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Safety Travel Safety: Europe: Romania

Romania: Romania
Capital: Bucharest
Population: 22,317,730
Currency: leu (ROL)
Languages: Romanian, Hungarian, German
Religions: Romanian Orthodox 70%, Roman Catholic 6%, Protestant 6%, unaffiliated 18%
Borders: Bulgaria 608 km, Hungary 443 km, Moldova 450 km, Yugoslavia 476 km, Ukraine (north) 362 km, Ukraine (east) 169 km

Romania has undergone profound political and economic changes since the 1989 revolution and is in a period of economic transition. Most tourist facilities, while being upgraded, have not yet reached Western European standards.

While most crimes in Romania are non-violent and non-confrontational, crimes do occur in which the victim suffers personal harm. Crimes against tourists, including robbery, mugging, pick-pocketing and confidence schemes, remain a problem in Romania. Organized groups of thieves and pickpockets operate in train stations and on trains, subways, and buses in major cities. A number of thefts and assaults have occurred on overnight trains, including thefts from passengers in closed compartments. Money exchange schemes targeting travelers are common in Romania. Some of these ploys have become rather sophisticated, involving individuals posing as plainclothes policemen, who approach the potential victim, flash a badge and ask for the victim's passport and wallet. In many of these cases, the thieves succeed in obtaining passports, credit cards, and other personal documents. Credit card and Internet fraud remain among the most common crimes affecting foreigners in Romania.

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. Law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Romanian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Romania are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines, ranging from 3-5 years for illegal possession to 25 years to life for organized drug trafficking.

Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18, whether or not the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident alien intended to engage in such illicit sexual conduct prior to going abroad. For purposes of the PROTECT Act, illicit sexual conduct includes any commercial sex act in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18. The law defines a commercial sex act as any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by a person under the age of 18.

Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, it is a crime to use the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transmit information about a minor under the age of 16 for criminal sexual purposes that include, among other things, the production of child pornography. This same law makes it a crime to use any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transport obscene materials to minors under the age of 16.

Under Romanian law, engaging in sexual conduct with a minor is a crime punishable with a 3-10 year sentence, if the minor is under the age of 15, or if the minor is under the age of 18 and the adult has abused the minor's trust or the influence/authority held over the minor. Engaging in illicit sexual conduct with someone who has a physical or psychological disability is punishable with a 3-12 year sentence. Distribution of obscene materials depicting minors is a crime punishable with a 1-5 year sentence.

Medical care in Romania is generally not up to Western standards, and basic medical supplies are limited, especially outside major cities. Some medical providers that are up to Western quality standards are available in Bucharest and other cities, but can be difficult to identify and locate. Travelers seeking medical treatment should therefore choose their provider carefully. A list of hospitals and physicians is available on the embassy website at

Romania is an earthquake-prone country. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Romania is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Good
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Fair

Road conditions vary widely throughout Romania. While major streets in larger cities and major inter-city roads are in fair to good condition, most other roads are in poor repair, badly lit, narrow, and often do not have marked lanes. Many roads, particularly in rural areas, are also used by pedestrians, animals, people on bicycles, and horse-drawn carts that are extremely difficult to see, especially at night. Roads, especially in the mountains, can be particularly dangerous when wet or covered with snow or ice.

Romanian traffic laws are very strict. The traffic police can confiscate any form of driver's license or permit for 1-3 months and payment of fines may be requested at the time of the infractions. Some examples are failure to yield the right of way, failure to yield to pedestrians at crosswalks, and failure to stop at a red light or stop sign. Romanian traffic law provides for retention of licenses and possible imprisonment from 1 to 5 years for driving under the influence (alcohol level over 0.1%) or for causing an accident resulting in injury or death. In spite of these strict rules, however, many drivers in Romania often do not follow traffic laws or yield the right of way. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that defensive driving be practiced while driving in Romania.

U.S. driver's licenses are only valid in Romania for up to 90 days. Before the 90-day period has expired, U.S. citizens must either obtain an international driving permit in addition to their U.S. driver's license or a Romanian driver's license. Wearing a seat belt is mandatory only in the front seats of a car. Children under 12 years of age cannot be transported in the front seat. Drivers must yield to pedestrians at all marked pedestrian crosswalks, but many of these are poorly maintained and difficult to see. Unless otherwise marked with road signs, speed limits are as follows: inter-city traffic on highways, 120 km/hr for cars, 100 km/hr for motorcycles, 90 km/hr for vans. On all other roads the speed limits are 90 km/hr for cars, 80 km/hr for motorcycles, and 70 km/hr for vans. Urban traffic: 50 km/hr. Speed limits for motor vehicles with trailers and for drivers with less than one year of driving experience are 10 km/hr slower than those listed above.

Inter-city travel is generally done via trains and buses, which are relatively safe, inexpensive, and reliable. However, pickpockets pose a danger on night trains and in train stations. Inter-city travel by taxi is much more expensive and safety depends on the quality of the driver. Many older taxis are not equipped with seat belts. To avoid being overcharged, those using taxis should request the taxi by phone and make sure the taxi has an operational meter, or agree upon a price before entering the taxi.

The host country authority responsible for road safety is the Traffic Police of the Romanian Ministry of Interior. The Traffic Police maintain a web site at Emergency roadside help and information may be reached by dialing 9271 for vehicle assistance and towing services, 961 for ambulance services, 981 for fire brigade, and 955 for police.

For specific information concerning Romanian driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Romanian national tourist organization offices in New York via the Internet at

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Romania's civil aviation authority as Category 1 � in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Romania's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet site at

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.

Romania is largely a "cash only" economy. While an increasing number of businesses do accept credit cards, travelers are advised to use cash for goods and services rendered due to the prevalence of credit card fraud. Vendors have been known to misuse credit card information by making illegal purchases on individuals' accounts. There are an increasing number of ATM machines located throughout major cities. Travelers' checks are of limited use but may be used to purchase local currency at some exchange houses.

Americans should exercise caution when traveling to Romania to meet individuals known only through contact over the Internet. A number of confidence scams have been uncovered involving Romanians who contact their prospective American victims through chat rooms or personal advertisements. They generally identify themselves as young Romanian women and develop a �relationship� with their victim over time. Variations of this scam have emerged, but money extortion remains the ultimate goal. Americans who suspect they have fallen victim to this kind of scam should contact American Citizens Services at the Embassy.

There is a significant population of stray dogs in and around Bucharest and attacks on pedestrians and joggers are not uncommon. While there have not been any reported problems with rabies, travelers are advised to avoid all stray dogs.

Please also refer to the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.

September 17, 2004

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