Well I’ve flown out of there twice now this year so time for a current (for now) guide to Romania’s busiest and biggest airport, officially called Henri Coanda Airport.
Despite serving Bucharest, it is actually located near a tiny village named Otopeni in the next judet (“state”). For years and years and years the airport was called Otopeni (oh-toe-pen) as well. The airport’s international three-digit code is OTP. And absolutely everybody and their brother still CALLS it Otopeni.
In fact, literally printed on my TAROM ticket it actually says “Otopeni” so only officially and on maps is the ding dong airport called “Henri Coanda”.
So below is my brief guide to understanding this crazy airport, which ever since I first got here has been a mishmash of confusion (at least for me). Heck I even speak Romanian now and I almost got turned around.
Obviously you can fly in from outside the country as Otopeni is the main international airport. More on that below.
If you have a personal car, it’s super simple to find Otopeni as it’s right off the main road with clear signage. There’s a ton of parking, whether short term or long. It’s been a while since I’ve traveled to Otopeni that way so I can’t give you the details but I believe the parking (at least short-term) is based on the “park your car then go buy a ticket from an automated machine for how long you’re going to stay” system.
Taking a taxi from downtown Bucharest is insanely cheap, especially using fully licensed, metered taxis at only 1.39 lei a kilometer. I’d say even from somewhere super central like Piata Romana the total to Otopeni shouldn’t run you more than 20 or 25 lei.
There are two city buses that terminate at the airport and I forgot to look and see if their signage in front says Otopeni or Henri Coanda but Bucharest went out of their way to make sure only the nice, new modern buses are on these two lines, so at least your ride will be comfortable.
Bus 780 connects from the main railroad station (Gara de Nord/Bucharest North) and makes only a few stops before arriving at the airport.
Bus 783 meanders through all of the main downtown squares in Bucharest and has quite a few stops before eventually arriving at the airport.
A two-ride bus ticket costs 2.5 lei. The Bucharest public transit website is here and does have some English (click on the British flag).
There’s also a well-advertised new service with some kind of local train running from the main railroad station (Gara de Nord) directly to the airport and costing only 6 lei. Honestly I’ve never taken it so I couldn’t tell you much about it but there are literally signs for it everywhere. Apparently it drops you off just close enough to the airport that you can see it but it’s too far to walk so they use a bus to shuttle you over the rest of the way. How this is simpler than just taking the 780 bus is beyond my capability to understand.
At the moment there is no metro (subway) stop going to the airport.
There are two buildings that compose Otopeni Airport and neither one of them has a name. They’re built on two different levels as well. Years ago there was no way to get from one to the other except via a perilous journey on foot or else riding a bus that had to weave around acres of parking to get to the other terminal.
The good news is that now there is a pedestrian-friendly “bridge” between these two buildings.
Again, there are no names or identifying marks for these two terminal buildings so I’m going to make up my own name and call one Right Terminal and one the Left Terminal based on which direction they’d be in if you were in the parking lot and facing them.
Right now, as of this week, all arrivals (domestic and international) come in the upper level of the Right Terminal. By the time you clear security you’ll be in a long, thin hall with not much more than a couple of cafes. If you want a taxi, just walk right outside and take one from the queue, bypassing anyone “helpfully” offering to give you a ride by saying the word “taxi”.
Downstairs in the same building is where you can find the buses. There’s a nice, very clear and easy to understand map and a kiosk that sells the tickets you need. The buses seem to run every 10 minutes or so all throughout the day so scheduling isn’t really much of an issue.
Downstairs in the Right Terminal is a store called “Billa” which is essentially a very well-stocked grocery store and a great place to load up on snacks or a drink rather than pay the FAR, FAR higher prices at the airport restaurants and cafes. Literally every single airport worker goes in there to shop so you’ll get a chance to meet the people who make things happen.
The lower level of the Left Terminal is for all international departures. There’s an enormous board showing the status of flights, check-in desks and all the standard things you’d expect. There’s not much to do but sit around and wait for your flight.
Upstairs in the Left Terminal is the connecting walkway over to the Right Terminal as well as various offices and the like. But if you want to see something cool, wander around there until you find a completely sealed-in “bridge” that goes OVER the security area. It’s super cool to stand there, peer down and watch people’s luggage being scanned and the like.
On the other side of that short “bridge” is the best restaurant in the airport. Not only do they serve full, hot meals but there’s a wonderful set of windows that look out over the tarmac and you can watch planes land and take off. If you’ve got lots of time to kill at Otopeni, this is the place to do it.
Now here’s where it gets confusing. At the moment, all check-ins for all flights are done in the lower level of the Left Terminal, that is to say, the board announces your flight, you walk over to the little man or woman behind the counter, present your ticket, get your boarding pass, etc.
BUT…. all domestic flights actually take off from the Right Terminal. Fun, eh? You go to the Left Terminal to check in and then haul all your gear to the Right Terminal (lower level) and then pass through security, etc, there. That’s a fairly new development so who knows how long it’ll stay that way but I had to have a fairly long conversation (in Romanian) before I even understood that kooky system.
All international flights check-in and have their boarding right in the same area though, the lower level of the Left Terminal, extremely well marked and easy to find.
Other than that though, things are pretty basic and simple. Security is pretty normal and moves along quite quickly without much hassle. The airport is ten thousand times more modern than when I first came so really should be no problem for you if this is how you travel into/from Romania!