Bucharest has the most extensive public transport system in Romania: the capital offers people living there, as well as visitors, buses, trolleybuses, trams and metros to get from one point to the other. And in today’s article I am going to share with you a complete guide to public transportation in Bucharest, so that you know exactly what to expect and how to easily navigate the city.
Bucharest is a huge city and it is constantly expanding. Right now, nearby villages such as Rosu Village, Tunari, Pipera and the entire Voluntari city (plus more) are basically part of Bucharest and very soon they might actually become districts instead of separate entities.
With an ever-growing city, getting from one place to another becomes a challenge. Driving a car usually takes longer than getting the metro, especially if you travel at peak hours or have to cover large distances. Therefore, even though not perfect at the moment, the public transit system in Bucharest offers a solid option for traveling around the city.
In this article, I will talk about each option that you have, listing Pros and Cons and whatever details I feel are necessary to be known. But first, let’s talk about the most important thing (or at least the one I think is most important for visitors):
Where and How to Buy Bus and Metro Tickets in Bucharest
After some attempts in the past that failed for various reasons, Bucharest now finally offers the option of buying a single card that allows you to travel with both the metro and the above-ground vehicles, without the need for separate tickets.
However, this is only useful if you know that you will have to change means of transport (from metro to bus or tram, for example) and you do this within the allotted 60 minute period that each ticket is valid for. Otherwise, this isn’t really worth it as you will end up paying more per ride than you would purchasing a single ticket, valid either for the metro or above ground vehicles. (more on pricing below)
So most likely, if you are visiting for a short period of time and you want to keep costs to the minimum, it’s safer and cheaper to buy either a card for the metro or tickets that are valid for buses, trolleys and trams.
When it comes to purchasing tickets, you can get them from all metro stations in the city (sometimes, though, in stations with multiple entries, just one or some will offer ticket vending offices) as well as most bus stations.
You can’t purchase tickets from tobacco shops or regular stores, as it is the case in other countries.
You have other options for getting your tickets, but since the metro and the above-ground system are ran by two different companies, your options differ depending on the type of transportation you need a ticket for.
When it comes to riding the bus (or tram), you have more options to get your tickets:
– You can recharge an existing subscription (abonament) at various ATMs throughout the city. Not all of them allow this, but you can find here a list of those that do. Using this method, you can also charge the electronic wallet (basically a card that can be used for individual trips, rather than a subscription).
– If you already have a card, you can rercharge it online using this page. Unfortunately, at the moment it is only available in the Romanian language.
– Finally, you can also buy a ticket by sending a text message to a specific number (details here – also only in Romanian). This is not recommended, as you end up overpaying a lot. However, if you have no other options, it’s good to know this as it’s still cheaper than the price of a fine.
When it comes to traveling by metro, the options for buying tickets are limited to the metro stations themselves. You will have to go to the ticket booths there to buy your travel cards. Some metro stations also have ticket vending machines if you don’t want to go on with the human interactions.
How much do the public transportation tickets cost?
Again, we have two different sets of tariffs, depending on what type of public transport option you choose: under- or above-ground. You should have in mind that kids under 7 travel for free with the buses, trolleys and trams, while the metro offers free rides to kids under 6.
There is also a program that offers free above-ground travel to kids that are in school (Primary school, until the end of high school), as well as retired individuals residing in Bucharest – but you will need to apply for this and I won’t go into much detail, as it’s not something that most visitors can take advantage of.
We’ll start with prices for metro tickets (valid as of October 2019 – double check to see if they are still accurate!):
– 1-trip ticket: 2.5 lei (about 53 Eurocents)
– 2-trip ticket: 5 lei (about 1.6 Euros)
– 10-trip ticket: 20 lei (around 4.2 Euros)
– Daily ticket: 8 lei (about 1.8 Euros)
– Weekly pass: 25 lei (5.3 Euros)
– Monthly pass: 50 lei (10.6 Euros)
When it comes to buses, trolleys and trams, you will first need to acquire a card: either one that will allow you to recharge it with any amount you wish, out of which the cost of a ride will be deducted, or one of the different types of subscriptions available.
The entire thing is pretty complicated in terms of pricing, as you have a ton of options, but I’ll stick to those that you will most likely use if you are just visiting:
– price for one trip using the generic card (Card Activ Nenominal) is 1,3 lei (around 30 Eurocents) in Bucharest and 3,5 lei on Express lines.
In order to use this card, you will actually have to buy it first from the ticket booths in stations and it costs 3.7 lei (around 80 eurocents). You can charge the card itself with any amount between 2.6 lei and 50 lei then use it each time you ride a bus, trolley or tram. You can check the balance in the buses themselves or at any of the ticket booths.
– daily pass: 8 lei (1.8 Euros)
– 7 day pass: 17 lei (3.6 Eur)
– 15 day pass: 25 lei (5.3 Eur)
– monthly pass: 80 lei (16.85 Eur) This one can be used in any bus. There are also cheaper options available, but only allow 1 or 2 lines to be used on.
The Unique Ticket
As I was saying earlier, there is also the option for you to get a single card that allows you to use both the metro and above ground public transportation methods. However, that is only useful if you know that within an hour (this is how long each ticket is valid for) you will change multiple means of transportation.
I am saying this, because the price for one of these tickets is 5 lei (1.6 Euros) for 1 ticket, 17 lei for a daily subscription and 34 lei (7.15 Eur) for 10 trips.
IMPORTANT! You cannot buy tickets from the drivers and you cannot buy a ticket after getting in one of the above-ground means of transportation. You also must validate all your tickets (unless you have a subscription or have paid by text message, in which case you still need to be able to offer proof of acquisition) – if you don’t, you can get a 50 lei (10.6 Euros) fine.
How to use / validate your public transport tickets in Bucharest?
This is fortunately very easy and if you were in a bus or metro before, you will probably have no problem with it.
Buses, trolleys and trams have machines inside and if you have a card you will basically have to swipe it over. The full instructions can be checked out here (fortunately, with English translation this time!)
For the metro, things are easier as you will have to validate the ticket before entering the station. You will simply have to place your card on the display, or insert it in the slot below it if you have a paper one.
More about Buses, Trolleys and Trams in Bucharest
This is the most extensive network, covering all areas of the city, including those where the metro doesn’t reach. So if you want to get to a more specific place – one that doesn’t have a nearby metro exit – you might be a bit luckier with the above-ground system.
Unfortunately, there are many problems with this type of transportation, the buses being considered traditionally worst than anything, closely followed by trolleys – while trams are considered the better option. However, the latter have fewer stops and coverage than the former.
You should know that most vehicles don’t have air conditioning, in most cases the stations are not announced inside the bus itself and even keeping track of the stations themselves can be a challenge. Therefore, asking around should be the norm if you don’t know exactly where you have to go off.
Also, the buses and trolleys – but also trams – tend to get very crowded during the peak hours of the morning or evening. Pushing your way through tens of other travelers, sardine-style, is not uncommon here.
Things are a bit better during the summer when the students are away on vacation or simply don’t have to travel as much during the peak times… but otherwise, expect them to be really crowded.
The operation times for all above-ground lines are normally between 5 AM to 11:30 PM.
However, there are no less than 26 bus lines that are available during the night, most of them leaving from the center of the city in the Unirii Square. You can check out their routes here if you are interested.
Alternately, you can install the official app to get some help when it comes to choosing your routes and planning your trip. The app is available for free on Android and iOS. Fortunately, it is also available in English and although a bit buggy, it is much better than trying to brave it all by yourself.
More about the metro in Bucharest
Riding the metro is usually considered the fastest way to get around Bucharest. However, it does get crowded as well during the peak hours and its biggest disadvantage is the relatively small area that it covers. In other words, you’ll have to do a bit more walking to get to your destination, in most cases.
Although the available metro lines have expanded in the past with new stops, some have been in the works for a long time now and some people are starting to lose hope that they will ever become available.
We’re talking mainly about the M5 metro line which is supposed to mainly cover the Drumul Taberei area, but there are also new, smaller lines planned in other parts of the city.
However, if you are just visiting the city, you shouldn’t be worried too much about this, as the central area is well covered by both the metro and the above-ground means of transportation.
The public transport system in Bucharest is definitely not perfect and for tourists who don’t speak the language, it is probably even more difficult to properly use it since there are no signs or announcements made in English, but at least it works generally and offers a solid alternative to getting a taxi or Ubers or walking…
Fortunately, if you are only visiting the city for a shorter period of time, the main attractions are all near a station, so easy to get to. Plus, most of the important things to see and do in Bucharest are around the city center, which is probably the best covered areas of them all.
Also, the prices are extremely low if you are to compare them to other EU countries, so at least you have that to be happy about next time you’re squished into a window by 120 other people riding the same bus…