Getting around Bucharest is fairly easy as there are several means of public transport: If you are tired of walking you can either hop onto a bus or a tram or you can venture underground and make use of the metro network. Acquiring a ticket is another story entirely, though.
Getting around in Bucharest
You can buy your ticket for the metro (called metrorex) at the station, just don’t rely on the existence of ticket vending machines or English speaking staff. The metro stations are quite lively, you can buy food and fashion jewellery and in some cases theatre tickets. (We patiently stood in line for theatre tickets for quite some time until we grew suspicious and casually drifted to the metro ticket lady). When we found the right booth we paid RON 27,– (EUR 6.41) each for a ticket that allowed us to use the metrorex for a month or 62 rides, which basically means that, if you use the metro a lot and use up your 62 rides before the month is over, you need to get another ticket.
Getting a bus ticket isn’t as easy as getting metro tickets simply because there aren’t many ticket booths (or they managed to hide them very well which amounts to the same: no bus ticket). Again, the tickets aren’t expensive, a fare to the airport will cost you RON 8.60 (~ EUR 2,–). Once on the bus you’ll have to swipe it over a electronic device to validate it. One thing that made us queasy was: While going to the airport by bus, the swipe machines on the bus died right after they’d read our tickets. We confirmed this on two different occasions. Luckily, no-one checked the tickets while we were on the bus.
As in any other town, there are taxis you can use to get from point A to point B. The taxis in Bucharest don’t have the best reputation and our hotel warned us from getting into an unoffical taxi. The problem is: you can’t really tell which ones are offical and which ones are dodgy.
If you want to take a ride let the hotel or the restaurant call you a taxi. Also, take a look at the car. The taxis have their price-per-km displayed on a sticker on the side, and apparently everything beyond RON 1,50 / km is higly suspicious and you would do well finding another one.
Getting out of Bucharest
If you feel like you have had enough of Bucharest and want to explore the outlying villages and countryside (or go on a wild hunt for Vlad’s final resting place), you can either take the train or one of the many maxitaxis (vans that function as busses and serve the outskirts). Both are reasonably priced. We paid RON 6,– (about EUR 1.42) for our maxitaxi to Snagov and RON 35.90 (EUR 8,53) for the train ticket to Brasov (one way).
The maxitaxis all display their terminal stop and line number in the windscreens. You have to buy the tickets from the driver, so you needn’t run around searching for the ticket booth (just for the right maxitaxi). If you do feel like talking to a person in a booth, there is one provided for your comfort at the Piața Presei bus station – only the person won’t speak English with you nor will he/she sell you tickets. When you get on the right maxitaxi, keep in mind that they seem to stop randomly when people ask them to and the only indication where you are is the town sign you passed a minute ago (and didn’t manage to read). Of course, you could try counting the stops. Unless – see above – the driver decides to stop everywhere he pleases. Good news: if you look confused enough, the driver will remember you and kick you off the bus at the right-ish station, once he remembers you’re there.
If you decide to go by train, I recommend you write down the time at which your train departs so you can show it at the ticket desk. I knew there where earlier trains but I got tickets for the later one. My guess is, I got tickets for the cheaper (and slower) trains. My Romanian is non-existent so I can’t swear on it and since you also get a seat reservation with your ticket the earlier trains could have been already booked out. Still, having the time of the train you want to take on a piece of paper that you can show to the station staff probably won’t hurt.
Speaking of the seat reservations, the seat numbering doesn’t seem to follow any logical pattern (like it doesn’t in the UK. If anyone could explain either of the numbering systems to us, please do), but when you finally find your seat you will be rewarded with people coming by from time to time selling fresh berries in cute little baskets.