Wednesday, 31 July 2013

My personal guide to Bucharest: Introduction

Or also known as tips for tourists in Bucharest, or Bucharest: tried and tested.

Before I get on with my recommendations on visiting Bucharest, I thought I might write a short foreword as to what tourists should expect because I feel like just posting directions and pretty photos wouldn't give you an accurate overview.

Getting your point across:

First thing you should know is that you should be well equipped for language barriers. Most people know English but on a day to day basis, you won't get very far. So either have a google translate on hand or maybe learn a few basic phrases. Don't go thinking you'll be completely alien, there will always be people on hand to help and as I said most people know English but just to be on the safe side.

The price of happiness:

Bucharest can be either very very cheap or very expensive. As an ex-communist country, we work in extremes. Lunch can cost you as little as £2 but you can also find hotel rooms at the same prices as in Central London - why? I don't know. In short, there's something for everyone so you just have to look for it. That being said, it's easier if you have cash on you rather than card.

Green light doesn't mean you shouldn't look before you cross, it happens:

When transportation is taken into account, you have multiple choices: taxis are everywhere and very cheap but if you prefer public transportation you can pick from tramways, buses and subway. The buses are horrible in summertime because they're full to the brim with sweaty old people whereas the subway is just perfect: quick, spacious and new! Depending on your stay, I recommend you get a RATB card which acts like an electronic wallet and you validate it each time you go on one of the aforementioned transportation. If you're only here for a short weekend, I'd say have a look at the sightseeing buses that now operate in the more toursit-y part of Bucharest. There are no maps in buss-stops so I highly recommend you download the RATB app that helps you create routes on the go. I've been living there for most of my life and I still get lost on buses so it was the season's massive revelation.

Smile and wave, boys:

People are generally very friendly, especially if you're a foreigner so you'll get a good treatment!

Last piece of advice: come with an open mind. It's not the most modern or westernised of cities but if you look past the imperfections you can end up with some real gems. The contrast between the architecture that won Bucharest the nickname 'Little Paris' and the harsh communist buildings is the same to the one you'll find between the new bars' fancy decor and the homeless family sleeping at the opposite corner. It's a confusing mix of bohemian perfume of past centuries and the smell coming from the neighbouring construction site but at least your senses are alive and working! If you come bearing some sort of European grudge than you might as well stay at home because you won't be appreciating the things Bucharest has to offer.

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