Bucharest Bus Controllers and Squashed Bananas


Published on 10 May 2023

Romania was a culture shock and a half. We had spent the last (nearly) three months in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, North Macedonia and Kosovo, and suddenly we were venturing into the EU. The general feel was just different, but I couldn’t place my finger on what it was. Let’s just say that first impressions weren’t the best…

We were trying to get the bus from Bucharest city centre to the main train station (maybe fifteen minutes). Last time we got on the bus, we just tapped our Starling cards on the machines on board, and our ticket was paid. This time round, the machine wasn’t doing anything. I walked down to the other machine on board, and it was the same thing. Almost like the machines just weren’t working or maybe switched off? So unsure what to do, and needing to catch our train, we just sat tight.

Guess who jumps on board at the next stop … bloody Bucharest bus ticket controllers.

They came straight to us because we looked like tourists, and asked us about our tickets. I explained, and they told us that we had to pay a fine. Because your machines are switched off, we’re being fined?! I asked if we could pay for the ticket now by card or cash: we had both at the ready (bear in mind it is a flat fee for one tap and costs 3 RON). No, was the answer. They told us that we were on camera on the bus and demanded payment of 80 RON each. The two of them were standing over us and were pretty intimidating. We were being mugged off 100%. But what could we do?! We paid the fine by card and they left.

What a warm welcome to Romania! We had gone from the amazing hospitality of our previous countries and then arrived into Romania where we were slapped in the face.

Gara de Nord Station, Bucharest

Gara De Nord, Bucharest

160 RON down, we did make it on to our train out of Bucharest. We got chatting to the Romanian woman sat opposite us and she was THE loveliest!

She was giving us tips of where to visit, which restaurants and day trips were best. She offered to walk us to the bus stop for the next part of our journey once we got off the train. Then she gave us a packet of tissues when we discovered our bananas had gotten squashed all over the inside of our bag (rookie error, never pack bananas loose!). And even gave us a bus card for Bucharest for when we returned that she thought had some money on it.

Literally, we went from the most awful people to the nicest in about ten minutes. And I am so glad that we were able to even out the nice to not nice ratio, because it was looking pretty rough!

The moral of the story is to not let one bad experience tarnish your opinion of a place. Wait til you have at least three bad things…I’m joshing! Our bad experience was balanced out with a good one straight away (yin and yang and all that). Welcome the rough, welcome the smooth, and remember that if everything was plain sailing, there’d be nothing much to talk about!

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