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My Last Day in Romania + Transportation Matters

Published by Rose Dela Cruz — 6 days ago

Blog: Out and About
Tags: Erasmus blog Bucharest, Bucharest, Romania

Walking

Wow, today was absolutely filled with transportation issues. That's sort of funny, considering my hostel was in the center of Bucharest, pretty much, and I chose it specifically for location and so I'd have easy/good access to transport. I knew I'd be carting my luggage to the airport and trying to cram all the things I hadn't yet done and last minute trips in here in today.

The first thing I did today was walk to Cismigiu Park, which was fine, and very pretty. It was about a 30 minute walk, maybe. The city is great for walking though, loads of sidewalks and traffic lights and zebra crossings and all that, totally not an issue.

Bucharest is also big on their roadside pastry/bread shops, and their portion sizes are just incredible. I got the one in the picture for less than 30 baht.  

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Look at the size of this thing! (pastry with cheese filling)

The bus system: getting around

So yeah, I walked around Cismigiu park (was just a park, turns out, but peaceful and with a pond with a fountain) for a bit. Then used Google maps to find the nearest bus stop to get me to Bucuresti Mall. I wanted to take the 123/124 bus to Bucuresti Mall, but it didn't come for almost 25 minutes, which is unusual here. Google said it was supposed to come twice in that time.

I got a bit worried, honestly, and asked the ticket seller if the bus did actually stop there, just to confirm. But yes, it did, just late. That's another thing. At a lot of the bus stops there's a ticket seller in a small booth, so you can buy a ticket or top up the amount you have on your card. Not always though, so you don't want to bet on that, as I learned later today.

It's far better to get a green and white Activ card and add the credit to that and use it. It costs only 3.7 lei and then you can top it up with whatever you need. It's 1.3 lei for a trip anywhere, pretty much, if you've got the card. That is super cheap, around 8 baht. However, you're going to want to keep track off the money you have on it, for reasons that will become clear. 

Anyway, eventually the 123 bus came, and when I validated my card on the bus (which you do by pressing your card to a scanner once you get on the bus, where it deducts the money), it said 2.20. You need to validate your card, always. 

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Cismigiu Park

Shopping in Bucharest

I got to Bucuresti Mall and turns out there wasn't much there, it's pretty small actually. I guess they have some of the typical fancy brands, but I wasn't really into that, and the place itself isn't big.

They do have a pretty decent food court on the top though, if you're into that, and also a cinema. There's a supermarket on the bottom floor too, though the selection isn't so great. If you want to get supermarket-type shopping in that area, I'd actually go across the street to the Carrefour right near by.

Bucuresti Mall as a whole I'd give a pass; if I'd known what it was like I wouldn't have bothered, especially with the difficulty getting there (and what came later). AFI Cotroceni is where it's at for shopping, though Unirea Shopping Centre is decent and right in the center of the city, easiest to get access to by far. 

On the top floor, there was an money exchanger with a decent rate though, so I went and changed almost all my leftover Romanian money into Euros, since the airport exchange rate is horrible and I'm going back today.

Which, yes, another thing, you do not ever want to be changing money at the Romanian airport. I mean, airport exchange rates most everywhere tend to be a bit jacked up, but it Romania it's just ridiculous.

The bus system: transportation fines

I caught the 123 bus back to my accommodations, and here's when the day started going off the rails.

Turns out, that 2.20 that the bus tells you when you scan/validate your card is how much your card had before it takes that money for your trip. That's new to me, as no travel system I've used before does like that. Here in Thailand they tell you the amount left after they've taken out what's necessary for the trip you're doing.

So I only had 0.90 left (bus ride to anywhere is 1.30 lei, like I said), which I didn't see/know, but which I found out because, for the first time in all my journeys here, bus ticket checkers came on. 

What happened was I'd gone and validated my card by putting it on the scanner thing, but it doesn't make a noise or tell you when it's wrong or something.

I mean, it makes a noise whether or not you validated correctly, I guess. It's also possible there's some small difference in pitch or tone I didn't know well enough to catch, but the point is, unless you're actually looking for it, you won't know if the card doesn't have enough and isn't validated correctly. 

I didn't know, anyway. I'd got on, I'd pressed my card to the scanner, it made the beeping noise, I sat down. Then, like I said, the bus ticket checkers came. I'd never seen these people before, but they were going down the aisle asking to see everyone's bus ticket cards.

They got to me, and of course I just gave mine up to them, because I thought everything was fine. Then they were like, can I see some ID. That was weird, but I handed over my ID anyway, because obviously, that's what you do.

Then they go (I'm paraphrasing here) yeah no, you didn't do your ticket thing correctly for this trip because your card didn't have enough money, so now we're fining you 50 lei (roughly 400B). 

Here is where we come to a part of the bus system I knew about but never expected to run into. If you do not validate your card or have a proper ticket, you will be fined a flat amount of 50 lei. They have some sort of app on their phone where they can check when your card has been used last and for what. 

So, because I was short 40 cents, I had to pay 50 lei. Or, to put that in the Thai currency, because I was short roughly 2 baht, I had to pay 400 baht. On the bright side, it could've been worse. That fine isn't great, but it's definitely doable. 

However, since I'd converted all my Romanian money already, I didn't have 50 lei on me. I told them that, and explained the situation and why I had no money and that I was going back today.

What happened was they asked me where my stop was, and we waited til we reached it, and then there was an ATM there that they told me to go withdraw from. Which really goes to show, you definitely need to bring an ATM card that works in Romania and doesn't have crazy fees for overseas withdrawals!

I withdrew 50 lei from my Thai account, and gave it to them. To be fair, they were pretty good about it all, and they did speak English, which was my one saving grace. This would've been absolutely horrible if I couldn't communicate with them properly. I mean, I didn't get off of the fine, but it made the situation more bearable.  

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The Bus System: Three Cards

Once you've paid the fine, they give back your ID and they give you a red and white Suprataxa card that allows you to use all transportation around Bucharest free for that day. I was like, alright, that's good at least. I can use it for the bus back to the airport.

But wait! No, they said, when I mentioned this in passing to the fine collectors who gave me the card, actually the airport buses are special and you need a different card, a blue and white one called Multiplu

So what we're looking at here is a bus system with three different cards: the green Activ one for buses that you can top up, the red Suprataxa one for unlimited use on (most) all transportation for one day (including the metro system, so not just buses), and the blue Multiplu one (which can not be topped up) for trips to the airport.

Bonus! For the blue Multiplu one, you have to buy at least 2 tickets. You can buy more, but 2 is the minimum. So you pay 1.60 lei for the card itself, then the special airport price for bus tickets is 3.50 lei, and since you have to buy at least two, that's 8.60 lei in total. 

Off to the airport

So, after getting dropped of at Unirea square, I walked back to my accommodations, , packed my stuff and left. I knew I needed to buy a blue Multiplu ticket now, except when I got to the bus stop where the airport bus passes by, there turned out to be no ticket seller/station. This was where I learned that not all stops have a ticket seller station, and it's important to plan ahead and buy the ticket whenever you can

I was already a bit late because of the whole thing before and the fining and all that, so this was a bit concerning, plus I was now carrying all my luggage around. Obviously, there was nothing I could do it about it though, so I looked on Google maps for the next bus stop on the airport link line and ended up walking until I could find a ticket station where I could go and buy the ticket again. 

At the airport

Anyway, I did it. Made it to the airport, where there was no supermarket and prices were so jacked-up (3 to 4 times the normal price) that I figured I'd get more value spending my leftover lei on doing some gambling. That was a reasonably fun five minutes. If you're looking at a long layover or want food or anything, I highly recommend buying it before you get here. Options are limited and prices are sky-high. 

Also, yes, the airport does have this little gambling station where you can do slots and betting and so forth. It's just all on machines, but there's one guy there to help if you need change or don't really understand. One of the many things I love about Romania is how so many people speak English. 

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So close!

Got onboard okay at least, and I'm sad that this last day was rather disappointing (in more ways than one), but overall my experience in Romania was incredibly positive. The food is good, the hiking is marvelous, it's a lovely country, and the people are so so so nice.

You just need to take care with the transportation: validate your card, make sure you have enough money in it at all times, and remember that the number they quote is the amount the card has before they take off the cost of the trip. Top up/buy the tickets as soon as you can, because you do not want to get caught out not having enough money on the card for your fare and nowhere to top it up to get it. 

But yep, that was the last day. Headed back to Thailand!

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