The trains in Romania are wonderfully cheap compared to the UK, even first class (worth the little bit extra cost), and the seats are comfortable, but the trains aren’t five star. They’re also not always reliably on time, so if train is your choice, make sure you leave plenty of spare time for delays. Take loo paper, water and food if you’re likely to need it – not all trains provide these little luxuries. The train from Bucharest to Brasov might be international (Hungarian or Austrian) train, or inter-regional. Avoid the slow trains – journey times shouldn’t be more than three hours. For info: my first class return ticket Brasov – Bucharest in September 2012 cost 139RON (about £27).
Gara de Nord: The station is all a bit pre-revolution, a bit grim and uncomfortable. There is at least a big Macdonalds where you can sit in warmth, with clean loos, and free wi-fi, and the most exciting food available in the station (does say much, does it?). There are kiosks where you can get water, drinks and some dull snacks, but other than that… btw – if you don’t want to give Macdonalds your business, you can tap into their wi-fi standing outside and propping your laptop on the fence round their seating area.
Getting from the airport to the Gara de Nord: both Otopeni and Baneasa airports are to the north of the centre, separated only by IKEA and a shopping mall. The journey into the station can be done in 20 minutes, with a following wind and a good taxi driver, but if the traffic’s against you, it can be an hour.
There is almost a train service, the Henri Coanda Express, but the station is a short bus shuttle from the airport itself, so ask at the arrivals building for information. The train hop is 6 lei (about £1.20) and you can buy tickets at the Arrivals building.
The 780 bus goes straight to the Gara de Nord.
Taxis: there’s good news and bad news.
The official tariff from airport to station should be no more than 30 RON (£6), but if you get a cab outside the Arrivals building, you’ll be getting into mafia taxis who will rook you blind – charges of £80-£100 have been known. So avoid these charmers. Here’s what you do:
Ring one of these numbers, which are all official cabs and charge the proper tariff. When you call them, check the cost – if they say more than 30 lei, protest, or ring the next number.
Cris Taxi: +40 (0)21 9466
Cobalescu: +40 (0)21 9451
If you fail with these two cab firms, try this guy. He’s a yellow cab and asks for 50 lei (£10), which is more than he should be charging, but still within reasonable bounds. He was friendly, courteous and drove like the wind when I was in severe danger of missing my flight. Emil Botnarasu, tel (from non-Romanian phone) 0040 726 557 610. He speaks a little English.
The cabs will pick you up outisde the departures building, as the mafia have the arrivals patch sewn up. So once through customs, turn RIGHT and walk through the corridor to the Departures building and go downstairs to the main doors. Cabs aren’t allowed to wait there for more than a minute or so, so best to phone once there.
Sounds more complicated than it is, and it could save you a lot of money. If you want to spend £100 on a cab, call one in Zarnesti and they’ll take you all the way to Magura from the airport.