Situated in the southeastern part of Europe, Romania is an exciting and beautiful country for travelers to explore. Known all over the world for its Transylvania region, Romania is home to expansive forests, shimmering lakes, amazing Gothic architecture, and iconic landmarks like Bran Castle.
Whether you're roaming around a big city like Bucharest or exploring the Romanian countryside for hikes, bike rides, and other outdoor recreation activities, you can enjoy all kinds of experiences around Romania. Read on to learn all about the currency used in Romania in order to plan out your trip to perfection.
Official Currency in Romania
Many countries around Europe use the euro, but Romania, despite being a member state of the European Union, decided to keep its own currency: the Romanian leu. Interestingly, the Romanian leu does not have its own symbol. It is identified by the ISO code RON or the letter L. A single leu is made up of 100 bani. The singular form of bani is ban, while the plural form of leu is lei.
The word 'leu' translates to 'Lion' in English, and the leu has been used in Romania since the mid-19th century. A single US dollar is typically worth several lei, but the value of the Romanian leu can rise and fall over time, just like many other currencies, so it’s always wise to check out live currency conversion charts before planning a trip to Romania to see how valuable a leu is at the time.
Coins and Notes in Romania
The coins of the Romanian leu have changed a lot over the years, with various designs being adopted and then withdrawn over time. The latest set of leu coins was introduced in 2005, and you can find coins of the following denominations:
The 1b coin is made from brass-plated steel, giving it a slightly golden hue. It is the smallest of the coins and is actually quite rarely used due to its small value. The 5b coin is made from copper-plated steel and is a couple of millimeters larger than the 1b coin. The 10b coin is larger still and made from nickel-plated steel. Finally, the 50b coin is the largest. This coin is made from brass and there are several variants of the 50b coin in circulation at the moment.
Romanian leu coins usually feature the company's coat of arms and year of minting on one side, with the value on the other side. The 50b coins can differ from this, however, and will sometimes feature images of Romanian royalty or monuments. The 5, 10, and 50 bani coins are the most commonly used coins in Romania, and many items are priced in multiples of 10 or 5, meaning that the single ban coin is not particularly useful in most situations.
As well as coins, Romanian money also comes in note form in the following denominations:
- 1 L
- 5 L
- 10 L
- 50 L
- 100 L
- 200 L
- 500 L
Like the Romanian leu coins, the notes have changed a lot over the years, with various shapes and styles being used for different periods. Nowadays, the 500 lei note is quite rare, but the other notes are all relatively common, so you can expect to see and use most of them on a typical trip to Romania.
The notes used in Romania are actually the same size as euro notes, and Romania is in line to adopt the euro by 2024. The notes used in Romania become progressively larger as their value increases, and they feature a color-coded system to help users identify and differentiate between them.
The 1 leu note, for example, is green, while the 5 lei note is purple. The 10 L note is pink, the 50 L note is yellow, the 100 L note is blue, the 200 L note is brown, and the 500 L note is violet. Romanian notes feature the country's coat of arms, as well as various figures from Romania's past like Aurel Vlaicu and Mihau Eminescu.
Using Credit Cards in Romania
Credit and debit cards like Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted at shops, hotels, and restaurants in Romania. This is especially true in cities, where paying by card is quite common. If you head out to rural locations, however, you may need to pay with cash more frequently.
You'll find plenty of ATMs around Romania too, but you'll need a four-digit PIN code to access your money, so be sure to contact your bank and get this code before setting off. It’s also wise to let your bank know that you’re going away so as not to raise any alarms when your card starts being used in a different country.
Using US Dollars or Other Currencies in Romania
The leu is the only currency currently accepted in Romania. In the coming years, the country will be switching over to the euro. Until then, the leu will be the only way to pay, so you can’t expect any hotels, shops, or restaurants to accept US dollars or other currencies in Romania.
Tips for Currency in Romania
To make the most of your trip to Romania and not encounter any issues with your money, be sure to follow these top tips:
- Talk to your bank before you travel to learn about what kind of fees you might have to pay on international transactions and ATM withdrawals. Most banks will charge small fees for payments made internationally, so you need to know about these fees before you set off.
- Cards are widely accepted in big city locations like Bucharest, but cash is the preferred option in smaller towns and villages. Be sure to have some cash on you at all times, just in case you enter a shop or restaurant that doesn’t take cards.
- If you’re unsure, speak to a worker in a shop or restaurant to see what payment methods they’re willing to accept. It’s a lot better to know in advance rather than arriving at the counter and suddenly finding out your card isn’t accepted.
- Keep some small change and notes on you for little purchases and things like public transport tickets or tips. A lot of things are quite cheap in Romania, so you won’t need to use the larger notes too often.
- Tipping isn’t as big in Romania as it is in the United States, but it is still accepted and encouraged at restaurants and bars, as well as in hotels. Taxi drivers don’t usually get tipped, but you can if you want to.
- You’ll get charged every time you use an ATM. To save money, try and use the ATM the fewest possible times by making big withdrawals, rather than just making mini withdrawals on a day by day basis.