Bureaucracy in Romania: It Can Drive You Crazy!

You probably heard it already – and if you didn’t, it’s time to: bureaucracy will slowly drive you crazy in Romania and most of the times things work exactly opposite as common sense would advise them to work. It is true that they’re starting to make changes and right some of the wrongs, but things are generally pretty chaotic here and getting some official papers done is sometimes close to going through a maze.

I realized that thinking about the process of how I pay my taxes, since I just did that: you have to go to the office and wait in line (there’s usually 3-4 people in front of you and things work relatively fast, though). Nothing too strange here, until the race begins: the first worker gives you a paper with a QR code on it (or sometimes they just write some codes down) which represents the amount you have to pay.

Then, you move on to another counter, where you wait in line again so that the lady there processes the paper. Finally, you move to the counter next to it, where you actually pay the money. This is obviously stuff that one person could easily do – but, hey, Romanians like to over-complicate things!

When I bought my car, the fun was even greater: I first went to the registration office to see exactly what I need (Romania is notorious for state offices asking for a million papers then, after you get them all and spend tens of minutes waiting in line, they tell you that you’re missing a stamp or something like that – and you have to start over).

I made sure I had all the papers and returned to the guy in charge: I had to fill up some forms there and get my papers checked. Of course, something was missing: on the official report based on the official tests made by RAR (Romanian Auto Register) they didn’t write the only thing the office actually needed: the CO2 emissions, even though they knew what I needed. So I had to get back and have that written on my paper – fortunately, not go through all the stages again.

I got back and finally all my papers were ready. Now all I had to do was to go to an office upstairs and get the papers stamped. Which I did, after waiting in line, of course. After getting the stamp, I was told that I need to go to a different office downstairs where a lady would SIGN over the stamp.

Why on earth weren’t they in the same room – why on earth wasn’t it the same person – that is still a mystery. But I did that too, after waiting in line – and I was told to go back to the initial office, where the entire loop ended and the papers were officially ready. Nope, it makes no sense, but this is how things happen in Romania.

And the latest thing that managed to drive me crazy was related to my health insurance. A couple of years ago, a change was made to ease things up: you would pay state health insurance and tax at the tax office (you used to pay the health insurance at the health department).

I was happy about that, because that meant one less line to wait at and less trips around the city. Until earlier this year, when I needed some blood samples taken and the lady checking out my status said that I had no health insurance. So I had to go to the state department and find out that in my particular case (as I am self employed), I have to get to them EVERY month with the proof of payment, so they keep me active on the health insurance list.

Which makes absolutely no sense, because it doesn’t make things easier: why did they make the change for you to pay somewhere else if they are not in contact with that institution and you still have to get to them after making the payment so it’s actually recorded? It’s absolutely crazy and completely stupid. But that’s how things are.

Fortunately, things might smarten up a bit in the future: they’re already working on offering ways to pay these taxes online (you can already do it in Bucharest) and hopefully in a few years these will be nothing but bad memories. But until then, if you plan to come to Romania and you’ll need to get some official papers done, make sure you start your quest when you’re relaxed and well rested. It might get tough!

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17 thoughts on “Bureaucracy in Romania: It Can Drive You Crazy!”

  1. I am happy to read that things are just as screwed up elsewhere. The strangest thing so far that l’ve seen here is trying to register the car, which was bought in the E.U. There are so many different things you need from different places 🙂 . We went to get the forms based on the information from the website. Instead of just having the machine and you get a number and wait your turn to go to any of the 30+ windows with people, which would make sense right? Nope..everyone has to wait in line for a single woman who checks your papers and then gives you a number…so yep..the wait to get a number takes like 2 hours , and then she tells you there is something missing.. 🙁 . It is so frustrating, and if you ever watch that movie Wild Tales that l had recommended, you can understand the frustration with bureaucracy !!! All we can do is smile and keep on..right? Even when l just want to scream 🙂

  2. Hola Calin:
    As “wired” as Romania is–or at least how inexpensive internet access is–I am really surprised Romania doesn’t already allow you to do your taxes on-line. But I guess that would put some of the “stamp” people out of work.
    So how much does it cost, approximately, for your health insurance? Do you have to pay for Wife and Son (Eric) Romanian, too? If you weren’t self-employed, your employer would pay in full, or would you still have Lei (Leu?) deducted? I am curious about dental insurance? Is that covered by your health insurance, or is it a separate billing. How do you rate the dentists where you are? Do you hate having a cleaning, or is it relatively painless?
    With your Dacia, do you have to pay full coverage or just liability (cheaper than full, obviously)? Do you also have to pay tax on using highways, or are there tolls? Do you use your car a lot, or do you mostly just use it for hauling groceries, etc? Have you noticed gas (petrol) prices going down?
    Side question: Did the mother who abandoned her newborn triplets at the hospital in your city have to reclaim them? How sad that she can’t afford to raise them. I hope all will be okay for them!
    Great article–you’re really cranking them out, too;-)
    p.s. If I ever make it to your country as a resident, I better find a good immigration lawyer to help with all the paperwork!!!

    • Hello Teil,

      They do need to keep the number of jobs high, that is true! Health insurance works way differently than in the US and probably other countries: I pay 5.5% of my profits as health insurance (which is really silly, since the services are the same for those making $400 or $10,000 per month). Retired people don’t have to pay anything and if you are unemployed, you can choose to pay it on your own, it’s a really low amount but I don’t actually know the numbers. Children are automatically insured until they are 18.

      In theory, the health insurance covers everything, but in practice, it’s better and easier to just go and pay for the services. Those who really can’t afford have to wait a lot of time to get the free things done (things, of course, change in case of an emergency). Depending on city, getting a tooth extracted is a maximum of 150 lei (that’s about $35) or having a cleaning is at most 200 lei. A consultation is usually 50 lei where I live. So prices are really cheap and most people prefer to just pay instead of wait for the free health care. Unlike the US, the dentists here don’t put you to sleep and use local anesthetics, so you always know what they’re doing. And you have the entire range – from good to not so good doctors. For doing basic stuff I don’t have any complaints.

      Witch cars, you have two types of insurance: mandatory (which is cheaper) and optional (which can cost quite a lot). There is a tax you have to pay for using the roads outside of cities (so not just highways), called Rovigneta, which is about $15 per year. But you can get it on a daily, weekly or monthly basis if you know you won’t leave the city – so if you stay within your city’s limits, you don’t have to pay anything extra.

      Strangely, gas prices haven’t gone down in Romania – they actually went up when they were going down everywhere before getting a bit lower. I don’t use the car that much, but I started to drive relatively often to our country house which is some 36 km away.

      Regarding the mother of the triplets (yup, making my home city famous!), I’ve heard that authorities no longer want to allow her to get the babies and they have received a lot of offers for adoption for all the three girls by the same family – as they don’t want to separate them. It’s surely better for the little souls – it seems that the mother’s story might not be 100% real and she was actually part of a scheme where she intended to actually sell the babies to a family in order to bypass the lengthy adoption process. These are just rumors, but the general opinion here (mine, too) is that the girls will be better with a new family.

      • An unemployed Romanian friend told me recently that he has no health insurance, and if he were to get it as an unemployed person now, it would cost 50 lei a month PLUS he would have to pay BACK-PAYMENTS to a maximum of six months or 300 lei.

        Another story, when I was in Prod way back in the early 2000s, there was a young couple with a small baby that simply wasn’t growing bigger. It was very quiet and always looked a strange shade of gray. Finally, the young couple told us the doctor said the baby needed its spleen removed. The Germans I was with and I, too, just shook our heads, we had never heard of such a thing. We were sure this baby was going to die from questionable medical care. Well, after the operation, darned if the little tyke didn’t get better and now I am told he has grown into a fine young man. It’s just an anecdote, but wow, my estimation of the Romanian medical establishment really improved!

        On the subject of taxes, some people feel everyone who gets the same government service should pay the same tax, whether rich or poor. And then there are those who feel that those most able to pay for services should pay more than those who are less able. A functioning social welfare state depends on “solidarity” among its citizens. If the poor feel well taken care of, they are happier and the rich feel better too. Social Darwinist societies like you-know-who feel if you don’t use a government service, you shouldn’t have to pay taxes at all and if anyone uses government services, he is a loser and should really go beg in the street. I know which type of society I want to live in.

        • Thanks for clearing the prices out, Stuart, that is really helpful! Medical care might not be at an all time high right now – most of the good doctors unfortunately left to other, better paying countries – but this doesn’t mean that there aren’t any really skilled and good individuals left here (and that more are in the making).

  3. Experienced medical system strikes in France and in Argentina. In both cases we got care, but the paperwork was either garbled or ignored.

    I’d like to go to Romania in the coming year and get intensive language instruction so I can chat with the other grandparents of two grandchildren. I am fluent in French and Spanish and get by in Catalan and in Italian. Probably would go to Brasov where my son-in-law has relatives, but need to stay away from English speakers for a week or two.

  4. Hello All,
    on one hand,it seems fun and on the other hand seems painfull. Sometimes Am wondering what’s the use of having an Electronic Government Site that connects togather government site. The good things that at my home land “Jordan” car registration issues are smooth , in terms off Buying / Selling , etc. Again most building are equiped with Elevators for older people , also helping booth are available all the time to fill in your needed papers with less charges.

  5. So can the red tape be minimized? If we rent, don’t own a car, don’t work, use an ATM for banking, is there still a lot to deal with? This seems to be a fact of life in many countries so not a deal breaker. Just to use Nicaragua as an example, I talk to people there and they deal not only with bureaucracy but pollution, water and electricity being routinely cut off, bugs, torrential rain, disease, super slow internet, corruption, theft, heat+humidity. But it’s cheap! I’m glad you are giving such good info about life in Romania. Not a whole lot out there compared with some Latin American countries that are pushed by some info companies. With what’s going on in the Ukraine and Syria it might discourage Americans from considering Romania but after years of searching I think Romania might be the best country for retiring on a budget, red tape or not.

    • Even these nagging things are done once per year or once every few years (in the case of car purchases) so it’s not that bad, in the end. Of course, you can minimize it: if you rent and don’t have a car, probably you’ll have no reason to deal with them (except for the residency related paperwork).

      Romania hasn’t been affected by the problems in Ukraine and things have cooled down in the past few months. Syrian refugees don’t want to come to Romania because it’s a poor country, they prefer Western Europe and Germany, so if that’s a problem, it’s the Western European countries people should stay away from 🙂 As a funny thing that happened recently: several refugees took the wrong train and ended up going towards Romania instead of Germany – when they found out what happened, before reaching the border, they jumped off the train. That is how much they want to be in this country, so it’s perfectly safe :))

  6. Never discount Americans’ fear of the unknown, lol. It’s the situations going on in nearby countries, especially Syria, that would keep Americans away. Too close to Russia and ISIS. Most Americans would never consider living in Mexico, especially after the cartel wars started. Ironic with all the violent crime in the States that they’d be afraid of a very safe country like Romania, but that’s the mindset.

    • You’re singing my tune, Wade. It’s amazing how most Americans have bought into what’s being sold as a way of life here. That fear of the unknown is huge for just about all of my friends. When I share our plan to move to Romania, they can’t even fathom it.

      • I’ve read that many people overseas wonder how we handle all the gunfights in the States after seeing so many American movies. On the plus side maybe the great places in Romania won’t be overrun with Americans seeking the next “in” place to be, driving prices way up.

        • That’s what I think every time I see Romania portrayed on TV here in the US. It comes across as either negative or nothing but vampire garbage. I don’t think it’s fair or accurate, but I hope it keeps most away. If I wanted to live around Americans then I would stay here, haha

  7. It is so true this is not just Romania. I have owned property in France and paying bills, getting utilities set up was a nightmare. Italian banks are notorious for 5 people doing one job. We in the UK say it is a Latin thing, but that might not be fair.


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