Romania Money and Exchange Rate
The leu (plural: lei ) is Romania’s only legal tender. In 2005/2006 Romania revalued the leu (thank Buddha), chopping off the last four zeros and making life easier for everyone. Or did they? While the old notes and coins, zeros blazing, have all but disappeared from circulation, locals still sometimes quote prices in the old numbers, while dispensing the new notes. So it wouldn’t hurt to have a quick understanding of the old and new.
The New Romanian Lei (RON) notes come in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, 200 and 500. Bani coins (100 bani = 1 leu), come in 1, 5, 10 and 50 denominations.
The old leu notes (same colors, roughly same design, but larger) have an extra four zeros, so 1 new leu equals 10,000 old lei; 100 new lei equals 1,000,000 old lei and so forth.
So when a museum clerk asks 30,000 lei for admission or a hostel clerk wants one million lei for a bed, no need to liquidate assets, just chop off four zeros.
Hotels often give price quotes in euros, so knowing the current euro-to-leu exchange rate is imperative.
Banks are, finally, becoming more dynamic. Most will give cash advances from your credit card, but then so will ATMs, which are becoming profuse in large cities, mainly in the city centers. More and more banks have eliminated travelers cheque exchange services. Best to plan around the ATM.
Independent money changers have a bad name in Romania, simply because so many of them are crooked. Avoid these kiosks/offices at all costs, no matter what tempting exchange rate is listed on the giant billboard out front. To exchange cash, use a bank. You’ll need your passport to exchange cash and/or receive an electronic cash transfer.
Credit cards are still a problem, even in the big cities. Often staff at restaurants/travel agencies/etc just don’t know how to use the machines for credit transactions (most Europeans use debit cards). If you’re using your credit card and the merchant demands that you enter a PIN number to complete the transaction, you know that the merchant is doing it wrong. Just like in your home country, credit card transactions in Romania are not PIN driven. Good luck explaining to the merchant that this is a credit card and that they have to process the transaction differently. You’ll likely be told that it just isn’t possible to use the credit card – saying things are not possible rather than taking a minute to figure out the right button to hit is a store clerk’s first (and only) impulse. Be prepared to pay in cash or just go to a different store.
Forget about using your credit card in rural areas.