As strange as it may seem, the world is full of countries that are not recognized by the international community; one of them is Transnistria. Transnistria officially called the Pridnestrovian Moldovan Republic, is located in Eastern Europe.
Despite being territorially located within Moldova, it has its own borders, army, currency and education. Transnistria is not recognized by the United Nations and is unknown to most people. Internationally Transnistria is recognized as a part of Moldova.
It is the last European country to hold up communist emblems and flag its streets with hammers and statues of Lenin. I first heard about Transnistria through a television documentary, but getting there was easier than I thought.
Traveling to Transnistria is possible and today, it has become a tremendous historic destination for those looking to find out more about the Soviet Union. Transnistria is considered by many as an open-air museum. It is an ideal destination in the heart of Europe for those interested in a few tourist destinations and the history of the former Soviet republics.
How To Get There?
There are several ways to visit Transnistria. In all cases, it is necessary to have a Moldovan visa and comply with the current travel requirements. Anyone considering travel should know that restrictions are subject to change at short notice, and everyone should undertake proper research. You can enter Moldova with no restrictions if you have the following: (update December 2021)
- You hold a vaccination certificate that proves you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and at least 14 days have elapsed since you completed the vaccination program.
- You present proof of a negative PCR test result from a test taken no more than 72 hours before arrival in the country or a negative Quick Antigen test result for the SARS-CoV-2 virus from a test taken no more than 48 hours before entering Moldova. The proof needs to be presented in any of the following languages: Romanian, English, French, German, Italian or Russian.
Travel to Transnistria from Moldova
The easiest way to enter Transnistria is through Moldova and travel from Chisinau to the capital of Transnistria, Tiraspol. It is only 75 km and you can travel there by bus, train or taxi. Buses run continuously from Chisinau Bus Station and the trip takes about two hours; the cost is 50 leis (Moldovan currency). The quickest and easiest way to get there is to take a taxi from Chisinau airport to Tiraspol, it costs approximately 20 euros per taxi and the journey takes one and a half hours.
Travel to Transnistria from Ukraine
The train from Odessa to Chisinau stops in Tiraspol. Train schedules vary, so check the Ukrainian Railway Network website for up-to-date information. Another option is to go by bus, but the train is much faster.
At the Transnistria immigration, they do not stamp your passport but rather give you an immigration card stating the time they allow you to stay in Transnistria. You will need the card to leave so don’t lose it. If you lose it or exceed the authorized time limit in the region, you will be fined. To enter, you need a valid passport, a hotel reservation, and say how many days you plan to stay; typically, 3 to 5 days is enough.
Taking photos is not allowed at the border.
The situation in Transnistria is relatively stable. However, as it is an unrecognized territory, you will not have consular representation unless you have a Russian passport. Therefore, it is better to respect the rules.
You can take photos of all monuments and buildings, except military posts. Outside of that, walking alone in the city is very safe and the people are very friendly, they are happy to welcome foreigners.
There are three official languages in Transnistria – Russian, Moldovan and Ukrainian, but Russian is the language of the administration. Few people speak English, but they will always be ready to help you with whatever you need. It will be very helpful to learn a few Russian phrases to move around.
Transnistria has its own currency, the Transnistrian ruble, without value outside the territory. This is the only place where it can be accepted and traded, so you should make sure you don’t keep rubles once you leave the territory.
One euro is roughly equivalent to 19.60 Transnistrian rubles. It is essential to bring euros, US dollars or Moldovan Leis in cash because ATMs in Transnistria do not accept foreign credit cards.
Where To Stay?
There are hotels throughout the city at reasonable prices, but I recommend staying at Like Home Like Hostel due to its experience receiving tourists interested in this authentic region.
A local family runs the hostel and the owner Eughenia, will be willing to answer all your questions and help you get to your destinations. The hostel is located in the center of Tiraspol, a few blocks away from the main avenue and offers private rooms with breakfast included.
The thing that made my stay truly unforgettable was the tour they organized. If you want to have the authentic Transnistria experience and see the real, local places, definitely check it out.
Where To Eat?
The best place to explore local food and immerse yourself in the history of the Soviet Union is at the USSR restaurant. Also, you cannot miss the opportunity to eat in a Soviet canteen. One of the most traditional canteens that maintain the Soviet decoration is the USSR Canteen.
These places offer the typical dishes of the region. You can’t miss eating Borscht soup, a soup made with beetroot and usually served with sour cream, associated with the cuisine of eastern and central Europe, and the Chicken Kiev, a chicken-filled stand out, with butter sauce and covered in breadcrumbs. By the way, don’t forget to try the local wines and cognac. The region has a great wine history.
Kvint cognac is export quality and makes a great gift. Most visitors keep some banknotes, but, I think sending a postcard from a country that does not exist is an incredible idea and an opportunity that few people have. There are many post offices, and you can find the main one on 25 de October Avenue.
What To See In Transnistria?
Transnistria is an open-air museum and a couple of days is enough to see the main attractions and the best way to access them is by walking. I stayed for three days and was able to visit some neighboring cities.
Tiraspol, the capital of Transnistria, is a very different destination in Eastern Europe. This is the perfect destination for those who like to go to places with few tourists since it has been preserved for decades. The main monuments and statues of the capital of Transnistria are on the main avenue 25 de October:
- Tiraspol City Hall with Lenin’s bust at the entrance
- Statue of Lenin in front of the government headquarters
- Suvorov Square: Statue of Suvorov the coat of arms of Transnistria
- Monument to the Liberation with the T-34 tank
Outside the avenue you may be interested in visiting:
- Sheriff Tiraspol Stadium
- Abandoned amusement park
- Zeleni Market and the Christmas Church
- Kvint cognac factory
The Dniester River is the natural border with Transnistria and Moldova, but some towns on the other side of the river belong to Transnistria. A bridge can cross it, but a ferry also takes you to the other side for just a few rubles if you have time. When walking is not an option, taking a local bus or taxi is always a good idea because it is cheap and distances are very short.
Across the Dniester River is the town of Chitcani, where the Noul Neamt Monastery is located, an Orthodox complex inhabited by Transnistrian monks who live off the wine they produce.
If you ask for permission, they will surely let you climb the bell tower and see the panoramic view and, with a bit of luck, you will be able to taste some of their wines. Women must cover their heads to enter the monastery. If you are not prepared at the entrance, they will lend you a scarf to cover.
Bendery is another popular city in Transnistria and has an Ottoman-era fortress, more than 600 years old.
To get there, travelers usually take a bus or taxi that takes no more than 15 minutes from Tiraspol. Entering the fortress costs approximately 50 Transnistrian rubles and inside, you’ll find a museum about the history of the area.
We hope this article has inspired you to visit Transnistria. If you have any questions or advice to share with our readers, please leave these in the comments below.
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