Romania

15 Things I Learned About Bucharest, Romania

things i've learned bucharest

It’s been over 1-2 months since I’ve left Bucharest. The city still has a place in my heart, especially because it’s where I met some amazing friends who have kept me sane/happy during these digital nomad days. 

From living in Bucharest for about a month and ten days, I got a decent grasp of the city and learned a few things. Below are some thoughts that I picked up during my stay!

15 Things I Learned About Bucharest, Romania

1. If you’re Asian…Be Prepared…

Being Asian in Romania means you’re going to have to accept the fact that you’re an “exotic” person in such a land. On my first day exploring the streets of Bucharest, I was already complimented and asked out on a date, most likely because of my ethnicity. I was approached or greeted at least once a day, sometimes with the “Ni Hao”s or “Konichiwa”s. And when hopping on taxis, I was asked where I’m from and if I’m from Japan about 99% of the time. To top it off, people even asked to take pictures with me occasionally while at a music festival in Cluj. I got used to all of this but it was quite annoying, to be honest!

bucharest

2. Earthquake Problems

My German friend who I met in Bucharest told me about Bucharest’s earthquake problems. The buildings in the city are quite old that if an earthquake hit, there would be substantial damage. To combat this, the government tried to pass a law to help renovate some of these old buildings. Whoever wanted to participate would have to request an inspection of their building, and if any building didn’t pass the test they would receive a red sticker indicating seismic risk. Once they get this sticker, they can request renovation and would need all the people in the building to agree for the process. But if one person declines, they can’t proceed and this would happen a lot. Subsequently, all the buildings and apartments with red stickers dramatically depreciated in value. And this made other building owners wary and unwilling to get their buildings inspected, which means a lot of the property out there is unfit to resist earthquakes.
bucharest

3. Dirtier Streets

To be honest, I didn’t notice the dirtier streets because I was just happy to be in Bucharest after leaving the constant mosquitos and scorching heat of Athens. But when my parents arrived to visit me, they complained about the numerous cigarette butts and spit on the ground and decrepit buildings. Later I noticed the dirtiness when I took the train from Cluj to Bucharest (which I do not recommend and am pretty sure the atmosphere of the 10-hour ride got me sick).

cluj bucharest

Train ride from Cluj to Bucharest

4. A Rising Tech Scene?

After having visited Athens, I found Bucharest to have a surprising tech scene which I was happy to be around! Perhaps it was because I lingered at co-working spaces that I came across these people, but I also feel like others I have met were into programming, online marketing, and tech products. Surrounding myself with people in tech helped me stay on track when it came to my own work.

coworking bucharest

5. Dripping Air Conditioners…

My friend Mike Young sent me this great depiction of his experience with dripping air conditioners:

During my first week in Bucharest I was walking along a footpath when some water from an air conditioning unit above landed on the banana I was eating. 

As I threw my banana in the bin, I looked around and noticed everyone was walking around the puddles on the footpath. Like slalom skiers, dodging the dripping water from air conditioners above that were working overtime in the Bucharest heat. And I was standing in a giant puddle.

You can find dripping air conditioners in other cities, but I count navigating through dank water hazards, parked cars and windy footpaths as a unique experience to Bucharest.”

But hey, the fact that they have air conditioning is wonderful as A/C is quite rare in Athens and in Lisbon!

6. Jaywalking

Pretty much totally acceptable.

7. Taxi Scams

Here are four things to learn about taxis.

Tip One: Look for taxis that cost around 1.39-1.65 lei/km. Avoid the ridiculously overpriced ones for 3.50 lei/km.

Tip Two: Ask the driver if they’re using a meter. It’s quite difficult when they don’t speak English, but try to make sure you make this clear before you step inside. Sometimes they won’t turn it on if they see you’re a tourist, and once you step in you’re screwed. They’ll give you a set price which is always substantially higher than what it should be. And when you disagree with the fare, they’ll force you to pay if you’re trying to leave the taxi, even if the taxi barely moved.

Tip Three: Always try to have exact change on you because a lot of times they will scam you by saying they don’t have any change, which is the WORST…

Tip Four: A lot of times, drivers will pretend like they don’t speak or understand English but they actually do!

bucharest taxi

8. Uber Instead…

Uber might cost a teensy bit more than taxis, but with the amount of times I’ve been scammed I’d say the average cost of Uber will end up being cheaper. Even if you know all the taxi drivers’ tricks, they still somehow end up screwing you over…you never know what they’ll do…The safest bet is to call an Uber from your phone as the pricing is quite similar. For a 10-15 minute ride it might only cost you $2 to get around, which is amazing!

9. Affordable Metro

If you want to take a metro, it costs 5 lei for a ticket you can use twice (basically a round-trip ticket). That’s only $1.25 which is again, amazing!

metro bucharest

10. Things Break…

My AirBnB was nice, but after a month of stay I found things broke all. the. time. The lights broke, the laundry machine broke, leaks happened, blackouts occurred, and more. It was so frustrating, and I found this occurred not only to me but also to my other digital nomad friends.

11. The “Menu Ziulei”

I really like how most restaurants in Bucharest have a “menu ziulei” which means “daily menu”. This menu normally costs a mere $5-6 and includes a starter, entree, and dessert (and sometimes more in different cases). It’s pretty amazing getting a sort of 3-course meal for the price of a fast food lunch.

bucharest daily menu ziulei

bucharest daily menu ziulei

bucharest daily menu ziulei

These were the 3 courses my parents and I got at Caru’ cu Bere. We got each plate for $6 each! 

12. Shortage of Fresh Produce

After coming from Athens, I have to say that none of the fruits and vegetables looked very fresh. I saw the fruit offered at the grocery store and worried about lack of healthy foods in my diet. Instead, I ate out literally every meal (since it was so affordable), and drank freshly squeezed orange juice at cafes while doing work. So it ended up being okay, regardless!

13. “Showoffs and Golddiggers”

I kept hearing that many of the local males were showoffs and females were golddiggers. To be honest, I can see some truth behind it…

14. It’s Actually Pretty Safe

As opposed to Greece where I felt myself occasionally in stickier situations, I never worried about my safety in Bucharest. Maybe it was because I was in the city center, but I felt okay walking back at night (which I don’t recommend normally…).

bucharest

15. The People

Because of Facebook groups, coworking spaces, and random meetups, I met so many fascinating people including musicians, programmers, doctors, trainers, pilots, entrepreneurs and many others. These people taught me how life in Bucharest was and gave me new perspectives and newfound motivation. 

Conclusion

Bucharest ended up becoming one of my favorite and most memorable parts of my trip. This leg of my life abroad has actually made me appreciate home even more, yet at the same time opened my eyes to all the opportunities in the world. And when I needed a taste of the bay I was able to find certain foods to satisfy me and native English speakers to chat with. Though I know people have mixed emotions about the place, I still loved it and feel like Bucharest will have a place in my heart!

bucharest

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3 Comments

  • Reply
    Luminita
    October 26, 2016 at 4:52 am

    Hi Sharon! I really enjoyed your post about Bucharest, you had quite some interesting insights to offer. The only thing I would like to say is you won’t find fresh fruit and vegetables at grocery stores or supermarkets. The best way to shop for fresh produce is going to the market. It can be a little of a hassle, because you have to get along woth vendors, if they don’t know any English and you can’t pay with a credit card, but the products are much better.

    • Sharon
      Reply
      Sharon
      October 26, 2016 at 8:01 am

      Hey – that is great to know! I will keep that in mind next time I go back to Bucharest 🙂

  • Reply
    Adonis Villanueva
    March 13, 2017 at 10:33 am

    I spent about a week in Bucharest. My experience has been the same as yours. Especially about being Asian 🙂

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