Our trip to Moldova and Transnistria

As we said in our last blog, it’s quite easy to travel to Moldova taking a bus from Iasi. And since Transnistria (a breakaway state) borders Moldova we might as well visit that as well. You know, to tell cool stories to our friends and stuff. We have heard that you could take the train to Chisinau, but this is not recommended as it takes THREE hours to replace the train’s wheels to fit into Moldova’s rails. You know what they say about efficiency. Or actually, I don’t.

Nevertheless, we listened to this advice and took an early bus from Iasi to Chisinau. At least, it was supposed to be early, but I guess being on time is a relative concept (could’ve slept for at least 1 more hour but I ain’t mad about it). Going from Iasi to Chisinau costs 35 lei (about €8), which is quite reasonable. Now, if you thought Belgian roads sucked, you haven’t encountered the Moldovan ones yet. Shaky is an understatement.

Around 4 hours later we finally arrived in Chisinau. Have to say, not the prettiest of cities but worth visiting if you’re around the area. There are some nice buildings, but a lot of open roads and walking areas, and several unfinished buildings made the city look a bit dull. It’s all personal preference of course, but we expected more from a capital city. The taxis are not as well-arranged as in Iasi so it was quite a struggle to get one. Also, it’s quite useful to know some words in either Romanian or Russian. Luckily we had André (the boyfriend) with us who did all the talking for us.

We stayed in a really nice hostel – link – just outside the city center but everything was walking distance. We strolled a bit around the city until we stumbled upon a wine festival. We didn’t know this was going on so we really came at the right time. Wine tasting was super cheap and the food was delicious. Wine is really Moldova’s pride. You know where we spent the rest of our evening. If you’re here, we would recommend eating the local food as it is delish and stocking up on some bucuria candy. And you can easily stock up since it costs basically nothing. Also the wine is good, so definitely have a go at that. Yes we do realize that the only things we talked about is food and how cheap everything is, but really those are the essential things in life.

The great thing about hostels is that you meet a lot of new people. We met another guy who was planning to go to Transnistria as well, so he joined us the next morning. It’s super easy to find a bus going to Tiraspol. There are many going from the central bus station. It was about 50 Moldovan lei (€2,50), which is a steal really. When will you ever travel for that cheap? That’s right, never. It took about two hours to get to our destination.

Now, when we told our Romanian friends and colleagues we were planning to go to Transnistria we got many funny and surprised looks. “Why would you do that? It’s so corrupt” and “I would not recommend going there” were among the many comments we received. You get the point, everyone thought we were being naïve for going there. And even though we would like to tell you about our worrisome encounter at the Transnistrian border or our crazy adventures in the semi-state itself, it was actually smooth sailing. I assume that because we were with the bus and the bus driver came with us to the border check, they didn’t ask us for money. We got a migration card saying we could stay in the “country” for 10 hours and that was that. I would say the whole border experience on the way there and back lasted no longer than 5 minutes and was really painless.

We didn’t spent much time in Tiraspol, the capital, itself since we had to head back to Iasi the same day. We saw some state buildings, the university, a Lenin statue, and had some delicious Russian food which we felt was enough. We could’ve probably seen more but considering how much time we had we felt quite satisfied with the experience. The atmosphere in the city was interesting. It felt very post-Soviet, but it also felt like it was a long way away from the outside world. And we have to say, they do seem to adore the Russians and the Soviet Union a lot here. Everywhere you could see references to how happy they are with the great relationship between Russia and Transnistria. It felt like Transnistria was looking up to its big brother Russia. I’m not too sure the locals are happy with it. We spoke to one that sold post cards and he almost begged us to pay him in American dollars since the Transnistrian rubles aren’t worth much.

All in all, we would definitely recommend going to Moldova and Transnistria if you’re staying in Iasi (or somewhere around the area). Looking past the shaky bus ride, it was very doable and the overall costs barely cost a penny. And how cool is it to say that you’ve been in a breakaway state? You could always spice up the story more than we did.

Practical information:

  • Don’t forget your passport, as Moldova is not in the European Union and Transnistria is not recognized as an independent country.
  • Iasi > Chisinau:
    • ~ 4 hour bus ride
    • 35 lei (around €8)
    • Take the bus in Iasi opposite the central train station
    • You can find the timetable here
    • If you’re taking the bus in the afternoon it is recommended to reserve your tickets in advance
  • Chisinau > Tiraspol
    • 2 hour bus ride
    • 50 Moldovan lei (around €2,50)
    • Take the bus in Chisinau at the central bus station
    • Busses going every half an hour
  • Tiraspol > Chisinau
    • 72 Moldovan lei (around €3,30)
    • Take the bus in Tiraspol at the central train station
  • Chisinau > Iasi
    • Take the bus from Autogara Sud

 

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