The third episode in the “Where to retire to in Romania?” series is here and today we’re going to talk about Timisoara, Romania. I haven’t chosen this city randomly – I actually decided to write about it after Timisoara has been chosen as the European Capital of Culture in 2021. And even though this might not sound like a very big thing, it actually is because this will bring some big amounts of European money into Timisoara, money that will hopefully be used to advance the city even more, after numerous renovation projects have been started and completed in Timisoara lately.

In case you didn’t know, another Romanian city has been chosen as the European Capital of Culture in the past. Sibiu was that city back in 2007 and judging from the fact that it’s now one of the most popular and best known cities/destinations in Romania, while it was virtually unknown to the world before 2007, there’s a lot of potential for cities grabbing this award. So Timisoara is definitely on the rise right now and has the potential of becoming a really hot spot in Romania, especially since its location in Romania is a bit better than that of Sibiu at least in terms of easy connections to other major cities via roads/highways or airports.

So, if you are interested in moving to Romania or retiring here, let’s find out more about Timisoara and why it might be a good choice!

What should you know about Timisoara?

Unirii square, in the heart of the city
Unirii square, in the heart of the city

Located in the Western side of Romania in the Banat region, very close to Serbia and Hungary, Timisoara is the third largest city in Romania. This is the city where the Revolution against Ceausescu’s communist regime started in December 1989 and it was the first city to be declared “communist free” in the country. The buildings in the historical center of the city still have bullet holes from the shots fired during the revolution.

Timisoara is also one of the biggest educational hubs in Romania, its universities hosting many students in the region. This is why Timisoara is considered by many a “student’s city” which means that there’s a vibrant night life and young population, as well as very cheap living options in the student areas in the city.

View of the Bega river from a park
View of the Bega river from a park

Most of the people living there actually stay to live in the city, meaning that the population is expanding and fortunately work options manage to keep up with the demand. Timisoara is considered one of the richest cities in Romania with one of the best standards of living and job offers, mostly thanks to the number of corporations that have offices in the city. It’s also probably one of the easiest cities in Romania to get a job in even if you’re not speaking Romanian.

The cost of living in Timisoara can be quite low, despite it being a large city – mostly because there’s a huge offering on the market for students, both in terms of accommodation and eating out / entertainment. Of course, if you are on a higher budget, you have a lot of options for more luxuriant places to visit or live in. In other words, this city is great for any type of budget and has enough offers to satisfy even the most advanced demands.

There are trams and buses running in the city and the public transportation options are decent, even though they’re not always in time and you’ll still have to do some walking to get to specific areas. If you’re driving in Timisoara, you will be pleased to know that it’s not as crazy as it is in Bucharest, but you’re still in Romania so expect crazy drivers, a lot of honking and pushing the limits of the cars to the maximum.

On a more personal note, I can say that I wasn’t a very big fan of the city. I haven’t visited it extensively even though it’s really close to my home town, but when I did visit during my university years, I was disappointed: I found the city to be dirty and in a poor condition. However, my latest visit to Timisoara made me change my mind a little bit: there were visible improvements in the city, at least in the central area that we visited and everything looks a lot better there, with the entire central area being renovated and looking great. There are also very nice parks around the city center, with the river Bega running through – in other words, things can now look pretty inviting!

Beautiful old buildings await in the center of the city
Beautiful old buildings await in the center of the city

Timisoara also has one of the biggest and most important airports in Romania, with many budget flights available to Western European countries – and to other parts of the world as well. Timisoara is also very close to Hungary and Serbia and thanks to the recently built highway that connects the city to Budapest, you can get there by car in as little as 3-4 hours. Or you can just hop on to the nearby cities in either country to experience them as well.

Timisoara is also one of the cities in Romania where bicycle riding is encouraged and you will see a lot of areas for riding the bike and many people actually doing it. There’s even a special bike track to Serbia that has been built recently, allowing people who love riding their bikes visit Romania’s neighbors on a bike.

Conclusion

Bega river again
Bega river again

Timisoara has evolved quite a bit in the past few years and I am sure things will look even better now that it’s going to be the European Capital of Culture in 2021. The city is expanding and, even though expats would probably get the most by choosing the central areas, new suburban options are available with brand new apartment buildings and houses and extremely modern living options.

Timisoara is less chaotic than Bucharest, but still a very large city to offer most of the goodies that Romania’s capital can offer. The people in Timisoara are usually a bit more laid back and calmer and the fact that you can easily get to two different countries – Serbia and Hungary – is a bonus.

[Featured image via Wikipedia]

35 COMMENTS

  1. Calin:
    It’s definitely very appealing by your description and pictures. (It’s hard to believe you weren’t a fan of the city not so long ago–or that it was ever dirty and in poor condition. It looks, now, like something out of a fairy tale film.)
    What exactly does a city have to do to become the “European Capital of Culture”? It certainly seems to have all the pluses as Bucharest, without its minuses.
    Could this be a city where you’ll move to afford Son Romanian (Eric) more opportunities? What is Wife Romanian’s view of “Timis”?
    Thanks so much for sharing this great entry on Timisoara!
    ~Teil (USA)

    • Hello Teil. It is indeed amazing what a bit of attention can do to a city’s overall appeal. I haven’t visited much of the areas outside the city center, but at least that area’s great and definitely offers a lot to anybody who would live there.

      Regarding the requirements to become the European Capital of culture, I really don’t know how this goes. I believe they choose a country (or more) and each has to submit a few cities – there were more applicants from Romania, including Bucharest, but Timisoara won. I really don’t know on what criteria though ๐Ÿ™‚

      We have considered Timisoara since most of our friends have already moved there, but I still have a few doubts we could live there. We’ll see…

    • Hi, Teil.
      As C. said, we have a few friends there, as they rather go to Timisoara or Bucharest than stay here, for more opportunities, but we don’t have family there. My MIL helps, just a tiny bit, but nevertheless it’s still help, so going there with Eric would just mean more opportunities for my husband to go out, but not for us. At this point I don’t want my son to move anywhere else that doesn’t benefit him more than here. My husband it’s still opposed to Bucharest, where Eric would definitely benefit more, in SOME areas, but staying put it’s, for now, our best and only option. We would risk too much, messing Eric up too much, by moving, even to Bucharest….

  2. What a pretty city! It sounds like the “Bologna” of Romania. It looks pretty colorful and l’m sure being a college town, the cost of living is reasonable. I think it would be cool to see real bullet holes left in the city. I hope the city keeps improving, it looks lie it’s worth it. What a big plus to have Budapest really close by too :-). That alone makes me like it even more.

    • Yes, indeed! And it’s also close to Belgrade, which is also a really nice city… plus other smaller cities in each neighboring country, Arad is close by. It is indeed nicely located and will hopefully keep improving.

  3. Hi Calin,
    I agree completely with what Teil and Kemkem have said. The pictures and your descriptions really make the city look enticing. Lots of wonderful attributes too, like bike-friendly, trams, cheap housing due to students, close & convenient proximity to Budapest by car or the rest of Europe by air. The deal-breaker for me is not being in the mountains of Transylvania, which I just sense will hold a special magic for me. So, Sibiu, having been the European Capital of Culture in 2007, will serve as a nice alternative. That said, thanks for a well done article! JC

    • I am doing my best to cover all the possible destinations, so that everybody has a few to choose from and even though I’m really slow at covering them… I’ll get there ๐Ÿ™‚ Sibiu has indeed become a very popular destination and is a city that looks really good and has a lot to offer, so for somebody who also appreciate the mountains, it will surely be a good choice!

      • Hi Calin,
        I think you’ve done an amazing job providing a huge collection of all sorts of information about all the major cities, along with some of the smaller ones, as well as a lot of other useful information. You have a wide variety of readers whose particular interests are as unique as they are, and it’s difficult to try and cover everybody’s specific favorites. You’ve mentioned Sibiu in several articles and provided interesting information on it as well. As a country, Romania is pretty diverse and with an amazing variety of terrain, from mountains, to plains, to beautiful Black Sea beaches and everything in between. You’ve also done a great job examining that diversity all along the way as you continue to grow and expand this website. I have watched every youtube video, read every article, and talked to anyone I could who has been there, so I’m convinced its close to perfect for me, unless I get there and something were to change my mind. So, for now I am confident about deciding on Sibiu, but still love reading and hearing about other cities and areas of Romania too. Thanks for that. JC

    • Hello Terry, unfortunately I can’t make any recommendations. My suggestion would be to just contact a few people (they rarely – if ever cooperate if in different companies) and see which one seems like the competent one. Also check out prices on olx.ro.

  4. I think Romania is wonderful. But it is different from better developed areas. Hard to put words to what that difference would look and feel like. It may not be for everybody. Creature comforts are not as easily available as they are in a major U.S. city. Bathrooms on the road are an adventure all their own.

    It is sad in that we want Romania to be as successful as any other country. (tp in every bathroom) Romania is hungry for change and that desire can be used and taken advantage of. Wonder if Romania gets good deals from big business that sees advantage in Romania? Farming industry wants to compete? Do you want pesticides and fertilizers in order to do that? How about growth hormones on animals? So eager to get ahead is it all worth it?

    It is cool yet worrisome to see all the change taking place. Hope Romania does not sacrifice to much in order to “fit in. The big city lights are alluring and it is hard to understand why and how you may want to avoid them. I grew up small town and glad i did. Grass is not always greener on the other side.

  5. Hi Calin and Wife Romanian:
    Well, you have to do what is best for your son–it’s good you know your priorities. Eric is lucky to have such caring parents.
    I just heard about the earthquake in your country. Thankfully, no lives were lost. I guess the Vrancea area is best avoided, if such events are likely to happen.
    I hope you all will sometime do an article on Piatra-Neamลฃ. The pictures I’ve seen make it seem very similar to where I live–without all the crazy gun-toters, and heroin addicts!
    I was thinking with China soon to overtake the USA as a superpower, it might be wise to have Eric learn either Mandarin or Cantonese to be able to better himself as he grows up. You never know;-)
    Thanks again for this great site!
    ~Teil (USA)

    • I felt the earthquake here in Drobeta Turnu Severin: it actually woke me up as it took place at 2AM. Many of my friends were woken up, some were even scared and ran to seek cover. However, not all: my wife and son kept sleeping. ๐Ÿ™‚ But yes, the further away you are from Vrancea, the better it should be, at least in theory. Timisoara is pretty safe on this matter.

      I have Piatra Neamt in the pipeline, alongside Sibiu, Cluj Napoca and Brasov so it will certainly happen. Sometime ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Hi Calin:
    Did you all watch the US prez debates? I can’t believe those two are the best we can come up with. Very sad!
    Okay, I just wanted to ask about church bells, and other bell towers in Romania. One of the things I miss about Europe is/are the church bells–or at least some regular bells. (This is strange coming from an agnostic–but I think the peal of bells–whether for the hours, or a Sunday morning church service is most calming, and makes me feel at peace.) Naturally, here (USA), such bell ringing is sadly lacking in most places. Could it be that is why the USA is so un-peaceful?;-)
    Have you heard from your Brasov buds? Maybe they want to keep their lives low-key? I’d sure like to know how their visae worked out ($1500/year). I know I’d have to budget for that.;-)
    I hope they are enjoying their new city, and everything is working out for them.
    Stay well!
    ~Teil (USA)

    • Hello Teil, unfortunately I didn’t watch the debate in the US. Regarding church bells, if you’ll live close to a church, you’ll definitely hear them quite a lot. And since there are so many churches in Romania, it’s not difficult to live near one ๐Ÿ™‚

      We’ll have a new article with the Brasov family soon, so stay tuned!

  7. I’m baaaack Calin:-),
    I really enjoy your blog! I check it everyday (that’s how I sometimes “trump” Reina Kemkem;-).
    I am curious how you write. Do you think of the story in Romanian, then translate it into English, or do you think of it directly in English. Either way you’re a lot more “on the ball” than I am.
    I “took” French in middle school, but when I made it to France, I was like a fish out of water–merci beaucoup! When in Germany, I picked up a little German, but again, I wasn’t able to carry on a conversation–danke schoen! It seems, even though English is my native tongue, I even have problems with that–thank you!
    So, looking at moving to Romania after age 62, I figure I’ll be deaf or dead before I am able to carry on a real conversation in Romanian;-) Are older people (65+) in Romania cut some slack with discounts on entertainment, shopping, seats on public transport, etc.? Maybe, people will give a break to an old geezer when he asks, “Where is the toilet?”
    Anyway, I admire you and your talents in communicating so well in English! I so look forward to more “Romania Experience”!
    Best,
    ~Teil (USA)

    • Thank you, Teil! I would really like my English to be a lot better as I still can’t use the bells and whistles to make my words more enjoyable. That’s what I hate at the moment – the fact that I simply can’t write (more) entertaining content because of a still limited vocabulary. But yes, I think about the content in English first and I am using it so much for my work that sometimes I find it difficult, in conversations back home, to remember the word in Romanian. ๐Ÿ™‚

      There are discounts for older people in all sorts of places, from free transportation to all sorts of discounts indeed. You might have to ask if there’s a discount in most occasions because people won’t tell you in advance, but that doesn’t mean they’re not available ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Calin: Trust me, your writing is MOST enjoyable! Any one who comes to this blog would be hard-pressed not to think English is your native tongue. If you have any doubts, tune in to any US TV show, and you will see how your vocabulary is much better than the mostly irritating way the Americans have mangled the King’s (Queen’s) English.
    I like the idea of discounts for older people. It’s one of the few things to look forward to as one ages–ha, ha! ~Teil

  9. Hello, have been so enjoying your various posts. Especially pleased to see you write about Timiศ™oara on the very day I celebrated my recent birthday there (attending ‘My Fair Lady’) at the Opera House! It would be helpful to know more about the risk of earthquakes there and any other potential, natural disasters (like flooding)? I felt the recent Lasi aftershock at 2 am in Braศ™ov so perhaps you could expand this topic, eventually, to include the best small cities in Romania with little to no natural risks?

    • I am happy to hear that you had a great birthday celebration in Timisoara! Regarding earthquakes, the city should be considered generally safe – it’s far away from the Vrancea hot zone, but apart from that it’s difficult to say. Natural disasters can strike even in the most unexpected placed if nature wants to prove a point, but Timisoara should be considered safe from flooding as well, even though the Bega river runs right through it.

  10. Many thanks for the reply. An awful but relevant question to ask: someone told me there is a strong smell in Timisoara in the hottest months due to the city being built over ancient water canals that have been filled in. True?

  11. As an broad aside: how would you characterize the lifestyle difference between Timisoara vs. Craiova vs. Cluj vs. Oradea? I am an American looking for a decent, affordable quality of life, eventually, in retirement. I really enjoy your posts. Especially to hear about mid tier cities I’ve never heard of.

    • It’s difficult to say and that would be an entire article (or more). Cluj and Timisoara are larger cities, should be considered more active with more opportunities in all areas. Craiova, although big, is a bit behind in my opinion even though recent renovations created a beautiful central area, quite charming! Unfortunately, I have to do some research about Oradea as I don’t know much about it but I expect life there to be similar to that in Cluj or Timisoare, maybe slightly cheaper.

  12. Timisoara seemed the most “appealing” city with access to Serbia and Hungary. Cluj was the “best” city experience with a bit too car traffic for me. Oradea looks like a small gem with decent access to Hungary. Perhaps the medical school there would mean better medical care? Not sure.

    • It’s true, the fact that Timisoara is just a stone’s throw away from Hungary and Serbia is a big bonus for the travel-minded. Arad, Oradea and Cluj are also good choices, although I personally didn’t like Arad after spending a couple of days there. However, many people would say that the Western side of Romania is the best to live in.

  13. Me and my Romanian wife are planning to retire in Timisoara in a year. We currently are living in US but my wife has an apartment in Timisoara. I visited Timisoara for a week in 2015 even in the middle of winter and still I loved it! The only big question I have and have been trying to research is what the best way is to collect my social security there, to have a US bank account and just use atm card there or to have the check sent directly to us? Do you know anyone who has this same situation or do you have any recommendations for this? Thank you!

    • Hello G,

      Cashing in checks in Romania is a horrible process and it takes about 45 days to cash a check. Plus, most banks don’t do that, so I would suggest against going that route.

      You could either use your ATM card (obviously, there will be some fees involved and they might be pretty large – I don’t really know that, unfortunately) or you could get a Romanian bank account and debit card, then transfer your money from the US to that account and use the card as you please.I think this would be the easier method.

  14. Transferring funds to Romania is very important and something I have been researching greatly. At the moment it looks like keeping funds in U.S. and drawing them from an ATM is easiest and likely least expensive. I am try OFX and see if they may be better at transferring large funds. We wired about 20k recently and the 75$ transfer fee along with the 4% exchange rate fee etc. made this a bad idea. Still looking for better options. I have read if you can transfer large amounts you loss would be less than transferring monthly or weekly small ones. The ATM fee would add up but the exchange rate via an ATM I believe is very good as it looks like about a 1-2% exchange fee vs banks 4%+. Keep asking and perhaps other who are actually experiencing it will chime in.

  15. Wow.. insult to injury. BCR charged us 1% to withdrawal our funds to pay for our house improvement. So they charged us 1% to take money out…4.3% to covert dollar to euro.. and 75$ for the transfer so far plus the annual fee for having the account. What kind of bank charges you money to take your money out? Why stop at 1%? Is this the reality of Romanian banking? Surely we are in the wrong bank with our money.

    • I think that most banks will charge a withdrawal fee (I don’t really have the exact data) if your card is not with the bank. That might work with the Lei accounts though, and USD/EUR accounts might always have a withdrawal fee.

      A possible way to work around this problem is to open a second bank account at the same bank in Lei. Either use internet banking (which is free or very cheap at BCR) and transfer the money from your USD account to your LEI account, then withdraw them from ATMs without paying a commission.

      I know I did some research a while ago, and the bank with the best transfer exchange rate is Banca Romaneasca (there are other smaller banks, but I don’t really trust them). However, BCR is a larger and safer bank in my opinion and the method I recommended above should fix the charge to withrdraw money.

      • Hey Calin,
        Opening a second account at your bank sounds like a very doable work around to the withdrawal fee problem. Hopefully, as you say, there is no fee to transfer money back and forth between your accounts, at least for online transactions. Here in the U.S. you usually have limited number of transactions between accounts each month before a fee kicks in, but you normally get at least 5 or 6. Anyway, thanks Calin, I think you may have solved another relocation issue regarding expats and their money issues. Cool!

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