Romania's National Authority for Tourism operates a website (www.romaniatravel.com) with extensive information about the country and latest developments. You can visit the website of the Romanian National Tourist Office; alternatively, try contacting their representatives in the U.S., 355 Lexington Ave., 19th Floor, New York, NY 10017 (tel. 212/545-8484; fax 212/251-0429; www.romaniatourism.com), or in the United Kingdom, 22 New Cavendish St., London WIM7LH (tel. 020/7224-3692; fax 020/7935-6435; www.visitromania.com).
American, Australian, Canadian, British, and New Zealand citizens require only a valid passport if intending to visit for 90 days or less; no visa is required. There is no entry or departure tax. Extensions of stays beyond 90 days can be obtained from the local passport office. No vaccinations are required.
Embassies & Consulates
In the U.S. -- Embassy: 1607 23rd St. NW, Washington, DC 20008; tel. 202/332-2879, 202/232-4749, or 202/332-4852; fax 202/232-4748; www.roembus.org. Consulates: 200 E. 38th St., New York, NY 10016; tel. 212-682-9122; http://newyork.mae.ro; and 11766 Wilshire Blvd. 560, Los Angeles, CA 90025; tel. 310/444-0043; www.consulateromania.net.
In Canada -- Embassy: 655 Rideau St., Ottawa, Ontario, K1N 6A3; tel. 613/789-3709 or 613/789-5345; fax 613/789-4365; http://ottawa.mae.ro. Consulate: 555 Richmond St., West Unit 1108, P.O. Box 210, Toronto, Ontario, M5V 3B1; tel. 416/585-9177 or 416/585-5802; fax 416/585-4798; http://toronto.mae.ro.
In the U.K. -- Embassy: 4 Palace Green, Kensington, London W84QD; tel. 020/7937-9666; fax 020/7937-8069; http://londra.mae.ro. Visa section: M.E.I.C. House, 344 Kensington High St., London W14 8NS; tel. 020/7602-9833 or 020/7602-9662; fax 020/7602-4229.
In Australia -- 4 Dalman Crescent, O'Malley, Canberra ACT 2606; tel. 02/6286-2343; fax 02/6286-2433; http://canberra.mae.ro.
In New Zealand -- There's an Honorary Consulate in Wellington: 53 Homewood Ave., Karori; tel. 04/476-6883; fax 04/476-6512; email@example.com.
You are entitled to carry the equivalent of $10,000 cash or traveler's checks on your person when entering Romania; any excess amount must be declared to Customs authorities. You may also bring personal goods and medicines, as well as publications, records and DVDs, slides, and other photographic materials, so long as these are for your personal use. In addition, you may freely carry other goods to the value of $150.
Since January 1, 2007, the Romanian new leu (currency symbol: RON, plural lei) -- called "new" because the country underwent currency reform in 2005 -- has been the only official currency, although in many tourist-oriented accommodations it is common to hear prices quoted in euros for the sake of convenience. Where prices are quoted in lei, the symbol "L" is used throughout this chapter. Romanian new lei notes come in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, and 500. One leu is divided into 100 bani, and these come in coin denominations of 1, 5, 10, and 50 bani. At this writing, L1 was equivalent to 43¢ or 27p.
Although Romania is not expected to adopt the euro until 2014, many hotels prefer to give a straight euro quote; most of these establishments accept credit cards. MasterCard and Visa are accepted at just about all city hotels, restaurants, and shops, while American Express and Diners Club are less useful. Many outlets can only accept credit cards for which you have a PIN, which you'll be asked to punch in at the cash register; you'll then sign for the transaction as you would for a standard credit card purchase. Keep an eye on your credit card while it is being used for payment; there are frequent reports of illegal imprints being made by restaurant and store employees.
When to Go
Season, more than anything, is likely to influence the timing of your visit to Romania. Here, temperatures can be extreme; winters get nasty, with closure of certain attractions during the most bitterly cold times of the year, while ski destinations kick into gear from December to mid-March. If you fancy a white Christmas, December is a great time to experience a host of traditional celebrations, particularly in rural communities such as those found in Maramures and Moldavia, as well as Transylvania. At the other extreme, midsummer can be grueling, with global warming taking its toll here (each July temperatures in some cities hit a stupefying 104°F/40°C; at the same time, in 2008, chilly conditions in the mountain regions were accompanied by extensive flooding). May and October are possibly the most beautiful months, unencumbered by extreme heat.
Holidays -- New Year (Revelion) is celebrated on January 1 and 2, while National Day -- commemorating Transylvania's inclusion into greater Romania in 1918 -- is celebrated on December 1. Christmas (Craciun) is officially observed on December 25 and 26, and both days are public holidays. Labor Day is celebrated on May 1, but businesses may shut down for more than just the 1 day. Determined according to the Julian calendar, Orthodox Easter is closely observed and while not an official public holiday, may influence opening and closing times. Most businesses and attractions are closed on these days.
Major Festivals in Romania -- Romanians love to party and have traditionally found many endearing reasons to celebrate; many of these celebrations are no longer observed, however. Festivals are generally determined by traditional folklore as well as by the Orthodox Church's important feasts; numerous local celebrations also add color to the lineup of festivals around the country. On March 9, Forty Saints' Day is celebrated as part of Lent in some rural communities where villagers bake colaci, special loaves of bread that are blessed and handed out as an act of charity. A popular spring festival is the National Festival of Spring Agriculture Customs (Tanjaua de pe Mara) held in April/early May in the Maramures village of Hoteni; it remains a lively local party opportunity, with folk music, dancing, and much drinking. Also in early May (usually the first or second Sun), are the Measuring of the Milk Festivals, in the Apuseni Mountains, where shepherds compete to see whose sheep and goats are the biggest producers of milk; great carousing follows the ritual milking. On the first Sunday in May, the Pageant of the Juni in Brasov is one of the most accessible and splendid city festivals, drawing large crowds to see costumed youths parading with brass bands and culminating in spectacular Horas (Round Dances). In summer, the Girl Fair (Târgul de fete) of Mount Gaina takes place near Avram Iancu, in the Apuseni Mountains (last Sun before July 20). Traditionally an opportunity for shepherds to meet prospective brides, the festival is now a great opportunity to hear the country's finest traditional folk musicians perform live.
On August 15, Orthodox believers observe the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, while in September it is the time of harvest festivals in numerous villages across the country. Saxons celebrate their heritage in the fortified town of Biertan, in Transylvania, on the second Saturday of September. The annual Roma Festival (a time of impressive celebration that draws Gypsies from across the country) is held in the Wallachia village of Costesti (first week of Sept).
Brasov hosts an International Jazz Festival in mid-May. Pop fans can look out for the Golden Stag Festival, also in Brasov, in mid-September; running since 1968, the festival launched the international career of Julio Iglesias and has showcased the talents of Christina Aguillera and Ricky Martin. Drawing some major international film personalities, TIFF (Transylvania International Film Festival) happens in Cluj in early June.
Romania is free of risk when it comes to infectious diseases, malaria, and poisonous insects. Officially, tap water is potable and safe to drink, but there are accounts of water supplies in some areas being compromised, so it's essential to check with your host or hotel. Reports of rusty pipes in Bucharest are also a cause for concern, suggesting that you stick to bottled water. Mosquitoes frequent the Danube Delta as well as other low-lying areas during the hot summer months; bring insect repellent. Good medical facilities are available in cities and towns, but the quality of medical practitioners varies considerably; only visit a physician who has been recommended to you by a reliable source.
Smoking is banned in public spaces in Romania, and this law is slowly catching on; you will frequently have to put up with smoke in enclosed spaces, including restaurants and even the lobbies of five-star hotels. Most high-end hotels now have nonsmoking rooms.