Written by Esther Walker

Romania, a relatively ‘undiscovered’ destination…

Located in the Southeastern region of Europe, Romania is known for its forested region of Transylvania - made popular due to the legendary tale of Count Dracula - which is surrounded by the picturesque Carpathian Mountains.

If you’re travelling from London, there are over 10 direct flights a day to Romania’s capital city, Bucharest. Once you’ve landed, make yourself aware of signs prohibiting photography in the airport - this is common practice in Romania, similarly if you find yourself on a military base! Furthermore, ask for permission before taking a photograph of anything that may be considered politically sensitive, such as office buildings, police cars etc. Something to include on your itinerary whilst you’re away is to check out the many medieval castles, such as the 14th century Bran Castle (famous for being the location of Count Dracula’s castle!) or Corvins’ Castle which dates from the 15th century.

Romania takes legalities very seriously including transgressions committed by tourists, so it is best to follow the laws to avoid any trouble or, worse, ending up in prison. The currency used is the Romanian Leu; make sure to change your money only in recognised exchange shops, banks and hotels as it is illegal to change money on the streets. Be super aware and knowledgeable about the laws on drugs before your trip, as drug-related offences and sex offences are treated very seriously by the Romanian authorities. The age of consent in Romania is 18.

Now to put you off committing crimes in Romania…

Overcrowding is a serious problem in Romanian prisons with the majority of cells being shared. The conditions within the cells themselves are very poor with insufficient aeration, heating and natural light. There is generally poor hygiene with mould in the cells, and the mattresses have been reported to be old and dirty. Foreigners are not separated into specific wings and therefore must respect the same rules as other detainees.

The European Court on Human Rights has regularly condemned Romania for inadequate detention conditions and for the inhumane treatment of prisoners - which violates Article 3 of the Convention. Despite reforms in 2014, pre-trial detention is still being applied (7.6% of prisoners are pre-trial detainees) and the pre-trial length is well above the European average (in Romania pre-trial detention measures at an average of 25 months whilst the European average is a much lower 9 months). In September 2015, the Council of Europe’s anti-torture Committee expressed its deep concerns regarding these issues. The good news is that the death penalty has been abolished in Romania since 1989.

It’s not all bad news…

Don’t let these worrying facts put you off visiting Romania for a holiday. The number of those incarcerated in this country has been decreasing since 2014 which is certainly a positive sign. Furthermore, the number of foreigners incarcerated in Romania is only 1% - which shows you really shouldn’t be put off - especially if you stick to this advice. By following the law it is unlikely that you should come into any trouble and will leave the country safe and sound. Romania has so many historic sites to see and it really is a wonderful place to visit, so get there before it is commercialised and turned into a tourist hotspot!

Before your trip be sure to stay up to date with travel information by checking out the UK Foreign Office Travel Advice page for Romania and have a look at the Travel Aware website for practical advice to ensure you stay safe during your travels.