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Overseas Security Advisory Council
Bureau of Diplomatic Security
U.S. Department of State

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Romania 2020 Crime & Safety Report

This is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest. OSAC encourages travelers to use this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Romania. For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Romania country page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

Travel Advisory

The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Romania at Level 1, indicating travelers should exercise normal precautions. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the Consular Travel Advisory System.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Bucharest as being a LOW-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Crime Threats

Most crimes against visitors are limited to crimes of opportunity or scams. Violent crime is rare. Travelers should be aware of scams involving individuals posing as plainclothes police officers, approaches of quick friendship at train/subway stations, and pickpocketing in crowded areas. Panhandlers -- often groups of teenagers -- can be aggressive and have resorted to grabbing/tearing clothing to distract and steal from their target. Organized groups of thieves and pickpockets, including very young children and well-dressed young adults, operate in train stations and on public transportation. Review OSAC’s report, All That You Should Leave Behind.

Take extreme care when patronizing nightclubs, which can charge exorbitant prices and are relentless in pursuing payment. Simple assaults outside of clubs are possible, especially late at night, after consumption of alcohol, especially if the victim is alone. Review OSAC’s report, Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad.

Money exchange schemes are common. Some of these scams have become rather sophisticated, involving individuals posing as plainclothes police officers who approach the potential victim, flash a badge or other official-looking document, and accuse the victim of changing money illegally. After the initial approach, the scammer normally asks the victim to prove that they did not change money illegally and demands to see their money or wallet. The thieves often succeed in obtaining money, passports, and cell phones. If someone offers to change money on the street or accuses you of changing money illegally, continue walking. There are other variations to this scam. Sometimes, the individuals pose as border officials and request passports for an immigration inspection. The bottom line is that legitimate plainclothes police officers do not ask travelers to present identification. If you encounter a situation like this, insist on the presence of a uniformed police officer.

Organized crime threats include drug smuggling, cybercrime, human trafficking, financial crime, and counterfeiting. Romania is addressing these issues to varying degrees and is also actively engaged in stemming illegal migration as part of its role as a guardian to one of the European Union’s external borders.

Cybersecurity Issues

Cybercrime is a major threat and a constant challenge for local law enforcement, despite international cooperation efforts. Romania is a well-known hub for phishing, credit card fraud, fraudulent electronic auction bids, and hacking. Credit card, ATM skimming, and Internet fraud are among the most common crimes affecting foreigners in Romania. Only use ATMs located at banks. These offer more security against skimming attempts and include camera monitoring. Check the ATM for any evidence of tampering before use. Review OSAC’s reports, The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud and Taking Credit.

U.S. nationals have lost considerable amounts of money, ranging from a few hundred to hundreds of thousands of dollars, from online scams originating from Romania. Beware of any emails requesting any personal information, such as social security number, bank account numbers, or login information. The U.S. Embassy will never request such information from customers, visa applicants, or their sponsors.

Online dating is also an area of caution. Scammers will often create fake profiles of young Romanians to begin online relationships with U.S. nationals. Be very careful in starting an online relationship, particularly if the individual asks for money or makes repeated requests for support (e.g. for visa fees, plane tickets, medical bills, insurance coverage). In recent cases, some individuals have given thousands of dollars to online scammers, and even traveled to meet them, only to be stood-up at the airport with no support here in Romania. Exercise caution when traveling to Romania to meet individuals known only through contact over the Internet.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Driving is hazardous in Romania, and is perhaps the greatest safety concern visitors will encounter. While major streets in larger cities and major inter-city roads are generally in fair to good condition, many secondary roads are in poor repair, unpaved, poorly illuminated, narrow, and lacking marked lanes. There is little regard for commonly accepted rules of the road, speed limits, or consideration of other drivers. Road rage incidents are also possible. If you choose to self-drive, practice defensive driving techniques. While traffic codes have improved, the government is inconsistent and generally deficient with enforcement.

There have been recent cases of brief detainments of Americans for traveling without an International Driver’s License (IDL). Romania does not currently accept U.S. driver’s licenses. All drivers possessing only a U.S. driver’s license should obtain an IDL prior to visiting Romania. U.S. nationals (non-diplomats) must have a Romanian driver’s license or an IDL, regardless of the amount of time spent in country, if they intend to drive. If police stop someone driving without an IDL, they may require the driver to travel to a police station to complete an official statement and pay a fine. In a few cases, police have confiscated the licenses of U.S. nationals, since it is technically part of a criminal case, returning them only after levying a fine or completing a short court hearing.

Visitors who plan to self-drive must familiarize themselves with traffic laws and should be aware that there is a zero-tolerance policy with regards the consumption of alcohol. Authorities routinely conduct breathalyzer tests on all parties after an accident. Refusal to take a breathalyzer test may result in criminal penalties regardless of whether alcohol was involved. Police often use checkpoints for traffic violations or DUI checks, in particular in areas where speed limits change abruptly due to entry into municipal zones. In instances where a driver is exceeding the speed limit by more than 50 km per hour or is determined to be under the influence of alcohol or unsafe to drive, police may confiscate the driver’s license and provide further directions as to the next steps.

Parked vehicles often block sidewalks, forcing pedestrians to walk in the streets. Maintain vigilance when driving to avoid hitting those who are walking in the streets. Using mobile phones while driving is illegal, with exception of hands-free systems.

Travelers should drive between cities only during the day, as there is little lighting on roads outside of major cities. Drivers should also be aware of pedestrians, farm animals, horse-drawn carts, and a lack of shoulders when driving in the countryside. If an accident takes place in a rural location, emergency medical response may not meet U.S. standards in terms of capabilities or timeliness.

Romania experiences severe winters, and does not maintain roads to the same standard as those in the U.S. Travelers must prepare for these conditions and expect lengthy delays if traveling by vehicle, train, or air during the winter.

In the event of a two-car accident with no injuries where both parties agree to the circumstances of the accident, they may complete a Romanian Mutual Agreement form (Constatare Amiabila de Accident). The at-fault party must provide a copy of the completed form and a copy of their insurance to the other party involved. If a mutual agreement is unreachable, both parties must drive to the nearest police station to report the accident. If unable to do so immediately, both parties must report the accident to the police within 24 hours. In the event of an accident under any other circumstances, the drivers should contact police at the emergency number (112) and await response.

Comply with all police orders and remain respectful. If you receive a ticket, you must pay the fine via the local office of the National Fiscal Administration (ANAF), CEC Bank, public administration authorities (online at www.ghiseul.ro), and send the receipt and a copy of the ticket to the police. Payment of fines directly to the police officer is no longer possible. If paid within calendar 15 days, only 50% of the fine stipulated on the traffic violation report is required.

Review OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad, Driving Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive Driving Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving and road safety abroad.

Public Transportation Conditions

Public transportation in Romania is inexpensive and reliable. Inter-city travel options include a variety of buses, trams, trolleybuses, and “maxitaxis” (shared taxis). Purchase bus or tram tickets at newsstands or street kiosks before boarding, and validate the ticket once aboard. For “maxitaxis” you may buy a ticket directly from the driver. Bucharest is the only Romanian city with an underground metro; it is also inexpensive and reliable, although station locations are not always convenient.

Train travel is inexpensive and convenient, and can be enjoyable, if you are careful. Travelers should consider paying a little extra for the roomier first-class seating option, which affords more privacy. Comfort and privacy decrease with lower classes of service. Crimes against train passengers are not uncommon, particularly in rural areas and on overnight trains. Some thefts and assaults have occurred on trains, including thefts from closed compartments. If you are considering a trip via train, avoid traveling alone, especially overnight. Most incidents reported to the Embassy have involved a lone traveler. If traveling with a small group on the overnight train, sleeping in shifts will allow you to protect your belongings. Do not leave personal property unattended. Laptops, cell phones, iPods, wallets, and purses are usually the preferred theft items. Review OSAC’s report, Security In Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.

Visitors should exercise care and rely on the recommendations of hotels and dining establishments when selecting taxis. Dishonest taxi drivers may take advantage of unsuspecting visitors. Always check to ensure that the taxi has a functioning meter and that the side of the taxi clearly lists the metered rate. Companies such as Black Cab, Speed Taxi, and Uber are reputable and reliable. Review OSAC’s report Safety and Security in the Share Economy.

Terrorism Threat

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Bucharest as being a LOW-threat location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. There have been no significant reports of locally or regionally motivated terrorism incidents in Romania in several years.

Europe has experienced a significant uptick in terrorist threats, and Romania is not immune to these threats as an active NATO member. However, several factors mitigate the terrorist threat in Romania: there is no significant refugee flow from the Middle East; Romania has a very small, well-integrated Muslim populace; Romania has robust, effective security services; and Romania is not a member of the Schengen agreement.

Anti-U.S./Anti-Western Sentiment

While the possibility of an international or transnational terrorism incident targeting U.S. nationals is unlikely, you should remain situationally aware and prepared to react, particularly in crowded tourist areas or at major public events.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Bucharest as being a LOW-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Civil Unrest

Romania has had no major recent instances of civil unrest. Relatively small, infrequent, and peaceful protests occurred throughout 2019 in various major cities in reaction to many contentious political, economic, and judicial issues related to various allegations of official corruption or government mismanagement.

The Government of Romania grants permission to groups who wish to assemble for demonstration purposes. Romanian law requires a demonstration permit, but police do not enforce this law strictly. Police and gendarmes normally manage demonstrations well, providing officers nearby for public order and safety. No major anti-U.S. protests have occurred in recent years. Nevertheless, it is wise to avoid these gatherings due to possible hooliganism or occasional confrontations between protesters and the police. Normal traffic patterns may change significantly before, during, and after the event. Review OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest.

Religious/Ethnic Violence

No major instances of religious or ethnic violence have occurred in Romania in the last several years. A sizeable ethnic Hungarian populace resides in the Transylvania region, and some ethnic Hungarian groups advocate for separation from Romania. This desire has not manifested into any significant civil unrest or violence.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Several Romanian cities, including Bucharest, are in active seismic zones. The last major earthquake in Bucharest took place in 1977, with a loss of over 1,000 lives. Smaller quakes occur on a frequent basis.

Civil authorities have plans in place for major disasters, but financial resources to prepare for natural disasters are not available. A major disaster would overwhelm local authorities quickly. Travelers should assume that authorities would determine priorities in the event of a natural disaster with no guaranteed support for visitors.

Heavy winter snowfall and spring flooding have made parts of the country inaccessible at times. Streets and sidewalks are often icy and hazardous during winter.

Avoid contact with stray dogs. Review OSAC’s report, When Wildlife Attacks.

Economic Concerns/Intellectual Property Theft

Economic and financial crimes continue to be a concern, and the authorities expect an increase of illegitimate activities (e.g. cigarette/alcohol smuggling, sales of counterfeit products) due to global economic conditions. Although not a significant financial center, Romania’s role as a narcotics conduit leaves it vulnerable to money laundering, which occurs via the banking system, currency exchange houses, and casinos.

Privacy Concerns

Romania has capable and effective intelligence services. While there is no known intent to monitor U.S. business travelers, the capabilities to do so exist.

Personal Identity Concerns

While Romanians are generally more conservative and religiously observant than their Western European counterparts, hate crimes related to gender, sexual orientation, race, or nationality are rare.

There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI+ events in Romania. However, the annual gay pride parades in Bucharest have been the scene of violent protests in past years. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI+ travelers.

Romanian laws and regulations require public places, the outdoor environment, transportation, and housing to be accessible for persons with mobility issues. Although there has been progress, accessibility varies greatly. While large cultural institutions and supermarkets generally provide access for persons with mobility issues, accessibility on sidewalks, hotels, and public transportation remains problematic. Sidewalks and streets are uneven, even in major cities. Small hotels and tourist sites often do not have elevators or ramps. Access to public transportation lacks adequately markings for people with visual impairments and other disabilities. Platforms at subway stations may be narrow, steep and slippery. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers with disabilities.

Drug-related Crimes

Romania is a major transshipment point for Southwest Asian heroin transiting the Balkan route, and small amounts of Latin American cocaine bound for Western Europe.

Kidnapping Threat

Kidnappings are uncommon, though there continue to be parental child abduction cases reported to the U.S. Embassy. Review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping: The Basics.

Police Response

The emergency line in Romania is 112. English speakers are available to answer police emergency and emergency response calls.

Identify police easily by their distinct blue uniform. The level of assistance expected from police varies. Authorities are often ineffective at deterring crime, and response to emergency calls can be too slow to disrupt incidents in progress. Romanian police do have the capability to conduct complex criminal investigations, but are heavily burdened with petty crimes. If a victim desires a serious response by local authorities, they must be prepared to devote time and effort to wade through bureaucracy. If a visitor is on a schedule that precludes this, assume there will be no legal or law enforcement resolution.

While uncommon, police may ask for bribes. Under no circumstances should you offer a bribe or agree to pay one.

Medical Emergencies

The emergency line in Romania is 112. Response times for emergency services vary widely depending on the region of the country and nature of emergency. Medical care, capabilities, and quality of service are generally not at the same standard as compared to the U.S. or Western Europe. Basic medical supplies are limited in Romania, especially outside of major cities. Hospitals often lack nursing care and assistance for the elderly.

Most prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications are available in Romania but are often sold under different names. If traveling with prescription medication, check to ensure the medication is legal and available if you may require a refill. Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging with your doctor’s prescription. Review OSAC’s report, Traveling with Medication.

Find contact information for available medical services and available air ambulance services on the U.S. Embassy website. The U.S. Department of State strongly recommends purchasing international health insurance before traveling internationally. Ensure that your health insurance plan provides medical evacuation (medevac) insurance prior to arriving. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. Review the State Departments webpage on insurance overseas.

Avoid consuming tap water, as heavy metals from old pipes and industrial run-off can be present. Review OSAC’s report, I’m Drinking What in My Water?.

Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Romania. The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Romania.

OSAC Country Council Information

The Bucharest Country Council meets three to four times a year. Contact OSAC’s Europe team for more information or to join.

U.S. Embassy Contact Information

Bulevardul Dr. Liviu Librescu 4-6, București 015118

Regular hours: 0800 – 1700, Monday – Friday. The Embassy closes on American and Romanian holidays.

Telephone: +40 021 200 3300.

After-hours emergencies: +40 021 200 3433.

Website: https://ro.usembassy.gov/

Helpful Information

Before you travel, consider the following resources:

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