American Dollars Go a Long Way in Romania

Stephen F. Dennstedt

Are you looking for an affordable cost-effective travel destination? You need look no further than beautiful Romania. Western Europe has always been a draw for American tourists but only about 1% of Americans with passports make it to Romania and Bulgaria where there are some real values to be found.

The Muppet Brothers have trekked Iceland, the United Kingdom and Western Europe for almost a year. It can be a real budget-buster for trekkers and budget-minded travellers like us with our rucksack philosophy: if you can’t carry it on your back it doesn’t belong. Now we’re in budget-friendly Eastern Europe. Yeah.

We began our trek through Eastern Europe in Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary and now Romania before we head to Bulgaria. Prices have dropped dramatically since we left Western Europe and we’re now spending about half to two-thirds less overall for lodging, food and transportation. Our bank accounts couldn’t be happier and we just started our eighth week in Romania: Oradea > Cluj-Napoca > Sighișoara > Brasov. Three weeks in Brasov and then a visit to Bucharest before Bulgaria.

Hotel Aro-Sport – Brasov, Romania (Internet File Photo)

Heading out to breakfast this morning from our hotel it was 2°C/36°F with an 8 mph wind (windchill: -1.5°C/29°F). Oh yeah—on the way back it started to snow. Looking out of our hotel window now I see blue sky but the temperature is still only 3°C/37°F and more snow flurries are in the immediate forecast. Joel took the photo of me (inset) in Iceland a year ago but that’s how I’m dressed today in Brasov with my five layers: undershirt, long-sleeve shirt, fleece jacket, down vest and parka (plus hat and gloves). Having been born and raised in warm sunny San Diego, California we’re warm weather creatures (and I think we still are).

Our Room in Hotel Aro-Sport (Internet File Photo)

Our 5½-year trek through the jungles and deserts of Mexico, Cuba, Central and South America (2012-2017) only reinforced that tendency for the most part—except for the winter months in Peru, Chile and Argentina (we froze our asses off in the Andes Mountains and Southern Patagonia). So for the next six months I guess we’re back to wearing five layers of clothing every time we leave our hotel. But I digress—back to American dollars in Romania. We booked a room at the Hotel Aro-Sport for three weeks for only $12 USD pp per night: private room with sink, shared bath, twin beds and free in-room internet (which is excellent).

Festival 39 Restaurant – Brasov, Romania (Internet File Photo)

We found a great breakfast at Festival 39 (about a four-minute walk from our hotel) for only 25 RON pp or $6 USD pp: ham & cheese omelette; fresh sliced tomatoes; fresh bread, butter & jam; pound-cake; yogurt; a large glass of fresh squeezed orange juice and freshly ground & brewed coffee. So our cost of living today (lodging and food) will be about $25 to $30 USD pp (which will include our dinner). And we’re splurging a bit—we could eat for less. Can you travel in Eastern Europe (lodging, food and transportation) for less than $1,000 USD pp per month? The answer is YES. And you can travel comfortably and eat very well.

Interior of Festival 39 Restaurant (Internet File Photo)

Field Notes: Here’s a free travel tip—plan your travels for the low-season or offseason months (typically autumn and winter). I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the low number of tourists in Eastern Europe (especially American tourists). There are also bargains to be had like reduced room rates. Weather can be a factor but a little rain or snow never hurt anyone and Europe typically handles cooler weather better than warmer weather (air-conditioned rooms in budget hotels and hostels can be hard to find). Some tourist attractions might be closed but we usually find them open with reduced hours (and far fewer people). SFD

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