I didn't choose Bucharest; the city chose me. I was born here a few years before it started changing. I was too little to remember anything about how things were before the revolution when Romania was still a Communist country. But I've watched the city grow and transform itself into one of Europe's most underrated cities.
Throughout the years, my relationship with my hometown has gone through ups and downs. Only in the past five years have I come to like its hip bars, garden terraces, excellent coffee scene, and delicious food.
- <jump to budget details>. Monthly budget in Bucharest= ~$1,400 per Person
- Low monthly budget with fast internet, an active social life, and frequent meals out
- A beautiful country with large parks perfect for the summer months
- An international airport with $20 tickets to explore Europe
Only after moving to Hong Kong in 2019, I've realized how affordable Bucharest is (and yet, almost any city is more affordable than Hong Kong). On a trip back home, I was even impressed by how green the city looks (at least some areas) and how friendly people are (it all comes back to what you compare it with).
During university, I've spent half of a year in Northern Italy, a few months in Rome, then moved back to live in Romania for good. Since moving back to Bucharest, I've lived in 4 apartments in different neighborhoods and have friends living all over the city.
The local currency is the Romanian Lei (RON). At the time of this writing, the exchange rate is 1 US Dollar = 4.1 RON, and 1 RON converts to .21 Euros.
What Is The Cost Of Living In Romania?
|Total Monthly Expense||$1393|
|COST PER MONTH|
|Rent- Furnished 1-bedroom city center near Cismigiu||425|
|Housekeeping Services 3-hours 2 times per Month||100|
|High Speed Internet/Cable TV||-|
|Cell Phone- 30 GB Internet Per Month||6|
|Total Housing Expense||631|
|Home Cooked Meals 12 times per week||147|
|Takeaway Food 7 times per week||45.5|
|Casual Cafe 1 times per Week||32.5|
|Mid-Priced Restaurant 1 times per Week||108|
|High-Priced Restaurant 1 times per Per Month||60|
|Total Food Expense||394|
|Budget Night Out- Drinks with Friends 2 times per Month||20|
|Salsa Dance Classes class 2 times per Week||50|
|Big Box Gym (Weights and Group Classes)||35|
|Monthly Pass Bus, Tram, Trolley, and Subway||32|
|Uber/Taxi 2 times per Week||43|
|Total Transportation Expense||75|
|Travel Health Insurance||50|
|Health Care Expense||50|
|75 minute Massage, Facial, and Manicure 1 time per month||118|
|Personal Care (Shampoo, etc.) & Household Items (Soap, etc.)||20|
|Total Personal Care and Misc Expense||138|
|Exchange Rate to $1 USD to Lei (RON)||4|
EDITOR'S NOTE : Romania was the first Balkan country I lived in after retirement and an ideal place for retirees and expat living. If not for my allergy to winter cold, Bucharest would be one of my top choices for a European home base. Since my time in Bucharest, I've lived in Croatia, Bulgaria, and Montenegro. Balkan countries continue to be my favorite places in the world for geographic arbitrage opportunities. There is fantastic value for your money in the region, especially in the countries that don't use Euros.
How do costs in Romania compare to the United States?
With affordable real estate prices, tasty Balkan foods, and friendly, Romania is an excellent expat destination. The cost of living in Romania offers significant geoarbitrage opportunities compared to Western Europe. Bucharest is even considered an "expensive city" compared to other major Romanian cities: Cluj-Napoca, Brasov, or Timișoara.
Let's add some context to the $1,400. Let's compare a medium cost US city (Portland) to the most expensive city in Romania (Bucharest).
The top 4 essential costs in the US are housing, food, transportation, and healthcare. These 4 expenses make up 68% of the average costs in a major city
Key Expenses- Single Person
Total Average Per Month
Save 54% on Major Monthly Expenses
The lower cost of living in Bucharest could save you almost $14,,000 per year. Now look closer at the standard of living a $1,400 budget buys you.
HOW DOES THE COST OF LIVING IN BUCHAREST ROMANIA COMPARE TO OTHER CITIES?
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What Kind of Lifestyle Can I Afford On $1,400 Per Month?
Romania's affordability allows an enjoyable European expat life for less.
Is Bucharest an expensive city to live in?
When you compare the cost of living in Bucharest against all the major cities in Europe, you will see why living in the Romanian capital city is a great idea.
Even as an entry-level employee making a $650 USD per month salary, I could afford a decent life. I shared cheaper apartments with two friends, go out almost every weekend (or travel to the seaside during summer), and eat out every once in a while (not at the very fancy restaurants in town, but the mid-level priced restaurants in the Old Town for example).
However, with a monthly budget of $1400-$1600 USD (my monthly costs before moving to Hong Kong, and now Seoul your quality of life increases dramatically. Now, you eat out at least three times per week, frequently enjoy a bottle of wine, rent a 1-bedroom apartment in the city center, and travel around Europe at least every other month (there are plenty of low-cost flights linking Bucharest to most European capitals).
Is Bucharest a good place to live?
Living in Bucharest means being at the crossroads of different cultures, enjoying the excellent specialty coffee or wine scene, charming bookstores, vibrant nightlife, and taking advantage of Romania's great location.
Spend your days working from a lush terrace surrounded by historic buildings or even from a cabin in the heart of Transylvania and get the chance to live with the locals and breathe fresh air.
Once the weekend comes, head to the seaside located less than 3 hours away, climb the Carpathian Mountains, or explore Bulgaria and its wholehearted food.
When you want to experience more of Europe, the airport has dozens of low-cost flights at your fingers.
How Much Are Housing Costs in Bucharest?
Accommodation Prices: max. 500 USD, 1-bedroom (considered two rooms in Romania), furnished, in a central area close to subway and/or a park (Cismigiu, Rosetti, Universitate, Floreasca). Studios in the same areas start at $250.
Utilities: 100 USD per month (including electricity, gas, heating, water, and other costs)
If you've just moved to the city, I would recommend accommodations in the central areas. You can be at the heart of a vibrant city and find it easier to travel around town.
We've lived in Piata Victoriei, and it cannot get more central than that, but also in Floreasca. Out of the two, I would strongly recommend the second option because of various reasons: you can choose to stay in a smaller building, the area is green, it is within walking distance to Herastrau Park, but also to the Circus Park.
Even though you will have to walk approx, 15 minutes to get to the closest subway station, there are buses with good connections, and many places are within walking distance. Very close by, you will have two hypermarkets, and within 10 minutes walk, you can get to one of the poshest areas in town, with lots of cafes and restaurants: Primaverii.
If you want to stay in a historic area, go for Cismigiu. It is within walking distance to the heart of the city's social life; Old Town, packed with restaurants, terraces, and nightclubs; Universitatii Square, and also to one of the oldest and most charming parks in Bucharest - Cismigiu.
If you need more space, here are the average rents for 2-bedroom apartments:
- Cismigiu: 400 USD and up
- Universitate/Rosetti: 400 USD and up
- Floreasca: starting at around 450 USD, and up
- Victoriei: 400 USD and up
INSIDER TIP : Apartment Hunting- The local listing website for finding apartments for rent in Bucharest is imobiliare.ro. You can also try your luck in the Facebook group for foreigners (Expats & Locals in Bucharest). The group shares lots of tips to help expatriates living in Bucharest, including property for rent, experiences with doctors, moving with pets, questions on culture shock, and much more.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the rule when renting an apartment in Romania is as follows:
- If you rent through an agency, you will have to pay a commission equal to one month of the rental price to the agent;
- On top of that, you will be required to pay one month in advance and one month as a deposit fee
What Is The Average Food Budget In Bucharest?
It's hard to pass up a delicious breakfast pastry for 0.30 cents.
When it comes to food, Romania's cuisine has its roots mixed deeply with other Eastern European countries but with an oriental twist.
Even though I don't follow any particular diet, I always tried to eat clean and as healthy as possible, which is easier with the variety of fruit and vegetable available. I loved to go shopping at the different farmers markets, not only for the significantly lower food prices but also because of fresh produce quality. Obor Market is the place to go to, especially during spring when all the fresh vegetables are available.
Eating out in Bucharest
But Bucharest is one of the biggest cities in the European Union ( 4th to be exact); Food costs and restaurant prices stretch from budget to fancy. There is something for all budgets in the capital.
When choosing to eat out, I could eat for as little as 30 RON (7.5 USD) for the main course at a canteen in the Northern part of town (Aurel Vlaicu, Pipera) or even at one of the restaurants with a set-lunch menu.
A mid-range meal at one of the restaurants in the center part of town (Cismigiu Bistro, Mamizza, Aria TNB, NOR Sky Casual restaurant) would set me back around 100 RON (25 USD) for a main course and drinks (more or less depending on the dish). In contrast, a meal at one of the fanciest restaurants in town, such as Mahala, Argentine, or The Artist, would be around 250 RON (60 USD) without wine.
How Much Should I Budget For Entertainment?
International Pillow Fight Day at University Square (Romanian: Piaţa Universităţii)
Entertainment and Sports
I wasn't one to go out very often. When I did, it was usually for dinners or brunches with my husband or girlfriends. But, nightlife in Bucharest is incredibly cheap compared to other European cities, and it offers a wide range of clubs and pubs.
If you choose to go out in the Old Town Center, the most popular party area for young people, you can spend as little as 10 USD for a night of fun. However, things change as you move north towards Herastrau. A big night out at mega-clubs Fratelli or Gaia can set you back 100-200 USD for a night of partying.
INSIDER TIP : Just outside of Old Town is Fabrica, which I can best describe as an Entertainment complex. Fabrica has several bars, shops, clubs, and even a skatepark and playground, all housed in an old abandoned factory. Bottles of beer on the outdoor terrace will run you about $1.50.
What Does Transportation Cost?
Bucharest has an extensive public transportation network of buses, trolleys, trams, and subway. Unlimited monthly passes start at $14.
Public transportation is cheap in Bucharest compared to almost every other city in Europe. The subway network may not be extensive, but you can get around without problems in the city center. Public buses, trolleybuses, or trams link all the remaining areas not covered by the subway and have a cost per trip of 1.3 RON (0.32 USD). There are also daily card options for 9.6 RON (2.38 USD) or monthly subscriptions for all the lines in town for 54.7 RON (13.6 USD).
When taking the subway, you can buy a 2-trips ticket for the price of 5 RON (1.25 USD), a 10-trips ticket for the price of 20 RON (5 USD), a day-card with unlimited trips for the price of 8 RON (2 USD), or a monthly pass with unlimited trips for the price of 70 RON (17.5 USD).
INSIDER TIP : It is worth knowing that with these metro cards, you will only have access to the underground network, and you will have to pay an additional price for taking the bus.
I wouldn't recommend renting a car if you live in the city because finding a parking space when you go out is difficult. We would usually spend up to 30 minutes looking for a parking space in the areas around our apartment. Even paying for a parking spot is not easy. Most are already booked.
Taking the taxi is relatively cheap as well, and you can expect to pay as little as 1.69 RON (0.42 USD) for every kilometer, while Uber has a minimum price per ride of 12 RON (3 USD).
EDITOR'S NOTE : Bucharest Taxi Scams- Like in many European cities, there are good and bad taxi drivers. But Bucharest has more than its fair share of evil taxi drivers. Beware of these common scams,
- Broken Meter- claiming a broken meter and quoting a flat (more expensive) rate
- Changing Bills- especially new tourists and travelers unfamiliar with how money looks in Romania, drivers will swap bills and claim you still owe them money.
- Wrong Address- taking you to a different address than the one you gave them to increase the fare
Be on the safe side and use Uber or Bolt.
Depending on the place you choose to live in, and mainly because of the crazy traffic, I would strongly recommend walking as much as possible.
Unfortunately, there are not many cycling lanes in the town, and drivers aren't very used to looking after those who choose to travel by bike.
Bucharest is a fantastic home base for your European travels. The city has an international airport. Low-cost airlines Wizz, Easyjet, and Ryanair fly out of OTP. As of February 2020, there are 10+ European countries you can fly to for less than $20.
Other Miscellaneous Costs
Other Living Costs
The cost of living in Bucharest is one of the lowest in the EU, and the affordability doesn't end with essential goods and services. Even the cost of affordable luxury services is more reasonable.
Important Information about Moving to Romania
How Much Are Health Care costs In Romania?
The healthcare system is public, and access requires a small monthly fee. Various private clinics also offer monthly packages with access to different services – from 59 RON (15 USD) to 299 RON (75 USD) for the premium package at Regina Maria, one of the most popular private clinics.
EDITOR'S NOTE :Health Care Benefits- the cost shown above is a placeholder for private health insurance for expats. My travel medical insurance costs $50 per month and covers me anywhere in the world outside of the US.
Will I Have To Pay Taxes Living In Romania?
If your "Center of vital interests" is in Romania, you are considered a tax resident starting the day you declare that the center of vital interests is based in Romania.
You also trigger tax residency if you are in the country for more than 183 days in any 12 month period
Tax residents become taxable on their worldwide income starting with the date when they become tax residents.
Get A Free Tax Consultation and $25 off your US Expat Tax return
What Is Not Included In The Monthly Budget? Taxes!
Expats migrating to Romania can be taxed on their worldwide income. However, the country has a double taxation treaty with the United States. Speak with a tax accountant for details. Nomadic FIRE has partnered with Expat Tax Specialists offering a FREE 30-minute consultation.
Full Disclosure, this is an affiliate link. If you use the link, I earn a commission from the company at no additional cost to you. You get the benefit of $25 off your return and a FREE 30-minute consultation with a Tax Advisor.
What Are The Visa Requirements For Romania?
Being in the European Union, Romania does not charge US citizens to enter the country. Americans can stay in Romania up to 90 days out of 180 days visa-free.
For other nationalities, you can look up specific visa requirements here.
Romania is in the EU but not currently a part of the Schengen agreement. They have applied to be part of the treaty, but as of 2020, they are still outside the Schengen zone.
Being outside the Schengen zone makes Romania, along with Croatia, Bulgaria, and Cyprus, a great way to refresh your 90-day allowance for Schengen while staying in the EU.
How can I stay long-term in Romania?
Romania does not have a retirement visa or digital nomad visa. Nor can you extend a short-term stay visa past 90 days. Expats from the US, Canada, or any other non-EU/EEA country, unless you plan to work for a Romanian company, start a business (requires 10 employees), or study here, the country is only suitable for a 90 day Schengen Visa run.
Still researching the best cities for retirement? Check out our extensive Cost of Living collection for the best expat destinations. Get insider information and real examples of expat life from people who have spent years living abroad. I've compiled all the information you need: cost breakdowns, insider tips to save money, and detailed examples of the quality of lifestyle you can enjoy.
Final Thoughts: Life in Bucharest
Expats, your retirement income goes far here. Your cost of living in Romania can be almost as cheap as SE Asia or South America, but with less chaos and lawlessness. A comfortable life in Romania is more affordable than in Western countries, but you still get quality public transportation options and an EU country's infrastructure.
The country gives you several choices for pace of life. Are you looking for a laidback beach town? Run to Vama Veche for the summer. Do you like the vibe of a college town with active student life? Cluj has 11 universities, 100,000 students, and low rent prices. Do you want the entertainment and Romanian culture you only get in larger cities? Bucharest has your number.
I have traveled to over 40 countries to give you the best ways to save, invest, and live overseas for less cost than in the US. After five years of traveling, my list of places to live keeps getting longer. To give you more information on the best places to live abroad, I partner with experts from the expat community.
You want insider information from people with feet in the street? I only work with expats with real-life experience living in countries you want to know about. Together you get updated info on the best neighborhoods, detailed Cost of Living examples, money-saving advice, and recommendations on the local places to eat, drink, and see.
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EXPAT CONTRIBUTION BY: Ingrid
Ingrid is a travel blogger and digital nomad born and raised in Bucharest, Romania, with the world in her heart. After developing an early love affair with Italy, she had moved with her husband to Hong Kong for one year and a half, where she has explored every corner of the cosmopolitan Asian tiger city. They have recently moved to Seoul, South Korea, embarking on a whole new adventure. Through her blog, she aims to encourage people to live beautifully by making time to travel, read and relax while inspiring them through incredible places shared as she discovers them.