On my last trip to Eastern Europe my second destination was the Republic of Moldova. It’s a small landlocked country bordering Romania to the west and the Ukraine to the east. Are you familiar with the country, and do you know what to visit in Moldova?

What to visit in Moldova

It has a population of around 5 million inhabitants and has been part of the Russian Empire, Romania and the Soviet Union.

What to visit in Moldova

The capital, Chisinau (pronounced Kishinaau), is the country’s largest city and also its economic and cultural centre. Moldovan is the oficial language and is exactly the same as Romanian (it’s like saying that in the US they speak American!). Russian is also very common and most locals I met spoke Russian as their first language and many of them couldn’t speak Moldovan, which to me was quite interesting!

What to visit in Moldova

Tiraspol, the country’s second largest city, is in the Transnistria region. This is a self-proclaimed “independent” state, which is not recognised by any other nation. One of the reasons for the separation is the fact the vast majority of the population are of Slavic origin (Russians and Ukrainians). There’s also a Russian military presence there for peacekeeping.

What to visit in Moldova

Soviet era buildings in Tiraspol, the in the breakaway Transnistria region

In fact, the country is a melting pot of different ethnies. 75% are Moldovans/Romanians, around 8% are Ukrainians, followed by Russians and Gagauzes. Gagauzes? Yes, it’s an ethny of Turkic origin, speaking Gagauz and Russian and practising the Christian Orthodox faith – the same religion of 93% of Moldova’s population.

ECONOMY

The local currency is the Moldovan Leu (plural lei) and in April 2013 the exchange rate for 100 Moldovan lei was roughly £5, €6 and USD8. The economy is based in agriculture and, consequently, the food industry is the largest. The country has Europe’s lowest per capita income, and the cost of living is low, compared to other European countries. Public transport and taxis are very cheap for travellers, but hotels tend to have similar prices to Western Europe.

What to visit in Moldova

WHAT TO SEE

The capital Chisinau is the country’s main tourist destination, with beautiful Orthodox churches, museums and parks offering free wi-fi – a real life saver to any traveller! The cities of Balti and Soroca are also popular tourist destinations. The latter is considered the country’s Gypsy capital and is home to Soroca Fortress, built by Stephen The Great in the end of the 15th century. His reign lasted almost 50 years and he led the country and many battles to guarantee its independence from its neighbours. Among them were the Ottoman Empire, the Kingdom of Hungary and the Kingdom of Poland.

What to visit in Moldova

HOW TO GET THERE
If you’re already in Europe, it’s easy to go to Moldova. Air Moldova, the country’s national airline, offers direct flights from Dublin, London, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Madrid, Milan, Paris, Rome, among others. A return ticket from London to Chisinau starts at £300 (€350, USD465), for example. The best land connections are between Bucharest, Kiev, Odessa and Moscow.

What to visit in MoldovaIf you are travelling by train from Bucharest to Chisinau, the journey takes 12 hours and a single ticket in second class (for berth compartments) costs around €25. An interesting detail about this trip is that, when the train arrives at Ungheni, the Moldovan side of the border, it changes tracks. So each carriage is lifted and the passangers feel a little shake. This was a Soviet strategy to avoid invasions and other unexpected issues on the border.

At the moment there are no direct trains from Cluj-Napoca (Romania) to Chisinau. You will have to take a train to Iasi, on the Romanian side of the border, and there continue your journey by bus (or pray for a good soul to take you on your onward journey, as it happened to me). Bear in mind the last bus leaves at Iasi at 5:30pm. A better option is taking the bus that departs from Cluj at 6pm and arrives at 8am the following day. The bus ticket costs €20.

What to visit in Moldova

Chisinau main train station

A regional train operates the route Odessa-Chisinau, leaving at 5:11pm and arriving at 10:14pm. This train does not have separate compartments and all carriages, except carriage 5, have wooden benches. Hard for a 5-hour journey! If you prefer to travel by bus, the best option is to take one of the buses that avoid Transnistria, and depart from Odessa Privoz bus station at 8:50am and 10am. So, are you going to start planning your trip to Moldova? Oh, you definitely should!

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13 Responses

  1. Agness Walewinder

    Hey Pedro! Great post, very informative. Unfortunately, we never made to Moldova, but Cez's planning to go there this summer. We know some Moldovan words and read a lot about the country so fingers crossed we will both like it!

    Reply
    • Pedro

      Hi Agness, it's very interesting place, the food is lovely! I totally recommend it! I wish I had learned some Moldovan, although most people I met spoke Russian… Thanks for dropping by!

      Reply
  2. Robby

    Hey Pedro,

    Very cool site and info about Moldova . I liek how you broke down the prices into local currency , dollars and euros. How cheap is Moldova compared to Romania ? Is Tiraspol safe ? Thanks a lot

    Reply
    • Pedro

      Hi Robby! Romania is cheap, but Moldova is even cheaper overall and I do recommend a visit. I was in Tiraspol for just a few hours, and it is unlikely you will get a permit that will allow you an overnight stay. At the moment, with the press saying Russia may take over Transnistria, I’m not sure about the situation in Tiraspol, I’m afraid.

      Thanks for the visit!

      Reply
  3. Dumitru

    Please say no more “Moldovan language” – it simply does not exist, and it is a offence for us, citizens of Moldova. It was the russians who invented it, for dividing us from romanians, with whom we share common values, history and language. Do not be ignorant. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Pedro Richardson

      Hi Dumitru! I understand that it is Romanian, I only used the word Moldovan because that’s what I was told to say by some Romanians I met. Funny how I was clearly led into a trap, right? 🙂

      Thanks for visiting!

      Reply
      • Petru

        Hi Pedro and thanks for the coverage. Just to clarify, they probably have meant the Moldovan subdialect as this is the variation of the Romanian language spoken informally by the majority of the population. It is the same as Romanian, but it has specific regional particularities. Formally, everybody communicates in ‘scholar’ Romanian, i.e. how some people use RP English in the UK as opposed to regional accents and words.

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    […] Did you like this article? Then sign up to our newsletter! Like us on Facebook. Follow Travel with Pedro on Twitter. Follow Travel with Pedro on Instagram. Join Travel with Pedro on Google+.   Other Posts: – What to Do in Tbilisi in 2 Days – Part 1 – Late New Year’s Resolution: Learning Russian – Welcome to the Republic of Georgia! – Welcome to the Republic of Moldova! […]

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  5. Jill BARTH

    Moldova is a place I definitely want to see. I’ve read about the regional wines…very interested. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply

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