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More than 660,000 Romanians traveled abroad in 1st month in EU

Foreign travel by Romanians increased an annual 12% in January, the month Romania joined the European Union and citizens won the right to travel more freely.

More than 660,000 Romanian traveled outside their country in the first month of the year, the National Statistics Institute said in an e-mailed news release today. About 79% of them left by car, traveling to or through neighbors, including Hungary and Bulgaria, which are also part of the EU, the institute said.

Romanians can travel to many countries without visas since the country joined the 270-nation bloc on January 1. Travel has traditionally been difficult for Romanians, even after the fall of the communist government in 1989, which all but prohibited it. Through the 1990s and much of this decade, a foreign trip meant pre-dawn line-ups at embassies and visa fees that many Romanians couldn't afford. As Romania prepared to join the EU in the past few years, several countries lifted or eased visa restrictions on Romanians, encouraging a boom in international travel.

The number of foreign visitors to Romania in January rose 0.5% from a year earlier to 339,000, the institute said. About 62% of them came from other countries in the EU The number of Romanians holidaying at tourist spots inside the country rose almost 11% to about 255,000 the institute said. (Bloomberg)