Volunteer in Romania
What to Know Before Volunteering in Romania
Romania is one of the hidden gems of Eastern Europe. It is both rich in historical stories and breath-taking landscapes, part of the UNESCO heritage. This country has beautiful mountains and beaches, but it attracts a lot of visitors with little details, like local cuisine, acts of kindness, and great volunteering options, to name but a few.
The Carpathian Mountains stand tall, while the Transylvania region delights all your senses with great food and wine, but also “juicy” stories of Count Dracula at the Bran Castle. During the summer, everybody moves to the Black Sea or the Danube Delta, where people (and insects) party all day and night.
Romania is an eclectic mix of old and new, of both interesting and controversial people. There are a lot of great things that this country has to offer, from friendly people to the lively culture, to access to a lot of opportunities. It’s the right place to grow and help make tomorrow better.
To paint a better picture, you can walk the streets and see a skyscraper or the latest fast car on the international market parked to gawk at. But there are still a lot of places in this country where kids have to travel to the next village to go to school and a lot of households don’t have a bathroom in their house, you have to go outside.
What to know before volunteering in Romania?
If you want to volunteer in Romania, it’s important to have the right documentation for travel, like details about the purpose and where are you going to stay, but also a valid passport for at least a year. Store copies of all your documents somewhere in the cloud in case you lose them.
If you’re part of the European Union, you can also travel with your National Identity Card. If it’s different than ours, officials will check you endlessly, so it is best to use a classic passport.
Also, know that Romania is not part of the Schengen agreement and if you plan to stay for longer than 3 months, you will need to apply for a temporary residence permit. Please check the links below for more information on permits or visas.
Volunteerism in Romania
With a simple search online, you will see there are many wonderful opportunities to volunteer in Romania.
Although it is a beautiful country with many loving people, it is still a place recovering from the Communist area and its fall three decades ago.
You can volunteer in Romania with the help of popular organizations, like the Red Cross or Habitat for Humanity, but there are many NGOs or charity projects that need people to make the world a better place.
Some sectors in which you might consider volunteering are:
– taking care of foster children or from underprivileged communities,
– takin care of old people that don’t have families,
– help protect women from domestic violence,
– join animal rights activists that take care of dogs or cats,
– join environmental volunteers that try to preserve Romania’s wilderness, fighting against deforestation, people that leave a lot of trash in forests, and who hunt wild beasts.
In Romania, the majority of people speak Romanian, but there are small nationalities that still take pride in their dialects, like the Hungarians or Rroma people (gypsies). If you land in the Transylvania area it’s best if you get prepared, they do not answer in Romanian, even if they understand you.
Romanians from bigger cities, like the capital – Bucharest, understand English, as there have been a lot of visitors, both for business and pleasure. But dive deeper into the country and you’ll have to use sign language and try to learn a few Romanian words, like “Buna ziua” (Good day), “Buna” (Hello), “Te rog” (Please), “Multumesc” (Thank you), “La revedere” (Goodbye).
The Romanian “leu” is the currency and it subdivides into “bani”. People usually use LEU (one)/LEI (more) when transacting, but some businesses do accept euros or dollars as long as it is in cash, not a credit card.
A lot of businesses in bigger cities, like Bucharest, Constanta, Sibiu, Timisoara, Iasi, Brasov, accept card payments, but this does not apply to smaller companies. Some business owners might even double-check your money to make sure it’s not fake.
Romania isn’t known to be an expensive country, but prices have risen in the last years due to an increase in taxes and tourists.
When it comes to housing, there are a lot of great opportunities in this country, as people love to host international tourists. They enjoy serving them food and wine – we do have a lot of great wine – or harder drinks, like “tuica” (traditional vodka).
If you travel by train, a lot of house owners will wait for you at the station to propose accommodations. But it’s best if you prepare for the unpredictable. The main recommendation is to opt for a more expensive, but secure, house in the beginning and then move to a cheaper one or even something free.
I recommend AirBnb or Booking for the first phase and for your safety or peace of mind. Sometimes, when you travel around the country in remote places, business owners might not open their hotel or inn if they don’t have clients, so it’s best to pick something bigger.
In Romania we have everything from planes and trains, to buses, trams, metro in the capital, taxis, boats and lots of cars to rent.
The easiest way to travel is by bus in big cities or by train between the cities.
If you want to travel by train, make sure to check this: https://www.cfrcalatori.ro/
There are different types of tickets and trains, the cheapest being local, slow, trains, or Regionals (R); then come faster ones, named InterRegionals (IR) or InterCity (IC), where you get your own seat and some offer dining and sleeping amenities.
If you want to travel by bus between cities, make sure to check this: https://www.autogari.ro/?lang=en
If you want to travel by bus in a city, make sure to check the public transportation website (unfortunately, it doesn’t always work and you have to buy a special card before your ride from kiosks that you can usually find around big crossroads): http://stbsa.ro/
Although we are a European country, with a lot of possibilities to develop, we have a lot of problems when it comes to transportation and traffic in general. Don’t count on being on time, take extra steps for delays.
Romania’s healthcare systems are on the rise. In the last decade a lot of public hospitals have been upgraded, for both people and animals. We also have good private hospitals, but everything comes at a price.
Locals enjoy some parts of the public healthcare system for free. If you have a job, thus you pay your taxes, there are smaller charges for personalized treatments, but a lot of companies offer their employees private health care. If you are a tourist, it is best if you have health insurance for basic emergencies.
You should know that Romania is a safe country when it comes to poisonous insects and there aren’t many health precautions to take before you travel, but we do have active cases of measles.
Romania’s safety precautions are like many countries, although the crime rate is low. Make sure who you talk to, where you leave your possessions and what personal details you offer. You might deal with urban snatchers in crowded places.
When traveling, double-check you have identification with you. Also, know that the drinking limit is zero. If you rent a car to travel between cities, don’t forget to pay a road toll named “Rovinieta” – it’s a vignette you can get at most petrol stations or online on websites like: https://www.roviniete.ro/en/#go-content
When you use taxis, especially in big cities, pay attention that the yellow cab drivers list prices on the side of their cars and that they have a company name to avoid overcharging.
When it comes to food, you will find anything for every taste in big cities, but do look out for special “daily offers”. There are a lot of delivery options, too, and a lot of bars that are open late into the night. A few small tips, don’t drink the faucet water, but do tip your waiter, as tips aren’t on the check.
There are many fast food places and Turkish style small restaurants, pastry spots to get snacks like bagels, and there is a supermarket open 24/7 on almost every street to stack up on groceries. Food prices have gone up in the last years, but you can also find a lot of cheaper, fresh, produce in markets during the weekend.
To buy your own food, look for places like Mega Image, Lidl, Carrefour, METRO, or Sell Gross. To order your food use platforms like Glovo. To get supermarket food delivered at your house use apps like Bringo.
When traveling, it is best to opt for traditional food. Romanians love their meats and cheeses, but also their sour soups, polenta side dishes, and special vegetable rolls called “sarmale”. Don’t leave the country without trying “mititei”, a type of sausage.
Romania has a continental climate, with cold winters and hot summers, but things have been different in the last years due to climate change. Temperatures reach 35°C (95°F) during summer and drop to around -5°C (23°F) during winter in Bucharest, for example.
During winter (December-February) there is a lot of snow in the mountain area, but only a few precipitations in the rest of the country. During spring (March-May) and fall (September -November), there are a lot of showers. Summer (June – August) is hot and dry.
Romania has a lot of pollution and there are periods with a lot of smog in big cities. Also, during the summer, public transportation might not have A/C and even if it’s hot, a lot of businesses don’t even own a fan.
Romanians wear normal, modern, clothes and are respectful of other nationalities that wear different attires.
The traditional clothes are rarely seen, like the female blouse named “IE”, but these are taken out of the wardrobe for some celebrations, especially in the mountain area.
Of course, like in any other country, flashy or short attire will bring on the unwanted attention.
Timings and weekends
Romania has Eastern European Standard Time and it is 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+2). But, during the summertime, we “lose an extra hour” as we like to say, so we have Daylight Saving Time (GMT+3).
There are a few national holidays where some businesses decide to close their shops or have a shorter schedule, but most Romanians are workaholics, and a lot of business centers, supermarkets, and malls are open from 9 AM – 10 PM 7 days per week.
A lot of Romanians are orthodox, so during the Easter period some practice fasting. During this time a lot of food companies offer special meals, like a vegan diet – nothing coming from animals.
There is a religious diversity present, especially in bigger cities, there are many catholic people, as well as smaller religious communities, like Muslims or Protestants. The state actually acknowledges 18 religions and denominations.
Life in Romania has its advantages and disadvantages. Everything you want to do, you will end up doing, but there will be a lot of speedbumps along the way. Romanians have a lot to teach other people, like how to make heave with what you’ve got.