Fleecing the foreigners

We have spotted a worrying trend whilst researching the latest issue of Bucharest In Your Pocket (which, by the way, will be issue 100. Expect more on that particular subject. Much more): Tourists in Bucharest are being fleeced.

In a nutshell, the old communist-era practice of charging foreign tourists more than locals is making a comeback. Those of us who thought we’d seen the last of such nonsense when Romania joined the European Union (which strictly forbids dual-pricing for EU citizens) in 2007 need to think again.

Here are a few examples.

At Cotroceni Palace, home of Romania’s president Klaus Iohannis, foreigners are expected to pay 40 lei for the guided tour, while Romanians pay just 25 lei:


At the dusty old Geology Museum, a guided tour of the various rocks will set you back 100 lei if you are a foreigner, 50 lei if you are a local:


At the National Art Museum they really do go to town: 100 lei for locals, 200 lei for dumb foreigners:


The Village and Natural History Museums also take the piss to the tune of 100 lei:



Nicolae Ceausescu’s old house, Palatul Primaverii, which only opened to the public earlier this month, is also pulling the same trick: 30 lei for Romanians, 45 lei for foreigners.


Now, we are fairly certain that none of these museums are actually breaking any laws. They will argue that the prices are the same for everybody: that if a foreigner can understand Romanian he or she is perfectly welcome to take the Romanian tour and pay the Romanian price. Likewise, a Romanian who wanted the English tour (for whatever reason) would have to pay the ‘foreigner’ price.

While that may legally be the case, we are calling bollocks on the policy from a moral point of view, at least until we see the pay slips of the various guides. Are the guides who give the English tours at Cotroceni Palace paid more than the guides who do the Romanian tours?

We will believe it when we see it.

Meantime, hats off to Casa Poporului (home of Romania’s parliament), which charges everyone the same:


The Peasant Museum also charges the same price: 72 lei.

Finally, before everyone responds with cries of ‘but foreigners can afford it’ (we can’t, by the way), just stop for a moment and think about the reaction in these parts if a group of Romanian visitors to London were told that they had to pay more for a tour of the Tower of London than locals.


12 thoughts on “Fleecing the foreigners

  1. “just stop for a moment and think about the reaction in these parts if a group of Romanian visitors to London were told that they had to pay more for a tour of the Tower of London than locals.”

    If I was visiting with me ol’ mum who only understands a little English, I’d certainly be inclined to pay more if they gave me a guided tour of the Tower of London in Romanian (or even French, which we both reasonably understand). However, I would certainly be pissed if they charged me more for the same English guided tour the locals get.

    That said, is it a good idea that they’re charging more for English guided tours? Probably not a brilliant one. I also think the price difference is in some cases too big; charging 100% more for an English guide is taking the piss. But what if it was Russian, Chinese or Arabic? Or even French or Spanish. Surely at some point you have to factor in that hiring a tour guide that speaks a foreign language should cost more than hiring someone who only speaks the local language.

    If I was to decide these things, I’d probably charge for English guided tours the same price as for Romanian guided tours. Simply because, both internationally and locally, it’s the most widely spoken second language. For any other language, I’d definitely charge more. The less widely spoken, the more expensive it should be.

    What I truly find despicable is charging more for things like entrance fees, food, transportation, accommodation etc. Basically anything that is language-agnostic, to borrow a term from programming.


  2. I think it’s a good idea. English language guides do have an incentive to their salary for giving guided tours in English and they passed an exam before being able to do it.

    I think pre-paid cell phone SIMs should be scrapped. Foreigners will stay away from Romania if they can’t even buy a cell phone card without going through bureaucracy and registration. This is especially valid for muslims.

    The ones who come on vacation or have serious plans over here will get over it.


  3. It seems mostly to be down to language.
    Personally, I prefer to be able to understand the educated guide.
    What IS the big con, is TAXIS, primarily from Otopeni airport. I was conned by a TAXI once. The next TAXI driver who tried the con regretted it. I got out my mobile phone and rang the Polizei. I told them I was being forcibly conned into paying an excess fare. He took my bags out of the car boot and drove off. I did not call the Polizei… but I conned him into thinking I had!


  4. I once jumped into a cab painted up to look like one of the cheaper companies. I didn’t notice the clock until it had wrecked my budget. I was on bread and water for weeks.


  5. As a professional translator, I see nothing wrong with this (though I certainly hope they are compensating the guides appropriately). A bilingualor multi-lingual guide has invested much more in their career and training than a monolingual (at least, if they are any good) and deserve appropriate compensation for the extra time and effort it took them to acquire the skill. Admittedly, the Romanian market is a bit different than others, and I plan to present at conferences next year on this very topic. But in Germany, I can’t imagine anyone batting an eye at this, nor should they (as long as the guides are being compensated in a commensurate manner).


    1. The Romanian model is usually better than any Western model.

      Leaving aside the fact that Romania had no colonies, had not benefited from the Marshall plan after WWII, had gone through a revolution and dissolution of the national economy post-1990, our country has the highest economic growth in Europe and lacks any of the problems that have impaired the Western world today (terrorism, failed multiculturalism, social hatred etc…).

      Since ancient times, Romanians had their own social, economic and political models, and today – when the West are paying the bill for their failed models – it has been proven that our models were in fact better and more sustainable.

      Romania is teaching all foreigners lessons they should take and implement in their home countries.


      1. …I’m not really sure what exactly this is in reply to? I was talking just about language-based industries, where I can tell you that the average Romanian translator is at a huge disadvantage compared to my market (German to English). I’ve heard of cases where the notary is paid twice as much as the certified translator, for example. I do know a few well-compensated Romanian linguists, but they’re the exception for the most part, hence why I intend to present on the topic (to bring awareness of the different market pressures mainly to translators of Western languages, who deal with very different price pressure/demand). In terms of fair compensation for linguists (which was the only point I was trying to make), the Romanian system is most demonstrably NOT better than the Western systems.


      1. Jesus H Christ! Are you for real? I take it English isn’t your first language? I was taking the P.I.double S you pranny.


  6. Yes, not fair, right? You should go to South America (esp. Peru), where you get a different entrance price (which sometimes is ten times higher) just by not having a national ID. I cannot see any folly in this, as long as the entrance ticket has the same price.


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