Bucharest has just two points of entry: Otopeni (Henri Coanda) Airport and Gara de Nord train station. All international and internal flights to and from Bucharest land at and take off from Otopeni, while all international (and most local) trains arrive and depart from Gara de Nord.
Otopeni is a 30-45 minute drive north of the city (it depends on traffic) while Gara de Nord is just minutes from the city centre.
Bucharest Gara de Nord (Train Station)Bucharest's only major railway station is located close to the city centre, one stop west from Piata Victoriei on the M1 metro line.
It is not being too unkind to suggest that the station has seen better days, and that it is not the friendliest place in the city. There is a perennial cast of drunks, tramps, chancers and outright fraudsters to deal with, a situation not helped by an almost complete lack of official information points. As an introduction to Bucharest it's really rather grim, although somewhat in keeping with other railway stations around the country.
Fortunately, Gara de Nord is relatively small and very easy to navigate. You will not need to spend any real amount of time here. All of the platforms lead to the same main concourse, where you will see signs for buses, taxis and the metro. There are a number of press/refreshment kiosks, a supermarket and even a McDonalds and a KFC. There are public toilets next to McDonalds (which are reasonably if not impeccably clean but certainly usable; the gents at least: they cost 1 leu). Avoid all of the currency exchange kiosks - they offer appalling rates of exchange and/or take huge commissions. Use one of the many ATMs to get your hands on local cash instead.
To get to the city centre, take an honest taxi from the official taxi station outside (ignore anyone who approaches you inside the station). Currently, only taxis from two reliable Bucharest companies, Meridian and Pelican, are allowed to pick up fares here. If no taxi is waiting, use one of the two touch screens to order one. You can also hop on the metro: you are just one stop away from Piata Victoriei, or take the bus: No. 123 goes to Piata Unirii, No. 85 to Piata Universitatii and No. 780 goes to the airport. Tickets (in the form of an Activ or Multiplu card) can be bought from the little metal kiosk next to the bus stop (which is itself next to the taxi rank). Note that both the last buses and the last metro services leave Gara de Nord at around 23:00.
When departing from Gara de Nord, note that queues at the ticket office can be long: do not leave buying a ticket until the last minute, as you may end up missing your train. Indeed, you are advised to buy train tickets well in advance, especially if you are planning on taking a sleeper train.
WarningNone of Bucharest’s reputable hostels send people to Gara de Nord to speculatively meet trains. Anyone who approaches you (and if you have just got off the Budapest train and have a backpack, you will be approached) is trying to scam you: they will try and divert you from your intended destination (often by saying that the place you want to go to is closed) towards another hostel or hotel that they will recommend to you. Just ignore anything they say and wave them away.
Bucharest Otopeni (Henri Coanda) AirportBucharest's only airport, Otopeni Henri Coanda is the primary arrival and departure point for the vast majority of visitors to the Romanian capital. Located 17 kilometres north of the city along the main DN1 highway, Otopeni is small and reasonably efficient, yet poorly served by public transport.
When arriving, be careful to avoid the currency exchange desk placed directly before passport control: the rates are very poor. To get your hands on local cash, wait until you have cleared passport control, grabbed your bag and waltzed through customs: there are a number of ATMs in the somewhat chaotic main arrivals hall.
The pedestrian walkway which connects the arrivals and departures terminal contains car hire desks, a newsagent and a chemist. Downstairs is the internal flight arrivals terminal, and a small supermarket.
To get to the city centre, your best bet is to take an honest taxi - especially if there are a couple of you to share the cost. To make sure you get a correct taxi, look for the multi-language touch screens in the arrivals hall. They are fully automated and very easy to use, and you can choose from the full range of Bucharest taxi companies: all have their tariffs clearly displayed.
Once the taxi company of your choice has informed you (via the screen) how long the taxi will take to arrive, and what ID number the taxi has (take the ticket which will be printed: you need to hand it to the driver), you simply go outside to wait for your taxi. Just make sure you get into the right taxi: check the company name and ID number with the one on your ticket. While most of the rip-off taxis of yore have now gone, there are still, sometimes, touts hassling visitors inside the arrivals hall: ignore them. You should also ignore the sign saying Rapid or Fast taxi. These are overpriced taxis which are allowed - for some unfathomable reason - to wait directly outside the arrivals terminal. Do not get into one! The journey into the city centre with an honest taxi ordered via the machines should cost from 40-50 lei. Take one of the Fast taxis and you can pay four times that.
For those who want to head into town in a bit more comfort than your average visitor, there are three good private car options: TransVision (airport-transfer-bucharest.com), BlackCab (blackcab.ro) and VMS City Shuttle (cityshuttle.ro). All three companies offer a comfortable, reliable airport transfer service at decent prices.
You can also get to town by taking bus No. 783, which stops underneath the arrivals hall, in front of internal arrivals and leaves for the city centre (stopping at Piata Victoriei, Piata Romana and Piata Universitatii) every 30 minutes during the day, and then every 40 minutes through the night. Another bus, No. 780, runs to Gara de Nord from 05:30 - 23:05.
The full timetable of the 783 bus is online at ratb.ro. The 780 timetable is here.
You need to purchase an Activ card before boarding either bus (get it from the little booth which you’ll find on your right hand side as you exit the arrivals building). A return journey into the city and back costs 7 lei (no singles are available, but there is no time limit on using the return). You also need to pay 3.70 lei for the card, but it can be recharged as often as you like at any ticket kiosk in Bucharest, with as much credit as you like, and used on all Bucharest buses and trams. These cards cannot be bought on board.
There is also now a train which connects the airport to the main railway station, Gara de Nord. The train departs at irregular and infrequent intervals, however, and to get to the airport's station you need to take a bus. We do not recommend it. Timetables and tickets are available from a counter in the Arrivals hall. Look out for the Bilete CFR sign.
When departing from Otopeni, allow yourself plenty of time to get there: at least an hour if you are taking the bus, particularly during the morning and evening rush hours. The timetables for the buses running to the airport are here (the No. 783 from Piata Unirii) and here (the No. 780) from Gara de Nord.