Don’t get a taxi from the airport in Bucharest

A japanese tourist was found dead in Ilfov County, Romania on August 15. The victim, named only as Yurika M by the Romanian press, was killed by Nicolae Vlad, a taxi driver who approached Yurika at the airport offering to take her to her destination.

Anyone who has ever flown to Bucharest has had some kind of unpleasant experience with taxi drivers. Locals flying back to their home city know they have to fend them off, and know that if they do get in a taxi they will be horribly overcharged. But tourists don’t, and most visitors to Romania have complained about this situation. The authorities have done nothing to control and regulate taxi services at Otopeni aside from putting up a few signs around the airport.

About two years ago, my boyfriend, who’s a British citizen and speaks very little Romanian, had to get in a taxi because there were no buses running from the airport on that day. At the end of the journey, which cost 35 lei, the taxi driver refused to give him change from the 100 lei note he had used to pay, and was rather threatening when my boyfriend asked for the money back, acting as if he expected that change to be his tip.

Now someone has died, and whilst this is not a reflection on all taxi drivers in Bucharest who operate from the airport, it is tragic that it took such a vile crime to bring the situation under scrutiny. The Director General of Airports Bucharest, Cornel Poteraşu, was sacked on August 31st by the Transport Minister for failing to ensure the safety of passengers traveling from Otopeni, and now a whole government inquiry has been ordered to come up with measures and a plan to fix this.

I am so sorry it had to come to this, and I am ashamed that someone had to die for the Romanian government to notice there is an issue. I would like to express my sincere condolences to Yurika’s family and friends, and to say that Romanian citizens everywhere are and should be outraged by this situation.

I don’t know how long it will be before tourists will be able to get into a taxi at Otopeni and feel safe and not worry about what they’re going to be forced to pay at the end of the journey. But as long as the drivers don’t give any receipts, and not enough information is provided about public transport options from the airport, there’s still a market for scammers and opportunists.

I can only hope that Nicolae Vlad will get what he deserves and that a regulation process will be set up to ensure that all taxis operating from the airport are registered and legit. I would also like to emphasise that taxis within Bucharest are safe and fairly cheap as long as you order one from a company or check their registration on the side of the vehicle. Neither my boyfriend or I have had issues with taxis taken in Bucharest.

There is no point pretending this will have no impact on tourism and the already damaged reputation of Romania. It’s a beautiful country with beautiful people, but opportunism and corruption is still rife. It pains me to say this to everyone planning to visit Romania, but apparently it has to be done: be careful, at least for now.

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