Date Visited: September 2019

Introduction

Have you ever wanted to visit a country which doesn’t exist? Quirky and fascinating, the unrecognised, breakaway Republic of Transnistria is a destination that’s stuck in the Soviet past.

This self-declared republic occupies a narrow strip of land on the eastern bank of the Dniester River, although the international community recognise the land as part of the Republic of Moldova. Transnistria has been recognised only by three other, mostly non-recognised, states: Abkhazia, Artsakh, and South Ossetia (see the following section for more on these breakaway states).

A Soviet-era tractor working on the main street of Tiraspol.

A Soviet-era tractor working on the main street of Tiraspol.

The capital, Tiraspol, is full of soviet-era relics; its residents live in drab, soviet-era apartment blocks, Lada’s cruise the streets (although modern SUVs are becoming more popular), well-tended flower beds line the main street, which is named after the Russian revolution of 1917. The town hall is housed inside the ‘House of Soviets’, Lenin statues can be found in a couple of prominent locations while a tank statue serves as a reminder of battles fought. All signage is in Cyrillic, everyone speaks Russian, with almost no one speaking English.

'I Love Tiraspol' in Cyrillic.

‘I Love Tiraspol’ in Cyrillic.

Transnistria is truly idiosyncratic, a place that has never stopped living the Soviet dream. If it cannot be independent, then it would rather join into a union with Russia. While Moldova sees its future in the west, as part of the Europe Union, Transnistria is looking east to Russia. This breakaway republic is a charming, (did I already mention quirky?), fascinating and engaging destination which should be on anyone’s itinerary.

Soviet symbols can be found everywhere in Transnistria.

Soviet symbols can be found everywhere in Transnistria.

Community for Democracy and Rights of Nations

What does a breakaway republic do when the international community refuses to recognise it? It forms an organisation with other (non-recognised) breakaway republics.

The Community for Democracy and Rights of Nations, also commonly known as the Commonwealth of Unrecognised States, is an international organisation uniting four unrecognised states, all of whom were formerly part of the Soviet Union.

The members of the organisation are:

  • Abkhazia (Administrative centre: Sukhumi)
  • Artsakh (Administrative centre: Stepanakert)
  • South Ossetia (Administrative centre: Tskhinvali)
  • Transnistria (Administrative centre: Tiraspol)

Location

Transnistria Travel Guide: A regional map showing the thin slither of territory which is the breakaway 'Republic of Transnistria'.

A regional map showing the thin slither of territory which is the breakaway ‘Republic of Transnistria’. Source: Wikipedia

Transnistria is a landlocked state which borders the Republic of Moldova to the west and Ukraine to the east. All of the territory of Transnistria lies to the east of the Dniester river, except for the district of Bender, which lies on the west bank of the river.

Tourism

Tiraspol Tourist Information Centre

The wonderful Tatyana, from the Tiraspol Tourist Information centre, presenting me with a map of the city.

The wonderful Tatyana, from the Tiraspol Tourist Information centre, presenting me with a map of the city.

Located at #135 Strada Sovietic, in downtown Tiraspol, the territory’s only Tourist Information Centre is staffed by a small, English-speaking, team of enthusiastic and helpful staff who are keen to promote the attractions of Transnistria. The centre is open every day, from 09:30 to 18:30, except Sundays.

The Tiraspol Tourist Information Centre is located around the corner from the City Hall.

The Tiraspol Tourist Information Centre is located around the corner from the City Hall.

Apart from providing advice, the centre also stocks a good selection of Transnistria souvenirs.

Transnistria magnets on sale at the Tourist Information centre.

Transnistria magnets on sale at the Tourist Information centre.

Walking Tours

One of Anton's sketches, which is featured on his Facebook page.

One of Anton’s sketches, which is featured on his Facebook page.

If you wish to discover sights beyond the regular tourist trail, you should join the enthusiastic and energetic Anton Dendemarchenko on one of his free walking tours. Anton, who is an English-speaking local, describes himself as an urban sketcher and sightseeing hunter. He has sketched most of the sights of Tiraspol and sells his work as postcards, which make for great souvenirs.

Most guides working in Transnistria are actually from Chisinau. These guides travel each day from Moldova’s capital, bringing busloads of day tripping tourists, returning back to Chisinau in the evening.

Anton however, is a real local and has explored every nook and cranny of Transnistria, which allows him to show visitors the hidden gems of the territory. Apart from being an informative guide, Anton is also very witty and funny!

If you want to do something memorable while in Transnistria, then Anton is your man! You can contact him at:

How Long in Transnistria?

How long should you spend in Transnistria?

Almost all visitors visit Tiraspol and Bender on a day-trip from Chisinau, which is unfortunate as this quirky breakaway republic is an engaging destination which warrants more than a day-trip (which is more like a half day-trip once you account for travel times from Chisinau).

I stayed for two days and one night in Tiraspol but this also wasn’t enough. If I had my time again, I would stay for three days and two nights – there is quite a bit to see and do.

Anton (mentioned above in ‘Walking Tours‘) can easily fill a full day taking you to some of the lesser-known, off-beat sights which are located outside of Tiraspol. The capital has enough sights to warrant a full day, then there’s Bender, with its amazing fortress. I was happy spending time sitting in the various cafes along the main street of Tiraspol, watching the world go by, in this city which is still firmly stuck in the Soviet past.

Transnistria is weird, off-beat, quirky and charming, it’s a pleasure to visit and shouldn’t be rushed. Then there’s the Sturgeon farm! Caviar anyone?

A Brief History

The Dniester river, which forms the border between Transnistria and Moldova, flowing through Tiraspol.

The Dniester river, which forms the border between Transnistria and Moldova, flowing through Tiraspol.

I’m including this section to provide some background history on Transnistria to allow for a better understanding of why the territory has tried to go its own way since Moldova declared its independence.

Historically, the land occupied by current day Moldova, from the Prut river in the west, to the Dniester river in the east, was part of the Romanian Principality of Moldavia, which has its capital in the Romanian city of Iași. In 1812, during the reign of Tsar Alexander I, the Russian Empire invaded Romania and annexed the land between the Prut and Dniester rivers. This is the land which forms modern day Moldova.

Soviet-era symbols can be found throughout Transnistria.

Soviet-era symbols can be found throughout Transnistria.

Once the Russian Empire was dissolved in 1918, Moldova re-united with other Romanian lands inside Romania. After being occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940, and changing hands in 1941 and 1944 during World War II, Moldova would become part of the USSR and be known as the Moldavian SSR (Soviet Socialist Republic) until 1991.

Transnistria was also included in the Moldavian SSR, and, although the majority of its population are ethnically Russian, things remained peaceful since everyone was part of one country (the Soviet Union), everyone spoke one language (Russian), and everyone used one alphabet (Cyrillic).

Flag of Romania.

Flag of Romania.

However, when the Soviet Union collapsed, Moldova declared its independence on August 27, 1991. At that time, it declared the national language would be changed from Russian to Romanian, the Cyrillic alphabet would be replaced with the Latin alphabet (which is the alphabet normally used by the Moldovan’s) and the national flag would be changed so that it was almost identical to the Romanian flag. Today in Moldova, there are calls from different groups, and politicians, to finally reunite the country with Romania.

Flag of Moldova.

Flag of Moldova.

War of Independence

Looking across from the other side of the Dniester river, the mostly Russian population of Transnistria was concerned that they would become a minority inside Moldova. They didn’t speak Moldovan; they didn’t use the Latin alphabet and they didn’t want to be a part of Romania.

Transnistria decided to declare its independence, a move which saw Moldova respond with force. Due to Russia’s involvement and Moldova’s limited defence capabilities, the War of Independence was short-lived, lasting from 1990 to 1992. A ceasefire was declared on the 21st of July 1992, which has held.

Despite everything, the international community has never recognised Transnistria and considers the territory a part of Moldova. If the world won’t recognise their independence, then the Transnistrian’s would rather join into a union with Russia, although Russia is not rushing to the altar. Currently, stability is assured due to the continued presence of Russian ground forces.

Politics

The coat of arms of Transnistria with the flags of (l-r) Transnistria, Russia and the different districts of Transnistria.

The coat of arms of Transnistria with the flags of (l-r) Transnistria, Russia and the different districts of Transnistria.

It’s not easy being an unrecognised republic. Despite this, the Republic of Transnistria, officially known as the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR) is headed by an elected President, currently – Vadim Krasnoselsky – who serves as the head of state while the Prime Minister is head of government.

A billboard in Tiraspol commemorates 29 years of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR).

A billboard in Tiraspol commemorates 29 years of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR).

Transnistria today is an unrecognised republic with its own government, parliament, military, police, postal system, flag, currency and vehicle registration. While the republic is only recognised by the three other breakaway republics, Russia maintains a consulate in Tiraspol, but hasn’t recognised Transnistria as an independent state.

Flag

The reverse side of the flag of Transnistria.

The reverse side of the flag of Transnistria.

The flag of Transnistria is actually the former flag of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic (MSSR), which served as the republic’s flag until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. When Moldova became independent, it changed its flag to be almost identical with that of neighbouring Romania.

Transnistria refused to fly the new Moldovan flag and continued to fly the flag of the MSSR. Continued use of the flag was popular and so, in 2000, it was officially reintroduced as the flag of Transnistria. The flag features the hammer & sickle, the only flag in Europe to do so. Despite the symbols, Transnistria is not a socialist state!

Philately

This small collection of Transnistrian stamps cost me US$3 from Tiraspol Post Office.

This small collection of Transnistrian stamps cost me US$3 from Tiraspol Post Office.

Since Transnistria is not recognised internationally, its stamps can only be used for domestic post. If someone in Transnistria needs to post something abroad, then Moldovan stamps need to be used. I spent a whole US$3 to acquire a tiny collection of stamps, which I’ll never be able to use, but they are a cool souvenir!

The main post office in Tiraspol.

The main post office in Tiraspol.

If you wish to acquire your own collection of Transnistrian stamps, you will find the helpful staff at the main post office in Tiraspol more than willing to serve you.

As an experiment, you could try sending a postcard to a friend by affixing Moldovan and Transnistrian stamps. I have heard of cases where postal items have been delivered internationally with Transnistrian stamps attached.

Currency

My collection of Transnistrian ruble bank notes which feature an image of Alexander Suvorov, the Russian General who founded Tiraspol.

My collection of Transnistrian ruble bank notes which feature an image of Alexander Suvorov, the Russian General who founded Tiraspol.

The currency of Transnistria is the ruble, which is issued by the Pridnestrovian Republican Bank (PRB). The notes come in denominations of 1-, 5-, 10-, 25-, 50-, 100-, 200 and 500 rubles. Bank notes are printed in Russia by the Goznak company and cannot be exchanged outside of Transnistria. Credit cards are generally not accepted in Transnistria.

The central bank of Transnistria, Pridnestrovian Republican Bank, is headquartered in Tiraspol.

The central bank of Transnistria, Pridnestrovian Republican Bank, is headquartered in Tiraspol.

Exchange Rates

Ruble exchange rates displayed at a bank in Tiraspol.

Ruble exchange rates displayed at a bank in Tiraspol.

The ruble is de facto pegged to the United States dollar. The central bank determines each work day whether or not it is appropriate to devalue the currency against the U.S. dollar.

The World’s Only Plastic Token Currency

The plastic money of Transnistria.

The plastic money of Transnistria.

While changing money at the bank one day, the friendly teller ducked off to find something special for me. She returned with a small, blue, plastic token which looked like a playing chip from a casino. This was a 5-ruble plastic bank note/ chip. Amazing! The land of the quirky had just become even quirkier. As illustrated above, there are four which you can collect.

Costs

Transnistria is a travel bargain! Accommodation options include only ‘budget’ and ‘top end’, however top end options are priced as mid-range options. Food, drinks and transportation costs are very reasonable.

Sample costs: 

  • Coca Cola (0.33 litre bottle): 11 rubles (US$0.68)
  • Water (0.33 litre bottle): 7.6 rubles (US$0.47)
  • Local Beer (0.5 litre from Bender Brewery): 25 rubles (US$1.50)
  • Cappuccino: 18 rubles (US$1.10)
  • Bus Ticket (in Tiraspol): 2 rubles (US$0.14)
  • Litre of fuel: 16 rubles (US$1.00)
  • Meal (inexpensive restaurant): 80 rubles (US$5.00)
  • Meal for 2 (Kumanek Restaurant in Tiraspol): 326 rubles (US$20)
  • Dorm bed in a budget hostel (Like Home Hostel in Tiraspol): 180 rubles (US$11)
  • Room in a top-end hotel (Hotel Russia in Tiraspol): 1000 rubles (US$62)

Phone Services

Don’t expect your Moldovan, or international, SIM to work in Transnistria. I was using a SIM card from Orange (Moldova), which stopped working once I crossed the border. The only hope of connecting to the internet is through your hotel or one of the cafes or restaurants in Tiraspol.

People

Most residents of Tiraspol still live in drab, Soviet-era apartments, some of which are undergoing cosmetic renovation.

Most residents of Tiraspol still live in drab, Soviet-era apartments, some of which are undergoing cosmetic renovation.

The authorities in Transnistria conducted a census in 2015, which counted a total population of 475,665, which was a 14% decrease from the previous census (conducted in 2004). Of the population, the largest ethnic groups were:

  • 161,300 Russians (34%)
  • 156,600 Moldovans (33%)
  • 126,700 Ukrainians (26.7%)
A billboard in Tiraspol.

A billboard in Tiraspol.

Russian is spoken by everyone and English (or any other foreign language) is spoken by almost no one. The minute you cross the border from Moldova to Transnistria, all signage changes to Cyrillic. I stayed at the best hotel in town, the Hotel Russia, where only the reception staff were able to communicate in English. There are some English speakers working in the cafes and restaurants in Tiraspol.

Compared to their Moldovan neighbours, I found the people of Transnistria to be very reserved and not particularly friendly. They seemed very stern and serious, rarely smiled or made eye contact. There were a few exceptions – but only a few!

The Transnistrian passport is not valid for international travel.

The Transnistrian passport is not valid for international travel.

While the residents of Transnistria are issued with passports, these are not recognised by the intentional community and therefore, not valid for international travel. Almost all Transnistrian’s have a second passport, which is either Russian, Ukrainian or Moldovan, depending on their heritage.

Economy

Why the continuous population decline? It’s all about the economy – or the lack of economic opportunities!

After visiting Transnistria, I travelled to Odessa, Ukraine where I met many Transnistrian’s (of Ukrainian decent) who had relocated to Odessa to find employment. While the economy remains dysfunctional in Transnistria, the population decline will continue as people look for work elsewhere. Despite the issues between Moldova and Transnistria, many Transnistrian’s live and work in Chisinau.

The economy of Transnistria is a peculiar combination of the command-and-distribution model inherited from the USSR with elements of a free-market economy which is heavily dependent on Russian energy and financial subsidies. The main pillars of the region’s economy are several large industrial plants – a power plant, steel works, cement works and a textile factory. These were built in the Soviet era and generate more than half of the territory’s GDP (in 2012, Transnistria’s GDP reached around US$1 billion).

The government maintains a permanent deficit, one which has been continuously increasing since 2008. The major sources of income in Transnistria’s economy are from exports and cash remittances from expatriate workers.

Sightseeing

This ageing peace (Frieden) sign adorns the side of an apartment block on the road from Tiraspol to Bender.

This ageing peace (Frieden) sign adorns the side of an apartment block on the road from Tiraspol to Bender.

While sightseeing in Transnistria, you should always keep an eye open for hidden Soviet-era treasures. Non-descript buildings, in the most unremarkable locations, often feature beautiful Soviet artwork.

An incredible 'CCCP' stone mosaic on the wall of a factory in Bender.

An incredible ‘CCCP Worker’ stone mosaic on the wall of a factory in Bender.

While trying to find my way to Bender Fortress, I drove down a backstreet of an industrial estate which seemed all but abandoned. At the end of the street, in the middle of nowhere, I came upon a factory whose exterior wall was adorned with the most impressive stone mosaic of a worker holding a ‘CCCP’ (USSR in Russian) pentagon in his right hand.

An unremarkable factory in a quiet back street of Bender, which features two impressive works of Soviet-era industrial art.

An unremarkable factory in a quiet back street of Bender, which features two impressive works of Soviet-era industrial art.

Tiraspol

A map of Tiraspol which was provided by the Hotel Russia.

A map of Tiraspol which was provided by the Hotel Russia.

The capital, and largest city of Transnistria, Tiraspol was founded by the Russian General Alexander Suvurov. The city has a handful of sights, all of which can be visited on a leisurely walking tour. If you wish to have a knowledgeable local show you the sights, and provide a dose of humour along the way, I suggest you organise a tour with Anton Dendemarchenko (refer to the ‘Walking Tours‘ section above for more details).

The real charm of Tiraspol comes from it being a city which is in the 21st century, but also stuck in the Soviet past. While the sights are interesting, there’s much more to Tiraspol, which is revealed to those curious enough to scratch below the surface.

The main street of Tiraspol, 25th of October street, is lined with planter boxes full of colourful flowers.

The main street of Tiraspol, 25th of October street, is lined with planter boxes full of colourful flowers.

Most sights in Tiraspol are strung out along the main street, 25th of October street, which is named after the date of the Russian revolution which saw Lenin sweep into power in 1917.

House of Soviets

The Dom Sovetov (House of Soviets), serves as the Tiraspol City Hall and is fronted by a bust of Lenin.

The Dom Sovetov (House of Soviets), serves as the Tiraspol City Hall and is fronted by a bust of Lenin.

Located in the heart of downtown Tiraspol, the strikingly beautiful, Stalin-era, Dom Sovetov (House of Soviets), serves as the Tiraspol City Hall. The building, which is fronted by a bust of an angry-looking Lenin, is not open to visitors and technically, as a government building, should not be photographed, but every tourist in town stops to photograph it. From the Hotel Russia, the City Hall is a short 100-metre walk.

Lenin Statue

This cloaked statue of Lenin greets all visitors arriving in Tiraspol.

This cloaked statue of Lenin greets all visitors arriving in Tiraspol.

As you drive into Tiraspol, it’s impossible to miss the large Lenin statue which looms over the main street. The cloaked statue fronts the Presidential Palace, the seat of Transdniester’s government, and serves as a striking ‘welcome’ to this most Soviet of cities.

War Memorial Park

The Tank-34 monument, which features a WWII-era Soviet armoured tank.

The Tank-34 monument, which features a WWII-era Soviet armoured tank.

Across the road from the Presidential Palace, the War Memorial park features one of the best photo ops in town, the Tank-34 monument. The tank was used during WWII, but sadly, the crew was killed in a battle near Budapest, Hungary. It stands as a memorial to those who lost their lives in WWII.

The flame of the unknown soldier in the War Memorial park.

The flame of the unknown soldier in the War Memorial park.

The centrepiece of the War Memorial park, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is flanked by an eternal flame, which honours those who died on 3 March 1992, during the first outbreak of fighting in the War of Independence.

A memorial to the War of Independence in Tiraspol.

A memorial to the War of Independence in Tiraspol.

At the western end of the park, against the wall of the History Museum, a memorial is dedicated to those who lost their lives during the War of Independence.

Tiraspol National History Museum

One of many rooms of exhibits at the Tiraspol National History Museum.

One of many rooms of exhibits at the Tiraspol National History Museum.

If you wish to gain a better understanding of Transnistria, the Tiraspol National History Museum features many rooms of exhibits which cover all periods of the territory’s history, from 19th-century Tiraspol, to the Soviet period, the Great Patriotic War (WWII) and finishing with the War of Independence in 1992.

Russian soldiers and weaponry, arriving in Transnistria, to support local militia, during the War of Independence against Moldova.

Russian soldiers and weaponry, arriving in Transnistria, to support local militia, during the War of Independence against Moldova.

A room dedicated to the War of Independence, pays homage to the close relationship enjoyed with Russia. Locals told me that the territory owes its peace (and existence) to the continuous support of Russia, which includes the presence of Russian troops. Putin is popular in these parts!

A display at the Tiraspol National History Museum shows appreciation for Russia and, a very cool looking Putin.

A display at the Tiraspol National History Museum shows appreciation for Russia and, a very cool looking Putin.

Apart from historical displays, the museum also serves as an art gallery of sorts, and includes a hallway lined with paintings from local artists.

A hallway at the museum is lined with paintings from local artists.

A hallway at the museum is lined with paintings from local artists.

Monument to Suvorov

The monument to Suvorov in Tiraspol, with the flags of (l-r) Abkhazia, South Ossetia and the Republic of Artsakh.

The monument to Suvorov in Tiraspol, with the flags of (l-r) Abkhazia, South Ossetia and the Republic of Artsakh.

Commanding attention in the middle of Suvorov Square is the equestrian statue of Suvorov, a great Russian Military Commander, who founded the city of Tiraspol in 1792. The flags of the other three breakaway republics can be seen, fluttering away, in the background of this photo.

Church of the Nativity

A recent addition to the city, the Russian-orthodox 'Church of the Nativity' was completed in 1999.

A recent addition to the city, the Russian-orthodox ‘Church of the Nativity’ was completed in 1999.

Located behind Suvorov Square, the Church of the Nativity is also known as the Cathedral of the Birth of Christ. Completed in 1999, this beautiful, Russian-Orthodox, church is the largest and newest church in Tiraspol. Located next to the central market, it’s easy to find thanks to its sparkling, golden, onion-shaped domes.

Dniester River Promenade

The promenade along the Dniester river is a great place to mingle with locals and watch the sunset.

The promenade along the Dniester river is a great place to mingle with locals and watch the sunset.

Across the road from Suvorov Square, the sleepy promenade along the Dniester river is especially popular with locals in the late afternoon and is the best place to watch the sunset.

Sunset on the Dniester River in Tiraspol.

Sunset on the Dniester River in Tiraspol.

KVINT Wine & Cognac Distillery

The headquarters of the Kvint distillery is featured on the back of the 5-ruble note.

The headquarters of the Kvint distillery is featured on the back of the 5-ruble bank note.

Where else in the world would the headquarters of a distillery be featured on the national currency? Transnistria of course! The 120-year old Kvint Winery and Distillery started life as a distiller of vodka. Today it’s famous for its wines and cognac.

The shop at the Kvint Winery and Distillery.

The shop at the Kvint Winery and Distillery.

At its downtown headquarters, the company offers wine and spirit tastings, tours and an on-site shop sells the full range of their award-winning products.

Bender

Located on the opposite bank of the Dniester river, and the only part of Transnistria which is not east of the river, the City of Bender, is not part of the territorial unit of Transnistria (as defined by the Moldovan central authorities), but it is controlled by the PMR authorities, which consider it part of PMR’s administrative organisation.

The entrance to Bender Fortress.

The entrance to Bender Fortress.

Bender occupies a strategic location on a ‘bend’ in the Dniester river. The city was first mentioned in documents dating back to 1408, when it was known as Tighina.

Bender was historically part of the Principality of Moldavia and was once part of Romania. In 1538, the Ottomans took control of Tighina, renaming it Bender. During their rule, the fortress was modernised and expanded. In 1812, the Russians defeated the Ottomans, taking control of Bender. Today, it’s part of Transnistria with Russian troops guarding the bridge which crosses the Dniester river alongside the famous fortress.

A view of the Ramparts of Bender Fortress.

A view of the Ramparts of Bender Fortress.

For many years, the fortress was closed as it’s home to a military barracks and is considered a military installation. Today it’s open (every day from 9 am to 6 pm) to visitors and is the most impressive sight in Transnistria.

The ‘Iron Maiden’ torture device.

Apart from walking along the impressive ramparts, there are two museums to explore; one which documents the long history of the fort and another which shows lots of gruesome torture devices.

Among the devices, the ‘Iron Maiden’ is a wooden closet loaded with strategically placed spikes. The victim would be placed inside, the doors closed, at which point the spikes would pierce the body – but not the vital organs. The victim would be left to die a slow, painful death. Then there’s the less-than-comfortable ‘Interrogation Chair’.

The 'Interrogation Chair'. Ouch!

The ‘Interrogation Chair’. Ouch!

Accommodation

The centrally located, Hotel Russia, is the best hotel in Tiraspol, and very affordable at USD$60 per night.

The centrally located, Hotel Russia, is the best hotel in Tiraspol, and very affordable at USD$60 per night.

While in Tiraspol, I stayed at the Hotel Russia, which seems fitting when in a republic which dreams of being a part of Russia! The staff at the Hotel Russia speak – Russian, with just the reception staff able to communicate in English.

The Russian theme extends to the cable TV offering, with a selection of – yes – Russian channels! The only English-language channel was the RT (Russia Today) English broadcast, which provides a constant stream of, state-sponsored, propaganda.

My room at the Hotel Russia in Tiraspol.

My room at the Hotel Russia in Tiraspol.

As can be expected from the Hotel Russia, their website offers one language option – Russian! Rooms can be booked through Hotel.com or Booking.com.

Eating Out

An ornate coffee vending machine in Tiraspol.

An ornate coffee vending machine in Tiraspol.

Restaurants

There are a handful of restaurants in downtown Tiraspol which offer Moldovan, Italian, Japanese cuisine and more. Located one block off the main street, on Strada Manoilov, is the very popular Kumanek restaurant whose website, like all others in Transnistria, is only available in Russian. Their online menu is written in Russian and English and includes lots of regional dishes including a delicious Chicken Kiev. During the day, this cosy restaurant is busy with day-tripping tourists, in the evening however, you’ll have the place to yourself.

If you’ve appreciated Andy’s Pizza in Chisinau, you’ll be happy to know that there’s a branch in Tiraspol on the main street at 25th October St #72.

Cafés

The beautifully-designed interior of Casta which is a wonderful cafe/ restaurant, located on the main street of Tiraspol.

The beautifully-designed interior of Casta which is a wonderful cafe/ restaurant, located on the main street of Tiraspol.

A few coffee shops can be found along the main street of Tiraspol. One of my favourites is the beautifully-designed Casta (website only in Russian), which offers a menu of international food, cocktails, great coffee, cakes and so much more. It’s located opposite the Central Bank on the main street at – 25th of October street #92.

Bars

One of the local beers which is brewed by the Bender Brewing company.

One of the local beers which is brewed by the Bender Brewing company.

Despite the fact that Transnistria produces its fair share of alcohol, there are surprisingly few bars in Tiraspol. However, most restaurants serve alcohol which gives visitors an opportunity to sample the beers produced by the Bender Brewing company and the wines and cognac produced by the Kvint distillery.

Visa Requirements

My Transnistria 'Migration Card'.

My Transnistria ‘Migration Card’.

Transnistria does not require foreign visitors to obtain a visa; you can stay for up to 45 days without a residence permit. However, you will be issued a Migration Card based on the amount of time you require for your stay.

No stamps are entered into your passport when passing from Moldova to Transnistria. The Moldovan’s consider the territory to be a part of Moldova, so why would they stamp your passport? On the Moldovan side, the ‘border’ consists of a police check, although the police did not stop me.

On the Transnistrian side, the border is much more serious, with stern looking guards ensuring you don’t take photos. I entered the territory at the land border on the highway from Chisinau, which is the border almost all other visitors use to enter the territory. Here, you need to enter an office, present your passport, which is scanned and advise how long you will be staying. You will then be issued with a Migration Card which states how long you can remain in the territory. You need to keep this with you at all times! There are no passport stamps issued in Transnistria! 

Carnet de Passage

If you’re entering Transnistria in a rental car, you will be required to purchase a Carnet de Passage which cost me 58 rubles for one week (also payable in other currencies). This is purchased from the customs office which is located inside a separate building.

Getting There

Distances to other cities from Tiraspol.

Distances to other cities from Tiraspol.

Air

Tiraspol airport, which has only ever served as a military air base, is currently closed, but the separatist administration wants it reopened in order to help boost economic growth. Since flights will have to pass through Moldovan air space, clearance is required from the Moldovan authorities, who, naturally, are not willing to give it.

Moldova

The nearest airport to Tiraspol is Chișinău International Airport (IATA: KIV) in Moldova, which is 54 km from Tiraspol. Chisinau International Airport serves as the base for Air Moldova.

The following airlines provide scheduled flights to/ from Chisinau:

  • Aeroflot – flies to/from Moscow–Sheremetyevo
  • Air Moldova– flies to/from Barcelona, Beauvais, Beirut, Bologna, Dublin, Frankfurt, Geneva, Istanbul, Krasnodar, Larnaca, Lisbon, London–Stansted, Madrid, Milan–Malpensa, Moscow–Domodedovo, Nice, Rome–Fiumicino, Saint Petersburg, Tel Aviv, Thessaloniki, Turin, Venice, Verona, Vienna
  • Austrian Airlines – flies to/from Vienna
  • Belavia – flies to/from Minsk
  • FlyOne – flies to/from Dublin, London–Southend, Moscow–Vnukovo, Paris–Charles de Gaulle, Parma, Verona
  • LOT Polish Airlines – flies to/from Warsaw–Chopin
  • Lufthansa – flies to/from Frankfurt
  • TAROM – flies to/from Bucharest
  • Turkish Airlines – flies to/from Istanbul
  • Ukraine International Airlines – flies to/from Kiev–Boryspil
  • Wizz Air – flies to/from Barcelona, Beauvais, Bergamo, Berlin–Schönefeld, Bologna, Charleroi, Doncaster/Sheffield, Dortmund, Friedrichshafen, Larnaca, London–Luton, Memmingen, Prague, Rome–Ciampino, Rome–Fiumicino, Treviso, Turin, Verona, Vienna

Ukraine

Located in Ukraine, Odessa International Airport (IATA: ODS) is 103 km from Tiraspol.

The following airlines provide scheduled flights to/ from Odessa:

  • AtlasGlobal Ukraine – flies to/from Istanbul
  • Austrian Airlines – flies to/from Vienna
  • Belavia – flies to/from Minsk
  • Bulgaria Air – flies to/from Sofia
  • Buta Airways – flies to/from Baku
  • flydubai – flies to/from Dubai–International
  • LOT Polish Airlines – flies to/from Warsaw–Chopin
  • Motor Sich Airlines – flies to/from Kiev-Zhuliany
  • Onur Air – flies to/from Istanbul
  • Ryanair – flies to/from Berlin–Tegel, Budapest, Gdańsk, Katowice, Kraków, Poznan, Wrocław
  • TAROM – flies to/from Bucharest
  • Turkish Airlines – flies to/from Istanbul
  • Ukraine International Airlines – flies to/from Istanbul, Kiev–Boryspil, Tel Aviv
  • Wizz Air – flies to/from Berlin-Schönefeld, Bratislava, Budapest, Gdańsk, Katowice, Wrocław

Road

Moldova

From Chisinau to Tiraspol: There are bus and maxi-taxi services from Chisinau (2 hr 20 min, 36.50 Moldovan lei) every 30 minutes through most of the day. Buses leave from the northeast corner of the Chisinau Autogara.

Rail

I rode 3rd class on the train from Chișinău to Odessa which was pleasant and comfortable.

I rode 3rd class on the train from Chișinău to Odessa which was pleasant and comfortable.

Chisinau – Tiraspol – Odessa

A thrice weekly (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) train connects Chisinau to Tiraspol and Odessa, departing Chisinau at 07:09, arriving in Tiraspol at 09:20 then terminating in Odessa at 10:45. Tickets can be booked either online or at the main station.

Prices (Chisinau to Odessa) are:

  • 1st class: 167.20 Moldovan lei
  • 2nd class: 159.10 Moldovan lei
  • 3rd class: 151.40 Moldovan lei

Getting Around

An ornate street sign in Tiraspol at the intersection of Lenin street and 25th of October street.

An ornate street sign in Tiraspol at the intersection of Lenin street and 25th of October street.

Public Transport

Soviet-era buses connect to most points in Tiraspol and Bender.

Soviet-era buses connect to most points in Tiraspol and Bender.

A comprehensive network of trolley buses, regular buses and mini buses (Marshrutka in Russian) allow commuters to reach all parts of Tiraspol and Bender – and at just 2 rubles (US$0.14) a ride, they are a bargain!

Taxi

While taxis are freely available in Tiraspol, the city is very compact and easily covered on foot. I didn’t take any taxis while in Transnistria.

Rental Car

The license plate of Transnistria features the flag and also indicates which district the car is from, with 'T' representing Tiraspol.

The license plate of Transnistria features the flag and also indicates which district the car is from, with ‘T’ representing Tiraspol.

The rental car industry in Transnistria is in its infancy, with just one rental company in Tiraspol – IOOO” Rent a Car. As can be expected, their website offers one language option – Russian! I drove a rental car from Chisinau, which cost me US$30 per day.

 

Safe Travels!

Darren

 

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Author: Darren McLean

Owner of taste2travel.com – an avid traveler, photographer, travel writer and adventurer.

I hope you enjoy reading my content.

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Darren McLean

Owner of taste2travel.com - an avid traveler, photographer, travel writer and adventurer.

I hope you enjoy reading my content.

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