Transnistria / Travel

Visiting Transnistria: Tiraspol

When I mention Transnistria, the reaction I have gotten from most people is “Trans-what? Where is that?”

However, Transnistria is worth knowing about because it and Moldova are becoming significant.

First off, I have included a map to show you where Transnistria is:

Moldova Map

I should mention that although it is most commonly known in English as Transnistria, the official name is Pridnestrovskaia Moldavskaia Respublica. Unfortunately, it isn’t even that simple though as Transnistria is also known as Trans-Dniester, Transdnistria, Transdniestria, Transdniestr, Trans-Dniestria, Transdniester, Transniestria, Transdnestr as well as Trans-Dnjestr and Trans-Dnjester. And those are just the names in English!

The next question I hear the most often is in regard to the War of Transnistria…

So, what was the war about?

This region is no stranger to conflict as at no time in its history has it been particularly stable. And during World War II, multiple armies crisscrossed Transnistria. The pictures below are examples of just two:

The Nazis (and in this case, their initial allies in Transnistria):

tiraspol transnistria

The Romanian Army in Transnistria:

tiraspol transnistria

However, the War of Transnistria that most people are asking about took place less than twenty years ago.

As the Soviet Union was collapsing, the Republic of Moldova began moving closer to Romania and the West. This shift was accompanied by a surge of nationalism within Moldova.

However, with its economic ties to Russia and its large Slavic population, these trends alarmed the area east of the Dniester River. As a reaction, an independent Pridnestrovian Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic was proclaimed on August 16, 1990, with its capital in Tiraspol. And with Russian support the region went into revolt.

What followed is now known as the War of Transnistria… Limited fighting started in November 1990, but with volunteers streaming in from Russia and Ukraine, the fighting intensified throughout 1991 into a vicious Sarajevo-style sniper conflict. Starting on 2 March 1992, the fighting escalated into all-out conventional warfare between Moldovan and Transnistrian forces, culminating in the former Soviet 14th Guards Army (headquartered in Tiraspol since 1956) entering the war in its final stage and attacking Moldovan forces. Moldova was, and still is, no match for Russia and this move by Russian forces effectively decided the outcome of the War of Transnistria.

Combat Footage:

Scenes of the War:

The war left over 1,000 people dead, more than 3,000 wounded and created over 100,000 refugees.

An uneasy ceasefire agreement was eventually signed on 21 July 1992 and has held to the present day. However, the violence did nothing about the bigger debate, and the issue of independence versus reunification remains unresolved. It is really just the Russian 14th Army stationed in Transnistria that is preventing a resumption of the conflict.

Thus, Transnistria is sometimes compared with other post-Soviet frozen conflict zones such as Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia.

Should the Russians ever depart from Transnistria and the conflict resume, it would likely be a messy and drawn-out affair. Although Transnistria has a population of only 555,000, its armed forces are the same size as those of Moldova, leading to a military stalemate. Specifically, the armed forces and the paramilitary units of Transnistria are composed of 4,500-7,500 soldiers, divided into four motorized infantry brigades in the cities of Tiraspol, Bender, Rîbniţa, and Dubăsari. They have 18 tanks, 107 armored carriers, 73 artillery pieces, 46 anti-aircraft installations, and 173 tank destroyer units. The air force is composed of 9 Mi-8T helicopters, 6 Mi-24 helicopters, 2 Mi-2 helicopters, and several aircraft of An-2, An-26 and Yak-18 models.

Aside from the visible Russian presence, there is also a secret Russian military base in the north of Transnistria. Obviously, we would like to have gotten a look at it, but every road leading in that direction had a roadblock across it. And those that try to cut through the woods are promptly arrested as Simon Reeve discovered.

Why do the Russians care about Transnistria so much?

Paranoia fueled by geography and history… You see, geography makes Russia an easy country to invade. Look at the ease with which Napoleon and then Hitler invaded Russia. Keeping Russia is a different matter, but invading is easy. These invasions traumatized the Russian psyche and Russia is, thus, obsessed with buffer zones. This was the point of dominating Eastern Europe during the Cold War and why Russia is so active today in Central Asia and Eastern Europe in attempting to undermine NATO and U.S. influence in the region. Transnistria plays into this as an Eastern outpost for Russia, but more importantly as a buffer for Russian interests in Ukraine.

From the Russian point of view, hostile forces east of the Dniester River could threaten Odessa, and they see no reason to leave the Dniester regardless of how benign conditions appear right now. The Russian view, driven home by history, is that benign situations can turn malignant with remarkable speed.

So, what is it like to visit?

Well, I was curious too, so my Italian and I went and checked it out.

No country in the world (including Russia) recognizes Transnistria diplomatically, but it nevertheless boasts its own passport, car license plates, currency (the Transnistrian ruble), stamps, flag (probably needless to say that none of these are valid outside of Transnistria), but also a police force, army (as described above) and even a modern-day KGB in the form of the Ministry of State Security (MGB).

However, fair or not, Transnistria is less known for any “must see” attractions than for being a veritable supermarket of drugs, girls and weapons. Firearms from Transnistria are said to have been found in uprisings everywhere from Chechnya to Baghdad.

Allegations of weapons being manufactured in Transnistrian factories abound – from handguns to rocket systems. And it is easy to smuggle here. The border with Ukraine is wide open. One can simply drive down a road like this one pictured below and straight through Ukraine to the Black Sea. One’s product can then be loaded on a boat there and sent anywhere in the world.

tiraspol transnistria

In the interest of balanced reporting, Transnistria claims that such allegations and rumors of arms and drug trafficking are generated by Moldova in an effort to undermine Transnistria and will refer to the European Union Border Assistance Mission that monitors both the Ukrainian and the Moldovan sides of the border. According to them, smuggling to and from Transnistria consists mainly of chicken and alcohol.

Western journalists that visit Tranistria often come here on a daytrip: they take pictures of Lenin, the billboards, the war memorials, and they always write the same cliché afterwards “Transnistria: the last Soviet Paradise”, “the Soviet theme park”. But, I think they are oversimplifying the story for the sake of sensationalism.

Just a light stroll from Tiraspol’s 25 October Street towards Gagarin Boulevard should be more than enough to convince even the most unobservant journalist that this is far from being a communist stronghold. Despite the severe look of Lenin´s red granite statue opposite the Parliament Building, Gazprom branches, jewelry stores, currency exchange offices and the ubiquitous Sheriff conglomerate demonstrate that this is most definitely a capitalist country. As a resident of Tiraspol told me, “We still keep the Soviet symbols because we are proud of our past, that’s all.”

Sheriff may or may not represent the worst in crony capitalism given its alleged connections to Igor Smirnov, Transnistria’s first and only president to date, but it is nevertheless a thoroughly capitalistic enterprise. Sheriff owns many local gasoline stations, a supermarket chain and the telephone company, but also the casino at the city center, the brandy distillery, and even the local soccer team: Sheriff Tiraspol FC! Interestingly enough, soccer is the only thing that links both banks of the Dniester River. The local team has been the indisputable winner of the Moldovan league since 2000. However, Sheriff Stadium is still the only one that fits UEFA criteria, so Tiraspol hosts Moldova´s international matches.

******

Welcome to the capital of Transnistria – Tiraspol:

tiraspol transnistria

tiraspol transnistria

One of the first things that one notices on the outskirts of Tiraspol is the sprawling Sheriff Stadium complex which I discussed above… Attached to the stadium, but outside the frame of this picture, are a five star luxury hotel and a Mercedes dealership:

tiraspol transnistria

Here it is at night:

tiraspol transnistria

A monument in the suburbs of Tiraspol:

tiraspol transnistria

And some of the homes in the suburbs of Tiraspol:

tiraspol transnistria

tiraspol transnistria

The entrance to one of Tiraspol’s parks:

tiraspol transnistria

Some of the Soviet-style imagery still on display:

tiraspol transnistria

This is the Kvint factory (a wholly owned subsidiary of Sheriff), where brandies have been made since 1897. This Transnistrian brandy is apparently some of the finest in the world:

tiraspol transnistria

In downtown Tiraspol now:

tiraspol transnistria

tiraspol transnistria

A Sheriff sporting goods store in the Tiraspol city center:

tiraspol transnistria

Some of the buildings downtown were rather interesting:

tiraspol transnistria

House of Soviets – Tiraspol city hall:

tiraspol transnistria

The Lenin statue in front of city hall:

tiraspol transnistria

The Palace of the Republic:

tiraspol transnistria

A view of the Dniester River which flows through the center of the city:

tiraspol transnistria

A billboard featuring Russia’s president Medvedev and president Smirnov of Transnistria shaking hands… Another billboard in the city features the slogan “Let Transnistria, South Ossetia and Abhazia exist!” beneath a picture of those “countries” respective leaders meeting with each other.

The latter two countries have officially recognized Transnistria as an independent state and have established diplomatic relations in return for Transnistria’s recognition of them:

tiraspol transnistria

Along Tiraspol’s main street – Ulitsa 25 Oktober:

tiraspol transnistria

A Soviet T-34 tank in front of Tiraspol’s Heroes’ Cemetery and war memorial:

tiraspol transnistria

This is a better view (just past the tank pictured above) of the Heroes’ Cemetery with its Tomb of the Unknown Soldier flanked by an eternal flame in memory of those who died on 3 March 1992 during the first outbreak of major fighting:

tiraspol transnistria

The names of the dead:

tiraspol transnistria

One of the statues at the war memorial:

tiraspol transnistria

The site also incorporates a memorial to the Afghan war:

tiraspol transnistria

This is the Transnistrian Parliament Building:

tiraspol transnistria

A nearby statue of Alexander Suvorov, founder of modern Tiraspol:

tiraspol transnistria

There is a lot of negative press out there in regard to Transnistria. Transnistria, of course, has their own version of the truth. Whatever the truth is though, you owe it to yourself to come and visit because Transnistria is a fascinating and very unique place.

50 thoughts on “Visiting Transnistria: Tiraspol

  1. Very interesting. I like it. I’m surprised you were able to get such detail about the military forces. How about more photos of the people?

    • Well, you know I like people pictures, Lan. However, taking pictures at all in Transnistria is viewed with no small amount of suspicion. And taking pictures of people is something that takes a while as one must gain their trust first – not easy to do given the language barrier. Some places are just a lot more conducive to people pictures than others.

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  4. Moldova

    One of the under-reported kinds of smuggling may turn out to be one of the deadliest. In the small former Soviet republic of Moldova, uranium smuggling is a worrying reminder of the chaos that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union.

    Six men were arrested in Moldova trying to sell 1.8 kilograms of uranium-238 either to an African country or an African national. Four were identified as Moldovan while the other two were said to have from the breakaway province of Trans-Dniester, which has led the Moldovan government to accuse the Trans-Dniester authorities of arms smuggling.

    • Erich. It is true about the mens, who was trying to sell 1.8 killograms of uranium-238, but i can ashure you, that it was the firs and the last time. Nowadays Transnistria( or the right title Pridnestrovie) is very friendly and safe country. And, in fact, there is nothing dangeraus can be created with 1.8 killograms of uranium-238.)

    • Ion Antonescu was not allied with the Nazis? Yes, actually he was, Andrew. But don’t take my word for it – a simple Google search will present you with a mountain of evidence that supports my statement.

      Internet trolls such as yourself always crack me up because you’re so rude in your comments and adopting a tone of haughty arrogance only serves to make you look more foolish when you have your facts mixed up. And, of course, you’re probably a nobody in real life which is why you overcompensate by acting like the tough guy while cloaked in the comfortable anonymity offered by the online world. But maybe you were joking when you said I needed to learn more history…

      • Hi Justin, great article about Transnistria. However, I also feel obliged to point out that the title of your picture of King Michael and Marshall Ion Antonescu was, at best, misguided (“Nazis in Transnistria”). While it is true that for the first part of WW2 Romania was an ally of Nazi Germany, the reasons why it chose to be part of the attack on the Soviet Union can be traced back to June 1940, when the Soviets occupied Eastern Romania (Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina).

        Being an ally of Germany does not automatically mean that Romanian leaders in WW2 were Nazis, just as being an ally of Stalin and the Soviet Union does not mean that Roosevelt or Churchill were bloodthirsty communists. Also, while Marshall Ion Antonescu still remains a controversial figure, King Michael is widely seen as the last pillar of democracy in post-war Romania, until late 1947 when he was forced to abdicate. Only a few months ago he celebrated his 90th birthday and numerous royal families from Europe and Asia attended. I’m sure at least they wouldn’t agree he was a Nazi. Furthermore, he was decorated by Stalin, along with Eisenhower and Montgomery, with the highest Soviet military order for his fight against Hitler’s Germany after august 1944 when Romania joined the Allies. So, while you may question the “honour” of being decorated by the other great dictator of the 20th century, calling King Michael a Nazi is just plain wrong.

        Anyway, in the end it is up to you if you want to change that title or not. The Internet is a free place where everything can be written by everyone. But if you care about the facts you present to your readers, then you should try to offer them a correct picture.

    • Thank you for your comment, Sorin. Your point is well taken.

      My intended point was merely that Nazi Germany did occupy the area for a time, but I probably should have chosen a different picture to represent this. Unfortunately, pictures of the German Army operating in Transnistria are not something I have been able to find. So, I have retained the current picture, but have amended the caption to reflect that the individuals pictured were only initial allies of Nazi Germany.

      And then, of course, your comment additionally clarifies matters.

      Best,

      Justin

  5. My husband is from Tiraspol (im from England) and I’ve visited Tiraspol and Odessa only twice. We are driving there this September and so i was researching again about the history of Tiraspol and your article is very interesting. I’ve been to all the places on your photo’s and it was strange to see them on here! Thank you for writing about Tiraspol!

  6. I got here by the way after following you article on Transniestra. Which was ok as far as it went ie., but didn’t say enough. What for example are the churches like ? Turkic christians nearly almost zilch in Turkey where I live, unless they are Istanbulu Greeks. Is the wine and food good ? Is the food Turkish in the main ? Cost of visiting per day – how much is double room ? Are there any other travellers to the region ?

    • Hello Wendy –

      My post on Transnistria was not intended as a tourist guide which is why you may find it lacking in such content, but I’m happy to answer your questions…

      I did not see any churches in Transnistria, nor would I really expect to given the history of that “country”.

      The food is typical fare for the former Soviet Republics… Lots of boiled food with cabbage and pickles and the like. I’m not a big fan, but some people love it. All forms of alcohol – not just wine – are cheap and abundant. Tiraspol has a highly regarded producer of brandy – Kvint (if that is your thing). I am anything but a wine connoisseur and so cannot speak to the quality of the wine. However, the Moldovan wines produced nearby are said to be excellent and have won a number of awards.

      The price of rooms is all over the map. Their is nothing in the way of tourist infrastructure in Transnistria and so unless you speak Russian, you may have difficulty finding anything but an upscale hotel unless you make preparations beforehand. Alternatively, Chisinau is so close to Transnistria that you may find it easier to just spend the night there.

      No, I did not see a single other traveler during our entire stay in Transnistria.

  7. Very interesting report, thanks a lot! Do you require a visa to enter the “country” or will a Western European (Dutch) passport suffice? Thanks again, great job. I will be in Odessa in two weeks and am probably driving to Chisinau so might want to pass through… Cheers!

    • Hello Marco –

      Thank you for your comment and your kind words. Yes, you will require a visa (everyone does). However, you can obtain the visa quite easily at the border – it just takes a few minutes.

      Transnistria is well worth a visit if you find the time.

    • Hello Philip –

      If you travel in the winter, you may find some difficulty with ice on the roads. This certainly won’t prevent you from driving, but it can make things more exciting and necessitates a reduced speed. Keep an eye out for flocks of sheep crossing the road on blind corners as well. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I had to jump on the brakes when encountering that exact scene.

      I would suggest bringing along a GPS unit or a good map because many of the roads are not well-signed and it would be relatively easy to get lost. Also, the maps and GPS can take you on some attractive back roads.

      On back roads, I would suggest topping up your fuel supply when it drops below half a tank as gas stations can be few and far between at times.

      Assuming all of your paperwork is in order, you should not have any problems with bureaucracy when driving through Romania, Moldova and Transnistria and crossing the borders. Everyone we dealt with was pleasant and professional.

      Hope that helps you a little and that you enjoy your trip… It’s a good one.

      Best,

      Justin

  8. very interesting reading, thank you .
    I will be visiting a friend in Bender hopefully in February 2012
    can you recomend any web sites that may help with my visit?

    Regards

    Richard

    • I’m afraid there is not much reliable information out there to be found online… However, you will undoubtedly find accommodations more easily in Tiraspol and it is just a few minutes drive away from where your friend lives. Also, Tiraspol has much more in the way of restaurants and is more centrally located for any additional exploration of Transnistria.

  9. Nice article, easy to read and filled with information, not just ‘I was here and it was cool, beware of homeless dogs’ style :)

    I am visiting Transnistria myself along with 2-3 people, we’re gonna form a Polish-Finnish team, I hope we’ll get through Moldavian-Trans. border without any problems.

    Visa-wise: I read something today, that you just have to fill in some kind of emigration card (they have’em in Ukraine as well), no need to buy visa, maybe those are false informations, but I have them also from a traveler’s blog. Maybe it depends where are you from, guess EU citizens don’t have to buy a visa to into Moldova and Transnistria…

    Anyway, cheers :)

    • Thank you for your comment, Ania. I shouldn’t think you will have any problems crossing the Moldova-Transnistria border. At least I have never heard of anyone having any…

      I used my British passport to enter Transnistria and my companion used her Italian passport. However, we still had to pay for the visa. So, perhaps the laws have changed. Or perhaps we had to pay some fee for the rental car?

      Regardless, I think you’ll enjoy your trip to Transnistria.

      Best,

      Justin

  10. Thank you for a reply and informations. Maybe this visa is the same as this immigration card thingy, as written in the other blog, anyway I hope we’ll get through and have wonderful time.

    Thanks for writing this blog, it provided me with lots of information.

    All the best! Ania.

  11. is it possible to rent a car in Chisinay and drive to Tiraspol? We are going there in summer, and would like to have some independence…

    • Hello Anna –

      I like to have flexibility when I travel as well and also usually rent a car…

      Yes, it is absolutely possible to rent a car in Chisinau and drive it into Tiraspol. I should clarify that it is perfectly fine in regard to the police on the border of Moldova and Transnistria. You just need to fill out a quick form at the Transnistrian border. However, I’m not sure if the car rental company would like to have their car taken into Transnistria. So, it might be better when renting the car if you did not mention your intention to take the car into Tiraspol.

      When I visited, we actually drove up from Bulgaria and through Romania to get to Moldova and Transnistria. We never had any trouble at all crossing any of those borders.

      I hope you enjoy Tiraspol.

  12. Hi, Justin!

    My name is Oriol and I am 22. I am a Catalan who is currently living in Romania thanks to the Erasmus exchange program.

    I’m interested in visiting Trandsniester (I think it could be a really amazing experience) and when I was surfing the Internet I saw your website with your article.

    As far as is really difficult to find info about the country I decided to contact you, for asking for a bit of “technical” information about it.

    If you don’t mind and is not a problem for you, of course.

    Here it goes, then:

    – Do you think I could have some problems in the moment of crossing the border (as a citizen from Spain, an EU country)? Or for coming back?

    – Would you recommend me something concrete?

    I’m trying to contact with some locals from there via couchsurfing, but I thought you probably could give me some good advice and recommendation as a foreigner ;-)

    Thanks for everything and congratulations for the blog. Really good job (and trips…). Don’t forget to mail me if you come to Catalonia and we could take a beer.

    Cheers.

    • Hello Oriol –

      Yes, Transdniester/Transnistria is a cool place to visit. There is nowhere else like it.

      To answer your questions…

      1) No, you will have absolutely no problems at all with crossing into Transnistria or with coming back out to Moldova. You just need to stop at the border checkpoint with Transnistria and fill out a small amount of paperwork and pay a very small fee. The Moldovans will just glance at your passport and wave you through (if they bother to stop you at all). No one would have any trouble, but you even have the added benefit, like the Italians, of being from a country that everyone likes…

      2) Something concrete? You mean to do? Transnistria is not heavy on tourist attractions and so the thing to do is to just wander around and explore. The main street in Tiraspol – Ulitsa 25 Oktober – is a good place to start. This is where the main government buildings are to be found, such as Tiraspol’s city hall, The Palace of the Republic and the Transnistrian Parliament Building. Also along this stretch is the Heroes’ Cemetery (the memorial with the tank) which is interesting. Next to the Heroes’ Cemetery is the Dniester River which can be fun to walk along for a while as well. After you’ve covered the main street in Tiraspol, check out the Kvint factory where they produce Transnistria’s brandy. After the Kvint factory, I would suggest just going down side streets, visiting parks and talking to people. I’m sure you’ll have some interesting interactions…

      Bendery is a relatively quiet town, although you will see more evidence of the fighting there. And outside of Bendery and Tiraspol, you’ll mostly see countryside and small villages. The countryside can be attractive and you might find the villages interesting as well. It depends what you’re into.

      3) Finding a place to stay is a bit tricky. Transnistria really has no tourism to speak of and so there is very little in the way of tourist facilities (like hotels or hostels). I think couchsurfing would be a great way to go if you can find someone. An alternative would be to stay in Chisinau, Moldova which is actually quite close to Transnistria and has a ton of places to stay.

      I hope you enjoy your visit and I hope I’ll take you up on that beer sometime…

  13. Hi There
    Well i leave England on the 23 February for Transnistria, a friend i have been chatting to is picking me up from Chisinau airport. I am looking forward to going even after reading reports on the internet about the place.
    When i get back i will write a small report on my trip .

  14. Hi Jastin Ames!

    Just saw your comments regarding churches. There are PLENTY of churches in Tiraspol. It is very strange you did not notice them. The main one is just a few mininutes walking distance from the monument Suvorov (you have taken a picture of the monument but you did not see the magnificent Church right behind it). People tolerate ALL religious here. Many people practice baptism (many of my friends do); however, the mjority are practicing eastern orthodox. Look at this website. I can not believe you missed it: http://dnestrtur.narod.ru/catalog/pridnestrove/hrami_pridnestrovya/

  15. To support my claims, another foreigner, Larissa Olenicoff, recently posted the pics of visiting Transnistria and she wrote the following: “I’d read somewhere not to expect many churches or shows of religion while in Transnistria, which proved to be FALSE. Right next to Central Market is the very large Orthodox Christmas Cathedral, where a wedding was taking place on the day I was there.
    Also, just across the street from the offices of the president is this very tiny but beautiful church adjacent to the war memorials..” And these are only a few next to the main street. There are many other churches spread around the town.

    • Haha, keep your pants on, Maria. I was just saying that I did not see any churches, not that there were not any in existence… Thank you for correcting the record.

  16. Thanks for an interesting read about a very interesting place. Actually, I wonder if you could help us with some advice, as follows:
    We are a family of four (kids 4 and 5) that will go from Kiev to Odessa by rental car this summer. I found your article very interesting, and am considering to make a detour to stop at Chisinau and Tiraspol on our way. Is this advisable? Some specific questions:
    – Is it possible to enter Moldova and Transnistria with an Ukranian rental car?
    – What would be the best rout to go? (Is it advisable to enter Moldova directly from Ukraina, or can one go through Transnistria both ways?)
    – Should it be no problem to bring kids into Tiraspol?
    – I guess staying over the night in Tiraspol could be somewhat difficult and I am considering to go from Cnisinau in the morning, staying a few hours in Tiraspol and continuing down to Odessa in the afternoon. Is this realistic and should the border crossings be without troubles?
    – Does this sound like a realisitc route: day 1: Kiev – Vinnytsia; Day 2: Vinnytsia – Chisinau; Day 4: Chisinau; Day 5: Chinisnau – Tiraspol – Odessa ? (possibly, Kiev – Chisinau in one go, but perhaps this is a bit unrealistic?)

    Since you seem to have some experience, I would really be grateful for any advice you could give. I guess, since going with kids, I am extra cautious and wonder if it is at all a good idea. But last year we spent in Albania – and had one of our best vacations ever – against everyones advice, and if there are no big problems, we would love to experience Tiraspol for some hours (maybe even staying the night).

    I look forward to your advice, and thanks again for an interesting read.

    • Hello Erik –

      Thank you for your comment and kind words.

      Your trip sounds like a good one… I’ll answer your questions in the order you presented them:

      1) You should have no trouble at all entering Transnistria with a rental car. We used a Bulgarian rental car and I have heard of others using rental cars from different countries – all without hassle.

      2) I do not know for certain if it is possible to cross directly through Transnistria on the way from Ukraine to Moldova as I have not done it. However, I have certainly heard of people doing this and I really don’t see why it would be a problem as the dispute is between Moldova and Transnistria rather than Ukraine and Transnistria. And, despite that dispute with Moldova, it is still very easy to cross into Transnistria from Moldova. So, like I said, I really don’t think you’ll have any trouble crossing through, but I wanted to add the caveat that I have not actually done so myself.

      3) No, you’ll have no problems with the kids in Transnistria. The bureaucracy was surprisingly easy to negotiate when crossing the border and Transnistria is extremely safe.

      4) You might find lodging in Tiraspol, but I KNOW you’ll find a place to stay in Chisinau. So, your idea of starting off from Chisinau makes a lot of sense to me. That said, I’m sure there is SOMEWHERE to stay in Tiraspol should you decide you wish to spend the night there.

      5) I’ve only been to the north part of Ukraine and so I am afraid I can’t help you with the driving itinerary you laid out.

      I hope the above is of some value to you… I share your enthusiasm for Albania and as you enjoyed that, I think you will enjoy Transnistria. Also, I understand your concern for your children, but like I said above, you’ll be just fine with them.

      Best,

      Justin

      • Hi Justin,

        I thought I’d just give you an update on our rather dissapointing visit to Tiraspol recently. We planned the trip as indicated above, and all went well until we met with Transnistrian immigration officers. We drove from Chisinau in the morning and arrived at the border crossing at Varnita. There, we were not allowed entry because we did not have a Moldovan exit stamp in our passports (which we could not have had).

        We were forced to turn back and go to Odessa via a direct border between Moldova and Ukraina. I have checked the internet after this attempt, and as far as I can see, it is bullshit that you need an exit stamp from Moldova to enter, but what could I do? Possibly, the officer was fishing for a bribe, but he didn’s say it straight, and I didn’t want to suggest it. Anyway, it turned out to be a disappointment to us, and also a long day, since the trip from Chisinau to Odessa aroung Transnistria is quite long. Sad, when we were so close…

        Hopefully, I’ll get another chance someday, if I should bother again to try to enter such a “stupid” country. Especially if the immigration officers can refuse you entry even though you should have the right to just because they have a bad day….

        Anyway, thanks for sharing your experience. The other parts of the trip, Moldova and Ukraina went without any problems whatsoever.

        Erik

  17. Hi justin
    im from south africa and are on my way to travel in Moldova and Transnisteria . What advice is there about the following do you know if there is visas needed for us and what will you say is the the daily cost of staying in these countrys roundabout since as you must have been in southafrica our money is a bit skimpy against the Euro and pound . What you suggest a single guy should use , car rental or train and bus/ taxi . Lastly converting money when you arrive , where will you get the best deals thanks for all the other comments to writers it has helped a lot .

    • Hi There
      I visited a friend in Transnistria on the 23rd Feb i got picked up at the airport in a taxi with my friend and the cost was $50 to go to Bender which i thought was a good price .The driver was happy with US Dollars . My friend got me an apartment in the centre of Bender this was $20 a night.
      You can change dollars in the supermarket in Bender. The place seems friendly but i never found anybody who could understand English, i am going back on the 3rd of May so hopefully this will change )))
      The border crossing was fine just hard to fill the forms out as they are all in Russian… you can eat very cheap if you get an apartment with cooker or Andy’s pizza was nice good food and very cheap.
      I will add more after my next visit , i hope this helps

      • 50 dollars????!!!!!! You could go to Odessa fr this money! Well, if you are a foreigner, they can see it…And they use it!

    • Hello Joseph –

      You will need a visa for Transnistria, but everyone does, so this is no big deal. These can be obtained right at the border and just take a few moments to obtain. I am not sure about Moldova and would suggest looking online at the Moldovan Embassy’s website. However, I can’t imagine that they would be particularly uptight.

      For budgeting, I would estimate we spent about $50-75 a day. That includes a rental car and purchases of gasoline, so if you’re traveling differently, adjust your figures accordingly. On most days, our biggest expense was hotels. Moldova and Transnistria are not exactly booming tourist destinations, therefore, the selection of lodgings for the night can be a little sparse at times.

      As to what mode of transportation to use… A rental car will provide you with the most flexibility as you can go where you want, when you want to and stop when you want to. However, you will meet more people and have more interactions with locals if you utilize trains, buses and taxis. So, I suppose it boils down to what you value the most – flexibility or more people contact…

      The best way to handle obtaining foreign currency is to simply use ATM machines when you arrive. You’ll pay a small currency conversion fee, but you’ll get a much better rate than at any currency exchange shop and end up paying less overall. Of course, alert your bank before you go so they do not freeze your card for unusual activity…

      I hope the above helps, Joseph, and that you enjoy your trip.

  18. I should have said the taxi traveled from Bender to the airport and back as my friend met me at the airport which should explain the price ))

  19. Hi Justin,
    I was very pleased to read your comments, and to find a person who has taken the time to see Pridnestrovie and meet the people and make a fair judgement, all to often when you look at the web there is misleading information.
    I know all countries have history good and bad, but I believe Pridnestrovie is judged wrongly by many because either a journalist was looking for a story or propaganda has led people to think this way, do not misunderstand me things have happend in this country, but it is not “The Black Hole of Europe” as it is often made out to be, things happen in all countries that are often thought to be wrong.
    I make my judgement having travelled to Pridnestrovie on over 30 occassions, due to an involvment with humanatirian aid, I was awarded the OSTK-15 by their Presidency and spent time living there, met and married my wife there, our daughter was born there, (we now live in Ireland) I have close friends and family who range from working people through to Government Ministers.
    It is a place that is wonderfull to me, but to truly understand it you need to go to it meet the people, see the place, live the life, then judge.
    With regard to hotels probably the best known is Timoty there is also a new hotel (forgive spelling) Droush-bar friendship being built and Hotel Iced, the Iced is right beside the river in the centre of Tiraspol, so has beautiful views (but has little facilaties), if you travell out passed the Sheriff stadium to a village named Ternovka (about 6km) there is another hotel where you will often find the visiting footballers staying.
    I am proud to have played a part in the development of this country (although small) and more proud to have been accepted by its people.

    • Hello David, I am curious to how you lived there long term. Did you you just constantly renew your visa or were you able to buy a long term visa?

      • Hello David, I first visited PMR in 2006 when shipping Humanitarian Aid, where I received the OSTK15, I then met my wife there and our first child was born there, we now live in Ireland. I returned there 33 times, each time I returned I was required to complete a new visa at the border.
        I believe it is possible to obtain a PMR passport (Nationality) this way you would not need a visa for entry, however you have to be registered to an address, the details of the address must also be up to date (street names etc), I can certinaly talk about this more if you wish and have contact numbers for the Government and Foreign Affairs in PMR, let me know your email if you want me to make contact. regards David

  20. Hi everyone. I’m a first-year student of the Prindistrovien State University. I’m specializing on learning English and will be happy to show foreigners all sights of our two most beautifull cities(Tiraspol and Bendery). First of all I can help you to rent a flat and provide a transport(4-mens max.). All that I’ll do for free. It will be a great experience for me in communicating with English speaking people. There are many sights of interest in T. and B., for example: the monumet to the count Suvorov(the founder of Tiraspol); the ruins of the fortress of Tiraspol; the Theater of Drama and Comedy(in a name of Aronetskaya); the fortress of Bendery; Natural History Museum and etc. If someone’ll get interested in my suggestion please contact me throught my email: verbanov94@mail.ru

  21. Hi Guys
    Well on October 21 i will be back in Transnistria (Bendery) for a week to visit my girlfriend 3rd visit this year.
    If there is anybody over there that week that wants to meet up for a chat let me know.

  22. I have just got back on the 21 August, I hope you have a good time there, I found there are many changes with the new Government, but it’s still a great place to visit, I spend time in Bendery as we have friends there, mainly in Andy’s Pizza, Air Moldova are flying there from the UK & (Dublin summer only with a christmas flight). Then its easy to travell across to Tiraspol, enjoy Pridnestrovie it has the most beautiful women in the world.

    • thank you, i find it cheaper and better to travel non direct, i live about 3 hours from London so its 3 planes over 6 hours, keeps you on your toes lol
      i have been there 7 times now and never been to Chisinau so this time we have booked a hotel for the weekend before going to Bendery.

  23. Hola Justin

    Es una pena no haberte encontrado en el ciberespacio antes. Escribo en español pues creo que lo entenderás y para mí me resulta más ágil, disculpa si no es así y lo reescribo en inglés.
    Acabo de llegar de un viaje por Moldova y Transnistria y coincido con la mayoría de tus puntos socio-históricos de esa enigmática tierra.
    Iba mosqueado por los numerosos problemas que mencionaban blogueros hispanos acerca del “bandidaje” de los aduaneros transnistrios pero he comprobado que una de dos o nosotros tuvimos mucha suerte o los blogueros saqueados todo lo contrario. Nosotros íbamos en un coche de alquiler y solamente tuvimos que cubrir los papeles del coche y unos documentos visas para un día pagando solamente 156 rublos (unos 10€) por todo. Incluso el agente de la aduana nos ayudó a cubrir la documentación del coche y entabló conversación en inglés con nosotros acerca de nuestras preferencias futbolísticas.
    A nosotros nos pareció la ciudad de Tiraspol muy interesante pero no nos pareció diferente a otras de las grandes ciudades moldavas. El consumismo iguala a toda la gente europea ya sea del Este o del Oeste. Quizás Tiraspol y Tighana (Bender) me parecieron más ricas que las ciudades a la otra parte del Dniester.
    Lo que si nos llamó la atención era el vestuario militar de numerosos ancianos que lucían incluso sus condecoraciones militares.
    Si vimos una preciosa iglesia, la ortodoxa de Pokrovskaya que lucía con esplendor tanto sus frescos interiores como su reluciente fachada blanca.
    Lo poco que hablamos con su gente, debido a que pocos dominaban el inglés, nos parecieron amables y educados aunque un poco serios quizás debido a la dificultad para entendernos.
    Si necesitas alguna nueva fotografía de Transnistria házmelo saber y te las envío por email.

    También me ha gustado mucho tu carácer conciliador para responder complicadas respuestas a tus comentarios.

    Un cordial saludo

    José Manuel

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