The Ultimate Guide to Taxis at the Bucharest Airport
May 18, 2018 | Travel guide
It is not always as easy as it should be to find a cheap, reliable and trustworthy taxi at Bucharest's Otopeni Henri Coanda Airport. Hence, we have compiled a definitive guide to making sure that you get your Bucharest airport taxi transfers as quickly and easily as possible. If you happen to be staying at one of the top Bucharest downtown hotels, it might be even easier to find your way.
For years, Bucharest Otopeni Airport was home to some of the world's most expensive taxis. In the immediate aftermath of the 1989 revolution the airport was a free-for-all. Anyone and everyone was fair game for tens of drivers who would harass and accost arriving passengers offering 'cheap' rides into the city. By the mid-1990s a Mafia-like arrangement had taken hold. 'Preferred' drivers (almost always charging large amounts and using rigged taximeters) were allowed to park directly outside the arrivals terminal, and kept cheap, honest taxis away, meaning that unknowing visitors to the Romanian capital could end up paying €50 - or even more - for a ride into the city center.
In an effort to make arriving at the airport more respectable, in 2004 a company known as Fly Taxi won a tender to provide exclusive taxi services at Otopeni for five years. A fleet of shiny new cars waited for passengers directly outside arrivals; all well and good, except that Fly Taxi charged 3.50 lei per kilometer: almost three times the cost of a standard Bucharest taxi.
Those who wanted to pay a fair price had to call one of the Bucharest taxi companies and arrange to meet the taxi in front of a large clock at the food of the arrivals ramp. Incredibly, in an effort to prevent this practice and force people to use expensive Fly taxis, the airport authorities dismantled the clock. Those who were less in-the-know, and perhaps visiting Bucharest for the first time had little choice but to take a Fly Taxi. Once Fly Taxi's monopoly expired, Otopeni once again became bandit country.
Then, in February 2013, everything changed. A young Japanese student was raped and murdered by a rogue taxi driver, who had approached her in the arrivals hall. Finally, the airport, under pressure from the government, moved to clear the airport of unsafe and rip-off taxis.
For the first time ever, passengers arriving at Otopeni were allowed to call the taxi of their choice, via the six machines stationed within the arrivals hall, and have it collect them directly outside the airport terminal. These machines dispensed tickets which contained the taxi's details (number plate etc.), and which had to be handed over to the driver of the corresponding taxi. The machines offered taxis from almost all major Bucharest taxi companies, most of which charged the standard Bucharest rate of just 1.39 lei per kilometer.
In August 2015, the airport announced new regulations regarding which taxis could access the arrivals terminal. In brief, only taxis which have been pre-approved by the airport could access the airport. This meant that hundreds of Bucharest's taxis were expelled from the airport.
Since then, finding a cheap taxi has become a real lottery. While the ticket dispensing machines still theoretically function, the pitifully small number of cheap taxis which have access to the airport means that in practice, most of the time they fail to find an available car. It usually takes at least 20 minutes to find one. Queues at the machines are therefore long, and all told it can take anything up to an hour to find a cheap taxi if you are reliant solely on the machines.
Our advice when arriving at Otopeni is as follows, depending on what time of day or night you arrive:
A taxi ride from the airport to the city center costs about 35-40 lei (or €8-9). Just make sure to order a taxi using the touchpads in the Arrivals terminal or local taxi apps. Additionally, make sure to have leis on you, since some taxi-drivers may fool you when giving you back your change. Whatever you do, never take taxis waiting in front of the airport, or you'll get ripped off by €50+. It sure may take a lot more time to get your transportation, especially after a long flight, but the alternative may be much worse.
Bucharest is a wonderful city, however a bad encounter at the beginning of your trip may ruin your overall experience. There are safe ways to book a cab in Bucharest via a reliable Bucharest cab service, so make sure to follow our advice as much as possible and avoid any inconvenience.