Winter in Romania, a true wonderland! We don’t know when or where we’re getting significant snowfall, but when we do, it’s usually plenty to properly enjoy it. Enough snow that, when you wake up the next morning, you’d better pray it’s early enough! It will take you anywhere between half an hour to over an hour to shovel snow from around your car and to clean it up in time to go to wherever you’re headed.
Snowball fights, sledging, ice skating, that’s all common place everywhere, not necessarily in specially designed areas. If there’s a blip of a hill in an area with not that many cars, kids will bring their sledges and fly down the ad hoc slopes. As a kid, I had fancier gear – a red and black bobsleigh that made it a lot easier to steer and brake. I have taken that to the small hill near the neighborhood church and enjoyed the slope every winter, till I got too old to ignore the bleeding cold. Of course, going to one of the many mountain resorts or anywhere in the countryside (I recommend Moldova as a general area, they usually get snow that’s as high as the houses) would give you a much better experience, but just look at this picture, doesn’t it look like enough snow?
In case you were wondering, this is a parking lot next to my building. I live in Ploiesti, 60 kilometers from the capital, Bucharest. It’s not an area famous for its heavy snowfall, and yet, we get this!
What Winter in Romania Means
Winter is gorgeous in this part of Eastern Europe. But lots of snow means lots of problems. Because of the strong winds and snowstorms, roads are often closed, and clearing a pathway to anywhere can be complicated. This year, it snowed for a couple of days in a row, and they only cleared the roads AFTER it all ended. A week later, we had more snow and the madness started all over again.
Everything will be delayed. Buses, trains, trams, anything will be slower. They will get there, eventually, but they will be late. The airports may be closed or flights delayed, especially if they can’t keep a landing strip clear long enough for a plane to take off.
There is more snow in some regions than in others. This year, the Western side – Transylvania – did not get much snow, while Moldova and Muntenia (Central, Southern, and Eastern areas) were pretty much covered in snow. So if you want to enjoy traditional winter activities, you have to choose carefully.
If you travel to a region where there’s heavy snow, be prepared to be stuck there for a day or two. When you travel, if there’s a snowfall forecast, make sure you have one or two days before your flight that you plan to spend in the city near your departure airport. Don’t worry, there are fun things to do and see that will make it feel wintery in any urban area. Just check out this snow covered, half-frozen shot of the lake in the middle of Alexandru Ioan Cuza Park in Bucharest.
How to Travel Through Romania in Winter
My recommended means of transportation is the train. If I have to go anywhere, I prefer trains. Late or not, they always make it. Plus, if it takes forever to travel from point A to point B, it’s far more comfortable to spend that time in a heated train. Plus electricity isn’t cut in most places, it’s rare enough that it makes the news when it happens. If you want to check train schedules, there’s a site for that, and unlike most things Romanian, they have an English version. If it feels like some things are translated with Google Translate… sorry about that!
If you insist to travel by car, here’s a few things to consider:
- Make sure you have winter tires. Not always enough, but really non-negotiable. You’ll get fined without them.
- For certain areas, like mountain roads, chains are required. Make sure your car is equipped with them and if your entire drive is through snow covered roads, better put them on before you start. It’s not something you can do yourself on the side of the road, despite what other people (I still feel idiotic about that) have gotten away with.
- A 4×4 type of car or truck is best. They might not be as eco-friendly as my tiny Peugeot 107, but they can get you there. My car, even with winter tires, is too light to navigate any non-straight snowy road. Well, from a certain point on, if the snow gets too high, any road would be a problem for my car.
- Make sure you have a full tank, food, and water with you.
- Bring lots of patience to you and take it very slowly.
What to Pack for your Trip During Winter in Romania
It gets really cold in Romania, especially post-snowfall. Once the snowing stops, a few days of frosty weather always follow. Negatives in the double digits happen a lot, especially during the night. We’ve had -20 and lower in the past few years, and there were days where it wouldn’t go higher than -11 Celsius during the day. This is Ploiesti we are talking about, not exactly a city where all time low temperature records happen. So it can get even colder!
Layers, and lots of them, are your friends. Hiking winter boots would also be great, especially when everything turns into a big skating rink. Warm clothes, sturdy winter jackets, gloves, scarves, and hats are a must for a winter trip in Romania. If you’re here to ski or snowboard, then that gear will be perfect!
Story time! During the really bad days of snow and cold this year, I actually wore my ski pants to take the dog out. Those, some warm gloves and medium to heavy hiking boots were what kept me going.
How Do Pets Deal with Winter in Romania?
I don’t know what it is about snow, but I swear pets go insane! Especially dogs. Everyone at the park is a lot more playful than ever. Ares pretty much forgets most of his training when he sees snow. He plays with it, he jumps in it, he eats it, snow is his everything! I thought he and his Husky friends had a certain affinity to snow because of their breed, but I was wrong. All dogs we hang out with in various parks are way more playful when there’s snow.
You will need to distract your dog more than usual. Ares and many of his friends like to eat snow. And not just a quick taste. This can lead to a cold or sore throat in some dogs, so try to limit it without ruining their fun. If you don’t have toys (and let’s face it, sometimes you don’t bring them on every walk you take), just look out for sticks. Ares loves them, that hasn’t changed much over the years.
Another important caveat: the ice. Snow, especially that piled up along streets, tends to freeze. Some of it melts, than it turns into icy rock over night. This is bad for dogs, because they can hurt their feet. Small cuts happen, especially when they play more erratically than usual. If that happens, try to limit their off-leash time. I have managed to go through three winters with only minor scrapes, but this year has been worse.
If your dog is sensitive to the cold, having some sort of jacket for them is a necessity. Remember, it gets well below zero, so risking a bad cold is something to be avoided. A sick dog is really not something you should deal with on your vacation.
Where to Go to Enjoy the Snow?
Like I said before, when it snows depends on a lot of things. In recent years, it started snowing a little after Christmas or after or around New Year’s Eve. On the other hand, we had a few good days of heavy snowfall right on December 1st just three years ago. While there can be snow anywhere in the country, from what I’ve noticed over the years, these places almost always have it in excess.
Prahova Valley Mountain Resorts
The mountain resorts along the Prahova Valley in the Bugeci Mountains (part of the Carpathians) are popular with locals and tourists alike. They are a bit overcrowded and touristy for my taste, but they are beautiful and the ski and snowboard slopes are amazing. The landscapes are breathtaking and there are also historical and cultural attractions for you to visit.
Predeal, Poiana Brasov (near Brasov), and Sinaia are the most popular. Busteni and Azuga, which are a lot less visible, are just as amazing. In the past, when we went skiing, we preferred Azuga because the slopes were less crowded. However, my favorite is Sinaia. As the Royal Family of Romania spent a lot of time here, there are a couple of castles turned into museums to visit. The restaurants are a tasty treat, and the slopes are easily accessible by car and cable car.
A beautiful city rich in history and culture, Iasi is located in the North-Eastern part of the country in Moldova. It is the largest city in the Eastern area of the country and it used to be the capital of Moldova before the unification of the Romanian provinces. As Moldova is almost always covered in heavy snow, Iasi is a safe bet. It’s a city I’ve visited a few times already and one of my favorites in Romania. It does not get as much attention as Cluj, Sibiu, or Bucharest, but I think it should.
Any Rural Area in the North, East, or South of Romania
Rural Romania is gorgeous in winter. My grandmother and my father both live in villages in the Eastern part of the country–different counties, but with similar weather. It’s quite common to have snow reach your roof after a day or two of heavy blizzard. If you’re brave enough to visit in winter, be prepared!
If you have a strict schedule, I wouldn’t recommend trying it. But if you’re not afraid of a few days spent stuck in the middle of nowhere because of a particularly unfriendly winter in Romania, then it’s well worth a visit. Regions like Maramures, Vrancea, Iasi, or Bucovina all come with their unique flavors and traditions. From a visual, cultural, and historical point of view, you won’t be disappointed!
Where to Find Vets – Winter in Romania Tips
If you’re in an urban area, finding a 24h vet is hardly a problem. Even if most don’t stay always open, there are several vets with emergency numbers that you can call in all major cities and most towns. A simple search should help, but there’s a caveat! Very few sites have an English version, so you might need some help from a local.
Rural areas are a different story. It’s rare that the vet of the village has an office. Usually, they cover one or more villages and they do a lot of driving and walking to get to everyone. In this case, there’s no information you can google, so you’ll have to ask those living in the village. They’ll know how to reach the vet.
As Ares got sick on the day we left for my grandma’s on one of our many trips to see her, I had to call the local vet. It was a pleasant interaction, the man was great at his job, and although he did give Ares a shot, he was into the whole natural remedy route to settle his stomach. He also told me to call him at any time if my dog got worse.
This is a case by case thing, but I found it to be cheaper to get him treated in the country side. Other than that, the interaction was the same. I am yet to met a vet who isn’t crazy about animals. Probably why Ares acts as if I am taking him to the park every time we visit the vet…
Other Random Things You Should Know About Winter in Romania
There is a pretty ironic, tongue-in-cheek say around here, “Iarna nu-i ca vara.” It translates to “Winter is not like summer.” It’s a way to point out obviously different things or experiences, and also something we use to mock the fact that, although it happens every year, snow still somehow manages to catch us by surprise. Every year, the authorities try to be better prepared for winter. Or they promise to try. And almost every year they fail, at least partially.
Speaking of which, if there’s a code orange or red for snow, take it very seriously! If needed, roads will be closed and you risk getting trapped until local authorities get to you. To be honest, if they even announce a code yellow, I tend to not drive anywhere further than the local shopping mall to get groceries. It often happens that the situation escalates, and a code is switched from yellow to red in a matter of hours.
Hot chocolate and hot spiced wine or tuica are your friends! Hot cocoa used to be a more traditional drink, but hot chocolate has replaced it int he past two decades. How it’s made varies, and the consistency can be very different, but it’s great during the cold weather. If you’re on a ski slope, there’s a high chance there are a few places around it, usually near the bottom, that serve hot beverages. They have coffee and tea too, but hot wine and chocolate are the big sellers.
And remember, you might love the heavy snow, and the photos I post on social media, but if you’re willing to switch with me, just let me know. I will abandon my house and let you stay here if you come from a warmer climate!
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