Bucharest, Romania

What It’s Like To Live In Bucharest, Romania

Derek Romania 200 Comments

Live In 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 as I live in 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 longer I live 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…

Live In Bucharest - 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 to live in 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.

Live In Bucharest - 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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Comments 200

  1. Antoaneta

    Well, it’s my city, and I love it, against all odds. For its hundred years old houses with a front and not a backyard, for the garden restaurants and bars, for the beautiful parks, interesting museums (in the National Museum of Art you can see the evolution from the Oriental influence to the Western one, in paintings), lively bars, great theater and opera. For the amazing street food you can’t find in Western capitals: covrigi, placinte, merdenele (big fan of the latest:) So thank for taking your time there.

  2. Princess Kiara

    Hi!
    I wonder, how good a place is Bucharest for studying the university? /is obsessed with going to Romania and can only go to study
    Thanks!

    1. Wandering Earl

      @Princess Kiara – Well, I didn’t study there but there are a lot of foreign students studying in Bucharest. From what I’ve read, the education system is very good and the city is definitely a fun place to be once you stick around.

  3. Amy

    My husband and our seven children are fixing to move to Romania. How much would you think a family of nine would need to live? What about the schools ? Anyone know anything about them? What about furniture? would it be better to buy new there or ship our stuff? Earl we will be there this fall. We would love to meet you if you are still around .

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Amy – I don’t know much about the schools there but as for furniture, they have places like IKea and other shops as well where you can buy whatever you need. You won’t have any problem finding that over there. As for costs of living, it all depends where you live in the country. The cost of living in Bucharest is higher than other parts of the country. But if it is Bucharest, I would say you could live on $2000 USD per month or so. A large 3 or 4 bedroom apartment would run about 700 Euros if you don’t mind living 20 minutes or so away from the city center by tram.

      1. Princess Kiara

        What!? $2,000 a month!? And how pe Pământ am I supposed to earn all of that!? (I’ll be 18 then, and still studying. My parents can’t support me beyond the borders of Mexico. I’m willing to work hard, but there’s not much I can do ATM beyond translation between English and Spanish. Is that profitable în România?)
        …Oh, wait. Family of *nine*. Phew!
        How much would it cost, then, for me, on average, to rent a little apartment or whatever, to live?
        Mulțumesc mult pentru o răspuns, Dl. Earl!

        1. Alexandra

          Hi Princess Kiara. To rent a room in a flat would be around 200 euros, that s if you want to share it with someone. I am romanian and all my friends are studying in Bucharest so I can give you some advice if you want. I can also speak spanish so if you need help put down your email address and we can talk.

        2. Wandering Earl

          Salut Kiara – You could get a little apartment for around 300 Euros per month or even less if you just rent a room in an apartment. And then it depends on your lifestyle but it’s definitely possible to live in Bucharest for under $800 USD per month.

  4. Abdul

    Hi Alexandra,

    I am in bucharest now from the last 50 days and have been exploring bucharest. But i am planning to go out of bucharest and see the real romania. Your help will be greatly appreciated.

    Br,

    Abdul,
    shakoorkh@hotmail.com

  5. Alexandra

    Hi Earl. There are of course a lot of nice places worth visiting, not only in Bucharest but also in the outskirts and you wouldn`t know about them unless you are local or have friends that go there.

    Nightife is also very good , you might know that already especially because of the wide range of choices.

    It would be nice if you also have the chance to leave Bucharest and go to Maramures ( North Romania ) , visit the monasteries in Moldova, see Transfagarasan or just do hiking in the mountains. The you can get a better feeling of the traditional Romania which I personally like the most.

    And a message for everyone : you should never leave Romania without trying homemade `Palinca`. I will let you discover what that is by yourselves, but I can only tell you I have friends around the world that want to come visit me only for that reason !

    In case anyone wants more details or tips for their trip to Romania, leave down your email address and I would be happy to help.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Multumesc Alexandra! And I agree with all you said…Bucharest is all about the neighborhoods that only locals know about. And I’ve been to a few of the places you mentioned already but will hopefully get to more of them soon 🙂

      And I like to finish every meal over there with a nice big dose of tuica!

  6. Alexandra

    Hi Earl,
    It is really impressive how you took time to write so many nice things about Bucharest. There are a few people that decide to travel there, and the ones that do, seem to like it. I am also from Bucharest but I live in Switzerland now. I haven’t really met a lot of people that consider Romania a potential destination, probably because of the prejudices about East European countries in general. Also, people tend to think Romanians don’t speak English but most of us do and the ones that don’t have funny ways to make you understand and feel confortable anyway. We are happy to meet foreigners all the time and plus most of us speak spanish/ italian which is a surprise for west Europe or other continents, because they don`t know that Romanian is a latin language.

    I am happy to see that a lot of people are interested in visiting, and I could also give some advice about hidden nice places worth seeing !

    1. Wandering Earl

      Salut Alexandra! I think you summed it up perfectly because most travelers I know who go to Romania end up very surprised for the reasons you mentioned. Romanians speak incredible English (as well as so many other languages – lucky you!), it’s very friendly and easy to meet people, it’s easy to get around the country and there is so much to see and do.

      As for advice about hidden places…do let us know! I’ll be back in Bucharest in about a month and would love to hear your suggestions.

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  8. radu

    glad to see that there are still foreigners out there liking our city. i grew up here, it’s where i belong. fact: after reading your post, i can tell you that you still didn’t discovered bucharest and it’s greatness but at least you gave it a chance. good luck in your travelling.

  9. robert barker

    Hi Earl,
    Loved the blog about Bucharest and was hoping you could give me some advice on travelling to the city?
    I am planning my bachelor party for around 12 guys from London to Bucharest this September. Could you give me any recommendations as to which areas/hotels to stay in and any other advice you feel might help. I would also be interested in hiring a guide for the weekend, if that’s something you might be interested in or could recommend someone?

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Robert – I’m not actually in Bucharest at the moment…I left a few months ago for some traveling and won’t be back until April I think. But the area you want to stay in is anywhere in or near the Old City (Lipscani). The whole city is quite accessible though so it’s hard to be too far away from the main area of all the bars/clubs. As for a guide, I don’t really know of anyone off the top of my head but if I think of someone, I’ll let you know!

  10. Abdul

    Hi,

    How are you. I will be relocating to Bucharest in the next week for my new Job. I am in search of a flat or room, also just brief me a bit about the living conditions in Bucharest. Hows the weather now a days, what sort of clothes i need and etc etc.
    I would appreciate if you can help me out in this regard.i would like to live near lake view building, 2nd District, Bucharest.

    many thanks,
    Abdul.

  11. Abdul

    Hi Radu,

    thanks for coming back to me. I will be spending much time at office in bucharest. but would like to go for an outing at night. like have a sheesha or just hang out with some one.
    otherwise watching TV at home or surf on the internet can also do for me. But i am a kind of open guy and want to try different things every now and then.

    cheers,

    abdul.

  12. Radu

    Hi Abdul,

    $3000 is more than enough. You can easily live with $1000/month and save the other 2….but it also depends on your lifestyle. If you like to go partying in expensive clubs 3 days/week, eat at nice restaurants and buy brand clothes, then 3000 might not be enough 🙂

  13. Abdul

    Hi Guys,

    hope you all are having a nice time. I am currently planning to relocate to Bucharest for a job, which seems to be a long term job.
    Can anybody give me a rough idea about the living cost in Bucharest like flat rents, food, visa process for ex-pat workers.
    i would be interested in living at the 2nd District area. i would be earning 3000 US$ or so. is it enough for living and saving something at Bucharest .

    good day….

    Abdul.

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  17. Monica

    The 20 eur is a mistake, when I re-read it I said the same thing. Of course you can’t find places where you can eat with 20 eur and I found them occasionally but is not my common experience.
    I never calculated the money I spend, but I succeed to spend a lot (without much shopping, with a cheap rent – was a friend’s of mine apartment but with vacations included – not many not expensive – but could count as 150-200 EUR per month – considering that the rent my was cheaper with 150 EUR …. we could ignore vacations).

      1. Monica

        Nope,
        Now I’m in Romania but Bacau-Targu Ocna. But I’m coming to Bucharest every month more or less…
        In the beginning of October I leave for Indonesia for 6 months. Perhaps I’ll be able to spend less in Indonesia. :))
        Anyway here (in Targu Ocna) I’m not spending at all :))

  18. Radu

    @Andrew,

    I’m a local in Bucharest and I need about $650 to live here. This includes rent, home expenditures, food, transportation and going out. But I’d say you’d need up to $1000/month in order to live here comfortably and not have to think about every penny you spend.

    If you’re planning to come over here give me shout at radu.vrabie at gmail dot com and I’ll help you out as much as I can.

    Cheers!

  19. Andrew

    Hey Earl,

    Out of interest (and apologies if a previous commenter has asked), what’s the approx costs of living for example rent/weekly food/wifi/transport ?

    I appreciate these will vary depending on living the high life or on the cheap, just after a rough idea.

    Cheers,

    Andrew

    1. Monica

      Hi Andrew,

      I’m posting the amounts in EUR because is easier for me, multiply with 1.23 for USD.
      You need 300-400EUR for a studio or apartment. Perhaps 500 with nice furniture. Of course you can find a very nice villa for thousand(s) of euros but I suppose is not what you’re looking for. Also I suppose you’ll not find something cheaper, not that is not possible but would be ugly and far away.
      I might be wrong I suppose some others will post more on this subject.

      Household expenses + internet connection and so on ~100 EUR or a little more in winter. (Internet connection is very good and cheap in Romania)
      A meal can be ~6-7 EUR if you take the offer of the day, 10-20 EUR otherwise. You can find a (local) beer with 1.5-2 EUR in most of the places.
      Cab is rather cheap (cheaper then most countries – at least countries from Europe) and also you have metro (best option in a crowded town) and buses – very cheap.
      I needed ~1000 EUR to live in Bucharest but I was eating out every day (lunch and sometimes dinner), going wherever I wanted in weekends and not only, in short, I wasn’t without trying to spend less but I wasn’t hating money either :). I’d say is easy to spend 200 EUR less and very easy to spend more.

      1. Earl

        It’s funny have everyone has different experiences! I don’t even know how I could spend 1000 Euros in Bucharest and I don’t even watch what I spend my money on. Where are you eating that costs 20 Euros?? I haven’t found a restaurant like that anywhere in the city 🙂

    2. Earl

      Hey Andrew – I would say that for $800 USD you could live quite well here. Transportation is very cheap…for 11 Euros per month you can get an unlimited pass for the trams and buses. Food is cheap as well…even a good meal in a normal sit-down restaurant with a drink or two will only run about 8 Euros. And wi-fi is inexpensive also…plus there are dozens and dozens of excellent cafes around the city that don’t mind if you spend the entire day there working on your laptop, using their fast wi-fi and ordering a coffee every now and then.

      1. Sky

        I am going to start living in Bacharest soon as a student for the next about 6 years. I am slightly worried and anxious about the whole thing as I cant even speak their language!
        Any “must have/need to know” advice?

        1. Earl

          Hey Sky – There really isn’t any things you need to know except that there’s no reason to be worried. You’ll learn the language and in the meantime, English is spoken by everyone under 40 years of age here. Just come here ready to enjoy a unique experience and you’ll be all set!

          1. Sky

            Hello!

            Just wondering, what kind of mobile networks are there and what do you think is the most useful network to use?

            Silly question I know, but a little worried since I have never even been to the country before and during my uni life, Im betting that I probably will need some form of method to contact and to be contacted (if there are no wifi zones).

            Thanks
            Sky

          2. Earl

            Hey Sky – There are plenty of mobile network options here and the two main ones are Vodaphone and Orange, but of which are reliable. I use Vodaphone’s prepaid service myself, which takes about 3 minutes to set up if you go to any Vodaphone shop in the city 🙂

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  22. Radu

    I think you already got plenty of requests, but if you want to uncover more hidden gems of this city, let me know. I’ll gladly show you around or just meet up with you for a drink/talk.

    Cheers!

    1. Earl

      Hey Radu – I always enjoy meeting new people so let’s meet up. Let me know when you’re free (I’m quite flexible) and then we can pick a day/time and go from there!

    1. Earl

      Hey Hans – Well, that was for two reasons. First, it’s a given. Second, because that’s what many people think about already when they think of this country, I wanted to show that it is an appealing place to live for other reasons as well. When combined with the beautiful women, you really can’t go wrong here.

  23. Masha (2away)

    Hi Earl!

    We are extremely happy that Bucharest “got under your skin”. One part of our travelling couple comes from Romania and we are always very sad to see / hear about the reputation of the country in the outside world as well as perception people often have about Romanians. I hope your experience will attract more travellers to come and see it with their own eyes!

    Both of us live in Germany and we were planning our big Romanian road trip for this summer, but unfortunately got sidetracked by some other plans… Have to postpone it now, but definitely going as soon as we can. The country has sooooo much to offer: nature, culture, mountains, small traditional villages, beautiful towns, food and wine. I am a huge fan of hearty and meaty Romanian cuisine and think this is already a reason enough to spend some time there 🙂

    P. S. Read in another post you were going to Slovakia. Would be very curious to know what you think about it, as I spend 1 year working and living there 🙂 Let me know if you need any tips for Bratislava!

    Cheers,
    Masha

    1. Earl

      Hey Masha – Hopefully that road trip will happen soon as it seems like you’re excited to spend some time in Romania! And I just got back from my 4 day visit to Bratislava. I had a great time and will be writing a couple of posts about it during then ext couple of weeks.

  24. Chelsea Patterson

    I was born in Bucharest, but grew up in the states!! I’ve only visited once, but it was for a short time (4-5 days). It’s very encouraging to hear you speak so highly of the city of my birth!! Hope you enjoy every minute in Romania!!!

  25. www.travelwithkevinandruth.com

    I like the fact that you found a temporary home in one of the less popular cities. Romania in general seems to be off the radar, with most people preferring to visit the more popular countries like Spain, France, Italy, and Germany. We were thinking about Poland in that matter as well. I don’t know why, but we want to visit Poland! But now you’ve got us thinking about Romania as a well…

    1. Earl

      Hey Kevin & Ruth – Romania certainly doesn’t receive as many visitors as it deserves and still remains relatively quiet in terms of tourism. But that’s all the more reason for me to not only visit, but spend significant time in this place! Let me know if you do make it here in the end…

  26. Forest

    Earl, your views on travel line up exactly with mine. People and Food trump almost any pretty building anytime. Almost every city has it’s pretty little part but the soul takes some harder digging to really get to the bottom of and it is always worth the effort.

  27. Alina Ciabai

    Hey Earl,
    It’s nice to read about a travelers view on my home town. Recently I married someone from another city, Drobeta Turnu Severin, and his a fan and he sends me links from your site sometimes. We too are dreaming of traveling, his online job would be perfect for this.
    I miss Bucharest, because I left my hole family there, but I love Severin because it is a very calm place to raise a family and it’s smaller and easier to get to know. When we go out for a stroll we can walk from a one end to another in just a hour.
    Bucharest it’s a full city, even I didn’t get to those cafe/bars you mentioned, and you made ME curious and I will put those on my list to check out next time I visit my family, which will be on our way to a second honeymoon in Turkey.
    I would love to know more about you travels in Romania, and maybe visit more than Bucharest, you should try the mountains, seaside, one day trips should be enough, and if yo decide to stop by Drobeta Turnu Severin, you would have a guide and a place to crash. My husband will love to get a chance to talk to you about traveling.
    Have a great day!

    1. Earl

      Hey Alina – I’m definitely planning on traveling around Romania some more as well. I managed to get up to Transylvania last year a little but then it got too cold for me 🙂 But over the next few months I will try to explore as much as I possibly can in the country.

      And thank you so much for the offer of a place to crash…I shall let you know whenever I’m in your area!

      1. Alina Ciabai

        That will be great, and I can promise you that my husband is more fluent in English than me. And you will not have to worry about the weather, Severin has the highest temperatures in the country.
        I hope to see you soon, or at least read about your other fun activities in Romania.

  28. Larissa

    Did you by any chance meet a girl in Bucharest? 😉 Just kidding, you don’t have to answer that.

    I really wanted to fall in love with Bucharest when I was there for 4 days but I just could not. I was appalled by how dirty it was in comparison to Chisinau and Kiev, both places I had spent a lot of time in and both capitals of non-EU countries. I also sent so many Couchsurfing requests even to just have a coffee/drink and no one responded which made me feel like maybe Romanians weren’t as open to meeting strangers. I’m not giving up on her just yet though so hopefully I will get another chance to visit again soon and see the side that’s made you extend your stay. I know places are more about the people so when you don’t have the chance to meet any, makes it a little less enjoyable IMO.

    I do have to give a shout out though and say the hostel I stayed at (Green Frog Hostel) was the best part of my stay there. Clean rooms and sweet staff – actually ended up drinking a bottle of wine with the owners one night because I was so bored!

    1. Earl

      Hey Larissa – And this is a good example of how travel experiences in the same destination can differ so greatly between visitors! With the couchsurfing, I’ve actually found it to be quite the opposite as I generally meet up with couchsurfers almost every week for drinks/meals and have found everyone to be more than interested in meeting strangers. In fact, most of the travelers I’ve met here have stayed with couchsurfers as well as the community is quite active here.

      I’ve told so many people that this is by far the easiest country to meet people that I have ever been to. It’s the only place in the world where I’m perfectly comfortable striking up a conversation with anyone, as it is usually met with a smile and a willingness to engage in more conversation.

      But like I said, everyone interprets a destination differently, something that has always been fascinating to me 🙂 Next time though, you definitely need to spend more than 4 days here and I’m confident you’ll have a completely opposite experience.

      And good to know about the hostel in case anyone I know is looking for a bed when they visit!

      1. Larissa

        Hmm, interesting! Maybe it was just bad timing,a fluke thing. I would definitely love to give it another chance and hopefully while you are still there. Truth be told, a good karaoke session is probably all that is needed to change my mind 🙂

  29. Ava Apollo

    Some of the places I love the most look pretty ugly at first. It’s how it makes me feel, and who I meet in various places that makes me fall in love, too!

    1. Earl

      Hey Ava – I’m the same…it’s all about the people I meet during my travels. And usually, we must stick around a place for a while in order to connect with locals and to build friendships as opposed to having a conversation with a couple of people and then moving on to the next destination.

  30. Cal

    “There’s a lot of gray, there’s no shortage of neglected buildings, communist-style apartment blocks and unattractive graffiti…”

    I guess where most people would not find turned off by the that, I am intrigued. I really find this side of cities fascinating and worth exploring.

    1. Earl

      Hey Cal – That’s the attitude that works best, to be intrigued by every place instead of being turned off by some just because they don’t seem too attractive at first. There is always something to be discovered, something to be learned, in every single destination!

  31. Mzuri

    So Earl, when the heck are you going to get to Georgia? Not only do Georgians love to have their photos taken (unlike other former Soviet countries), they will tell you how lucky you are to be here, that you should marry a Georgian woman right away, settle here, and have children; and don’t you agree that Georgia is the best country in the world, the most beautiful, and that Georgians the best people, and why would you spend your time anywhere else?

    1. Earl

      Hey Mzuri – I’ll get there, I promise!! I will get there at some point over the summer for sure. Although, I’m not sure if I’m ready to get married yet 🙂

  32. Bethaney - Flashpacker Family

    Couldn’t agree more with your philosophy of exploring one city for an extended period. Especially when traveling with children. What other cities would you recommend bedding down in for a while?

    1. Earl

      Hey Bethaney – There are so many great cities out there but some recommendations would be Istanbul; Ljubljana, Slovenia; Oaxaca, Mexico; Cape Town, South Africa; Singapore….those are a few ideas 🙂

      1. Bethaney Davies

        Thanks for the suggestions. Will start looking into them. There are a few places we’ve got on our list – NYC, Paris, a little country town in Italy… but they’re all pretty obvious choices. Good to get an idea of some not so obvious choices.

  33. Karo

    Hey! Doesn’t relate to the post but I wanted to ask that have you ever made a post summarizing all the organizations that you have volunteered for during your travels? I’m a new reader of the blog but got the understanding that you have previously done volunteering work in a couple of different countries..? Do you have any experience with for example WWOOF, Help X or Workaway? I am planning on traveling around Europe next autumn if I don’t get into uni now and was thinking of doing at least a couple of months of volunteer work.

    1. Earl

      Hey Karo – I haven’t written such a post but it would actually be a tough one to write. Apart from the time that I volunteered for Mother Teresa’s Missions of Charity in Calcutta (which I did write about), my other volunteer stints have been much less formal and not necessarily through structured organizations. For example, while in the mountains of India, I volunteered teaching English and some computer skills to Tibetan refugees but it was just through a local man I met who was trying to teach these skills to newly arrived refugees in his own home.

      I know a few people who have used HelpX and they have all had wonderful experiences so I would really recommend checking that out as well. I’ve actually yet to hear a negative thing about it and that’s from people who have used it all over the world!

  34. Mikaela

    I also like to travel in this manner 🙂 To be able to meet up with locals and see things beyond all the sightseeing is a blessing. And it is often not that difficult if you give it a try. There is a lot of nice people around the world 🙂

    1. Earl

      Hey Mikaela – Absolutely…nice people are everywhere! And these days, it’s so easy to make connections and arrange meetups before we even arrive in a destination!

    1. Earl

      Hey Amanda – I’m hoping that works out as well! Do let me know a couple of weeks before you arrive and we’ll go from there…

  35. Barbara

    Oh Oh! If you are still in Bucharest, please visit the Buddha Cafe for me that also is a cigar house. It looked so divine, but I wasn’t there long enough to go inside.

    Bucharest is considered the “Paris of the East” and I whole heartedly agreed during my short stay there! I liked the public gardens, the dark history of the Ceaucueacu (sp?) regime with the palace that now has modern art inside, and amazing food. I especially enjoyed the polenta with cheese.

    Thanks for writing about Romania! It was one of my favorite countries. The only thing I thought was such a bummer was that so often when I met the very kind native inhabitants, they asked me: “Why would you come here to Romania?”

    Aaaaaw. I’ll be here again, was my reply.

    1. Earl

      Hey Barbara – Thanks for the tip and I’ll certainly try and check out the Buddha Cafe soon. And I get that question a lot too. When I went to apply for a temporary residency visa, even the immigration staff couldn’t stop laughing at me as they asked why on earth I wanted to stay here for more than the 90 days that a tourist visa allows 🙂

  36. Will

    Great post again Earl.

    Becoming a local is much better than visiting the local tourist traps. I agree that you get to really understand a place better when you get to see the nooks and crannies in the cities you visit.

    The food looks great!

    1. Earl

      Hey Will – The food here is excellent! I was quite surprised by the variety and have eaten so many wonderful meals here so far.

  37. Corina and Mark

    Hey Earl,
    Even though I am Romanian, Mark and I will be tourists in Bucharest in July, before starting our expedition through Europe, Africa, and the Americas . I am from a small town in Transylvania and I didn’t have a chance to explore Bucharest before I left for Japan 10 years ago … We’ll stay with relatives, but it would be great to do some exploring with you while we are there.
    Our new website is a work in progress, but you can see some of our previous travels at http://www.marks-world.org

    1. Earl

      Hey Corina and Mark – That sounds like a great trip you have lined up! And it will be interesting to see your thoughts on Romania now that you’ll come back after such a long time away 🙂 And please do let me know when you get here as I’d love to meet up and explore some of the city with you both.

      1. Corina and Mark

        Great – we’ll let you know closer to the date. July 7th we have a wedding party to go to at “Carul cu bere”, so it’s going to be 3-4 days before or after.
        On July 7th it’s Mark’s birthday and I was inspired by your post about the blind restaurant, so we’ll check it out 🙂
        Looking forward to meeting you soon!

  38. T.W. Anderson @ Marginal Boundaries

    I think the most important thing to take away from this is that immersion travel (what I myself practice/preach) is the only way to truly uncover a destination. Backpacking is like skim-reading a book; you’ll never uncover the truly hidden gems of local secrecy.

    I haven’t been to Bucharest, but it sounds a lot like Sofia, Bulgaria; dirty, old and at face value not much more than yet another city with another layer of old-world European charm trying to vie for attention with the new-world chaos of modern living. But once you scratch the surface you discover the gleam of something golden lurking beneath the layers of grime; a thousands-of-years-old history and culture just waiting to be discovered, if only people take the time to invest more than 2-3 weeks of jetting through.

    1. Earl

      Hey T.W. – That describes Bucharest quite well 🙂 And luckily, it doesn’t take too long to uncover the hidden places here, it just takes a little effort. Once you meet some locals, which is quite easy to do, they’ll lead you in the right direction. So the key is to not run away as soon as you arrive just because the city isn’t full of beautiful buildings.

  39. Ellen

    Another great post, Earl. I totally agree with you about the advantages of long-term travel. That’s one of the reasons I live in Turkey. Spending a few days looking at landmarks is a very different experience from living in and actually getting to know a place.

    1. Earl

      Hey Ellen – Seems like we’re on the same page 🙂 And living in a place for an extended period of time is even more rewarding as it’s a great feeling to have a strong connection with a city/culture instead of always feeling like an outsider. Going to the local store, getting to know your neighbors, navigating local transport with ease…those offer their own benefits that you can’t get from just visiting tourist sights and then moving on to the next place.

  40. Roy Marvelous

    Ooh interesting. Romania is definitely on my list but lots of people have told me not to bother with Bucharest. Looks like it’s be worth checking out, at least for lunch 🙂

    1. Earl

      Hey Roy – That’s exactly what people told me too.. But after reading your posts, you seem like the kind of guy who is always up for a random wander and exploration, and if you do that here, you’ll be sure to find some interesting spots and enjoy yourself quite a bit!

  41. Steve C

    I’ll be quick and blunt, you hit the nail right on the head! Your style of travel is exactly the way I like to travel. The more posts you make on this topic, the more people there will be who will finally become enlightened travelers.

    1. Earl

      Hey Steve – I figured we would share the same interest in this type of travel style 🙂 And while I have nothing against fast travel (which I did for many years myself), I really find the benefits of slow travel to far more rewarding.

  42. Shane

    We got no more than a glimpse of the city from our few days there, but I did find it a likeable place. A little seedy around the edges maybe but the people were friendly and there seemed to be a good social scene.

    1. Earl

      Hey Shane – This city definitely has its seediness but overall, people here are quite laid-back and very interesting in just enjoying life and having a good time. Once you get to know a few people, one can have a really good time here.

  43. Mark McElroy

    Hi, Earl. Thanks for this post about Bucharest. My partner and I are traveling there later this week, and I’m really looking forward to it. We’re fortunate — we are visiting with a local friend who plans to show us the town, to help us maximize our time there. We’re also heading to Brashov and our friend’s home town (and have the opportunity to spend the night in his parents’ home, which I’m very happy about).

    Anyway, just wanted to say I’m glad to have stumbled on your blog about a month ago, and that I enjoy and appreciate your work.

    1. Earl

      Hey Mark – That’s excellent that you’re headed to Bucharest. I know you’ll be with your friend but if you have any questions, just let me know! And I’m sure you’ll love Brasov as well, very cool town. Do let me know how your trip goes in the end as I’ll be curious to hear your impressions…

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