We were very surprised by our visit to Bucharest. In fact, Romania in general seems like it’s somewhere that we’d definitely like to return to.
When you think of Eastern Europe, Romania probably doesn’t float to the top of the list of countries that springs to mind.
Bucharest is also quickly by-passed on route to Transylvania, but we wanted to at least have a few days there to experience the city in our own time.
We flew from Dublin via Ryanair into Otopeni airport. The airport is about 18km away from the city center so you’ve a few options on how to get there.
There are two different bus lines that you can choose. The first is #783 to Piata Unirri, and the second is #780 to the main railway station; called Gara de Nord.
We went with #780 as our hotel was literally a 3 minute from the Gara de Nord train station. The price of the bus ticket into town was 3 lei each (approx. €0.70) and the time it took was about 25 minutes.
We were able to buy our tickets on the bus as well, and a friendly bus conductor explained to us that we could also have purchased an Activ card (equivalent of an Oyster card in London).
We initially thought that Uber would be available as a taxi method, but nothing was showing up when we opened the app.
If you want to take a taxi then it’s best to use the yellow cabs that have the price per km on the bodywork of the car as well as the name of the company. We heard it’s about €15 – €20 for a cab into the city center from the airport.
Note: We heard a few stories about Romanian taxi drivers trying to rip tourists off, so keep that in mind. It’s best to either arrange a fixed price before leaving, or make sure they use the meter.
So yeah, the bus is definitely the way to go in our opinion!
Finding your way around
Bucharest is one of the easiest cities we’ve been to for getting around.
Seriously folks, the subway system is so efficient there and it connects all major parts of the city.
We pre-loaded a metro card with 20 Lei (€4.50) and it lasted for ages. I think we got 6/7 individual trips on it.
And the best thing is that there are no “zones”, so you can get off after 1 stop or go until the end of the line for the same price.
We didn’t take one taxi while we were in Bucharest as we didn’t need to with the subway being so handy.
A little bit of history about Bucharest
One of the first things you’ll notice about Bucharest are the plethora of dilapidated buildings everywhere.
Behind these structures, you’ll very often see sparkling new high-rise modern buildings, showcasing the disparity between the old and new Bucharest!
Back in 1989, the country was freed of the Communist stranglehold that president Nicolae Ceausescu had on the country.
The feelings of repression still linger among the Romanian people 25+ years later, especially those that lived during that era.
Ceausescu and his secret police were responsible for huge food and fuel shortages as well and killing thousands of people.
The city will never let you stray too far away from its past, with Revolution square and the Palace of Parliament serving as a reminder of Ceausescu’s death grip on the economy.
Things to do and See
Without a doubt, Bucharest has a buzzing nightlife scene with a great variety of clubs, pubs and restaurants to choose from.
- Palace of Parliament
This thing is huge! So huge that it’s actually the world’s second largest building, beaten only by the Pentagon in Washington.
For Romanian people however, this serves as a reminder of the communist era when then president Ceausescu built it as part of his idea to modernise the city.
It was a huge drain on resources and still to this day costs the Romanian economy about $3.6 million per year to maintain!
We didn’t opt for a tour of a part of the building but it has 1,100 rooms we found out.
- Revolution Square
It was here on 21st December 1989 that Ceausescu’s reign ended. The people turned against him and he fled via helicopter only to be arrested a few hours later on the outskirts of the city.
The square has a few statues, four of them to be precise, the Romanian Athenaeum and the university of Bucharest.
We spent a good chunk of time walking around the old part of the city – which is called Centru vechi.
This part of the city has a lovely mixture of quaint spots to eat and charming cobbled streets.
There’s no point in naming a bunch of restaurants because the choice is so varied. The best thing would be to just walk around and you’ll be spoiled for choice.
We heard about Bordellos bar as a great spot to enjoy a plum whiskey! We did enjoy a fantastic meal at a pub called “Energiea” with Anca from Officetotravel who was kind enough to give us some useful information about her city.
It has to be said that the internet in Romania is the fastest that we’ve experienced on our travels so far.
It’s rumoured to be the 2nd fastest in the world, behind South Korea!
For those of us who work online, this is a dream.
Coupled with the abundance of cafes throughout the city, it makes us extremely happy!
Average internet speeds we found were around 40-50mb/s down and 20mb/s up.
It’s no wonder that Bucharest is getting a name as a digital hotspot the past few years.
One BIG negative
If there was one negative thing we could report from our trip it would have to be the smoking in public areas.
80% of Romanians smoke we heard and it’s everywhere; cafes, restaurants, hotel receptions etc.
Yes, there are a few non-smoking cafes like starbucks for example that have a non-smoking rule enforced, but you’ll be struggling to find a non-smoking cafe/restaurant as you walk around.
The good news is that from 1st March 2016, there’s a law being passed that will ban smoking in public areas in Romania.
As non-smokers, we found the constant smoking issue to be pretty tough. But then again, that’s the way it is over there.
We also heard that non-smokers are considered second class/inferior, which we found hilarious….but it’s true seemingly!
It will be interesting to see how the new smoking ban fairs out with people over there when it comes into effect.
We loved Bucharest.
It’s cheap with plenty of affordable accommodation options.
It’s got lightening fast internet.
It’s well connected.
The food is delicious and the locals are friendly.
It’s somewhere that we wouldn’t mind returning to in the future.
The flood gates will soon open for Bucharest and the backpackers will flock there in droves – that’s a certainty.
The city has been referred to as the “Paris of the East”, and while we’ve not visited Paris yet, we can see what they’re saying.
If you get the chance to visit Bucharest, then do it – you won’t regret it!