Budapest vs. Bucharest: Which One to Choose?

I am not sure if it happens the other way around as well, but many people mistake Bucharest for Budapest and there have been hilarious stories over the years caused by this confusion, like an entire bus of supporters missing a football match because they arrived to Budapest instead of Bucharest.

A few years ago, some refugees simply jumped off a moving train when they found out it was headed to Bucharest instead of Budapest. Even Michael Jackson, when he had his first ever concert in Romania greeted the people there by saying “Hello Budapest”.

The truth is that, apart from the fact that Hungary and Romania are neighboring countries and the names sound a bit alike, the two cities are extremely different. And after spending one month in Budapest, I’ve decided it’s time for a face-off in order to pick a winner. It’s the battle of the neighbors in today’s article: Budapest vs. Bucharest – which one is the best?

Before we start comparing the two cities, it’s worth noting that I am only doing this on a personal level, based on my own impressions, experiences and feelings. Bucharest and Budapest are two very different cities and I could go as far as saying that comparing the two is like comparing apples and pears.

However, since many people are doing this already (or simply mistake one city for another) I am sharing my opinions as well. So let’s not waste any time and instead let’s check out the article about Bucharest vs Budapest and pick up a winner.

Things to see

Since both cities are the capitals of their countries, you can imagine that there’s a ton to see in each. However, without a single doubt and without having to think about it for too long, Budapest clearly wins this battle as the city is absolutely beautiful and has a LOT more to offer than Bucharest does.

The building themselves (especially in the central area) look absolutely stunning, while the number of impressive attractions in Budapest is far greater than in Bucharest.

There are nice things too see in Bucharest, for sure, but there’s a ton more in Hungary’s capital and they are more impressive, in my opinion.

The architecture is beautiful there and you should prepare for some neck straining because you’ll be walking down the streets looking up at the amazing buildings.

For us, it was an absolute joy to simply explore the streets and enjoy the architecture which is much more charming than the bunch of communist block buildings in Bucharest.

Even though Romania’s capital has its own share of charming, old houses and buildings, their number is limited compared to Budapest.

It’s true, Bucharest started rehabilitating the older buildings, as well as the blocks of flats, and therefore they’re adding some uniformity and remove the chaos a little bit, but you still can’t compare them with the works of art in Budapest.

The Fisherman's Village, one of the must see attractions in Budapest
The Fisherman’s Village, one of the must see attractions in Budapest

Without actually counting them, Budapest also wins when it comes to the number of attractions and other things to see apart from the regular buildings: from a beautiful zoo to an amazing Margaret island with huge pools and water fountains that “dance” on the rhythm of the music, to impressive castles, monasteries, churches and museums, beautiful parks and much, much more, the Hungarian capital simply has a lot more to offer.

Of course, this makes sense as they were a huge empire with a ton more funds that Romania ever had, but if you’re trying to find the best place for expanding your horizons and visiting more, Budapest is the clear winner.

After the initial month that I spend in Budapest with my family back in 2016, I came back for an extra month next year and visited the city on a few other occasions afterwards. We still haven’t seen everything it has to offer and it was always impressive.

Things to do

I have already shared an article on the top things to do in Bucharest and I am glad I don’t have to write one for Budapest as well, because the list would be a LOT longer. Probably endless.

Literally, there is always something happening in Budapest and there are so many hidden (or not so hidden) gems that will make you fall in love with the city, irremediably.

Their central area with the ruin pubs offers way more entertainment options, restaurants and charming shops than Bucharest does in the Old Center even though, truth be told, they are both pretty much amazing.

In Bucharest, you can probably walk around the old center in 20-30 minutes and see everything it has to offer, while in Budapest it might take you a couple of days.

Also, the restaurants in Budapest in the central areas, as well as the pubs, are trying to lure you in with different themes and eye-catching designs that it will take you a lot more to check them all out.

Of course, you don’t actually need 100 restaurants to enjoy good food and feel good, so even if Bucharest has a lot less to offer in terms of numbers and variety, there are still many options to choose from so you will definitely not end up starving – on the contrary!

Even your regular KFC can be found inside a historical building
Even your regular KFC can be found inside a historical building

As I said, there is always something happening in Budapest: on numerous occasions, we simply went out for a walk to end up at a concert, a free festival of some kind (the beer festival was a pleasant surprise, where they had huge meat smokers there for delicious food and absolutely amazing beer!), street dancing and much, much more.

There is indeed a lot happening in Bucharest as well and you certainly won’t get bored, but the amount of things Budapest has to offer is almost intimidating especially in terms of high quality, free entertainment.

The fact that there is a lot more to do in Budapest than Bucharest also has to do with the way higher number of tourists and expats visiting or living there – but in the end, the “why” matters less than the fact that this is the reality: there’s a lot more to do in Hungary’s capital, for all ages.

The people

I don’t speak any Hungarian (well, I did learn some basic words like “Hello” or “Thank you”), so I might be wrong, but I doubt it: the people living there are way more polite and probably more educated that what you can usually see in Romania.

I also believe that it’s the influx of tourists and their high demands that change the way people act and behave, but in the end it doesn’t matter why they are like this, it’s just nice to know that they are. In Bucharest and throughout Romania, there’s still a lot of work left to do in this area.

Everybody is extremely polite in Budapest and customer service is brilliant (even though they have their rotten apples as well).

The people are extremely organized, they seem calmer and they appear to enjoy life more, they don’t seem to always be shouting and upset, they don’t have the bad habit of staring at you like Romanians do and their system of values seems to be different.

When using public transportation with our 3-years old son, for example, even if I was the one carrying him (usually in a sling), there was always – ALWAYS – at least one person offering me their seat.

The record was set when three people – a large MAN and two OLD LADIES – got up and almost started to fight each other regarding which seat we should take. That would never happen in Bucharest.

Actually, in Romania, you’re lucky if somebody even bothers to offer you the seat and you will never see a man offering his seat to another man – even if he’s carrying three hundred kids. Same goes for old ladies.

(2020 update: things have improved in this area a lot since writing this article and more people are offering their seats to those in need, but there’s still a lot of work to be done here as well).

Also, Romania has a different mentality, probably thanks to the horrible values of the (fortunately declining in popularity) manele music and the communist era.

Even though I didn’t understand Hungarian, I am pretty much sure that they don’t address each other as many Romanians do: “boss” (and other similar, high-rank sounding stuff), “Godfather” and again many untranslatable stuff: words that should make the one you’re addressing feel like a richer, more powerful person than they actually are.

Romanians are also less polite than Hungarians, they actually have a different posture and walking style (as if they’re always carrying a rock weighting a ton on their shoulders) and seem less happy than their Hungarian neighbors.

This is, of course, a generalization: fortunately many of the younger people in Romania are different or are at least starting to change, but it seems that our neighbors started this process before we did and it shows.

So overall, based on my first impression and minor interactions with people living in Budapest, I’d say that I prefer them better, even though Romanians are by no means rude – especially to foreigners and you should have no problem interacting with them or being in their company.

The cost of living

Although I didn’t get the chance to find out the costs of all the monthly expenses in Budapest, most important being the utilities one has to pay, from what I’ve seen, the cost of living appears to be very similar to that of living in Bucharest.

Food prices, clothes, services and entertainment at least are all similarly priced – although a little higher in Budapest.

For example, a monthly public transportation pass in Budapest is 9,500 Forints (both metro and buses), which makes it 30 Euros or about 135 lei. A similar option in Bucharest costs 120 lei (27 Euros), where you actually pay for two different passes: 70 lei for the metro and 50 lei for the bus pass.

So in theory, if you only used one means of transport exclusively, you would end up paying a lot less than what you would in Hungary. But it’s always better to have both.

The Central Market in Budapest - tourist-orientated, but still with fair prices and better looking than any peasants market I've seen in Romania
The Central Market in Budapest – tourist-orientated, but still with fair prices and better looking than any peasants market I’ve seen in Romania

What I know for sure costs a lot more is medical care (at least at private clinics). I checked out the prices at Medicover (since there’s also one in Bucharest) and prices seemed to be double in Budapest. And since they’re both private clinics, at least in theory, they should offer about the same quality.

Overall, I believe that the cost of living would be higher in Budapest compared to Bucharest, but still nowhere near to the Germany/France/UK costs. However, Bucharest remains the cheaper option without doubt.

My personal opinion

I personally loved Budapest. I loved it the first time I visited it last year for just a few days and this year, after spending one month there, I fell in love with it even more. (As I said, I did return for an extra month and visited on a few other occasions).

It is not a perfect city, of course, and the fact that I was the tourist there and didn’t understand the language probably saved me from getting some of the more negative aspects, just like living there for a month as opposed to the few years that I lived in Bucharest did.

But overall, my personal opinion is that Budapest is better than Bucharest and the slightly higher cost of living is totally worth it.

If I had to choose between these two cities a place to spend my entire life in, I would go with Hungary’s capital without any doubts.

This was one of the best ice creams I've ever eaten, but certainly not one of the main reasons why I loved Budapest
This was one of the best ice creams I’ve ever eaten, but certainly not one of the main reasons why I loved Budapest

I am judging it, of course, as a place for raising a family: I personally had the feeling that it would be better for my son to grow up in Budapest than it would be in Bucharest. I had the feeling that I would feel better there than I would in Bucharest.

However, I am sure that just one month of living in a country doesn’t really show you all the cons and it’s possible that I only saw the things that were better. However, on this matter, my wife agrees with me too and also considers Budapest better than Bucharest.

Our opinion didn’t change after spending an additional month the next year and even though some of the novelty and excitement factor wasn’t as high as before, we still absolutely loved the city and everything about it.

I have to add an important note, though, because there are many people who are considering retiring to Romania.

In that particular case – when you don’t really care that much about night life, about a million restaurants with different themes and just 1,000 are enough, when all you need is just a slower paced living at decent standards and good costs and the education of a young kid or grandson, Bucharest might be just as good – probably even better if we consider the fact that it is cheaper.

You will surely find great people in Romania (or Bucharest), you will surely find highly educated individuals and people that you will have a lot in common with, people with high moral standards and a healthy set of values, as well as an active expat community.

But my personal opinion is that based on the things that I have mentioned above, the “fight” between Budapest and Bucharest is won by the former.

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52 thoughts on “Budapest vs. Bucharest: Which One to Choose?”

  1. Hi Calin: (No offense to Reina KemKem!)
    Loved this article, and the pictures are great! Seems like Budapest is overall tops. (But it’s better to be sick in Bucharest to save some money;-)
    Did you travel to any other cities close by–to the ‘burbs of Budapest? I would think it would be nice to live close enough to Budapest (by bus or Metro) to enjoy all the good things of the city but live outside of the main city–to save money, and maybe some sanity?
    With Bucharest, I would probably opt to live in Oltopeni, Pantelimon, or Voluntari (of course you’d know best!) to be close enough to enjoy the plusses of Bucharest, but not live in the central city and deal with the minuses like those of most major cities.
    I hope you found you home in the condition you left it. Hopefully, you stopped your mail and newspapers, or had a neighbor pick them up.
    Again, a great article! Thanks for sharing your adventures in Budapest!

    • Thank you Teil! We only visited Budapest as everything that took us too long was left out for another time because it was difficult to fit long commutes with our son’s schedule. However, even in the central areas – and everywhere else, Budapest seemed surprisingly not-crowded. From public transportation to the streets and even the number of cars, everything looked like a mid-sized city. Sundays made you feel that a zombie apocalypse had swiped out the entire population and you were the only one left alive (you and other tourists, of course).

      • Hi Calin,
        Welcome back! And I too like the new format with white background! You certainly create a dilemma with your high praise of Budapest, especially how much nicer and polite the people were. Would you consider that across the board or just comparing Bucharest and Budapest? In other words, aren’t the people generally friendlier in the smaller cities in Romania, than say in Bucharest, the capital? Maybe you’d consider doing a rating of the top Romanian cities on a friendliness scale and more personal impressions? I can only imagine it can vary a bit, as in the U.S., there are definitely big differences between different cities and different areas of the country. Another question, will you be doing a follow up with the family who relocated to Brasov soon? Curious about their experiences. Thanks and glad to see you back posting again! Best Regards, JC

        • Hello, JC! I tried to compare things mostly with Bucharest, but the same goes for the whole country with only minor differences. However, it might be a matter of perspective or being the foreigner in the country: the family that moved to Brasov, for example, told me that they feel there exactly as I described to feel in Budapest. So things might be slightly more different for foreigners anywhere in the country, but I personally believe that there are still differences and they are big.

          I would love to do a follow-up with the family in Brasov and hopefully both them and I will find time to make it happen as soon as possible!

    • Hell, Romanian would be far easier to learn considering I speak French. Although I’m very good at swearing in Magyar (grew up in a Hungarian neighbourhood in Canada.

    • It was worth it! And since they didn’t have a toilet, they offered you a ticket to use the one in the nearby Hilton hotel – I had to go just for the sake of them having a guy in shorts and wearing a cap wander around there. :))

  2. I like the new “whiter” format to the blog. I was in Budapest in 1985 and again more recently. It was like night and day. The streets had potholes and the buildings were all the same yellowish/brown. It has really become a jewel after the communist period ended. The political situation there has me a little worried. Thanks for the report. Oh, I almost forgot a funny story. From 1998 to 2003 I often drove through Hungary to get to Romania. I kept seeing these signs which said “Helado.” Helado in Spanish means ice cream. Now I know Hungarian is not a Latin language but… Wow, they really like ice cream I thought. It’s being sold everywhere! The helado signs were on cars sitting by the side of the road, on shuttered houses and on empty store fronts. Hmm, well, where is this ice cream? I wondered. Of course, it turns out “helado” in Hungarian means “For sale.”From your blog, I now know that there really is excellent ice cream in Hungary!

    • I am happy that you like the new look of the blog, Stuart! I didn’t know that Budapest grew up so much in the recent years, I thought that it was always that beautiful. It’s true, in many areas they are still working on the buildings, so it will only get better!

      Funny ice cream story! And yes, they do have great ice cream 🙂

    • hahahah! i’m hungarian. It’s “eladó” not “helado”. yes. it means “for sale” but “helado is a non existing word in hungarian language

  3. I agree with Stuart. I really like this new look :-). This is such a great post. It confirms how l felt on both of our visits. It is really a great place. I would still consider Budapest to live. The only thing that is keeping me from seriously considering it is the cold in the winter. After living in Boston for years, l was like no more cold places. Now, even winters here, my bones l think we have to take Budapest off the plate. We visited a little town that was about 2 hours outside of Budapest and it was really lovely and cheaper than the city, idyllic really, but you would have to want a slower pace of life to enjoy it. I think when we get to the point where it is just 2 of us (no dogs even though l never want that day to come), we will switch to a 6 month here and 6 month there system. At that point, we could do Budapest. We both liked it that much. There is an expat and her hubby who lived in Budapest for 2 years and from reading her blog, the cost of living was really reasonable. I hear Prague is slightly cheaper than Budapest. Never been, but l think overall l would still prefer Budapest. This is an awesome post C. I think it will give people a lot to think about, which is good :-).

    • Thank you, Kemkem! It is indeed beautiful, but also colder. We were still wearing long pants and sleeves for half of June (especially inside) while my mother was complaining about the heat at home. I can only imagine how bad the winters are there and how difficult it is to heat up the apartments in Budapest which have very high ceilings. Our host actually said that although they are very nice to the eye, they’re not nice to the pockets during the winter.

      Just like Budapest didn’t sound like a city I’d like before I actually got there, Prague doesn’t have anything to lure me in. But I know nothing in reality about it and I’ve been wrong once so I should put it on the wish list as well!

      • I know, l said the same thing. I’ve been wrong before :-). Hey.. l used your link to for my hotel! I have to remember to use it whenever l can 🙂

    • Hi Kemkem,
      I would love to hear more about your experiences too! Do you mind sharing a little more info about the little town outside of Budapest that you enjoyed so much? Btw, what was the name of that town? And I’m curious too about Prague, but I had heard and read quite the opposite as far as costs, so I’m really curious your thoughts and what you’d heard. I did hear good things about Prague, but that it was quite a bit more expensive overall than Budapest or Bucharest, which now I am wondering about. Also, are there any smaller cities near mountains in Portugal that you know or have heard good things about? Sorry to bother you, but I’d appreciate any thoughts or advice you may have. Thank you!
      Best Regards, JC

  4. Hi Calin:
    You didn’t mention which way little Eric voted.:-)
    I forgot to ask about the number of people asking for alms (begging) and the number of stray poochinskis (bow-wow!) in Budapest.
    I’ve been doing my research, and as you know, Bucharest used to be called “The Little Paris,” and “The Paris of the East.” Unfortunately, the 1977 Vrancea earthquake did terrible damage to a lot of the old city. And of course, “Nico C.,” did quite a lot of razing of historic buildings–especially for his gigantic Palace of the Parliament. Yes, I agree about the Communist-era architecture being not the most eye-pleasing. Hopefully, as buildings are razed, the new ones will at least be more attractive and more fitting of a capital city.
    Here is a link to some pictures and a short history of Bucharest for your readers:

    • Hello Teil,

      Eric likes it everywhere, so he’s not reliable 🙂 He did love it in Budapest, though, even though he couldn’t speak the language and playing with other kids was a bit more difficult for him.

      I don’t recall seeing any stray dogs in Budapest, and the number of beggers is also way, way lower. There are a few of them here and there, but usually not like the ones in Romania – following you and asking you for money, but rather standing in one place waiting for people to drop something for them. They do have a few homeless people that set up camps near metro entries (with actual mattresses and blankets and such) which is not something I’ve seen in Romania, but they mind their own business and apart from the unpleasant smell (I guess they also use the area as their bathroom), they don’t interfere and mind their own business..

  5. Hi Calin!
    Thanks for the response! Now I’m curious, since you liked Budapest so much, could you see making a permanent move there? But also, as a digital nomad, wouldn’t you ideally like to travel more, being able to do what you do, from anywhere? The only drawback I see may be having moving around a lot with such a young family. With a lot of renewed interest in Eastern Europe lately, it seems one could stay busy covering everywhere in that part of the world including Budapest, Bucharest, Sofia, Skopje, Belgrade, Prague, and even as far as Tallinn in Estonia, which sounds kind of interesting. I may even volunteer to go to all those places to take photos and do research for you, Calin!
    A sacrifice I’d be willing to make! But seriously, I look forward to hearing more details about your adventures in Budapest, and whatever you’ll be covering next. Great to have you back! Best Regards, JC

    • It’s always difficult to balance my digital nomading dreams with those of setting up home base in a really nice country that is also affordable – and Hungary seems to be like that. I am actually in Bucharest right now with the intention of really comparing the two cities and it’s pretty much obvious that I have been right and Budapest is indeed the better one. Traveling with a young kid is indeed the biggest challenge and we do have to think about him first and leave our personal preferences for later…

      • I can appreciate that dilemma, as I faced similar when I was younger, while raising my son with my wife, I did a lot of traveling for my company, and a compromise was to often take them with me if I was going to someplace very long. Another question Calin; Have you or anyone you know spent any time in Bulgaria, specifically Blagoevgrad or Plovdiv, but even thoughts on Sofia would be appreciated? I just found out that a friend of a friend here in town, traveled to Eastern Europe last year, and his favorite places were, wait for it, Brasov and Plovdiv! Go figure, he also spend a day or two in Turkey and didn’t like it at all. So, since Budapest opened up the discussion here to other countries in the region, do you have any thoughts or experiences with Bulgaria? Thanks Calin, and I look forward to your next story. Best Regards, JC

        • JC, unfortunately I have never visited Bulgaria, but I heard people praise Plovdiv as well – it seems that it is an expat hub in Bulgaria, which means that services and everything else will only get better. Even though I haven’t been there, I do believe that Bulgaria is pretty much the same as Romania in all aspects.

        • Hi Calin,
          In re-reading your comparison of Bucharest to Budapest, and then reviewing the research I’ve done on Romania, and to a lessor degree, Hungary and now Bulgaria, I think it’s almost unfair to compare them. I also have exchanged emails with a few people who have spent time in each of those places. I can say overall that even though Budapest was highly rated by most people, and many praised it, some still think it may be a tad too touristy. Plus, Budapest is generally considered the only place worth visiting or spending any time in while in Hungary.

          Conversely, almost everyone I was able to have discussions with, found Bucharest the least impressive place to spend much time in while visiting Romania. Even those that though there may be a site or two worth seeing there, they recommended moving on quickly to the Transylvania area cities, and maybe even smaller towns which had a lot of charm. but Brasov, Sibiu, Cluj, Alba lulia, etc were all recommended and considered worth spending extra time exploring. Also, as a side note, regarding Bulgaria, Plovdiv and Veliko Tarnovo were considered must see cities while in Eastern Europe.

          I’m just saying while Budapest may be better across the board than any of it’s competition, maybe even one of the most impressive capital cities across Europe, that you’re right in saying that Bucharest can’t really compare. Bucharest is just not there yet (as you indicated), and located in a fairly uninspiring area, scenery-wise, whereas those cities in the Transylvania mountains have a beauty and mystique about them, as well as retaining some of their old world charm.

          Bottom line is that head to head, maybe Budapest is far more impressive than Bucharest right now, and maybe Bulgaria also has some interesting cities worth visiting too. But across the board in the big picture, and comparing the whole countries, neither Hungary or Bulgaria can seriously compete with all that Romania has to offer, as either a place to visit or as a potential place to relocate or retire. No offense of course, just some random thoughts, as I really do appreciate your insights and opinions.
          Best Regards, JC

  6. Yes, JC, in the end, all that matters is what one seeks from the place they live in and I can only be extremely happy to see that there are so many options out there. Budapest is indeed very touristy – we heard almost no Hungarian being spoken in the city center (of course, I am exaggerating a bit) but I personally enjoyed that. Could that become tiresome in the long run? It might be, but to me the explosion of so many different people from different countries was charming.

    In the end, however, if you choose to live in a specific city, tourist attractions get old pretty soon. Many of the beautiful sights and places we have visited gave us no reason to visit again. We’ve seen the Buda castle last year and felt no need to get there again this year. So yes, the tourist attractions become regular things for somebody living there, meaning that in the long run for people just living there, they might not mean a lot.

    However, there were other aspects as well and many nuances that you feel and see and can’t really explain that make a place better than another (and again I say that this is a personal opinion and some might not agree): but I am in Bucharest right now and a couple of days I took my wife for a walk in a central area on a main road just to see how things compare with Budapest. And even though it was indeed better than I remembered, even though nice trees and green areas were around us (something you rarely see in Budapest), it was not as good. Better than I remembered, true, but nowhere near: crowded, extremely noisy (I think people in Romania and Bucharest especially would win any honking contest in Europe) and missing a specific something to make you really enjoy it. It was not a walk I would take again unless I’d really have to.

    In the end, it matters what one wants from Romania: there are some who love the bustling city, the constant crowds and the noise – it keeps them alert and alive – while others prefer smaller cities with idyllic views and a slower paced life or even the almost-unaltered natural beauty. Fortunately, Romania has all of these some place or another.

  7. Hi Calin,
    First, I truly appreciate your blog and all of your observations, reviews and critique of the areas there in Romania and any other cities you may visit, such as Budapest. Also, believe me, I do realize that no amount of research and study from afar that I do can compare to actually being there like you, born and raised there and experiencing all the good and bad that one eventually finds any place they’ve been long enough. What is ideal, either for a holiday or that perfect retirement spot is quite subjective and different for everyone. I know many folks planning to retire soon who think a tropical location with sandy beaches and sunny hot weather all year is like heaven for them. Personally, that would be torture to me. I want and need real seasons, love the break of cold weather in the winter, and being in or near the mountains for the wide open feeling and fresh crisp air there. And “touristy” isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Plus, there are degrees of it, like the extreme, such as Disney World or Las Vegas, that are almost strictly vacation destinations, or on the other hand, places like New York or Budapest or London, that happen to get a lot of tourists, but aren’t exactly tourist destinations. And plenty of people love living in that busy, bustling environment, where there is always something happening and something exciting to do. So, trust me, I get the appeal of Budapest to you.

    I feel like Eastern Europe in general is not given the respect it deserves, and not fully appreciated for the friendly people, the beautiful country, including mountain vistas and beach resorts and everything else in between. I am confident that Romania is for me, and plan to base myself in Sibiu, and then, as I can, travel around the rest of Romania, and even Hungary, Bulgaria, and beyond as well. It’s so unfortunate that the corruption and low wages are the main things that keep many Romanians from enjoying their country as much as they deserve, and should be able to. It’s not right, and I hope that it can be fixed in the near future, or the best and brightest Romanians will continue to leave for greener pastures, though mostly for financial reasons. One last interesting note, I live just outside Orlando, Florida, so just for fun Calin, take a quick look at the two numbeo comparison charts I attached links here below for Orlando Florida & Sibiu Romania, one is “cost of living” and the other is “crime”. Purchasing power for Sibiu is the only negative on either chart, and that’s actually a non-factor for anyone not relying on working locally for their income. But please, take a look, very eye opening how much better Sibiu fares across the board. Btw, thanks for your feedback, and the info you provide here, it’s much appreciated!

    • Yes, I think that the numbers – at least for Sibiu – are pretty accurate. Actually, numbeo usually plays it on the safe side in Romania’s case and I am 100% sure that you can get even lower prices than those listed there after you get used with the supermarkets in the city.

      Just the first few things on the “Market prices” chart, and we have milk that can be bought at 2 lei per liter (numbeo lists at 3.56), a loaf of fresh bread can be bought for 1 leu (listed at 2.88) and similar examples can follow. I have always found it a bit funny that basically the same food has so huge cost differences based on countries, just like rent…

      • Generally, I think that food prices in numbeo are notably higher than what can be found for most countries. For example here at a chain called Aldi’s I just bought a case of bottled water for $1.99, loaf of bread for .99 cents, dozen eggs for .99 cents, 10 pounds of potatoes for $3.49, etc, etc., all much lower than those listed.

        But here’s the thing, I believe pretty much anywhere in the world, prices on regular grocery items, including all your food are actually fairly close in price once you know where & how to shop. But, the real determining factor for anyone who doesn’t own their home, the biggest expense, and the one that actually determines where you can and can’t afford to live in the world, is rent. For example, there are cities in Bulgaria and even Romania where the same apartment you may find for as little as $150 can go for as much as $3,000 in New York or London. Everyone learns how to find the best prices on food & other necessities wherever they live, but it’s all about rent (and to some degree, utilities) that determine where you can ultimately afford to live.

        As for me, I wouldn’t be surprised if I had to pay a little more for food in Romania, but I’ll save so much in rent, it makes all the difference in quality of life. Looking ahead here, I believe I have some sense of the reality of what many Romanians must feel, struggling with their average wages, as trying to survive here on $1,300 a month would feel roughly equivalent. The problem for a lot of Americans entering retirement is even if you have a some savings to supplement your social security or pension, if you rely on it too much, you may live longer than your savings holds out, and then what?

        But I feel fortunate, in that I look forward to moving to Romania for so many other reasons beside just saving money, as I don’t like some of the things happening here in the U.S. and I don’t believe there is any area more beautiful here that Transylvania region there. I think Romania is a good fit for me in so many ways and am excited to make the move. I just have a few loose ends to wrap up and I haven’t even officially retired yet, so that’s why it will be later this year or possibly early next year to make it a reality. Anyway, again, appreciate all of your advice, and I was very impressed with how helpful you were to Kevin and his family, as they completed their move to Brasov. You provide such a unique perspective here, as nobody else is really talking very much about Romania online…yet! Take care!

        • Thanks, JC! I am happy to help and if you ever need anything extra, don’t hesitate to use the Contact Me page – I will help if I can!

          And the thing about the rent is a great point – I was thinking recently that living in Budapest is not, in the end, too expensive and we could afford it, but it would be the monthly rent that might actually make it impossible for us at the moment.

  8. JC-

    I have been reading your posts and like your mental reasoning. You are doing very similar things to what i have been doing in assessing the viability of retiring to Romania. I think it is safe to say the American dollar will go twice as far in Romania as in united states and perhaps a little more. I believe I am almost always conservative in my valuations on most everything. My wife is Romanian and we will retire to Alba Iulia in about five years. It is about a half hour drive from Sibiu. I think it would be cool to connect with you as one of my big concerns to Retiring to Romania is loosing my friends network and trying to reestablish that in Romania. I have been to Florida a few times and could not imagine retiring their in the hot and humid area.

    You will love Sibiu as i am very happy Sibiu is so close to Alba Iulia. It is a very progressive city in my opinion with everything you could possibly want. I actually have flown into Sibiu International airport from Bucharest. You are also correct in Transylvania being a Romanian gem but you need to keep your mouth shut about that or else you know what is going to happen.

    I too am fed up with United States “system” sad I am so helpless to fix the problems. I am wanting campaign finance reform #1 and better educational system #2 as education is possibly our only hope. We need some genius to figure us out of this mess. No pressure… I have voted democratic most my life but my father is a strong Republican and i voted for the first Bush so i am a middle of the roader. But i can go into an impressive negative Republican rant with next to no prodding. I like to trickle down on them.

    I have a web site you can check out (not nearly as good as this one) and we have C to thank for motivating me. I also stole his great idea in naming it where i am trying to document our process of retiring to Romania as an american.

    Yes! Thanks C for putting the effort into this blog. Probably not a money maker and clearly you poor a lot of time into it and we all THANK YOU!!

    • Hi Otto,
      First, it’s great to hear all of this from another American with similar experiences & discoveries who is also researching and planning a move to Romania. Funny, what was starting to happen was the more I researched each area and even surrounding countries, I started to get conflicted, and realize there is no way to be absolutely certain of anything before getting there and actually living it day to day. That said, even if I end up traveling around Eastern Europe and beyond a bit, I feel pretty comfortable now in planning to base myself in the Transylvania area. It’s funny actually, as another Romanian blogger was the one that convinced me that Sibiu was the best fit for me, at least to start. A mix of old world culture & new, large enough to have pretty much everything you might need, but off the beaten path enough to feel smaller than it is. I looked hard at Alba Iulia and Brasov too. I thought Alba Iulia was beautiful, and maybe benefited as much as anywhere in Romania from being admitted into the EU, with lots of renovation and just giving the city a facelift without hurting it’s charm. At least initially, I feel I may need a bigger city, with more facilities, but in time I may still end up in a smaller town, as I’ve had my share of big cities and prefer smaller, more intimate settings.

      For me, making the move is not a difficult decision, as I look forward to this as a new chapter in my life, an adventure that I’ve been needing for a while. I don’t have much family left alive, and though I’m close to my ex-wife and my 32 year old son, I can continue to skype as I do now, which is how I stay in touch with most everyone anyway. I’m turning 62 this year, and taking early retirement, which will cost me around $400 bucks for not waiting till 66, but somehow I think I’ll be fine in Romania with my roughly $1,400 dollars a month. I’ve known a few friends and acquaintances, that have blown through as much as a couple of hundred thousand in savings after retirement in just a few years, by trying to maintain their previous lifestyle here, and then some, because of a tendency to travel more when you’re retired. Regardless, $16k a year on S.S. doesn’t go very far anywhere in the U.S., but fortunately, in Romania, it should work just fine.

      Politically, without getting too far into it, I too was a democrat for years, but have found myself moving closer to the right in the last few years, mostly due to frustration over what I feel is too much political correctness these days. Recently, with so much distance between the far left and far right these days, I find myself almost squarely in the middle, and consider myself an independent. I can also say without question, that I am not happy with either choice currently running for President, and feel like this country will probably be in trouble no matter who wins. My sister is very liberal, and my in-laws are very conservative, so when discussing politics, I can’t win with either……

      Now, on to brighter things, I think it’s amazing that you’re building a house in Alba Iulia, and it seems like a wonderful advantage having a Romanian wife, particularly in regard to making it a little easier getting so many different things done there. Having local connections anywhere is helpful, and that would be especially true if she still has family there too. Anything required in buying land, filing legal documents or other types of paperwork, including establishing long term residency. So, congrats on that making the process of retiring there a little easier. Personally, I am curious and hopeful that when Calin interviews Kevin and his family again, at some point we can get more details of exactly what all Kevin has had to do to establish long term residency.

      Anyway, I get you where you are coming from on not letting too many in on the secret of what a great place Romania could be for many Americans or other expats as well. The thing is most I’ve talked to are only interested in some place warm and or tropical, which having lived all over Florida for years now, I actually hate the heat and really miss the seasons of being further north. To give you an idea, my favorite vacation spots over the years were Seattle or Portland in the NW, or even Alaska. One of favorite things to do, is hike in the mountains, with that fresh crisp air, beautiful scenery, just love all that. Another reason I think I’d love being in Transylvania. Anyway Otto, we should exchange emails and keep up this talk of Romania, from the perspective of expats or soon to be expats. I’ll see if I can contact you over on your site. Take care friend. Best Regards, JC

      • I’m just interrupting for a bit – JC, you can surely share the url of the Romania blogger than convinced you to make the move here, I am sure other people will find it useful as well!

        • Hi Calin,
          I’m so sorry, I promise I’m not trying to hijack your blog here! It was just so interesting to exchange some thoughts and ideas with Otto, a fellow American about moving to and retiring in Romania.

          Regarding your suggestion, Miruna Corneanu, is a fellow Romanian blogger like you, and who writes for and has reviews and descriptions of lots of interesting locations, including Romania. She was very helpful to me, making suggestions about particular cities that I had inquired about. Here is one article on some of the unique attractions of Romania below. There is a contact tab at the top of the page. Thanks Calin, Best Regards, JC

        • Thanks for sharing, JC. And don’t worry about chatting with Otto, I totally understand it! It was actually your chat that made me consider adding a forum section to Romania Experience – that might prove very helpful in the long run!

  9. Yes C. a forum page could be nice to get chat off the pages. I would imagine many people find our conversation interesting and expect to see it in these pages as the intent of your writings are to get people excited about Romania and the advantages of living their. That said, Romania is very boring, crime ridden and full vampires and should be avoided. Better to live in Bulgaria as they have no vampires. Of course my vampire is kind of hot and only bites occasionally and i am a Sadist so it works. But Romania is NOT for everyone. Best left to us crazy people.

    Not sure where i am going with this conversation as i got side tracked. But thanks for the site and opportunity to share our thoughts and (mostly negative) experiences on Romania. 🙂

    • Ok Otto & C !

      What am I supposed to do with the two of you? Between Calin telling everyone that Budapest (in Hungary) is better than Bucharest (in Romania)!??…… and then Otto, you telling people to go live in Bulgaria instead!..geez!

      Ok, I thought this site was supposed to be promoting Romania!? Calin, I guess you’ll have to let me write a little column for your site, telling everyone how wonderful Romania really is………….you know, with the minor exception of…….. all those scary VAMPIRES!…right Otto?

        • Hi Calin,

          I’ve sent a couple of private messages also, through the “contact me” tab at the top of main page. It read as though they were “sent”, but I have no further way of knowing whether you received them or not. Obviously, take your time reviewing or whatever your schedule and process allows, but I’d appreciate it if you could just confirm whether you received them? Thanks!
          Best Regards, JC

        • Judging from the comment below, it appears that the contact form is somehow not working. I will share my e-mail directly to make it easier in the future and I will send you an e-mail right away to the address you use when you comment (it’s not visible to the public, just myself). Sorry about that!

  10. Well i have a different opinion based on my travelings to these cities.

    First of all, when it comes to beauty and sights, the clear winner is Budapest. I too had almost broke my neck while staring at the endless streams of rich, decorated and newly renowated facades and numerous monumental statues. Parks and green islands were all perfectly trimmed, i havent seen a single grafitti everywhere. Thousands of people swarming trough the streets.

    On my first visit to Budapest, i discovered a small bar, where i was met with great hospitality, atmosphere and a large, phenomenal and cheap coffee with milk. It was a great memory.

    I have since then been to Budapest 5 times and my view of the city changed. All of those grand and opulent buildings didn’t impress me in the slightest anymore. Not just because i ‘ve seen them before, but because i realised just how overwhelming, tiresome and kitsch the buildings are. There always seems to be a gazillion hungarian flags everywhere, just to remind you that you, indeed, are in Hungary

    Budapest has two million people but it did not feel global. It felt touristy – as if the whole center is just one big expozition. Thousands of turists wandering trough the city, overcrowded caffes, overcrowded mcdonalds, kfcs…i know Budapest is not alone in this matter, but to me it felt rather unnatural and devoid of substenence.

    It’s a gross generalization to label the whole nation, especially based on your personal experiences and observations – but i found Budapesteans rather dull, closed and distant. Almost as if they are pissed at the tourists but have to tolerate them because of the profits. Atleast i felt like that when i was visiting the shops and caffes – rare places where you can actually hear and meet Hungarians, mostly workers. I also remember the nervous workers smoking outside their office buildings, shivering in cold and in A LOT of homeless people, beggars and scammers. Again, i know that is the common trait of big cities, but in Budapest it makes a particulary strong and negative impression when those people are confronted with the pristine and opulent facades. Last, on my last visit to the mentioned caffe, i waited for 10 minutes in an emtpy caffe to get my coffee. When i asked the waiter did something happen, he replied to me with a snarky face – this is a self-serving caffe. Mind you, nor was it like that for the last couple of times nor there was any signs.

    I could go on, but my point is that i felt the city was kind of soulless. Great outside beauty, but less actual essence. And please remember, this is my opinion. I absolutely understand why someone else could have a different one. I guess it depends on what makes a city for you.

    • Hello Nikola,

      Even with the things you mentioned above, Budapest still seems better that Bucharest :)) I am, of course, happy to hear that you enjoyed Romania – or at least Bucharest – more than you did Budapest. I am sure both countries have a lot more to offer than just the capitals, and things might be completely different out there and in the end, it’s all about personal taste, as you said. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences about Budapest!

  11. Hi! As a Hungarian I appreciate your kind comments. There is a reason for all what you’ve experienced: Romania belongs to the (real) Eastern Europe, while Hungary is distinctly Central-European. From the West, these two regions might look the same; if you are traveling these lands, you’ll feel the difference immediately.

  12. Bucharest has one of the most impressive and largest building in the world, wich you won’t find in Budapest even if you spend one hundred years


    • The same was said to me by people living their entire life in Budapest – that they still have new things to discover. It’s difficult to be completely objective when you live and enjoy living in one or the other.

  14. As someone who’s been to both and spent LOTS of time in Bucharest, I agree that Budapest is the superior city. Indeed, Bucharest is not even one of my favorite cities in Romania. That would be Sibiu and Brasov. I don’t mind Bucharest, but compared to the other cities in Romania, Bucharest isn’t even a top contender for me.

  15. I took the train to Budapest in the winter and the train station was old and cold. On that comparison I would have rather been at Bucharest’s gara de nord.

    • I think they started renovating it last year. The train station looked like it was impressive once, but neglected until it became less than impressive. There are also surprisingly few places to get something to eat – even for fast food chains, you have to walk a bit.

  16. Budapest is called the gateway to Europe. From this Hungarian capital you can get to different parts of the eurocontinent. I was in Budapest. Amazing architecture, wonderful city. But I have never been to Bucharest. I think it is imperative to plan a trip. And by the way, I have never confused Budapest and Bucharest)))


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