Saturday, June 14, 2014

Bucharest - Gara De Nord

Date of visit: 9th April 2014

Since our train was departing at 5.30pm, we had decided to have Subway for lunch which is located inside the Bucharest North railway station or known by many as Bucuresti Gara de Nord. Gara De Nord is the main railway station in Bucharest and the largest railway station in Romania. The vast majority of mainline trains to and from Bucharest originate from Gara de Nord. The name was initiated from Gara Targovistei, after the nearby road nearby, Calea Targovistei. After we covered all places of interest set in our itinerary in Bucharest, we check out, stored the luggages in Ibis and headed to Gara De Nord. After lunch, we went for photo shoot around the famous station.

Bucuresti Gara De Nord is the first railways in Romania that was built connecting Roman to Galati to Bucharest to Pitesti, in 1872. The station and its surroundings were heavily bombed by the Allies in April 1944, World War 2. It was bombed during a campaign aimed at the German supply lines, since Gara De Nord station played an important part in the Romanian railway network and was the main departure point for troops headed to the Eastern Front.

At present, there are currently 14 tracks and 8 platforms covered inside the main station building. As of 2009, Gara de Nord served about 200 trains, including domestic trains operated by Caile Ferate Romane (CFR), Regiotrans and Trans Feroviar calatori as well as international trains serving to and from neighborhood country and its main cities, i.e. Hungary (Budapest), Bulgaria (Sofia, Varna and Burgas), Republic of Moldova (Chisinau), Ukraine (Kiev and Chernivtsi), Austria (Vienna), Turkey (Istanbul) even to Russia (Moscow and Saratov) and to Belarus (Minsk and Dnepropetrovsk). The route seems interesting to explore.

The station is served by several bus lines as well as the Gara de Nord metro station. Also, the station is connected by CFR train to Henri Coanda International Airport. The hotel that we stayed for 2 days and 1 night, Ibis Bucharest Gara de Nord is located merely 3 minutes within walking distance from the main railway station and just 2 km away from the city center.  Hence, we just walked on arrival and departure.

Ibis Gara De Nord hotel is a place for both business or leisure. They have 250 rooms, a French bistro restaurant, a pleasant summer terrace, a lobby bar opened 24 hours a day and 8 conference rooms. Private outdoor parking also available for hotel guests. What we like most is the free WiFi which is accessible everywhere in the hotel. I would recommend for those who wishes to have a pleasant and comfortable stay in Bucuresti to choose this hotel as your first choice, value for money.

Bucharest's only railway station which visitors ever use is Gara de Nord though there are other stations, i.e. Obor, Basarab, Baneasa and Titan Sud. The station was opened in 1872, and today sees just over 200 trains arrive and depart each day from the central station. There are a number of entrances, 2 ticket offices, plenty of cashpoints, a supermarket, fast food outlets (including McDonalds, KFC and Subway), and storage for luggage chargeable at 5 lei for 24 hours. Unfortunately, just opposite the station, the park was occupied by the homeless who (I might say) ruin the city with their unkept appearances and scare us with begging furiously for money, the tourist to their beautiful city.

There is also a free Wifi throughout the station. Signage is fairly good with the main departures board being well placed in the middle of the platforms, written in English. The departure and arrival of all trains is also announced over the tannoy. While there are plenty of police and security guards around, please be careful of any shifty characters people who are trying to approach you. You may well ignore anyone trying to sell you something or telling you that their taxi is the cheapest. Queues at the ticket office can often be long, hence try a level best to buy ticket early. We bought ours through Rail Europe online via Singapore branch office.

To get to town take an honest taxi from the official taxi station outside. There are taxis from 2 reliable Bucharest companies, Meridian and Pelican, who are allowed to pick up fares here. If no taxi is waiting, use one of the two touch screens to order one. There is also a Metro hop on hop off, 1 away from Piata Victoriei, or you may want to try the bus. CFR had placed a warning, should anyone who approaches you (and if you have just got off the Budapest train and have a backpack, you will be approached) is trying to scam you: they will try and divert you from your intended destination (often by saying that the place you want to go to is closed) towards another hostel or hotel that they will recommend to you. Just ignore anything they say and wave them away". So, please take note of the advice!

Have a nice weekend everyone, Love, Peace & Compassion to all human kind....

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