Driving in Romania is horrible, and driving in Bucharest is worse. The German in me despairs of the continuous ignoring of street signs, lines on the street, other traffic, traffic rules, and common sense. After over a year of driving in Bucharest, though, I'm quite adjusted to local standards, so when shuttling the kids to school or making a grocery run, I just unleash my inner barbarian. It's not pretty. However, I observed and I learned and I found there are rules that people are sticking to. They are just different from rules anywhere else. So, here are The Rules for Driving in Bucharest for you.
Traffic lights Observation: The unexpected fact is, Romanian drivers stop at red lights. Mostly. There is a subspecies of drivers that doesn't but I'll explain the various categories of Romanian drivers later. In any case, as soon as the green light turns orange, most people stop. Sort of. They stop, and then they inch forward. A little bit. And a little bit. And some more. If you are a pedestrian in the crosswalk, this is more than a little unnerving. It's like walking past a cage of hungry hyenas: you're pretty sure the bars will hold, but you can't like the way they're looking at you. Then, the light turns green. Nothing happens. For about five seconds or so, nobody moves. Then, somebody honks and everybody gets moving. Rule: Green lights aren't actually green until five seconds have passed. This is to make sure the traffic light isn't bribed by crossing traffic and suddenly morphs back into being a red one. Left turns Observation: Left turns are immensely popular here, especially when they are forbidden. Romanians love left turns. In fact, they love them so much, that there usually is too little space to accommodate all those fans of left turns. So they ingeniously line up in rows. Four, five cars side-by-side at a left turn are no uncommon sight. Since they all have to merge into a single or double-lane road after making the turn, it can be a bit tricky not to be cut off by other drivers making the turn. Rule: Never give in. Never leave a space big enough for another car to fit into. Honk at everyone. Ignore traffic lights and oncoming traffic. Watch your left side, always. Roundabouts Observation: Roundabouts are busy and Romanians love to take them at high speed. Roundabouts are great for enforcing your dominance on the road -- the bigger and stronger you are, the further left you drive, especially when you want to make a right turn, like, now. Those pesky drivers who are in the middle lane and want to go straight, heaven knows why? They will yield if you just honk very loudly. Rule: Everybody can make a right turn, even those in the innermost lane. Stand your ground. Honk back. Overtaking Observation: If there is so much as an inch on your left side, you will be passed. Tram tracks are just a rather bumpy pass lane. Rule: There is none. Regard that dent in your car as a rite of initiation. Don't cry. Honking Observation: Everybody honks. You honk to remind the idiot in front of you that he is napping at a green light. You honk to make the pedestrian scamper a little faster. You honk because your car is bigger. You honk because your kids are screaming in the back. You honk because you are. Rule: Honking is OK. Don't get hung up on it. Only exception: buses. Never, ever honk at buses. You may even honk at one of the four hummvees that are driving around town because they have to stick to The Rules too. Buses don't. And they are much bigger than hummvees.* *I did witness a hummvee honking at a bus once. Everybody was stunned, even the bus driver - for a moment. The hummvee driver was Canadian and I'd love to hear his story one day. I left the scene as quickly as I could. I had kids in the car, after all.