Driving in Romania: How to Get Around Safely

Road conditions in Romania aren't great, and traffic laws are strict. Find out how to stay safe while driving in Romania.

The winding Transfagarasan mountain road, Romania Photo © Getty Images/Slawomir Olzacki / EyeEm

With countless natural wonders and interesting historical sites, one of the best ways to travel around Romania is by road. Unfortunately, driving in Romania comes with poor road conditions.

Whether you're a driver or a pedestrian in Romania, be aware of your surroundings and all times.

Poor road quality in Romania

The World Economic Forum ranks Romania 120 out of 137 states for road quality with limited freeways and infrequent passing lanes.

While major streets in urban areas and major inter-urban roads are generally in fair to good condition, many secondary roads are in poor repair, unpaved, have poor lighting, narrow and lacking marked lanes.

Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind when driving in Romania:

  • In the mountains, roads are particularly dangerous when wet or covered with ice
  • In the cities and on major highways, winter snow removal is intermittent
  • If you plan to drive on wet or icy roads, make sure your car has snow tires or "winter tires" with deep treads providing adequate traction
  • Test your brakes and learn how to get maximum efficiency (a balancing act between tyres and brakes) before you're faced with an emergency
  • Make sure your demister and windscreen wipers are functional.

Traffic fatalities in Romania

According to the European Union Road Federation, Romania has the highest per vehicle rate of traffic fatalities of any country in the EU. Motorists are well advised to drive carefully and defensively. Even if your driving skills are faultless, don't assume other drivers share your competence.

In rural areas, pedestrians, cyclists, horse-drawn carts, livestock and wild animals share many roads with motor vehicles. These are difficult to see especially at night.

Don't speed, and if at all possible, avoid driving at night.

In many built-up areas parked vehicles often block pavements forcing pedestrians to walk in the street. When driving, be prepared to slow down when pedestrians are forced onto the road.

When walking, always look both ways before attempting to cross the road and don't trust the crossings. These are often poorly marked and even where there are traffic lights, drivers often ignore them.

Strict traffic laws are in place

Despite these many dangers or perhaps because of them, Romanian traffic laws are very strict. Traffic police can confiscate any form of driver's licence or permit for 1-3 months. They can also retain a driver's licence by for driving under the influence of alcohol or for causing an accident resulting in injury or death. Fines may be requested at the time of any traffic infraction, including failure to yield to pedestrians at a crossing.

There is zero tolerance for driving under the influence of alcohol. Police routinely administer breathalyser tests to all drivers involved in an accident. Irrespective of whether or not you have been drinking, refusal to take a breathalyser test results in criminal penalties.

Intending drivers must obtain an international driving permit or a Romanian driver's license.

Children under 12 years of age may not be transported in the front seat and all occupants must wear a seat belt.

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5 Comments

  • Sorin said

    This article seem to be about Romania 25 years ago. A lot has changed since, Phil. Major roads, linking cities, are good or very good. Most drivers are driving like in any other european country, the exceptions are rare. Even some small roads has been recently paved and are in very good conditions. Drivers almost never ignore the traffic lights, Phil, but obey them. This article is way too outdated and do not inform anymore, but missleads.

  • Andrei said

    I live here in Romania, and the article doesn't seem outdated. Many roads are still in poor condition, mostly in rural areas. Roads in bigger cities and with high traffic are ok. I do agree that you should be careful with the speed limit, because there are many police in the roads. Despite all of the above, I think Romania is very beautiful, and it's worth to travel with car to see the beautiful surroundings and rural areas.

  • Andrei said

    And I never seen something like in the picture by the way, the picture must have been made in a very isolated area.

  • Mikel said

    Be aware that in some areas gypsy children have no road sense and can run into the road.

    In my opinion the above photo is accurate.

  • Me said

    I go there every summer and yes there are horse drawn carts and stray dogs wandering on the roads but those are the least worrying aspects of driving in Romania. Romanian HGV drivers leaving just a 2 meter gap between the back of your car and their vehicle driving at least 40 km/h over the speed limit,
    overtaking cars on narrow mountain roads in blind corners are regular occurrences. Same with passenger cars. Driving like lunatics, no regard to life. Staying in a tiny village in the mountains with no pavement for people on foot, cars, lorries, HGVs and long vehicles transporting logs, we were often forced off the road into the ditch (one side was a steep drop with likely deadly consequences if you slipped) and we chose to walk in the forest to get to our destination as we thought we were less likely to be attacked by one of the local bears (the bears are definitely there, you can see what they do to properties), than being hit by a speeding vehicle. Drivers often don't keep in their lane, especially in bends, one old man didn't even notice he was well into our lane forcing us to the side of the road. Over there I don't feel safe even with my Dad driving with about 60 years driving experience without accidents and he is the only person whose car I would be willing to travel in. Even if you are a careful and good driver, you still need your wits about you, keep your cool and think fast, very fast.
    There are car wrecks in ditches and uncountable crosses by the roads marking the places where people died. Plus additional road signs reminding drivers of the priority of life over speed. The authorities are also trying to improve accident and fatality statistics by placing concrete slabs between lanes and smaller obstacles to slow down drivers in built-up areas.
    It's a beautiful place but there are too many dangerous drivers on the roads. However, we still go there every year.
    The picture is spot on and we love seeing these horse drawn carts, you just need to slow down and enjoy seeing the horses and if you are lucky you might see a foal alongside mum :-)

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