Transnistria: What To Know When Visiting. Transnistria is an unrecognized, de facto country. What does that mean? There are 193 countries recognized by the United Nations, but Transnistria does not make that list. Despite that fact, Transnistria maintains its own military and government. It has its own currency and you need to clear immigration to enter the country. Below are the facts you need to know to help you on your visit.
Much has been written on message boards or chat rooms in regard to entering Transnistria. I took the marshutka (minivan, holds about 15 people) from Chisinau (capital of Moldova) to Tiraspol (capitol of Transnistria). It cost 37 Leu (about $2). Go to the Central Bus Station in Chisinau, simply look for the marshutka with the Tiraspol sign in the windshield. The door-to-door trip will be under two hours.
There are two checkpoints, a Moldovan and a Transnistrian. The marshukta will pass right by the Moldovan check point and drive to the Transnistrian check point. You will note the Transnistrian check point is more militarized. Look for more weapons and armor covered by camouflage. Everyone will pile out of the marshukta and enter the compact office. The officer will ask
- Tourist or business (don’t say blogger or journalist)
- Address/name of hotel or homestay
- How many days are you staying
- Father’s name
Unfortunately, you will not get a stamp in your passport. But you will get a slip of paper which will allow you to stay in Transnstria for 24 hours. (UPDATE April 2017, a reader shared that Transnistria will provide 3 days visas at the border.) If you stay over 24 hours, you will need to register at OVIR (a Soviet holdover to track foreigners). Most likely your hotel will do this for you, or if at a homestay, the owner will need to help you. You will need your passport and slip that was given to you at the border. After a successful OVIR visit, you will be given a new slip that you will need to exit the country.
The main border crossing (for me) went very smoothly. No bribe, no funny business. Very straight forward. Some locals have told me crossing in your own car, crossing at a small border crossing, or exiting to Ukraine might present some challenges. Local Moldovans have told me when driving to Odessa, they will no longer transit through Transnistria due to extortions at the border even though this is a more direct route.
The marshukta’s route ends at the Central Bus Station in Tiraspol. There are taxis and currency exchanges at the station.
When heading back to Chisinau, simply find the marshukta at the Central Bus Station in Tiraspol. The signs are written in Cyrillic, so you will need to ask the drivers. There are only several marshuktas so it is not a difficult task. When exiting Transnistria, a guard will enter the marshukta and briefly check your passport and the slip.
Other options to travel between Moldova and Transnistria are the train or a private car.
Taxi and Marshukta
Taxis are plentiful in Tiraspol. Some have meters. But regardless, make sure you agree on a price. Minimum is around 20-30 Transnistrian Rubles. Marshuktas are ubiquitous in the capital. They run their routes on a frequent basis. In most cases, it is a comfortable ride since they are not overly packed like in some ex-Soviet countries. The ride within the city is 3.5 Rubles. You pay on entry, exit, or anytime during the ride. Marshuktas will also bring you from town to town throughout Transnistria. The price is not fixed outside of Tiraspol. For example, one long ride I took was 20 Rubles.
Russian is the lingua franca in Transnistria. There is not a lot of English being spoken in the country. Also, remember all signs, etc., are in Cyrillic for an additional challenge. It is helpful to know a couple of words in Russian. Per usual, the younger people typically might know some English.
Many of you when traveling to a new country might check out the exchange rate on the very popular website, www.xe.com. If you are looking for the Transnistrian Ruble, you might be looking for a long time. The Transnistrian Ruble is not an internationally recognized or traded currency and is not listed on the website. So to check the exchange rates for the Ruble, check out the Transnistria Republican Bank.
So bring your Euros and US Dollars. Make sure they are new and crisp. In Tiraspol, currency exchanges are everywhere. It is very quick and easy to convert. No passport or ID necessary. When leaving Transnistria, I was only able to convert my Rubles to Moldovan Lei, not US dollars.
Transnsitria is not part of the international banking system. So in general, ATM cards or credit cards are not of use. A local, told me there is one Russian ATM in Tiraspol that dispenses Russian Rubles. And the same local, informed me that Sherif Supermarkets will do some sort of cash advance with your credit card.
Seven Fridays is a good place for a meal. A pizza, Greek salad, and a large draft beer will be under $10. There is also wi-fi at the restaurant. The menu has pictures, so feel free to point. There are a couple of locations in Tiraspol. New to the scene is Mafia, an upscale restaurant on the main thoroughfare, October 25th Street, across the street from the Central Bank. The hamburgers are highly recommended. Sit on the deck, grab a beer, and watch the people stroll by. For pizza, check out Andy’s Pizza which is a chain, which can also be found in Moldova. Supermarket, Sherif has multiple locations throughout the city. Feel free to fill up on snacks – whether it is something from the bakery or some fruit. There are many kiosks located around the city to get a drink or grab a beer. Or check out this café, order a coffee.
I personally used my iPhone with my T-Mobile Sim card, which gives me free data in 140 countries. One of these countries is Moldova. During my stay in Transnistria, T-Mobile considered me to be in Moldova (since Transnistria does not exist) and my data plan worked (slowly) during my trip.
During my visit, I stayed in a homestay with a local in Tiraspol. The cost was 200 Rubles a night on the pull-out couch. On Booking.com around 10 options come up. Everything from the 4 star, CityClub Hotel at over $100 a night, to an apartment at $30. As you can imagine, the tourism infrastructure is not built up.
Enjoy your visit! Let me know if you have any questions. If you want to know the highlights of Tiraspol, click here!!