Do you seek crossroads of culture when you travel? Do you sometimes wish that board game money was real? Do you love fast internet connections but *hate* crowded spaces?
Then no wonder you chose Romania for your teaching job abroad. Sitting at the intersection of Ottoman, Hungarian, and Soviet influences, Romania is the only country that utilizes a plastic currency in the whole world. It has the fastest 4G internet in Europe and it’s off the beaten path *just enough* to not be flooded with tourists. So, what are you to do in your free time since there are few lines and fewer places crawling with onlookers?
Quick tips for budget travel in Romania
- Take public transport. Romania has a great public transit system—buses are cheap and cover every region in the country.
- Drink the tap water. It’s safe!
- Save money for a tip. Tipping is commonplace in Romania so you should expect to pay an extra 10% on top of your bill. If service is exceptional, consider upping that percentage to 15-20%. Expect to tip tour guides and taxi drivers (round up) too.
- Consider internal flights for longer distances. There are several budget airlines that operate in Romania and connect it to the rest of Europe and beyond. If you have your sights set on a trip from Bucharest to a city like Cluj or Timisoara, consider a low cost flight!
8 must-have experiences for TEFL teachers in Romania
1. See the mysterious Voroneţ blue for yourself.
“Voroneţ blue” is a shade that dominates the colorful, Byzantine walls and frescoes of Voroneţ itself—one of the most famous Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Romania, dating back more than 500 years. This shade of cobalt is world-renowned because nobody has been able to reproduce it! Its secret formula, designed by an anonymous artist, vanished years ago.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, TEFL teachers in Romania flock to these churches to take in the beauty and observe the nuns and monks of “The Sistine Chapel of the East.” You’ll be dazzled by Eastern spirituality at first sight.
2. Get spooked.
Do you get a little stoked when your heart races out of fear? Have you been known to say things like, “Watching scary movies is pretty fun!” or “I can’t wait to see the midnight show of <insert name of newest terrifying thriller>.” Then we bet our lives that you’ll love exploring Romania’s spookier side while teaching English in Bucharest and beyond.
The shadows and dark corners of medieval castles are the perfect location to tempt fate. Visit Bran Castle, a gorgeous, clifftop citadel that takes in sweeping views of a green valley. Head a few kilometers away to see Sighisoara, childhood home of Vlad the Impaler (AKA Vlad Dracul AKA Dracula!).
Follow the scent of blood to Poenari Citadel, where Vlad Dracul spent many years of his life. It’s thought to be one of the most haunted places in the world! Prefer to think of Dracula behind bars? Visit the Corvinesti Castle in Transylvania. ???
3. Have a spiritual moment.
The ambiance of Eastern Orthodox monasteries almost instantly transports visitors to deep-seated religious vibes of centuries past. It’s a beautiful feeling, Orthodox spirituality, and something most ESL teachers have never had the privilege of exploring before. That’s why you must visit the northeast of Romania, including Maramures and Bucovina, to take in the gorgeous castles and monasteries. Many have fortified wall structures (perfect for impersonating your favorite scenes from Game of Thrones) and will capture your curiosity towards medieval history in a glance.
4. Go medieval.
The Magna Carta, the Black Death, the Hundred Years War. The Middle Ages were a wild time, peppered with plagues and witch hunts and serfs and clergy. Or was it? Get to know more about Medieval times, the Renaissance, the development of experimental science. Learn about the travels and trades and pilgrimages of the majority of medieval country dwellers. And, if you’re lucky, participate in a Midsummer’s Eve celebration—or ride a horse-drawn cart between rolling hills and old wooden churches.
Visit castles and other fortresses. Take in the sights of Old Towns, it’s colorful flags, and its cannonballs. Bet you didn’t know that 12th century history was this fascinating, did you?
5. Spot a free-roaming shepherd while hiking.
You probably don’t think of epic nature when you first picture this country—and that’s why it’s one of the best kept secrets of Eastern Europe. TEFL teachers in Romania would be wise to pack their hiking shoes and daypacks because this vast country is an outdoorsy person’s dream.
It has a DOZEN peaks over 2,500m high, not to mention hoards of cliffs, volcanoes, caves, and the Carpathian mountains—all beckoning to be explored. Our north American readers will find lots of familiar creatures like bears, boars, wolves, and deer. One new find is on offer, though: free-roaming shepherds. The practice of transhumance is alive and well in rural Romania, so keep your eyes peeled for grazing flocks and their pastoral compatriots!
6. Stay on a new-to-you planet.
The Romanian Black Sea coast boasts a warm climate, sandy beaches, ancient monuments, vineyards, and… beach resorts named after our intergalactic neighbors (Saturn, Neptune, Venus, and Jupiter are all in the lineup). These fine resorts and hotels will entertain any TEFL teacher who wants to “get away from it all” while still satisfying their inner culture-vulture.
Take a mud bath to tap into ancient healing rituals from the salty lake waters, and be on the lookout for remnants of ancient Greek culture (remains of these former coastal traders and colonizers are still being found!). Take a day trip to Constanta for a taste, or go further and stay longer to sunbathe on Mamaia’s sandy beaches or camp at Vama Veche.
6. Road trip through the Carpathian mountains.
The Transfargarasan is far-out! If you love long, windy drives with astonishing views, this 45-mile long meandering highway will not disappoint. Just don’t get *too* relaxed—those hairpin turns aren’t for the faint of heart! Be sure to budget time to check out the Poenari Castle Ruins, turquoise-y Vidraru Lake, and glacial Balea Lake on your cruise.
Apologies to anyone teaching English in Romania in the winter (snow keeps the road closed from October to mid-June).
7. Tick off a bunch of UNESCO World Heritage Sites from your “to-do” list.
If you’re anything like us, you adore World Heritage sites—they represent some of the world’s greatest treasures. There are over 1000 of these in the world, split into “cultural” and “natural” sites, and you can check off seven in Romania alone.
- Churches of Moldavia (1993)
- Dacian Fortress of the Orastie Mountains (1999)
- Danube Delta (1991)
- Historic Centre of Sighisoara (1999)
- Monastery of Horezu (1993)
- Villages with Fortified Churches in Transylvania (1993)
- Wooden Churches of Maramure (1999)
8. Eat weird cheese.
Romanian food has its own character, though it’s influences include cuisines from neighbors like Bulgaria and Hungary, not to mention Serbian, Ottoman, and German influences. In general, Romanian dishes focus on comfort—and we like to spell comfort C-H-E-E-S-E.
This ain’t your standard supermarket cheese, though. Telemea, Brânză de burduf, Nasal, Cascaval, Urdă. Prepared according to ancient traditions—some of them dating even before Christ. We’d love to go into detail about the process, but we’d never do it better than this resource. Needless to say, learning how to make cheese using traditional methods—or simply enjoying the product—will be a fun activity to participate in while teaching in Romania!
Work hard, play hard while TEFL teaching in Romania!
Myths. Legends. Vampires. Cheese. You’ve got a lot to do while teaching abroad in Romania, and we’re thrilled to share in these exciting experiences with you. Just don’t forget to get your lesson plans done, too!