As I sit in a chic Bucharestian cafe, sipping my coffee and watching out the window at the quiet street, it almost seems impossible to think about Bucharest as a city where one my not feel safe. I have to admit, from the start, that I am one of the lucky ones that never had any serious problems.
I did walk the streets of the old city center alone at night without any problems. My car was not robbed; I was not threatened or pick pocketed on public transportation. Actually, besides the occasional shady taxi ride or awkward questions from deranged people, I don’t have any bad experiences to share.
Despite all if this, I can understand why someone would believe that Bucharest might be a dangerous place. Let’s face it, it is a big city in Eastern Europe. A lot has changed since the 90s, the Wild, Wild East moment of Bucharest however, being aware of some safety points doesn't harm anyone.
Pick pocketing is the most common type of crime in Bucharest. So if you find yourself in a crowded place, be careful with your belongings. It’s on buses and trams where you have to be especially careful. The metro is quite safe nonetheless. With security officers guarding the entrances, dubious people do not really manage to get on the trains but still, guard your belongings.
I have to mention that pocket thieves are not really the courageous type and usually run for the hills if met with any kind of resistance.
Bucharest is not really a violent city. Except rush hour traffic when we are possessed of some sort of demon of wrath and fury. Otherwise, street fighting happens but mostly in the outer neighborhoods of Bucharest. In the touristic parts like the old center, policemen patrol the streets day and night so incidents are very rare. If you don’t look for trouble and challenge people, the chances to end up in a fight are close to zero. You will see that we have a very civilized manner of partying, even when everyone is drunk.
Well, this one might be the big issue of Bucharest. Some taxi drivers make it impossible to have a good opinion on them no matter how much I am trying. Don’t get me wrong, most of them are not dangerous in the serious, creepy kind of way but they will try to rob you off if they have the chance, especially the ones that are not registered in Bucharest but in the nearby county of Ilfov.
Some tips on taxi safety: avoid as much as possible to get the cabs from the street and if you do check the taxi driver. For example, I always pick the older drivers. This gives me the comfort that, if anything, I am sure to outrun them. Also make sure that the price is clearly stated on the door and that you know the number of the car-usually written near the rear doors.
A good idea is to download Star Taxi app before coming to Bucharest which allows you to call a cab wherever you are or the services of the Black Cab. They are considerably more expensive but safe to the very end.
And for the love of everything precious, if you are a solo woman go for the back seat, never the front ones!
Harassment is not common in Bucharest. People generally don’t interfere with your life. The only thing that you might find bothersome is the creeps that you will find near parking lots. They will guide you to an empty parking space, as if you are incapable to park your own car and then ask you for money. This is illegal and the police force is trying to get rid of them but they are so persistent! One minute the police chase them away and the next minute they are back.
People usually give them money because they are afraid that otherwise the creeps will scratch their cars. I don’t know if this is true, never happened to me. I refuse to give them money because 1. It’s illegal and 2. Giving them money means encouraging them to continue their “work”. Some of them even tried to intimidate me but once threatened with calling the police they backed down.
Stray dogs still represent one serious issue here in Bucharest. In the last years there have been efforts to put them in shelters and clean the streets but it was not a smooth operation. There were protests and to this day it is a bit of a taboo subject.
On the bright side there are considerably less stray dogs in Bucharest. In the center, at least, I don’t remember when was the last time I’ve seen a stray dog. If you do meet with stray dogs, remember that there’s a big chance they are scared and unpredictable. Better be on the safe side even if they look friendly.
The emergency number in case anything bad happens is: 112.
These being said I've asked a couple of fellow travelers to share their thoughts on safety in Bucharest and if they considered it a safe city:
“When I was there with my friends, one or two times a shady guy walked up to us but it would be the same anywhere in a big city in the night time. I didn't have any concerns while spending time there with my friends. It is just a different culture and people need to step over the fear of something new and different…and Dracula, of course J If people provoke, the likelihood of safety would drop and that’s anywhere. Don’t get involved with stuff; it is not your culture. It’s the same anywhere, I had no concerns.” Luuk, The Netherlands
"I never felt unsafe in Bucharest, although I did follow my usual big city protocol- money belt, (or hotel safe if there is one), holding onto possessions, and trying to stay aware of my surroundings. It is possible that some more desolate parts of the old city might feel dodgy at night, but they are easily avoided." Mytimetotravel.wordpress.com
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