Welcome to your new world! With the hustle and bustle of the city, the honking cars, the hasty people, and the barking stray dogs it is very likely that your first impression is far from good, but – we assure you – patience will be rewarded. The city definitely has its plusses, you may just have to dig a little deeper. Once you get to know the people, the culture and nightlife, the hotspots, the DOs and DON’Ts, you’ll experience a change of heart. The metro system is reliable and inexpensive, the English competency of the average person is pretty decent, and the specialty dishes (papanasi, sarmale and mamaliga) will get you hooked. The countryside close to Bucharest is amazing and diverse; Bulgaria is closer than you might think; and the old town Lipscani has finally started to grow and become a great area full of positive energy, ready to be explored.
First off, a few general pieces of information:
- Romanian time is GMT+2.
- Summertime starts on the last Sunday in March (03:00 becomes 04:00), and wintertime on the last Sunday in October (04:00 becomes 03:00).
- The country telephone code is +40. Landline numbers in Bucharest begin with 021 or 031 and mobile numbers, with 07.
- The national currency is the Leu, and its international notation is RON (New Romanian Lei). In Romanian, it is ‘one leu’ and ‘two or more lei’.
- Pronunciation of the language:
Ţ or ţ is pronounced TS like ‘ts’ in ‘skits’
Ş or ş is pronounced SH like ‘shoe’
Ăă, Ââ, and Îî, are very difficult for most foreigners to master.
They sort of sound like ‘uh’ but we recommend that you just listen very closely as a Romanian pronounces them, and then practice thousands of times. Seriously! Except for above and just below (to show you what they look like in words) Romanian diacritics (Aa, Ââ, Îî, Şş, Ţţ,) are not used in our guide. This might seem culturally insensitive until you realize that they are frequently not used by many Romanians. Newspapers, magazines, and signs often don’t use them or use them incorrectly. In fact, if you have any Lei in your pocket, pull them out: they famously incorrectly display the A-caron (ǎ) instead of the correct A-breve (â) in Banca Naţională a României (The National Bank of Romania)
Phrases to get you out the door:
‘Hello’ is Bunǎ ! (BOO-nuh) or Salut!
‘Good morning’ is Bunǎ dimineaţa (BOO-nuh dimi-ne-atsa)
‘Good day’ is Bunǎ ziua (BOO-nuh ZEE-wah)
‘Good evening’ is Bunǎ seara (BOO-nuh seara)
‘Goodbye’ is La revedere (LA reh-veh-der-eh) or Pa!
‘Yes’ is Da
‘No’ is Nu
‘Thank you’ is Mulţumesc or Mersi (Mool-tsoo-MEsk), (Merci)
‘Excuse me’ Scuzaţi-mǎ (Skoo-ZATS- ma)
1 in = 2.54 cm
1 m = 3.3 ft = 1.1 yd
1 mile = 1.6 km
1 kg = 2.2 lb
1 oz = 28 g
1 Imperial gallon = 4.55 L
1 US gallon = 3.78 L
Important things to remember!
- When in crowded public places (especially in public transportation), watch your pockets.
- If you have an encounter with a stray dog, do not run away. While facing the dog, slowly and calmly move away. Talking to it in a friendly tone (in any language!) is also a good idea. See ‘Stray Dogs’ later in this chapter.
- Always check the price of a taxi (written on the side doors of the cab) BEFORE you get in, and then be careful that the driver starts the meter. Prices range from RON 1.3-3.5 per km; if the price is higher, do not take that cab!
HINT!See the taxi section for more info! There are also many common signs you will have to learn. Here are a few of the more important ones:
RATB is the symbol for public street-level transport, including buses, trolleys and trams. You will find this sign above all ticket and monthly subscription desks, signs indicating where the stops are, and their line numbers. Check out their webpage: www.ratb.ro. You’ll see this red sign posted on very old buildings. The message warns people that the building may collapse in an earthquake.
This is a typical street sign. As well as the street (strada) name, it also shows the sector (sector). Check the Interesting Links section of the guide for a site with an amazing bird’s-eye view map of the city.
Since one always sees Romanians in a hurry, bumping into others and often not apologizing, one is entitled to believe that they are a very punctual people. The truth is quite the opposite. Romanians are often 10-15 minutes late for any kind of appointment, using the famous Romanian saying “the academic quarter of an hour”, which means that anyone is entitled to be 15 minutes late. Anything over is considered rude, but 15 minutes is within reasonable limits. Still, you will find very different attitudes to punctuality in entrepreneurial companies or those that frequently do business internationally. Also, this concept of not being precisely on time applies not only to Romanian people, but to all things Romanian: the trains and buses, the schedules of public institutions, and shops. Although, shops sometimes also have the reverse system of closing early and this can be rather frustrating.
About stray dogs: It is said that if you dream that a dog bites you, you might fight with somebody… As you may have heard or experienced, stray dogs are sometimes a threat to public safety. If you are bitten by a dog you must immediately go to a hospital and in Bucharest the only place to get rabies shots is at
Matei Bals Institute:
Adress: 1 Calistrat Grozovici St. (Behind Colentina hospital)
Phone: +40212 010 980
Web: www.mateibals.ro (website in Romanian language)
There the vaccination costs 68 RON. The local authorities can pick stray dogs up, but there is a special department (part of City Hall) which deals with them.
Administratia pentru Supravegherea Cainilor fara Stapan
Address: 2, Selari St.
Phone: +40 21-312 95 55
The website is only in Romanian, and people working at this department speak hardly any English, so you may want to have a Romanian friend make a call. You can also call “Four Paws” (or Vier Pfoten) which is a non-profit organization that takes care of (or picks up) stray dogs.
VIER PFOTEN Romania
Address: 42, Theodor Aman, St., suite 6, Sector 1
Phone: +40 21- 316 77 31
Another new program through Four Paws is the Stray Animal Care project, which started in 2002 and tries to implement a project of sterilization. Contact Anca Tomescu, the coordinator of the program for more info.
Hint! You can also check out The GIA (Group Initiative for Animals Association), which offers animal care on a large scale- see the NGO section for more details!
Stray dogs are not just to be felt sorry for, however. There are other serious issues that arise from their presence as well. Attacks on people do occur and there have been some famous and fatal examples of this. For this reason we have put together a brief FAQ section here for you.
Question: How can I avoid being bitten by a dog?
Answer: Never approach an unknown dog, especially one that is tied, confined behind a fence, or in a car. Never pet a stray dog. Even if you know the owner, always let the dog sniff you first. Never turn your back to a dog and run away; a dog’s natural instinct is to chase and catch you. Don’t disturb a dog while it’s sleeping, eating, chewing on a toy, or caring for puppies. Be cautious: always assume that the dog sees you as an intruder or a threat. Also, remember that dogs form packs and are more prone to attacking you than lone stray dogs.
Question: What should I do if I think a dog may attack?
Answer: If a dog that you think may attack confronts you, follow these steps:
- Never scream and run.
- Remain motionless, hands at your sides, and avoid eye contact with the dog.
- Once the dog loses interest in you, slowly back away until it is out of sight.
- If the dog does attack, “feed” him your jacket, purse, bicycle, or anything that you can put between yourself and the dog.
- If you fall or are knocked to the ground, curl into a ball with your hands over your ears and remain motionless. Try not to scream or roll around.
Question: What should I do if I am bit by a dog?
Answer: If you are bitten or attacked by a dog, try not to panic. Immediately wash the wound thoroughly with soap and warm water, and contact your physician for additional care and advice.
Question: What about my children?
Answer: The most important lessons for children to learn are to avoid dogs they don’t know, and not to stare them in the eyes.