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Moving to Bucharest

Situated on the banks of the Dâmbovița River, expats moving to Bucharest will find themselves in the cultural, administrative and economic capital of Romania. Home to around 2 million people, it's also Romania’s largest city and is home to most of the country’s expat population.

The city’s unique mix of architectural styles and its cultural atmosphere have earned it the nickname Micul Paris, or 'Little Paris'. Ornate churches overlook trendy cafés and residents can spend their leisure time in leafy parks or in the pubs, clubs and discos in Old Town, adding to an enjoyable lifestyle in the city.

Nonetheless, the metropolis is in the process of reinventing itself. Derelict communist-era apartment blocks are being modernised alongside elegant neo-classical buildings. The city is making its mark as an Eastern European industrial centre.

As the driving force behind the Romanian economy, the capital is responsible for around a quarter of the country’s GDP and industrial output. Expats working in Bucharest tend to be employed in IT, communications, finance, engineering and construction.

The cost of living in Bucharest is lower than most major Western cities. It compares favourably to cities in neighbouring Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic. An expat’s largest expense will most likely be accommodation. Expats generally find accommodation in Bucharest in the form of apartments, many of which are in old Soviet-style buildings, while housing beyond the city limits varies.

Whether an expat chooses to live in the city centre or in the suburbs, public transport in Bucharest is comprehensive and includes a metro system, buses, trams, trolleybuses and a light rail. The city also has a private minibus taxi system.

Though transport is unlikely to be a problem, expats with children will have to consider their options carefully. Although there are international schools in Bucharest, the selection is limited. Still, fees are more reasonable than in other international destinations. These institutions offer a good quality of education.

One area that could use improvement is healthcare. Although Bucharest has adequate private medical facilities, the standard of healthcare in public hospitals will likely be below what expats are used to. Comprehensive health insurance which covers private treatment is essential. Other problems new arrivals are likely to face in the city include erratic driving, petty theft, tourist scams and one of the world’s biggest populations of stray dogs.

With the right approach, though, any problems expats may come across are dealt with fairly easily. Bucharest is, after all, one of the safest cities in Europe and its residents are known for being friendly and welcoming.

Cost of Living in Bucharest

The cost of living in Bucharest is generally much cheaper overall than most major Western European capitals. However, there are many bars, restaurants and shops that charge similar prices to their Western European counterparts. 

Salaries in Bucharest are much lower on average than what many expats from Western Europe or North America may be used to. This is offset by the low cost of living in Bucharest. 

Bucharest was ranked 164th out of 209 cities in the 2019 Mercer Cost of Living Survey. Bucharest has the highest cost of living in Romania. Prices anywhere outside of the city are generally cheaper. 


Cost of accommodation in Bucharest

In terms of accommodation, rent for a one-bedroom or studio apartment in Bucharest is typically lower than in other European cities but is expensive by Romanian standards.

Property prices can vary greatly depending on the area and type of home. As with most cities, the further away from the city centre one goes, the cheaper accommodation becomes. Most expats in Bucharest rent apartments and houses, with the cost of rent being dependent on the size of the apartment or house and whether it is furnished or not. 

A further expense is the cost of utilities, which is generally not included in rental agreements and which varies between the winter and summer months.


Cost of transport in Bucharest

The metro is the most popular means of transport in Bucharest. It's possible to buy daily, biweekly or 62-trip cards, which make travelling on the metro cheaper. 

Taxis are inexpensive in Bucharest. Those having to commute will find that cars are affordable, although maintaining a car can be expensive.  


Cost of schooling in Bucharest

Schooling in Bucharest can range from free (for public schools) to very expensive (for international schools). Seeing as the language of instruction in public schools is Romanian, most expat parents do not choose this route for their children.

Bucharest boast several international schools. The fees for these schools vary but are overall expensive. Tuition fees often don't cover costs like lunch, bus fair or uniforms. Expats relocating should consider these costs when accepting a job offer.


Cost of goods Bucharest

Food in Bucharest is relatively inexpensive on an expat salary. Conversely, electronics and luxury products can be more expensive than in other European cities, but particularly more so than in North America. Clothing also tends to be more expensive in Bucharest.


Cost of entertainment in Bucharest

The cost of entertainment in Bucharest depends entirely on where one goes. The old city centre caters to many tourists, expats and well-to-do locals, meaning that the prices are at the higher end. Prices at a neighbourhood bar or restaurant are generally half the cost. Movies are reasonably priced and there are many concerts and museum exhibitions, many taking only a nominal fee for admission.


Cost of living in Bucharest chart

Note that prices may vary depending on location and service and are based on average prices in Bucharest in January 2020.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

RON 1,900

One-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

RON 1,300

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

RON 3,100

Three-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

RON 2,200

Shopping

Milk (1 litre)

RON 4.90

Eggs (dozen)

RON 10

Loaf of white bread

RON 2.80

Rice (1kg)

RON 5.30

Chicken breasts (1kg)

RON 21.40

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

RON 18.50

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

RON 20

Coca-Cola (330ml)

RON 6.60

Cappuccino

RON 9

Local beer (500ml)

RON 3.40

Three-course meal at mid-range restaurant for two

RON 130

Utilities

Mobile call rate (minute-to-minute)

RON 0.40

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

RON 40

Utilities (average per month for a standard household)

RON 430

Hourly rate for a domestic cleaner

RON 30

Transport

City centre bus fare

RON 1.50

Taxi rate per km

RON 1.90

Petrol (per litre)

RON 5.80

Accommodation in Bucharest

With patience, research and professional assistance, finding accommodation in Bucharest can be straightforward. In the right areas, expats will find neighbourhoods with cobbled streets, vibrant markets selling locally grown vegetables, parks with flowering linden trees and outdoor terrace cafés.


Types of accommodation in Bucharest 

Expats have many options when it comes to housing in Bucharest. The city is divided into six districts, stretching from the city centre to the suburbs. Apartments are most common in the city centre. Larger villas are available in some of the other neighbourhoods in Bucharest.

Foreigners can search for furnished and unfurnished houses or apartments, with parking places, building security and other facilities. Expats should note, however, that a ‘three-roomed apartment' in an advertisement means that there are three rooms in total and not three bedrooms.

Refurbished old townhouses and apartments offer the luxury of living in a beautiful central area with coffee shops, parks, museums and art galleries. Some complain that Bucharest still has an unpleasant appearance due to the Soviet-era apartment blocks mostly found in the city’s east and west sides. But unique architecture can be found in central and northern Bucharest, including art deco, art nouveau, Brâncovenesc (local design) and classic French styles.

Expats will have no trouble finding housing that suits their budget. Housing outside the Bucharest city centre tends to be cheaper. However, prices vary depending on size and proximity to public transport and shopping malls. 

Buying or renting accommodation in Bucharest is expensive compared to other Romanian cities. On the other hand, accommodation in Bucharest is also often cited as being relatively cheap by European standards. 

Flatsharing may be an option for students and young professionals who want to live in the city centre but who cannot afford to rent in Bucharest on their own.


Finding accommodation in Bucharest

Although supply is high and there are options for every budget, it's advisable to use real estate agents when looking for accommodation in Bucharest. An estate agent’s good level of English, French and sometimes Italian, Spanish or German, combined with their market knowledge, can assist expats in finding the right property. Agent fees may be charged as a percentage of the buying price when purchasing, or the equivalent of one month’s rent if signing a lease.

Foreigners familiar with the areas in Bucharest who have already decided on where and in which type of housing they would like to live can search online for the options available. They can then establish when viewings are available and negotiate rental prices with the landlord or real estate agent. 


Renting property in Bucharest

Refurbished small apartments in Bucharest cost less than larger new apartments. Expats should consider renting in a newly developed residential complex due to the good value for money and modern utilities. These also offer more space, but aren't usually close to the city, which could be an issue in rush hour or during cold winters.

Relocation agencies can help make the transition to Bucharest less stressful by assisting with things like negotiating lease agreements, connecting utilities, applying for residence permits, applying to schools, taxes and insurance. Unless an expat’s company is dealing with their relocation or they have a solid knowledge of Romanian language and laws, getting a quote from one of these agencies may be worthwhile.

Leases

The usual lease period is 12 months. However, shorter leases can usually be negotiated. Rent is paid monthly.

Furnished or unfurnished

Bucharest has a mix of furnished and unfurnished options when it comes to accommodation. Furnished accommodation is normally more expensive than unfurnished.

Deposits

In order to secure a lease, expats typically pay a deposit equivalent to up to three months' rent. The deposit must be held at the landlord’s bank. At the end of the contract, the landlord may deduct expenses from the deposit for repairs to the property and for unpaid bills.

Utilities

Utilities aren't typically included in the monthly rent. It's therefore an extra expense expats will need to budget for monthly. Utility fees can vary greatly between summer and winter months.

Areas and suburbs in Bucharest

When it comes to deciding which of the areas and suburbs in Bucharest best suit their needs, expats must consider which factors are most important to them.

Expats living in the city centre have a greater access to Romanian culture and modern life. However, living in the inner city tends to be more expensive and the demand for housing is generally higher. Conversely, expats who appreciate quiet neighbourhoods often find themselves in Bucharest's northern suburbs.

Expats who want to be able to travel freely between home and the office while being able to access other sites of interest should consider areas that are well-connected to the metro network. Public transport in Bucharest is efficient and well-developed giving expats various options.


Family-friendly areas in Bucharest

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Expats in search of leafy suburban living can choose from the beautiful neighbourhoods around the Herăstrău, Kiseleff or Floreasca Parks in northern Bucharest. This includes areas such as Dorobanți, Primăverii and Domenii. These areas are popular with expats for their proximity to the city’s international schools and are well-connected to the city centre.
 
Kiseleff and Dorobanți are among the city’s older and more exclusive neighbourhoods. Most of the city’s international embassies are found here. Expats who can afford it will find plenty of charming and stylish old villas with gardens. 


Areas for young and single expats in Bucharest

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Bucharest’s downtown neighbourhoods offer all the benefits of restaurants, galleries, theatres and the energetic atmosphere that comes from living in the middle of the city. As such, the central area is the perfect choice for couples with small or no children as well as singles who would like to mix with locals and discover Romanian culture.

Although the prices are often some of the most expensive in Bucharest, many expats rent in Old Town Lipscani, which is at the centre of Bucharest. 

Other popular areas just north of the centre include the Foișorul de Foc, Icoanei and the Piața Romană, all of which are near to a number of international schools.

Healthcare in Bucharest

Healthcare in Bucharest is generally affordable by Western standards. However, expats should ensure they have comprehensive health insurance. While healthcare in public facilities is free for residents, patients using private medical facilities will need to pay cash upfront before claiming back from their insurance provider. EU citizens are entitled to free emergency care in Romanian public hospitals with their European Health Insurance Card.

Corruption is an unfortunate reality in Romania’s healthcare system. The prevalence of bribery, accompanied by poor salaries and unacceptable working conditions, have pushed many Romanian doctors to seek work outside the country, leaving the Romanian public healthcare system in a precarious state. Although expats will likely find adequate care at private hospitals, many expats find the facilities at public institutions to be substandard.

Pharmacies are available throughout Bucharest and some are open 24 hours a day. Expats may find that some medicines which are easily available over the counter in their home country may require a prescription in Romania.

Below are some of the most prominent hospitals in Bucharest.


Hospitals in Bucharest

Clinica Sanador Victoriei

Website: www.sanador.ro
Address: Strada Dumitru Sergiu 26-28, Sector 1 

Life Memorial Hospital 

Website: www.medlifeinternational.com
Address: Calea Griviței 365, Sector 1

Regina Maria Spitulal Euroclinic

Website: www.reginamaria.ro
Address: Calea Floreasca 14a, Sector 1 

Education and Schools in Bucharest

Although public education in Romania is free to all residents, most expats choose to send their children to one of Bucharest’s international or private schools, especially as Romanian is the language of instruction in public schools.
 
There are three types of school-leaving certificates available in Romania: the national programme, the International Baccalaureate Diploma programme and the programme for vocational schools.


Private schools in Bucharest

In the past, private education was abolished under the communist regime. Since then, a number of private schools in Bucharest have opened and flourished. 

Private schools in Romania are available from kindergarten level to high school and do not usually follow the national curriculum. These schools adopt modern approaches to education and can be expensive.   


International schools in Bucharest

International schools are the most popular choice for expats in the city. Most of the international schools in Romania are situated in Bucharest and, while there isn’t an extensive selection, all of them offer a quality education for the young expat community. 
 
Schools also offer an important tool for parents who wish to make new acquaintances and form social connections in a foreign country.
 
International schools in Bucharest usually offer one or more of several curricula, including the International Baccalaureate programme and the British GCSE and A-Level programmes. French and American international schools can also be found in Bucharest.

International Schools in Bucharest

A number of international schools in Bucharest cater to expats. They generally offer a high standard of education, extra-curricular activities and modern teaching styles.

The standard and popularity of these schools also mean that places are limited and prices are often higher than other forms of education.


International schools in Bucharest

British School of Bucharest

The British School of Bucharest provides a dynamic and progressive education, ensuring that pupils are confident about how they can make a difference when facing the challenges of the modern world. Read more

Curriculum: National Curriculum of England
Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 2 to 18

American International School of Bucharest

Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 3 to 18
Websitewww.aisb.ro

Bucharest Christian Academy

Curriculum: American
Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 3 to 18
Websitewww.bcaromania.org

Cambridge School of Bucharest

Curriculum: Cambridge IGCSE and A-levels
Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.cambridgeschool.ro

International British School of Bucharest

Curriculum: Cambridge IGCSE and A-levels
Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.ibsb.ro

International School of Bucharest

Curriculum: International Baccalaureate, English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-levels
Gender: Co-educational 
Ages: 3 to 19
Website: www.isb.ro

Lycée Français Anna de Noailles

Curriculum: French
Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.lyceefrancais.ro

Mark Twain International School

Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.marktwainschool.ro

Verita International School

Curriculum: English National Curriculum, IGCSE and International Baccalaureate
Gender: Co-educational 
Ages: 2 to 16
Websitewww.veritaschool.ro

Lifestyle in Bucharest

Once proudly known as the Paris of the East, Bucharest had stagnated during communist rule and is often overlooked in favour of other European capitals. Bucharest has since regained much of its lustre, while the commercial and cultural centre of Romania demonstrates the many contrasts of its dramatic past and present-day rejuvenation. This is most evident in the city’s architecture. Old churches rest in the shadows of communist-era apartment blocks, while French palaces sit alongside glass office buildings and beautiful parks.

A colourful metropolis behind a grey facade, there are various options when it comes to lifestyle and shopping in Bucharest. The city seems typically Eastern European in some ways. However, it's uniquely Romanian, offering a distinctive blend of Western and Slavic cultures.


Eating out in Bucharest

Romanian cuisine is a mix of cultural influences, including Greek, Turkish, German and Hungarian. Traditional Romanian food is meat-based, hearty and can be fatty. Soups are popular and cabbage makes a regular appearance.

Bucharest has a burgeoning café culture and offers residents an array of restaurants catering to every budget and taste. Lipscani is a popular area for dining out in Bucharest, while Episcopiei also hosts a large number of restaurants.

Romanians love to cook. Meals are often shared at home with extended family and friends. Locals often prefer eating at home over going out. It’s quite common to be invited over for a meal.


Nightlife and entertainment in Bucharest

Bucharest has a vibrant and diverse nightlife including chic cafés, raucous bars and trendy nightclubs. There is a great selection of jazz clubs and other live music venues, while philharmonic orchestras, operas and ballets entertain the city in more refined settings.

Lipscani, once derelict and crumbling, is now a focal point of Bucharest’s nightlife scene. With a selection of eateries, bars and clubs, the cobbled streets are often teeming with partygoers until the early hours of summer mornings. The area is generally safe to walk at night. 


Shopping in Bucharest

From large modern malls to low-key local markets, expats are bound to have an interesting shopping experience in Bucharest.

There are many large shopping centres offering local and retail stores, as well as many colourful open-air markets to wander through. Piata Obor is Bucharest’s largest outdoor market and offers all sorts of food items. The weekend flea market at Strada Mihai Bravu on the city’s east side is worthwhile for picking up bargains and antiques. 

Lipscani’s historical centre also offers an interesting shopping experience, with merchants selling their wares in front of the high-end boutiques. Calea Victoriei is one of the most prestigious shopping areas in Bucharest. It's home to upscale hotels, boutiques and museums. Expats will find many high-end fashion brands available there.


Parks and gardens in Bucharest

Known for its beautiful gardens, Bucharest’s parks are a place of refuge for locals during the hot summer months.

Cișmigiu Gardens, founded in the mid-1800s, boasts a lake for visitors to paddle on in the summer and an ice rink to skate on in winter. Herăstrău is another well-known park, offering a bar, restaurant and sports complex set against a lake. Visitors can hire rowboats or visit the nearby theme park.

Other popular parks in Bucharest include the Botanical Garden and Carol Park. Groups of families love to gather for picnics in the shade of these parks in the summer, while others meet for chess and to catch up with old acquaintances.

See and Do in Bucharest

Despite its grey and sometimes dreary facade, expats will find a host of interesting sights and activities to see and do in Bucharest. From its historic buildings and museums to its ornate churches and beautiful parks, visitors will learn about the city’s troubled past while experiencing first-hand its quest for modernity in present-day, post-Soviet Romania.


Recommended attractions in Bucharest

Palace of Parliament

One of the largest buildings of its kind and a landmark of Romania’s communist history, the Palace of Parliament is a must-see for any visitor to Bucharest. Expats can go on guided tours of the building, which consists of over 1,000 rooms housing the Romanian parliament, three museums and a conference centre. The ornate interior is furnished with rare and expensive materials, including bronze, gold, marble and crystal.

Stavropoleos Church

There are many beautiful and historic churches in Bucharest for new arrivals to explore. The Stavropoleos Monastery, an Eastern Orthodox Church tucked away in Bucharest’s Old Town, is a must-see. Originally built in 1724 during the reign of Nicolae Mavrocordatos, the building is characterised by beautiful stone and wood frescoes inspired by biblical themes. The church also conserves the relics of several saints and has one of the largest collections of Byzantine music books in Romania.

Romanian National Art Museum

The Romanian National Art Museum is housed in the former Royal Palace on Revolution Square. It features the country’s largest collection of Romanian and international art from medieval to modern times. The building is an attraction in itself. In addition to viewing the impressive art collections, visitors can take tours of some of the former royal living quarters and the throne room.

The Romanian Athenaeum

One of the most popular tourist attractions in Romania, the Athenaeum is a glamorous concert hall in central Bucharest. This ornate domed and circular building in a landmark on the city’s skyline and a significant symbol of Romanian culture. It is home to the George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra. It's also one of the main venues of the George Enescu International Festival and Competition, held in honour of the Romanian composer.

Herăstrău Park

Nestled around Herăstrău Lake, in northern Bucharest, Herăstrău Park is the largest park in the city. The park is a popular location for family picnics. It has something for everyone to enjoy, including an open-air theatre, a yacht club and sporting facilities. It's also home to the Village Museum, which showcases traditional Romanian village life in an open-air setting. The museum has more than 60 original houses, farmsteads, windmills and churches scattered around the park showcasing Romania’s historic regions.

What's On in Bucharest

There are several great festivals and events in Bucharest that showcase Romanian culture and history. Expats won’t be short of regular entertainment in this Eastern European capital.

Here are a few of the more popular events in Bucharest.


Annual events in Bucharest

Bucharest International Film Festival (April/May/June)

Originally started in 2005, the Bucharest International Film Festival is a prestigious event that showcases the best in local and international independent films. The event sees six days of workshops and film screenings at a number of venues across the city.

Europafest (May)

Europafest is an international music festival held each year in spring that brings together four music genres in one event: jazz, blues, pop and classical music. Local and international musicians descend on Bucharest to participate in concerts, workshops and cultural events in several venues in the city.

Bucharest Pride (May/June)

This week-long celebration is held in honour of LGBT rights in Romania. Various festivities take place across Bucharest, including film screenings, art exhibitions and parties. The celebrations culminate in the March of Diversity, which usually sees more than 2,000 people march in a parade in central Bucharest.

George Enescu International Festival and Competition (September)

This classical music festival is held every three years in honour of the famous Romanian composer, George Enescu. The festival is celebrated in cities across the country, but the main festivities are staged at the Romanian Athenaeum in Bucharest. Over 3,000 local and international musicians converge on Romania for over 80 cultural and musical events.

Bucharest International Marathon (October)

The Bucharest International Marathon takes place in early October each year and sees almost 8,000 participants joining in for either the full or half marathon. There are also many more social and fun events, including a relay race as well as children’s races. The race starts and finishes at Constitution Square in front of the Palace of Parliament in central Bucharest.

Getting Around in Bucharest

With an extensive public transport system, getting around Bucharest is easy. 

The centre of town is small enough to travel around by foot – but watch out for potholes, broken paving and cars squeezed into wherever they can find a space. For longer trips, a combination of the metro, tram, bus and trolleybus ensure that most of Bucharest is easily reachable. Otherwise, taxis, which are relatively inexpensive, are also widely available.


Public transport in Bucharest

Metro

Bucharest’s metro system is clean and affordable. Construction on new lines started in 2011 but is only expected to be finished around 2020. However, if someone needs to get somewhere close to a metro stop, it is the quickest and easiest system to use. Tickets can be purchased at metro stations, with different multiple-journey options available.

Buses, trolleybuses and trams

There are many bus and tram stops throughout the city, making it easier to get around in Bucharest. Buses, trolleybuses and trams are all run by RATB, the local public transport operator, and use the same ticketing system.

Tickets can be bought at booths around town, which are generally found near to bus stops. Most ticket issuers do not speak English, however. The word for ticket in Romanian is "bilet". It might be easier to purchase tickets on the RATB website. Being caught travelling without a ticket will result in a hefty fine.

The quality of vehicles varies. However, if a commute is crowded, expats should take care of their personal belongings. Bucharest is generally safe, but pickpockets are known to operate on public transport. 


Taxis in Bucharest

Taxi services in Bucharest vary, as do their driving standards. They can be a very quick way of getting around, but this depends on traffic. A taxi is a good option once the daily bus service has stopped. When using one, always check the price on the side of the vehicle. Once in, check that the meter is showing the same rate and ensure the driver has switched it on. Expats unsure of how to pronounce their destination should have it written down on a piece of paper.

Some rideshare and taxi-service apps operate in Bucharest, 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 Bucharest

Driving in Bucharest is not recommend unless an expat wants to travel around Romania for sightseeing. A car is also useful when travelling to northeastern Bucharest, where public transport is almost non-existent and getting back to the centre by taxi can be difficult. 

Bucharest’s road infrastructure wasn't designed to cater for the number of cars operating in the city. While it may be quicker to get somewhere by driving, finding parking in Bucharest can be challenging and drivers often park where they like with little intervention by the police.