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Getting There

By Plane -- International flights arrive at Henri Coanda International Airport, Sos. Bucuresti-Ploiesti (tel. 021/201-4050 or 021/204-1423), still generally referred to by its former name, Otopeni, which lies 16km (10 miles) north of the city and has a relatively small but moderately chaotic international terminal; the information desk (tel. 021/204-1000) is located in the departures lounge. Note that all the taxis and even the shuttle services at the airport will overcharge you (20€-25€/$25-$32 instead of around 10€-12€/$13-$15) for the trip into the city; if you have a hotel reservation, have them arrange a transfer. A relatively reliable airport service is Fly Taxi Company (tel. 021/9440), which charges a hefty L3.30 ($1.40/90p) per kilometer, or try one of the companies listed under "Getting Around," below. Bus no. 783 stops outside the domestic terminal (downstairs from international arrivals) and heads into the city (40 min.) every 20 to 30 minutes; buy tickets (L7/$3/£1.85 round-trip from the booth just beyond the bus stop.

By Train -- Trains from various European capitals arrive at Bucharest's Gara de Nord, Piata Gara de Nord 1 (tel. 021/223-2060; www.cfr.ro), a large, well-organized station that also has connections with almost every destination around the country.

By Bus -- Think twice before tackling long-distance trips through Romania, and that includes any international journey toward Bucharest. If you must, then Eurolines, Str. Buzesti 44 (tel. 021/230-5489; www.eurolines.ro), is your best bet for the long, arduous journey from Paris, Madrid, Brussels, or Frankfurt.

City Layout & Neighborhoods in Brief

To the north of the city, broad tree-lined boulevards are home to fantastic, crumbling mansions, including foreign embassies and important diplomatic residences. Cobblestone side streets shelter gorgeous homes, many clad in layers of ivy and tucked behind overgrown gardens. It's a neighborhood with an opulent shabbiness, unencumbered by drab apartment blocks or concrete monstrosities; if there's one area in the city that's good for cycling or jogging, this is it. Two major roads, Soseaua Kiseleff and Bulevard Aviatorilor, stretch from the lakes at the northern extremity of the city to Piata Victoriei, where security officers protect government buildings. The square is also close to the main train station, Gara de Nord, and near the important Museum of the Romanian Peasant.

From Piata Victoriei, Calea Victoriei leads southeast into the heart of downtown Bucharest with its heady urban feel; monuments and historic buildings stand cheek by jowl with more modern edifices, and there's a constant surge of energy.

Downtown has two notable centers. The first is Piata Revolutiei, bisected by Calea Victoriei; this where you'll find the Royal Palace (now the National Art Museum), and the Romanian Athenaeum, as well as smaller streets leading to all manner of restaurants, bars, and terraces. Southeast of here is Piata Universitatii, identifiable by the monstrous InterContinental Hotel and the austere National Theater building, both on one side of the busy intersection. Bulevard Regina Elisabeta becomes Bulevard Carol I as it slices through this point from west to east, while Bulevard Nicolae Balcescu cuts through from the north. Farther south, Strada Lipscani is the main (now pedestrian) road of the city's historic district, known simply as Lipscani. To the east of Piata Universitatii are the lovely Cismigiu Gardens, a small oasis in the middle of the big city.

South of the gardens is the notorious Palace of Parliament and the Centru Civic, where Ceausescu demolished one-sixth of the old city to make way for a curtain of concrete blocks and pencil-straight boulevards. Principal among these is long, fat Champs-Élysées-style Unirii Boulevard, linking the parliamentary palace with Piata Unirii and studded with fountains, one for each county in Romania.

Getting Around

By Taxi -- Renowned for their unflinching rip-off tactics, Bucharest's taxis are actually a very affordable way of getting around the city. The onus is on you, however, to check that the fare is clearly displayed on the side of the vehicle (generally, L1-L3/45¢-$1.30/25p-80p per kilometer is acceptable, although some charge up to L7/$3/£1.85 for an air-conditioned ride); then make sure the driver uses the meter. A rated taxi company is Grant (tel. 021/9433), upfront and honest; it's a good idea to call them well ahead of any important trips you need to make. Also reliable are Prof Taxi (tel. 021/9422), Meridian (tel. 021/9444), CrisTaxi (tel. 021/9461 or 021/9466), and Perrozzi (tel. 021/9631).

By Metro -- Completely underutilized by locals, the Metro can be a rather dull way to get around the city. Nevertheless, it is cheap and the network is simple enough to figure out with a brief glance at one of the maps posted in the underground stations. Buy tickets (each one is valid for two trips; L2.20/95¢/50p) at the booths adjacent to the passenger gates. Trains run between 5:30am and 11:30pm Monday to Saturday (with reduced hours on Sun), arriving every 5 minutes at busy times, but only three times an hour in slow periods.

On Foot -- In summer it's a punishing walk from one end of the city to the other, but if you're energetic you'll get a much better sense of the city and its people by strolling the sidewalks. This is also a great way to make architectural discoveries and find back-street neighborhoods that nobody ever mentions.

By Tram, Bus & Trolleybus -- Public transport operates between 5am and 11:30pm Monday through Saturday, with shorter hours on Sunday, but you really need to know where you're going and get to grips with the network to make the trams and trolleybuses work for you. Bucharest's buses are cramped, hot, and stuffy, and you'll be more likely to fall prey to pickpockets on one of them than anywhere else. Tickets for all services (L1.10/45¢/25p) can be purchased at any of the many RATB kiosks around the city (look for BILETE signs), where you can also pick up a timetable (purchase Amco's Public Ground Transport Map if you're going to use public transport); timetables are also posted on streetlamps near bus stops (the central "station" is across the road from Hotel Ibis on Calea Grivitei). Remember to use the self-service machine to validate your ticket once you're on board, and good luck.

Visitor Information

There is no official tourist information service in Bucharest; in most cases, your hotel will be able to point you in the right direction, and provide you with a map. Ask specifically for the listings publication, Bucharest in Your Pocket (www.inyourpocket.com), which has maps as well as details of hotels, restaurants, bars, and attractions. Bucharest's bookstores stock some good publications on the city and on major points of interest around the country.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.