Situated on the banks of the Dâmbovița River, Bucharest is the cultural, administrative and economic capital of Romania. Home just under 2 million people, it's also Romania’s largest city and is home to most of the country’s expat population.
Living in Bucharest as an expat
The city’s unique mix of architectural styles and its cultural atmosphere have earned it the nickname Micul Paris, or 'Little Paris'. Ornate churches overlook trendy cafés and residents can spend their leisure time in leafy parks or in the pubs, clubs and discos in Old Town, adding to an enjoyable lifestyle in the city.
Nonetheless, the metropolis is in the process of reinventing itself. Derelict communist-era apartment blocks are being modernised alongside elegant neo-classical buildings. The city is making its mark as an Eastern European industrial centre.
As the driving force behind the Romanian economy, the capital is responsible for around a quarter of the country’s GDP and industrial output. Expats working in Bucharest tend to be employed in IT, communications, finance, engineering and construction.
Expats generally find accommodation in Bucharest in the form of apartments, many of which are in old Soviet-style buildings, while housing beyond the city limits varies. Whether an expat chooses to live in the city centre or in the suburbs, public transport in Bucharest is comprehensive and includes a metro system, buses, trams, trolleybuses and a light rail. The city also has a private minibus taxi system.
One area that could use improvement is healthcare. Although Bucharest has adequate private medical facilities, the standard of healthcare in public hospitals will likely be below what expats are used to. Comprehensive health insurance which covers private treatment is essential. Other problems new arrivals are likely to face in the city include erratic driving, petty theft, tourist scams and one of the world’s biggest populations of stray dogs.
Cost of living in Bucharest
The cost of living in Bucharest is lower than most major Western cities. It compares favourably to cities in neighbouring Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic. An expat’s largest expense will most likely be accommodation, while expats will be able to save on transport and locals goods as they are typically inexpensive in Bucharest.
Expat families and children
Expats with children will have to consider their options of schools carefully. Although there are international schools in Bucharest, the selection is limited. That said, fees are more reasonable than in other international destinations, and these schools offer a good quality of education.
Alternatively, the city's public schools are free to attend for all residents. The quality of education at these schools varies, however, and the language of instruction is Romanian. There are also a few private schools in the city, which could also be an option for expat children to attend.
Climate in Bucharest
Bucharest has a continental climate, boasting long summers that are warm and sunny summers. Winters are cold and bring snow and frost to the city. Spring and autumns, on the other hand, are mild. Expats moving to Bucharest will experience the best of all four seasons in the city.
With plenty of events and festivals, as well as numerous attractions throughout the city, there is more than enough to keep expats busy throughout the year. Those who make an effort to learn some of the language and culture will find themselves being welcomed into one of the safest cities in Europe by the incredibly friendly locals.
►For more about everyday life in the city, see Lifestyle in Bucharest.
"The visa work and housing search can be daunting, but ask for help from a professional instead of stressing out. Romanians are really friendly and helpful and it’s easy to find assistance when you need it. The mountain of paperwork was the most difficult part of my experience so far in Romania, but it was absolutely worth it for the lifestyle I get to enjoy now." Read about Jessica, an American expat, and her experience of moving to Bucharest.
"What I find really nice about Bucharest is that every weekend there is a fair or open market somewhere in the city with shopping and eating." Read more about Oana's experiences in Bucharest.
Are you an expat living in Bucharest?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Bucharest. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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