DRIVING ABROAD

Driving in Romania? Yes you can!

Helen, UK

28th February 2019

Driving abroad is always tricky, especially when it’s on the other side of the road.  There are some countries that have a reputation for how difficult it can be to drive through and Romania is one of them but with a few precautions and advice to keep in mind, then you can do it!

There’s no two ways about it but Romania is a dangerous place to drive through, the statistics say it all.  But, if you keep your wits about you and drive with care and attention then you should be able to navigate your way around with few problems.  

Legalities

The most important thing to remember, whether you are driving your own car or a rental, is to make sure you have all the legalities covered.  So, that obviously includes insurance and break down cover but also things like the Roviniete, which is a kind of road tax that you need to have when driving on the main roads.  It is similar to the systems in other countries such as Austria and Hungary where you buy a sticker at the border which you have on the car.  Most hire cars will have the system already electronically but always ask to make sure.  Also, be aware of a few other laws such as always having your lights on, even in the day time.  Get the most up-to-date driving information here: RAC Driving in Romania Guide.

Safety

As for the roads themselves, they aren’t great, when I first started driving in Romania there were only 2 motorways, neither of which connected any border to the capital Bucharest!  You could only from Bucharest to Pitesti or Bucharest to Constanta.  There are also very few (in any) dual carriageways, instead having a weird and dangerous system of 1 and a half roads.  This is basically 1 lane and about half a lane on the inside, so there is more room to overtake but be aware that if someone is doing the same in the opposite direction there is NOT room for 4 cars and crashes do happen!

If you find yourself driving around Bucharest then you may think that the ring road (the CB or Centura Bucuresti) might be a good bet, well be warned that this is nothing likely other ring road you’ve ever seen!  Sure, it is getting better but it is basically a nose to tail nightmare.  Getting over the train tracks or going in the right direction (especially near Otopeni airport) is tricky, one time we ended up on the bridge over the tracks to find a herd of goats blocking the way!

There are also a lot of lorries on the roads, which leads to a lot of dangerous overtaken (often by the lorries themselves) and drivers don’t seem to pay any attention to speed limits (especially on the main roads that go through villages) and they don’t seem to care where they overtake either (hills and corners don’t seem to stop them).  Pedestrian crossings seem to be happily ignored as well! 

Sighisoara, Romania

© Helen N.

We’ve also driven through Romania a few times towing a caravan and that is when I’ve felt the most vulnerable, because we didn’t have the speed or agility to get out of other driver’s way.  One time we rounded a corner to see a truck coming straight at us in our lane, overtaking another car on a short stretch.  We had a cliff on one side and a train track on the other, so nowhere to go.  We were lucky that he managed to complete his manoeuvre before he reached us but it was not a pleasant experience.  Since that incident we kept to motorways and quieter roads where possible when towing the caravan.

Advice for Driving in Romania:

  1. make sure you have all the legal documents and requirements;
  2. be confident when you are driving, you have make decisions quickly;
  3. keep your wits about you at all times, drivers overtake when they feel like it and not always when it’s safe;
  4. the road surfaces leave a lot to be desired so be aware of potholes, especially if there are road works because they never put out signs to warn you!
  5. everywhere takes at least twice as long to get to than you think, until you start getting used to it.  Sat navs are useful but with all the roadworks going on they don’t always seem to be as up-to-date as in other countries.

The Future

The motorway network is growing (thanks to EU money) and you can now get from the Hungarian border to the cities of Arad, Timisoara and Sibiu by motorway.  You can’t yet get to Bucharest but once that stretch is done there will be a motorway corridor all the way to the Black Sea.  Hopefully as time goes on this network will grow and driving around Romania will become quicker, easier and safer but until then, you can drive around the country but be vigilant!

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