Cost of Living in Romania
Specifically, the 2012 Mercer Cost of Living Survey placed Bucharest as the 176th most expensive expat destination in the world, closely comparable to Belfast and Doha.
Rural areas and smaller cities such as Pitesti, Cluj and Iasi are cheaper than the towns that have are more popular with expats: Timisoara, Sibiu and Brasov. Bucharest is significantly more expensive than any of these, but it’s where the jobs are (and the infrastructure), so most expats will settle there.
That said, if you are willing to live more like a local, you can live comfortably in Romania on a much lower budget. However, if you want to maintain the lifestyle that you had back home or enjoy expat perks, you may find the cost of living isn’t much cheaper than elsewhere in Europe, and it can actually be more expensive than in the US.
Bear in mind that exchange rates can fluctuate dramatically and prices can increase at short notice in Romania.
Because Bucharest is the most popular expat destination, the following information relates specifically to this city.
Cost of accommodation in Romania
The cost of accommodation in Romania is not as low as expats may expect:
- A two-bedroom flat near the city centre goes for roughly 400 EUR per month.
- A two bedroom house goes for roughly 800 EUR per month.
Expats of each respective nationality tend to live in close proximity to their corresponding international school - German expats tend to group around Chitila, the French around Herastrau and English speakers around Pipera and Pantelimon.
Expats who choose to live in a rural area and commute to town to save on accommodation may find that the transport costs of such a choice can be higher than anticipated. The state of the roads is sub-par, traffic is stressful and petrol is only marginally cheaper than in most of Europe and more expensive than in the States.
Additional household costs in Romania
On top of rent, expats will need to add the cost of utility bills, roughly 18 EUR per month for electricity, to their budget. On the upside, most foreigners can afford a cleaner and/or a babysitter; domestic help is relatively plentiful and cheap (700 EUR per month, depending on the number of hours worked). However, if you have school-age children, you will also need to budget for private international schools, with annual fees averaging at about 12,000 EUR per child per year. Insurance (health, car and home contents) can all add up significantly, but it is wise to be fully covered.
Communication costs in Romania
Mobile phone contracts cost about 30 EUR a month, depending on your needs. All the big providers are represented and occasionally have special deals, so shop around.
Internet and cable TV packages (sometimes including phones) are available and cost around 15 EUR a month, although most TV stations will be in Romanian. International calls can be very expensive, but there are deals offering a set amount of free minutes.
Skype or Vonage are also good low-cost alternatives.
Shopping costs in Romania
Supermarket shopping is not necessarily cheaper if you buy branded Western goods, and Romanian equivalents are affordable (but not easy to find). Marketstall fruit, vegetables and dairy are much cheaper, but limited to seasonal offerings (and unpasteurised).
You’re better off buying your electronic gadgets and clothes (especially for children) abroad, they tend to be more expensive in Romania.
Entertainment costs in Romania
Eating out is not as affordable as it once was, but you can still get a three-course dinner at a good restaurant for 20 EUR per person; while dinner for two at a mid-range American chain restaurant will set you back about 10 EUR.
A gin and tonic or a basic whiskey will set you back 3 EUR, while beer is usually 1 EUR. A latte or cappuccino is 2 EUR, and Starbucks has the same prices here as elsewhere in Europe.
Nightclubs can be a rip-off, but if you like jazz or classical music, concert tickets are quite cheap (as are theatres and galleries).