Capital city: Bucharest (also largest city)

Other major cities: Cluj-Napoca, Timișoara and Iași 

Neighbouring countries: Romania is bordered by Moldova and Ukraine to the east, Bulgaria to the south and Serbia and Hungary to the west.

Geography: This Eastern European country sits on the Black Sea and is a mountainous country, with the Carpathian Mountains dominating the country's interior. Romania is dotted with lakes and the Danube River, which forms part of the border with Serbia and Bulgaria, flows into Romania, ending with the Danube Delta (the second largest river delta in Europe) in southeastern Romania. 

Political system: Semi-presidential republic

Main languages: Romanian is the official language. English is sometimes spoken in tourist centres and major cities.

Major religions: Christianity is the largest religion in Romania, with Eastern Orthodox being the largest denomination.

Time: GMT +2 (GMT +3 for daylight savings, from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October)

Electricity: 230 volts, 50 Hz. 'Type-F', rounded two-pin plugs are used

Money: The Romanian Leu (RON), divided into 100 bani. ATMs are widely available in the country's urban areas and credit cards are accepted at the majority of establishments. 

International dialling code: +40

Emergency numbers: 112

Internet domain: .ro

Transport and driving: Cars drive on the right. Getting around Romania is relatively easy thanks to its developed public transport system.

Weather in Romania

Romania has a continental climate with distinct seasons including mild springs, sunny summers, temperate autumns and chilly winters. Expats moving to Romania will be able to practice their skiing in winter, which is typically from December through to March, as snowfall is common throughout the country. Winter temperatures vary in the daytime from 32°F (0°C) to 41°F (5°C), with the potential for heavy winds which further increases discomfiture. 

Spring, which is from the end of March through to June, has cool mornings and nights. Spring gives way to Summer near the end of June, when the weather becomes warmer, with the country experiencing some rain. Generally, expats can look forward to summers spent in the sun, enjoying the Romanian countryside, especially as daily temperatures range between 77°F (25°C) and 86°F (30°C).

Finally, autumn begins at the end of September, bringing both cool and dry weather. 

   

Embassy Contacts for Romania

Romanian embassies abroad

  • Embassy of Romania, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 332 2879

  • Embassy of Romania, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 7920 464 101

  • Embassy of Romania, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 789 3709

  • Embassy of Romania, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6286 2343

  • Embassy of Romania, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 460 6941

  • Embassy of Romania, Dublin, Ireland: +353 (0)1 668 1085

  • Honourary Consulate of Romania, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4 476 6883


Foreign embassies in Romania

  • United States Embassy, Bucharest: +40 (0)21 200 3300

  • British Embassy, Bucharest: +40 (0)21 201 7200

  • Canadian Embassy, Bucharest: +40 (0)21 307 5000

  • Australian Consulate, Bucharest: +40 (0)21 206 2200 

  • South African Embassy, Bucharest: +40 (0)21 313 3725

  • Irish Embassy, Bucharest: +40 (0)21 310 2131

Public Holidays in Romania

 

2019

2020

New Year's Day

1 January

1 January

Second Day of the New Year

2 January

2 January

Union Day

24 January

24 January

Orthodox Good Friday

26 April

17 April

Orthodox Easter Sunday

28 April

19 April

Orthodox Easter Monday

29 April

20 April

Labour Day

1 May

1 May

Children's Day

1 June

1 June

Orthodox Whit Sunday

16 June

7 June

Orthodox Whit Monday

17 June

8 June

Dormition of the Virgin Mary

15 August

15 August

Feast of Saint Andrew

30 November

30 November

National Day

1 December

1 December

Christmas Day

25 December

25 December

Second Day of Christmas

26 December

26 December

 

Safety in Romania

Romania is a safe country, with the most crime being petty and non-violent. Corruption remains an ongoing concern and is an unfortunate reality across many aspects of life in Romania. Despite this, expats who familiarise themselves with Romania will feel secure in their new home.


Crime in Romania

Like most countries, crime is a reality in Romania, particularly in the larger cities, but it is generally opportunistic in nature. The most common forms of crime in Romania are petty theft and pickpocketing, especially in crowded areas and on public transport.

Institutional crime, such as corruption, continues to be a problem and new arrivals are advised to be wary of officials demanding bribes or issuing fines. There are certain areas within cities that expats should avoid, the most notorious in Bucharest, being the Ferentari district, which is a predominantly socially disadvantaged area in the southern part of the city.

In recent years, the Romanian government has tried to crack down on all forms of crime, including corruption and institutional crimes. This has been evident in a recent spate of high profile arrests. 

Racial prejudices are also sometimes an issue in Romania, particularly with regard to the Roma people, who are often stereotyped as being thieves.


Credit card fraud in Romania

Credit card fraud is an ongoing problem for foreigners in Romania, especially as they are specifically targeted for fraud. Although most services in urban centres offer credit card payments, many expats prefer to use cash when making purchases in the country. 


Stray dogs in Romania

Stray dogs are common in Romania, especially in Bucharest. Many people like to feed them, and as a result dog bites are extremely common. The Romanian government has made a concerted effort in recent years to control the stray dog population, but it has come under increasing criticism for the cruelty of its campaign, with thousands of dogs being culled.

Expats are advised to avoid stray dogs whenever possible as some can be aggressive and may have rabies. 


Emergency numbers in Romania

If expats find themselves in an emergency situation in Romania they should dial 112. English-speaking operators are available. 

Working in Romania

Expats planning to work in Romania may find the job market difficult to enter. Competition for jobs is high and salaries in Romania are relatively low.

Foreigners wishing to work in Romania need to have a relevant work permit, and although EU nationals are exempt from this, they will still need to apply for a residence permit. Work permits are related to a specific job and the employer will usually take care of all the details for the application. In order to employ a foreigner, the hiring company needs to demonstrate that there are no EU or EEA candidates able to fill the role.


Job market in Romania

Romania has a wealth of relatively untapped economic potential. Large areas of the country are undeveloped or dedicated to agriculture. Paired with its natural beauty, a wide selection of cultural attractions underscores a tourism industry that is open for development and investment. 

Other areas in which expats intent on working in Romania may find opportunities include the resource and energy sectors, the industrial sector and the manufacturing industry. The country also has a formidable services sector with potential for growth and a demand for qualified expats with the necessary experience in finance, business services and retail. There has been growth in the area of human resources too, and many HR agencies look to hire expats in executive positions at some of the larger companies and multinationals. 

Expats looking to work outside a corporate environment should consider working in the NGO sector or teaching in Romania. Regardless of industry, however, most expats in the country work in Bucharest, the capital. 


Finding work in Romania

Romanian companies are often quite insular and would rather hire locally than deal with the process of trying to obtain a work permit for a foreign employee. At the same time, the Romanian government is keen to attract foreign business and establish the country as a strategic base for businesses trying to invest in the Eastern European market.

Despite the economic challenges facing Europe as a whole, Romania has persevered. If expats looking to move to the country are similarly persistent and motivated, they are likely to find employment.

Expats can search for employment via online job portals. As the state requires that Romanian companies announce their vacancies, many jobs are also listed on the Romanian National Employment Agency. Otherwise, expats should consider approaching a recruitment agency, as many focus on placing expat workers. 

Doing Business in Romania

Expats doing business in Romania are often attracted by its large domestic market, its young and educated workforce, and its prominent position in Eastern Europe. Functioning for many businesses as a gateway to the Balkans, the country is expected to continue growing at a steady pace.

The attractiveness of Romania's business environment is reflected in its positive rankings in international business surveys. Most notably, the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2018 ranked Romania at 45th out of 190 economies. The country ranked first for trading across borders and also scored well for enforcing contracts (17th). However, there is room for improvement when it comes to dealing with construction permits and getting electricity, where the country ranked 150th and 147th respectively. 


Fast facts

Business hours

The Romanian working week is from Monday to Friday, and business hours tend to be from 9am to 5pm.

Language of business

The language of business is generally Romanian, although many people also speak other major European languages such as English, French or German.

 Greeting

Shaking hands when meeting business partners is customary and neglecting to do so would be seen as an insult.

Business dress

Dress code varies according to the situation. In formal business settings, dressing conservatively is recommended – suits for men and a skirt that falls below the knee for women. Business casual is acceptable for more relaxed settings.

Gift giving

Giving small gifts to business partners is considered polite and is fairly common. A traditional gift from the expat’s home country is usually a safe bet in the business context. Being invited to a colleague’s home is a special honour, and a gift of chocolates or wine is customary, with gifts often being opened in the presence of the giver.

Gender equality

While gender equality is guaranteed by Romanian law, most executive and management positions are still held by men.


Business culture in Romania

Romanian business culture is formal and hierarchical, with an emphasis on respect for seniors and elders. Decisions are made from the top down and are rarely questioned by junior associates.

Communication

Interactions in business are usually formal and associates address each other using formal titles. Should an expat develop a more informal relationship with a Romanian associate, it is still expected that they would address them appropriately in formal situations. The most common formal titles in Romania are domnul (Mr), doamnă (Mrs) and domnişoară (Miss).

Meetings

This extends to meetings in Romania, which often follow a strict protocol. Expats should wait to be seated and only take off their jackets after the most senior person in the room does so. Small talk should be avoided unless initiated by local associates. Punctuality is important, especially in the private sector, although expats should be prepared to wait.

Direct communication is valued but expats should also be sensitive and patient, especially when providing an opposing viewpoint. Part of this is maintaining eye contact, which is a sign of respect and interest.

Formality tends to soften as individual relationships form, but this is not a process that can be forced or rushed. Expats should allow their Romanian associates to set the tone of discussions.

Relationships

Despite the layers of formality, relationships are central to success in the Romanian workplace. Partially as a result of its communist heritage, the collective is valued above the individual.

Attitude to foreigners

Romanians have a reputation for being hospitable and are generally known to be friendly towards foreigners. Locals who live in urban areas are often able to speak foreign languages such as English, French or German, making communication a lot easier for many expats. At the same time, many Romanian businesspeople are wary of being taken advantage of by foreign companies, meaning that expats will have to work hard to build trust.


Dos and don’ts of doing business in Romania

  • Do be direct but sensitive, and focus on business, unless otherwise prompted

  • Don’t talk or make jokes about the communist regime or Roma people

  • Don’t be late for meetings, or call ahead and apologise if it is unavoidable

  • Don’t boast about achievements or make exaggerated claims

  • Do display courtesy at all times

Visas for Romania

Although Romania is an EU member, it has yet to adopt the Schengen visa. Until this situation changes, expats may need to apply for a separate visa for Romania.

Expats have various options for getting a visa to suit their specific needs. Whether planning a business trip or moving to Romania to join family or to work, there is a process that applicants have to go through to get their Romanian visa. This can be time-consuming, but organised expats with the right supporting documents should get through the process quite smoothly.

Holders of a multiple-entry visa for, and legal residents of, Schengen area countries are allowed to enter Romania without a visa and stay for 90 days in a 180-day period.


Short-stay tourist visas for Romania

To apply for a short-stay tourist visa for Romania, expats must have a valid passport with at least two blank pages. EU citizens, holders of an appropriate Schengen visa and nationals of selected countries, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA, do not need a visa to enter Romania as a visitor. Nationals of non-exempt countries will need to apply for a Romanian tourist visa.

There are different categories of short-stay visas which cater to different travel purposes, most of which limit visits to a maximum period of 90 days.

Expats should apply for a visa at their closest Romanian embassy or consulate and will require a variety of supporting documents. This includes application forms, passport photos, bank statements, proof of health insurance and proof of onward travel. The embassy will return the original documents to the applicant, in case they are requested by Romanian border police upon entry.

The process can take up to 30 days and application fees can vary for certain countries. More detailed information can be found on the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.


Long-stay visas for Romania

There are several long-stay visas for Romania which fall into different categories based on the purpose of the stay, including economic activities, employment, studies and family reunification. The validity of a visa varies depending on the category, and expats will have to pay an application fee.


Employment visas for Romania

Applying for a work permit in Romania requires that an expat's prospective employer proves to the Romanian government that they have been unable to fill the position with a Romanian national. Once the government has approved this and granted a work permit, expats will need to apply for a long-stay visa for employment purposes.


Residence visas for Romania

In order to move to Romania with the intention of staying there permanently, expats will need to apply for a temporary residence permit. This allows individuals to stay in Romania for longer than 90 days and can be obtained from the Romanian Embassy. It is also advisable for expats to contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the area in which they plan to live before moving to Romania. 

Expats who are not married to a Romanian citizen can apply for permanent residence after living in the country for five years. A foreigner who is married to a Romanian citizen can apply for a permanent residence permit after three years.

Applicants for permanent residence permits for Romania will need to undergo health checks, criminal clearance and provide documents relating to their civil status, financial situation and medical insurance.


Family-joining visas for Romania

Family members wishing to join an expat living in Romania need to apply for a long-stay visa for family rejoining. In order to do this, they will need to fill out an application for each person wanting to travel to Romania. Documents such as passports, photos, police clearance and medical checks will be required. The expat living in Romania will also need to get approval from immigration authorities.

*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Cost of Living in Romania

The cost of living in Romania is still a relative bargain for expats, as it's more affordable to live in than Hungary and the Czech Republic, but more expensive than the Philippines and Brazil. This can be seen in the 2018 Mercer Cost of Living Survey, which ranked Bucharest at 176th out of 209 cities. 

Rural areas and smaller cities such as Pitești, Cluj-Napoca and Iași are cheaper than the larger urban areas that are more popular with expats like Timișoara, Sibiu and Brașov. Bucharest is significantly more expensive than any of these, but it’s also where most opportunities and infrastructure are centred, so most expats settle there.


Cost of accommodation in Romania

The cost of accommodation in Romania is not as low as expats may expect. Many of the blocks of apartments in cities such as Bucharest are old and in need of repair, so expat families with children often prefer to live in more expensive gated communities consisting of new-build houses. 

In addition to rent, expats will need to include the cost of utility bills in their budget. On the upside, most foreigners can afford a cleaner and/or a babysitter as domestic help is relatively plentiful and cheap. 

Expats who choose to live in a rural area and commute to town to save on accommodation may find that the transport costs of such a choice can be higher than anticipated. The state of Romanian roads is sub-par and petrol is only marginally cheaper than in most of Europe.


Cost of food in Romania

Locally sourced food, such as fruit, vegetables and dairy is affordable, but the types of produce available are seasonal. Conversely, branded Western goods, which are often stocked in supermarkets, can be expensive.


Cost of transport in Romania

Romanian public transport is inexpensive, routes are fairly extensive and there are many options in the form of buses, trains and taxis. 


Cost of healthcare in Romania

Expats working in Romania have free access to public healthcare services. Despite this, expats are also required to have private medical insurance in order to secure their residency status. Although private care incurs a variety of small and possibly trivial costs, it is still cheaper than many other European countries, as well as the US. 


Cost of education in Romania

New arrivals with children who speak Romanian may benefit by sending them to a Romanian public school, which is free for all Romanian residents. As the language of instruction in these schools is Romanian, most expats rather send their children to international schools. These schools are expensive and education may form the highest expense for expats in Romania.  


Cost of living in Romania chart

Note that prices may vary depending on location and service provider and the table below is based on average prices for Bucharest in July 2018.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre 

RON 2,600

One-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre 

RON 2,000

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

RON 6,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

RON 4,500

Food and Drink

Milk (1 litre)

RON 4.60

Dozen eggs

RON 11

Loaf of white bread

RON 2.30

Rice (1kg)

RON 4.70

Pack of chicken breasts (1kg)

RON 20

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

RON 17

Eating Out

Big Mac Meal

RON 19

Cappuccino

RON 8.50

Three-course meal at mid-range restaurant

RON 60

Utilities

Mobile call rate (minute-to-minute)

RON 0.55

Internet (uncapped ADSL or Cable – average per month)

RON 40

Utilities (average per month for standard household)

RON 450

Hourly rate for a domestic cleaner

RON 25

Transport

City centre bus fare

RON 2

Taxi rate per km

RON 1.70

Petrol (per litre)

RON 5.50

Culture Shock in Romania

The culture of Romania has been shaped by a difficult history, including its communist occupation. As a partial result of this, many locals may seem guarded and abrupt when it comes to dealing with foreigners. This should be seen in context, however, and after getting past some initial tensions, expats will find that most Romanians are warm, friendly and welcoming.

That said, the country has opened up to the world at large, meaning that the challenges expats face when adjusting to life in Romania are diminishing as it becomes increasingly Westernised. Despite this, there is much that makes Romania unique and that might inspire a degree of culture shock. 


Language barrier in Romania

The country’s official language is Romanian, which is closely related to Italian and influenced by a mixture of Baltic and Slavic languages. The second most common language is Hungarian, which is mostly spoken in the Transylvania region.

Expats will be relieved to find that English speakers are easy to come by in major cities, and are frequently very helpful if a foreigner gets lost. English-speaking expats sometimes find they are able to shop and complete basic transactions by saying no more than “hello” (bună ziua) and “thank you” (mulţumesc) in Romanian.

Finding a job, on the other hand, will likely require a few months of language training. The good news is that there are a number of language schools in Romania, especially in the cities. 


Bureaucracy and corruption in Romania

The largest cause of culture shock for expats often comes from the country's inefficient bureaucracy, poor infrastructure and the high levels of corruption in Romania. 

Corruption is practised on a spectrum and can be as inoffensive as offering a bouquet of flowers to a nurse in the hospital or as blatant as delivering an envelope full of cash to a doctor to prevent negligence.

Expats navigating the channels of government and the business world often struggle to accept and conform to this age-old habit. 

It’s recommended that expats who regularly negotiate business deals or interact with the government receive cross-cultural training to become more adept at navigating Romania’s bureaucracy and incidences of corruption.


Lack of convenience in Romania

Expats moving to Romania should prepare themselves for a few everyday inconveniences. For example, 24-hour stores are rare and, while supermarkets are well-stocked, there is a lack of choice between brands.

Other small inconveniences include people ignoring smoking bans in public places, drivers disregarding the rules of the road (and even driving on the pavement), and the large population of stray dogs in Bucharest.

Traffic can especially be a nightmare for expats living and working in Romania, which has some of the worst road safety statistics in Europe.


Food in Romania

Romanian food is not known for being especially healthy, but it certainly is worth sampling. Fatty meat, cheese, double cream and oily sauces are local staples and expats who plan to indulge will need to keep an eye on their cholesterol levels.  

Some of the best-known Romanian specialities include mici (grilled meatballs), sarmale (minced meat rolled in cabbage leaves) and papanasi (Romanian doughnuts with cream and soft cheese). 

Local beer and wines are also worth trying, and expats who enjoy a drink should be sure to sample țuică, a strong and fragrant plum brandy aperitif.


Roma people in Romania

While expats from Western Europe or North America may hold a romanticised view of the group of people known as ‘gypsies', most locals don’t share this idea. Expressing positive or even neutral attitudes toward the Roma people will often garner stern looks or even flat-out hostility. Many Romanians attribute their distaste towards the Roma to the perceived high levels of criminality in this group. However, it is important to bear in mind that crime exists in all communities, especially socially excluded or disadvantaged groups.

Accommodation in Romania

Expat housing in Romania is roughly divided between living in the city or staying in outlying suburbs. Accommodation within cities is usually limited to either modern or old Soviet-style apartment blocks. Housing beyond the city limits varies but tends to be more spacious.

Accommodation for expats moving to Romania includes furnished and unfurnished one- to three-bedroom apartments as well as small cottages and larger villas. Price is largely the determining factor, and a general rule of thumb is that the more a person pays, the more they will get in terms of housing. 

Many expats arrive with their accommodation in Romania already secured by their company, as housing is typically something that is already included when expats negotiate their contract. If this is not the case, then it is not unreasonable to request that the employer helps with securing accommodation.


Finding accommodation in Romania

There is a good supply of real estate in Romania and enough variety to suit almost any budget. New arrivals often find accommodation through online property portals.

Apart from using online portals, many expats also use the services of English-speaking and reputable real estate agents who are familiar with the local market. As foreigners are often assumed to be wealthy and are therefore frequently targeted by scammers, unscrupulous landlords and dubious real estate agents, hiring a reputable real estate agent to assist with paperwork and lease negotiations can help to guard against this. Utilising estate agents is also useful in negotiating with prospective landlords don't speak English.

When looking to renting property in Romania, it is also important to note that phrases such as ‘three-roomed apartment’ in property advertisements usually refer to the total number of rooms in the entire apartment, not the number of bedrooms (this applies to houses too).


Renting property in Romania

The cost of renting in Romania makes up the bulk of most expats’ living expenses but this cost is on par with, or even cheaper than accommodation in other Eastern European countries. Renting accommodation in a city will generally cost more than smaller towns and outlying areas.

Pre-arranged housing takes the hassle out of lease negotiations in a foreign country and it also means that if something goes wrong, an expat could ask their company to intervene.

Lease agreements in Romania tend to last for a 12-month period, but shorter leases can be negotiated. To secure a lease, a deposit amounting to up to three months' of rent is required. Rent is paid on a monthly basis and usually includes basic utilities. Furnished accommodation is also available at a higher price.

Expats who secure their lease through estate agents will have to pay agency fees based on the monthly rent cost.  

Healthcare in Romania

Although healthcare in Romania is universally free for those working in the country, it may not be up to the standards that expats have come to expect in their home countries.
 
Owing to structural problems, the country has been dealing with a mass exodus of medical professionals and the quality of care in government facilities is sub-standard. Hospitals in Bucharest and other cities are better equipped, but supplies in small-town hospitals are very limited.
 
Most common over-the-counter and prescription medications are available in Romania; however, expats who prefer a specific brand should bring a supply with them, as generics may be the only option in Romania.
 
Stressful conditions and low salaries mean that bribery is common among the nurses and doctors who do stay in the country – patients often give medical staff gifts or money in exchange for better service. This is less likely to occur in the private sector.


Public healthcare in Romania

Public medical care in the country is managed by the National Health Insurance House (NHIH), which provides free or subsidised care to all Romanian residents, including expats. Those working in Romania will have their public healthcare contributions automatically deducted from their salaries.

Many expats find that the standard of public healthcare in Romania is inadequate. Public medical facilities tend to be understaffed and have outdated equipment. Long waiting times to receive treatment are another common complaint. 

EU citizens can use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) in Romania, provided it was issued in another EU country. The card provides free access to state hospitals and treatment facilities but doesn't cover private doctors or private hospitals.


Private healthcare in Romania

Private healthcare is an ever-expanding industry in Romania. Private hospitals are the best option for expats looking for world-class healthcare in Romania, while private clinics are a good option for less serious conditions. Private medical facilities are usually restricted to urban areas and staff are typically well-trained and can usually speak English.

Patients at private hospitals are usually expected to pay for medical services in cash and then claim back from their health insurance company afterwards.


Health insurance in Romania

In order to be issued a visa, expats moving to Romania need to have private medical insurance. This should provide comprehensive cover and allow patients to use private facilities.

As public facilities are not up to the standards of most Western countries, many expats ensure that they are covered by an extensive private health insurance policy when moving to Romania.


Pharmacies in Romania

Pharmacies are available throughout Romania, can be found attached to some hospitals and should stock most medicines. Expats should be aware that medications available over-the-counter in their home country may be prescription-only in Romania, and vice versa.


Emergency services in Romania

A complimentary emergency service is available in Romania and is called SMURD (Serviciul Mobil de Urgenţǎ, Reanimare şi Descarcerare), which translates to Mobile Emergency Service for Resuscitation and Extrication. It deals with serious emergencies and can be reached by dialling 112.

Emergency response times can vary depending on the area in Romania, so in some cases it might be faster for patients to make their own way to medical treatment facilities.

Education and Schools in Romania

The Romanian educational system faces challenges such as student underachievement and low state expenditure. As public education is taught in Romanian, most expats choose to send their children to international or private schools, especially as the quality of education is higher in these schools.

The Romanian school year is typically split into summer and winter semesters. The first semester begins in September and lasts until February, and the second semester is from February to June. Vacation times are generally scheduled over Easter, Christmas and in the summer.

It is compulsory for all children in Romania to attend school from the age of five and before they reach school-going age, many children attend kindergarten at three or four years old.

There are three types of school-leaving certificates available in Romania, which include the national programme, the International Baccalaureate and the programme for vocational schools.


Public schools in Romania

Public education in Romania is free for residents. There aren’t many first-class schools in the country and those schools with a good reputation often have long waiting lists. As a result, overcrowding at these schools is common and results in classes being split into morning and afternoon shifts to accommodate more students. 

Schools in Bucharest and other cities are often better than schools in rural areas since they are better equipped and adequately staffed. Rural schools might only offer certain years of schooling and have a limited amount of teachers.

Given that students are taught in Romanian, public schools might not be the best option for expats unless their children are young and they intend to stay for the long-term. 


Private schools in Romania

The number of private schools in Romania has increased since the fall of communism. Private education is available from kindergarten level through to high school and does not usually follow the national curriculum. Romanian private schools can be expensive, which means that only wealthy local families can afford them.


International schools in Romania

For expats in Romania, international schools are the most popular schools to send their children to. All of these schools are situated in Bucharest and although there isn’t an extensive selection, there are a few to choose from. Although tuition is expensive, they all offer quality education for the expat community. 

International schools in Romania can benefit parents too, as they offer an important tool for making new acquaintances and forming social connections.

International schools usually offer the International Baccalaureate programme, the British GCSE or GCE programmes, or a combination of these. In order to enrol in a Romanian international school, expats will have to provide a selection of documents including application forms, school records, references and the child’s birth certificate.

Transport and Driving in Romania

There are several options when it comes to transport and driving in Romania. Buses and trains can be used for cross-country travel and are also popular means of travel within cities. 

Although some expats drive in the country, the roads and driving culture can be hazardous in Romania. 


Public transport in Romania

Public transport in Romania is well-developed, especially in Bucharest. Tickets are affordable and a combination of bus and rail travel means that most of the country is accessible via public transport. 

Buses

Bus services in Romania are widely available and tickets should be bought before boarding and can usually be purchased at bus stations. Buses can be crowded during peak hours and petty theft is common, so expats should guard their valuables at all times.

Privately run express buses are a good option for inter-city travel. Once-off as well as monthly tickets are available, and terminals are often located close to city train stations. Euroline buses can be faster than trains when travelling to other parts of Europe. 

Trains

Trains are an inexpensive way to travel in Romania, and the rail network covers most of the country.

There are three types of train lines operating in Romania. InterCity (IC) trains are the fastest, most expensive, network which connects Romania's main cities and which also travel to other European countries. InterRegio (IR) trains are fast and serve to connect Romania's important towns and cities. Finally, Regio (R) trains are older, slower and connect Romania's smaller towns and villages. 

Trains are an efficient means of travelling to Romania’s neighbouring countries. There are daily trains to Budapest and less frequent trains to Belgrade, Sofia, Chisinau and Kiev. Tickets can be bought online or at stations before boarding. 


Taxis in Romania

Taxis in Romania are affordable but expats should be careful not to use unauthorised taxis because they regularly inflate their fares. Authorised taxis usually have the name and phone number of their company on the car. It's best to use metered taxis and to insist that the driver switches it on at the beginning of the journey.

Some rideshare and taxi-service apps operate in Romania's main cities, but increasing pressure from local politicians and the traditional taxi industry aims to ban their usage. Local apps include Clever Taxi, while Uber and Taxify also operate in the country. 


Driving in Romania

Some expats, especially those living in rural areas, buy cars to get around Romania. The driving laws in Romania are strict, and expats should stick to the speed limit and follow road rules. This includes having the correct documents in the car at all times.

Driving in Romania can be hazardous as the driving culture can be reckless and roads in some areas may not be well maintained. 

Winters in Romania can be especially treacherous for drivers. Ice on the roads is not always cleared away regularly, so expats should ensure that they have fitted winter tyres or snow chains when necessary. Romanian law requires cars to have their lights on at all times. 

Parking is also a problem in Romanian cities and reserved parking is usually expensive.

Keeping in Touch in Romania

Although far from home, new arrivals will soon find that keeping in touch in Romania and staying connected with loved ones abroad is relatively hassle-free.
 
Expats living in Romania can expect access to all of the amenities of modern communication. Signing up for both cellular and landline subscriptions is easy and there is a range of service providers that offer internet packages.
 
Those who prefer more traditional forms of communication will find that the Romanian postal service, although slow-moving, is highly dependable. 


Landline telephones in Romania

Most rentals in Romania have a landline and internet connection already installed in them. The country has a modern and extensive telephone network. The largest fixed-line operators in Romania are Telekom Romania and RCS & RDS which also provides mobile phone and internet services. Other operators include UPC Romania and Atlas Telecom Network.


Mobile phones in Romania

Aside from RCS & RDS, the largest mobile providers in the country are Telekom Romania, Orange and Vodafone. Customers are able to access a range of services through these operators, including 3G and 4G coverage.

Stores are widely distributed and expats have access to both prepaid and contract options. Expat customers may be asked to provide documentation proving their identity, place of residence and financial status.


Internet in Romania

As the industry is highly competitive, accessing the internet and connecting to a broadband service provider is cheap and easy. Expats can enjoy some of the highest connection speeds in Europe and subscribers can negotiate a connection package that suits their budget and needs.

Some of the main providers include RCS & RDS, Telekom Romania, Skynet, Ines Telecom, GTS Telecom and UPC Romania. Service provider contract prices differ depending on the area, cable speeds and type of internet access (such as wireless, ADSL or fibre lines).


Postal services in Romania

The Romanian postal service (Poșta Română) is usually reliable but tends to be slow and expats in areas outside of Bucharest can expect even slower postage times. Express services are available, but they also tend to be less efficient than Western expats might be used to.

Frequently Asked Questions about Romania

Expats considering a move to Romania will naturally have many concerns about life in this culturally rich country.

From transport concerns to queries about the expat community, here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about expat life in Romania.

Is there a sizable expat community in Romania?

While Romania is not the most popular expat destination, there are pockets of expats in the larger cities, particularly in Bucharest and Brașov. There are a number of expat clubs in Bucharest, and The Diplomat Bucharest and Nine o’ Clock are great English news and media sources within the country.

Is Bucharest the only large ‘expat city’ in Romania?

Bucharest is not the only expat city in Romania, but it is the most popular, and many jobs available for expats are situated in Bucharest. Brașov is also a large city, and does have some expats living there; however, it is not as popular as Bucharest.

What is the general attitude toward the Roma people in Romania?

Most Romanians do not like the Roma people. There is a significant amount of racism directed at the Roma, who are generally blamed for any crime or unsavoury occurrences that happen in Romania. Known pejoratively as 'gypsies', the Roma are a sore point with most Romanians and, as such, it is a topic that is best avoided in conversation. 

Will I need to buy a car to get around Romania?

The public transport network in Romania is extensive, and generally works well. The road network extends across the country and is easy to use, but some roads are not paved, and many of the roads fell into disrepair during the communist era. Owning a car in Romania is tricky, as the maintenance costs are escalated by the state of the roads in many parts of the country. Unless living in an isolated part of the country, it is better not to have a car and to rather make use of public transport.

Banking, Money and Taxes in Romania

Expats will find that banking, money and taxes in Romania are relatively straightforward. There are a number of options when it comes to managing expat finances in Romania, with both local and international banks operating in the country.


Currency in Romania

Despite being a member of the EU, the country is only scheduled to adopt the Euro in 2019, so the national currency is still the Romanian Leu (RON). Each leu is divided into 100 bani

The Romanian currency is available in the following denominations:

  • Banknotes: 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, 200 and 500 ROL

  • Coins: 1, 5, 10 and 50 bani


Banking in Romania

Banking in Romania is relatively easy, and expats will find all the services that they are familiar with, such as internet banking. 

To open a bank account, expats will need their passport, proof of residency, previous bank statements and an initial deposit. Sometimes copies of an employment contract or salary slip are also required. Requirements may differ between banks.

Some of the more popular expat-friendly banks in Romania include Alpha Bank, Bancpost, UniCredit and BRD (Groupe Societe Generale). International banks with branches in Romania include Citibank, BNP Paribas and ING. 

Banking hours are usually from 9am to 1pm, Monday to Friday.

ATMs and credit cards

ATMs (bancomat) are widely available in larger cities, especially at bank branches and shopping centres. They are far scarcer in rural areas and villages. 

Stores in larger cities accept cards such as Visa, MasterCard, Star and Plus. Romania is largely a cash-based society, however, so shops in smaller towns and villages are unlikely to accept cards. PIN codes are standard, but credit fraud in Romania is an unfortunate reality and expats should take appropriate precautions to avoid being scammed.


Taxes in Romania

The tax system in Romania is a great incentive for expats wanting to move to Eastern Europe. Romania has a flat tax rate of 16 percent on corporate and individual income.

For tax purposes, an individual is considered a resident if they reside in Romania for at least 183 days within a 12-month period. Romanian residents and companies are required to pay tax on their global income as well as their income within Romania, whereas non-residents are taxed only on their income in Romania.

Romania has double tax avoidance agreements in place with a number of countries, so it is best for expats to check with their local tax office to see whether their home country has such an agreement in place with Romania. Employers are required to deduct tax payments on behalf of their employees.

Expat Experiences in Romania

When considering a move to a new country, there's nothing more useful than hearing real life stories and reading first-person experiences from other expats who've been living there. We'd love to hear about your expat experiences. Please contact us if you live or have lived in Romania and would like to share your story.


Oana Barker worked as a pianist in Germany, where she developed an interest in trading and investing. In 2009 she moved back to Bucharest, Romania and became a trader. She still lives in Bucharest, working as a private trader in the financial markets. In our interview with her, she gives us a repatriate’s perspective on living in Romania.

Elizabeth Searles is an American expat who has spent the past few years living in various countries across the world. She's lived in India, China and Poland, and has now settled in the small Romanian town of Tulcea. She shares her experiences of living in Romania

Matt is a Canadian expat living in Transylvania, Romania. Although he moved to Romania for work, he was actually returning to the country of his birth. Matt loves life in the tranquil city of Cluj-Napoca and has found that he was able to rediscover his culture by interacting with the warm and friendly locals. Read more about Matt's life in Romania.

Odessa is a Louisiana native living in Romania. She moved there in 2004 with her husband and three young children. Odessa wanted her children to grow up in Romania and learn the value of hard work and the importance of family. Read about her expat experience in Romania.