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Romania

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Romania (Romānia) is located in between Central and Eastern Europe. Regarded as a relatively backward tourist destination until the 1990s, Romania has recently begun to reinvent itself as a diverse and unique European destination, boasting stunning mountain scenery, historical cultural sites such as the Painted Monasteries, beach resorts, and medieval towns.

With a Black Sea coast to the east, it is surrounded by Bulgaria to the south, Serbia to the southwest, Hungary to the northwest, Moldova to the northeast and Ukraine in both the north and the east. While its southern regions are usually seen as part of Southeastern Europe (Balkans), Transylvania, its largest region is in Central Europe.

The country - expected to join the European Union in January 2007 - is currently enjoying its highest living standards since Communist times, with foreign investment on the rise and one of the fastest growing in economies in Europe. This has given way to a series of technological developments. Therefore, we can see a fast-changing, booming Romania, and you will be amazed at how civilized, advanced, clean and of quality it is. Of course, along the way, you will be met with experiences that you are sure to remember for a long, long time.

Getting to Romania is easy from nearly all parts of the world, due to its position, as well as the fact that it is served by an array of transport types and companies.

Entry requirements to Romania in the past few years have been liberalized, and consequently, citizens of the European Union, United States of America, Canada, Japan and Switzerland can stay up to 90 days with no visa. Nationals from Turkey can stay up to 60 days in Romania, while those of most former-Communist Eastern European countries can stay up to 30 days.

These visa requirements are fairly stable, and are not set to change dramatically in the next few years, even though there is sure to be a change into visa requirements to countries that are joining the EU in 2004 and 2007. Romania will enter the EU in 2007 and it is bound to fundamentally change its entry requirements.

To make sure, check http://www.mae.ro/index.php?unde=doc&id=5466&idlnk=3&cat=5 before you travel - official visa information provided by the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

If you do need to obtain a visa from outside your own country, try obtaining it from somewhere else beside Budapest, where it can take 3 to 4 days. From Ljubljana the process can sometimes be done in a day because they are not so busy.

By plane
Romania has 17 civilian airports, out of which currently 9 are served by scheduled international flights. Bucharest's Henri Coanda (Otopeni) Airport is the largest and busiest, but its Aurel Vlaicu Airport also fields some flights, and there is also direct service to Timisoara, Cluj-Napoca, Oradea, Satu Mare, Sibiu (Transylvania), Constanta, Bacau, Iasi, Suceava, Targu-Mures and Baia Mare.

There are two important Romanian airlines:
Tarom , the Romanian flag carrier, based in Bucharest Otopeni
Carpatair , based in Timisoara, connects this city with eight Italian and three German destinations, and also has collector/distributor flights to the following Romanian airports: Cluj-Napoca, Bucharest, Constanta, Oradea, Sibiu, Iasi, Suceava, Satu Mare and Bacau

There are several flights a day from Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Munich, Vienna and Zurich offered by Austrian, Carpatair, Lufthansa, Swiss and Tarom.

Also, from Bucharest (Aurel Vlaicu Airport), Arad, Targu Mures and Bacau airports, a new Romanian low-fare airline Blue Air is serving various destinations in Europe.A Polish budget airline,Wizz, is set to commence direct flights from London Luton to Bucharest from January 2007.

By train
Traveling inside Romania or to and from Romania by train is a fascinating experience, because they are one of the glimmering gems of this country. Train travel is usually comfortable, even though, on secondary lines, there is still rolling stock operating which is not up-to-standard. Most trains are increasingly becoming more punctual. A very new fast train called the Blue Arrow (marked as IC on timetables) is also available to most Romanian cities.

There are many international train services in Romania, including direct ones to Budapest, Belgrade, Sofia, Thessaloniki, Istanbul, Chisinau and Warsaw. Also, Romania is fairly well-connected with the European network. It is not generally advisable to travel by train to Bucharest from other countries, especially those in Western Europe, because of the huge distance of crossing Romania. However, international trains to Romania include EuroCity trains which are of a very high standard and night trains, so you will generally find yourself having a very comfortable journey. Also, trains are the ideal way of reaching cities such as Brasov, Sighisoara, Oradea or Cluj-Napoca from other parts in Europe. In 2003, Romania became a part of the Eurailpass offer so for non Europeans tourists it will be even easier to get there.

By car
Traveling by car or coach is the easiest way and a vast majority, over 60 percent of foreign tourists use this way of transportation. The steering wheel is on the left and European driver's licenses are recognized by police. For Americans, a passport and valid US driver's license are sufficient for car rental. The vast overwhelming majority of all highways are only 2 lanes, but some national roads have 4 lanes. Usually, national roads connecting major cities are in good shape due to recent investment in national infrastructure.

Romanian drivers are very temperamental; they break every possible rule of driving. On the highways, there are often 3 cars per lane of traffic - one in the left side of the first lane, one in the middle of the first lane and one in the right side of the first lane. Essentially, many drivers find it necessary to behave aggressively because it can be the only way to pass semi-trucks (lorries) on the 2-lane highways. City traffic is also typically chaotic because faded paint makes it nearly impossible to determine street lanes and local residents tend to drive aggressively. First time visitors who drive cautiously may initially find it difficult to adjust to either highway or city driving.

The traffic in the center of Bucharest can be infernal and you may find it easy to waste time in traffic jams. While in Bucharest, seasoned travelers recommend walking, taxis, or the subway which has recently started a process of upgrading. The subway fare is still very cheap. Honking (tooting) is usual in Bucharest and other cities.

If you have a good car and you also like speeding be aware that Romanian police have recently bought very modern radars to catch speeding motorists. Speed limits are generally 100 km/h outside of a city and 50 km/h within a village. Some police cars are modern, while others are old Dacia cars. Although rare, some highway patrols have BMW bikes. On major roads, motorists in the opposite direction will sometimes flash their headlights to warn they recently passed a radar trap which may be just ahead of you. Highways and national roads can also be discretely watched by Police Puma helicopters, produced also in Romania. (Note: Americans will notice Romania has substantially less highway patrol than the US.)

There is just one fully functional motorway, Pitesti - Bucharest, and a second one partially in operation, from Bucharest to Constanta, to be completed in 2007. The Bors - Brasov motorway, also called the Transylvania Motorway, is currently the largest road project in Europe; it will connect the Hungarian / Romanian border with Oradea, Zalau, Cluj-Napoca, Targu Mures, Sighisoara and Brasov.

Most paved highway roads were once wagon trails which go straight through the center of many villages. Passing while driving is the norm rather than the exception as slow moving trucks, slower moving horse drawn carts, and non-moving herds of cows often frequent the major roads. Travelers joke that if you haven't experienced a possible head-on collision then you haven't been driving in Romania. Road closures and traffic delays occur frequently due to construction, rock slides, car accidents and the return of the cows from pasture to the villages.

Information provided by Wikipedia

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