Let’s Talk About Telephones


A few years ago, the government re-arranged telephone numbers in this country to make them a lot simpler to use. Nonetheless, it can sometimes be confusing.

To understand, let’s look at a real telephone number, that of the mayor of Cluj, the city where I live:

+40 264.592.301

To begin with, the +40 is Romania’s country code, so this phone number has been written in such a way that anyone outside the country can dial it.

Depending on where you are, there is a code to dial international. In the United States, this is often (011). Therefore, if you were in the U.S. and wanted to call the mayor for a chat, you’d dial 011-40-264-592-301.

But what if you were in Romania already? What is the mayor’s phone number?

Turns out it’s 0264-592-301. That’s right, it’s exactly the same minus only the very first 4.

All Romanian phone numbers begin with 0. Every single Romanian knows this yet they always give out their numbers emphasizing that (mandatory) first zero.

Therefore minus the obligatory zero, the phone number is: 264-592-301.

The first three numbers (or four if you count zero) are always composed of a code that tells you what kind of telephone you’re dialing.

During the Communist era, the only telephones available were the “land-line” kind, hard-wired cables running under the ground and in the air. This is known as a telefon fix (feeks) in Romanian. It’s sometimes known in English as a “house phone” or an “office phone” but in all cases means a telephone plugged into a cable in the wall.

Every city’s fix telephones have their own prefix, always beginning with a 2. In Cluj this is 264. Brasov is 268. Bucharest is the only city with multiple fix phone codes but they always begin with 21.

Therefore looking once again at the mayor’s phone number, we can see a) it’s in Cluj (no surprise) and b) it’s a fix phone or a cabled telephone, presumably in his office.

Occasionally you will see “short” numbers in Romania, especially for businesses, consisting solely of six numbers, for example perhaps 592-301. This is presuming you know it’s a fix number in that town, therefore (assuming this is Cluj) I myself know to add the 0264 when dialing it.

Due to deregulation, the former government telephone monopoly allowed other companies to sell fix phone services. To differentiate, their fix numbers are the same only they begin with a 3 instead of a 2.

Therefore if the mayor’s fix number was through a different company, it would be 0364-592-301.

Romania, like many other countries, had relatively few fix phones in place by the time mobile telephony took off. Therefore mobile (cell) phones are extremely common with excellent coverage just about anywhere.

There are currently three mobile telephone providers in Romania and their subscribers are assigned different numbers. Since telephone calls between people on the same network are often far cheaper than between networks, it’s important to know at a glance which telephone numbers correspond to which company.

0720 to 0739Vodafon

0740 to 0759Orange

0760 and up – Cosmote

Now let’s assume that the mayor has a public mobile phone number (he doesn’t) with the company Orange. What could his phone number be?

Answer: 0745-592-301.

I just made that up, by the way, so don’t consider that a real number. The point here is that mobile phones don’t show which city the person is in, only who their carrier is.

You might have noticed I have been writing the telephone numbers xxx-xxx while earlier you saw xxx.xxx style. Romanians tend to write telephone numbers in a variety of different ways, but tend to say them orally in pairs.

A Romanian saying out loud the mayor’s fix number: 0264 59 23 01.

Making/Receiving Calls in Romania

Assuming you’re not a citizen, what are your options here?

If you already own a GSM mobile phone with a removable SIM card inside, you’re set. All three of Romania’s mobile networks sell pre-paid cards that anyone can use for about 8 euros (35 lei).

It is critical to remember that incoming calls (someone’s calling you) are free in Romania. If you are here in this country and have wealthier family or cherished ones wanting to call you, this is a great way to stay in touch.

If you want to buy your own telephone here as well, your best bet is any store called telefoane second hand, which I’m sure you can guess specializes in cut-rate telephones. That plus a SIM card (Rom: cartela) from one of the three mobile providers will get you in business right away.

SMS

This is what’s known as a “text message” in some places. Sending these is usually incredibly cheap, including internationally and are a great way to stay in touch for not much money.

Taxi Codes

A great number of taxi companies have short codes (ie just 3 or 4 numbers). So how do you dial these?

If you see just three numbers, the actual number to dial is (city’s fix code)+taxi 3-digit code. This can be dialed from a fix phone or a mobile phone.

If you see something else, such as the # sign or four numbers, these are short codes that only work for mobile phones. The sign should specify which code is for for which carrier.

For more on dealing with taxis, see my post here.

The Beep

If you befriend a single Romanian, sooner or later you’re going to run into “the beep”, which is written in Romanian as bip.

What is this?

It is when one person calls you (or you call them) and the receiving party does not answer.

What is this for?

You might remember a poem that mentioned an early American form of semaphore communication, i.e. one if by land, two if by sea.

The bip in Romania is a way to communicate something to someone. Since the call was never completed, there is no charge (cost) to either party but information has been communicated.

A few uses of the bip:

  • Hi, I’m thinking about you
  • I’m outside your bloc so come downstairs
  • I’m at specified point X
  • I made it home okay, goodnight, I kiss you
  • I’m out of credit so call me back

And many more…

Phone Etiquette

Answering a phone: alo? (ah-low)

Saying goodbye to a friend: pa, ciao, szia (see-ah) or servus.

Brief aside: interesting enough, even when I talk to someone in English, I feel compelled to say one of the above at the end of the conversation :P

Saying goodbye formally (to everyone else): la revedere (lah ray-vay-day-ray). This is mandatory.

Wrong number: imi pare rau dar ati gresit numarul (eem porry reuw dar ots gresheet numar-ool).

AND NOW YOU KNOW!

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1 Response »

  1. “Depending on where you are, there is a code to dial international. In the United States, this is often (011). Therefore, if you were in the U.S. and wanted to call the mayor for a chat, you’d dial 011-40-264-592-301.”
    The country calling code for the United States (as well as Canada) is 001. If you want to call someone in the US from here you would put the 001 prefix in front of the actual phone number. In reverse (calling a Romanian number from the US), you would just use Romania’s country code (40) not both. :P
    Also, since phone number portability has been implemented you can keep, let’s say, your Orange phone number but actually use Vodafone. Or have a 0264 number but actually be using a different company than Romtelecom. So guessing the network someone’s in based on what the phone number looks like has become very relative.
    “Romania, like many other countries, had relatively few fix phones in place by the time mobile telephony took off.
    I disagree. Since we’re talking about a time before or the early start of the mobile telephony most households in Romania had fixed phones. Even when every person from kids to grannies seemed to own a mobile, the fixed phone was still going strong. :)
    Bicos!

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