Travelling by car
The car offers a great liberty of action on the Romanian roads. It is sufficient to own the necessary driving documents (a valid driving licence, the car insurance – green card http://www.cobx.org/, the vehicle registration document) and to drive on the right side of the road (the steering wheel should be on the left). Make sure you respect all the traffic rules and that you are also careful for other drivers who ignore them, especially in Bucharest. The landscape can be fantastic, but we recommend to keep your eyes on the road and to triple your attention after the sunset. The road vignette or road tax sticker (rovinieta) is compulsory and it can be purchased from the border crossing points or certain petrol stations. Its validity ranges from one day to one year, with the price varying according to the period and the vehicle. The vignette should be displayed on your car’s windshield during the entire journey.
Before starting a car trip, you need to know that the general condition of the Romanian roads is pretty bad, as well as the number of traffic road signs and indicators. This means that a 100km journey can take you 2 or more hours to complete. European roads (E) and national roads (DN) are in a better condition than that of the county or communal roads, which we recommend to use as little as you can. There are only 4 highways, out of which only two have a length bigger than 100km. A1 highway has a length of 128km and connects Bucharest to Pitești, while A2 highway links the capital to Constanța, covering a distance of 166km. A map or GPS are also valuable assets.
The Romanian national driving legislation requires drivers to have the dipped-beam (meeting beam) on permanently, both during the day and during the night. The speed limit is set to 130km/h on highways, 100km/h on European roads, 90km/h on the other roads (national, county, communal), but only outside the cities, and 50km/h inside the cities. Drinking and talking on the mobile phone is strictly forbidden and wearing the seatbelt is compulsory for all seats. At least in theory, the car should also have a first aid kit, a warning triangle and a fire extinguisher.
Petrol stations are usually open 24/7, offering also additional services such as car wash, free self tire inflation or vacuum cleaning, supermarket or restaurants. You can choose between regular gasoline, unleaded gasoline and diesel, with prices varying between 1.25 and 1.4 euro/l. Major petrol stations are Petrom, Rompetrol, OMV, MOL, Lukoil and Agip. Especially in the big cities, parking is a real problem. There are minimum chances to find any kind of parking places, be them free or paid, during the weekdays. For the paid parking places (“P cu plată” signs), if there is no parking meter, there are usually employees coming to collect the equivalent value.
To rent a car in Romania you have to own a valid driving licence. Some car rental agencies might require the driver to be over 21 or to own the driving licence for more than a year, but it depends from case to case. Car rental agencies can be found in the majority of the Romanian cities, as well as in airports. Sometimes you will have to pre-pay insurance and a warranty. Before accepting the car, check it and its amenities or options carefully. There is also an option to book and pay a car in advance on the car rental agencies’ websites or from travel agencies. For a small car, the rent can vary between 20 and 50 euro/day. Hertz and Avis are international car rental agencies present in Romania, while Eurocars and Autonom are the most reliable local agencies. It’s best to check all the options before renting a car, as sometimes the international agencies can provide better facilities and the local companies can have smaller prices.