How to avoid crime & trickery in Romania

Romanians are not to be confused with the Romani people also referred to as Roma or Gypsies, whose name is thought to derive from domba - a man of low cast living by singing and music - attested in Classical Sanskrit.

The Roma are believed to have originated in Northern India some 1000 years ago, first spreading through the Byzantine area and subsequently throughout Europe and Northern Africa.

Racial prejudice, especially against those thought to be Roma ("gypsies") does occur in Romania. But hate crimes are rare. As a tourist, be careful and you should remain safe. Don't worry about a stranger's ethnicity. Just keep an eye on your pocket.

Although most crimes in Romania are non-violent and non-confrontational, crimes do occur in which people are injured. Travellers are advised to avoid unfamiliar places especially if unaccompanied at night or where alcohol consumption is high.

Homosexuality is not illegal but recent annual gay pride parades in the capital, Bucharest, has been marred by violent protests in the past. Homosexuals are advised to maintain a low profile.

Crimes against tourists - robbery, mugging, pick pocketing and confidence tricks - are an ongoing problem. Organized groups of thieves and pick pockets, often including children, operate in train stations and subways, on trains and on buses in all the major cities. Thefts and assaults have occurred in overnight trains, including thefts from lone passengers in closed compartments. If possible, travel in groups or accompanied by a savvy trustworthy local.

Watches and jewellery are snatched from around the neck and wrist. Pockets or bags are expertly slit with a sharp knife and the unsuspecting tourist remains unaware of the theft until much later.

Avoid dense crowds and if possible, keep your back to the wall. Don't leave personal belongings unattended and, if leaving them in a parked car, stow them securely and out of sight.

Romania is a mainly cash economy. In recent years, an increasing number of ATMs have appeared in the major cities. Sophisticated identity theft rings target them. It is preferable to use ATMs located within banks and only after checking for any evidence of tampering prior to using them. Credit card fraud is a serious problem and the safest option is to use cash. When accessing publicly available Internet terminals or Internet cafes, sensitive personal information and account passwords may be compromised.

Despite new laws enacted to smooth Romania's entry into the European Union in 2007, official and societal corruption remains. Nevertheless, corruption is illegal. Don't attempt to bribe a traffic officer. Most patrol cars are equipped with recorders and since 2008, attempts to bribe officers have been prosecuted.

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