Romania is cold

Frozen lake in Cluj Napoca

If you look at Romania on a map, you might think it's warm. It has a beach just north of Bulgaria's, on the black sea, a great summer resort. But, in winter, especially inland, it's cold.

You see those trees in the background? They're close to the edge of the lake. That snow isn't just on the ground, it's covering most of the lake.

When I took my glove off to take this photo, I could immediate feel my hand begin to freeze. Despite wearing a hat, my ears were cold.

It's great if you like snow!

If you're planning to visit Transylvania in winter, remember to pack your winter coats, sweaters, snow boots and best gloves. If you forget, perhaps that should be the first thing you buy after you arrive.

Here's a bench on a warmer day: bird print on a bench

How to move to Romania 2021

It used to be easy. I remember walking into a consulate or a commune and receiving an ID the same day. Brussels and France had a little more paperwork, but that was a long time ago.

These last couple of moves, to Brussels and Romania, have proved that things are more complicated than they seem to be on paper.

"It's simple," they say. All EU citizens need is proof of insurance and proof of money in the bank.

Who are they? The ex-pat websites, who are mostly selling insurance.

The amount of money an EU citizen needs to prove is nowhere near as high as say, for Belgium.

Simple does not mean easy, however. But, if you read on, a little knowledge could make it easier and quicker. It took me about twenty times longer than it had to, because I followed the bad advice on ex-pat websites.

Romania is not Schengen

Just a little warning to anyone coming here to enter the Schengen zone, or anyone who thinks they can enter.

There is still freedom of movement, but they don't have to accept it. Getting a Romanian residency may not make it easier to travel anywhere else in the EU.

Insurance

Well, before you waste time and money, here's my take. If a country, especially Romania, requires that you have health insurance, buy that insurance in the country.

But, you can't buy that insurance online without a CPAs number, you say? Don't buy it online then. Use the telephone, or walk into an insurance agency. They are open, even in lockdown.

The online insurances, those offered to ex-pats, probably won't work anyway. Why? The insurance document needs to be in Romanian. I've heard the same thing said about other countries.

Buy insurance locally

Don't waste your money on so-called "Visa insurance" even if it is offered by a reputable provider. Romanian insurance providers are reasonably priced. If you have a Romanian speaking friend, take them along. Make sure to get the documents in Romanian.

Another problem with insurance purchased online is that you don't have an original. Immigration officials will often ask to see the original. A print out will be met with suspicion. Just another reason why you should get the insurance in person.

If anyone who speaks the language asks if there is any way they can help, and they have about an hour, perhaps they could help you with the phone call to the insurance agency. There is also a helpline for Europeans.

The first month has to be private, but after you get your residency permit (which is a piece of paper with a number on it rather than a card)

Bank account

Another requirement is that you have a certain amount of money in a Romanian bank account.

Here's another catch 22, many banks won't open an account for you until you can prove your address. And, how do you prove your address without your residency permit?

Just open a simple account. You don't need a card for now, you can get that later. If you apply for a card, it will increase the chance that you get flat out rejected.

The ID might be a challenge too. While you might be able to get into the country with a national ID, you'll need one linked to your last residency to open the account.

Romanian banks don't tend to like ID cards, preferring proper passports. And, if you don't have a job yet, they may reject you. But, there is more than one bank in Romania.

If you're self-employed, the word to use is freelance. (In Belgium, independent.) Many Romanian bankers speak very good English, but sometimes you don't know all the synonyms in your second and third language.

Keep your home country bank account for as long as you can, it might be difficult to open one when you move back. Even if your bank is firing you due to Brexit, Fatca or CRS, you might find a workaround to keep it open.

You might even be able to use your old bank account to open the new one.

After residency

After you get residency, visit the insurance company and the bank again, and update your details. You need to enrol in year-round health insurance by law.

Summary

Basically, walk into the building in person. Despite the fast internet, it's much better to do things in person than online.