Moldova & Transnistra

9 days , Dec'14- Jan'15




Kind of travel:
Me and my wife Elisa with our 2 year old daughter INES in an independent travel

27th Dec'14- 04th jan'15

Do I need a visa:
Show up with your ID and it'll be enough, but in Transnistra you have to register if you stay more than 24h (read tips for more details)

How many km:
800 km

How I moved:
Train is a comfortable way to move around but connections are poors (1 train/day Chisinau to Tiraspol) so we rented a car ( 28€/day + toddler seat: 2€/day) and we reached Transnistra by bus (1.5h)

Freezing or baking:
Temperature ranging -2C to -13C, it's cold, but together with the snow (and since late December it's very likele to snow) the coldness it's part of the beauty of the country.

Where I slept:
In medium/high category hotels with prices ranging from 50- 65€/night for a triple room breakfast included (booked by Hotels might appear desolated since mostly empty and soviet-style, but we didn't have any major complain.

What I liked:
Feeling a real traveler in the unrecognized and tourist free Transnistra and it's cheap like hell, especially for those coming from euro-based country

What I disliked:
Corrupted and hassling policemen (I got fined for a 35km/h over limit speed and I had to negotiate) and the gloomy landscape before snowing

How much daily:
The cheapest destination you can find in Europe! hotel medium range 50-60€, restaurant high range: 10-15€/pp, transport negligible, car 28€/day for an average of 100€/day for 2 adult + 1 toddler. NB: we were helped by a very favorable exchange rate (1€= 21 lei) given by the ruble drop influencing the whole region.

Baby/ family friendly destination:
You'll find 50% of the times highchairs in the restaurants, 90% of the times cots in the hotel, but forget baby menu and changing tables. Definitely it's not an area equipped to travel with a baby but everybody was willing to help us (we changed our daughter on the restaurant table)


Transnistra is a country claiming his independence since 1990.
The country is extended 4Km2 (very tiny, as wide as twice luxembourg) with half million people living there. They have their borders, flag, capital (Tiraspol), currency (Trasnistran Ruble), President, Parliament, they even issue visa but they miss UN recognition.
The country is well known to be the main smuggler of weapons and drug in the whole Europe and to be backed by Russia
Transnistrao map, click on to enlarge


Moldova is not plenty of higlights and compared to his neighbouring countries might sound anonymous. However visiting it when the country it's covered by snow, having a look to the unrecognised region of Transnistra and associating it with another nearby destination (Odessa, Kiev, the monasteries in Romania,...) can make it really worthwhile.




Day Transport Night Price Duration
1 Milan-Chisinau Flight

  250€/pp 2.5h
1,2,3 night Chisinau night   Europa hotel 60€/night triple room  
2 Saharna & Tipova monastery rented car   28 €/day 7h
3 Chisinau on foot      
4 Chisinau- Tiraspol bus   5€ 1.5h
4,5 night Tiraspol night   VVP hotel 50€/night double room  
5 Tiraspol & Bender bus, on foot      
6 Tiraspol- Odessa train   10€ 2.5h
6,7,8 night Odessa night car Royal street hotel 41€/night junior suite  
7,8 Odessa on foot      
8 Odessa-Chisinau
train   13€ 5h
9 Chisinau-Milan flight     2.5h


The travel started with a funny episode during the cruise of our flight from Milan to Chisinau (Moldova capital); all of a sudden few people began applauding and in few second most of the passengers followed them. When I asked the reason, I was told that ,by mistake, they thought the plane was landed :
The first day in Chisinau we rented car ( to visit the Saharna and Tipova monasteries, 60 km north of the Capital. Despite the atmosphere was very authentic and we were the only tourists there, it didn't turn out so charming because, since it hadn't snowed yet, the landscape was a kind of bleak.
Beside on the way I got fined by a police patrol claiming I passed the 50km/h speed limit driving at 85km/h; They asked my 50€, I played dumb with the language and at the end we agreed 20€.
The following day we had planned to visit the main Moldovan monastery (Orheiul Vechi) but both my wife got sick and there was a blizzard, so we stayed in Chisinau. We needed an antibiotic but when we asked for a doctor at the reception they claimed the only way to have prescription was at the hospital, so they called an ambulance (old style one). At the hospital despite the language barrier (I undusted my rusty but useful Russian) we managed to get the piece of paper we needed for the medicine.
Chisinau downtown is not an appealing place dense of highlights, but given the Christmas snowy atmosphere, it turned to have his charm.
The 3rd day we headed to Tiraspol by bus, despite we would have preferred the train but there's just one per day in the very early morning (7am). After 1.5h the driver dropped off everybody announcing the bus to have reached the Ukrainian border, I got confused till I realized we were at the Transnistran one, but nobody complained for the wrong announcement. We queued to get the 24h permit to stay in the country; it took 15min getting it for free, without any question. In the meanwhile there was a huge pressure by the driver and his assistant to speed up; they were so in hurry that they left a guy at the toilet with his bag still on the bus. When we realized it, despite being 100m from the border, they didn't want to turn back; I wonder why, maybe scared to be asked for money by the border guards.
First thing we didn't once arrived in Tiraspol was to change money since the country has his own currency: 'the Transnistran Ruble' and neither the Moldovan Lei, Ukrainian Grivna or Euros will be easily accepted in shops. At the time of writing (Dec'14) 1euro= 14 Trans. Ruble (see tips for more info)
Our hotel in Tiraspol (VVP club) wasn't bad but the location being far from the city center (10min by taxi) made it inconvenient so I wouldn't recommend. On the other hand we liked the 7-Friday restaurant-café: a stylish place right on the main street with an extensive menu (ranging from sushi to Italian food) made by pictures that helped a lot in the food choice.
You won't be in Tiraspol for his highlights despite few are there (the tank, the Parliament, the opera house, Transnistra National Museum,..) but being the Capital of an unrecognized state from my point of view it doesn't lack of atmosphere. I expected a much gloomier soviet style place, while I found it quite modern and dynamic.
Even more than Tiraspol we liked his 10km far sister town Bender; take the trolleybus to reach it and on the way look to the brand new Transnistran National Stadium, 5 star hotel (under construction) built by the Transnistrian multimillionair Igor Smirnov running the Sheriff company,well known as a laundry money company for all the mafia style Smirnov businesses.In Transnistra all the Sheriff properties (malls, petrol stations,…) won't pass unnoticed and it's said nobody can do major business without Smirnoff approval.
While we were there (end of December) temperature was -13C and everything in Bender was frozen: kids playing with sledges in the main square, and even on the Nister river there were icebergs floating. Visit the main square and buy kitsch souvenirs (postcard, fridge magnets if military parades…)at the Plaza shopping mall. Then have a walk along the riverbank and take a snap in front of the tank with the national flag near the bridge.
Before leaving Transnistra we had our experience with the well-known annoying police:
"There's no problem" the taxi driver said when I asked about taking pics of the Transnistra tank in Tiraspol. Ten seconds after the first snap, Militia came over by car taking him to an office where he wasn't released till he didn't pa, while we were waiting for him in the taxi. Nobody complained anything to us but I still wonder about the charge to the taxi driver: maybe 'supporting the spies'?
From Tiraspol we took the train to Odessa (Ukraine) it take 2.5h and it leaves daily at 9.40am


Moldova travel tip




EU citizens staying less than 90 days don't require anything more than their passport.


There are 2 types of permits:

we got at the border for free in 15min without anything else that just showing our passport. No stamp on the passport just a piece of paper (see pic below)

-3 days permit:
If you want to stay more than 24h you must apply for a 3days permit, you can apply personally at the OVIR office ( Kotovskiy street 2/A in Tiraspol) or,as we did, to have it managed by your hotel. We had our passport withdrawn for 24h. Still no stamp on passport just a piece of paper (see pic below) and it was for free. When you leave the country the border guards withdraw you permit.

    24h permit 3 days permit


The currency is the Lei, at the time of writing 1€= 21 Lei (Dec2014)


Transnistran Ruble (see photo below). At the time of writing (Dec'14) 1euro=14 Trans. Ruble. (for more rate see the pic below)
No way to officially change it outside the country even in the main gate as Odessa or Chisinau train station, so be sure to get rid of them before leaving.
Several money changers in Tiraspol or Bender, you easiest way is to change at the station that is where all the buses and train arrive.

Transnistran Ruble (1 ruble note =1/14 euro)

Transnistran ruble exchance rate (dec2014)



I'm sorry but there's no Lonely Planet dedicated to Moldova and Transnistra. The only option is to retrieve the 2007 edition of the LP Romania & Moldova (there's also a chapter on Transnistra). It seems the latest edition of LP Romania is without Moldova chapter.



-Rent a car in Modova (
I paid 28€/day + 2€/day for the toddler seat + 150€ as deposit
The car was crap: a huge crack on the windscreen, something always beeping as an empty tank signal (but it was full!), few times the engines stopped ,… so I wouldn't really recommend this rent car company.
I didn't tried to enter Transnistra by the rented car and it's something I'd avoid since very exposed to border guard bribery.

- Police patrolling
Watch out while driving in Moldova to stick to the speed limit even where they are unreasonably low. In a two lanes road in the countryside I was chased and then stopped by police claiming I was driving 85km/h where the speed limit was 50km/h. They even showed a photo of my car taken with the speedmeter, and obviously there were no signs on the road of 50km/h speed. They asked for 50€ fine I negotiated to 20€. If you go for the negotiation approach don't ask for the receipt:


- Will I've problem once I reenter Moldova or I'll leave Moldova after I've been in Transnistra?
No, since for Moldova Transnistra is still Moldova and nobody will stamp a Moldovan exit stamp on your passport. Our case was even worse since we really exit Moldova going to Ukraine (again no Moldovan exit stamp but Ukrainian entry stamp) and we entered again from Transnistra (still no Moldova entry stamp, but Ukrainian exit stamp). So at the end we had a clear proof on the passports that we left and reentered Moldova without exit/entry stamps. To make it worse the Ukrainian border guards stamped the passports exactly below the original Moldovan entry stamps (it wasn't by chance since they looked for it), anyhow when we left finally Moldova from Chisinau airport the border guards saw the stamps but they didn't complained anything

- How to reach Transnistra?
No airports in the whole country so it can be by car (hire a driver), bus/van (several per day, 1.5h) or by train (2h, once per day at 7.00am). The less hassling way as concern border guards it's told to be the train; anyhow nobody annoyed us entering by bus. For sure by car you are much more exposed unless don't hire a well-known driver

- What to see in Transnistra?
Tiraspol: tank monument, National Museum, Parlament, the Theatre
Bender: the Nister river,the fortress, tank monument, was victim monument,

- Can I take picture in Tarnistra?
yes, but avoid showing off.