All you need to know to safely and easily use of Bucharest public transport.
Welcome to Bucharest, capital of Romania, the 6th largest city in the European Union. Also, fun fact: 8th city with the most congested traffic out of 404 biggest cities of the world (source study: Tomtom 2021). And that’s not fun at all! I should know being born and raised in Bucharest. What’s actually fun is what you can do in Bucharest, which you find out in another article here.
Bucharest is becoming very popular with tourists who want to discover East Europe in a safe, affordable and fun city. And yes, it is all that. Bucharest is a mix of a modern city, where you can find everything you desire, with an old architecture style. You will find buildings dating back from the 1700s, in baroque, eclectic, byzantine styles, and also the famous plain-boring communist architecture. Care to explore?
But first things first:
Is Bucharest safe for a solo traveler?
I’m just going to say it: it definitely is! No matter if you are a girl or a guy. I wrote in detail about safety in Bucharest on another post you can check: Is Bucharest Safe?
From Bucharest airport (Henri Coanda) to the city center
I wrote a detailed article about the 3 ways to get from the airport to your accommodation in Bucharest. Check it out.
Bucharest Public Transport – the complete Guide:
🔹 Bucharest Subway
When you see the blue M sign in the city you know there is a subway station.
The subway in Bucharest is pretty easy to use and it is very cheap.
The metro has only 5 lines, spread around most of the city. It gets you to almost all the important spots in the city.
It’s very safe to use. There is 1 security guard on each subway train and at every entry. I totally recommend you the subway over the above-ground public transport.
It’s quite clean, although not all stations are well maintained. Some can look so old, exactly as they were made in the 1980s. Maybe they wanted to keep Ceaușescu’s spirit alive, who knows?!
When you are making your way across Bucharest you can use Google maps to give you indications.
It might help you if you save the metro map. You will find it in all the subways trains.
The subway starts working at 5 am and at 11 pm the last metros leave the starting stations. That means you might still get a subway around 11:15, if you are in one of the later stops.
PRO tip: How to know the right direction when you are in a station? Look for a map on the station, usually hanging from the ceiling, with the stations and an arrow for the direction it does in.
OR look on the main map and read the name of the last station on each line. You will see a name on the screens above the station and on the trains. So the subway is going in that direction. Example: You are at Aviatorilor station (M2 blue line) and you want to go to Piata Unirii. So you take the train with Berceni written on it.
The only exception is Republica (the name you will find on the screens as the direction) and not Pantelimon (which you see as being the last stop of the yellow line- and that’s because it’s a newer stop).
Subway tickets – pay with card or cash
In every station, you will find the orange machines where you can buy tickets with cash (in LEI and it gives you change) or card. You can select English or French, and choose to buy 2 or 10 trips, a weekly or a monthly pass. You will receive a paper card you then need to insert at the entrance gates, where a bright green arrow indicates you (see in the picture below).
The gates let you tap your debit VISA or Mastercard to pay for just 1 entrance. You can use your virtual wallet from your phone as well. It’s safe to do so and it’s the same price as buying it from the ticket desk (the orange machines sell 2 trips, the cash desk sells 1 trip).
Subway tickets PRICES
1 trip is 3 lei (0,60 euro); 10 trips are 25 lei; a weekly pass is 30 lei and a monthly pass 80 lei.
If you are two or more people traveling you can get the 10 trips card, as you can use them even all at once, in the same station. With the weekly and monthly pass, there is a time lag between usages, so two people cannot use it to enter the same station.
Students get 50% discount on the monthly pass, so 40 LEI. Or for some students and kids enrolled in a Romanian school it is free.
🔹 Bus, trolley, trams – the surface transport
Once more, I recommend you to use Google maps to find your routes from A to B. It will tell you what transport to take. To be sure you found the station look for the STB small metal board (see picture below) on a lamp post or a metal pillar.
The big advantage of the surface public transport is that it is very well spread out in Bucharest. It takes you everywhere.
The ticket price is the same as the subway’s, but as they are run by different companies the same ticket won’t work to subway and busses. Though, they made a separate join ticket which I will inform you about below.
The disadvantage is that in rush hours they get stuck in traffic. This means it’s hard to estimate when you will reach your destination. Plus disadvantage 2: some lines have a low frequency. So you might find yourself waiting in the station for 20 minutes and wondering where have you gone wrong in life to deserve this! Too dramatic? Picture the scenario in a windy -5 C winder or a hot summer with +40 C.
And disadvantage 3: they are never too clean, plus the trams are so noisy and the old trolleys too shaky.
It’s clear I don’t advocate for the public surface transport. I’ve been avoiding them my whole life (I was raised in Bucharest) and although I see many improvements, I still don’t find them a great experience. But overall they are ok to use.
One more thing, before I tell you about the tickets, please be aware of your belongings. Pickpocketing is more common on these than in the subway. But nothing to be scared of.
Schedule + routes
Most of the transport means work from 4:30 – 5 am until 10:30-11 pm. But some buses and trams come once an hour during the night too. Just to make sure check the schedule here.
Check the routes too, if you need.
Tickets – prices and where to get them
One ticket costs 3 LEI, but if you get 10 it’s 25 LEI.
A monthly pass is 80 LEI (you need to show an ID when you buy it and when you are checked by a transport controller). Students get 50% discount on the monthly pass, so 40 LEI. Just have your student ID with you at all times.
They are called Metropolitan tickets and one ride has a duration of 90 minutes. This means you can change from a bus to a tram or another bus/trolley as many times as you need in the 90 min.
Option 1: You can buy them from a gray-ish kiosk with STB written on it. Usually with cash. But the problem is the surface transport doesn’t have a ticket booth in each station. All the more reason to praise the subway system. Here is a list of all the tickets kiosks in the city.
You will need to buy from them a plastic rechargeable card, for 3.7 lei + you need to charge it with 2 tickets, so that’s another 6 lei.
Option 2: Download the app 24Pay, available on both Google Play and App Store. You add your card in your account and with one click you buy yourself a ticket every time you need it. Easy right? Price is the same, 3 LEI.
Option 3: Pay by card on the bus and tram. You need a contactless, Mastercard, Maestro or Visa card. Same 3 LEI price. But before you rush and jump in a bus, you need to know that NOT ALL of them have these machines… how to make sure the bus/ tram (never the trolley) has one? I really don’t know how to make it easy for you, as the only information STB website is providing is that they are on the Otokar and Mercedes Citaro hybrid busses and on tram 41.
Option 4: yes, we are full of options!! Send a SMS text to 7458 with the letter C in the body of the text. Just a C. Cost for 1 ticket of the same 90 minutes: 0,62 Euro + TVA.
So… if you just need a ticket from time to time just get the App, ok?
Surface transports integrated with subway Tickets and Passes
From the STB kiosks you can even get a card that you can use on both upper transport and the subway. One such ticket costs 5 lei and it has an availability of 120 minutes. And 10 tickets are going to be 45 LEI.
🔹Taxi – Uber & Bolt
When it comes to taxis in Bucharest I don’t recommend you the local ones, the bright yellow taxi cars. You will find them lined up in front of main spots (like the train station or the city center). Avoid them because they might overcharge you. They either tell you a big price upfront to take you to your destination (which is illegal to not put the meter on) or going to take longer routes. Most of the times they will ask you to pay only cash.
Use Uber or Bolt. You can have both apps and see whichever has a better price. There are many drivers and prices are very good. For example 12 lei (2.5 euro) for a 10 minutes ride (North train station to city center).
You will also find FreeNow App, but many users complain the app sometimes switches between cash and card payments. And that can be quite unfortunate if you end up at the destination with no cash to pay for your ride.
🔹 Rent an electric scooter
In the city you will find many electric scooters, literally everywhere. There are a few apps you can use to rent them, the most popular being: Lime, Splash, Bolt, Uber and Flow.
All you need to do is install one or more of these apps, insert your card details and search for scooters nearby. You can reserve them until you reach them (make sure it’s the same code number) and unlock it by scanning the QR. Everything is very intuitive in all the apps.
Local regulations: you need to use a helmet and use the bake lanes (when there are non you should use the road). You can park it anywhere on public domain, but please make sure it doesn’t block entrances or it’s inconvenient for pedestrians.
🔹 Rent a bicycle
I’Velo is a company that rents bikes in an automatic system. There are a lot of details to be aware of, but mostly you need to download their app and register with your ID (be over 16), a selfie and a phone number (where you can receive an SMS/text with a code). Your profile is approved by a real person, so only between the working hours (10 am – 10 pm).
Before you use the bikes you need to pay a subscription of 2h (15Lei), 1 month (79Lei), 1 year. Check the website for more details.
You can see on the app a map of where to find the bikes (permanent spots with automatic racks). Scan the bike with the app to unlock it. Make sure to take a bike with a green light on (red means it has a malfunction). Enjoy the ride, take care of yourself and the bike and take it back to one of the racks.
🔹 Car Sharing
Ok, this is one of my favorites, I have to admit! If you are not already familiar with the car-sharing concept here it is: you drive yourself to the destination for the price of an uber ride. That’s right, you can drive around the city with cars you find parked all around Bucharest.
There are a few car-sharing companies in Bucharest, but the ones I prefer are two:
Spark: they have only electric cars: like Renault Zoe 40 (with a cool interior design and very pleasant to drive it) and Skoda CITIGO eIV (it’s easy to drive, but it feels and it is a bit cheaper to rent than the Zoe one). They also advertise they have BMW i3 and Nissan Leaf 40 in their fleet, but they are not common to find when you need a car.
CityLink: they have hybrid cars. Models available are Toyota Yaris (feels kind of cheap, if you ask me) and Toyota Corolla (a nice experience to drive it). If it’s your first time using this app use my invite code (ANDR4157) and your FIRST RIDE will be FREE (up to 35 LEI, which with a Toyota Yaris means about 50 minutes of driving- cool, right?).
You download the app and you make an account with your ID and driving license and card details. You find the cars available in your area in the app and see the prices per km or minute.
You can reserve them for 15 min for free – the time you have to reach them.
Once near the car you quickly check it for major damage. You can cancel the reservation if the car is damaged (never happened to me) or click “unlock” in the app and then report the damage with a photo.
Once you unlocked it the clock starts ticking.
Drive it to your destination and park it in the area that the app shows you as available (most of Bucharest). You can park it for free in public parking lots, but not in private ones.