A Travellers Guide to Romania

A member of the European Union since 2007, Romania is a country of almost 92,000 square miles - roughly the same as the UK - but with a population of only 22m people.

This one time communist state has borders with Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, the Republic of Moldova and the Ukraine. To the east it has a Black Sea coastline of about 120 miles. The Carpathian Mountains are in the north east and the Transylvanian Alps are in the centre. The Danube marks the southern border.

Bucharest, the capital, is in the south and home to 2m Romanians. Other major cities include Arad, Oradea and Timisoara to the far west, the Black Sea town of Constanta (the country's largest port) to the east, and the centrally situated Brasov and Sibiu.

Principal tourist destinations are Bucharest, Black Sea resorts such as Mamaia, Eforie, Neptun, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn and Mangalia, and mountain resorts such as the Prahova Valley close to Brasov.

There are also many spas (offering mud baths and various cures and reinvigorating treatments) and national parks, and ancient towns such as Tirgoviste, the 15th century capital ruled over by Vlad the Impaler - immortalised in literature as Count Dracula.

Ski resorts include Poiana Brasov, the most developed although still small by western European standards, Busteni and Predeal.

The main international airport is Bucharest-Otopeni (opened in 1970), located just over 10 miles from central Bucharest. Constanta - Mihail Kogalniceanu, Timisoara, Arad, Sibiu, Suceava also have international airports.

Romania generally has warm summers but cold winters when the average temperature is minus 3 degrees C. The mean annual temperature is 11 degrees C in the south and 8 degrees C in the north.

Annual rainfall is highest in the mountains but otherwise rises from east to west.

Reforms since the 1989 fall of the Ceausescu regime and more recently entry into the EU, Romania has experienced economic major development and advances in its infrastructure including new motorways. Arrival of international banks has made finance, including mortgages for house purchase, more readily available.

The Foreign Office says most visits to Romania are trouble free although like most places there is an underlying threat from terrorism. The main types of incident for which British nationals required consular assistance in Romania in 2007 involved petty crime, especially replacing lost or stolen passports. 'Beware of young pickpockets in city centres especially in crowded areas', it warns.

Visitors are advised 'to maintain at least the same level of personal security awareness as in the UK'.

Health risks include rabies - there have been outbreaks in rural areas - and Hepatitis. There have also been outbreaks of Avian Influenza in the Danube Delta, Transylvania and Bucharest although the Romanian authorities have taken measures to contain the outbreaks and the risk to humans is believed to be very low - no human infections or deaths have been reported.

Other possible hazards include earthquakes, which are not uncommon in southern and south western Romania, with small tremors recorded throughout the year. The last major earthquake was in late November 2005 although there were no casualties or significant damage.

Property prices, especially in Bucharest, have been rising fast with annual increases of 30 per cent to 40 per cent not uncommon. Demand, both local and from overseas investors, has outstripped supply of modern dwellings. With a strong economy, supply is likely to be behind supply for some time to come.

Romania has a land registry and the buying process follows the continental model, with the formal paperwork - including a purchase contract and final contract and registration - overseen by an official notary.

Until the EU entry non-Romanian citizens were not allowed to own land. However that changed with EU membership. Now EU citizens can acquire land in Romania, subject to a five year deferral in the case of residential property and seven years in that of agricultural land, forests and forestry. When the deferral period expires the ownership of the land will pass to the buyer.

None of this affects the ability of the foreign buyers to rent their properties or to sell them before the deferral period expires.


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