Henri Coanda International Airport is 18 km north of the center, in Otopeni town, so it is usually known by that name. Although Romania is still a cheap country within the European Union, prices in shops and restaurants at the airport are double that in the rest of the country (each Burger King menu cost us € 12.5) and currency exchange rates are between 10 and 15% worse to the official, while in the center of Bucharest barely reach 1%.
There are two express bus lines to go to the airport, or so they call themselves, but they are not express at all, they stop at every stop. The vehicles are modern but are not equipped for the luggage of travelers, and since they are not actually direct to the airport, locals use them as a normal bus line; this means that the bus could be packed with tourists, their luggage and Bucharesters, which was exactly what happened to us when arriving, and which annoyed a local who semmed to have being drinking too much alcohol; although I do not speak Romanian, it was clear that he was, let’s say… expressing his dissatisfaction about the space occupied by the suitcases, until among the other passengers urged him to shut up.
- Express Bus 783:
- From the airport to the center.
- Everyday. Every 20 minutes approximately, 24 hours. Supposedly in the official web of transport, schedules are available to download in pdf format, but as far as October 2017 the link doesn’t work.
- In theory it’s 40 minutes to Uniri Square, longer at rush hour and less at night. We took it:
- Arriving at 6:30 p.m. on a Thursday, it took us over an hour to get to Unirii.
- And returning on Monday at 11:45 am, it took 55 minutes.
- 3.5 Lei one way, tickets are purchased at a kiosk and a machine at Departures and Arrivals at the airport. Electronic cards called Activ Card for 3.7 Lei are sold at the counter. You have to buy the card and then charge it to use it (in the kiosk you can buy it and they recharge the number of trips that we ask for). The Activ Card does not work on the rest of public transport, and similarly the one used in the rest of the transport does not work on express buses. You can buy a normal simple ticket, but it costs 8.6 Lei one way. You have to validate it when you get on the bus.
- Express Bus 780:
- It goes from the airport to the central train station (Bucharest Nord or Gara Nord).
- Every day, every approximately 40 minutes, from 5:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. The schedules in pdf also can not be checked in the official web at the moment.
- It takes about 45 minutes.
- The price and payment system is similar to that of bus 783.
- Tickets can be purchased at Arrivals, at the CFR counter, at 6.8 lei one way. It includes a bus that transfers us to a train station 2 km from the airport and gets Gara Nord.
- It takes about 50 minutes.
- One every hour from 5:15 a.m. to 8:20 p.m. The official website of railways works awfully, so as in the case of buses, exact schedules can not be specified.
One of the biggest problems and inconveniences that a traveler can have in Romania in general and in Bucharest in particular are the scams and problems related to taxis. However, going from the airport to the center is probably the least unsafe taxi ride in the country:
- There is a stand in Arrivals with a touch screen, where a ticket is received.
- In that ticket there’s a number that will also be in the door of our taxi.
- Once in the taxi, the fare is metered, 1.39 lei per km. It should cost between 30 and 50 lei.
With this system, the taxi, besides being official, is fully identified, so the possibility that they try to scam us is scarce. Under no circumstances should you use an unofficial taxi.
SHUTTLE AND PRIVATE TAXI
These companies operate not only to the airport, but to almost any destination in the country. They charge for a fixed amount, higher the bigger the vehicle requested. It can be an economic option for groups of several travelers. There are many companies, which I have not used and therefore do not recommend or advise, but it is true that they have a reputation for being much more professional than taxi drivers. Among the best rated are Travel Express or Bucharest Airport Transfer. A trip to the airport costs € 17 for a normal car for 4 people.