Finding your way around Romania – the finer points

For travellers looking to experience the rugged landscapes and mystical medieval surroundings of Romania, knowing the finer points of the culture could ensure a fuller appreciation of the country. To help you on your alternative European tour of Romania we have put together an essential guide to getting around.

Romanian Language Guide – Finding your way around Romania on the ultimate alternative European tour

Romanian Language

While English is widely spoken, particularly by the younger generation, it can always be fun to try to pick up a new language. As a romance language, those who have a broad understanding of French or Italian will probably find that they can understand a fair bit of Romanian. Hence it doesn’t feel completely alien. In parts of Transylvania, German is also understood, if not spoken. Overall, the Romanian language sounds like a mixture of Italian and Russian and is pretty pleasant to listen to. The words and phrases listed below will be more than enough to help you get by.Go on, have a go yourself!

Romanian Language Pronunciation

The Romanian alphabet uses 31 letters which are similar to the letters found in the English alphabet apart from the additional 5 special letter that are known as ‘diacritics’. Certain letters and combinations of letters are pronounced differently to the way they would be in the English language. The information below should help you pronounce the letters correctly so that you can learn how to put together words and phrases properly.

ă – like ‘e’ in father
e – like ‘e’ in tell
i – like ‘i’ in pick
j – like ‘su’ in leisure
ş – like ‘sh’ in shoe
ţ – like ‘ts’ in fits
ce – like ‘che’ in check
gi – like ‘gi’ in gin
ge – like ‘ge’ in gender

chi – like ‘ki’ in skill
che – like ‘che’ in chemistry
ghi – like ‘gi’ in give
ghi – like ‘gue’ in guess

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Romanian Numbers

One unu (oo-noo)
Two doi (doy)
Three trei (tray)
Four patru (pah-troo)
Five cinci (cheench)
Six şase (shah-seh)
Seven şapte (shahp-teh)
Eight opt (ohpt)
Nine nouă (noh-uh)
Ten zece (zeh-cheh)

Important Signs in Romania

Men Bărbaţi (buhr-bats)
Women Femei (feh-mey)
Entrance Intrare (in-tra-re)

Exit Ieşire (ye-shi-re)
Open Deschis (dehs-kis)
Closed Închis (yn-kis)

Words & Phrases in Romanian

Yes Da (dah)
No Nu (noo)
Please Vă rog (vuh-rohg)
Thank you Mulţumesc (mool-tzu-mesk)

If in doubt, just say “mersi”, it’s informal and easy to remember! Just imagine you’re in France.

Hello Salut (sah-loot)
Like the French – easy.
Goodbye La revedere (lah reh-veh-deh-reh)
Pa is also used and is less of a tongue-twister. You can say ciao too if you’re stuck!
Good day Bună ziua (boo-nuh zee-wah)
You can always just nod and say ‘buna’ if it’s too much of a mouthful
Good evening Bună seara (boo-nuh syah-ruh)
Very much like the Italian – buona-sera.
How are you? Ce faci? (cheh fahtch)
Fine, thank you. Mulţumesc, bine (bee-neh)
Bine also means ‘good’ or ‘okay’.

The bill Notă (no-ta)
A handy word to use when asking for the bill without having to compose a sentence!

Same again Incă un / una
Useful when you want to order another beer or glass of wine – just point to your drink(s)!

Cheers! Noroc! (nor-ock)
Use this when you’re being encouraged to drink polinka. It literally means ‘good luck’ – you’ll need it!

Here Aici (ah-ee-ch)
Use this in a taxi when you want the driver to pull over.
Still water Apă plată (ah-puh plah-tah)
If you ask for mineral water it will be fizzy.
I don’t understand Nu înţeleg (noo oohn-tzeh-leg)
Always good to let people know you’re not trying to be rude.
Bathroom Toaleta? (oon-deh yeh twah-leh-tah)
Just in case you need to go to the loo!

Things to keep in your bag when exploring Romania

One thing which is essential when visiting Romania is sunblock. Make sure to keep a bottle on hand which would make it easy to use when the need arises. Also, pack a moisturizer if your visiting during the wintery months as you will notice your skin dry up quite fast.

Restaurant culture and ordering etiquette in Romania

If you haven’t heard it yet patience is definitely a virtue in Romania. The service in bars and restaurants, is often a bit slow. Wifi is widely available and free so log yourself on and connect. You’ve got to try tuica, the national drink, at least once but be careful not to blow your head off – it’s powerful stuff. The Romanian beers are called Ursus and Ciuc. If you are unsure of what to order Stews and bean soup are a safe bet for food and if in doubt, go for snitzel. Condiments are ordered and charged for separately so you’ll need to let your waiter know if you want butter, ketchup etc. If you don’t want bread, say so or it will be brought to your table and added to your bill. Tipping is not obligatory in Romania although rounding up taxi fares and adding 10% in restaurants is polite and common practice. Wine mixed with sparkling water (șpiriț) is popular in the summer so don’t be surprised if your waiter asks if you’d like some water mixed in with your wine. Water and soft drinks are served without ice unless requested. Romanians like their coffee strong, black and incredibly sweet. You have been warned! So make sure to order accordingly.

Local Romanian culture

It’s not uncommon to hear English spoken in an American accent by the younger generation of Romanians as there is so much American TV around. Avoid using ATM machines that are not attached to bank, you’ll get a terrible exchange rate. If the language stumps you, you can easily fall back on basic French and Italian words like salut (hello), merci (thanks) and ciao (bye). Only get in taxis that have 1.39 on the side, make sure the meter is on and don’t agree on a price before you set off. Don’t spend more than a few lei on a taxi ride around town in Bucharest. Don’t be surprised if an older shopkeeper quotes you a high price for a bottle of water – the older generation adds zeros. The pastries and sandwiches in the petrol stations are much nicer and fresher than you think so don’t hesitate to try them out.

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