THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO VISITING MOLDOVA
This is my ultimate guide to travelling Moldova. A country famous for its wine, Soviet past and culture. I’ve created this guide as during my own trip planning I struggled to find much information about visiting Moldova. So I’ve made this ultimate travel guide to help you plan your trip. You can also find my travel guides and blog posts on places and experiences in Moldova further down this page. This guide contains; bucket list experiences, travel tips, costs, advice for solo travellers and budget travellers. I really enjoyed my time in Moldova, I met amazing people, drank great wine, ate delicious food and went back in time to the Soviet Union in Transnistria. I hope you enjoy it!
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Where is Moldova?
Firstly, where is Moldova? This is the most common question I was asked when I told people about my upcoming trip. Moldova is an Eastern European country, it is landlocked and located between Romania and Ukraine. Its capital city is Chișinău, and it is the least visited capital city in Europe. Roughly 2.85 million people visit Moldova each year. Which if you compare this to France, which is visited by approximately 85 million tourists per year, makes the country one of the least visited countries in the world. Moldova was famously called the ‘world’s least happy place’ in a book in 2008. However, I believe it is a great place to visit, it has a unique charm to it, and an ‘of the beaten path’ vibe due to the small amount of visitors it receives. I also believe it is up and coming and likely to start receiving more visitors soon. Many people have described the buildings and streets of Chisinau as ugly, as these show the country’s soviet past through their architecture. However, I found that Chisinau was a beautiful city with lots of green spaces and parks to explore. I also think it has a fascinating history, which you can learn more about below.
Moldova Blog Posts
The principality of Moldova was founded in the 14th century. The principality of Moldova used to include the Romania province of Moldavia. Prince Stefan cel Mare (Stephen the Great) ruled as Prince of Moldova from 1457 to 1504. He is still highly regarded as a hero to this day, for defending the country against the Ottoman Empire’s invasion. He is depicted on every one of Moldova’s bank notes, plus there is a large statue commemorating him in Chisinau. There are also many streets named after him.
Moldova however did eventually fall into the hands of the Ottoman Empire, around 200 years later. Then during the Russo-Turkish wars in the early 1800s, Bessarabia was annexed to the Russian Empire. Bessarabia was the eastern half of the territory, and is largely what accounts for modern day Moldova. After Russia’s collapse in WW1, Bessarabia declared independence temporarily before joining Romania in 1918. Then in 1940 the Soviet Red Army reoccupied Romania. After this, the Soviet government joined Bessarabia with Transdniestr and named it the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic (Moldavian SSR). Moldova was then imposed with Sovietisation, which saw the official state language becoming Russian, and the Cyrillic alphabet being introduced to the country. Moldova remained a Soviet Socialist Republic until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. In August 1991, Moldova declared their independence from Russia.
Tensions between Moldova and the region of Transdniestr intensified in 1992, leading to a civil war, lasting just over 4 months. A cease fire agreement was declared in July 1992 and signed by the Moldovan and Russian Presidents. It is estimated that nearly 1000 people were killed during this conflict. A peace-keeping force led by Russia, consisting of Moldovan, Russian and Transdniestran troops was stationed in the region. Today, Russian troops are still in Transnistria to maintain peace. Since the cease-fire Transnistria has operated as a de-facto independent republic, which is officially known as the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic. The conflict between Transnistria and Moldova remains unsolved to this day. Transnistria has its own currency, government, parliament, military, police, vehicle registration, constitution, coat of arms, flag and national anthem. However, it is internationally regarded as part of Moldova. And is only recognised by three other internationally unrecognised independent regions; Abkhazia, Artsakh, and South Ossetia.
One of the best things about Moldova is the wine. Moldova has a very well established wine industry, it is the 11th largest wine producing country in Europe. It’s the 18th largest globally, which is pretty impressive considering that New Zealand is 15th! Annually, Sixty-seven MILLION bottles of wine are exported. Winemaking in Moldova dates back to at least 3000 BC. Also, most families in Moldova have their own homemade wine recipes and varieties of grapes which are passed down through generations. Grapevines cover 7% of the country’s agricultural land, this is the highest density in the world. Also, 200,000 people are employed within the wine industry in this country. This tiny country has 142 wineries! There is even a wine festival celebrated annually!
Tips for Visiting Moldova
Find my top tips for visiting Moldova below.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Moldova is between April and September, this is the time of year when the weather is at its best. October is also a great month to visit as the annual wine festival takes places during the first weekend of the month. The weather varies drastically throughout the year in Moldova, with snow in the winter. I definitely recommend visiting during the summer months, so that you can make use of all the beautiful parks and green spaces in Chisinau.
The currency in Moldova is the Moldovan leu (plural lei). One leu is made up of 100 bani, there are coins but they are rare to receive, due to their low value. Banknote denominations are; 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000. 1 EUR is roughly 19.35 Moldovan lei. ATMs are widely available throughout the city of Chisinau and other cities. You can easily exchange major currencies in Chisinau.
Transnistria has its own currency, which is not recognised anywhere outside the region. The currency is the Transnistria Ruble, one ruble is made up of 100 kopecks. Banknote denominations are; 1, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 200 and 500. 1 EUR is roughly 18.4 rubles. They also have PLASTIC coins! International credit/debit cards are not accepted in Transnistria. Ensure that you exchange your rubles back before leaving, as this currency is not recognised anywhere else, so will be worthless outside of Transnistria.
The language most widely spoken in Moldova is Romanian, with an estimated 80% of Moldavians speaking it. It is sometimes called Moldovan, but is identical to Romanian. Russian is also widely spoken and understood, due to the country’s soviet past. Russian is the official language spoken in Transnistria. Ukrainian is also a language spoken in this country, however it is not as widely known as Russian or Romanian. I found that English was not widely spoken. Even in the capital city, many people could not speak English. However, it is becoming more popular for young people to learn English at school, so that may change in years to come.
The plugs in Moldova are type C and F. The standard voltage is 220 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz. Don’t forget to take an adapter with you. You can find one here.
Getting to Moldova
Chisinau has an airport with international flights from major airports across Europe. However, these flights can be expensive, when I was planning my trip a one way flight from London to Chisinau was around 90 GBP. Therefore, I recommend flying to a nearby city such as; Bucharest, Cluj Napoca, Iasi, Timisoara, Kiev, Lviv or Odessa. You can then add Moldova onto your trip’s itinerary and visit Ukraine or Romania as well.
I flew to Cluj Napoca, this flight cost 9.99 GBP!!! And then travelled to Chisinau via night bus which cost 20 GBP. The night bus from Cluj Napoca leaves from Autogara Fany at 6pm and arrives at Chisinau Autogara Sud Vest station at 6am. The bus is run by a company called Gal Spedition, you can find their website here. I booked my ticket in advance, but most people bought tickets from the driver. This was a much cheaper option and allowed me to see more of Romania as well. Although the bus is not the most comfortable option, however it does make a few stops throughout the journey for you to use the restroom and stretch your legs.
There are daily trains which connect Iasi, Bucharest and Odessa with Chisinau. There are also many buses you can take between cities. When I left Moldova I took a bus to Odessa, which leave roughly every hour from the North bus station. The journey takes around 4 hours and tickets cost around 10 EUR.
Best Way to Travel Around
The best way to travel around Moldova is by hiring a car and driving. If this is an option for you I definitely recommend it, so you can explore the country at your own pace. It is also an inexpensive option with car hire costing around 45 EUR per day. If you cannot drive, you can use buses to get around. Moldova has an extensive bus network, although it can be confusing to navigate. There are also, marshrutkas which are similar to mini vans. These many travel around the country, whereas the buses take you around the city. Marshrutkas normally run faster routes than buses.
Where to Stay
I stayed at the Amazing Ionika Hostel in Chișinău and I highly recommend it. The owner, Reubens is very friendly and really helpful. He gives every guest a map when they check-in, which details a walking route you can follow to see everything the city has to offer. He also knows a great deal about tours, attractions and public transport. So any questions you have, you can ask him. The hostel offers a free breakfast every morning, plus there is a kitchen you can cook in, with free filtered water. There are lockers in the dorm rooms and great common areas. The hostel is centrally located and it is easy to access all of the city’s things to see and do from here. There is even a shower with a built in radio and a massaging water setting! Definitely one of the best hostels I have ever stayed in, and one of the cheapest!! Find out more about the hostel here.
Must See Things in Malta
Major Cities: Chișinău, Tiraspol, Bender & Bălți.
Airport: Chișinău International Airport (KIV).
Major Attractions: Orheiul Vechi, Bendery Fortress, Soroca Fortress, National Archaeology & History Museum, Arc De Triomphe, Statue of Stefan cel Mare, War Memorial, Cricova and Milestii Mici.
Here Are Some Top Bucket List Picks
1Exploring the World’s Largest Winery.
2Visiting Europe’s Least Visited Capital City.
3Touring Transnistria, a Country that Doesn’t Exist.
4Exploring Chișinău’s Green Spaces.
5Tasting Moldovan Wine.
Moldova Travel Resources
Skyscanner– This is the ultimate tool for searching for flights. This search engine also searches budget airlines allowing you to find the cheapest available flights.
Booking.com– My number 1 go to when booking accomodation. They regularly provide the cheapest prices and a range of benefits such as paying when you check-in (no deposit) and free cancellation. There are even more benefits if you are a Booking Genius, such as; money off, free welcome drinks, late check-out and early check-in.
Hostelword– The best place to search and book hostels. You can see ratings from other travellers and they have handy lists of their facilities. They have a huge amount of hostel listings on their site, across 178 countries.
Viator– Viator is a great site to find day tips and tickets for things to do in the city your are visiting. It’s easy to book trips through and find reviews from other travellers.
GetyourGuide– Another great resource for booking day trips and experiences through. Most tours offer free cancellation (with 24-hours notice) and 24/7 customer service.
BEST Moldova– A great tour operator in Moldova. They offer many different tours including tours of the wineries and to Transnistria. I highly recommend booking a day tour through this company.
Yandex– A ride hailing app similar to Uber which operates in Moldova. They offer very cheap rates and you don’t have to haggle with taxi drivers and deal with the language barrier!
Costs of Travelling Moldova
|Accommodation||Food and Drink||Transport|
|Bed in a Hostel Dorm Room 7-9 EUR per night||Groceries for 1 week cost around 20-30 EUR||Local buses around the city are less than 1 EUR|
|Budget Hotel Room 25-40 EUR per night||A main meal costs around 5-10 EUR||Yandex taxi around the city between 2-6 EUR|
A beer or glass of wine in a bar or restaurant can cost as little as 1 EUR. You could travel Moldova on as little as 25 EUR per day if you are taking marshrutkas and staying in a hostel.
Tips for Solo Female Travellers
Staying safe as a solo female traveller is of the utmost importance. Overall, Moldova is a very safe country to travel around. You can check out crime rates and stats for every country here.
General safety precautions should be taken wherever you are travelling to. These include not walking home alone late at night. Also, don’t drink too much alcohol, you are at your most vulnerable when drunk and anything can happen. Even if you’ve made friends you never know what will happen and can only rely on yourself to ensure you get home safely.
You can use Yandex taxis to get around, these are similar to uber. The app allows you to track the route and agree the price before setting off on the journey. It also has safety features similar to uber, using Yandex may make you feel safer than using normal taxis.
Be cautious and keep an eye on your possessions at all times. Don’t carry too much cash on you, and if possible try to keep money on different parts of you body. For example you could have some cash in a hidden money belt. This avoids having all your cash in your wallet and flashing all your money every time you open it. Carry multiple debit/credit cards if possible, if anything happens you then have back up cards to use. Again don’t keep these all in the same place so that if your wallet is lost or stolen you still have cards to use. You could also use a theft-proof bag to keep your belongings safe and avoid having valuables on show. I also recommend carrying either a photo or a photocopy of your passport with you just in case anything happens to it.
Trust your instincts. Always trust your gut, if something doesn’t seem right or you don’t feel comfortable with a situation remove yourself from it. An example of this is when I was in Malta, I didn’t feel comfortable in the hostel I was staying in. I trusted my gut and moved hostels and this allowed me to sleep peacefully and enjoy my trip.
Stay in hostels, this will allow you to meet fellow travellers with ease. There are also usually kitchen facilities, so you can cook your own food and avoid eating in restaurants alone if this makes you feel uncomfortable. You can book female only dorm rooms as well if this makes you more comfortable. Use the lockers available at hostels to store your valuables in, to keep them safe.
Tips for Budget Travellers
Moldova is an amazing destination for budget travellers. Due to it being a very poor country, it is very affordable to travel within. You don’t have to try very hard to make a visit here budget friendly, but here are some tips.
Couchsurfing is a great resource for travellers, allowing you to stay at a host’s home for free. This is good to delve deeper into the culture of a country, finding out how locals live, and they’ll have the best travel tips for you. However, hostels are usually the cheapest accommodation available, and a great way to meet people. Many hostels also include breakfast which is a great way to save money.
Things to Do
Most museums in Moldova are either free to enter or charge 1-3 EUR for entry. There are also lots of monuments you can visit in Chisinau which are free for you to go and see. Chisinau also has lots of amazing green spaces to explore, such as a lake and parks. A great way to spend time in Chisinau is by wandering through the parks and relaxing. Tours to the wineries can be expensive. However if this is the only pricey thing you do during your trip, then it is still possible for you to keep the cost of your trip down. Plus the wineries are something you have to see whilst here, you can’t miss it!!
Food and Drink
Cooking your own food is also a way to save money whilst travelling. Staying in hostels with kitchen facilities and buying food from the supermarket to cook, is a perfect way of saving money. I cooked a few meals in the hostel during my stay to save money and brought snacks from the supermarket to carry around in case I got hungry to avoid spending more money. I also bought food which was ready made in the supermarkets, such as pizzas, salads and pastries. Supermarkets in Moldova offer many foods which are made fresh and ready to eat, these are very cheap to buy.
You can also buy Plăcintă, this is a pastry filled with savoury or sweet fillings. The most common fillings are cheese, potato and cabbage. You can buy these for less than 1 EUR from vendors around the city, and between 2 and 3 EUR in restaurants.
Limit the amount of alcohol you buy in bars and restaurants. This is often the number one cause of breaking your budget. You go out and drink and before you know it you’ve spent way more than you meant to. Drink in hostel bars where possible, or buy alcohol from supermarkets. Also, make local choices when buying alcohol. Imported beers and branded spirits can be costly.
The most cost effective way of travelling around is via bus or marshrutka. Fares are often under 1 EUR to travel around the city of Chisinau, or a couple of euros to travel somewhere else in the country. Using the Yandex taxi app is also a good way of travelling around Chisinau. The app is very similar to uber and offers very low fares. I found using this app very handy, as its much cheaper than normal taxis. You also don’t have to try and communicate with the driver about where you want to go. There is a big language barrier in Moldova, I didn’t encounter many people that spoke English well, so it can make things more difficult.
Tips for Travelling Moldova
- Chisinau is best explored on foot, this way you won’t miss anything.
- Visit Moldova between April and September for the best weather!
- Eat Plăcintă, a cheap traditional Moldovan pastry which makes a great snack.
- Book accommodation which includes breakfast to save money.
- Fresh fruit in Moldova is amazing and readily available at markets and supermarkets. Take advantage of how cheap and delicious it is.
- Rent a car to explore Moldova, this allows you to explore at your own pace.
- Combine visiting Moldova with other Eastern European destinations such as Romania and Ukraine.
- Stock up on Moldovan wine, it is amazing and very cheap.
- Volunteer during your time in Moldova to help the poorest country in Europe, and give back.
- Find out which days the museums are open when planning your trip. There are certain days of the week that museums will be closed so look into this to work out when to visit. To ensure you don’t miss the ones you really want to visit!
More Moldova Blog Posts
For more help planning your trip to Moldova see my other blog posts:
I hope you have enjoyed this Moldova travel guide and it inspires you to plan a trip to Moldova.
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