Last updated July 31, 2020

Today’s Status, Looking Towards Fall 2020 — Blue

With new policies allowing US travelers into the country (with an at-home quarantine after arrival), we’re now waiting to hear back about the orphanage policies to determine if we would be able to have a program here for Fall 2020. Because our Romania program has volunteers serving in an orphanage, we follow precautions set by Child Protective Services. They’ve told us they’re anxious to have our volunteers back because they’re so helpful, and have strict guidelines set in place to protect the children. The rise in cases is our biggest concern.

Check below to get more details on some key aspects that we’re watching. Each of these components help us determine when we’ll be able to send volunteers to Romania again (it’s stuff you’re going to want to know). Also, this info can change often. Our goal is to keep things current with weekly updates, so check back frequently. 

Getting There

Starting August 15th, Romania is now allowing visitors from the United States, along with a list of other approved countries. Travelers would be required to do an at-home quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

ILP volunteers don’t need visas prior to departure to Romania so we’re not waiting on that.

All airports in Romania are currently open. The government has eased commercial flight and travel restrictions to countries with documented COVID-19 case reductions. Popular airlines like TAROM and Wizz Air have resumed itineraries to a handful of popular regional destinations, with daily flights to cities in Romania + throughout Europe.

Travelers should continue to be prepared for last minute cancellations and updated travel restrictions, but the allowance of US citizens and continued flight itineraries are a sign we’re feeling optimistic about. 

Daily Life

Case numbers in Romania have been really up and down, especially after lockdown measures started lifting in the middle of May. There has been a recent uptick in cases since the middle of June that doesn’t seem to be slowing down. 

As of August 4th, Romania reports 12.3 active cases per 100,000 which is lower than almost every US state and much lower than the US average. However, there is some uncertainty about reliability of reported numbers because of limitations of the healthcare system and cultural limitations on testing reliability. That all just adds another layer of detail which helps our decision making process.

Currently, only 1-on-1 therapy and treatments are allowed, but we hope that small group sessions will open soon. We expect that when the orphanage does allow volunteers in, there will be more strict rules about wearing masks, changing scrubs, and travel parameters. (We have more info on what travel may look like in another section).

Locals are able to shop, visit cafes, hang out in parks, spend time in some museums, etc. There are some restrictions like limited capacity for indoor dining, but things are looking really good as far as daily life and activities go.

Out & About

As of July 17th, it was declared that the country would extend its State of Alert another month.  The country went from “Emergency” to “Alert” level at the end of June. Government update announcements will be made on July 15 and July 30 with the possibility of going to (new) “normal”.

The government has continued to reemphasize compliance with existing restrictive measures, including social distancing and the wearing of protective masks in closed public spaces, stores, public transportation, and the workplace. 

While the general public is observing health and safety standards, it’s vitally important that volunteers are strictly adhering to all preventative measures to help protect your health and the health of the kids you’re volunteering with. Volunteers will have to strictly practice social distancing, wear masks, submit to temperature checks, and follow travel restrictions during their semester.

Travel within Romania is allowed which is fantastic news for volunteers  — some of our favorite spots in all of Europe are hiding in this little country!

Think about exploring castles on the weekend, experiencing some of the best hiking in this part of the world, or having adventures you can’t get anywhere else. Romania is full of tiny mountain villages, charming cobblestone streets, glittering Black Sea vacations, cafes galore, and more than a few of the prettiest towns we’ve ever seen. Just take a peek at the ILP blog if you need ideas on where to vacation. 

Even if the government allows re-entry after international travel, Romania’s Child Protective Services will likely not allow anyone in the orphanage if they have traveled internationally. So for the near future, travel outside of Romania will likely not be allowed to protect the safety of the children.

Honestly, we really think that is a huge perk. Romania is incredibly charming — tourists (and even ILP volunteers living in Romania) typically overlook this gem of a country. There is so much to explore here and you’ll get to see and do so much more than volunteers who leave the country. Our blog is full of ideas that’ll get you excited about planning vacations here!

Okay, now what?  Should I still apply for Romania

If you’re thinking “that’s all really good to know, but what does that mean for me?” we have some good news to share: time is still totally on your side.

We’ve seen policies change without notice that have made the difference between us thinking we’ll need to wait longer and helping us determine that a Fall 2020 semester in that location is something we’re pretty optimistic about. Sometimes that has happened in the span of just a couple of weeks or even in a single day. Departures for Fall 2020 are still weeks off and a lot could be decided before departing … and even more could change for Spring 2021 volunteers. 

So we say start your application now so that you’re ready when the time comes. We are going to need volunteers who are ready to go right when things change for the better, which is why we think it’s a good idea to have your application in (even if things potentially look uncertain right now). Time really is on your side.

We’re also here for all of your questions. We’d love to talk about deferring to a later semester if things still need more time or finding a country right now that’ll be a good fit for you. You can bet that once things open up, you’ll be the first to know!