Bucharest is considered to be one of the most affordable holiday destinations in Europe. If you plan to visit Bucharest any time soon, these are my top tips to make the most of your time in Bucharest while spending as little as possible.
Bucharest is Romania’s capital city and one of the most affordable European cities to visit on the old continent. This makes Bucharest not only an affordable holiday destination for low budget travellers. But also a good deal for any traveller looking to experience some of that Eastern European vibe without breaking the bank.
Why is Bucharest an affordable holiday destination?
Bucharest is an affordable tourist destination because the local currency RON (Romanian New Leu) is weaker than the dollar/euro/pound and most of the other Western currencies.
Although Romania has been a member of the European Union since 2007, the country still has its local currency called RON (Romanian New Leu) . The RON is one of the weakest currencies in the union. While this is obviously detrimental to Romanian employees, it is very convenient for tourists. Those of you who get paid in pounds/euros/US dollars will find Bucharest and Romania affordable.
To give you an idea, these are the exchange rates for RON in Jan 2022:
1 British Pound is 5.9 RON
1 Euro is 4.9 LEI RON
1 US Dollar is 4.4 RON
To put things into perspective, the main course, including a starter, and a drink can cost you at the moment this blog post was written around 60 RON or €12/ $13/ £10. These amounts do not include tips. Although the tipping culture in Romania is different to the American tipping culture, Romanians do tip if they are happy with the service.
Another thing you should know here is that prices are inclusive of VAT. It is the same practice all over Europe, including the United Kingdom.
Therefore, if you get paid in any stronger currency like the Euro, the British Pound or the US Dollar you will definitely consider Bucharest an affordable holiday destination because of the favourable currency exchange rate.
Essential tips for an affordable holiday in Bucharest
Use Public Transport (if you can) for an affordable holiday in Bucharest!
Bucharest benefits from an extensive network of buses and trams, a metro/tube (For UK residents) network and trains. And they are all very affordable and quite reliable. My favourite way of transportation has always been the metro and the train. I lived in Bucharest at some point in my life and enjoyed moving around the city using the metro.
You can find anything you want to know about the metro network in Bucharest on Metrorex. The website is quite informative and is available in English too. You have access to the metro map and ticket prices, among other things. A single metro ticket costs 3 RON or €0,6/ $0,67/ £0,50.
If you choose to travel by tram or bus, you may want to consult this website. The website is available in English too. It provides useful information about the tram and bus networks in Bucharest.
There is even a Bucharest City Tour STB operates which covers the most touristic places to visit in Bucharest. Paying only 25 RON or €5/ $5,6/ £4,2(Adult fare) and 10 RON or €2/ $2,2/ £1,6 (Child fare) is quite a bargain and it can be an excellent way to visit Bucharest, more so if you are on a tight budget or you are just looking for affordable alternatives to visit the little Paris of the East.
You can opt to buy your transport tickets using this app (24pay). However, notice that this app doesn’t seem to include all types of travel tickets. Only bus and tram tickets seem to be available for purchase through the app.
Taking the train is a good option if you wish to travel outside Bucharest. However, if you stay in the city, the train won’t take you that far. And, actually, the main train stations are located quite far away from the city centre. The Romanian train operator is called CFR. The website is in English as well. One of the few times when the train comes in handy is when travelling from the airport. The journey only takes around 30 minutes and costs 4 RON or €0,8/ $0,9/ £0,67.
A good resource to plan your trips in Bucharest using public transport is Moovit. Depending on your start and end point, this tool will suggest what type of transportation you can use to get to your final destination. It comes in handy, especially for those of us who lack orientation skills. I, for sure, am one of them.
For further information on what to visit in Bucharest using public transport and how safe it is, you may want to read through this comprehensive guide:
Affordable alternatives to regular yellow taxis in Bucharest
What happens if you definitely need a taxi to get somewhere in Bucharest?
Even if your travel budget is tight, there are options if you look to book an affordable taxi in Bucharest. However, I would not use a yellow taxi. I would opt instead for an Uber or Bolt car.
Bucharest is notorious for its taxi drivers. Most taxi drivers scam and are rude to their customers. That’s why I would avoid booking a yellow taxi altogether. Personally, I had bad experiences with yellow taxi drivers in Bucharest, and I’m reluctant to use them again unless I cannot find a Bolt/Uber car. On the other hand, my experience booking a Bolt car in Bucharest was what everyone would want. The booking process was smooth, the driver was nice, and the price I paid was the right one because it was automatically generated by the app.
So now you know! If you ever need a car ride in Bucharest, make sure you book a Bolt/Uber car instead of a yellow taxi. It’s the best way to avoid an ugly experience which can spoil your time in Bucharest.
Avoid eating out in The Old Town aka Centrul Vechi
The Old Town aka Centrul Vechi in Romanian is probably the most famous area for eating out in Bucharest. You can imagine this means that most of the restaurants in this area are overpriced.
If you’ve ever been recommended places to eat out in Bucharest, they were probably all located in Centrul Vechi. Nevertheless, it is good to know that there are many other good and affordable places to eat out in Bucharest. Some of the recommendations my Romanian friends suggested are:
Trattoria Monza: Don’t get fooled by the Italian name. This place serves both Italian and Romanian foods.
This is where you can find them:
Str. Baba Novac nr. 25, sector 3, Bucuresti
Conacul Romanesc is yet another option to the crowded and overpriced restaurants in Centrul Vechi. This place serves quite a large variety of Romanian dishes. You also have the option to try out international cuisines, line the Mexican cuisine.
This is where you can find them:
Bulevardul Decebal 12, București 030967, Romania
Bucataria LocalFood is a brand-new restaurant that welcomed its first customers in 2021. What I really like about this place is that their ingredients are locally sourced and have a network of local suppliers they work with.
This is where you can find them:
Strada Ion Slătineanu 30, București 010602, Romania
If you need inspiration on what to eat while in Romania, you might be interested in the blog post below:
Tip: Most Romanian dishes are quite affordable, and if you avoid going to famous restaurants, you could, in fact, save quite a lot of money without having to compromise the quality of your meals.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting you should avoid Centrul Vechi all the time. Centrul Vechi is a good place if you want to experience Bucharest. However, I think you should know you have alternatives to the over popular pubs and restaurants from Centrul Vechi.
Choose to pay everything in RON (the local currency)
I’ve already mentioned that the Romanian currency is one of the weakest in the European Union. This can be an advantage for someone getting paid in Euros/US Dollars/British Pounds or any of the stronger Western currencies.
Although most of the costs are calculated in the Romanian currency, there are situations when you will be asked if you want to pay in the local currency or euros. Always choose to pay in the local currency because the exchange rate is better than if you paid the equivalent in euros.
Please be aware that ATMs in Romania charge foreign cards a fee. Therefore, try to pay using your card as many times as you can to avoid withdrawal fees. Major supermarkets, shopping centres and restaurants accept cards. Visa and Master cards are widely accepted.
Unfortunately, you cannot use American Express cards in Romania. Yet multi-currency cards like Revolut and Monzo work well. I used them to make purchases in Romania and the exchange rate is very good.
Avoiding Roaming Charges while in Bucharest is so easy
It’s been a while now that the EU dropped the roaming charges between member states. This means that if you have an EU sim, you can use your phone the same way you would do it in your country of residence. There might be specific rules, and you should check everything with your phone provider before using data or making calls from Romania.
For the rest of the world, there are other options. You can choose to buy a pay as you go sim. It is the best way if you want a local Romanian number. Please make sure your phone is unlocked and accepts any sim.
The sim card I used when I was in Romania was the 5 euro one from Orange. You can purchase it from petrol stations, newspaper kiosks etc. They are easy to set up and very convenient if you need a Romanian number.
If you don’t need a Romanian sim card, I must say the public wi-fi is very good in Romania. In fact, their wi-fi is one of the fastest in the world. I used the airport wi-fi several times because I did not have a local sim, and I managed to get connected immediately. Also, all major places in Bucharest have wi-fi like shopping malls, restaurants etc.
Finally, to find a way around Bucharest without Wi-Fi, I recommend using any of the offline map apps. I’ve used this trick myself for years now as I don’t always have access to the internet or intend to buy a local sim when I travel. One of my favourite offline map apps has always been MapsMe.
No visa entry requirements for most countries
On top of being an affordable country, Romania is also quite an accessible country for most travellers. Only a handful of countries are required a tourist visa. For most of you out there, Romania does not require any visa at all. Most visits are visa-free for up to 90 or 180 days, depending on your nationality.
Romania is not in the Schengen zone, therefore having your Schengen visa rejected won’t stop you from visiting Romania and, indeed, Bucharest.
While Romania is visa-free for most countries, it is always advisable to check this information from reputable sources (local consulates, embassies etc.)
Most recently, Romania also introduced the digital nomad visa, which allows remote workers to relocate to Romania for some time. You will need to get in touch with the local consulate or embassy to apply for it.
Bucharest has affordable accommodation options for every traveller!
Bucharest is considerably cheaper compared to other capital cities in Europe. There are accommodation options for every budget out there. Most of them are advertised on booking.com or AirBnB. So you won’t have any problems in finding something.
I’ve personally used Booking.com and AirBnB to book accommodation in Romania and never had any issues.
Choose the cheapest months to visit Bucharest!
Bucharest is a good destination to visit all year round. However, in summer (June, July, August) it can be very hot (over 40 degrees Celsius), and in winter (December, January, February) it can get cold (-10/15 degrees Celsius). Please note that these are average temperatures.
That’s why I always prefer to visit Bucharest and Romania in spring (March, April, May) and autumn (September, October, November). Spring and autumn tend to be mild (15-20 degrees Celsius or higher) with a considerable amount of daylight and not much rain.
Visiting Bucharest in Autumn or Spring can also mean cheaper prices and fewer crowds. Summer is usually the busiest time of the year. And August, like almost everywhere else in Europe, is when everyone takes time off work in Romania. The month of August is known as maybe the busiest and most expensive month to travel in Romania.
Major low budget airlines fly from/to Bucharest
When planning an affordable holiday to Bucharest, a plane ticket can be an expensive item. Luckily, major European low budget airlines operate cheap flights from and to Bucharest. These are Wizz, Ryanair and even the Romanian low-cost airline Blueair.
Be careful as there is always a catch with these extremely cheap flights in that everything else needs to be paid for, including hand luggage.
Nevertheless, most of the time you can book flights for as cheap as 10 euros (one way). Ryanair is known in Europe for its ridiculous cheap plane tickets. Most of the flights can be booked on the airline company website. You can also use flight search engines like Skyscanner if you wish to compare flight ticket prices.
There you have it! These are my top tips for an affordable holiday to Bucharest. I hope you will find this guide useful when preparing for your trip to Bucharest.
*All the pictures used in this blog post were downloaded from unsplash.com