Have you planned a self-drive tour to Romania but still have questions about how you’re going to get around? We have come up with a complete guide to renting a car in Romania – we’ll answer your questions regarding driving, the process of renting a car, how to choose the best car for your itinerary and how insurances work. We’ll even give you some inside tips on the most trusted car rental companies, both international and local!
Renting a car in Romania might be the best way to discover the country at your own pace. There are amazing points of interest scattered all across the country and if you are traveling with a group, have a lot of luggage, are not an avid fan of public transportation and wish to be in control of your trip, you might want to consider driving while here. Plus, there are a lot of off-the-beaten-track destinations which are hard to reach without a car.
Driving in Romania
The experience of driving in Romania is not as complicated as it might seem at first glance. To start with, you need a valid driving license, either European or international. Keep in mind that the legal driving age is 18 and you must have had your license for a minimum of 12 months to be able to drive here.
Despite the bad reputation of Romanian roads, their condition is moderately fine. The roads that link the main touristic attractions are national or regional roads, rarely highways. Thus, you will cross many villages and this might lower the driving speed. When passing through them, you will probably only drive on the main road, but you might want to be aware of the fact that the side roads are usually unpaved and lack marked lanes.
Other things you need to take into consideration:
- Sometimes you will encounter stretches of road where people are doing maintenance work, which may cause traffic congestions;
- During weekends the traffic is heavy. It’s probably best to avoid driving then, especially on roads that link important cities (like Brasov and Bucharest);
- While on your self-drive tour you might stumble upon horse drawn carts or droves of animals, so take extra care when driving in the countryside;
- Road speed limits: 130 km/h on highways, 100 km/h on European and National roads, 90 km/h on Regional roads and 50 km/h inside localities.
- You may see cars flashing their lights at you – don’t worry, drivers are only trying to tell you that a radar might be ahead of you.
Rules and regulations are similar to those around the world. In Romania you drive on the right side of the road, it is mandatory to wear a belt, both in the front and in the back and to use seats for children under 3 years old or under 135cm in height. Also, keep in mind that in Romanian the blood alcohol limit is 0.0%!
The driving style of Romanian people might intimidate you a bit at first, as they are quite aggressive and drive at high speeds. Especially in big cities, the traffic can be overwhelming, so we recommend avoiding rush hours.
Parking rules are different in every city, but in the popular areas there are usually only paid parking options. The fee is not high, so it’s advisable to not take a risk and pay it. The procedure is quite simple, too, as you can pay by SMS for an hour or for a full day. If you want to explore the city by foot you can always leave the car at the hotel. In rural areas, parking is not a problem and you may leave your car almost anywhere, as long as it does not cause an inconvenience.
The know-hows of renting a car
Let’s start our guide to renting a car in Romania with the proper procedures. When renting a car you need an ID and a valid driving license. An international driving license is necessary only for those that come from countries with non-roman languages or where the steering-wheel is on the right side of the car (e.g. UK, Australia, India, Japan). For people of US citizenship, their driving license and a valid passport are enough.
Although the legal driving age is 18, to be able to rent a car you need to be at least 21 years old. There are some rental companies that allow drivers to be 18, but an additional fee needs to be paid if you have less than 3 years driving experience. The same conditions apply to the additional driver.
Choosing the perfect car
When choosing a car, you should take into consideration some aspects:
- If you want to drive mainly in cities it is best a rent a car of small dimensions. This way it will be easier to find parking spots and the price for the fuel will be lower;
- If during your self-drive tour of Romania you want to drive long distances across the country you may want to rent a bigger car, with a stronger engine;
- You should make sure that you have enough space for the luggage of all passengers;
- You should also know that in Romania most cars have manual transmission. If you are used to driving an automatic car, make your reservation as soon as possible because the number of cars is low. Also, be ready to pay more!
Renting a car – how much does in cost?
The price of renting a car in Romania depends on the type of car you choose, the number of days you rent it for, the form of insurance and all extra services you might want to have access to. Small or economy cars are cheaper, as well as manual ones. The amount of fuel you’ll need to use will also be lower, which will help in the overall decrease of the price.
There are extra daily fees you will have to pay if you want an additional driver (2-3€), GPS (5€), child seats (3€) or a Wi-Fi router (5€). Also, if you want to leave the car at a different location from where you picked it up you will need to pay an additional fee, depending on the distance between the locations.
No guide to renting a car is complete without an answer to the hardest question there is: “what type of insurance should I get?”.
First of all, it is important to know that in Romania, when renting a car, a deductible or deposit is blocked on your credit card (or you need to pay it in cash if you decide not to use a credit card). After the end of the car rental period, if no damage is done to the car, the deposit is returned to you.
In case of an unfortunate event (a car accident or a theft) you might have to pay a huge amount of money. This is where additional insurances prove useful. There are different types of insurances that car rental companies offer and although may find them under different names, they mostly cover the same risks:
Collision Damage Waiver (CDW): It is not actually insurance, but a waiver through which the car rental company waives its right to collect a high sum of money from you in case something happens. This doesn’t mean that you don’t have to pay anything, but the sum of money is limited to a certain amount (for example if your insurance covers 500€ and the cost of the damage is 800€, the difference of 300€ is paid by the company). The CDW is paid per day and its price depends on the category of car that you rented. It usually ranges between 5€ and 20€.
Super Collision Damage Waiver (SCDW): It is a superior version of the Collision Damage Waiver through which you are absolved of total financial responsibility in case of an incident. It is more expensive (between 10€ and 30€ per day).
Supplemental Liability Insurance (SLI): It protects you against claims made by a third-party in case of an accident.
Personal Accident Protection: It protects you and the rest of the passengers in case of an injury as a result of an accident.
Before purchasing any additional insurance make sure that it is not already included in your credit card. There are many credit card companies that offer you collision coverage, so you could save a lot of money. However, be careful to check all terms and conditions to see if there are any restrictions.
You might also want to know that:
- During high season (from May to September) the prices are slightly higher so try to book in advance;
- The discounts policy is different for every rental company, but there are those that offer a discount if the rental period is large;
- Usually there is a fee that applies if you want to cross into another country, but make sure to check this beforehand as some companies do not allow getting out of Romania;
- Renting a car directly from the airport can be more expensive;
Extra charges you might be made to pay include: losing the car keys, returning the car dirty or with scratches, returning the car without a full tank, being late for the returning or exceeding the mileage established in the contract.
Here is an example of how much renting a car costs. I chose a Class D car (which means I could get a Toyota Auris, and Opel Astra or a Ford Focus) for 5 people from local car rental company Autonom. I took the car in Timisoara and went for a 1-week trip across Romania, leaving the car in Bucharest. The total price is 421€, from which 301€ is the cost of the car and 120€ is the relocation from Bucharest to Timisoara. The CDW insurance is included in the price, as well as a Theft Protection Insurance. An additional sum of 500€ for the deductible is blocked on the credit card.
Car rental companies in Romania
Romania is home to all 7 major car rental companies: Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, National Car Rental, Sixt and Thrifty (as seen in the 2017 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report). They have substations in all important cities of the country and are known for the high quality of their service. The only disadvantage is that they have higher prices than local companies.
Among Romanian car rental companies, there are some that built a good reputation over time. Autonom is the local leader with a fleet of over 3000 cars in 29 cities. They are reliable, fast and professional. AutoBoca is another company that offers high quality services for a good price. They are present in 13 cities across Romania. Cars4rent provide trustworthy services at low rates, as well as 24/7 support.
As you can see, the terms and conditions included and services differ from company to company, so make sure to use this as a guide to renting a car in Romania and check everything beforehand. As an alternative – leave everything in our hands! We can organize for you a self-drive tour – we will help you with your itinerary and take care of all formalities regarding the process of renting a car – you just come and enjoy Romania!
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I’ve always wanted to go to All over the country and now I really want to go!! Very good guide, thanks for sharing!
From Bucharest, can I drive to these other countries and return back to Bucharest?
Bosnia / Herzegovina
Hi, tough question, not sure about the answer. Autonom.com for example allows to take the car to Hungary but I don’t think to the other ones.
The information here is no longer accurate. To drive in Romania. People with US driver’s licenses require an International Driver’s Permit in addition to their US license.
Thank you for letting us know, this posted in 2019.