{{ message }}

Moldova

{{ message }}

Radisson Blu Leogrand Hotel
Radisson Blu Leogrand Hotel - dream vacation

77 Mitropolit Varlaam Street, Chisinau

Art Rustic
Art Rustic - dream vacation

79/1, Alexandru Hijdeu Str., Chisinau

Hotel Codru
Hotel Codru - dream vacation

31 august 1989 Street 127, Chisinau

Jumbo Hotel
Jumbo Hotel - dream vacation

Decebal Street 23/3, Chisinau

Jolly Alon
Jolly Alon - dream vacation

37 M Chibotaru Street, Chisinau

Chisinau
Chisinau - dream vacation

7 Negruzzi Blvd, Chisinau

Not to be confused with the neighbouring Romanian region of Moldavia.

Moldova is a small land-locked country in Eastern Europe, north of the Balkans, surrounded by Romania to the southwest, across the Prut river, and Ukraine to the north and east. The largely unrecognised Transnistria occupies a sliver of the area bordering Ukraine east of the Nistru River.

Cities

  • Chişinău - capital - an administrative municipality (Municipiul). A nice city to go and visit for some days, and to walk around in.
  • Bălţi - merits a visit as well as the capital. Nice pedestrian zone around the central square. Check out the old part of the city.
  • Soroca - known as the "Romani (Gypsy) capital of Moldova." The hill on the west side of town has numerous ornately decorated Roma houses. The city also boasts the Soroca fort built by Stefan cel Mare in 1499. It was an important link in the chain of fortifications which today are located in Moldova and Ukraine along the Nistru river. Hours can be sporadic especially in the winter. On the road into town, 5 kilometres to the south of Soroca there is a Monument called “The Candle of Gratitude”. One can reach the 29.5 metres (98 feet) summit by walking up the 600 stairs.

Other destinations

  • Orheiul Vechi Monastery. The complex is carved into a massive limestone cliff and this wild, rocky and remote spot is one of Moldova's most fantastic sights. Dug by Orthodox monks in the 13th century, this monastery of caves is very unspoilt by commercial exploitation, but sometimes the local kids will offer you their carvings. Visiting the rock-hewn monastic cells does not have to be strenuous since you can drive a track to the clifftop and then negotiate a goat path.

Understand

The capital of Moldova is Chişinău. The local language is Romanian, but Russian is widely used. Moldova is a multi-ethnic republic that has suffered from ethnic conflict. In 1994, this conflict led to the creation of the self-proclaimed Transnistria Republic in eastern Moldova, which has its own government and currency but is not recognised by any other UN member country. Economic links have been re-established between these two parts of Moldova despite the failure in political negotiations. The major religion in Moldova is Orthodox Christian.

Moldova's population is occupied mainly in food production and processing. Once known as "the garden" of the Soviet Union, Moldova has now lost most of its traditional Russian markets for agricultural products and is exploring new international markets. Main foreign currency earnings are from remittances by workers forced by poverty and poor local prospects to work abroad.

Climate

Continental cold and snowy winters, mild springs and autumns, and warm to hot summers.

Terrain

Landlocked. Rolling steppe, gradual slope south towards the Black Sea. Well endowed with various sedimentary rocks and minerals including sand, gravel, gypsum, and limestone. Natural hazards: experiences landslides (57 cases in 1998) due to extensive soil erosion from poor farming methods

The lowest point is the Dniester River at 2 m and the highest point is Dealul Balanesti at 430 m.

History

It was a principality under the suzerainty (protection) of the Ottoman Empire, then part of the Russian Empire after 1811, then part of Romania after World War I. Moldova was forcefully incorporated into the Soviet Union during World War II.

  • Independence - 27 August 1991 (from Soviet Union)
  • National holiday - Independence Day, 27 August (1991)
  • Constitution - new constitution adopted 28 July 1994; replaces old Soviet constitution of 1979

Although independent from the Soviet Union since 1991, Russian forces have remained on Moldovan territory east of the Dniester River supporting the Slavic population, mostly Ukrainians and Russians, who have proclaimed the breakaway republic of Transnistria.

The poorest nation in Europe, Moldova became the first former Soviet state to elect a communist government and president in 2001. The Communist party remains powerful in local politics.

Culture

Geographically located at the crossroads of Latin, Slavic and other cultures, Moldova has enriched its own culture by adopting and maintaining some of the traditions of its neighbours and of other influences.

Moldova has a distinct culture, but has heavy influences from Russia, Romania and Ukraine. These influences are most visible in the cuisine in Moldova. While Moldova certainly has its own culinary style, including Mamaliga, Zeama, Placinta and other traditional dishes, a lot of the food eaten or sold here originated from Russia or Romania.

Moldovan music has a distinctive flair, but is what you might expect in eastern Europe. There are a lot of accordions and the traditional costumes and dances are similar to Russian traditional ones - which is unsurprising considering Moldova was a part of the USSR for more than 40 years.

Get in

Citizens of Canada, CIS countries, the EU, Japan, Norway, Switzerland and the US do not need a visa to enter Moldova and can stay in the country for up to 90 days within a six month period without registration. Citizens of other countries must either obtain a visa in the nearest Moldovan embassy or alternatively could obtain a visa on arrival in Chişinău airport and on some land border crossings provided that an officially endorsed invitation letter from Moldova is obtained beforehand.

By entering into Moldova via Ukraine, be aware you may be crossing Transnistria. Some buses from Odessa go through Tiraspol, while others go around, exchanging the two border crossings with more time on the road. Transnistria is an unrecognised state in the east of Moldova bordering Ukraine, which broke off from the country after a war in 1992. There are generally few issues for Westerners in crossing Transnistrian borders by bus, although foreign travellers have experienced problems in the past. There is, however, a small chance that foreign tourists may be asked to pay bribes, although the buses which travel between Ukraine, Transnistria and the rest of Moldova usually handle negotiations at the border well, collecting passports and negotiating with Transnistrian authorities. Also, there is no Moldovan border check between Transnistria and the rest of Moldova as Moldova does not recognise Transnistria as a state, so you might have some explaining to do when you try to leave Moldova without an entrance stamp.

By plane

The busiest air connections are to Bucharest, Budapest, Istanbul, Moscow, Munich, Timisoara and Vienna. Prices are relatively high. The cheapest tickets are to Bucharest, Istanbul, Kiev, Milan-Bergamo and Moscow. Moldova has three airlines.

By train

Possibly the cheapest way to get into the country is to take the overnight train. There are daily trains from Romania and Ukraine.

The train from Bucharest lewves at 19:15 and arrives at about 07:00. A ticket in a 2nd class, 4-berth sleeper is 110 Romanian Leu, or 222 lei in a 1st class, 2-berth sleeper (2017). Since flights into Bucharest cost ~US$200 less than those into Moldova, this is the best option if you have the time. At the border crossing the cars are lifted individually onto larger gauge wheels to fit Moldovan tracks. Crossing the border from Ukraine is smoother, as both countries use the same track gauge.

By car

When coming by car one should be sure to use a border crossing with a (non-stop) visa issuing office. You will have to pay a small road tax at the border. A person driving a car which is not registered in their own name must carry a letter of authority from the registered owner of the vehicle.

By bus

There are regular buses connecting Chişinău with Bucharest, Kiev and most major Romanian and Ukrainian cities. There are 5-6 buses per day to and from Bucharest. Due to a longer stay at the border the trip takes around 10 hours. There is a basic toilet at the border, however most coaches do not make any other stops. You will also be able to travel to most European cities by bus with Moldovan bus companies. When coming by bus one should be sure to use a frontier with a (non-stop) visa issuing office.

  • Kiev, 2 daily, 250 lei, 12 hours
  • Moscow, 4 daily, 700 lei, 30 hours
  • Odessa, 20 daily, 90 lei, 5 hours
  • Sevastopol, daily, 430 lei, 18 hours
  • Brasov, 5 daily, 200 lei, 12 hours

http://www.autogara.md/

By boat

Although the country is landlocked, there is a ferry service between Giurgiulesti in Moldova and Istanbul, Turkey, plying the river Danube to reach the Black Sea. They leave Giurgiulesti every Monday and arrive at Istanbul the following Wednesday. It's not certain if this ferry service is only limited to the high season.

Get around

The most reliable and extensive domestic transport is bus - you will get to most parts of the country.

Chişinău is the main transportation hub for the country. The three bus stations serve every city and town in Moldova. The fastest form of transport are small minibuses which seat around 15 people. Larger buses are also used and are marginally safer, because they travel at slower speeds.

In Chișinău there is a state run trolleybus system which includes many new vehicles. Fare is 2 lei; a conductress collects fares and issues tickets. There is also a 'bus service which operates with fewer routes.

Minibuses (rutierele in Moldovan Romanian; marshrutki in Russian) are available in most cities. They are privately operated and are called by requesting the vehicle to stop, however can often be very crowded. Drivers should be paid on boarding (3 lei in Chișinău), however some insist on sitting down first and by passing the money to the person in front of them to pass to the driver, so don't be alarmed if random people behind you start handing you money.

Talk

The state language of Moldova is Romanian, officially referred to as Moldovan. Russian is also widely spoken in the country, both as a first and second language. Ukrainian and Gagauz are recognised minority languages, with official status in areas with high concentration of speaker populations. French, and to a lesser extent English and German are popular foreign languages taught at most schools in Moldova.

In Moldova where you plan to be will determine the language you need. There are pockets where Russian is more predominate than Romanian and vice versa. Most people here understand basic Romanian, and almost all understand Russian even if they prefer to speak in Romanian.

The linguistic breakdown in this country is indicative often of political leanings. The name itself of the native language is a source of endless political controversy. Some refer to the local language as Romanian (limba română), some refer to the same language as Moldovan (limba moldovenească), and others simply prefer to speak Russian. As a foreigner if you can speak basic Romanian or Russian you will be able to get around.

See

Museums

There are several museums in downtown Chişinău, including the museum of Archaeology and Ethnography, the museum of Natural History and the National Museum of Fine Arts.

Wine

Moldova is famous for its wines, and high-quality wines at inexpensive prices are Moldova’s main tourist attraction.

Milestii Mici - With over 200 kilometres (125 miles) of underground roadways, Milestii Mici is registered in the Guinness World Records as the biggest wine collection in the world. It may be easer to book a tour through a travel agency as one must provide a car for the tour. [1] +373 22 382 333.

Cricova - Moldova’s second largest wine cellar has over 120 kilometres (75 miles) of underground roads. Only a 15 minutes drive from Chişinău, it is a favourite of tourists. +373 22-277 378.

Purcari - One of the oldest wineries in Moldova, Purcari wine has been drunk by Russian Emperor Nicolai II and his first cousin, English King George V.

Branesti - A smaller and reasonably priced wine cellar. It lies close to Orheiul Vechi Monastery which makes it perfect for combining a monastry tour with wine tasting.

Monasteries

Orheiul Vechi - Moldova's best known sight is a 13th-century Cave Monastery located about a half hour drive from Chişinău. Just up the road is a tourist centre with a small museum, restaurant and hotel. Call ahead to make sure it's open at +373 235 34 242. The cost to enter the complex is 20 lei or 15 if you are a student - but none of the locals seem to bother to stop to pay. Six marshrutka services run between Chişinău central bus station and the tourist complex every day. In the vicinity are huge cliffs that contain another six complexes of interlocking caves. It is highly advised to not explore them without the help of an experienced guide. The remains of a Turkish bath house is also just off the river.

Capriana Monastery - One of Moldova’s most prominent monasteries only 40 km (25 miles) from Chişinău. Buses run hourly in the morning from Calea Ieşilor in the Sculeni part of Chişinău.

Bender (or Tighina in Romanian) - Another fortification is The Fortress of Bender, however it is being used as a military training ground and is off limits. The best views are from the bridge going towards Tiraspol.

Tipova Monastery - Rock monastery situated by Nistru river in mid-eastern Moldova.

Saharna

Do

Buy

Money

The leu (plural: lei) is the currency of Moldova (ISO 4217 code MDL) . Like the Romanian leu, the Moldovan leu is subdivided into 100 bani (singular: ban). The name of the currency originates in Romania and means "lion".

While in Moldova make sure to visit at least one piata and check out the Soviet memorbilia, but be careful as sellers may charge foreigners much higher prices than locals.

Banknotes are in 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000 lei denominations.

Shopping

Local wine is of superb quality and cheap in comparison to other countries, but for political reasons is mostly unknown in Western Europe.

Eat

Chişinău is a good place for gourmands. There are a lot of good places to eat all over Chişinău.

Cheap, tasty food that is very popular with the locals is served in most places. For better service and more diverse food, there are a lot of small restaurants and cafés. Good restaurants have prices comparable to those elsewhere in Europe. For a quick lunch, fast food and pizza shops are recommended; these can be found at nearly every corner. For groceries, there are small shops all over. Some are even right in front of apartment blocks just a few steps away from the entrances. For harder-to-find items, go to the supermarkets. For fresh fruits and vegetables, markets are a great place to shop. Most of the products are local, but there are a lot of sellers who to sell imported stuff, mostly oranges, bananas and other tropical fruits/vegetables. Meat and meat products are best purchased from supermarkets or shops. The quality is much better than from the market, and the prices aren't much higher.

While in Moldova, make sure you try at least some of the traditional dishes here - Mamaliga, placinta and sarmale are essential for a complete experience in your visit to Moldova. These should, for the full experience be accompanied by homemade wine.

Drink

Moldova has a long local wines tradition. Especially the reds are popular throughout the country. Most Moldovan villagers grow their own grapes and press their own wine, and many standard rural households will press thousands of litres per year.

The nightlife of Chişinău is also quite spectacular compared to what could be expected. It is the host of many clubs and bars that are equal in every aspect to many other places throughout Eastern Europe.

Sleep

Accommodation in Chişinău is surprisingly expensive and there is no shortage of €100 a night options. Most hotel prices are listed in euros but some are listed in US dollars.

Many smaller towns will have a Soviet relic hotel complete with service with a frown. Rates will be high for what you're getting. In many places it's possible to pay about €10 to stay in a local's house. This is an informal arrangement and can only be organized by talking to people upon arrival but it is well worth considering if you want to get out into the countryside.

Hostels. Hostelling is still in its infancy in Moldova, but there are a few nice hostels to be found in Chişinău. Amongst others Chişinău Hostel and Central Youth Hostel. Prices range from US$10–20.

Apartments. Many people in Chişinău rent out apartments. The location and quality can vary. Many are also not very modern. You may want to use a booking company as it may be hard to find people who speak English. Price €20–50. You can book an apartment in Chisinau on the site www.MoldovaRent.com

Learn

While none are internationally accredited, there are universities in ChisinauBalti and Cahul.

Stay safe

Visitors to Moldova for business or romance should be aware of the potential risk of scams, particularly if first contact was made on the Internet. international financial scams and Russian Internet dating schemes.

The break-away region of Transnistria has proclaimed (and largely achieved) independence but lacks diplomatic recognition. Consequently, consular support in case of emergency will usually be lacking. Corrupt police and border guards may try to extort bribe money but 'normal' crime rates are low. Locals are generally very friendly and will go to great lengths to provide hospitality to foreigners. You can expect a lengthy, and inevitability boozy, meal to be offered to you just in your honour.

Conservative dress must be worn at religious sites. Shorts are forbidden and women must cover their heads inside the monasteries and churches.

While bribery and police corruption are still problems in Moldova, the situation is improving. It is still advised that tourists have the number of their embassy and the contact information of where they are staying. Foreigners are also required to have their passports on them at all times. There is however usually no one checking this in any normal setting.

Alcohol consumption can also be a problem. Running into drunks especially at night is common. Most are friendly; they often come off as aggressive and will invade your personal space. This can be scary the first couple of times. Politely walking away normally works. People coming from a country where less alcohol is consumed can find themselves becoming the drunks.

Stay healthy

The heavy use of agricultural chemicals, including banned pesticides such as DDT, has contaminated soil and groundwater. If you are concerned, water for drinking, cooking and oral hygiene should be taken from a known safe source, as ordinary water treatment, including boiling, does not remove such chemical contamination.

Respect

Respect women. Chivalry is utmost in Moldova, just like in other Eastern European countries. If you are out in public, open doors for women and let them walk in first. Do not make disparaging comments about women in Moldova, or you may find yourself in trouble with the locals.

When visiting Moldova, be careful when referring the locals as Romanians as not all Moldovans identify themselves as such. Study your host first: some Moldovans identify as Moldovan, and some as Romanian. This also applies to the language issue as well, although the larger part of Moldovans do refer to it as Romanian in everyday speech.

Also be careful when talking about Moldova to the Romanians in Romania, as there is also a part of Romania called Moldova, which many Romanians will think you are actually reffering to.

Also be careful when expressing pro-lgbtqa views, since some Moldovans (men especially) can be quite homophobic, as is quite often the case in CIS states nowadays. Please stay safe.

Connect

The first time I remember hearing about Moldova was the day after my wedding. I was in a second-hand store, buying books to take with me on honeymoon, and I picked up Tony Hawks’s Playing Tennis with the Moldovans. It looked amusing, and I bought it, but I wasn’t sure if the Moldova of the title was a real country or an invented one, like Krakozhia or Tazbekistan.

A small amount of research revealed that it was indeed real, and in eastern Europe, but that travelling there would involve a tedious amount of form filling and back-and-forth to get a visa. Unless, of course, we visited in early October for the annual wine festival, when getting a visa would be slightly easier (but still annoying).

Pin me on Pinterest!Moldova sat at the back of our minds for years, always just slightly out of reach for one reason or another. Every year, we examined our calendar to see if this October could be the October we drank wine in Moldova, but it never happened — until this year. When once again researching travel options, I discovered that Moldova had changed its visa requirements, and that Kiwis no longer needed a visa. The decision was made; we’d go.

Sources disagreed as to when the wine festival would be and flights weren’t as cheap as we’d have liked, but we worked it out and finally arrived in Chișinău on October 1, 2015. Unfortunately, the wine festival we’d been wanting to attend for about ten years had been canceled. Well, modified. Instead of a large event in the centre of Chișinău, there were many smaller events, hosted by the wineries themselves; free transport was provided from the city centre and there would still be plenty of wine involved.

To listen, hit play below or find episode 309 in iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud:

In the end, we loved Moldova. The laid-back atmosphere of central Chișinău, the dilapidated grandeur of the government buildings, the ridiculous state of the pavements (apparently vastly improved from when Tony Hawks was there… no uncovered manholes now!). And, of course, the wine. We drank a fair bit of it under the guise of research, and it’s fantastic. In fact, it’s almost enough of a drawcard to convince us to spend considerably more time in this country.

Fact box

Name: Moldova. Location: In eastern Europe, between Romania and Ukraine. Population: 3.46 million. Language: Romanian. Russian is widely spoken in Transnistria. Capital: Chișinău. Known for: Wine. Temperatures: Lows go below 0 in winter and highs in summer hover around 27-30. It’s mostly dry, with rainfalls in early summer and in October. Airport: Chișinău International Airport (KIV), 13km from Chișinău. Takes about half an hour to get into the centre of town by public transport. Currency: Moldovan lei. €1 = 22.4 lei, US$1 = 19.8 lei. Price of a pint: 17-30 lei. Price of a dorm bed: From €8/US$9. Price of a double room: From €15/US$17. Price of a public transport ticket: 2 or 3 lei

Tell me more about Moldova!

If you’re considering a trip to Moldova, do it! The old cliche of somewhere being unspoiled by tourism is true here, so we really felt like we were experiencing the country the way a local might. Many people speak English, especially in hotels, though you’ll need a few words of Romanian to buy bus tickets and in restaurants, though choosing food shouldn’t be a problem; many of the restaurants we went to had a picture menu as standard or included English translations.

The local currency is the lei, and it’s easy to change money in the many exchange bureaus. The booth at the airport gave a very fair rate, though we found a slightly better one at a bank in central Chișinău. That’s pronounced “KISH – ee – now” by the way; we’ve been saying it wrong for years!

Moldovan wine

Wine is an important part of the Moldovan economy, and has been since the country was part of the USSR. In fact, one in every two bottles of table wine, and one in three bottles of sparkling wine consumed in the Soviet Union was made here. Now it’s primarily produced for export, as many Moldovans make wine at home and don’t have any need for the fancy stuff made by the big names. We enjoyed stopping into the small shops to buy a one-litre plastic bottle or two of brandless local wine, but make sure to taste the good stuff too.

The easiest way to do that is to plan your visit to coincide with the annual wine festival in the first weekend of October. It’s usually held in the Great National Assembly Square in the centre of Chișinău; all of the wineries are represented and you can wander from stall to stall tasting as many wines as you like, for free. In 2015 protesters were occupying the square so the festival was modified — free transport was provided to many of the wineries, which each put on free or paid events. Our favourite was the event at Butuceni, which most closely resembled the ordinary festival: the small wineries got together to put on a mini-festival for the small charge of 40 lei.

The mini wine festival event was just getting underway when we arrived.

If you can’t visit in October, many of the wineries run tours of their factories that end with a tasting. You’ll have to email the wineries directly for information about times and prices as their websites are all lacking in that regards, though almost all will organise a tour in English at a time that’s convenient for you. Asconi and Cricova are both an easy day trip from Chisinau, and we visited both Purcari and Et Cetera on our way to Odessa.

Purcari has 16 wines on offer!

Getting to Moldova

Arriving by air means flying into Chișinău International Airport (KIV), about 13km to the southeast of Chișinău. You can catch a taxi into the city if you like, but the cheapest option is minibus number 165. Turn right out of the airport terminal and you’ll find a cluster of vans at the far end of the building. It costs 3 lei per person (with an extra charge for a large bag) and you’ll be dropped on Ismail Street, or earlier if you prefer.

You can also arrive by land from Ukraine and Romania. There’s a once-daily train to and from Odessa, but buses are more frequent. There are three bus terminals in Chișinău: Central, North and South-West. International buses tend to arrive at the North station, which is (confusingly) located on the east side of the city.

Get around Chișinău

Public transport is made up of mini-buses, buses and trolleybuses, and is easy to use if you’re going in a straight line; it’s not so great for connecting odd areas of the city. Mini buses cost 3 lei per journey, pay the driver as you enter. Trolley buses and regular buses cost 2 and 3 lei respectively. You can board from any door and a conductor will find you to take your money; make sure to have small change. You can also walk around the centre of Chișinău without too many problems, though the pavements are in a sorry state.

The Victory Arch is one of the symbols of Chisinau.

Get around Moldova

To really explore the country, hiring a car is probably your best option. You can get to many destinations by bus or minibus, but finding out where to catch them, how much they cost, and how long the journey is, can be challenge! Tour companies such as TatraBis provide fairly-priced day tours, which can take a lot of the hassle out of planning, or see below for some day trip ideas.

Accommodation in Moldova

There’s a wide range of accommodation options in Chișinău, from couchsurfing hosts to five-star hotels, and everything in between; since the country is so small, you can base yourself in Chișinău and do day trips to most destinations. We mostly used AirBnB for our stay and had a great experience. You’re more likely to find an English-speaking receptionist at a a hostel or a larger hotel; our one night in a tiny hotel was amusing for the lack of communication that went on.

If you want to explore more of the country, you could consider staying overnight in Soroca, at the Butuceni Eco-resort, or at one of the wineries that offer accommodation (like Purcari winery or Chateau Vartely; Asconi, Castel Mimi and Et Cetera are in the process of creating accommodation).

If you stay at Butuceni, you’ll have the chance to try your hand at making traditional food.

What to do in Chișinău

Pick up a “Hello Chișinău” map from the information desk at the airport, as well as a similarly branded country map. The Chișinău map has the key sights clearly marked, and there’s even a one-hour “city monument tour” marked on it. If you take a photo of each of the key sights, then visit a certain souvenir shop, you’ll be given a small gift — cheesy but fun! There are a range of museums to visit, dedicated to (among other things) ethnography, art, beer, and coffee; take your pick! You should also wander through the central market and shop like the locals for everything from fresh fruit and vegetables, to stationery, clothes and toys.

Delicious and beautiful fruit in the market of Chisinau.

A photo posted by Craig and Linda (@indietravel) on Oct 12, 2015 at 1:56pm PDT

Day trip to Transnistria

Transnistria is an unrecognised breakaway republic in Moldova, propped up by Russian separatists and, in the words of one person we met, “still living in the USSR”. We were warned it was dangerous, but — if anything — our two day trips were a little boring. Of course, one trip wasn’t quite planned.

Make sure to visit the Kvint cognac distillery while you’re in Transnistria: it was our highlight, both for the tour and the extremely high quality and value of the ‘divin’ (cognac) on offer. Other highlights in Tiraspol, the capital, are the soviet-style monuments to war heroes, randomly placed tanks and military installations, and the beautiful churches and Orthodox shrines.

To get to Transnistria you can catch a minibus towards Tiraspol from the Central bus station; tickets cost 37 lei and you can buy them from a small booth before you board the bus. Getting back can be a challenge as return buses to Chișinău don’t leave from the Tiraspol bus station but from a parallel street; we caught a local bus to Bender to see the fortress (bright yellow bus 19, 3 roubles) and then returned to Chișinău from the Bender bus station, which was pretty easy to find. Return tickets cost 30 roubles each.

Inside the Kvint museum in Tiraspol, Transnistria.

Final thoughts

We highly recommend a trip to Moldova, especially if you’re interested in wine — in which case, go in October for the wine festival. To us, it seems like one of those magical places that are almost untouched by tourism, it retains its charm while looking to the future. Of course, this may change now that it’s opening up, so go now! Or at least, next October — maybe we’ll see you there.

To listen to us talk about Moldova, hit play above or check in iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud.

Moldova’s one of those countries that doesn’t get much press, though that has been changing recently with the high-profile arrest of its president for corruption. It’s poor and misunderstood, but is rapidly forming new connections with Western Europe and is sharing its spectacular wine with the world.

Geography

Pin me on Pinterest!

Where is Moldova?

Moldova is located in eastern Europe. It’s a land-locked country that’s shaped roughly like a semi-circle, with Romania to the west and Ukraine to the north, east and south. Its southeastern point almost touches the Black Sea.

Which country is close to Moldova? Which country is to the west of Moldova?

Romania borders Moldova to the west, and Ukraine is to the east. Bulgaria isn’t far away, it’s easily reached through Romania; and Turkey is to the south and south-east, reached through Romania and Bulgaria by bus, or across the Black Sea.

What is the landmass of Moldova? How big is Moldova?

Moldova is quite a small country, especially in comparison to its neighbours Ukraine and Romania. It has a landmass of 33.843 sq km.

What is the capital city of Moldova?

The capital city of Moldova is Chișinău, which is located in the center-south of the country. You pronounce Chișinău “KISH-ee-now”.

The Victory Arch is one of the symbols of Chisinau.

General facts

What is the currency of Moldova?

The currency of Moldova is the leu (singular), or lei (plural). One euro = 22.5 lei, one US dollar = 19.8 lei. Credit cards are accepted in many restaurants and in major hotels, but you’ll need cash for most transactions. ATMs are widespread and currency exchanges are located almost every 50m in Chișinău. The exchange office in the airport gives a fair exchange rate.

What language is spoken in Moldova? What is the native language of Moldova?

The official language of Moldova is Romanian, and Russian is also widely spoken. A Turkish dialect called Gaguaz is spoken in some areas.

English is not widespread, though it is now being taught at school from the first year of study. Many younger people and people in the tourism industry speak good English, but it is not common among older people.

You will see English on some signs, like this one at Asconi Winery.

What is the climate like in Moldova?

Moldova has a temperate climate, with hot summers and winters that can be quite cold. Lows go below 0 in winter and highs in summer hover around 27-30. It’s mostly dry, with rainfalls in early summer and in October.

How safe is Moldova?

We found Moldova to be a very safe country. Corruption is a problem at a state level, and there is a big anti-corruption press campaign going on at the moment, as well as frequent protests. Pickpocketing is as common as in other European countries, and because of poor street lighting it’s important to be careful at night. You’re most likely to have problems with the uneven pavements!

Economy and government

What type of government does Moldova have?

Moldova is a parliamentary republic. It was part of Romania until the Second World War, when it became part of the USSR. It declared independence in 1991 and joined the UN in 1992. In 2014 it signed the Association Agreement with the European Union.

What is the economy like in Moldova?

Moldova is the poorest country in Europe and is plagued by corruption. A major part of its production is produce, and since Russia banned produce imports from Moldova in 2014, the fruit and vegetable industry is having major problems at present.

What is the average salary in Moldova?

The current average monthly salary is increasing, it’s currently around 4,900 lei or US$250. The GDP is US$3500.

Why is Moldova not part of the European Union?

Moldova is a relatively new country that is rapidly opening up. It signed the Association Agreement with the European Union in 2014, so although it’s not a member it is associated with the EU, and may be able to join in the future.

Why is Moldova so poor?

It’s a largely agricultural society plagued by corruption. Things seem to be changing now, though, with more connection with the western world and more opportunities for young people to choose alternative jobs.

Et Cetera winery is conveniently located on the road from Chisinau to Odessa, so we visited this morning before finally making it to Ukraine! The highlight was trying wine straight from the vat.

A photo posted by Craig and Linda (@indietravel) on Oct 18, 2015 at 6:37am PDT

Tourism

Do I need a visa for Moldova?

Probably not! On April 28, 2014, Moldova made a huge change to their visa regime which means that citizens of many countries don’t need a visa to enter. So if you’re from the EU, US, Canada, New Zealand, or Australia, no visa is required. South Africans still require a visa. Check the official website for more information.

What is Moldova famous for? What is Moldova best known for?

Moldova is perhaps best known for its wine, which is absolutely delicious. Most Moldovan families make wine at home, so the wineries chiefly produce wines for export. This is a relatively new industry and it’s growing fast.

There are also a lot of amazing religious buildings and institutions in Moldova, including churches and monasteries. There are castles and fortresses dating back to medieval times, as well as historical monuments to visit.

Soroca Fortress in the north of the country is worth a visit.

What to do in Moldova?

Since wine is such an important part of the culture, visit during the first weekend of October to take part in the annual wine festival. This festival has been running for 15 years and now that citizens of most countries don’t need a visa to enter the country, it’s a lot easier to get to.

There are a lot of wines to taste — Purcari has 16 on offer!

How much is a beer in Moldova?

In a local restaurant, expect to pay around 20 lei for a small beer (less than €1 or US$1). Check out Andy’s Pizza’s menu for more food and drink prices.

There are a couple of boutique breweries that are worth checking out, though the beer is a little more expensive.

Should I visit Moldova?

If you like wine, definitely. If you want to visit somewhere that’s relatively untouched by western tourism, it’s also a good choice; and if you’re into architecture you’ll also like it. It isn’t full of tourist attractions and getting around by public transport can be a challenge, but I think it’s certainly worth a visit.

Where should I stay in Moldova?

Moldova is a small country and most of its attractions are easily reached within two hours’ drive from Chișinău. You’re best to base yourself there, and you’ll find a full range of accommodation options, from apartment rentals to five-star hotels. Check out Hostelbookers for hostels or Booking.com for hotels.

If you want to get out of the city, consider an overnight stay at Butuceni Eco-resort, or at one of the wineries that offer accommodation (like Purcari or Chateau Vartely; Asconi, Castel Mimi, and Et Cetera are in the process of creating accommodation).

If you stay at Butuceni, you’ll have the chance to try your hand at making traditional food.

How to get to Moldova?

There are direct flights from many European cities, such as London and Milan. Wizz Air is a good budget choice: check options on Skyscanner. You can also arrive by bus or (infrequent) train from Romania or Ukraine.

Which Moldova guidebook should I buy?

Online information about Moldova is scarce (though Moldova Holiday is quite useful) so a guidebook could be a good option. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many available. If you’re travelling there as part of a larger trip, Lonely Planet’s Europe on a shoestring and Eastern Europe guidebooks both include basic information, but their Romania and Moldova guide was last published in 2007.

Do I need insurance for Moldova?

Yes, it’s always a good idea to have travel insurance. We use World Nomads, which allows you to extend your policy and make claims online.

Do you have any questions about Moldova? Ask in the comments below.

Some of the links in this post are affiliates.

Moldova

Safari the Globe

This cultural guide for the traveler has information about the present day culture of Moldova along with the causes of that culture. Do you want to learn how to eat like the Moldovans? Or dress like the locals? Do you want to learn about the local religion? Perhaps you only want to see Moldova's tourist highlights. Whatever your goal is, this cultural guide for the traveler will help you learn the local culture, from superstitions to the architecture, while also showing you the country's top tourist sites. This cultural guide helps you know Moldova and will help you understand why Moldova is that way.This cultural guide for the traveler is great for travelers who want to learn more about the local culture of Moldova, while also gaining insight into the country's top sites & highlights. This guide is for the culturally-curious traveler who wants to better understand the people; it's great for business travelers, those living in Moldova, and tourists who want to do more than just see the highlights.

Romania & Moldova (Lonely Planet Travel Guides)

Cathryn Kemp

This guide to both Romania and Moldova provides detailed coverage of the magnificent Carpathians and Dracula's homeland, Transylvania.

Moldova History: Early History, Beginning of the Soviet Period, Population, Ethnic Composition, Culture, Economy, Government

Henry Albinson

History of Moldova includes, Moldova Language, Moldova Religion, and Culture, Moldova Education, Moldova Health, and Welfare, Moldova Economy, Moldova Government, Moldova Foreign Relations, Moldova tourism, Moldova travel guideThe history of the republic of Moldova is the history of two different regions that have been joined into one country, but not into one nation: Bessarabia and Transnistria. Bessarabia, the land between the Prut and Nistru rivers, is predominantly ethnic Romanian in population and constitutes the eastern half of a region historically known as Moldova or Moldavia (the Soviet-era Russian name). Transnistria is the Romanian-language name for the land on the east bank of the Nistru River; the majority of the population there is Slavic--ethnic Ukrainians and Russians-- although Romanians are the single largest ethnic group there.To a great extent, Moldova's history has been shaped by the foreigners who came to stay and by those who merely passed through, including Greek colonists, invading Turks and Tatars, officials of the Russian Empire, German and Bulgarian colonists, communist apparatchiks from the Soviet Union, soldiers from Nazi Germany, Romanian conationalists, and twentieth-century Russian and Ukrainian immigrants. Each group has left its own legacy, sometimes cultural and sometimes political, and often unwelcome

Moldova in Depth: A Peace Corps Publication

Peace Corps

Moldova is uniquely located at the frontier of Eastern and Western cultures. This has contributed to a long and difficult struggle by the indigenous Moldovan people to maintain their cultural and political sovereignty. During the Middle Ages (as in modern times) Moldova, like other principalities in the region, engaged in efforts toward the maintenance and recognition of its independence, the defense of its territory, and the preservation of its borders. One of the country‘s most glorious eras occurred during the reign of Stefan cel Mare (Steven the Great) between 1457 and 1504. During these years, Moldovans won impressive victories over the Turks, Tartars, Hungarians, Poles, and other invaders. This temporary success, however, was no guarantee of the nation‘s future stability. Under the permanent threat of invasion, the principalities of this region unified as a means to resist aggression. The first unification—of Transylvania, Moldova, and Muntenia—took place during the rule of Mihai Viteazul (1593 to 1601). Although short-lived, this event served as a precedent for the union of the principalities of Tara Romaneasca and Moldova to form a new country, Romania, in 1859. Following the Crimean War, political stability in the area was fleeting. In 1856, Russia lost the southern region of Basarabia to Moldova, only to gain it back from Romania in 1878 at the Congress of Berlin. With the collapse of the Russian Empire in 1918, this area, made up of part of the present territory of Moldova and part of Ukraine, declared its independence and reunited with Romania. The newly formed Union of Soviet Socialist Republics refused to recognize this reunification, however, and in 1924 created the Moldavian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. In June 1940, after Hitler and Stalin signed the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of nonaggression, the Soviet Union annexed additional territory to form the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic (MSSR). In the early 1940s, as World War II raged in Europe, Romania again claimed the territory of the MSSR. As the war came to a conclusion, the Soviet Union annexed the region again for a final time. Subsequently, in an attempt to create a uniform culture among the Soviet republics, the leadership of the Soviet Union began a period of intense Russification, replacing Moldovans‘ traditional Latin alphabet with the Cyrillic alphabet and Romanian with Russian as the official language. The tone of Soviet leadership changed in 1986 with the introduction of a policy of glasnost (openness) by President Mikhail Gorbachev. This new policy permitted the pursuit of traditional culture by the Moldovan population and leadership and set the stage for the republic‘s independence. On August 27, 1991, Moldova declared its independence, an event that is now celebrated every year on that date. To restore the cultural heritage of the majority of its citizens, the Moldovan government reestablished Romanian, using the Latin alphabet, as the national language.

MOLDOVA Country Studies: A brief, comprehensive study of Moldova

CIA

A brief yet detailed report on the country of Moldova with updated information on the map, flag, history, people, economics, political conditions in government, foreign affairs, and U.S. relations.

Map of Moldova Journal: 150 page lined notebook/diary

Cool Image

A life worth living is worth recording, and what better place than this journal? These lined pages crave your scribbled notes, thoughts, ideas, experiences, and notions. Fill the lines, remember your life, don't lose your ideas, and keep reaching higher to live the best life you can. It all starts here, folks, but you'll need your own pen or pencil. Write on!

Lonely Planet Romania & Bulgaria (Travel Guide)

Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher

Lonely Planet Romania & Bulgaria is your passport to all the most relevant and up-to-date advice on what to see, what to skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Absorb the vibrant landscape by hiking the Carpathians, relax on Bulgaria's Black Sea coast, or experience the kaleidoscope of colours in the Bucovina Monasteries; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Romania and Bulgaria and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet Romania & Bulgaria Travel Guide:

Colour maps and images throughout Highlights and itineraries show you the simplest way to tailor your trip to your own personal needs and interests Insider tips save you time and money and help you get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots Essential info at your fingertips - including hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, and prices Honest reviews for all budgets - including eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, and hidden gems that most guidebooks miss Cultural insights give you a richer and more rewarding travel experience - including folk culture, myths, history, visual arts, crafts, music, politics, landscapes, wildlife, cuisine, and wine Over 70 local maps Useful features - including Top Experiences, Month-by-Month (annual festival calendar), and Outdoor Activities Coverage of Sofia, Bucharest, Wallachia, the Black Sea Coast, Moldavia, Transylvania, Maramures, Crisana, Banat, Plovdiv, Veliko Tarnovo, the Danube, Kazanlak, Sibiu, the Danube Delta, and more

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Romania & Bulgaria, our most comprehensive guide to Romania and Bulgaria, is perfect for those planning to both explore the top sights and take the road less travelled.

Looking for more extensive coverage? Check out Lonely Planet's Eastern Europe guide for a comprehensive look at all the region has to offer.

Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet, Mark Baker, Chris Deliso, Richard Waters, and Richard Watkins.

About Lonely Planet: Started in 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel guide publisher with guidebooks to every destination on the planet, as well as an award-winning website, a suite of mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet's mission is to enable curious travellers to experience the world and to truly get to the heart of the places they find themselves in.

TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice Awards 2012 and 2013 winner in Favorite Travel Guide category

'Lonely Planet guides are, quite simply, like no other.' - New York Times

'Lonely Planet. It's on everyone's bookshelves; it's in every traveller's hands. It's on mobile phones. It's on the Internet. It's everywhere, and it's telling entire generations of people how to travel the world.' - Fairfax Media (Australia)

Romania & Moldova (Lonely Planet Travel Guides)

Robert Reid

Discover Romania & MoldovaPonder whether Bucharest is the 'Paris of the East' at its own Triumphal Arch.Roam deserted stretches of sand where the Danube meets the Black Sea.Find out why the keys to 'Dracula's castle' are held by a New York architect.Enjoy a tipple at the winery where Russia's President Putin celebrated his 50th birthday.In This GuideTwo authors, 16 months of in-country research, three car accidents, eight road trips slowed by jaywalking goats.Fully updated information on Moldovan wineries and Transylvanian castles.The only guidebook to cover Moldova and its autonomous regions of Transdniestr and Gagauzia.Content updated daily: visit lonelyplanet.com for up-to-the-minute reviews, updates and traveler suggestions.

Exercise normal security precautions; see also regional advisories.

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice. In the event of a crisis situation that requires evacuation, the Government of Canada’s policy is to provide safe transportation to the closest safe location. The Government of Canada will assist you in leaving a country or a region as a last resort, when all means of commercial or personal transportation have been exhausted. This service is provided on a cost-recovery basis. Onward travel is at your personal expense. Situations vary from one location to another, and there may be constraints on government resources that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide assistance, particularly in countries or regions where the potential for violent conflict or political instability is high.

Transnistria (see Advisory)

The region is not under government control and the security situation is unstable and unpredictable. There are frequent checkpoints. As there is no Canadian government office in Moldova, Canadian officials may not be in a position to provide consular assistance to Canadians in this region.

Crime

Petty crime such as pickpocketing and purse snatching occurs, particularly in the capital, Chişinău. Theft on trains and from hotel rooms is common. Violent crime can occur as well. Do not travel alone after dark.

Organized crime is widespread.

Fraud & scams

Exercise caution when using automated banking machines (ABMs). Personal identification numbers (PINs) have been stolen, and some travellers have reported unauthorized withdrawals from their accounts after using ABMs.

Beware of Internet fraud and scams, which can range from product purchases to Internet romances. Incidents of police requesting a bribe have been reported. Report any such incident to the Canadian embassy in Bucharest, Romania.

See our Overseas Fraud page for more information on scams abroad.

Road travel

Roads are poorly maintained and rarely lit. Avoid driving after dark. Accidents are common and often involve drunk drivers. Be aware of farm vehicles, livestock and other hazards. Be cautious whether you are walking or driving.

Public transportation

Arrange to be met at the airport or use officially marked taxis. Do not share taxis with strangers. Travellers have been robbed by individuals posing as taxi drivers. Establish a price before starting the journey to avoid excessive fees.

Train and bus service is below Western standards. Trains are often unheated and prone to cancellation. Some travellers have reported theft on trains and buses.

Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

Demonstrations

Demonstrations occur and have the potential to suddenly turn violent. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media.

General safety information

Exercise normal safety precautions. Ensure that your personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure at all times. Avoid showing signs of affluence and carrying large sums of cash.

Emergency services

Dial 902 for police, 901 for fire fighters and 903 for an ambulance. Most dispatchers speak only Moldovan (Romanian) or Russian.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Rabies

Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of vaccination is not required to enter this country.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination is not recommended.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in Eastern Europe, food and water can also carry diseases like hepatitis A. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in Eastern Europe. When in doubt, remember…boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.

Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in Eastern Europe, certain insects carry and spread diseases like Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, leishmaniasis, Lyme disease, tick-borne encephalitis, and West Nile virus.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.


Malaria

Malaria

There is no risk of malaria in this country.


Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, snakes, rodents, and bats. Certain infections found in Eastern Europe, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.

For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.

Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care provider.

High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Medical care is limited and below Western standards. Medical evacuation, which can be very expensive, may be necessary in the event of serious illness or injury.

 

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

A serious violation of Moldovan law could lead to a jail sentence, which would be served in a local prison.

Illegal drugs

Moldovan authorities practice zero tolerance with respect to possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs, and penalties are strict. Convicted offenders can expect lengthy jail sentences and heavy fines.

Identification

Always carry adequate identification as police are entitled to request it at any time. Keep a photocopy of your passport in case of loss or seizure.

Homosexuality

Homosexuality is legal but not widely accepted in Moldovan society.

Illegal activities

Photography of military installations or government buildings is prohibited and may result in a penalty. Seek permission from local authorities before taking photographs.

Driving laws

You can drive with an International Driving Permit for up to 90 days after your arrival in the country. Residents must have a Moldovan driver's license.

Money

The currency is the Moldovan leu (MDL).

The economy is primarily cash-based. U.S. dollars are accepted. Traveller's cheques and credit cards are increasingly being accepted. Automated banking machines (ABMs) that provide local currency are available in Chişinău.

Climate

There is a risk of flooding and landslides.