Our journey from Portugal to Malaysia was quite unusual. From a small village in central Portugal we went to Lisbon. From Lisbon we had a cheap Wizzair flight to Bucharest, where our friends live. Then from Bucharest we had another cheap Wizzair flight to… Dubai.
Yes, Wizzair has flights to Dubai! We were surprised too. From Dubai we flew to Guangzhou, where we were able to get a free 24-hour Chinese visa and our airline provided us with a free four star hotel. But this is another story and besides about all of this Kaspars wrote already. And then from Guangzhou we finally flew to Malaysia.
Here I must admit before we landed in Bucharest we didn’t know much about Bucharest and Romania. We knew some of the most popular Romanian foods, some of the cities, but that’s pretty much it. And our main goal here was to see our friends. Turned out Bucharest is a pretty nice city.
Public transport in Bucharest is cheap
Like in every European capital there are several public transportation options. Metro, buses, trolleybuses and trams form Bucharest’s transportation network, which is expanse and covers all of the city. The most tourist-friendly mode of transportation, in my opinion, is metro. However, the bus system is the most extensive.
There are four metro lines, and they cover most of central part of the city, as well as other parts and residential areas of Bucharest. Because of the fact that metro is easily accessed in the central part of the city, in my opinion, it is the best option for a tourist.
Metro tickets (cards) can be bought in every metro station. Two-journey tickets cost 5 lei (about 1.10 EUR), 10-journey – 20 lei (about 4.50 EUR) and 1-day pass costs only 8 lei (about 1.80 EUR).
There are few dozens of bus lines, fifteen trolleybus lines, 23 tram lines and 2 express bus routes which run to the Bucharest Airport. Standard bus, tram and trolleybus tickets can be bought in small booths near bus stations. They are stored on an non-reloadable Multiplu card. Usually this card is available with maximum of 10 journeys (min 2). One ride costs 1.30 lei / around 0,3 EUR. The price of the Multiplu card is 1,6 lei.
When traveling by bus and trolleybus during rush hours (in the morning and in the evening), remember, traffic jams in Bucharest then are a really serious problem! Our bus didn’t come for 40 minutes, so we walked. When it finally came and we boarded it, we rode only one stop, as traffic was so slow, that it was much faster to walk.
If you are traveling by bus, tram or trolleybus, you will need to validate your Multiplu card as soon as you board. If you are a couple, both of you can use this card – you just need to validate it twice.
To get from Bucharest Henri Coanda International Airport, take the Express bus number 783 to get to central part of the Bucharest (Piata Unirii). If you need to get to Gara de Nord (main railway station of Bucharest), take Express bus number 780. Express bus number 783 also operates during the night and it leaves the airport every 40 minutes.
Ticket (card) with two Express bus (Airport bus) journeys cost 7 lei or about 1,60 EUR.
There are several other night buses, too. To get more information about buses, trams and trolleybuses, visit official site of Bucharest Public Transport Company!
Accommodation in Bucharest is not expensive
This time in Bucharest we stayed with our friends. But there are plenty of affordable hotels and hostels around central part of Bucharest. Bed in a dorm room costs starting from 7 EUR, whereas double room (with a shared bathroom) costs starting from 21 EUR.
If you want to rent a spacious apartment check out Airbnb! You can rent a nice and neat apartment near Bucharest Old Town for mere 35 EUR! Apartments located further from Old Town, but still close enough to the central part of the city, are even cheaper – you can get one for about 25 EUR per night.
Register using our Airbnb link and you will get a 18 euro discount for your first booking of 75 euro or more.
Romanian cuisine is influenced by cuisine of other Eastern European countries
There are a lot of affordable eateries and restaurants in Bucharest. What we noticed is that small pizza and bread shops are seen quite often in Bucharest. Mostly they are more like a stall than an eatery, as you can’t walk in. Your food is given to you through a small window and you devour it outside or while walking around.
If you are looking for a cheap eatery where you can sit down, head to any kebab place. You’ll see quite a lot of them around central part of the city and in the old town. Mostly kebabs cost around 3 EUR. Restaurants serving Asian food are often affordable, too.
While walking around the city, we understood that prices in restaurants which serve traditional Romanian food are a bit more higher. Visit Caru’ cu Bere restaurant, which is one of the top-ranked restaurants near the old town. Even though its interior looks very fancy, it has very affordable lunch offers and student meals. Lunch set, which consists of a soup or a starter, main course, a salad and a dessert – starts from 5 EUR, student meals of a meat dish, a side dish and a drink – starts from 3 EUR.
Speaking of Romanian dishes, make sure you try some of these:
- Sarmale – cabbage rolls. Filling is made of minced meat and rice. Then some spices, herbs and onions are added. Then the mix is rolled into cabbage leaves. Quite often wine leaves are used instead of cabbage leaves.
- Cabbage a la Cluj (varză a la Cluj) – sauteed cabbage and minced meat dish baked in sour cream and mixed or layered with tomato sauce.
- Baked potatoes alongside smoked (cârnați afumați) or grilled sausages (mici).
- Transylvanian soup with pork (ciorbă ardelenească de porc) – sour soup made with vegetables, rice, sour cream and pork. Tarragon (herb) is also added to the soup.
- Beef salad (salata de boeuf) – traditional potato salad of Russian origin (Olivje), made with boiled eggs and potatoes, boiled carrots and cooked beef. Some pickles and peas are added, too. Dressing is made of mayonnaise, salt and pepper.
- Beans with pork ham (iahnie cu ciolan) – traditional dish with smoked pork ham, beans, vegetables and tomato paste.
Try these Romanian desserts: papanash with cow cheese and blueberries, baked pumpkin, sweetbread – cozonac de casă and fried dough with sweet cheese – plăcinte cu brânză dulce.
Some of the dishes, like Sarmale and smoked sausages, you can also buy already prepared in supermarkets. All you will need to do is to reheat them. This is a good option if you are staying in a hostel with a kitchen or in an apartment. This way you will be able to save some money on food and still try some of Romanian dishes.
Did you know that there is such a thing as anti-cafes? This is a special type of cafes, where people come to communicate or work rather than to eat. Still anti-cafes provide tea, coffee and some snacks, so people can have small bites while working or socializing. These kind of cafes became popular in Russia around 2010. Bucharest has one, to! It’s called Seneca Anticafe and it is located near Victory Square.
Where to go and what to see in Bucharest – some ideas
First things first, how much time do you need for Bucharest? In our opinion, 3 full days in Bucharest is perfectly enough. That’s if you aren’t interested in something special, that you know will take you more time. Next – you will need to use public transport or taxi for getting around, because distances in Bucharest are big.
And here it’s also important to mention, that there is no one part of the city, which you could call a city center of Bucharest. Because there are several such places in Bucharest. As our Romanian friends explained, that’s the reason, why in Bucharest you always agree more specifically, where are you going to meet with someone. You don’t just say let’s meet in the city center.
Some of these central places are Union Square, Revolution Square, University Square and Constitution Square. They are close to each other. If you don’ have anything specific in your mind, as where to go, head to one of these places and go for a walk!
Majority of Romanians (81%) are Orthodox. And Romanians like to build churches. Because of it you will likely see at least few beautiful Orthodox churches during your visit to this city. The real jewels of Bucharest are Old Princely Court Church (Curtea Veche), Stavropoleos Church (Biserica Stravrapoleos), Mihai Voda Church (Biserica Mihai Vodă), St. Nicholas Church, Biserica Kretzulescu, Patriarchal Cathedral.
Speaking more about churches – right now in Bucharest they are building also country’s largest cathedral, which is designed to last 500 years. They plan to open in 2024. If you will go to Parliament’s Palace, which we recommend you to do, then you will also see this cathedral, which is right next to it. Did I already mention, that Parliament’s Palace in Bucharest is the second largest administrative building in the world? That’s true. Only Pentagon in the USA is bigger. And it’s a pretty impressive building, at least from the outside (we haven’t been inside).
Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum (muzeu satului buchMuzeul Satuluiares) is an open-air ethnographic museum, where you can see how traditional Romanian village looks. But right next to it is Herastrau Park, a huge and beautiful park, where to go for a peaceful walk. If you are willing to see some beautiful Romanian villas, then you will find them in nearby blocks, between streets of Şoseaua Pavel Dimitrievici Kiseleff and Aviatorilor Blvd.
After few days of wandering around Bucharest we could agree about one thing – it’s a beautiful city and it could be a very, very beautiful one. If not because of these run-down buildings, which you can spot from time to time. Actually in quite many places it reminded us of Rome.
If you still have some questions about Bucharest or Romania, contact us!
Author: Una Baufala
Una is a traveler and travel blogger from Latvia. Apart from traveling and exploring new places she loves to read books. And she adores cats. Together with Kaspars they have been traveling – volunteering – working abroad since October 2013. WeAreFromLatvia.com is where she shares her travel experiences.