Romanian New Leu - RON
If you visit Romania the currency you will use there is the new leu. It is so called because the leu has existed in several forms over the years. Nowadays it is called the new leu but in practice many people simply call it the leu. The plural for the leu is lei.
What coins and notes are available for this currency?
The new leu is split into 100 subunits, each called a ban. The plural of this is bani. There are very few coins in use in the country; the ones that exist are the 1, 5, 10 and 50 bani coins. However the smallest two are rarely used in practice. This means you may not find too many coins in your pockets when you visit!
Aside from these coins you will also find a number of banknotes in use. Two of these aren’t often used either, but in contrast to the coins it is the two largest banknotes that are not often used here. These are the 200 and 500 lei notes. The ones you will see and use are the 1, 5, 10, 50 and 100 lei notes.
From past to present – the history of the new leu
The original issue of the leu was introduced in 1880. Inflation has basically led to new versions of the leu coming out at various points. These were called the first, second, third and fourth lei in turn. Eventually the new leu was brought out in 2005 and this is the one the country currently uses. Obviously they all got fed up with saying the first, second, third and so on!
The introduction of the new leu did lead to some issues initially because the currency was revalued when it was brought in. 10,000 old leu was equal to just one of the new currency. As you can imagine it must have taken some hard work to wrap your head around the change in valuation at this point.
How to get hold of the Romanian new leu
The best way to get hold of some cash while you are in Romania is to use the cash machines. They are pretty easy to find but you will likely be charged a fee to withdraw your cash. Make sure you know how much this is prior to using a particular card (debit withdrawals can be cheaper than using credit cards). Generally speaking you can easily find cash machines in the built-up areas but it may be more problematic to find them in quieter areas.
Make sure you notify your card providers prior to leaving home if you are going to take your cards with you. Some of them will put a stop on a card if they see it is used abroad, even if it is you using it. They won’t know this unless you tell them in advance and doing so could save you a few headaches in the long run.
The main thing to remember is never to be tempted to exchange money with an individual, even if they offer you a better rate than you would get at an exchange service. It can be tempting but it is more than likely a scam. You could be ripped off and lose out on some or all of your money as a result. Always stick to banks or recognised money changer services.
Finally traveller’s cheques are fine to use but you can find you end up exchanging them on a daily basis. The best place to make the exchange is at a bank so you need to make sure you are close to one.
How to find out the latest exchange rate between your home currency and the Romanian new leu
You simply have to use a currency converter to work this out. You should find one that gives you a relatively up to date exchange rate as this will be more accurate. Of course when you exchange money at a bureau de change or take it out of a cash machine you will be charged. This means the rate you will get there won’t be as good as it is when you see it on the converter.
Those wanting to travel to Romania may want to go and see the website for the Embassy of Romania first. This can be viewed at http://londra.mae.ro/en.
Travelling safely with Romanian new lei
The majority of people who go to Romania don’t experience any problems at all. If you go to large cities and towns there is an increased risk of pickpocketing and other petty crime, but really this is not a lot different to the risk posed in the UK. Don’t assume that all children are innocent either – it is very easy to dismiss a child loitering around a cash machine or among crowds of people, when in fact they are part of a gang trying to relieve people of their cash. Always be alert to who is around you when using cash machines and don’t be distracted by anything or anyone.
You should also ensure your valuables and passport are kept safely in your hotel safe when you are not in the room. It is perfectly fine to carry a photocopy of your passport rather than the actual document. In addition you might want to split any cash and cards you have on you into separate amounts so you can more easily protect what you have.
Where to spend your lei in Romania – and what to spend them on
Romania can be found in Europe and it has borders with a number of other countries. A small part of the eastern border faces the Black Sea, and in a clockwise direction from here you will find Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Ukraine and Moldova before finally arriving at the Black Sea again.
Even if you don’t think you know much about Romania you will almost certainly have heard of its capital, Bucharest. This is a popular city among tourists and it makes for an ideal long weekend destination for some in Europe. The city boasts many landmarks such as the Arcul de Triumf, which as you may guess from the name is a Triumphal Arch. It looks similar to the one in Paris but it has its own distinct design. This was originally built in 1878 but the original was wooden. The one in place now is built to last and has been on site since 1936.
Perhaps one of the most appealing sights in the city is the Romanian Athenaeum. Despite its ancient sounding name it was built in 1888 and since then it has hosted many events and music festivals. Aside from this you can also take a look at the National Museum of Romania. This charts the history of the country from prehistoric times onwards. The building is very impressive and so are the artefacts when you finally arrive inside to take a closer look.
But what of the rest of the country? Well, you won’t be surprised to learn there are a number of resorts you could stay in along the Black Sea coast. Places such as Saturn, Eforie and Mamaia are popular choices but there are many others too, all offering great facilities and lovely beaches.
The country also has its fair share of national parks, all offering a different side of Romania to the one you may be more familiar with. The Hasmas National Park features the Bicaz Gorges, offering great views and also the Lacu Rosu, or the Red Lake. This is a great place to go to if you love hiking and other activities such as rock climbing. It is also a good place to be because it is near to a number of monasteries that are well worth a look.
Finally another great national park to visit is the Calimani National Park. This is particularly special because it features the remains of old volcanoes. Sometimes a volcano will collapse and when this happens it forms a caldera. This particular park can lay claim to the largest caldera in the whole of Europe, measuring an incredible six miles in diameter. You can’t even imagine how big that is but you will get an idea of it when you visit this park.
As you can see Romania does have a lot to offer to those who are willing to go exploring, both in the cities and in the countryside. Indeed some would say the countryside has more to offer than any other part of the country. Of course it depends on what you would rather do and there are cities and towns in Romania that offer an equally charming and enlightening experience.
Put simply if you know where to go and you plan in advance you can look forward to some great times in Romania. Just make sure you have some lei on you so you are prepared for spending some cash while you are there. It could be the best trip you’ve ever had.