Romania is a truly beautiful country, and one of the best ways to see it is by car. Unfortunately, Romania is also a very complicated country to drive in: roads are often in terrible condition, and it has the highest number of road deaths per million in the EU.
Don’t let that put you off, however. Plenty of tourists drive around Romania every year and, if you are careful, you’ll have nothing but a fantastic experience.
Take out car insurance
Although I get upsold it a lot, I rarely take out the most expensive car insurance policy. In Romania, however, I did take the upsell and I’m really glad I did.
I left the car rental company (Klass Wagen) thinking I’d fallen for a sales technique but, as soon as I got out of Bucharest and onto some real Romanian roads, I realised that the person was telling the truth.
During the trip around Transylvania, I can’t count the number of things that hit the car or the number of potholes I wasn’t able to avoid. The roads were so bad that I lost count.
Had I not taken out the policy, I would have spent the whole trip worrying about the huge bill I was going to get at the end. Instead, I was able to enjoy the trip.
Expect traffic jams during the holidays
During major holidays like Easter or other public holidays, most Romanians like to get out of the city and into the mountains or towards the Black Sea. The cities empty, and just about everyone in Romania hits the roads.
Unfortunately, this means there are big queues of traffic on the roads particularly near the popular mountain resorts. The traffic jams leading into these towns can go on for miles and miles, and you could easily spend hours just sitting in traffic. That’s definitely not how you want to spend your time in Romania.
If you are planning on heading to the mountains as well, get up as early as possible to do it (dawn is a good time to aim for).
Keep to the speed limit
Outside of Bucharest, speed limits are rarely observed and there are very few police or speed cameras to enforce them. Driving at the speed limit may mean that you end up annoying other drivers, but don’t let that force you to speed. There are a lot of accidents on the road in Romania, and this is just one of the many ways that one could happen.
The speed limits are as follows:
- 50 km/h in built-up areas
- 90 km/h outside of the built-up areas
- 100 km/h on dual carriageways
- 130 km/h on motorways
Be particularly careful to slow down when you drive through small villages, as a lot of children play on or near the roads.
Many roads aren’t tarmacked
Head off the main roads and into the smaller villages in Transylvania and other rural parts of Romania, and you’ll likely end up on dirt roads. These roads can be fairly bumpy and dusty, and it’s best to keep to a low speed and look out for potholes.
People will stare at your car
The more rural you go, the more likely people are to stare at your car. I didn’t really understand why this was at first but, after reading other people’s accounts of the same experience, it has to do with the Bucharest licence plates (assuming that’s where your rented your car).
People from the capital are treated with suspicion it seems, and any car with Bucharest plates deserves a good stare.
Watch out for horse-drawn carriages
Romania has a large Roma community who travel around the country in old horse-drawn carriages, and you’ll pass a lot of them on the road. These guys are all over the country, and you should always be on the lookout for them especially when you’re coming around corners.
You’ll also come across plenty of farmers pulling trailers or ploughs by horse, and you’ll need to keep an eye out for these as well.
Don’t miss the Transfăgărășan road
Don’t miss the opportunity to drive on one of the most famous roads in the world, the 90 km long Transfăgărășan Road. This road runs trough the Fagaras mountains, and has more hairpin turns, tunnels, and viaducts than any other road in Romania.
Because it’s potentially quite a dangerous road to drive on, the maximum speed is 40km/h. The road is also only open between late June and early October, as the weather is too bad the rest of the year.
Have you driven in Romania? Do you have any tips to share with other drivers? Let us know your thoughts and tips by leaving a comment below.