Romania has a lot to offer, from big city life to quiet villages, from beaches to mountains, you can get cultural, hang out in nature or party in Bucharest as much as you want.
Best of all, Romania hasn’t really made it on to the major tourist maps as yet and so you’ll be able to immerse yourself in this country without having to dodge the guidebook-wielding backpackers. Romanians are still curious about foreign visitors and you’ll feel alternatively like an explorer or royalty, depending how far into the sticks you go – and Romanian countryside is like travelling back in time, not to be missed.
So whilst most of the backpacker scenes in Europe may centre around the hot Australian guy/girl with blonde dreadlocks, in Romania you’ll want to get chatting with the locals as much as possible. Romanians are easy to get talking to at bars, coffee places or restaurants and a little liquor helps the flow of conversation along. A couple of bottle of wines later and you’ll find yourself in the middle of an intense debate about world politics and defending your point of view passionately, whether you know what you’re talking about or not.
If you’re coming from somewhere as intolerant to smoking like New York, London or Dublin, you might want to bring a gas mask with you when you go out at night – Romanians are oblivious to concerns like lung cancer and smoke with abandon. Bars and clubs are often located in former antique wine cellars and, with little or no ventilation, you’d better drink enough that the prospect of asphyxiation no longer troubles you.
To get into the Romanian swing of things, make sure you attend some of the festivals, most of which are held in the summer when the weather forces everyone out of doors. Whether the festivals centre around music, wine or some unintelligible folklore, hanging out to eat, drink and party on the street with Romanians is what it’s all about.
Romania freezes over in the winter and then the mountain resorts are really happening. Romanians head to the hills to ski and party in the ice and snow. This is one of the cheapest places in the world to hit the slopes and the only real worry is global warming and melting glaciers.
True to most Eastern European cuisine, Romanian food may not be the healthiest in the world but it is tasty. Don’t expect the elegance of French cuisine but the food in Romania is hearty and if you’re lucky enough to get invited home to eat with a Romanian family then you won’t have reason to complain.
Romania was (for the benefit of anyone born after 1989) once under the Iron Curtain and it won’t take you long to perceive the legacy that communist left behind. With no financial incentive to be nice, helpful or even remotely efficient, anyone working in state-owned institutions will see a customer as a nuisance. The young Romanians have managed to get their heads around the service economy but don’t get too upset if elsewhere people in restaurants or train stations seem to be hoping that you’ll just go away.
The only real drawback to travel in Romania is that, especially if you’re out in the countryside, not so many people speak English. If you can get your head around any Romanian then you’ll win a million friends and everything will become ten times easier to sort out.