Here's a little list of tips we've compiled for living on the road in Romania.
Romania’s official national language is Romanian.
Romania’s official currency is the Leu. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted. Be prepared to use cash in smaller towns and some petrol stations.
Most supermarkets are open from 8am - 10pm daily, and 8am - 8pm on Sundays.
Drinking water is easy to find in villages in the form of wells, blue pump taps and fonts near shrines, as most of the country is mountainous. The water will not usually be marked, and it is unclear whether it is safe for drinking. It’s advisable to ask a local, or stick to bottled water.
“Apă potabilă” means drinking water. Check out our map of water points here.
You can get post delivered to Poșta Română post offices in Romania by addressing it as Poste Restante. It is unclear how long your post will be held for. ID is required to collect and a small fee is payable on collection. It is also apparently common for Romanian customs to open and reseal packages sent from abroad. The address format is as follows:
Officiul Postal no. *
The recipient’s name must be underlined.
*Each post office in a town is identified by a number e.g. Officiul Postal no. 3. These numbers are used when the post office is the point of delivery itself. Post office numbers and addresses can be found on postaromana.ro which is available in English, although the Find A Post Office section can be difficult to navigate, in which case Google Maps can also provide the post office number.
Petrol: Benzina 95/98 (98 is also called Super or Plus)
There are no supermarket fuel stations in Romania; the majority are companies like Petrom, Rompetrol, MOL and OMV. These are also among the most expensive. We found DHR, Socar and Lukoil to be among the cheapest as well as independent stations, and the very cheapest stations we found were Petrol Access Box and Florea Oil, although these are uncommon. The prices are largely inconsistent, often with two of the same company in the same area having completely different prices. However these differences in prices are minimal when converted from Leu to GBP.
peco-online.ro can be used to check fuel prices in any town or county of Romania, as well as addresses and directions to fuel stations. You can also filter by which company’s prices you would like to view. The website is fairly accurate, although often only the largest companies’ prices are displayed, so the website is incomplete.
Usually an attendant will come and serve your fuel for you, you just tell them how much you want. The machines which appear to be Self Service machines (generally Rompetrol) accept only Fill & Go cards and not debit or credit cards.
Fuel prices tend to be more expensive in cities than in rural areas.
Bottled gas can be found at all petrol stations, but these will have Romanian fittings on them. Although is it technically prohibited (and slightly dangerous in case of overfilling), most LPG stations will happily refill your gas bottles for you if they have the correct adapter.
It is important to calculate how much LPG you will need for your gas bottle before filling up, to let the attendant know the correct amount. Gas bottles must only be filled to 80% capacity, any more than this and you can risk explosion due to gas expansion in cases of high heat or vigorous movement. To figure this out, look at your bottle’s capacity- e.g. 4.5kg. 1kg of gas = 1.96 litres. So 4.5kg of gas = 8.82 litres. Take 20% off this amount and you will get 7.06 litres. This is the amount you should tell the attendant to fill your bottle up by.
It has also been said that the bottle’s capacity already includes this 20% buffer, but as refilling gas bottles with LPG is not common practice it is better to be on the safe side.
Butane and Propane are both classified as LPG; while these are sold separately in the UK, in other parts of the world they are sold as the same thing. There is little difference between the two types of gas apart from Propane burns hotter than Butane, and works better in cold weather.
It is also advisable if you plan to get your gas bottles refilled while abroad that you purchase your own adapter for your type of gas bottle. These can be found on eBay here.
Rubbish bins and recycling facilities are typically easy to find in towns and villages, however Romania has a huge litter problem, and often you will find bins are overflowing having not been emptied. Many of their streets, rivers, roadsides and even National Parks are unfortunately flooded with litter, and many rural places have become illegal fly tipping dumps for residents.
Built-up areas 31 mph (50 km/h)
Outside built-up areas 55 mph (90 km/h)
Dual carriageways 62mph (100 km/h)
Motorways 80 mph (130 km/h)
If you’ve held your license for less than a year then speed limits are 20 km/h lower than the standard speed limits.
If you’re towing then speed limits are 10 km/h lower than standard speed limits.
You must use dipped headlights outside of built up areas during the day.
It is against the law to drive a dirty car (this is not enforced).
The general condition of the roads in Romania is good although main roads are sometimes narrow.
A vignette called the Rovineta must be purchased in order to use all national roads and motorways, or any roads with a blue sign marked “Vignette / Rovinieta”. It is virtually impossible to avoid these.
The vignette can be purchased from petrol stations, post offices and border crossing points. You will need to provide then with the vehicle details in your logbook. There is no sticker as the information is stored electronically, and can be picked up by Rovinieta cameras and traffic police. The prices for vehicles up to 3.5T are as follows:
- 7 days €3
- 30 days €7
- 90 days €13
- 1 year €28
Prices are all given in Euros despite the local currency being the Leu. This is common in Romania as they have adopted a creative way to hide VAT sales tax. Rates given in Euros are net rates before a 19% sales tax which is deducted in the conversion to Leu. This is particularly common with things such as SIM cards from phone shops, and sales of cars.
Yellow diamond signs after junctions indicate that you have priority (you will need to look beyond the junction as you drive to check).
Yellow diamond signs after junctions with a red line through them indicate that you do not have priority.
A warning triangle with an X in it tells you to beware of hazards on the right.
Speeding is considered normal, as is using your phone while driving, despite it being illegal. Roadside police controls are frequent; local drivers will usually flash you to warn of police ahead. If you are following local drivers who suddenly all slow down, this is because of the shortwave radios they are allowed to carry in their vehicles, and they will have already warned each other of the police ahead. The best thing you can do while driving in Romania is to follow a local; while they may speed through villages at 70 km/h, they will surely slow down way before a police car is visible.
Additionally, Romania police don’t specifically target foreign vehicles.
It is frequent on single carriageway roads for vehicles to drive on the hard shoulder to create a lane for overtaking in the centre of the road.
Rural areas may not always have signs letting you know you are entering a town, so check your speed.
Compulsory items to carry in your vehicle always:
First aid kit
Red warning triangle
Winter tires must be fitted between 1 November and 31 March if there is snow or ice on the road.
Romania is one of the few EU countries where you can purchase a prepaid data SIM card with no registration necessary, and they also have some of the cheapest rates in Europe.
From their biggest network Orange for example, you can buy €5 SIM card with 4GB of data, and once activated they will give you a bonus 10GB of data on top of that. Their 3G/4G signal and wifi are also the fastest in the whole of Europe.
Wild camping in Romania is legal, widely tolerated and embraced by locals. There is no law prohibiting the building of fires either, and it is common to see dozens of fire pits scattered around rural areas. Even in National Parks that have signs prohibiting camping you will usually find locals parked up in their caravans or pitching their tents and making fires. As long as you are not on private property without the landowner’s permission there should be no issue.
On the whole Romania is a wonderful, beautiful country with rich tradition and a lot to explore. We would highly recommend visiting, as it quickly became one of our favourite countries in Eastern Europe.
Nearly the entire country is mountainous, with rolling hills and a vast countryside. The Carpathians and the Făgăraș mountains in particular are not to be missed, and driving along the country’s two highest roads, the Transalpina and the Transfăgărășan should be at the top of anyone’s bucket list. The country also boasts many incredible National Parks, such as Domogled-Valea Cernei, a wild, remote area whose mountains are inhabited mainly by shepherds living in traditional wooden huts, and Bucegi where it’s possible to see brown bears at night from your van (just don’t mind the rubbish on the ground). Another incredible sight are the Vulcanii Noroioşi, mud volcanoes created by the expulsion of natural gases underground.
A little tip: while the Vulcanii Noroioși Pâclele Mari and Pâclele Mici both have an entrance fee of 4 Leu, the Pâclele Beciu a little further North are free. The only catch is the steep gravel track to get to them, as these are less well-known but a lot more active.
Romanians are lovely, friendly people, but there is unfortunately a general stigma that confuses the Roma gypsies and the Romanians, who are in fact totally different people of entirely different origins. This stigma against the Roma gypsies of them being thieves is not only widespread in England but also Romania, and as a result the Roma are ostracised from society and live in remote, secluded areas. In short, if you’re worried about your van being robbed by Roma gypsies, then don’t be. They too are a friendly people on the whole and we had no trouble from them during our time in Romania.
Similarly, the police are also friendly and do not pull foreign vehicles over any more than they do local ones. The only time we got stopped by a copper was when we were passing through a remote village into the mountains, and all they wanted was to ask what we were up to- they didn’t even want to see our documents, what a welcome relief!
The summers in Romania are warm, the autumns are beautiful but the winters are harsh. Many of the country’s mountain roads are closed from October onwards due to heavy snowfall, which we experienced during our two weeks there and which unfortunately meant we couldn’t drive the Transalpina. The central region of the country is hit the hardest by snowfall, while the coast remains mild year round.
The downsides to Romania? There are only a few. The roads range from smooth and brand new to a mess of tarmac and potholes, and sometimes the road will suddenly turn into a dirt track for no reason or for an indeterminate number of metres before resuming tarmac. It all adds to the fun, though.
The main problem with Romania is the litter; we did not find a single park up that was not littered to some degree. Litter is in the rivers, at the roadsides, in the mountains and sadly even in the National Parks. Bins are overflowing with rubbish, and we even saw the locals throwing finished bottles of drink on the ground with complete disregard. It is a sad sight in such a beautiful country, and seems to be more of a social issue than anything else.
The last thing is the stray dogs, who roam the streets in their thousands, howling at night, lost and alone. It is a heart-wrenching sight to pet owners seeing a pack of starving dogs crowding around your van looking hopefully for scraps, and the number of dead cats and dogs by the roadside is equally as tear-jerking. But don’t let these issues deter you from visiting: Romania is a rapidly developing country who appears to have benefited greatly from joining the EU and is very proud to be a member state.
While you’re there, be sure to try Turta Dulce, small gingerbreads coated with cinnamon-flavoured icing- they're seriously addictive. Also if you get the chance try Kürtőskalács, which are a type of spit cake specific to Hungarian-speaking regions in Romania, made from sweet yeast dough, of which a strip is spun and then wrapped around a cone–shaped baking spit and then roasted over charcoal while basted with melted butter and sugar, until its surface cooks to a golden-brown color and the sugar caramelises and forms a shiny, crispy crust. It's delicious hot finger food.
In short, Romania is a breath of fresh air when it comes to living in a van, with their lack of laws against wild camping and building fires, a vast rural country full of beautiful mountains and lovely people to explore, and many bucket list items that aren’t to be missed, the positives far outweigh the negatives.