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Bucharest’s public transport system is made up of the Bucharest Metro (signed with big "M"), and a surface transport system run by RATB , which consist in buses, trams, trolleybuses and light rail. The metro and the surface transport system — currently run by two separate state-owned corporations — will be merged in early 2006 to form the Bucharest Metropolitan Transport Board (in 2011 it is still not done).
The city’s roads are usually very crowded during rush hours, due to an increase in car ownership in recent years. Every day, there are more than one million vehicles travelling within the city.
Because of the Bucharest’s infrastructural problems, it’s better to choose the subway. There are 5 subway lines, from north to south, from east to west, and you have at the entrance of any station the map of this lines. The cost for 2 trips card is 5 RON, 1 day pass for one person - 8 RON, 10 trips - 20 RON, weekly pass for one person - 25 RON and 62 trips card, valid one month - 70 RON .
The ticketing system uses contact-less smart-cards, called '''Activ''' cards [http://card.ratb.ro/]. Once bought (you will need ID to do that) the cards can be loaded with various ticketing options, including some that allow usage on both the subway and surface networks. To validate the card after entering a vehicle (or subway station) hold it still in front of the validating device (an orange box with a small LCD screen) until you hear a short beep (The LCD display will show "Calatorie Placuta" = Have a nice trip). If you hear a long beep followed by the message "Repetati validarea la acelasi validator" = "Repeat the validation on the same machine" or any other message, please validate the card again. It is very common in this system to give errors very often, so it recommendable to be sure that you have paid for your trip.
If you want to be sure that you have paid, press the button 1 and hold the card near the validator, it will mention the amount left and for how many passangers it was validated (there will be more screens displayed so keep it there for a few seconds until you will see "Card validat pentru 1 persoana" = Card validated for 1 person or more). To validate it for more than one passanger (this is available only for electronic wallet not for daily/weekly/monthly pass), you have to press the button no. 2 and hold the card near the validator. For any other additional traveler you have to press 2 again and receive the message "Calatorie Placuta" for each passenger.
The paper tickets valid for one ride on one route are not any more available (they were removed starting with May 2011). Be warned that you cannot buy tickets/cards in the vehicles and if caught by an inspector (''controlor'') you could be fined with 50 lei. Be sure to validate your ticket, as enforcers can be very strict, even to visitors unfamiliar with the system.
A ticket is valid only on the bus/tram/troley wher it was validated. If you change the bus/tram/troley, you have to validate again the card. Also, the ticket is valid only for one trip with the transport vehicle from one end to the other. However, in Bucharest most of the busses and troleys will have one end (usually in dowtown, where is no space for creating proper "end of the line" stops) without any distinct stop, so you will not be aware that you have to validate again, being liable to receive a fine.
For this reason, is better to buy a daily (8 RON = 1.8 Euro) or weekly pass (17 RON = 4 Euro) for your trips in Bucharest, because the pass will not require any validation. The prices are very small compared with the travel options available (busses, night busses, trams and troleys), so the pass will help you to have a trip without any headaches.
Starting with July 2011, the night buses are also available. They will run between 23:00 to 01:00, every 30 minutes, 1 to 5:00, every 1 hour and 5:00 to 6:00, every 30 minutes. The lines can be seen here http://www.ratb.ro/v_noapte.php and the map here http://www.ratb.ro/maps1/Trasee_noapt...
Later edit (10.05.2014): The cards called '''Activ''' are valid now just for surface networks. You can buy tickets for subway only in the subway station (www.metrorex.ro)