This is the story of how I got stranded in Bucharest, Romania.
In order for this story to make any sense, you need to know two things:
I am terrible at reading maps.
I had an irrational fear of taxies due to the fact that I’d read and heard so many warnings against un-booked taxis in Bucharest.
One of the guys who worked in the hostel in Brasov told me about some girl who had had to pay around 50 euros for a trip which should’ve cost 10 because the drivers hiked up the taxi price.
I didn’t want that to happen to me, so I was really wary of getting a taxi in Romania. It may seem a little paranoid (and it was!), but when people who are from the country you’re visiting keep warning you about the same thing in said country you do tend to listen to them.
If any of you get stranded in Bucharest, I recommend you do get a taxi and just have a clear idea of how much it should cost. Learn a tiny bit of Romanian, negotiate the price beforehand and go enjoy your night.
Don’t do what I did.
November 10th, 2016
Things took a turn for the worst after Bran Castle.
I went back to the hostel, ate some left over pasta, tried to order a taxi to the bus station ( and couldn’t), and got on the bus headed to Bucharest. The bus was pretty cheap and it was meant to be quicker than the train.
I say bus, but it was more like a large minivan complete. This was November in Romania and so it was pretty cold outside, but for some reason, the air conditioning was still going full blast on the bus which made it really cold.
There was no trunk or luggage area, so I had to carry all my belongings on board and put my huge backpack in the seat next to me. Thankfully the bus wasn’t too full so this wasn’t an issue, but I did find it very hard to fit the bag onto the seat.
The journey itself was fine. It was dark, but we went through several towns which were really pretty, the journey was pretty short (around 2 1/2 hours), and despite what people say about Romanian roads it was a pretty smooth journey with no issues.
But then we got to Bucharest.
Keep in mind that no one on this bus really seemed to speak English, so the driver’s instructions were in Romanian and I didn’t know what he was saying. I kind of assumed we were going to be dropped off at a train station, or at least at a central location, but instead, the driver took us to a long dark street, stopped, and then said ‘Finished!’ and gestured for me to get out.
I kind of assumed we were going to be dropped off at a train station, or at least at a central location, but instead, the driver took us to a long dark street, stopped, and then said ‘Finished!’ and gestured for me to get out.
So there I was. In Bucharest, on this really long road, with no idea where I was or where I was supposed to go. The road was dark, the area looked dodgy, and the bus driver just drove off and left me there. My internet wasn’t working, I had a huge backpack as well as two smaller bags, and altogether it really wasn’t a great outcome for me.
To make matters worse, I’d deleted Google maps that very same day to clear space for pictures of Bran castle, and my internet wasn’t working so I couldn’t even google where I was meant to go. I vaguely remembered seeing a Metro stop somewhere, but I had no idea how far away it was.
So I walked down this long street, backpack and all, for ages with no idea where I was going. I could see buses driving past and I assumed they must be coming from somewhere in the direction I was walking in, so I kept going (with very frequent breaks, my bag was extremely heavy) until I came to a bus stop.
A Series Of Errors
I sat at a bus stop for ages, but I didn’t understand the time table and I didn’t know which direction the buses were going in. I didn’t know what bus to catch for ages and for some reason people kept asking me for directions and couldn’t help me when I asked them any questions.
Eventually, my internet started functioning again so I tried to get directions to the old town (where the hostel was) and it told me which buses I could catch. It turned out I was in the wrong place, but it was only a few minutes walk to the right bus stop.
It told me the name of the bus stop, and I could see that the name of the street matched the bus stop I was meant to be at, so I walked over there, sat down, and chain smoked whilst waiting for the bus to turn up.
I waited for about half an hour before realizing that the buses I wanted were never going to come. I’m not sure how as this was where Google Maps told me to go, but I definitely wasn’t going to have any luck at that bus stop.
Google Maps also said there was a tram I could catch to the Old Town, and I could see a tram stop nearby, so I walked up to it and boarded a really crowded tram.
Naturally, there were no station announcements or digital screens, so it was only when I’d travelled for the number of stops I was meant to travel for and got out of the tram that I realized I’d gone the wrong way.
When I was getting out of the tram I actually managed to drop one of my shoulder bags (I was standing in a crowded tram with a huge backpack and two smaller bags remember) as I was getting off, and I’m still grateful for the people who passed my bag out to be and didn’t steal any of my stuff.
It took friggin ages for the tram heading back in the opposite direction to turn up, but I got on it eventually. The trams in Bucharest are pretty old, shaky and slow, but it was warmer inside than outside so I was very happy to be on it at all.
I did actually get out at the right place this time and, although my location on Google wasn’t working, there were loads of old buildings so I figured I’d made it to the Old Town.
The Old Town
I’d made it to the Old Town, but now I had to get to my hostel. The directions said I should walk around this huge bank building and my hostel should be there, but the bank was huge and it was hard to tell which street was the right street.
I had the name of the hostels street, but none of the streets around the bank seemed to match. I asked several people, but no one seemed to have any idea what I was talking about.
My phone was dead at that point and I still didn’t know exactly where I was going. really seemed like I’d just have to sleep on the streets.
For some reason, there were a lot of police roaming the Old Town with guns. This would have been a little disconcerting at the best of times, but the fact that I looked homeless made it worse because they all kept glaring at me
Eventually, one police man gave me directions to the street and about fifteen minutes (and two very confused bouncers) later, I finally found the hostel. I didn’t even know if it was going to be open or if they’d let me check in that late as I was meant to arrive hours ago, but luckily it had a 24-hour reception and they let me check in with no extra charge.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see a bed in my entire life. My shoulders were killing, I was feeling quite despondent and exhausted BUT I made it. One of my room mates was getting ready for a night out and asked me to join, but at that point, I literally couldn’t think of anything worse than going back outside.
In hindsight, I didn’t handle it all very well at all. In fact, I don’t think I could’ve handled it worse!
I should’ve tried to ask more people for directions (I did ask a few, but they didn’t seem to speak English), I should’ve learned more Romanian, I should have just got a taxi and checked the price before hand, I should’ve confirmed where the bus was going to drop us off at, and maybe I should’ve just got the train.
But here is something that did strike me. I was stranded for four hours at night in a random part of Bucharest. I was a 23-year-old girl with no visible muscles and three bags. I was an easy target.
No one approached me or made me feel overly uncomfortable (apart from the police). I even dropped my bag in a crowded tram and, rather than rob me, the people on the tram passed my bag to me.
No one stole my stuff, kidnapped me or physically harmed me in any way. Obviously, people’s experiences are different, and I would never say that just because it turned out okay for me it’s totally fine and dandy to wander around random foreign cities at night with no idea where you are, but it did turn out okay.
Just because something could happen doesn’t mean it will happen.