It is not always as easy as it should be to find a cheap, trustworthy taxi at Bucharest's Otopeni Henri Coanda Airport.
Bucharest In Your Pocket explains why this sorry state of affairs has come to pass, and also offers a definitive guide to making sure that you get a cheap taxi as quickly and easily as possible.
How did we get here?First off, a little background.
For years Bucharest Otopeni Airport was home to some of the world's most expensive taxis. In the immediate aftermath of the 1989 revolution the airport was a free-for-all. Anyone and everyone was fair game for tens of drivers (often not even taxi drivers) who would harass and accost arriving passengers offering 'cheap' rides into the city.
By the mid 1990s a Mafia-like arrangement had taken hold. 'Preferred' drivers (almost always charging large amounts and using rigged taximeters) were allowed to park directly outside the arrivals terminal, and by hook or by crook kept cheap, honest taxis away, meaning that unknowing visitors to the Romanian capital could end up paying €50 - or even more - for a ride into the city centre.
In an effort to make arriving at the airport more respectable, in 2004 a company known as Fly Taxi won a tender to provide exclusive taxi services at Otopeni for five years. A fleet of shiny new cars waited for passengers directly outside arrivals; all well and good, except that Fly Taxi charged 3.50 lei per kilometre: almost three times the cost of a standard Bucharest taxi.
Those of us who wanted to pay a fair price had to call one of the Bucharest taxi companies and arrange to meet the taxi in front of a large clock (ceas, in Romanian) which stood at the food of the arrivals ramp. (Taxis other than Fly were not allowed to access the ramp).
Incredibly, in an effort to prevent this practice and force people to use expensive Fly taxis, the airport authorities dismantled the clock. Nevertheless, la ceas (at the clock) had become a point of reference and in-the-know passengers were still able to use the place it once stood as a place to meet taxis.
Those who were less in-the-know, and perhaps visiting Bucharest for the first time had little choice but to take a Fly Taxi. Still, at least there was always a taxi to be had, and while expensive, they were safe, and you did at least know how much a ride into the city would cost.
Once Fly Taxi's monopoly expired, Otopeni once again became bandit country. Only certain taxis (all of whom harassed new arrivals, and charged exorbitant rates) were allowed to access and wait outside the arrivals hall, and the practice of calling taxis and waiting for them la ceas continued. With the opening of the new departures terminal it also became possible to simply walk through to departures and pick up a cheap taxi as it dropped passengers off. Indeed, for most people this became the default method of getting a cheap taxi at Otopeni.
Then, in February 2013, everything changed.
A young Japanese student was raped and murdered by a rogue taxi driver, who had approached her in the arrivals hall. Finally, the airport - under pressure from the government - decided that enough was enough and moved to clear the airport of unsafe and rip-off taxis.
The solution chosen was simple.