Addresses -- Str. (strada, or street), B-dul (bulevardul, or boulevard), and Sos. (sosea, or avenue) are abbreviations for different road types used throughout this chapter. Calea is another word used for avenue, and a piata is a square.
Airlines -- Tarom is the national carrier; local details appear throughout this chapter.
Area Code -- The international dialing code for Romania is +40.
ATM Networks -- All towns and cities across the country have ATMs where you can use your credit card to withdraw cash.
Banks & Currency Exchange -- As a rule, rather make use of ATMs to get cash; your bank will charge an international withdrawal fee, but you're saved the hassle of standing in a bank queue or dealing with any paperwork. Most banks and exchange offices advertise that they don't charge a commission on changing money, but don't expect a favorable rate on zero commission transactions. Check the international market price of the local currency regularly.
Business Hours -- Standard business hours are not yet the norm in Romania, although most shops open at 9 or 10am and close anywhere between 5 and 8pm during the week; in major cities, shops will be open Saturday mornings until 1pm. Sundays are generally reserved for family and home life. Most museums close on Mondays (and sometimes also Tues).
Car Rentals -- All major international car-rental agencies are represented in Romania; cars are relatively inexpensive, but you should consider a vehicle with off-road capacity if you're going to drive here with your nerves intact.
Drugstores -- Pharmacies are found in all cities and towns; you'll often find an outlet at city train stations.
Electricity -- Local current is 220 volts. Outlets take plugs with two round prongs, typical to continental Europe. Plug and power adapters are necessary for appliances requiring 110 volts.
Embassies & Consulates -- There is extensive foreign representation in Bucharest, with embassies for the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Australia (contact details are listed in the section on Bucharest, later in this chapter). New Zealanders should contact the embassy in Vienna in case of emergencies (tel. 0043/1/318-8505).
Emergencies -- Dial tel. 961 for general medical emergencies, including ambulance services. In case of fire, contact tel. 981.
Etiquette & Customs -- When visiting churches, women especially should avoid revealing clothing; shorts are generally not accepted in Orthodox churches. When attending an Orthodox liturgy, you can follow the protocol of other worshippers or observe from a distance; observe basic decorum.
Internet Access -- There are a few Internet cafes in cities and larger towns, but your best bet is to use Internet facilities in hotels.
Liquor Laws -- You can buy alcohol practically anywhere in Romania; drinking is legal in most public spaces, including trains and sidewalks. The legal age for drinking is 18. It is illegal to drive a car after drinking any amount of alcohol.
Local Law -- You are legally required to carry some form of identification on you at all times.
Mail -- It will take up to 2 weeks or more for a letter to reach the U.S. Post offices (look for signs that read POS[CD]TA) are generally open weekdays 7am to 8pm, and Saturdays 8am to 1pm. To save time buy stamps through your hotel and ask reception to send your mail.
Maps -- You can access interactive maps at www.mapquest.com. Free maps of towns and cities are usually available at hotels and local tourist information offices.
Newspapers & Magazines -- Practically every city and large town has a slew of publications advertising and promoting entertainment and social events in the locality; these include 24-Fun, Zile si Nopti, and Sapte Serî. Local English newspapers are scant and more interesting for their quaint use of the language than for coverage of local or international events; Romania's first English daily is Nine O'Clock (www.nineoclock.ro). If you're interested in media, design, or architecture, look out for periodic publications by local publisher igloo media (www.igloo.ro).
Police -- Contact the police anywhere in Romania by dialing tel. 955. There are abundant complaints by locals about police corruption and also a laissez-faire attitude toward certain crimes; bribes are often expected. Generally, the same attitude is not extended to foreigners; a more likely problem may be an inability or unwillingness to understand English. If you have a police-related emergency, consider also contacting your embassy.
Restrooms -- Your general reaction to public toilets will be "yuck"; try to avoid these. In Bucharest, paid-for toilets in public gardens are increasingly acceptable.
Safety & Crime -- There is relatively little violent crime in Romania. Pickpockets may operate in crowded areas (like buses, trains, and stations), and tend to target the country's tourist hot spots. When sitting in bars, cafes, and restaurants, take care not to leave your handbag on the floor or over the back of your seat; similarly, don't leave valuables lying around. Be vigilant with your luggage on trains. Campers are vulnerable and should be cautious. Stray dogs pose a threat when hungry or provoked; some are infected with rabies; if bitten, seek medical assistance immediately.
Taxes & Service Charges -- An assortment of taxes may be added to your hotel bill; this will be clearly advertised and more often than not is included in the published tariff. VAT is mandatory, while there are a few state and local taxes which may apply, depending on where in the country you are. In a few towns, a small tax is added to the cost of museum tickets.
Telephones -- Romania's telecommunications are much improved and there is hardly an unconnected spot in the country. Mobile telephones are ubiquitous; the most convenient way to stay in touch is to purchase a SIM card when you arrive and top up with credit as you go. Public pay phones are orange and use magnetic cards, which can be bought from post offices and some hotels; you can purchase L10 ($4.30/£2.65) and L20 ($8.60/£5.35) cards. For an international operator, dial tel. 971. Most hotels now have direct international dialing from your room, although this is extremely pricey; those that have the facility usually have detailed dialing instructions in-room. Finally, for domestic calls, you can expect to hear a bizarre range of dialing tones, many of which sound convincingly like engaged or dead signals; often you should just wait to hear if your call is likely to be answered.
Time Zone -- During winter, Romania is 7 hours ahead of U.S. Eastern Standard Time, or 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. During summer, daylight saving time puts Romanian clocks 1 hour forward, along with the rest of Europe.
Tipping -- Gratuities are neither mandatory nor expected in the majority of situations; expensive establishments are the exception, and in some upmarket city restaurants you're likely to be treated with abuse if you do not tip. Bear in mind, though, that Romanians in the service industry are paid appallingly. Consider giving a 10% tip in restaurants, and round up the fare for taxi drivers, if you feel you've been decently treated. Be aware of certain city taxi drivers who will just as soon assume that they can do the rounding up themselves; insist on getting your change, and then hand over whatever tip amount you've decided on.
Water -- One-third of Europe's naturally occurring mineral springs are found in Romania. Officially, tap water is potable and safe to drink, but most Romanians will tell you never to drink any water that isn't bottled.