Bucharest Travelling Tips
There are plenty of interesting things to see and do in Bucharest. It is an interesting mixture between eastern and western capitals. After all, people call it ‘Little Paris’ as a lot of the architecture is influenced by the french capital. Here are some tips for your first day in Bucharest – what to expect, what transportation to use, what to avoid.
We usually avoid this type of clichés, but we have to mention and warn you that a lot of people in Romania and even Bucharest as a capital don’t speak English. Even at touristic places like one of the biggest and most popular castles – the ladies barely spoke English. However, you’ll be good with asking for directions, just aim for young people. People were very nice and always trying to help as much as they can.
And while we are still on the language barriers – here’s a tip especially for the German speaking tourists. Don’t use “Prost!” while enjoying a traditional Romanian beer, because in Romanian (as well as some other Balkan countries) it means “stupid”. The Romanian word for “cheers” is “noroc”.
If you, like us, don’t like gas water, be careful when buying or ordering mineral water. Specify that you want still water, because obviously mineral water here means gas water. It’s everywhere and well… we don’t like bubbles in the water.
Being a tourist in a foreign country where you don’t know the language, taxi drivers will probably try to rip you off especially at the airport, bus and train stations. The moment we arrived at the bus station a very persistent and annoying taxi driver insisted on helping us for only 10 euros – a drive that later cost us 6 lei which is about 1,5 euro. The official tariff is 1,39 lei per kilometer and it is written on the car so keep it in mind and look for the official sign. Lucky for us a helpful lady and her cute dog stopped and yelled at the taxi driver, explaining to us everything we need to know and getting us on a legit taxi. Well, the dog obviously didn’t yell but was very supportive of his owner and barked and looked mean at the taxi driver.
If you are from Western Europe or some other continent maybe you would find the numerous stray dogs unusual and strange. Unfortunately on the Balkans and around them this is a big problem. Don’t be afraid of them though. The dogs are usually very friendly but poorly fed. So if you have good will you could give them some of the left overs of your meal or if you are too scared just leave them next to some container. Maybe a dog would eat it or a homeless person. Either way, we are all living creatures, right? While we were in Bucharest we left some doughnuts next to a bin and after more than half an hour and on a complete different street we saw the very same box we left in the hands of a homeless person. What we did is not much, but the joy that we felt afterwards was so pure!
If you book a hostel/hotel in the center or relatively near that area like we recommend, you wouldn’t need to rely on public transport that much or at all depending whether you are fine with 15-20 minutes walks or not.
You would want to use the metro or a bus to get to some other areas though. Like the Herastrau Park which is ideal for a quick getaway from the heat in the summer with all the shades provided by the tall green trees and the cooling water of the lake in it. You could rent a boat or a water bicycle, get some tan, have fun and relax while enjoying the beautiful view.
In order to use use a bus, trolleybus or tram you will need to buy an Activ Card before climbing aboard. One trip by surface transport costs 1.30 lei (29 euro cent) while the metro trip costs 2 lei (45 euro cent).
Cars and drivers
Like in every other country located on the Balkans or around them, don’t expect very polite driving in Romania also. As a pedestrian you should be able to be a bit insolent but cautious at the same time. Otherwise you could end up waiting to cross the street infinitely.
Smoking is permitted in most restaurants, pubs and bars unless otherwise stated. Sometimes the restaurants are divided into smoking and non-smoking sections. While, I do believe this will change soon and they will introduce the non-smoking rule, now Romania like Serbia is still a paradise for smokers.
First night out
If you don’t know what to do the first night, because you’re still not familiar with the city – go to the ‘Old Town’. Fancy a beer? Every turn you take leads you to a new street full of bars.
Want a day trip?
If you’re visiting Bucharest like us and want to see more than just a capital, you will probably want to see one of the famous castles that got popular mostly because Vlad the Impaler (aka Dracula) slept in them for a night or two. So now they called them Dracula’s castles. Anyways, if you have to choose whether to go to the castle in Sinaia or in Brasov, choose the first. It is absolutely fascinating place, amazing opulent interior with so many details and authentic furniture. While the castle in Brasov is smaller and far not that spectacular.
More ideas (actually 50 of them) of spectacular places around Romania here.
Overall, Bucharest is a very safe European city that is a pleasure to explore and walk around. And since the city center is not that big, we recommend walking instead of public transportation.
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