Transnistria Travel Guide
A GUIDE TO VISITING TRANSNISTRIA
If you do one thing when you visit Moldova, it should be visiting Transnistria. Firstly, it was at the top of my list of things to do when visiting Chisinau. Secondly, who wouldn’t want to visit the country that doesn’t actually exist! Transnistria looks as if it has been frozen in time. For example, every other former Soviet ruled country is getting rid of their Lenin statues and Soviet-era architecture, Transnistria’s is still prevalent. Even the cars the residents drive are vintage. I recommend visiting on a day trip, or taking the public bus and guiding yourself. You can stay overnight, but it is a small place to explore, so half a day or a full day are all you really need! Here’s everything you need to know about visiting.
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Where is Transnistria?
Transnistria is located on a narrow strip of land between Ukraine and the river Dniester. There are three other unrecognised states in the world that also recognise Transnistria as a country these are; Abkhazia, Artsakh and South Ossetia. These form the Community for Democracy and Rights of Nations.
History of Transnistria
Transnistria is a region of Moldova which declared independence in 1990. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, tensions intensified between the region and Moldova, causing a civil war which lasted 4 months. At the end of the war, the Joint Control Commission was established and a cease-fire agreement was signed, between Russia, Moldova and Transnistria. Since then the cease-fire has been held. However, Transnistria’s political status is still unresolved. It is classified as an unrecognised by de-facto independent state. Transnistria has its own government, parliament, military, police, postal system, currency and vehicle registration. Transnistria has its own flag, national anthem, constitution and coat of arms. Additionally, it is the only country in the world to still have a hammer and sickle on its flag.
Firstly, you can reach Transnistria by bus or train. The central bus station is found in Chisinau at the central market, near the Main Street; Stefan Cel Mare. The bus station is pretty much chaos. But ask someone at your accommodation first which bus you need and you should be able to buy a ticket and find the bus with ease. However, the buses are marshrutkas, so are not particularly comfortable, and it takes around 2 hours to reach Tiraspol.
However I went on a half-day tour with Best Moldova. Find out more information about the tour I took by pressing the button below. It takes about an hour to reach the border from Chisinau. At the border, you have to pass through passport control, and will be given a Migration Card. They will not stamp your passport. EU Citizens do not need a visa to enter Transnistria, your Migration Card will state how long you can stay. As we were part of a group tour ours allowed 10 hours. Please note it is forbidden to take photos at the border of any military personnel. Entering the region is free, if another asks for a fee it may be a bribe.
Transnistria has it’s own currency- the Transnistria Ruble. You can exchange your Moldovan money in Transnistria. You have to do this as places do not accept card payments. But make sure you exchange your rubles back before leaving, as you will be unable to do this outside of Transnistria.
What To See?
A city on the West Bank of the Dniester River. Here is what to see in Bender.
This is an Ottoman fortress, situated near the Bendery-Tiraspol bridge, built in the 16th century. There is also a Museum of Torture inside the fortress which you can visit. Admission is 50 rubles.
Orthodox Church of St. Alexander Nevsky
The orthodox church of St. Alexander Nevsky is located next to the Fortress.
Bendery Military Museum & Train Station
Bender’s main train station is no longer in use, but can be entered by tourists. I suggest going to see the socialist-realist architecture and grand ticket hall. Our tour guide took us through the station to look at the tracks at the back, and announced “welcome to North Korea”, it’s definitely a unique place to visit! Beside the train station is the Military museum which is displayed within the carriages of a decommissioned Soviet-era steam train. There is no entrance fee.
Tiraspol is the capital city of Transnistria, and truly one of the most fascinating places I’ve visited. If you’re looking to stay overnight this will be the best place to stay. All of the sights to see in Tiraspol are along the main street of 25 Oktyabrya Street.
Monument to Suvorov
The monument can be found on Suvorov Square, the main square in the city of Tiraspol. It is named after Alexander Suvorov, the founder of Tiraspol.
War Memorial & Eternal Flame
A soviet-era tank can be found at the war memorial. An eternal flame is here in memory of those who died on the 3rd of March 1992, during the first outbreak of the civil war. There is also the Tomb of the Unknown Solider here.
Statue of Lenin
Outside Transnistria’s government building is a statue of Vladimir Lenin
In addition, one of the most interesting things about Transnistria, is the monopoly that the Sheriff company has over the region. They own; a chain of supermarkets, petrol stations, a TV channel, a publishing house, a construction company, an advertising agency, a spirits factory, bread factory, a phone network, a football club and the football stadium. Apparently it is the second-largest company in Transnistria, however you definitely wouldn’t think it. Everywhere you look when in Transnistria you’ll see some form of Sheriff branded outlet. Our tour guide told us that when a supermarket opened that was owned by a different company, people were very excited… however they sell the exact same things inside.
In conclusion, I highly recommend the tour run by Best Moldova. They take you to all the sights in Bender and Tiraspol, and it includes a traditional lunch of; Borsch and Chicken and Mashed Potatoes with cabbage.
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