Bucharest

Public Transport

13 Jul 2022
While extensive, covering all areas of the city and its outskirts, Bucharest's public transport network is far from fit for purpose. Services are few and far between, slow, and as a result most trams, buses and even the metro are notoriously overcrowded throughout the day. The current sorry state of transport in the Romanian capital is a consequence of years of poor management, under-investment in infrastructure and total disinterest on the part of the city council. A ‘car first’ mentality amongst locals has not helped. Taken as a whole, transport in Bucharest is at breaking point. Main roads and intersections are gridlocked, and hours are wasted in traffic. The city is the most congested capital in the European Union.

Buses & Trams

Bucharest has hundreds of bus and trolleybus routes, and tens of trams, serving every part of the city as well as a number of suburban villages and outposts. However, most services are very crowded (their appalling interior layout and the inherent desire of many locals to stand next to the doors does not help) and you should keep your wits about you, as well as your hand on your wallet, at all times. Pickpockets are rife. In fact, if you can avoid using buses and trams, do so.

Buses and trams run at infrequent intervals from very early in the morning (around 04:30) to around 22:50 (earlier at weekends), after which the night buses takeover. These serve all areas of the capital throughout the night, with all routes departing from Piata Unirii. Most night bus services run at hourly intervals.

Two routes (laughably prefixed ‘express’ - they are no such thing) serve the airport: 780 (from Gara de Nord) and 783 (from Piata Unirii).

Metro

Bucharest's metro has four lines, with a fifth eternally under construction (it is already years behind schedule). Although relatively modern (the first section opened only in 1979) many of the network's stations are shabby and in need of refurbishment. Fortunately, most of the metro's actual trains are new and the system is cheap, reliable and quick (at least compared to service-level forms of transport). The exception is the north-south M2 line, which gets dangerously crowded during the morning and evening rush hours. The metro runs from 05:00 in the morning to around 23:00.

Tickets

Tickets for the metro can be purchased at all metro stations. Tickets valid for two journeys cost 5 lei, while tickets valid for ten journeys cost a bargain 20 lei. You can also buy a daily ticket for 8 lei, while a weekly season ticket costs 25 lei.

In order to ride Bucharest's buses, trolleybuses or trams, you need to buy an Activ or Multiplu card in advance. Both are available at the little RATB kiosks which can be found next to major bus and tram stops. The Multiplu card (which is blue and white) costs 1.60 lei and needs to be loaded (when purchasing) with two to ten journeys (which each cost 1.30 lei). You can also choose to load it with a pass valid for one day's unlimited travel on all buses, trolleybuses and trams for 8 lei. After the initial purchase, the Multiplu card cannot be topped-up. The green and white Activ card costs 3.70 lei but can be topped-up with anything from 2.60 to 50 lei at a time. When boarding buses, trolleybuses and trams you need to validate your Multiplu or Activ card at one of the orange machines dotted around the vehicles. Just wave the card next to the machine until you here the beep: the screen will tell you how many journeys or how much credit you have left. If you are caught without a validated Multiplu or Activ card you will be fined 50 lei. On all forms of public transport in Bucharest children under seven ride for free. After that - unless they are attending school in the city - they have to pay full price.

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