Why Romania?

Some people have been surprised about our choice of Romania for a long-term base. Surprisingly, most of them have been locals. They are pleasantly surprised we’re here exploring and even more shocked when they hear we’re planning on being here for a while. I’ve been tempted to try to start taking photos of people’s face when I tell them we’re considering being here for possibly a year or two. It’s kind of entertaining. Even our cabbie the other day was sure he wasn’t hearing correctly. I even had to say “months” in Romanian. He was still incredulous.

While I’m going to mostly address our decision to live here, especially in Brasov, I also want to highlight the reasons I think Romania should be on your European itinerary.

And the fact that it has four seasons wasn’t the main reason. (But it didn’t hurt!)

Romania, Cluj Botanical Gardens


Part of the lure of having a long-term base is to be able to unpack our suitcases, travel more lightly when we take trips (aka leave the suitcases at home), develop friendships and become part of the community. When considering Europe as a base, most people, like me, are frightened off by Europe because of its high price tag. However, parts of Central and Eastern Europe are quite affordable, and in some cases are quite comparable with Latin America and Southeast Asia in terms of prices.

In most of the cities we have looked at, which have been mid to large size, it has been easy to find fully furnished 2-bedroom apartments and houses with equipped kitchens priced at or under 300€ (about $412 USD) per month. That was a big shock for me and a very welcome one! And these are nice places.

Utilities are quite reasonable. During winter, I’ve been told to expect to pay around $100 USD per month.

Romanian home


Many of the other affordable European countries have languages that are quite an achievement to learn. Bulgaria uses the Cyrillic alphabet, and Georgia has its own confusing one, which adds an additional layer of challenges to things.

While Romanian is a mixture of several languages, it is primarily based on Latin. Being fluent in Spanish and having some basics in some of the other romance languages means that I can understand a lot of the written, and some of the spoken, words. It is also reported to be a language that is easier for speakers of the romance languages to learn.

A lot of Romanians speak at least a little English, too, especially in the larger cities. So it has been easy to meet people and have actual conversations with them.

The rules for pronunciation are fairly simple which is quite helpful.


I was expecting pretty bland, simple fare when coming to Romania. While there are certainly some of those things, like covrigi, most of the food has been quite flavorful and hearty. I have been amazed at the quality and flavor of the produce here. I’ve had tomatoes and pears that actually elicited a moan of pleasure from me.

Hey, after 7 months in Asia and Oceania, it’s almost miraculous to have flavorful produce. Don’t judge me!

Transylvanian cuisine is even more savory than the typical Romanian fare.

Time and time again we’ve been surprised by the flavor from a generic-appearing cheese or dish.

Food costs are quite reasonable, especially for fresh foods. Fruit is often $2 or less per pound. Ten eggs cost about 15 cents USD. Fresh loaves of bread at a bakery run about $1.

Romanian produce


I wanted a place where a car wasn’t required. Also, it was important to me that we could get around the country easily to explore without long bus rides (not a fan). I also wanted to be fairly close to an international airport so we could still travel.

Trains in Romania are extremely reasonable. Most cities have a very good public transportation system that is quite inexpensive. On the average, you will pay about 50 cents to ride the bus, tram, or trolley. A train between Brasov and Bucharest costs about $15 if you take the faster one. We recently took a rather long train to the western edge of the country, and it cost $50 total for both of us.

I can get around most of the city of Brasov by taxi for about $2-3 if I don’t want to take the bus for some reason. With the exception of the taxis parked at the train station, they will all automatically use their meters, too, which is something I really appreciate.

There are some really cheap train fares (39€ to Vienna) and airfares ($27 USD to Milan, Italy) from the Bucharest airport (OTP).

Visa Issues

A lot of Europe falls within the Schengen Zone. For most of us that means we can only stay in the entire region for up to 90 days in a 180-day period, unless you get a long-term visa which may be rather complicated (and can require you to have thousands of dollars in the bank, which we don’t).

Romania is not a member of the Zone yet, and prospects aren’t good thanks to the current level of discrimination against the Roma (gypsy) community. Romania has a large population of Roma, and other Schengen countries have protested their admission because of that.

However, they are members of the European Union (EU).

Generally, visitors receive 90 days upon arrival. It is easily extendable, and Romania does not have the nightmare process for obtaining a long-stay visa that many other countries do. A long-term visa (temporary residency) in Romania, gives you freedom of movement within the EU. As most of the Schengen countries are also members of the EU, that can enable us to remain in other areas of Europe longer.


Safety and Comfort

Most of Europe is quite safe; however, Romania actually has one of the lowest crime rates, especially of violent crimes, in the Union. One of its cities (Cluj Napoca) was recently declared the friendliest city in Europe.

Romania is a developing country so it has some of the access and features of a developed nation while retaining some of the simplicity and attributes of a less-developed country. For me this means both modern comfort and charm.


I probably wouldn’t want to undergo a major procedure in Romania, but generally speaking there is good access to medical and dental care. My medications are quite inexpensive ($5 per month for my antihypertensive) and most do not require a physician’s order.


Because our education and income sources all involve working online, I need great access to fast broadband. I have been stunned at the level of available broadband in Romania! The speeds are absolutely incredible, and unlimited fast broadband costs about $10/month. We spent some time with another traveling family in Brasov. They are from Portland, Oregon, and he said he was getting speeds here that were much faster than what he had in the US.

As we’ve traveled around the country and stayed in apartments, guest houses, and studio apartment hotels, the free WiFi has consistently been outstanding.

There are some apps I like to use a lot on my phone, especially when exploring, so I generally like to have a data plan. I currently am using a 250-MB plan (which has been more than enough), and it costs 4€ per month prepaid. A postpaid plan might be even cheaper. I’ve made several phone calls and have done a fair amount of texting, and 1€ lasted me more than a month.

Brasov also has a free citywide WiFi program, and almost every cafe or restaurant offers free WiFi as well.

Romanian mountains

Not heavily touristed

I’m not a fan of places that gets tons of tourism. Romania is still very much “off the radar.” While that makes me happy in some ways, I think it’s a real shame because this country and its people are absolutely worth experiencing.

Romania seems to be stuck between two worlds, and it’s fascinating. There is the very modern side, but take a short ride out of the city and you feel like you’ve stepped into the past where carts being pulled by horses outnumber cars, and homes are still done in the “old way.”

While the country doesn’t have the level of customer service many Americans are used to, I have found the people to be quite warm, helpful, welcoming, and patient.

If you love the outdoors, this is a great place to visit. Brasov is at the base of a ski resort. Just a short distance away you find yourself in the Carpathian mountains with tons of hiking and other nature-loving pursuits.

Like the beach? You’re in luck! In addition to some lakes, the country also borders the Black Sea.

The culture has not really been changed by tourism, and sites are generally uncrowded.

Romanian medieval architecture


After visiting several cities and towns, we selected this mid-size community as our home. It meets all our criteria except for having an international airport. However, Bucharest is about 2-1/2 hours away by train which still makes it a very reasonable base. The train station is a 15-minute bus ride from our home.

Brasov is a transportation hub, so we have lots of train and bus routes that are easily accessible.

There are 2 theaters (not cinema) and a philharmonic orchestra all within an easy walk of the historic center, where we live. I am attending the Philharmonic for a concert, and the ticket cost me $6.

The city is quite walkable, and there is work being done to make it more bike friendly.

It has a great relaxed vibe that we haven’t felt in other similar or larger-sized cities.

Most importantly, it feels like home. When we recently left to explore some other candidate cities, after being here for about 2 weeks, we felt sad to leave. When we decided to return, it felt like we were coming home.

Who knows, we might find another place that’s even better as we continue to travel. But for now, Romania is home, and we’re loving it. I would love to see more people coming to visit this wonderful country.

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  1. Love hearing all your positive accounts of Romania – we were there last month for the first time and it’s now high on our list of places to go back and spend more time

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  2. I was really surprised when I heard that the Romanian language is one of the easiest to learn. Really surprised. I’ve had my heart set on traveling to Romania ever since I watched a documentary about it’s old-world farming practices and its beautiful mountains and forests. It really is one of the least-talked about places for travelers.

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  3. Very detailed post. I was glad that Dojo chimed in, because I was very curious about the Roma. I have heard both sides of the debate while living in Europe and visiting former Soviet Block countries. It would be interesting if any of your views change as you stay longer. It usually does for me. Great post!

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    • One only has to read the news in Europe to see that the Roma are still suffering from a lot of persecution all over the continent. The EU has even had to warn some countries it violates their human rights policies. Not that the Roma have been saints by any means, but it’s a complex issue.

      So far, the more time we spend here the more I like it. Not as thrilled about the attitudes toward LGBT, but am extremely fond of the country.

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  4. I really appreciate you sharing your reasons for staying long term in Romania; it’s one of those romantic countries I have always wanted to visit! I love the Romanian people too.

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  5. “Generally, visitors receive 90 days upon arrival. It is easily extendable…long-stay visa…..(temporary residency)… gives you freedom of movement within the EU… that can enable us to remain in other areas of Europe longer…”

    Holy Smokes, Talon – (esp. given my “How To Piss Off a Thai Consul” post recently), I dare say – I may well be right behind you! Romania sounds perfect (though perhaps not quite as cheap as SEA?). Though I’ve not done a lot of research yet, I too am thinking of resettling on some other continent. Possibly Ecuador, else – actually for some reason Croatia has caught my eye – any thoughts on that for a base?

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    • Brasov is 22% cheaper than KL, and most of Romania is similarly priced.

      I’m currently investigating Croatia as a possible base, too, but have just started looking. Also considering Czech Republic, but they’re in the Schengen Zone which complicates things. Need to find out how hard it is to get a long-stay visa, though.

      Ecuador is quite nice and a great place to live, but the longer visas can be expensive. Although, I don’t know if you fall within the tercera edad age range which would give you some advantages.

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  6. Thanks for the article. I was in Romania for a week helping to get a microfinance organization up and running. Fascinating country. I would like to go back for an extended stay, so I am pleased to learn it is do-able

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  7. Thank you so much for this post! I love my country and I’m glad when someone else can go past all the bad image that it’s projected abroad and see it for what it really is. I am sad that most of Romanians think about our country as a bad place and dream to live abroad, the USA being first on the list.
    Enjoy your time here and write more about your experiences!

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    • I know it has some unusual elements to it, but it does seem to be fairly easy, especially if you have experience with other romance languages.

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  8. Makes me more excited to go. Hoping to confirm soon!

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  9. You sold me Talon. Now I want to go and see before we leave Europe or maybe we shouldn’t leave quite yet. UG, there is so much to do and so much to see. I am glad you found a place to base yourself and travel from there. That is the style that works well for us as well.

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    • I go through that all the time. I like a place, want to settle for a while, but then I think about how much more of the world I still want to see. The nice thing is we have no end date looming over us, so we pretty much have all the time we need. Makes it easier to relax.

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  10. I loved Romania when I was there, and could have quite happily stayed for longer. I adored Brasov, but could have easily stayed in Cluj Napoca or Targu Mures, too (both of which have airports), or even Iasi. Probably not Sibiu – lovely place, but a bit too sleepy for my liking.

    It is nice to unpack and have a base for a while. As much as I’ve not enjoyed being back home in the UK, I have to admit that it’s refreshing to have my own bed, a room with my own stuff in it, and not having to pack up every few days and move on.

    I’m really glad that you’re enjoying Romania. I hope you guys can make it over to Iasi at some point, before it gets too cold, unless you don’t mind braving the weather. And Moldova. MOLDOVA. The red wine is phenomenal – the French guys in the hostel I was staying at actually said it’s better than French red (but not white). Plus Orheiul Vechi is a beautiful site well worth seeing, and Transnistria is just bizarre.

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    • I’m REALLY enjoying the not having to pack every week or so part. It is so nice to not have to live out of the suitcase, too.

      Will definitely be going to TM and Iasi, and Sibiu, to explore. There are so many places here I want to see, and Moldova is definitely on my list. I remember how much you enjoyed your visit there. Really looking forward to visiting many of the countries around here.

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  11. I’d never really thought about going to Romania, but you make it seem very attractive – especially with the cheap transportation. And the city-wide wifi doesn’t hurt. I hope it works out great as a long-term base!

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    • It’s one of those places that doesn’t get a lot of attention, but I hope to get it on more people’s radar.

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  12. I have been to Romania three times. Love the people and the country!

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  13. I love this breakdown of a country!! I’m someone who loves to spend extended periods in foreign countries (at least a couple months). However, most of the countries I’ve lived in so far were for school so that was really the factor I concentrated on. I graduated university in June and have been thinking and debating and comparing countries to determine where to head of to on my own. You bring up a lot of good points to consider. 🙂

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    • That’s our style as well. You really get to see so much more of the culture when you spend an extended time in an area.

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  14. Great post! Every post I read from you guys about Romania gets me more and more excited for our visit! Glad to hear you are enjoying it and have found what seems like a great home base for a while. People at home (back in Canada) are always blown away by the costs of things in Eastern Europe when I tell them (I pay $60 a month for my cell phone at home!). Safe travels!

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    • I think so many people are familiar with the high costs of western Europe that they expect all of Europe to be that way. I know I was shocked the first time someone shared prices in Bulgaria. And it makes me happy because I’ve always wanted to live in Europe but figured the chance to do so was pretty slim, especially living as we do now. I’m not interested in working a 40-hour work week (or more) to be able to live somewhere. Once the kiddo is on his own, perhaps I’ll feel differently. But for now I’m guarding every precious minute I have with him. Eastern Europe has been a fabulous surprise and allows me to have the best of both worlds really.

      Sure hope to meet up with you when you come through Brasov!

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  15. Brasov is a beautiful city, good choice on it. If you’ll get back to Timisoara anytime soon, let me know. Maybe we can chat a little.

    Now about your first impressions:
    1. costs of living – pretty small compared to other countries. The wages are also very small, so it makes sense.
    2. the produce you can find is indeed good. Try the local markets, you can get farmers’ produce and that’s indeed great tasting. Do try the cuisine, unless you’re on a diet, you’ll love it. If you’re on a diet, you have a problem 😀
    3. The gipsies are NOT discriminated against, don’t worry. It’s actually the other way around: they have a lot of privileges and the state is desperately trying to give them the chance to study and become regular taxpayers. The issue is that 99% of them are not interested in this, they’d rater beg, steal or do anything else than work. I hope to god you won’t have to deal with them, it will make you understand why many Romanians don’t like them and why most are ‘shocked’ you’d want to stay here.
    4. The public transportation in many cities is still not that good, but it depends on your needs and expectations. You can do without a car and, if needed, you can even find a cheap car and drive it around.
    5. Let’s hope you don’t need any health assistance or you can pay either the bribes in the hospitals or the private clinics fees. While there are many amazing doctors who really put all their heart and soul into their work (and are grossly underpaid), there are also enough people who would ignore you if you don’t give them a ‘tip’.
    6. Technology wise you should be OK. We have some of the best internet connections in the world, so you surely won’t suffer in this.

    Welcome to our country and let’s hope you’ll have a great stay here. Prepare for the winter, Brasov is amazing during winter (even if it’s pretty cold), you can go skiing pretty soon 😉

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    • I greatly disagree about the Roma and discrimination. They are still quite heavily discriminated against by Romanians as well as much of Europe. Other countries are vetoing their membership in the Schengen Zone because of the Roma influx they fear would happen. Romania’s track record with the Roma has been so poor they were recently warned by an EU commission.

      My point, however, was not to start a debate about the plight of the Roma in Romania but noting that other countries’ prejudice has limited Romania’s entrance into the Schengen agreement.

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      • I have no interest in starting any debates, but you’ll see in the next months. Now it’s too soon to make an impression. The issue is that many have gone outside the borders and taken our ‘name’ to a totally undeserved ‘level’. I visited Spain and was told NOT to speak Romanian, since I might be mistaken for a gypsy. I have a friend in Italy who’s living/working there and she doesn’t have the courage to say where she’s from. I haven’t yet set foot in France for the same reason: I’m afraid of the locals’ reaction when they’ll see Romania on my passport.

        We’re both (self and husband) 2 hard working people and have traveled all over the world. We focused on the countries were our ‘roma’ friends haven’t set foot (or are not in such huge numbers), so that we’re not getting any bad reactions from the locals. And I can actually understand them, when a lot of the people who come from Romania are there to steal/beg and make you miserable, you clearly start having an aversion towards anyone who’s coming from there.

        We missed the Schengen opportunity for 2 main reasons (and they don’t actually have anything to do with the gypsies – again, THEY ARE NOT DISCRIMINATED AGAINST, we mainly avoid them since we’re SCARED): the border corruption (which is huge) and the fact last year our current prime-minister tried to get the President down. The political issues and the fact we do have some pretty serious corruption at the border were what made us not get into Schengen. Europe is ‘enjoying’ their time with our gypsies (now many are outside the country anyway), so they’re starting to see the real problem.

        Right now in Romania there are a lot of people who pay taxes, earn small wages and get a crap service from the State. The gypsies have FREE school opportunities (whereas many of us have PAID for our college) and we try to help them get jobs/education. But it’s not something they want to do. I have known FEW of them and had no issues whatsoever. There’s even a neighbor who’s a gypsy and we get along great, he’s minding his own business and never caused any issues. But we also had many issues with others, who are not that civil.

        In my city (Timisoara, since you already visited it), most of the buildings you see in the Center area are now owned by them. Here is how they did it: 1. got some FALSE paperwork showing they inherited the place, bribed their way up and got the buildings or 2. rightfully purchased a small apartment in a building (in some of them there are 2-3 families at least) and then TERRORIZED the neighbours and forced them to sell. I have a friend who was renting a small apartment and lucky for her she had a huge Terra Nova dog, otherwise they were this close to lynching her in her ‘own’ apartment, just to force her out.

        As long as you had absolutely nothing to do with them, it’s all OK. I really hope you’ll just see them from the distance. Yes, they have picturesque clothing and are interesting to watch. Some of them are good people and no Romanian in his right minds would have anything against them. I mean I used to tutor 2 kids and they were really sweet. The parents paid me in time and were really good people. Far from me to be a racist or anything, because it’s really not the case. But in many cases CAUTION can save you a great deal of pain. Again, I really hope you’ll always get to have excellent experiences with them and never have to suffer from their actions.

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        • Whether one agrees or disagrees with the discrimination, we can easily see that the Roma topic is one that stirs a lot of feelings from people.

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  16. You make a lot of really great points – I was shocked at how much of the language I could understand when being fluent, and the visa issue is a total non-problem! you know I loved Romania when I visited, so I’m glad you’re enjoying it!

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  17. Thank you for all your kind words, Romania is definitely one of the most beautiful countries in Europe. Take your time to visit Maramures as well, and Apuseni Mountains, you will for sure love the traditions:) I hope your entire stay will prove to be a lovely experience.

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    • Maramures is definitely on our list. I think in spring, we will rent a car so that we can visit more of the small villages more easily. Rural Romania has such a great charm.

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  18. Hey Talon. I just found this blog by mistake. I live in Brasov as well and am really glad you like it here. If the weather warms up a bit it would be my pleasure to take you two climbing at Solomon canyon just at the edge of the city. If you are interested, send me an email @ maz.bogdan@gmail.com


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    • Thanks, Maz! I don’t know about climbing (although my son would probably be interested), but always happy and eager to make new local friends.

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  19. As always, an entertaining read! What is the weather like? In other pictures you have posted I saw snow. For some reason I relate Romania with “cold”. Do you see warm sun in your future? Does that matter to you boys? Can’t wait to hear more about your travels around Europe! Peace and Love!

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    • We had an early snowfall in the beginning of October. Since then it’s been absolutely gorgeous. In the beginning of November, we’re still seeing sunny skies with daytime temps into the 20s (Celsius). At nighttime, it’s still pretty comfortable at about 6.

      Wintertime will definitely see more cold, especially in Brasov since we’re in the foothills of the Carpathians. From what I’ve seen online, though, it isn’t what I would consider harsh cold, but we also lived in Colorado in the US for several years and had some really cold temps.

      We spent about 7 months of this year in eternal heat, so the cooler temperatures are actually a nice break for us. Fall has been incredibly lovely. We’re still wearing shorts during the daytime! I’m sure when winter is done, we’ll be very happy for spring’s warmth.

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  20. You’ve convinced me! I have just emailed the link to my husband and said we need to go to Romania for an extended period at some point lol. Thanks for the post 🙂

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  21. I’m sold! It sounds like a wonderful and affordable place to visit. I especially love the low tourist numbers. There is such a discrimination against Romanians in Italy because of the high crime rates in the gypsy community. I would love to see the real side of their culture.

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    • I think that extends to other places as well. It confuses me why Romania is so far off the radar because it has so much to offer. I think all the negative attention about the Roma is a big slice of it.

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  22. Awesome, Talon! Thanks for all the great info! We’ll definitely consider Romania for a long-term base in the future!

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  23. Enjoy your stay!

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  24. Talon,

    Thanks for all of the info on RO and Brasov. I leave for my open-ended journey on Nov 30, landing in Stockholm ($188 non-stop from Fort Lauderdale!), then spending about two months exploring Western Europe. I have a good friend in Bucharest who is constantly telling me how awesome Brasov is, and I’ve been planning for a long time to experience Romania for at least a month. So after a lot of moving around in the Schengen for 60 days I’ll head to “Little Paris” and other corners of Romania for a nice long period of catching up with myself.

    Your specific tips in this post and others about RO transportation, tech, food, and what to see, as well as your impressions of the people and culture are all really helpful. I’m excited that soon I’ll get to personally experience all of that while also apparently giving my wallet a bit of a respite as well. 🙂

    As usual a terrific post.

    – Jev

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    • Sounds like you have a great journey planned! Lovely! I hope you do make it up to our little slice of heaven here in Brasov. Let me know when you’re heading up this way. If we’re here, would love to connect in person.

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  25. Someone at Romanian tourism should be paying you 😉 Your apartment is so nice, totally makes me want to consider it.

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  26. It’s an interesting choice, that’s for sure, but everyone I know who’s been to Romania has loved it. I think you’re a little unkind about Asian produce — so with you on Australian stuff, unless you pay triple dollars for the good things. But let’s not get me started on Australia.

    Provided — and that’s a big proviso — that you shop local-style at markets for the stuff the locals buy, Asia has amazing produce: fiddleheads, mangosteens, fresh pineapple, calamansi, amazing seafood, sea grapes, longans, lychee, mushrooms, leaves, stems. But, yes, Europe’s much better for the classic Anglo-American fruit and veg choices.

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    • Yes, I was referring to things like bell peppers, tomatoes, apples, pears, and things like that. Asia definitely kicks butt on seafood and tropical fruits.

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  27. Interesting and helpful. Will you be writing about your experiences with LGBT attitudes in Romania?

    For me, that’s a concern about Eastern and Central Europe but things are changing very quickly in a lot of places. So I’d love to hear more about this…

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    • Most definitely. Since Romania is part of the EU, they had to enact antidiscrimination legislation; however, general attitudes haven’t changed much. They don’t get a lot of exposure to it. Cluj has an annual LGBT film festival, and this year the Pride festival in Bucharest wasn’t marked by violence and massive protests like in the past, so things are moving forward. Just quite slowly.

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    • And why would that concern you? When people mind their own business, such things don’t become a concern.

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  28. All good reasons! Abi and I hope to explore eastern Europe one day – looking forward to more updates!

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  29. I am so happy you like Romania. I am part Romanian and lived for a good amount of years in Bucharest and Constanta (the seaside). I absolutely love it. People are friendly and the misconceptions about the country are just that: misconceptions. You will adore Christmas traditions in Romania and in Brasov especially, they have one of the best traditions in the country which your son will love. Enjoy the country and hopefully more people will get to see it as you do.

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  30. The “why would you move HERE?!” mentality is, FYI, pretty universal in much of Eastern Europe and not just Romania. My brother lived in Budapest for two years, and he said he was asked why he’d want to live there as an American at least once a week.

    The classic to the both of us though was when we went to the office to finally get our Hungarian citizenship papers, and after the bureaucrat handed them over she confirmed “wait, so you want your citizenship so you can LIVE here?” When we affirmed, her answer was “why?” Repeat: the lady who’s job is welcoming us into the fold, so to speak, has no idea why Americans would want such a worthless citizenship to live in her country!

    I think there’s definitely a “grass is greener”/ prisoner mentality to much of Eastern Europe and that’s why a lot of this happens there.

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    • I can believe it. I think that’s common in many parts of the world. I think when people live somewhere simply because that’s where they grew up, they can’t afford to move, they can’t leave family behind, etc., they tend to not see the treasures a visitor may experience.

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