The Translyvanian capital of Cluj-Napoca is a beautiful city with a rich history and a growing tech scene. The small mountain city of Brașov is nestled in the Carpathians with stunning views and easy access to nature.
There is a limited nomad or expat community in either city, but still plenty to do and see in both!
With excellent food, safety, and internet services at a much cheaper price tag than Western Europe, Romania is definitely an underrated nomad destination.
- Both cities are very walkable with great public transportation systems that connect to the rest of the country
- Extremely safe - Romania has one of the lowest crime rates in the world
- Amazing cuisine with influence from the Germans, Turks, Hungarians, and many more...
- Fascinating history from Dacia and the Romans to various European Empires over the ages
- Excellent online infrastructure. Some of the fastest internet in the world, mind-blowingly cheap phone service ($5 for basically unlimited calls, text, and data per month), apps and websites that worked well, etc.
- English spoken nearly fluently by most young people, and many older people as well (decreases as you leave the city centers)
- Cheap rent and cost of living
- Quiet and relaxed pace of life
- Quite a few events for locals, every weekend held a festival or event of some kind (music, food, etc.)
- Good coworking options
- Very small expat community, and almost no digital nomad community meant there were no meetups or events
- Somewhat closed culture. People are friendly, but it's definitely harder to make friends
- The Romanian language was much harder than I expected. The latin roots help, but there are a ton of grammatical and vocab differences from the other Romance languages
I stayed in Cluj for 3 weeks at an AirBnB on Strada Iuliu Maniu, right off the old town city center for about $25/night. In Brașov, I spent a week in an AirBnB of a cute studio apartment on Strada Postăvarului for around $21/night. Both locations were within the old city centers, and made walking everywhere easy. And despite being so close to the action, both places were absolutely silent at night!
I won't lie, the first few days in Romania proved a bit tough, which caught me off guard as I like to think I am sort of immune to culture shock these days! But between the jet lag, the surprising difficulty of the language, and the lack of much international community, I felt a bit out of place. Thankfully, that feeling didn't last long, and I started to really enjoy my daily routine! I found lots of delicious cafes and restaurants, and nice coworking places with friendly people to work alongside.
Between the amazing food (I am a sucker for little Donër Kebab shops, of which there were many), the beautiful parks, and the laid back pace of life, both cities felt like they would be excellent places to raise a family. And as an extreme night owl, I found the peaceful streets particularly beautiful at night, and I enjoyed going for walks long after midnight without having to worry about crime, something I definitely would not feel safe doing in most cities I've lived in.
And a quick note on the language for Romance language speakers - I speak Spanish, Portuguese and Italian, so I thought it would be easy to pick up Romanian as well with its shared Latin roots. But I found myself unable to understand much of anything at first, and even after a month of practice I was limited to simple sentences and canned phrases at best. I found it to be a very interesting language, and I would like to return to fully learn it someday, but I should not have expected to be able to pick it up without a lot of work first! The grammar and vocabulary are both much farther removed from the other Romance languages than I would ever have thought!
Overall, I had a great time in Romania. The social scene was a bit lacking, but I was able to make a few friends anyways, and the relaxed atmosphere helped me get a ton of work done.
I would definitely recommend either city for a few weeks for anyone that's interested in Romania. Cluj was a bit more lively, but Brașov was far more beautiful, and allowed for easier access to hiking and other outdoor activities. I probably would not return to Cluj, but I would happily spend a few months in Brașov if I get a chance!