In Bucharest there are many ways of reaching the Downtown area no matter where you are, but the buses, trolleybuses and the subway train are the main ones. While you can take the tram as well to reach Downtown, and there are many tram routes, they will drop you off near this area. They will drop you off within walking distance to various city destinations. Read on to find out about the other common way of getting downtown.
So the easiest way of reaching Downtown is by public transportation and while I read that some countries have some bus routes free of charge, this is not the case in Bucharest. In fact ticket inspectors come quite often to see who paid their fare and who did not. Those who are caught must pay much more than the fare for one way, which is 1.3 lei… I guess this is about some US .50 cents?
In order to pay your fare, you must load a white and green card specially issued for this purpose and it’s the same size as your credit card and made of plastic. It’s also best to have cash on hand when going to a booth where you can recharge it. Below is a closed bus ticket booth and hopefully you’re lucky to find one that is open and that can also accept a credit or debit card. This is because not all are always open and not all receive card payment. The one near my place closes at 2PM and I don’t think it’s open on weekends.
So, you got your card charged with at least 2 tickets, for a round trip using a single bus. Now you have to get in the bus and the first thing you should do is to make sure you pay the travel fare, as having the card charged doesn’t mean you paid your fare. This should be easy enough: all buses have an orange machine, actually 3 of them but you only need one, and you have to take the card and place it as close as possible to the front of the machine, on the dark-colored circle. A green light and a BEEP will tell you you’ve been successful. A really loud and long BEEP with a red light will tell you an error occurred and you have to try again. Don’t worry, as multiple charges are not possible, unless you tell the machine to charge again by pressing the button 2 as many times as you need. See below the orange machine that validates your travel fare.
As you can see, there is a screen too where various messages are displayed in Romanian, so I don’t know what they mean, I do know that the amount money left on the card is displayed after a successful travel charge. This machine is inside a tram and because they’re longer, you’ll find more of these machines, usually near the doors. Below, an image inside a tram. The inside of a bus is similar, maybe a bit more crowded with seats. This is a nice tram, as opposed to older and uglier trams.
If you go Downtown late in the evening, you might risk not having a ride back. Worry not, as a few night buses go all over the city every 30 minutes. The fare to ride them is the same as for the day routes, but make sure you get in the correct bus: the N123 bus for instance will not go to the same place as 123 bus that functions in the daytime!
Taking a taxi to or from Downtown is another option. All taxis are yellow and they’re easy to recognize from among other yellow cars that you see. You’ll see 2 types of taxis: the ones that belong to some big taxi company and some that are independent and will charge about 3 times as much. They’re also easy to tell apart: the big companies printed their cars with many phone numbers, for the various phone companies operating here and of course their name. All taxis have the fare printed on the door and if you take it, make sure the meter functions or you may just ride it free. But this is a story for a different entry. Talking about taking the subway is subject for another entry as well!
Why do you want to go downtown? I usually go Downtown to check out the mall at Unirii, I go to random coffee shops in the Historical Center and to take a walk. There are many shopping opportunities Downtown, several old churches and other attractions to check out.