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What It’s Like To Live In Bucharest, Romania

Bucharest, Romania

While it is true that I tend to speak positively about almost every destination I visit, there’s a simple explanation for that. My views about a particular city, or even country, have little to do with the tourist attractions that may or may not exist or about the number of chances to take stunning photos that I may have during my stay.

Instead, I formulate my opinions based upon my interactions with local people, my wanderings around random, everyday neighborhoods and my keen interest in trying to ‘feel’ a destination as opposed to simply seeing it.

And when travel is approached in this manner, it is, quite frankly, difficult not to enjoy every single destination that one visits. One no longer needs to be ‘wowed’ by a castle or impressed by a museum. One only needs to wake up and walk outside, treating every moment as a potential, and interesting, learning opportunity, in order to fully appreciate your surroundings and have a most rewarding travel experience.

So it goes for me these days with Bucharest, Romania.

I’ve been living in Bucharest on and off now for about five months. I’ll tell you, the city is not an overly pretty one and it definitely lacks a ‘wow factor’ to impress foreign visitors. There’s a lot of gray, there’s no shortage of neglected buildings, communist-style apartment blocks and unattractive graffiti, and at first, it can appear as an overall gloomy place, which is why most travelers rarely stick around for more than two or three days.

But I feel quite lucky that I decided to stick around myself as the more I stay in Bucharest, the more I discover a city that deserves to be noticed by more people.

The problem is that most of Bucharest’s charm and appeal lies hidden, tucked far away into corners of the city that the overwhelming majority of travelers will undoubtedly never find. Most visitors seem to spend their time hanging around the pleasant, yet very small, Old City (Lipscani), but this area represents the tiniest fraction of what this city actually has to offer.

You need some time to discover the rest. You need to make connections with local Romanians who will guide you in the right direction and you need to explore every street and lane with the understanding that quite often, one must search behind the dark gray facade in order to find the cafes, jazz clubs, galleries and exhibition halls, parks, restaurants, independent cinemas and more that give this city an entirely different energy and identity.

For example, you can easily find an overpriced restaurant in the Old City, but just wait until you discover places such as Clubul Taranalui, a wonderful open-air eatery attached to the interesting Museum of the Romanian Peasant at Piata Victoriei, where the below feast of traditional Romanian food and local wine costs a mere $10 USD per person…

Dinner at Clubul Taranului

Cafes are plentiful (that’s a huge understatement) in the Old City as well given the strong cafe culture, but what about the unique and infinitely more atmospheric gathering establishments in the neighborhoods that you would never visit unless a local Romanian told you to. That’s how I found the splendid Reader’s Cafe in Dorobanti, the very cool Ceai La Metoc in Cartierul Armenesc and the very laid-back Serendipity Cafe in Gradina Icoanei, all of which are some of my favorite hangouts in Bucharest.

Throw in the theaters and concert halls, an excellent and varied local cuisine, diverse nightlife and a long list of warm weather events, and I was hooked.

Of course, I am perfectly aware that all of these things can be found in just about every city on the planet, but that’s not the point. The reason I love Bucharest is not because it has parks, cafes and art galleries. It’s because I’ve discovered so many appealing places which have given me a more complete picture of this city, places that I would never have found and enjoyed had I stayed for just a few days and moved on, never to return again.

City Center, Bucharest, Romania

Besides, Bucharest is also an extremely affordable destination and it’s shockingly easy to meet people here and to have a social life, even if you don’t know anyone when you arrive. It’s quite conveniently located as well, with not only the rest of Romania to explore, but other countries such as Moldova, Ukraine, Hungary, Serbia and Bulgaria just one border crossing away. And a short flight to Istanbul (55 minutes) connects you with the rest of the world.

All I know is that Bucharest is quite an ideal place for me to spend some time, especially considering that, after ten years or so of bouncing around the planet non-stop, this other side of travel, the more in-depth connection with a destination, its culture and its people, is exactly what I now crave.

Conclusion

It would be foolish of me not to recognize the fact that many locals here might disagree with some of my thoughts. I’ve met many who have a long list of complaints about this city and who are quite interested in ‘getting out of here’ and moving elsewhere in Europe or to countries on other continents.

So I must emphasize that this post is from the point of view of a foreigner, from someone who loves to travel and learn about other cultures and who also happens to work online, something that gives me the freedom to spend my days exploring and enjoying as much as possible.

But with that said, that’s exactly the point of view I wanted to provide here because I think that travelers who are searching for a destination to live or spend an extended period of time in, would be wise to add Bucharest to their list of options. If you stick around instead of passing through quickly, this city is almost guaranteed to surprise you in ways that you could never imagine when you first arrive.


Any thoughts on Bucharest or even the experiences offered by such slow, less-exciting forms of travel?

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130 Responses to What It’s Like To Live In Bucharest, Romania

  1. Richard says:

    Thanks Earl! Will do.We we’re recommended to a local guide from a friend that lives in Constanta. Best Regards.

  2. Richard says:

    Hello from Texas Earl!
    I just came across your blog.Thanks for sharing your experience in Bucharest.My wife of 19 years will be celebrating our Anniversary in Romania! I’m sure Bucharest is a “must see” city to visit.I like your style in traveling.Cheers!

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Richard – It’s definitely an interesting city and be sure to head north as well to places such as Brasov, Sighisoara and Sibiu! And happy anniversary!!

  3. Mike says:

    Hey Earl,

    Any idea what the English teaching market is like there in Bucharest? It’s near the top of my list of places I would like to live and work in. I’m an American so I’ll have to get over the visa hurdle, but I’m ok with that. I’m more concerned that there won’t be any work to be had. Any ideas? Thanks!

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Mike – There are some opportunities to teach English here, not as many as some of the surrounding countries though. Most people under the age of 35 speak quite fluent English and English is used much more than in the rest of Eastern Europe. But I have met foreigners who have taught English at a language schools in the city.

  4. Mick says:

    I actually like charming European “old cities” and get a little depressed by excessive concrete Soviet “commie blocks.” On the other hand, the local-recommended places you mentioned sound like things right up my alley.

    Assuming money is not a factor, what would be the ideal and most convenient area for me to live in in your opinion?

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Mick – It really depends on what you’re looking for. The city is not so big so most areas are quite convenient to everything else. The city center (Lipscani) has most of the nightlife and is naturally the most central part of the city. There is also Floreasca which is quite nice, or some of the neighborhoods near Piata Romana. If you look at the metro map, I would say that anywhere within the main metro loop (yellow line) is ideal.

  5. Bucharest Hangover says:

    Feels great to discover that foreigners speak so nice about this city. Indeed, for many living here there are a lot of complains comparing to other cities from Europe. One thing is for sure: you have to live here or at least know somebody here to give you some details. The city has a lot to offer from stories, meaningful places to an outrageous nightlife. Bucharest is well known for its clubs and more on that about the alternatives you have during a citybreak or a short visit. We have friends from all over the world and we are happy to meet new ones and plan a city getway. In fact, the large number of them are coming to Bucharest every time they have the opportunity. This is why we say that it is “a place you will love to come back”.

  6. Dear Earl, Thanks for sharing! I go over Easter break to Bucharest, there is not that much documentated about nice things to do. We backpacked in the 90ths but still like to go like backpackers only we stay in nice hotels (our days in dorms and rockbottom accommodations/hostels are over ;-) By the way I got your blog tip via Dutch blogger, @ExploristaNL

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Agnes – If you need any tips for Bucharest, just let me know!

      • Theopolina katega says:

        Hey there, reading your article really made me nervous yet excited, I plan on transferring from Donetsk Ukraine to Bucharest for studies in a medical school. I am not sure if lt is a wise idea or not.i don’t much about Romania either .I am from South Africa. Would you prefer Ukraine than Romania? I am looking for a city where I can interact with the locals and just experience other culture during my studies. Yet affordable , safe and clean or peaceful .please advice. Thanks

        • Wandering Earl says:

          That really depends on your preferences but I personally prefer Bucharest. I like the vibe, the people and lifestyle that one can have in that city.

          • alex says:

            Hi Earl! Really glad you like Bucharest! You made me feel better about my home city after reading a horrible article on it (mightyheaton.com/2007/07/19/bucharest/#comment-165735)

  7. Alexandra Constantin says:

    Hi ! I am so pleased to read this article on your blog ! I was born and raised in Bucharest and every tourist I meet here says something like “If only more people knew”. I believe from the tourist point of view Bucharest is an awesome destination, there are plenty of things to do, you can find anything you need. There are also lots of places hidden away in corners of the city, most tourists wouldn’t think to visit. And that’s one of the city’s problems. You have to travel quite a lot to find a nice place, and it’s usually surrounded by grey buildings, or whatever. However the center of the city is quite large, and there are many places to visit. Romanians want to get out of here because of the poverty. Whilst it is cheap to live here, the wages are so low many Romanians cannot afford to eat at a restaurant. So I would not recommend living here on our wages, unfortunately. Adding to what Earl said, we are very happy to meet foreigners and we can impress you with our culture. To add to our compliment list, even my grandma speaks English, and I’m not kidding !

  8. Mark says:

    Hi Earl,

    Just got back home after spending a bit over two months in Bucharest. You are definitely right ! The city might not be as impressive as other European capitals, but man, after two week I just got to love it. Bucharest has succeeded to attract me in so many ways, that I even considered living there permanently. I found there a way of living beyond everything I have experienced in the US. Making friends in Bucharest is unbelievable easy, socializing there is really unique. The city has a vibrant cultural life, it beats most of places I have been to. Parts of the city are flooded with communist block of flats, but the center is packed with lots of nice, historical buildings. Americans might not believe, but the city is sophisticated in many ways. It’s got fabulous restaurants serving fresh fish, huge number of cafes, bars, night clubs…..Life is easy and nice for foreigners (I met many of the in the expat community), everything is much cheaper than anywhere else I have been to. Had I been offered a good job there, I wouldn’t have hesitated to move to Bucharest. As I said, I’ve seen many cities across Europe, but Bucharest impressed like no other. I went there for two weeks only, but I ended up staying over two months…..it felt so great, it almost felt like home, is really strange. I got home now, but I feel the urge to go back there….

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Mark – That’s pretty much how a lot of people feel once they spend some time in this city. Thank you for sharing your experience and how to see you back here at some point!

  9. Alexander says:

    Is bucharest a nice place to study?

  10. AK says:

    how’s the crime rate? noticed any homeless, pickpockets, prostitutes or drunkards? how safe is it for a foreigner to take a walk in the evening or night? are there any religious and political violence?

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey AK – Crime is very low, it’s a very safe place to be. You don’t have to worry about pickpockets or anything like that…you can walk around at any time of day or night, no problems at all. And no violence either…one of the main reasons Bucharest is rapidly growing as a destination for foreigners looking to live somewhere interesting is because of its safety.

  11. Rick Rhodes says:

    Doesn’t it cost a lot of money to live in Bucharest, Romania & r their alot of Americans their. Since U would like to vacation their soon.

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Rick – Bucharest is quite inexpensive and you could live well here for around $750 USD per month or so. And there are a handful of Americans here and a big group of other foreigners as well who spend a lot of time in this city.

  12. Katherine says:

    hey earl. nice blog. how easy is it to find somewhere super cheap to live in bucharest for a few weeks or months? we’re thinking of chucking it all in and starting our own nomadic adventure. bucharest seems a good place to start.

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Katherine – Bucharest is a great place to start but it is a bit tricky to find an apartment here as there is just very little information. The best option at the moment is to look on AirBnB.com and to contact apartment owners and try to negotiate a lower monthly rate. The good news is that there aren’t many foreigners coming here yet so many times the apartment owners on airbnb.com will be willing to reduce their rates quite a bit.

  13. michael hegyan says:

    Thanks Earl for the reply,

    Keep up the good adventure

  14. michael Hegyan says:

    Hello,
    I found your adventure in Romania quiet interesting. My Grandfather was born in Bucharest. Grandmother from Hungary. I often thought of exploring my roots there.
    I work in the financial industry(investment banker), how is the lifestyle(live in Chicago?).

    • Wandering Earl says:

      Hey Michael – The lifestyle is very nice here for foreigners. Your money goes quite far. It’s not Chicago or NYC in terms of the amount of things to do and the activity level, it’s much more relaxed and quiet, but you still have everything you could possibly need in my opinion.

  15. Kaelos says:

    Do the locals know English? How was communication with the locals for you?

  16. Pingback: How I Choose My Destinations & Prepare For Each Trip - Wandering Earl

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