When I arrived at the airport in Bucharest, I had to go to the train station Gara de Nord. Not wanting to get ripped off by a taxi, I decided to take the 780 bus which goes directly from the airport to the train station. I bought my ticket from a machine, entered the bus, validated the ticket, and sat down.
About two stops into the ride, a ticket checker boarded the bus and started checking everyone’s ticket. He checked mine and then in perfect English told me to give him my passport so he could write me a fine because I hadn’t validated my ticket. I refused and showed him my receipt.
I then went to the machine and showed him how I put the ticket into the machine, the machine beeped, and then I sat down – just like on every other bus I’ve ridden.
The ticket checker explained that the machine has to beep twice and that it shows clearly – in Romanian, mind you – when it’s validated. I explained to him that obviously I don’t speak Romanian so I asked him to call it an honest mistake and let me go, but he refused.
He asked to see my ID, then wrestled my passport out of my hand and refused to return it until I paid him. He told me it’s a 50 lei fine for riding without a ticket, or I could go to the police station with him to be booked and pay a 100 lei fine. Obvious extortion.
I had a train to catch so I paid the 50 lei, called him a few choice words, and got on with my day. It was not a good welcome to Romania, not a good first impression. If you’re in this position, don’t let it happen to you.