One of the reasons why I wanted to visit Chisinau was to go on a daytrip to Transnistria – a breakaway territory that is officially part of Moldova.
I’ve always been fascinated with those unknown places, off the path, forgot by many, with difficult recent history.
I can’t really explain why I’m so interested in them, could be the fact that I vaguely remember when those places (former Yugoslavia or Caucasus countries just to name few) were torn by the war or that I’m simply curious how life looks like there right now.
I just know that something pushes me there and even if I’m well aware that I won’t get answers to all my questions during these short visits they still are the highlights of my travels.
It was the same with my Transnistria tour, from Chisinau to Tiraspol.
What is Transnistria?
Transnistria Republic is a small landlocked territory, spread along the river Dniester (hence the name) that borders with Moldova and Ukraine.
Its independence, declared on 2nd September 1990, is recognized only by Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and South Osetia (all of which are very high on my bucket list!), countries that aren’t widely recognized either.
It is very much connected with Russia: politically, economically and symbolically.
Even the Transnistria flag bears sickle and hammer, leaving no doubts which team the republic is.
My concerns before visiting Transnistria
I must admit that until the last moment I wasn’t sure if I’m going to visit Transnistria or not.
Partly because I really enjoyed all the things to do in Chisinau and felt it deserves more of my time (even if it was probably the most boring and unpretty capital in Europe) but partly because I was anxious. I didn’t hear many positive reports from Transnistria tours, seemed like everyone dealt with some sort of problems there (either with bureaucracy or corruption).
Moreover, Transnistria tourism isn’t widely known and I didn’t really know what to expect there.
I was also going solo there and while I almost always have no problems with that on that very day for some reason I lost my confidence.
The fact that Transnistria is such a close friend with Russia and the conflict in East Ukraine was rather nearby (even if I believe Ukraine is a safe country to travel in general) didn’t help me either.
I believe that some things are simply not made to be and so I challenged myself and decided if I find a bus to Tiraspol (capital of Transnistria) easily – I will go, if not I will skip the trip.
How to get from Chisinau to Transnistria
The central bus station in Chisinau is located behind the Central Market, close to Boulevard Stefan Cel Mare, the main street of the center.
It might seem chaotic at first as there’re numerous minibusses for various destinations through Moldova parked in the streets around.
But in this mess it’s not difficult to find the actual bus station and once you enter the building things get very easy.
There’s a schedule with all the connection and numbered stands, each of them with a different destination.
Buses from Chisinau to Tiraspol leave from the stand no 13 on the right side.
The connections are frequent, every 10-30 minutes and the ticket costs 37 leu (you need to buy it from the small container that serves as the ticket office, it’s next to the stand).
Don’t expect anything fancy, the bus is typical marshrutkas – the most common way of transport in former Soviet Union countries.
Below you can find the picture of the schedule of all the buses from Chisinau to Tiraspol, valid in 2015 but I highly doubt much has changed over time.
In Chisinau I stayed in the apartament nearby bus station – if you decide to do your share of Transnistria travel this area would be good for you! Sadly that very place is not available anymore but I recommend staying at following properties:
- Mon Ami Villa (9.5/10 on Booking) – it is top rated for just about everything, from the location to comfort and personel. Click here to read the reviews and book the place!
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- Hostel City Center (9.4/10 on Booking) – it got high ratings on everything, but especially cleanliness, location and free wifi. Click here to see current prices and book the place!
Entering Transnistria from Moldova
The bus from Chisinau to Tiraspol Transnistria takes around 2 hours from one city to another, that includes “border” crossing.
Foreigners who want to visit Transnistria can only cross into the territory via few assigned checkpoints but fortunately, the one that the bus takes, close to the town of Bendery, is one of them.
I’m always slightly worried at all the borders and checkpoints but here I was more anxious than usual, all the rumors about the issues and corruptions messed up with my head.
There were no reasons why I wouldn’t have been let in but you never know.
As it turned out there was, of course, nothing to worry about, entering Transnistria from Moldova was really hassle-free.
You need to fill the migration card (it’s both in Russian and English so no problem with that) and with it, you need to proceed to the checkpoint building on the right side of the road.
Inside there are two windows where you can deal with the paperwork – I chose the one with the younger officer as I assumed he’s more likely to speak English. Well, he didn’t and asked the older one for help anyway.
After giving the filled migration form I was asked only two questions: how long I’m going to stay in their country and what’s the address of the place I’m going to stay at.
When I explained I’m going just for a day-long Transnistria tour they had no problems with that and issued me the migration card valid for 10 hours.
I was required to keep the paper with me all the time and leave Transnistria before 9:27 pm.
The whole procedure took maybe 10 minutes and it was rather straightforward, despite the minor language issues.
The bus waits at the side of the road for all the passengers to finish the border control. And most important – entering Transnistria is free of charge, if someone asks you for the fee it’s most likely a bribe.
An easier way to enter Transnistria is to use a train as then there’s no control at all.
There’s one train per day, connecting Chisinau with Odessa, that stops in both Bendery and Tiraspol.
Currently, it departs from Chisinau at 6.57am and arrived in Tiraspol at 8.21, in the opposite direction it’s in the afternoon. You can check the schedule at the website of Moldovan Railways (only in Moldovan and Russian though…)
But if you enter the territory by train you must leave by train too! Or you can register your stay in Transnistria in the local immigration office.
The way from the border to Tiraspol
From the border it’s a short, maybe half an hour ride to Tiraspol – the capital of Transnistria.
First stop is in the town of Bendery but before you reach the center look out to your left side to the Bendery Fortress – an impressive 16th-century structure built in the Ottoman style.
For years it used to serve as a military base but now apparently it is open to the public and you’re free to visit it (I honestly regret I didn’t do it!).
When you leave Bendery towards Tiraspol you will cross a bridge over the Dniester river.
Look carefully when entering the bridge as between two sides of the road there’s a camouflaged Russian tank guarding the bridge (the other tank can be spotted at the checkpoint, on the right side when leaving Transnistria).
The bridge itself is interesting too, painted in flags of Transnistria and Russia – guess this couldn’t be any more obvious that those countries have a pact.
What to see in Tiraspol, Transnistria
The bus station in Tiraspol, Transnistria capital is located next to the train station, within the walking distance of all the city’s attraction.
It took me 5 hours (including the lunch break) to see all the highlights of Tiraspol and to feel the atmosphere of the city.
Here’s the list of places to see and things to do in Tiraspol (in the order I’ve visited them):
- Kirov Park – located very close to the train station, with newly built Orthodox church and a pretty bells tower (they were stairs leading to the top but the entrance was closed, unfortunately)
- Kvint factory – on the opposite side of the Lenin street than Kirov Park. Founded in 1897 this is one of the best cognac factories in Moldova and getting a bottle of two of the finest drink is a real bargain here
- Victory Park with old school vehicles for children and a closed, rusty funfair. Apparently, this is one of the favorite places to relax for local people but when I visited on midday during the week there were only couple of mothers and grandmothers playing around with their kids.
- 25th October street – the main and most representative street of Tiraspol, where all the most important institutions are located
- Drama and Comedy Theatre and Transdniestrian State University, both located at the end of 25th October Street
- House of Soviets, now the City Hall, with a bust of angry Lenin in front and a display of the most memorable citizens of Tiraspol on the right side
- Transdniestrian Republican Bank where the local currency – rubel – is issued
- Old Believers’ Church
- de Wollant Park at the bank of Dniester river, with numerous sculptures (including Catherine the Great) and a pleasant cafe
- Bridge across Dniester river with a nice view of the city, a local beach and some rusty boats
- Small Orthodox Church, tank monument, eternal flame and war memorial with the names of all those who lost their lives in the 1990-1992 war. This is a rather sad place actually…
- Government of Transnistria building with a massive Lenin statue in front. Apparently, it is forbidden to take pictures of this building but I wasn’t bothered by anyone.
- Palace of Children and Youth Creativity
- Monument of General Alexander Suvorov, the founder of Tiraspol and a military hero of the 18th century Russian-Turkish wars.
- City House of Culture
- Tiraspol-Dubossary Diocese and the Christmas Cathedral – the biggest and most beautiful church in Tiraspol
Here’s the walking route I did in Tiraspol:
One interesting thing I’ve noticed in and around Tiraspol is the brand Sheriff.
The company was created by former KGB agents and until now they own more or less every branch of business: from local shops and supermarkets to petrol stations, local media and building companies.
They even have their own football club, Sheriff Tiraspol – that’s the only thing that links Transnistria to Moldova as the club plays in the Moldovan league and has won it several times.
Even the national football team of Moldova sometimes plays its games at the new stadium in Tiraspol!
Transnistria has its own currency, rubles.
You won’t be able to use Moldovan leu or any other currency when visiting Transnistria but there’re numerous exchange points around Tiraspol as well as a few ATMs.
I got my Transnistria currency in the bank on 25th October street and it was a rather straightforward process.
Unfortunately, the prices in Transnistria were slightly higher than in Moldova but still very affordable.
Remember to exchange all the remaining rubles before leaving Transnistria as they will be of no use anywhere else!
Leaving Transnistria to Moldova
Leaving back from Tiraspol to Chisinau was as easy as getting there.
The buses leave from the train station frequently, you need to buy the ticket in the office inside the train station.
The price, however, is more expensive than on the way to Transnistria, 68 Moldovan leu.
When leaving Transnistria the checkpoint control goes much faster – the border control enters the bus and collects the migration cards.
And that’s it, you’re free to leave Transnistria, the country that doesn’t exist.
Solo female travel in Transnistria
I traveled solo to Transnistria and despite all my concerns I was all fine.
I’ve heard about incidents with pickpockets aimed at tourists but there wasn’t even one situation when I’d have felt uncomfortable, let alone in danger and I dare to say Tiraspol is a rather safe city.
During my day trip to Transnistria it seemed like I was the only tourist in the breakaway territory, I haven’t seen anyone else wandering around with the camera.
Local people were also curious of me, I was stopped numerous times and asked where I’m from and how I like Transnistria. Everyone seemed to be genuinely happy I’m visiting Transnistria.
Those who could speak better English told me that they can’t really travel outside of their homeland yet they are very curious of the world out there so even the short conversations like we had are a great source of information, inspiration, and motivation for them!
At this point, I regretted I didn’t stay there any longer.
Is it worth to go for a day trip to Transnistria?
The capital of Transnistria isn’t the most beautiful city you will ever see, it’s just a random average size place in this part of the world but I still found it rather interesting.
It seems like it’s the last bastion of Soviet Union, full of the remnants of the past.
The streets are named after noble people of the Marxism-Leninism: Lenin, Marx, Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg; sickle and hammer are just about everywhere and there are at least two monuments of Lenin only on the main street.
Most of the buildings are built in the Socialist Realism style and overall the city reminded me a little bit of Minsk, Belarus, just in the much poorer condition.
It was so interesting to visit Transnistria in the second half of August, I couldn’t have asked for better timing!
On 2nd September Transnistria celebrates its independence day and so the preparations for that event were fully on.
Last year, 2015, was the 25 years of the independence for Transnistria and the fact that no one really recognizes the country didn’t stop it from the grand celebrations.
The banners commemorating the event (as well as those saying “We love our city”) were everywhere, lots of works were done on 25th October street (i.e. the new electricity lines were put up or the curbs were painted) and you could feel something big is about to happen in the city soon.
Apparently the celebrations on the Republic Day on 2nd of September are crazy and if you can try to visit Transnistria on that day!
And so if you ask me if it’s worth to go for a day trip to Transnistria I’d say yes!
It’s probably one of the weirdest places you will get to see, transferring you back in time, but it is still a very pleasant trip that gives you a chance to get to know a true off the path place with friendly locals who still somehow live in the past.
It’s not the trip to beautiful places, it’s for the experience!
If you’d like to visit Transnistria for more than just one day this is of course possible. You just have to register at your hotel, the Ministry of Interior or the immigration office in Tiraspol (address: uliza Kotovskogo 2А).
Revolut bank card is the best way to save money when traveling. It’s a pre-paid service that offers very good exchange rates and no fees for ATM’s use. Click here to learn more and order your Revolut card.
You can find the best accommodation options at Booking. They have many discounts and excellent customer service. Click here to look for the place to stay in Moldova
Never travel without travel insurance, you never know what might happen and better safe than sorry. You can check the insurance policy for Moldova here.
I recommend joining organized tours to get to know the place better and to visit more places during your trip. You can find a great selection of tours at Get Your Guide – click here.
Make sure to have the offline map always installed on your phone, they can save you so many troubles. I always use the free app Maps.Me.
For the end I left a few announcements that might interest you:
- Sign up to my newsletter or follow me on Bloglovin to get updates about the new posts
- Join my Facebook group about Eastern Europe, the Balkans and former USSR and connect with fellow travellers and enthusiasts of these regions – just click here!
- I’ve included a few handy links of services and products I personally like and use so you can plan your own trip to Transnistria too. They are often affiliate links. This means I will get a small commission if you book/purchase anything through my links, at no extra costs for you. Thank you!
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Magdalena Broda19/06/2016 at 18:57
Tak bardzo szanuję podróże w takie miejsca :3 i zazdroszczę!
Kami and the rest of the world06/07/2016 at 11:37
Julia Kulik19/06/2016 at 19:12
Nice post Kamila!! I was there twice and in 3 days again will be there for a short tour. The most interesting is how locals live there despite the fact the country is not recognized, how they sell goods to Europe, etc and many many more! Very unique place and worth visiting for an experience!
Tatiana19/06/2016 at 21:34
I am not sure I am eager to visit this place. But its history and people’s will to build their own place they would accept and call home are definitely worth learning.
kami22/06/2016 at 07:25
true! this is one of the places that you visit for people and the overall experience, not just the pretty views.
Łukasz Kocewiak20/06/2016 at 07:07
Taki mają klimat. Wiele tam się chyba przez ostatnie lat nie zmieniło, prawda?
Kami and the rest of the world06/07/2016 at 11:37
porównania nie mam, ale klimat dawnych czasów zdecydowanie jest!
Darek Jedzok20/06/2016 at 07:31
Uwielbiam te nieistniejące/półistniejące państewka :) Przy okazji tripa do Beneluksu otarliśmy się o terytorium Moresnet, w którym esperantyści chcieli założyć swoje państwo Amikejo. Tego nie wymyślisz.
Monika Marcinkowska20/06/2016 at 08:49
It doesn’t exist so you haven’t been there :D
Darek Sekula20/06/2016 at 10:48
yay! that’s what i wanted to write :P
Pola Henderson20/06/2016 at 10:25
Znajomi byli i zawsze uwielbialam ich opowiesci z tej wycieczki. Zdecydowanie chcialabym tam pojechac.
Mark20/06/2016 at 12:13
Thanks Kami, perfect timing! We leave Chisinau the day after tomorrow for Tiraspol, where will spend the night before crossing back into Ukraine. I was only kidding about finishing your blog on Transnistria but I am happy that you have!!!
kami22/06/2016 at 07:27
I know you were kidding but I was about to write that post anyway so your trip to Transnistria was a good motivation for me! I’m really curious about your experience there!
Megan20/06/2016 at 12:53
i went to transnistria from chisinau for a long day in march and i found it to be overhyped and easier than imagined. everyone acted like it was some huge achievement to get there but it was really easy and tourists are more prevalent than i think many people imagine.
this is a great guide for those seeking to do a day trip- im glad you covered things like money/exchange, visa, etc! i had a blast in tiraspol for the day i was there (it was maslenitsa though haha) and id def go back and explore other parts, or even tiraspol again.
kami22/06/2016 at 13:14
Exactly! All the rumors about going to Transnistria made me really anxious but there was really nothing to worry about, I’ve been through more challenging borders and it was in some “civilized” countries. I guess it’s such an off the path place that people make a huge deal of going there so they can look more like a badass ;)
I really wish there was some sort of event or celebrations when I visited Tiraspol as the city really felt calm. but I still enjoyed it a lot!
Polly20/06/2016 at 20:50
So interesting – this really looks like every small-ish Russian city I’ve ever seen (in fact, it looks a lot like the first Russian city I ever lived in!) so it’s fascinating that it’s such a mysterious ‘non-country’!
kami22/06/2016 at 12:54
I bet most medium size cities with USSR past look somehow similar but Tiraspol was kind of special for being a capital of non existing country!
Ed Welter20/06/2016 at 21:43
One odd thing I noted is that there are virtually no people in any of your photos…
kami22/06/2016 at 09:05
this is partly my fault, I always tend to take pictures with not many people around as I still need to learn the confidence for people pics. And the other thing was that I was wandering around Tiraspol in midday so the majority of people were at work I guess and streets were rather empty
How many capitals from Europe you have visited that Chisinau was the most ‘boring and unpretty’ one?
kami21/06/2016 at 14:34
I’ve just counted as I haven’t done that before – 41, all but 5.
Evi Mielczarek22/06/2016 at 14:18
I know that you are specialist with destinations off the path, but this time you suprised even me! Although I’m not that big a fan of Soviet Union and it’s former republics it’s always good to discover new place on a world map, especially when you think you saw a lot already :)
kami04/07/2016 at 21:46
thank you, I take it as a compliment ;) And I think you should give a chance to former USSR, you might be really surprised! After all you enjoyed Georgia!
David Amando Trombetta23/06/2016 at 23:21
Yes I have been there too, some years ago and it was a bit strange there but interesting :) Funny that officially in the world this country doesn’t exist but if you are there, you feel like being in an own country!-
Kasia27/06/2016 at 13:20
Kami, very interesting text. Thanks for sharing. It’s curious – just few days ago we were sitting in Manali, India with our friends who are travelling overland back to Europe. Transnitria is one of the places they want to go to from Moldova. We spent a lot of time talking about Transnitria. I have to admit that even though few months ago we were cycling so close (next to the Moldavian border in Romania), we didn’t go there and I feel so ignorant. The same happened to us in Nagorno Karabakh, but this time it was just lack of time – we had enter Iran quickly, our visa was expiring. These are the magical places, not recognized by the majority, but not less interesting. On the contrary. Even though it might not be the nicest or the most attractive (in general sense of the word) place, I would still like to visit it. Thanks for the inspiration.
kami04/07/2016 at 21:49
Thank you for your nice comment! I’m sure there’ll be still some opportunities for you to visit Transnistria! Too bad about Nagorno Karabakh!!! I’ve been planning to go there so many times but always Yerevan sucked me in ;)
łukasz kędzierski: podróże i fotografia27/06/2016 at 21:00
A lot of people tell weird stories about how difficult and demanding is crossing some borders but very often it is very easy like in your case, so it’s better to try it by yourself.
The other thing is that (It’s shame to admit that), but I’ve never heard about this “country”. Thanks for sharing.
kami04/07/2016 at 21:50
True! But all these rumour just makes us nervous, and for no reason!
And well, it’s good to learn something new every day, isn’t it? :)
Marcin29/06/2016 at 09:04
Absolutely interesting place! I have been thinking about visiting when I was in Odesa, many, many years ago, but it never happened. Thanks for providing exact information about getting in there, this is actually quite useful! I will follow at some point! :)
kami04/07/2016 at 21:53
Too bad you didn’t go, it’s really easy to get to Transnistria from Odessa! Hopefully soon you will have another chance!
Natalia29/06/2016 at 09:43
Sometimes not the most beautiful place is worth visiting because of “somenthing”. From your post im sure that Transnistria is one of them :)
kami04/07/2016 at 21:54
it definitely is!
Jasilyn01/07/2016 at 09:26
This post is so detailed! I hope one day to explore former Soviet countries, but right now I can only afford to explore Russia. The capital reminds me a lot of Moscow. I love Moscow, so I think I would live to visit Tiraspol.
Living in Russia I find it so funny how much they will support anyone who is against those countries who don’t want anything to do with them (Ukraine and Georgia). My boyfriend and I were in Moscow and there was some kind of gathering and they were singing about how Ukraine is a traitor. Even my friends ex-boyfriend who was born in Ukraine hates Ukraine. It’s such a shame.
kami04/07/2016 at 21:59
Exploring Russia must be pretty incredible too! I’m slightly jealous ;) I guess Tiraspol is mayb 10% as interesting as Moscow but if you’re into these kind of obscure places you’d enjoy Transnistria for sure!
It’s really terrible what’s happening with Russia’s relations with half of the world, so much hatred and misunderstanding…
Davy09/07/2016 at 08:35
Visited Tiraspol in April and like you we felt like we were the only visitors there. One place I think you missed that we found very interesting is a small museum about the breakaway conflict as well as displays and pictures of those who lost there lives. If we hadn’t been with a guide we wouldn’t have found it. All the best with the travels.
kami21/07/2016 at 20:56
thank you for your comment. I did miss the museum indeed! I so wish I had known about it before as it definitely sounds like the place I’d like to visit. At least I have a reason to return to Transnistria but I don’t think this will happen anytime soon ;) Happy travels!
Jason27/01/2017 at 02:40
What was the food like in Tiraspol? Are there any good eateries there?
Was it affordable?
kami28/01/2017 at 22:27
I only stopped for a quick lunch at Andys Pizza (the chain restaurant in Moldova) and it was actually around twice as expensive as in Chisinau… I wouldn’t expect the food in Tiraspol to be the best, to be honest. The farmet markets, however, must be really good!
Christopher Walsh14/09/2017 at 10:15
Kami you are the authority on Transnistria! I used your guide when we went last month. It was awesome! We loved the military marches, as well as the city and beach!
Hope you can visit New Zealand one day, our home.
kami05/10/2017 at 10:54
I’m really glad the post was useful although I’m not an authority at all :) Just a regular tourist who went there too and shared her experience :) I’m actually going to New Zealand later this month! I’m super excited! :)
Nicolás24/04/2019 at 06:36
¡Qué hermosos escritos! El mejor que he leído de Transnitria. Me ha servido de gran ayuda. No fue un relato basado en el miedo ni en lo desconocido. Una amena experiencia. Saludos desde Argentina.
kami27/04/2019 at 13:27
Jawad Hussain24/08/2019 at 21:01
I am pakistani and in Baku for visit. I want to visit transnistria but i have no visa of transnistria. Plz help me what i do. I am also disabled person. But i have a heart for visiting.
kami15/09/2019 at 15:22
Best would be to contact the embassy of Moldova, they are the best source of information. I’m sorry but I can’t help you as I simply don’t know the rules for Pakistani citizens.
Derick S.29/09/2019 at 21:38
I’m doing the Chisinau-Tiraspol marshutka tomorrow and plan to follow your path. Thanks for the helpful advice. As a foreigner in Moldova who doesn’t speak the local language, it’s good to know what to expect on tomorrow’s route.
kami04/10/2019 at 21:00
I hope everything went smoothly for you and you enjoyed your trip to Transnistria!
Boris Kolker08/12/2019 at 04:45
I was born in Tiraspol 80 years ago!
kami17/12/2019 at 08:37
Veronica25/12/2019 at 14:08
Interesting perspective on Transnistria. It is always nice to see articles on this interesting place. It has a lot to offer travellers, just not enough people know about it.
kami13/01/2020 at 12:13