3 Weeks in Romania: A Potential Digital Nomad Destination?
Our 3 months in Thailand flew by faster than normal this time. Before we knew it, we were packing up again and saying goodbye to all of our favorite Chiang Mai friends. Only this time, it wasn’t really goodbye. It was more of “see you later”, because we now know that we’ll all end up back in Chiang Mai together at some point, if not meeting up in some other part of the world. We were off to Europe for another summer.
Instead of hopping around Europe this summer like we did in 2014 and 2015, we rented ourselves an apartment in Budapest for a month. Budapest quickly became our favorite European city when we visited back in 2015 and we always knew it was a place we wanted to come back and spend more time in. However, finding flights to Budapest from Bangkok proved quite expensive, and after playing with flight options, we settled on more affordable flights to Bucharest, Romania, another place we were eager to check out as a potential “base”.
We gave ourselves 3 weeks to explore the Romanian cities of Bucharest, Brasov, Sighisoara and Sibiu. Everything we heard and read about Romania was about the affordable cost of living and the crazy fast Wifi. These are two priorities for us when it comes to finding a place that we can use as a base to work and explore for a bit. As you know, we are not good at hopping around from one place to the next and we are always looking to unpack our suitcases for a while. But we also heard about how beautiful the countryside of Romania is and I was drooling over pictures of castles, green rolling hills and snow-capped mountains. I couldn’t wait to see for myself.
One Week in Bucharest
When we arrived in Bucharest, it was raining and freezing cold, which was quite a shock after just leaving Thailand at the most brutally hot time of the year. I must admit I was loving the cold and the rain didn’t bother me a bit. Our first night in Bucharest, we met up with one of Charlie’s friends from high school that was now living in Bucharest. It was great to catch up and get some local tips and its always comforting already having someone you know when you enter a new country! We really settled in quickly, found some great cafes to work, and found that the internet speeds were, indeed, incredible. Needless to say, our trip in Romania started off great and we were loving the city.
After only a few days, however, the excitement of a new country started wearing off and we began having second thoughts about Bucharest. Everywhere we went – whether the grocery store, a cafe or out to eat – everyone we encountered was anything but friendly. At first, we chalked it up to the dreary weather and maybe just a bit of bad luck. But when it warmed up to sunny and 70 just days later, the attitudes didn’t change much. Everyone just seemed…grumpy.
The service in restaurants and cafes was practically nonexistent, and no one could be bothered to smile or say hello. Poor service isn’t all that uncommon in Europe, but Romania took it to a new level. We would sit down in a restaurant, passing 3 or 4 servers standing around on the way in, and not get so much as a hello or smile. We would then be ignored for another 10 minutes and maybe get a menu. God forbid we had a question about something on the menu because that would only be met with a short answer (if any) followed by a clear sigh of annoyance.
At first, we tried to just accept maybe this is just the way of life there and we shouldn’t take it personally. But after a week in Romania’s capital city, we were ready to move on, hoping that our experience in Brasov would be an improvement.
10 Days in Brasov
And it was. Brasov is a medieval city surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains in Transylvania and we were so looking forward to the fresh mountain air. We booked an Airbnb in Brasov for 9 nights as we had a feeling we were going to loooove Brasov. We wanted to spend enough time there to see if it was really live-able. Its much more quaint and beautiful with cobbled streets and no shortage of cafes and restaurants to choose from. When we arrived after an incredible train ride through the snow-covered mountains, our mood shifted immediately.
Brasov was charming and colorful and so much more lively in our opinion. Our Airbnb apartment was super cute and cozy and a 2 min walk to the main town square. We found a number of cafes great for a work space, and there seemed to be a bigger community of people hunkered down in coffee shops on their laptops like us. We were sold on Brasov and already thinking about coming back after Budapest and staying a while.
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But a few days in, it started to change again. And after a week or so, we found that the attitudes were not far off from Bucharest. We tried to ignore it again because it was such a great city, but by our last day there we were, again, ready to move on. The poor service, rudeness, and lack of smiles starts to wear on you after a while. Especially when you go somewhere that you are giving them your money for a service and they couldn’t care less. Charlie and I found ourselves becoming grumpy and irritable too.
We finished up our last 3 nights in Romania by renting a car and driving to Sighisoara for one night, followed by 2 nights in Sibiu. Sighisoara is one of the best preserved citadels in Europe and a UNESCO Heritage site. It was extremely charming and well worth a visit for a day or two! Sibiu was also a great city and we wished we had spent more time there. We’d like to say it was our favorite and maybe would have been a great choice to stay long term. But we also thought that about Brasov initially and the charm wore off after a while, so its hard to say…
Should You Visit Romania?
Absolutely! There is a lot of beauty in Romania. As you can see from the photos, the medieval towns are so colorful and charming like right out of a fairytale. It is very affordable compared to the likes of Western Europe. The internet speeds are as lightning fast as everyone said they were. There is plenty to see (Peles Castle a must!) and a lot of really interesting history (the free walking tour in Bucharest was really informative). The countryside is gorgeous and the weather was really beautiful when we were there. I found the food to be excellent as well. Below is a picture of their grilled minced meat rolls (mititei 0r mici), my go-to choice in Romania. Really good stuff!
And let me point out that we did meet some very friendly Romanians that were helpful and enjoyed talking to us about their country. They were just few and far in between, unfortunately. I simply think we stayed too long to where those little things started getting to us. Our recommendation would be 2-3 nights in Bucharest, 3-4 nights in Brasov and/or Sibiu and 1 night in Sighisoara. Of course, there are many other places to see in Romania that we didn’t make it to!
Is Romania Good For Slow Travelers and Digital Nomads?
Maybe. If you can deal with the service (or lack thereof) and the colder attitudes, it might be a really great choice for you. But for us, as much as we really did like it there, we just can’t see ourselves staying there long term. We let it get to us too much and left with a sour taste in our mouth. Also, while it is more affordable than Western European countries such as France or Germany, it really isn’t that cheap. I would compare the prices to that of Prague or Budapest, maybe slightly better.
I almost wish we hadn’t stayed so long so as not to tarnish our time there because there really is so much to love about Romania. While in Brasov doing some research about the city, I came across this article by fellow bloggers BBQBoy and Spanky which sums up our feelings so perfectly. It’s also kind of comforting to know we weren’t the only ones feeling that way!