So I decided to launch an English section for this blog, because I have so many friends abroad that don’t speak Romanian and who tell me all the time that they want to come visit Bucharest.
If you’re thinking about visiting Bucharest, let me tell you this: you are going to have a lot of fun! And all this while also experiencing its educational side. Just imagine that by visiting Bucharest you have access to the best and cheapest attractions in Europe! Visiting Bucharest is now a totally different experience, and if you’re expecting post-Ceausescu attitude, you are in for a surprise!
It’s usually a good idea to have someone show you around, as Bucharest is not the best tourist-friendly city in Europe, on the contrary, even natives have a bit of trouble walking around. But with a bit of help I think you can make it safely on your own, especially if you try going incognito, like not replying in English when someone approaches you, just nod your head YES or NO and move on.
Bucharest Fact Sheet:
– hot summers up to 39 Celsius [102 Fahrenheit]
– cold winters down to -20 Celsius [-4 Fahrenheit]
– quickest way to move around: METROREX [Subway]
– most comfortable way to move around: TAXI [as Subway might involve some walking, lot of space between stations]
– crowded during school time [October to June] – important universities attracting students from the entire country
– Emergency number is 112, but you can use a private one also, for medical emergencies only, as for example Regina Maria Hotline – 021-9268
– Taxes: VAT is 24%, but don’t freak out! All taxes are included in the displayed prices, don’t believe anybody telling you differently, as it’s illegal not to display the whole deal
– Tips: usually between 10% and 20%, but nobody will say NO if you give more, depends on how happy you are with how you are being treated
So how to start your trip? First of all, it depends on how you arrive in Bucharest:
By airplane: Otopeni / Henri Coanda airport
If you arrive by airplane, you need to check the yellow and black signs to the Baggage Pickup. Be patient, it may take a while, there are only 3 baggage lanes. Once you pickup your baggage, you will proceed to grab a taxi right after you pass the sliding doors at the exit. Don’t be alarmed by the crowd, it’s not unusual for big families of 4 or more to wait for their loved ones at the airport instead of allowing them to grab a taxi on their own. No matter if you turn left or right, intimidated by the crowd, watch out for the taxi machines. You will need to look for something that looks like an ATM, select English and request a taxi according to the size of your group and the fare by km.
This happens mainly to prevent corrupt taxi drivers who are driving illegally, with outrageous fares, especially for foreigners. So airport regulations were changed and now only explicitly requested taxis are permitted entry. All Taxis are obliged to turn on their meter until the point of arrival.
The machine will print out a slip for you, with the registration number you need to be on the lookout for. ONLY grab the taxi specified on the slip, and be sure to request a receipt [„bon”] if you need to be reimbursed.
By train: Gara de Nord
If you arrive by train you will most likely arrive at Gara de Nord station. From there you can grab a taxi at the entrance [pick only famous companies such as Speed Taxi, Taxi Leone, Taxi Cobalcescu, Taxi 2000]. As an alternative, unlike Otopeni Airport, you can take the subway from Gara de Nord station to your destination.
We don’t yet have Uber here, but you can use Taxi apps such as Star Taxi. You can also rent cars online for around 40 Euros per day / $45 [taxes, GPS and insurance included] www.autonom.ro. But don’t expect parking to be super accessible, you may have some trouble finding parking at all, not just free parking.
Romania uses 220V AC. If you are visiting outside Europe, from the US, UK, etc, you may need an adapter. You may not find a suitable one at the airport, but you can either bring one of your own or buy one at shops such as Altex, Domo, Flanco, Media Galaxy, Dedeman, Carrefour, etc. Just browse your Google Maps area and see what’s the closest option.
Calls and mobile data
You will probably need a data plan without contract. You can go to any of the 3 main providers for Prepay and talk it over with a Sales Rep: Vodafone, Orange, T-mobile.
I personally recommend the 10 euro plan from Orange, it rocks. You get unlimited local calls, unlimited SMS, 300 minutes or SMS country-wide, mobile or international land lines, as well as 1.5 GB of data, for 1 month. Foursquare will give you info about wifi passwords anywhere, so be sure to have it pre-installed. We are also avid Waze users, so be sure to plan your trip with it, it will save you A LOT of time.
Staying in Bucharest
There are several options, but don’t expect the wide range of options that Paris provides, for example. There are a couple of hotels you can try.
Best hotels are: Hilton, Grand Hotel Continental, Howard Johnson, Intercontinental, Novotel, Ramada.
If you’re looking for low-cost solutions, you can try: Hotel Opera, Hotel InterBusiness, Rembrandt, Ambasador, Hotel Duke, Minerva.
Tickets to Museums and Attractions
There are seasonal partnerships between museums, but most of the time there aren’t any ALL-in-1 passes, so you will need to buy each ticket individually.
The Palace of the Parliament
The Old Town bars and pubs
National Art Museum
Concerts at the Athenaeum
Tiriac Car Collection
Grigore Antipa Museum
Concerts or Games at the National Arena
Concerts at Sala Palatului
George Enescu Museum
National Military Museum
National Museum of History
The Animal Farm [Ferma Animalelor]
The JW Marriott Casino
The Botanical Garden
National Museum of Contemporary Art [mnac]
METROREX 10-trip card: 20 lei
If you are on a budget, there are plenty of sights to see, that are free:
The Old Town / Lipscani
Arc of Triumph
Alexandru Ioan Cuza Park
Day Trips with Maps!
So if you are considering visiting Bucharest, print this out and have fun!