Since this week is a week for summer vacations for many, it was a nice opportunity to publish something light and easy to digest…so following up on the previous blog post that introduced the Agro-Know city trip guides series, I am making the start with information about my recent trip to Bucharest, Romania, which took place in the context of the Herbal.Mednet 4th project meeting.
Where: Bucharest, Romania
At the airport: The airport is about 30 mins out of the city of Bucharest. It is relatively new and small but convenient. You get get access to free wifi with no codes/vouchers etc., which is handy when you have some time to kill on your way back home. Even though I did not manage to confirm if there is a Star Alliance lounge (I have a Gold Card), I got an invitation to a lounge after I checked in on my trip back home. I did not manage to use it as I was with company from the meeting but I would love to have been able to go and have a look/ a drink/ a snack!
Currency: Romania is using LEI (RON) and not Euro (EUR), so one needs to exchange euros to RON. This can be made in the currency exchange offices/booths, located almost everywhere and surely at the airports of departure and destination. However, this is a rather costly transaction as it usually includes worse exchange rates and some fees for the transaction. I found that the most convenient way to get RON was to withdraw cash using one of the ATMs available at the Bucharest airport using my Greek debit/cash card. My bank only added a 1EUR fee per transaction for the withdrawal of 300 EUR max (much lower than any other fee) and used the exchange rate of Mastercard (which was probably better than any other exchange rate). However, I got stuck with some 50/100 RON banknotes which I found rather impossible to use for my first small expences (e.g. bus ticket, a bottle of water and a snack at the park etc.)
Reaching the city center: Of course the easiest way is to get a cab. Cabs are relatively cheap in Bucharest and the trip to the city center should cost something about 40-50 RON (about 10 Euros); however, there are incidents where travelers are ripped of by taxi drivers (something rather common in other countries, too), with “tweaked” taxi meters, longer routes than the usual ones etc. Now there is a service within the airport, (arrivals hall), where a passenger can call for a taxi using an automatic machine and I think he can also get an estimation of the cost.
However, since I had a bad experience with taxis during my previous trip to Bucharest (and I also had plenty of time before the project meeting) I decided to use the bus as there is no train/metro reaching the Bucharest airport. Bus No 780/783 reaches the city center in about 40 minutes and there are frequent routes. You can get the bus at the -1 level (under the arrivals level) and you have to get a ticket either from the automatic ticket vending machines just by the bus stop or from a ticket booth; since the machine was out of order I used the booth and even though I managed to get a two-way ticket (from and to the airport) for about 9 RON (about 2,5 EUR), I could not get more information from the barely English-speaking lady at the booth. The ticket is validated by simply bringing it in contact with the validation machine, which is found inside the bus. Note that you cannot get bus tickets from the driver.
Local transportation: There are plenty of trams and buses in Bucharest, covering all city (I didn’t use any of them though, as my hotel was close to the meeting place). In addition, there are more than enough taxis of several companies, which are relatively cheap. In addition, taxi drivers issue receipts when asked, which was really handy.
Tap water: Romania has a really nice water quality and tap water is safe to drink. I usually carry my stainless steel water bottle around, which I fill up before I leave the hotel room.
Power outlets: Romania uses the standard European type of power outlets, so we did not need any kind of adapters for our chargers.
Where to stay: Well, this depends on where you have to go for the meeting. I always try to find hotels in walking distance from the meeting place and I am willing to walk up to 20-25 mins after breakfast (not only I love walking in cities abroad, but I also see it as an opportunity to get some photos!). This time I stayed the Euro Hotel Triumf which was conveniently placed close to the meeting place and to a bus stop. It was a basic 3-star hotel, clean and offering free wifi (which was really welcome!). Apart from that, bed mattress was rather soft for me, the working desk was not really convenient and breakfast was good but with limited choices; the stuff was really helpful though.
Where to eat: The good (or bad) thing with project meetings is that you usually end up eating where someone else has proposed so there is not always place for choosing on your own (apart of course if you manage to persuade the others or if you are willing to eat on your own…). We had a nice casual dinner at Jadoo restaurant and an even better (and more classy) at McMoni’s, just outside the University of Agronomic Sciences. We also had nice, cold beers and tasty dishes at the really crowded Caru cu Bere, at the center of the old city.
Where to go: I was lucky enough to arrive to Bucharest several hours before the project meeting; this left me with some time to go around on the first day. Despite the fact that it was really warm and humid (there has been a lot of rain during the previous days), I walked for several kms after leaving my stuff at the hotel. I visited Parcul Herăstrău, a huge park next to Arcul de Triumf, a refreshing place to visit, full of green, ponds and a lake, bridges, gardens, monuments etc. away from the noise of the city, creating a peaceful environment. A visit to the park is a must!
That’s all I can remember from my latest trip to Bucharest; feel free to comment, suggesting ideas and tips for a nice stay in the city, share small secrets and of course your previous experiences (like Do’s and Dont’s in Bucharest)!