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.