What is it Like to Live in Timișoara, Romania
Romania is famous for Transylvania, for Dracula, and not much else, but this is one Eastern European country that deserves a little more consideration. Timişoara is the third largest city in Romania and is the economic, social and cultural center for Western Romania. From Timişoara, you can easily take a weekend trip to other major Eastern European cities like Belgrade or Budapest, but you don’t need to leave Timişoara itself to have a great trip.
Timișoara was selected as the European Capital of Culture for 2021 with good reason. It’s adorable and has everything from old buildings to great museums to a beautiful opera house, all with a ton of history. If you’re remotely interested in art or theater or what life was like in the USSR, Timișoara is a good fit for you.
Cost of Housing in Timișoara, Romania
Housing is affordable in Timisoara with Airbnb gaining popularity. There are a range of options from luxurious high-rise buildings to basic studios. A friend booked a studio on Airbnb for $665, which isn’t bad considering he booked it just four days in advance. His studio included amenities like a dishwasher and laundry in the building. It was about an 18-minute walk from the downtown pedestrian zone, which isn’t bad considering his stroll took him along the canal.
On the higher end, you can expect to spend about $50/night for 2 bed/1 bath in an elevator building, if you’re outside of downtown but still less than 10 minutes away on foot. Short-term housing in the downtown area is harder to find and you may have to resort to hotel living, but even hotels are affordable in Timişoara, usually between $50 and $100/night for something nice in the 3 or 4-star range.
Cost of Transportation in Timișoara
Timişoara is small and very walkable. In fact, you can’t drive around the downtown area because, happily for me, it’s blocked off for pedestrians. There is public transportation in the form of buses, which cost 2.5 lei (65 cents) per ride or 12 lei ($3) for a day pass but you don’t really need to figure out the system if you’re visiting Timișoara in the summer. It’s nearly as fast and much more interesting to just walk and explore. There are plenty of sidewalks and crosswalks around Timişoara and beautiful parks along the canal. If walking feels too slow, you can opt to rent a public bike for up to an hour for free through RATT. You will need to register for an account but the process is fairly easy. Keeping the bike over one-hour results in a 200-500 lei ($50-125) fine and keeping it over 10 hours is considered stealing it. So be sure to return your RATT bike within an hour.
Uber is also popular and affordable in Timisoara. Expect to pay 50 – 70 lei ($12.50 – $17.55) to get downtown from the airport and about 17 lei ($4.26) from downtown to Banat Village, a popular tourist site. Unfortunately, there are no other ride-hailing apps in Timișoara at the moment but if you don’t like Uber, you can safely hail normal taxis. My landlord recommended only taking Tudo taxis and I can vouch for the fact handful of rides I took with them were all pleasant and safe.
Traveling Outside of Romania
You can easily get from Timișoara to other cities in Romania or Hungary or Serbia etc by shuttle, bus, train or airplane. WizzAir is the equivalent of Spirit or RyanAir of Eastern Europe. It’s not a pleasant experience, but it is cheap. Other airlines also fly to Timișoara, but are generally more expensive. If you’re willing to travel more slowly and see the countryside, you can make it all the way to Belgrade by shuttle and to Bucharest by train or bus. Romania is also great for road-tripping, so if you’re comfortable driving internationally, you may want to consider renting a car and making your way around the city, country or even region at your own pace.
Cost of Other Necessities in Timisoara
Romania has some of the fastest internet in the world with 40Mbps down being common at Airbnbs and public WiFi logging over 100Mbps down and up. As a result, cell phone plans are also very affordable. I paid 29 lei ($7.30) for 4GB of data, 2000 minutes + 60 bonus GB of national data (roaming was an additional cost.) Although I didn’t use all that data, it was nice not to think about how much I was using and to be able to tether at the airport on my way out of the country or when I wanted my own internet line at a cafe.
The bare necessities are very affordable in Timişoara, especially if you’re calculating in USD, Euros or GBP. One of the most important things to do in Timisoara is spending plenty of time at local cafes, enjoying the scenery and the super fast public WiFi. An espresso at a nice cafe is usually 7 lei ($1.75) and a latte or pot of tea is usually 9 lei ($2.26). Like most of Europe, there is no pressure to keep ordering drinks as you sit there but you’ll probably want food or more drinks if you stay somewhere long enough.
If you choose to order at the cafe, be prepared for limited food options. You may be better off doing as the Romanians do and switching to a restaurant for a real meal. Set lunch menu deals are ubiquitous in Timişoara and generally cost 20-35 lei ($5-8.80), depending on what’s included. Most restaurants will advertise their daily menu on a chalkboard on or near their patio, but don’t be afraid to ask the restaurant if you don’t see a lunch menu advertised.
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Cooking at home is also an option, as groceries are in line with the cost of living in Timişoara. Imported products are relatively expensive but if you eat local and fresh, it’s very cheap, instead of merely affordable. For example, a bag of potato chips is 4 lei ($1) at the grocery store, which isn’t bad. However, when you consider the fact a kilo of cherries in the summer at the farmer’s market is also 4 lei ($1), you’ll see what I mean about local products being cheaper.
Cost of Luxuries in Timișoara
Timişoara isn’t a fancy town with Michelin starred restaurants and bars, but it does have great restaurants and good wine. If you’re on a tight budget, they could be considered splurges but even the rooftop bars and massive meals won’t begin to compare price-wise with most cities in Western Europe. Unless you’re ordering lots of wine or foie gras, it’ll be hard to spend more than $100 on dinner for two, even at the nicer places.
Your biggest splurges will likely be taxis and food delivery. If you decide not to walk around or go out (why are you even here?), Tudo taxis and Foodpanda will be your best friends. Most restaurants close on the early side, even on weekends, so if you’re planning to order delivery, order early. On the bright side, there are over a dozen dessert places on Foodpanda in Timişoara so you can just order fancy donuts without feeling bad about it.
Is it Worth it To Try Living in Timișoara
Absolutely. Timişoara is a cute, small city with great people and delicious food that is incredibly affordable. It’s also not on everyone’s radar yet so most other visitors will be from other Eastern European countries or Turkey. Just because everyone speaks beautiful English doesn’t mean you’ll be constantly running into other Americans, Canadians or Brits, which is a great thing in my book. I didn’t make it to the opera or the Recas wineries, but I did have a great time at the free public jazz fest one weekend and at the local Recas wine shop.
Despite being a small city, Timișoara always has something interesting happening and plenty of restaurants and bars to keep the average tourist or expat happy.
About the Author
This post was by Amna Shamim, a writer/marketing consultant who quit her life in NYC and now travels the world, basing out of a different city every 1-2 months. You can follow her adventures at her blog, Hobo On The Go and read her favorite for-client articles at here. Whether you’re looking for a great writer or just want to let her know about your adventures, please feel free to reach out.
You can also find Amna Shamim on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram.
If you would like to know even more Amna was recently one of the featured women nomads in Glamour Magazine.