Travel tips

Getting through Romania takes patience, cash

Getting around in Romania is difficult for any traveler. Transportation can be painfully slow, and telephone service is often frustrating. When touring Romania, the best strategy is to prepare for the unexpected.

Some visitors opt for package tours, since organized tour operators can take care of transportation and lodging, and help with any unforeseen difficulties.

For those who prefer more freedom, it is certainly possible to plan your own trip, though you will need a lot of flexibility: It's difficult to arrange train schedules and hotel stays from abroad, so you'll probably have to wait until you get there. Romania has several national tourist offices throughout the world, however, that can answer any pre-trip questions.

Romania is a cash society. Only major hotels and occasional shops and restaurants accept travelers' checks or charge cards, and when they do, they often tack on surcharges. It's best to carry small denominations of U.S. dollars or German Deutsche marks, and exchange just what you need every few days.

The Romanian currency is the leu. One U.S. dollar equals roughly 7,980 leu, as of December 29, 1997.

And make those money exchanges only at banks or official exchange houses -- black market traders are experts at cheating unsuspecting tourists.

Planning a trip to Romania can be challenging, but a little patience -- and a lot of preparation -- can make it an exciting adventure.