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An Esoteric Quest in Bulgaria: At the Crossroads of the Mysteries

In Plovdiv, Bulgaria, the Oldest Living City in Europe
August 22-27, 2019

Travel Tips: Romania

Two of many useful websites for exploring the country and culture are Romanian Friend and Uncover Romania.


Identification and Visas

U.S. and Canadian nationals need a valid passport (with at least 6 months before its expiry at the time of entry) to enter Romania for stays of up to 90 days.

Citizens of the EU need only a valid national identity card when entering Romania and can stay indefinitely.

Certain nationals will need a pre-approved visa; please visit the website of Romania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (at least two months in advance of travel) for more information.


Travel

Travel between cities in Romania is often more efficient by air than by ground.

For flights home from Romania, or for participants traveling independently to Bucharest to meet our Post-Conference trip, the Romanian national carrier Tarom operates a comprehensive network of domestic routes, flying regularly between Bucharest and Suceava. Flights between regional cities usually involve travel via Bucharest’s Henri Coandă International Airport.

Additionally, many budget carriers fly between Europe and Romania: WizzAir, Blue Air, EuroWings, and Ryanair.


Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is recommended. A comprehensive policy (covering personal accident, accidental death, medical expenses and emergency repatriation) will protect you in the event of unexpectedly having to cancel or change your travel plans either before or during our conference, losing your luggage, if the program is affected by circumstances beyond our control, or if any medical assistance is needed.

Policies vary, depending upon the degree of coverage desired, and include options such as “Airline Ticket Protector” plans.  It’s also wise to verify your chosen airlines refund policy, as they too vary, and at times offer ticket reimbursements where travel insurance may not.        

For EU citizens: the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) offers health coverage EU-wide – check your local rules for more.


Health & Wellness

No vaccinations are required to enter Romania.

Lyme’s Disease is present in Romania’s grasslands and open areas. As a precaution, travelers are advised to use insect repellent and to check themselves for ticks after time spent outdoors.
One important note: Remember to bring any necessary prescriptions or over-the-counter medications in their original containers, and in your carry-on bag!
Also to note: smoking and vaping are not allowed in any indoor public spaces in Romania.


Water

Tap water is generally considered safe to drink in Romania; bottled water, however, is easily available everywhere.

To minimize the risk of gastrointestinal ailments in a new environment, it is wise to remain hydrated by drinking plenty of bottled water, to eat and drink (coffee, tea, alcohol) in moderation only, and to wash hands often with soap and water. It also may be helpful to travel with lactobacillus acidophilus capsules, which enhance beneficial intestinal flora and can be a preventative measure against digestive upsets.


Toilets

Toilets are labelled toaletă or simply 'WC'. Some toilets have a plastic bin by their side – this is for used toilet paper.

Public toilets, however, are few and far between, and usually have a fee of 1 or 2 lei, collected by an attendant sitting at the door.  It is helpful to have small bills ready and to use the better facilities in restaurants or hotels when you have the chance. It’s helpful to carry a packet of tissues with you to use as toilets paper in crowded trains and train station facilities.


Safety and Etiquette

In Romania, the single nationwide emergency number is 112; an operator will ask if you want to talk to the police, fire or medical services. All hospitals are public and state-owned and take care of walk-ins or emergencies.

Regarding personal safety, Romania is a safe country for travelers, with the usual levels of common sense required: minding valuables and being discreet with large bills in crowded places and ignoring people pushing services to tourists (such as unofficial taxi 'drivers' at Bucharest Airport).

Romania’s warm and friendly people tend to be socially conservative, traditional, especially with the older generation that grew up during the communist regime.


Electricity

Romania’s electricity runs on 210-230V - 50Hz. Standard continental European sockets and dual round-pronged plugs (Plug E) are used.

U.S. electrical sockets and appliances run on 110-120 volts; if you want to use a 110-volt appliance in, you’ll need to buy a voltage converter (or power convertor).

However, dual voltage appliances (such as most mobile phones and laptops) are designed to run on either 120 or 220 volts, eliminating the need for a voltage converter. Dual voltage appliances that have a different plug attachment will need only a plug adaptor (as will UK appliances).

It is easier to purchase plug adapters or voltage converters before you arrive in Romania. Universal plug adapters are inexpensive and easy to carry around. Some international plug adaptors have a built-in surge protector, providing an extra layer of protection.


Currency

Even though it is part of the EU, Romania does not use the euro, but rather the leu (plural: lei, pronounced lay), listed in some banks and exchange offices as RON.

  • One leu equals 100 bani (pronounced bah-nee)
  • Bani coins come in 1, 5, 10 and 50 pieces
  • Lei can be found in notes of 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, 200 and 500

While you will find prices in Romania also displayed in Euros as a convenience, only Romanian lei will be accepted for payment.Foreign currencies may be exchanged at banks (generally open from 9am–5pm Monday to Friday, some from 9:30am-12:30pm on Saturday), authorized exchange bureaus (called casa de schimb or birou de schimb valutar, recognizable by their yellow or white street boards), international airports and larger hotels. Always ask how many lei you will receive before handing over bills, and have your passport ready as identification.

However, cash withdrawals at ATMs (bancomat) often offer the best exchange rate, even with fees. The most common banks with safe and secure ATMs are BCR (Erste), BRD (Societe General), Banca Transylvania (local), Raiffeisen or ING. Romanian ATMs require a four-digit personal identification number (PIN); be sure you know yours before leaving home.

International credit and debit cards are widely accepted at hotels, restaurants and shops in cities and large towns (MasterCard, Maestro and VISA much more so than Amex). Debit and credit card transactions often require a PIN as well, and will be charged in lei at the prevailing exchange rate.

Please remember to advise your bank that you will be traveling, since many banks will err on the side of caution, assume your debit or credit card has been stolen, and suspend it temporarily. You’ll also want to inquire as to what your bank’s international withdrawal fees, and daily limits, may be.

Cash on hand will be important when traveling in the countryside, where it's hard to find an ATM and card payments are not usually accepted. It’s also helpful to keep small-denomination (1 leu and 5 lei) notes on hand for shops, transport tickets, cafes and tips (it is challenging to actually use the 200 lei notes usually given by ATMs).

One thing to note: Romania's currency is not readily available abroad; you’ll want to convert any unused lei before leaving the country.

Additionally: Certain destinations in Romania incur a “photography fee” of several euros per camera, payable at the entrance desk by anyone who wishes to be able to take pictures. For example, Peles Palace requires 7€ and Bucovina’s painted churches ask for 2€ each. Nothing is required of participants who do not wish to take photographs.


Internet

Romania has one of the fastest and most reliable internet connections in the world. Good Wifi is usually available in most public places, including hotels and cafes, but may be harder to find outside major cities (except at more modern guesthouses).


Phones and International Calling

Romania has a modern network of landlines and mobile (cell) phones. It's possible to receive and make direct international calls from anywhere in the country.

The country code for Romania is 40.

To call Romania from the U.S., you’ll need to dial as follows:

  1.     Dial 011 – the US exit code
  2.     Next dial 40 – the country code for Romania
  3.     Finally add the phone number: a three-digit city code (two-digit for Bucharest) + six-digit phone number (seven-digits for Bucharest)
  4.     Mobile phones in Romania use a three-digit prefix instead of a city code and have six-digit numbers.

To call the U.S. from Romania:

  1. Dial 00 + 1 (US country code) + area code + phone number

It's possible to dial abroad from a public payphone. Most public phones require the use of a magnetic-strip phone card, which you can buy from post offices, newspaper kiosks, and some tourist offices and hotel reception desks. Phone card rates start at about 10 lei and allow for a certain number of minutes.

Making calls within Romania:

  1.     Dial 0
  2.     Next dial the city code (or mobile prefix)
  3.     Add the phone number (six or seven digits)

Within Romania, three-digit phone numbers are local and toll-free for emergencies or businesses.


Mobile Phones:

Cellular reception and coverage in Romania is very good (with 3G/4G reception being standard in major cities), even in the countryside.

Romanian mobile phones use the GSM 900/1800 network, which is the standard throughout much of Europe as well as many other parts of the world. This band is not compatible with many mobile phones in North America or Japan (though multiband phones do work across regions). 

Using your own North American phone (set to roaming) and SIM card in Romania could expose you to expensive fees, particularly for long calls or data downloads; check with your carrier’s plan before going abroad. However, it is possible to purchase a prepaid Romanian SIM card, with a temporary local number and varying amounts of data, with its cheaper rates.

You’ll first need to make sure that your mobile phone is unlocked and able to accept foreign SIM cards if it is tied to a single carrier; again, contact your home provider to confirm that your device can be unlocked, or to consider short-term international calling and data plans appropriate to your needs.

Prepaid SIM cards with data packages start at about 20 lei per card, and are offered by all three of Romania's main carriers: Vodafone (www.vodafone.ro), Telekom Romania (www.telekom.ro) and Orange (www.orange.ro). Cards are available at any provider shop or independent phone seller; you can add minutes and data at phone shops, newspaper kiosks and even some ATMs.

Even if you don’t use your North American phone for calls, it will still make a handy Wi-Fi device (with ‘data roaming’ switched off to avoid fees). Roaming charges have been eliminated for carriers within the EU.

It is also very easy to rent or buy a mobile telephone in Romania. Shops around the country sell new or used phones that can be used in conjunction with local prepaid SIM cards.


Time

All of Romania lies within the Eastern European time zone. It is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and seven hours ahead of New York (EST).

Romania observes daylight saving time, and puts the clock forward one hour at 2am on the last Sunday in March and back again at 3am on the last Sunday in October.


Food & Drink

Romanian cuisine weaves together the many threads of its history: from the Dacians and Romans all the way through the Byzantine, Ottoman and Austrian Empires, to name a few influences. Food traditions remain deeply connected to the agricultural seasons and to self-sustainability, and to an abundance of purely organic crops and free-range meats from small, local farmers. The Orthodox Christian calendar, with its numerous periods of fasting from animal products, also has shaped cooking styles and dishes. The vegetarian Lenten menu (mancare or meniu de post) is usually available throughout the year.

Romanian meals typically begin with a soup called ciorbă, whose refreshingly sour taste derives from lemon, vinegar, cabbage juice or fermented wheat bran. Made with meat (often chicken, beef or pork meatballs) and/or a mix of vegetables, ciorbă is served steaming with bread, sour cream and spicy peppers. A selection of cured sausages and salami are offered along with various local cheeses - brânză de coșuleț is a sheep’s milk cheese smoked in pine wood, for example – as well as seasonal and cooked vegetables. Fasole bătută (a garlicky white bean dip topped with carmelized onions and paprika), salata de vinete (eggplant salad) and zacusca (a luscious tomato, bell pepper and eggplant spread) are favorites.

Mămăligă is a polenta-like cornmeal mush served with fresh smântână (sour cream), often paired with sarmale, cabbage or vine leaves stuffed with spiced meat and rice (an import from the days of Ottoman rule). Tochitură is a hearty stew usually comprised of pan-fried pork in a spicy tomato or wine sauce, served with mămăligă, cheese and topped with an egg cooked sunny-side up.

Vegetarian options include dishes such as cartofi piure cu şniţele de soia (mashed potatoes with soy schnitzels), sarmale de post (vegan cabbage rolls) and tocăniţă de legume de post (vegan vegetable stew). Salată de roşii is sliced tomatoes doused in olive oil and vinegar, and covered in chopped parsley and onion. Murături are pickled vegetables, such as cucumbers or cauliflower.

Beloved desserts include strudels, clătite (crêpes), and papanaşi, fried dough, stuffed with sweetened curd cheese and covered with jam and heavy cream. Most popular, perhaps, is cozonac, a sweet flavored bread stuffed with nuts, poppy, cocoa, Turkish delight or a combination thereof.

Romania is the sixth-largest producer of wine in Europe, thanks to the many varieties of grapes that grow in its ideal geographical conditions; well-known wine makers include Jidvei, Cotnari, Murfatlar, Recas, Tohani or Beciul Domnesc. Wine mixed with mineral water (şpriţ) is very popular during the summer months.

Romania’s Timisoreana is a beer brewed from the same recipe since the 18th century. Silva, Ciuc and Ursus are some of the country’s other favorite beers. As for spirits, tuica is Romania’s national drink, a natural digestive made of fermented plums, pears or apples, and drunk in shots or sips before the start of a meal (it’s polite to drink tuica when offered, even if just a sip). Pălinca is like tuica but stronger and usually found in Transylvania; yet stronger is horincă, a blend of alcohol and sour cherries or wild blueberries, distilled only in the region of Maramures.


Tipping

Tipping in Romania is very common and usually expected. Gratuities are not included on restaurant bills (unless expressly mentioned); a 10% tip is customary and a 15% tip is given for especially good service.

With taxi drivers, it is common to offer 5 lei or to round up the fare as a tip. Tour guides in Romania are usually tipped about 10-20 lei ($2-$4 US) per day.

When showing appreciation at hotels, it is customary to tip cleaning staff 5 lei per night or 20-25 lei per week, concierges 5 to 10 lei for special assistance (such as help in making reservations), and porters 5 lei per bag for their service.

We will pass-the-hat to collect tips for our tour guides and coach drivers.


Packing List

Participants are strongly encouraged to pack as lightly as possible.

Romania has a temperate climate, with high temperatures and occasional thunderstorms during the summer months. Please note that when visiting monasteries or other houses of worship, it is respectful to wear clothing that covers legs and shoulders.


General Items:

  • Passport 
  • ATM card with a 4-digit PIN for international use
  • Any prescription, in its original container, or over-the-counter medication (stored in your carry-on bag)
  • A sturdy pair of comfortable, broken-in hiking boots (or waterproof trekking shoes)
  • Rain gear: waterproof or quick-drying pants; a waterproof jacket or poncho
  • Umbrella
  • Long pants and sweater or shawl (for monastery visits)
  • Walking stick (if needed or preferred)
  • Swimsuit
  • Reading materials
  • Journal and pens
  • Plug adaptors (and converter, if needed)
  • Flashlight or headlamp (also useful in hotel rooms where lighting is minimal)
  • Travel alarm clock
  • Color photocopies of credit cards, passport and visa
  • Day pack (so you can keep another layer of clothing or your rain gear with you at all times)
  • Water
  • Sun hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen and lip balm with SPF
  • Tissues
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Insect repellant


Language

Romanian (limba romana) is the official language of Romania; the name and language are both a legacy of the Romans who took control of ancient Dacia in the first century CE. Romanian has retained a number of features of old Latin, yet also contains many words from the surrounding Slavic languages, as well as from French, German, Greek and Turkish.

English is not widely spoken but is understood by those affiliated with the tourist industry, and in major cities and tourist destinations. Learning a few key phrases of Romanian is a meaningful way to connect with local folks; most people will appreciate any effort made to speak their language.

For students of other Romance languages (Italian, Spanish, French or Portuguese), Romanian may be easier to understand than expected. One option for introducing yourself to Romanian is through www.duolingo.com, a free language-learning website and app.

Romanian is a phonetic language; words are pronounced as they are spelled. Certain letters (and letter combinations), however, are pronounced differently than they are in English.


Romanian Letters

Pronunciation
ă as in around
î, â same reading, similar to ‘i’ as in girl
e as in tell
i as in machine
j as in azure
ş as in sugar
ţ [ts] as in fits
ce as in cello
ci as in chief
chi [ki] as in skill
che [ke] as in chemistry
ge as in germ
gi as in gin
ghi [gi] as in give
ghe [ge] as in guess


Useful Words / Phrases

English Română Pronunciation
Good morning. Bună dimineaţa. Boo-nuh di-mi-na-tsa
Hello/Good day. Bună ziua. Boo-nuh zee-wa.
Good evening. Bună seara. Boo-nuh sea-ra.
Good-bye. La revedere. La rev-eh-de-ray
Good night. Noapte bună. Nwap-te boo-nuh
My name is . . . Numele meu este … Noo-me-le meu yes-te ...
What is your name? Cum vă numiţi? Koom vuh noo-mits?
How are you? Ce mai faceţi? Che may fa-chets
I'm fine, thanks. Bine, mulţumesc. Bee-nay, mool-tsoo-mesk
Do you speak English?

. . .  Romanian?

Vorbiţi englezeşte?

. . .  româneşte?

Vor-bits en-gle-zesh-te

. . .  ro-mi-nesh-te

Yes, a little.

No.

Da, puţin.

Nu.

Da, poo-tsin.

Noo.

Please speak slowly. Vă rog, vorbiţi mai rar. Vuh rog, vor-bits may rar
How do you say . . . ? Cum se spune  . . . ? Koom se spoo-ne . . . ?
Do you understand? Înţelegeţi? In-tse-le-jets
I don't understand. Nu înţeleg. Noo in-tse-leg
Please repeat it. Vă rog, repetaţi. Vuh rog, re-pe-tats
I'm sorry. Îmi pare rău. Im pa-re rau
Good / Very good. Bine / Foarte bine. Boon / Fwar-tay boo-na
Maybe. Poate. Pwa-te
Certainly. Sigur. Si-goor
May I ? Se poate? Se pwa-te?
Thank you. Mulţumesc. Mool-tsoo-mesk
You're welcome Cu plăcere Koo pluh-che-re
I don't know. Nu ştiu. Noo shtee-u
I would like... Aş vrea... Osh vray-a
...and / or...... şi / sau... shee / sow
I have / We have Am / Avem... Ahm / Ah-vum
What are you doing? Ce faceţi? Che fa-chets
I beg your pardon? Poftiţi? Pof-tits
Excuse me... Scuzaţi-mă. . . Skoo-za-tsi ma
Here... Aici... Ah-eech…
There... Acolo... Ah-ko-lo
How much will it cost? Cât costă? Kit kos-tuh?
Numerals Numerale Pronunciation
zero zero ze-ro
one unu oo-noo
two doi doy
three trei trey
four patru pa-troo
five cinci chinch'
six şase sha-se
seven şapte shap-te
eight opt opt
nine nouă no-wuh
ten zece ze-che
Important Signs Semne Importante Pronunciation
Men Bărbaţi Buhr-bats'
Women Femei Feh-mey
Toilet W.C. Ve-che
Entrance Intrare In-tra-re
Exit Ieşire Ye-shi-re
Open Deschis Dehs-kis
Closed Închis Yn-kis
Subway Metrou Me-troh
Caution Atenţie A-ten-tsye
Danger Pericol Pe-ri-kol
First Aid Station Post de prim ajutor Post de prim a-zhoo-tor
No Smoking Fumatul interzis Foo-ma-tool in-ter-zis
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