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German genealogy: Guide to Eastern European Travel

Contents:


ROMANIA

Travel to Romania is an exciting adventure into a very different culture. If you plan to travel there, it is recommended that you borrow from a library or purchase a travel guide to Eastern Europe. Frommer's, Fielding's or Fodor's will all contain sections on Romania with information on sightseeing and cultural tips, but those for the traveller on a budget, specifically books in the Berkeley, Let's Go:, Lonely Planet, and Rough Guide series will provide more detail on life in Romania, as well as cover more places.

You can write the Romanian National Tourist Office at: 573 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10016 or telephone 212/697-6971.

An excellent webpage on tips for travel in Romania, albeit written in German, is located at Schäßburg (Sighisoara)

Guides in English: Probably the 2 best current guides are:

If you are interested in hiking in Romania, look for Hiking guide to Romania, also by Tim Burford, published by Bradt Publications in the UK, and Globe Pequot in the US, 2d ed, 1996. 326 pg. ISBN: 1564409503.

Guides in German:

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Visas were required until 1994 for US tourists, but apparently are no longer. There have been reports that visas have been required in some cases and there have also been reports of people at the Romanian border attempting to sell visas even though they are not required. Please consult with your local travel professional. At last check, visas are still required for holders of Canadian passports.
NOTE: Since, as of January 1, 2000, visas will apparently no longer be issued at border crossings, it will be necessary to obtain them either in person at a Romanian embassy (ready within a minute) or by mail.

In the USA, the Romanian Embassy is located at:
1607 23rd St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20008
Telephone: 202/332-4846

In the USA: Romanian Embassy in Washington
or Consular and Social Services

In Canada, the Consulate General of Romania has 2 offices:
111 Peter St., Suite 530
Toronto MSV 2H1, ONT
Telephone: (416) 585.58.02; (416) 585.91.77
Fax: (416) 585.47.98
Telex: 02100-5268571
and
1111 St.Urbain, Suite M 09
Montreal H2Z 1Y6, PQ
Telephone: (514) 876.17.92; (514) 876.17.93
Fax: (514) 876.17.97

In Romania: US Embassy in Bucharest

Currency exchanges can be done in Romania through hotels, banks and tourist offices. Though tourists will be approached to exchange money on the street, this is illegal and cheating in black market exchanges is common. Since 1993, legal exchange of money is possible, and safe, at private exchange offices. Generally the rate is better in a private exchange office than in a bank if one sells foreign currency (especially US dollars and German Marks). ATM's, for use with Visa and MasterCard, are becoming popular. Maximum withdrawal (in lei) is approximately US $70. Travelers' cheques may be used; credit cards can be used in hotels but not in restaurants. American dollars and Deutsch Mark are valued highly; these currencies in small denominations can be used for tips and bribes (sometimes needed to obtain services), as can American cigarettes, coffee and alcohol.

As of April 1997, it is permitted to take Romanian lei into or out of the country, to a maximum of 500,000 lei (worth about US $32 /CAD $47 / DM 61 in July 1999). Since the exchange rate fluctuates constantly, it is wise to check this conversion before you leave.

For currency transfer from the USA or Canada to Romania
click on the Merchant Banks of California advertisement

Air travel to Romania - some routes/carriers are:
- TAROM (the Romanian national airline) from most major European cities as well as New York and Chicago
- Lufthansa from Frankfurt to Bucharest
- Austrian Airlines from Vienna to Timisoara
- Malev (Hungarian national airline) from Budapest to Bucharest
- Dac Air to Venice and Munich from Timisoara, Cluj-Napoca and Bucharest
- Business Jet (a private Italian company) from Arad to Verona and Rome.
But, since this type of information goes out of date quickly in today's turbulent travel industry, please consult a travel professional.

Information on bus travel to Romania from most major cities in Germany (via Austria or the Czech Republic and Slovakia) - i.e. pickup points, dates/times of departure, route - can be found in a number of newspapers published in Germany, for example, Der Donauschwabe, Banater Post, Allgemeine Deutsche Zeitung, Siebenbürgische Zeitung. Depending on departure point and destination, a return trip to the Banat costs from 180-250 DM per person (with discounts for children) with a travel time of under 24 hours.

Hotel reservations should be made before arriving in Romania. Prices for tourists run about $85 to $140 a day, including breakfast. Accommodations can vary from good hotels such as the International Hotel of Timisoara which is small, quite affordable and very comfortable, right down to some where one finds poor restaurants, thirty-watt bulbs in lamps and intermittent hot water. The Continental Hotel and the Hotel Timisoara, both located in the city centre, are hotels of good quality for Romania; doubles cost from US$44 to US$65. (Meals in the Hotel Timisoara in July 1997 cost about US$2-3).

Car rental is available in Romania - Avis, Budget, Europcar and Hertz have offices there - however, the cost can be steep. Purchasing the additional insurance is recommended, as roads are often in poor condition and people will steal items from autos. It is common to see people remove the windshield wipers from their autos when they park. It is unlikely that companies in other countries will rent cars to be driven into Romania. It is possible to book a taxi or driver of a private vehicle to take you outside the cities into the villages.

Litoral Travel in New Jersey (908/389-2160) specializes in travel to Romania and their agents can book flights, hotels, rental cars and answer many questions on travel to Romania. They indicated that it is possible to hire a guide at the tourist offices (enquire also at the tourism desk found in many hotels). You can ask for a guide who speaks English, German and Romanian.

Places to visit in Timisoara include the Banat Museum in Huniadi Castle, the Catholic Cathedral in Unity Square, and the Opera Square, including the Orthodox Cathedral and the Opera House. Shopping can be found in the Opera Square and in the Bega Department Store located next to the Continental Hotel.

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Miscellaneous: Travelers to Romania should take along toilet paper and carry it with them, especially when away from the downtown areas, because it is either nonexistent or of very poor quality. Availability of food is best during late summer and early fall when fresh produce is available. Away from large towns such as Timisoara, Bucharest, Brasov and Cluj, travelers will need to purchase drinking water (mineral water/apa minerale) in the hotel or a store. Kiosks on the street sell soft drinks, cigarettes and juices (and popcorn!). It is recommended to take snacks, such as trail mix, to supplement the available food.

Returning travelers who have attempted to bring video cameras and personal computers into Romania have reported problems (1996). These must be registered with the police at the airport (sometimes at the cost of considerable delay).

Some travelers have also had difficulties in trying to visit their small, ancestral villages on their own. They have been stopped and detained by police officials, reportedly on suspicion of spying. It is probably less risky to visit such villages if one is part of a larger tour group.

If you need to send parcels home from Romania, please note that in Timisoara there is a DHL office

For gifts from Romania try the Cadouri din Romania advertisement .

Internet access and sending emails is possible at an increasing number of hotels and travel agents, as well as at Cybercafes in Timisoara, Bucharest, Craiova (in Wallachia), Iasi (in Moldavia), Mangalia (on the Black Sea coast), Sibiu, Sighisoara and Gheorgheni in Transylvania, and Sighetu Marmatiei (in Maramures). Online access: about $3 US per hour.

Video on Hungary and Romania in a "Lonely Planet" series production aired on "The Travel Channel" in May 1998.
Fom the Travel Channel web site: "Ian Wright begins his next adventure in Budapest, Hungary. Eating sausage and lounging in thermal baths, Ian realizes that the iron curtain has really fallen, even as he walks through a communist theme park. Travelling from the city, Ian comes across a family of grape- pickers and meets some whip-cracking cowboys who showoff some of their skills. Crossing into Romania, Ian stops at Dracula's hometown, Sighisoara, and then joins a festival held by Romania's Gypsy community for some drinking and dancing. After admiring the impressive landscapes and architecture on his way to Bucharest, Ian plays basketball in an alleyway with some children from a local orphanage."

Check their Websites at: Discovery Channel as well as Travel Channel for eventual repeats of the video.

Learning the Language:
Deletant, Dennis. Colloquial Romanian: A Complete Language Course. 2d ed., paperback, 1996. Routledge. ISBN: 0415129001
or:
Deletant, Dennis, Yvonne Alexandrescu. Teach Yourself Romanian: Complete Course. 288 pages with audio cassette. 2d ed., 1998. US $28. ISBN: 0844202843

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Historical Literature: Travel Literature: (Although all books contain at least a substantial section on Romania, only Harding's book is located almost entirely in the country).

Additional Reading: (mystery, poetry, reportage, social conditions)

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Last update: 05-apr-00 (mf)
Thanks to Sue Clarkson for authoring the first version of this guide.
Wolfgang Dieing (edited from banat mailing list) has contributed to this page.
Created by: Rick Heli
Please forward any comments and additions to this WWW-page to Monika (Kleer) Ferrier, email: mferrier@fhs.csu.McMaster.CA or to: WebMaster