| ||INFORMATION STATION|
|Facts at a Glance|
| ||Area: 237,500 sq km (91,700 sq mi)|
Population: 22.5 million
Capital city: Bucharest (pop 2 million)
People: Romanians (90%), Hungarians (7%), Roma (Gypsies) (2%), Germans, Ukrainians
Language: Romanian, Hungarian (in Transylvania)
Religion: Romanian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant
President: Ion Iliescu
Prime Minister: Adrian Nastase
Oval-shaped Romania is the largest Eastern European country apart from Russia and Ukraine. It lies on the Black Sea and, moving clockwise from the south, shares borders with Bulgaria, Yugoslavia (Serbia), Hungary, Ukraine and Moldova. The forested Carpathian Mountains account for one third of the country's area; another third is covered by hills and tablelands full of orchards and vineyards; and the final third comprises a fertile plain where cereals, vegetables and herbs are grown.
If people didn't prosper under Ceausescu, bears did! He allowed no one but himself to hunt them, the result being that the Carpathian mountains are now home to 60% of Europe's bears. Some 40% of Europe's wolves and 35% of its lynx also live there, along with stag, wild boar, badger, deer, fox, and the green woodpecker, jay and grey owl. Romania's main drawcard for twitchers is the Danube Delta, home to 60% of the world's small pygmy cormorant population, the white grey egret, bee-keeper and white-tailed eagle. Half the world's population of red-breasted geese winter here. The protected delta has the largest unbroken reed bed in the world. The Carpathian mountains boast the least spoilt forests in Europe, rich in beech, sycamore, maple, poplar and birch. Some 1350 floral species have been recorded in the Carpathians, including the yellow poppy, Transylvanian columbine, saxifrage and edelweiss. Romania has 13 national parks, including the Retezat Mountains in the Carpathians, and more than 500 protected areas.
You don't go to Romania for the weather. The average annual temperature is 11°C in the south and on the coast, but only 2°C in the mountains. Romanian winters can be extremely cold and foggy, with lots of snow from December to April. In summer there's usually hot, sunny weather on the Black Sea coast. The majority of Romania's rain falls in the spring, with the mountains getting the most, the Danube Delta the least.
| ||GDP: US$90 billion|
GDP per head: US$4000
Annual growth: -8%
Major industries: Agriculture, manufacturing
Major trading partners: EU (esp.Germany, Italy, France), USA, Turkey
Member of EU: no
|Facts for the Traveler|
| ||Visas: EU and US citizens with valid passports have the luxury of being able to visit Romania visa-free for 30 days. All other Western visitors need a visa, obtainable in advance at a Romanian embassy or upon entry to Romania.|
Health risks: Rabies, typhoid and encephalitis are present in Romania; vaccinations should be considered.
Time: GMT/UTC plus 2 hours (a further hour ahead in summer)
Electricity: 220V, 50 Hz
Weights & measures: Metric
Tourism: 2.83 million visitors per year
|Money & Costs|
| ||Currency:leu (ROL)|
Budget: US$2-5Mid-range: US$5-20Top-end: US$20 and upwards
Budget: US$6-25Mid-range: US$25-40Top-end: US$40 and upwards
Accommodation will be your biggest expense in Romania. Cheap accommodation is scarce in Bucharest. Expect to pay at least US$25 for a double room with shared bath in any hotel within walking distance of the centre of most Romanian cities and towns. Accommodation in private homes in the countryside starts at US$10 a night, including a home-cooked breakfast.
The cost of dining is rising - Romanians can't afford to eat out, so most restaurants are geared to 'rich foreigners'. In Bucharest it's tough to eat for less than US$5 per head, not including alcohol. Eating out is cheaper elsewhere, and a bottle of good Romanian wine can be as little as US$1.50. Seeing a film or play costs about US$1, and entrance fees to museums are about 20 cents. Public transport is dirt cheap by Western standards. US$3 will take you approximately 100km by bus or comfortable express train. Petrol is around 45 cents a litre.
It's easy to cash travelers checks in Romania, but not very easy to replace stolen ones. Only American Express has an office that issues replacements in Bucharest. Cash-dispensing ATMs accepting Visa, MasterCard and plenty of other plastic are becoming increasingly widespread in Romania. Credit cards are widely accepted in hotels, restaurants and shops. They are essential for hiring a car, unless you want to pay cash up-front. Marked, torn or very used notes will often be refused at exchanges. Ensure whatever currency you bring is in good condition.
Tipping is not common in Romania, though you should always round up the bill to the nearest 500 lei. Some bartering, but not much, goes on at flea markets. Taxi drivers drive a hard bargain, so always haggle.
|When to Go|
May and June are the best months to visit, followed by September and early October. At these times, you can visit the medieval painted monasteries in southern Bucovina, and enjoy them minus the tourist hordes. Spring and autumn are also the best times for birdwatching in the Danube Delta. Romania has harsh winters, when tourism is centred on the ski resorts like Poiana Brasov and Sinaia. Snow lingers as late as mid-May, and the hiking season doesn't begin in earnest till June. The resorts along the Black Sea coast start filling up in late June and stay packed until mid-August.
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