Romania vies with Bulgaria as the cheapest destination in Europe. The latter has an edge in most respects, but Romania is still a terrific value at all budget levels, from backpacker to luxe.
If you’re looking for the European cafe culture in summer or want to stay in a nice historic village after a day of skiing in the winter, this is where you can do both on a fraction of what you would spend further west.
Overall, Romania is a good deal for backpackers, a fantastic deal for mid-range travelers on vacation. A backpacking couple could get by on $40 or $50 a day, but a couple spending $100 to $200 a day in Romania will really be living large. Keep in mind though that Romania’s currency fluctuates quite a bit, sometimes moving from 2.8 to the dollar to 3.5 (and maybe back again) within the space of a year. Hotels are often priced in dollars or euros, but anything else you spend money on is not.
The following Romania traveler prices were converted to dollars at 3.4 lei.
Hotel and Hostel Prices in Romania
A place to lay your head won’t hit you too hard here except maybe summer on the Black Sea coast. There you might have to pay more than what’s below.
Hostel beds: as low as $5 in some spots, but $7 to $14 is the average. Hostel and traveler hotel owners will usually throw in breakfast and a few freebies to give them a leg up: beer, filtered water, Internet access, and maybe a welcome shot of Romanian moonshine.
Private home rooms: as little as $12 double in the countryside, but $20 to $35 is more common.
Monastery rooms: $18 – $24 double.
Mountain hiking trail huts: $3 to $12 per person
Mid-range hotels: 2-star room $30 to $60, 3-star room under $70, only 5-star ones in Bucharest are more than $100.
Food & Drink in Romania
You see lots of stuffed cabbage rolls, sausages, bland chicken and pork dishes, stews, salads made with mayonnaise, whole fish breaded and tossed in a pan, and soups seemingly made with whatever is lying around. It’s tough eating Romanian and being a vegetarian, though it gets better in the summer when more fresh veggies are available. On the plus side, it’s easy to find something filling for cheap. Many popular restaurants offer specials to lure you in. Set lunch menus with multiple courses are a good deal and many spots have special deals for students and the elderly. Some will toss in a free glass of house wine.
The best part of your meal is often dessert, like this specialty pictured below.
Street snacks and pastries: 30 cents to $1.25
Budget sit-down meal: $3 to $5
Nice restaurant meal in tourist area: $5 to $15 (It’s hard to spend much more than $30 each anywhere without being a glutton.)
Beer: $1.50 to $2.50 at a bar, much less in a store or at happy hour.
Wine: $3-$5 at a store and not much more in a restaurant (markups are usually less than double). You can get the very best local wines, which are surprisingly good, for less than $15 in a store.
Palinca or Tuica distilled fruit liquor: 75 cents to $2 a glass in a bar/restaurant, $3 a liter for dubious home brew sold in the markets, $4 – $8 for a commercial bottle.
Coffee or soda: 70 cents to $1.50
Transportation in Romania
You can generally get around pretty cheaply in Romania. The train system hits most anywhere you want to go and you can get to most spots in the country from Bucharest the same day. If you travel with the locals, you’ll pay what they do, which is reasonable in second class. Buses are in the same ballpark, but can be more frequent.
Trains: $10 from Bucharest to Braşov. A 100km train trip is generally $5 – $9. Internationally, the 14-hour ride from Bucharest to Budapest is around $75 in a reclining seat. I splurged $90 for a sleeper berth from Budapest to Sighisoara and ended up having the entire compartment to myself.
Buses: from the capital to towns in the Transylvania region will come in under $15. Shorter rides between towns are just a few dollars.
Bucharest airport to the center: the taxi fare should be around $15, but can balloon to $30 or $45 from the scammers if not arranged in advance. The shuttle bus is only $2.
Taxis: when they use the meter like they’re supposed to, less than 50 cents per kilometer.
Local buses, trolleys, and trams: 30 to 70 cents per ride depending on whether you purchase a pass. A 10-trip subway pass in the capital is less than $3.
Admission and Activity Charges in Romania
Skiing: one-day lift tickets $20-$45 (on a point system determined by which lifts and how many rides you take). Rentals are around $15 a day.
Museums and churches/monasteries: free or $2 – $4, only a few more than $6. The King’s Peleș Castle outside Sinaia costs much, much more.
Ice skating: in the winter, you can go ice skating at outdoor facilities for $4 – $7
Biking: rentals start at $4 an hour or $12 for a day for a good quality bike.