Stepping off the plane in Romania was a bit unnerving for me after the advice I had been given by friends. A friend from a neighboring country told me “if you go to Romania this is what will happen, they will rob you and rip you off”. Other friends said to me, Romania?? Is that not dodgy? And the general opinion seemed to be that I was going to get robbed of my belongings and attacked by stray dogs. Hell even the governments travel advice sites warn you of similar perils.
As it turned out this all complete and utter bullshit! It quickly became apparent that Romania is the complete opposite. It is one of the safest and friendliest places I have ever been. I started writing this article outside a café in Bulgaria. Some children came over to me begging, I had left 2 Lev on the table to pay for my coffee and they ran off with the 2 LEV. So I put my laptop away and came back to my room to finish this. They can take 2 LEV but my laptop would have been a different story. Nothing at all like this happened while I was in Romania!!
The only truth in these stories you hear is taxi drivers. If you don’t speak Romanian then some of them will rip you off. Most however will not! The first taxi I got was from the airport in Cluj-Napoka and he charged me 45 RON. When I arrived at the hostel they informed me that I had been over charged me and that I should have only paid 35 max. The next was from Brasov train station. He said 40 RON so this time I declined knowing the hostel was only 3KM away. His response was that he will turn on the meter for me. Once inside the taxi and moving he said “My friend with the meter it will cost you 100”. Tired from a 7.5 hour train journey I said to him just drive me to the f***ing hostel and I will give you 40. I was then told again that it should have only cost me 25.
So let’s break this down and put it in to perspective. I was over charged 10 RON and 15 RON. So that is about 5 Euros in total. Both times for taxi journeys that cost me less than 10 Euros. If I was to get a taxi from Dublin airport to the city centre then it would have cost me more than all of this combined. So did I really get ripped off? Are Romanian taxi drivers ripping you off more than Dublin or London taxi drivers?? Nope!
On general safety.
My first venture out in to the streets was a curious one. I had my hidden pocket with my wallet and cards stashed away and was expecting beggars and pick pockets. This is more complete bullshit. I wondered around the old town in to the dark hours and I could have safely walked down every side street without any kind of hassle at all. I sat outside bars and restraunts and nobody bothered me apart from being friendly. Again let’s compare this to Dublin, where if you go outside some places for a cigarette then people will come over to you asking for a cigarette or money. This did not happen once in Romania!
I can count the number of stray dogs I seen on 2 hands. The only gypsies I encountered were trying to sell me fruit or flowers. No forced sales just a smile. Most of the locals I met were extremely friendly and helpful, only too willing to tell you about their country and places to go.
I saw no signs of any kind of violence even in late hours at bars. I am sure if you’re an idiot and you go looking for trouble or wave your money around then you might find it but that is a universal thing.
On train travel.
On advice I had read I booked a first class ticket. This was not really necessary as second was more or less the same! The UK travel advice website says “thieves operate on trains”. Ok I was in a compartment with 5 other people. We all had our bags on the overhead shelves. I went for a walk a few times to stretch my legs and go to the toilet etc and left my belongings in the compartment which was a completely safe thing to do. Do you think the other 5 people would just sit by, letting someone walk in and go through the bags? Nope!
Getting over charged and short changed.
More bullshit! No restaurants tried to do this. In fact it was the complete opposite in on place, they gave a complimentary after dinner drink or coffee. When I took the cable car up the hill in Brasov the cashier was getting stressed with everyone because they didn’t have the correct change. It was 16 RON and I only had a 20. I told her to keep the change to avoid her shouting at me also but she refused to take any extra and I had to find change.
Summary and real travel advice.
Your governments are lying to you on their travel advice pages. I don’t know why and I don’t know where they get their misguided information from. Romania and Romanian people have been hard done by with a reputation that they certainly do not deserve. If you are not an idiot then you will have no problems here. Especially if you have experience traveling. You can take the official travel advice or you can take my advice. If you choose to take the advice of your government then go for it and visit places that are a lot less safe than Romania instead because you trust and buy into their paranoia. You will be missing out!