Bucharest may not be Europe's most handsome capital, but there are some architectural gems: orthodox churches, neo-classical buildings and graceful art nouveau villas contrast intriguingly with the colossal monument to communism, the Palace of Parliament.
The Romanian capital is admired for its social scene, with trendy cafes and buzzing bars, particularly in the historic Lipscani district. Cişmigiu Garden is a highlight among the many green spaces popular with people living in Bucharest, with cafes, a lake and plenty of opportunities for people watching.
The Grigore Antipa Natural History Museum has interactive exhibits aimed at children, while the National History Museum has plenty on Romania's connections to ancient Rome. With traditional markets and hip, modern shopping centers, shopping is good in Bucharest. Calea Victoriei is one of the most prestigious shopping areas. For sports, the Daimon Sport Club offers tennis, a fitness club and two swimming pools - single entry costs around 15 EUR.
Romania has universal free health care, but the standard of public healthcare is so low that expats who live in Bucharest should only consider private insurance. In the public sector, the country has suffered an exodus of professionals and struggles to maintain adequate facilities. By contrast, the private system is of a reasonable standard, particularity in Bucharest, and English speaking staff is common in private facilities. Expect to pay fees upfront in cash and claim back on insurance later. Insurance should be comprehensive to cover everything, including both in and outpatient care.
Three significant providers of private healthcare are MedLife, Regina Maria and Sanador. Some prominent clinics and hospitals are:
The telephone number for medical and other emergency services in Romania is 112.
The public transportation system in Bucharest is well developed and inexpensive, however, city buses are often crowded and theft is common. A safer, more convenient alternative is the underground metro system. Taxis are not expensive, but there are many unauthorized taxis that should be avoided. Authorized drivers still unfairly raise prices for foreigners — ask them to use the meter and indicate that you know how long the journey should take (check online first) to avoid being driven around to raise the fare.
Drivers in Romania can be erratic and road quality poor and it can be difficult to find parking in Bucharest. Those wishing to drive should be aware that the legal alcohol level when driving is zero. Drivers are expected to have their license on them at all times and any other driving-related documentation.
European Union licenses are valid in Romania, other countries can drive for one year before applying for a Romanian license, but American licenses are only valid for 90 days and US expats must then apply for an International Driving Permit for the remainder of the 12 months. Please note that Romanians drive on the right.