As is no doubt obvious from the chaos in the comments section, we’ve spent the past week or so on holiday* and really haven’t been too arsed about policing the likes of Parmalat.
Anyway, on the morning of our departure Son of Bucharest Life was feeling rather under the weather, complete with raging temperature and swollen tonsils. As we arrived at the airport rather early (a habit: we missed a flight once, and it was a very expensive mistake, the kind you only make once) we decided to pop along to the airport chemist to try and bag some antibiotics for the lad. As you may know, it’s usually not a problem to get what are in theory prescription-only medicines in Romania without a prescription. You just have to come across as convincing enough and sound as though you know what you are talking about. It’s one of the benefits of living here, and means you don’t have to always trouble your GP with minor ailments. It would save the NHS millions if you could do the same in the UK.
As it happens, the chemist at Otopeni (found in the corridor which links the arrivals and departures terminals) is not one of those which readily hands out prescription-only medicine. However, the otherwise helpful girl behind the counter did inform us that there is a doctor in the airport, and that a quick visit would no doubt lead to the procurement of required prescription. Which it did, after a short examination. All very efficient.
The doctor’s surgery at Otopeni is in the basement, underneath the departures terminal. There is a GP on hand 24 hours a day and his or her services are absolutely free to all, regardless of age or nationality. And no, you are not expected to leave a ‘tip’.
In less good Otopeni news, we also have to report that the taxi situation is deteriorating.
With the exception of stray dogs we have perhaps written about taxis at Otopeni more than anything. Last year, after the introduction of a simple ticketing/ordering system, we rejoiced. It was a massive step forward. Since then, however, things gave gone backwards. Here’s what, exactly.
First and foremost, you can still get a cheap taxi at Bucharest’s only airport. The machines dispensing tickets are still there. Indeed, there are three: one for Meridian and Pelican taxis (both companies are OK), another for Cristaxi and Cobalcescu (again, both are perfectly trustworthy). Then there is the third machine. This one serves a number of taxi companies, some of which are fine (Speed, for example). It also, however, appears to be dispatching taxis which are somewhat dodgy. For example, on Friday night we were offered a taxi for a company called Sprinter, which we had never heard of. Nevertheless, the price displayed was a standard 1.39 lei per kilometre so we thought little of it. When the taxi turned up however, the price on the door was 2.99 lei. We also noticed that the telephone number, 9833, was being used by other taxis hanging around outside the arrivals hall, all with different names. We refused the taxi of course, and ordered another one from the Meridian/Pelican machine.
Alas, that’s not the only problem. In theory, only taxis which have been ordered are allowed to wait outside the arrivals terminal. This is not, in practice, the case. A number of taxis from rip-off companies charging 3.50 lei per kilometre (particularly Clas Taxi) are for some reason (or, more likely, several hundred reasons) allowed to wait directly outside arrivals, right at the front.
Not only are unknowing visitors at risk of getting into these cars and paying three times the price of an ordinary taxi, but they block the access of taxis which actually have been ordered. As such, it is not always easy to find your taxi. In fact, it is a bit of a scrum. For the uninitiated it must be rather off-putting.
Welcome to Bucharest.
*We were here, Pontedilegno-Tonale, high in the eastern Italian Alps. We can recommend the place. We stayed in Tonale, a purpose built, high-altitude and snow sure place which offers all the convenience you would usually expect of a French resort but at (far lower) Italian prices.