How to travel to Transnistria in 2021 (Tips + Itinerary)

travel blog Transnistria

Have you ever visited a country that doesn’t exist?

As strange as it may sound, the world is filled with ghost countries which are basically, countries not recognized by the international community, therefore not members of the United Nations. 

In Europe, you can find 5 unrecognized countries, one of them being Transnistria, located within present Moldova. 

Transnistria is a real Soviet theme park and an actual off the beaten track destination within Europe.

This guide contains everything you need to know to travel to Transnistria, including information regarding visas, how to get there, things to do and historical context.

Don’t forget to read my ultimate Moldova itinerary, which also includes plenty of tips

visit Transnistria


In this Transnistria travel guide you will find:

Intro
Visa
How to get in
Money
Where to stay
Is it safe?
Things to do

More information


Introduction to visiting the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (Transnistria)

Transnistria, with Tiraspol as its capital, is a narrow territory within Moldova, which stretches from north to south, the Dniester river being the natural border with Moldova, hence the name in Russian: Pridnestrovian, meaning on the other side of the Dniester river.

The Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic is a country not recognized by the UN, but traveling to Transnistria feels like traveling to a new one: they have their own borders, immigration rules, military, government, parliament, car registration, and even their own currency. 

It is a territory filled with Soviet nostalgia and Communist symbols.

In fact, the Transnistrian official flag is the only one in the world still using the hammer and sickle.

The only more Soviet places I have been to is Minsk. Check my travel guide to Minsk


Why did Transnistria separate from Moldova?

Short story: Transnistrians are pro-Russian people who didn’t want to be part of Moldova (culturally Romanian) after the dissolution of the USSR.

Longer story: However, I’d like to add a few points because the story is obviously more complicated than that.

The fact is that Transnistria is an artificial, fake territory taken from Western Ukraine in an attempt by the Soviets to take over Bessarabia, a region from Romania which joined the Soviet Union in the 40s, which later became present-day Moldova. 

The reason why Transnistria is mostly inhabited by ethnical Russians is the same as why you find Russians in Eastern Ukraine: they were sent there as part of the Russification process. 

After WWII, the Soviets created the Moldavian SSR, composed of both Bessarabia and Transnistria but then, at the end of the 80s, during the dying years of the USSR, Moldovan nationalism grew and the Transnistrians were afraid of becoming the minority within Moldova, especially when Romanian was declared an official language, so Transnistria proclaimed independence from Moldova.

Tensions between both parties increased until 1992, when the Moldova-Transnistria war happened, which lasted for 3 months, and from whose Peace Agreement, the fake Semi-Presidential Republic of Transnistria was founded. 

For more information, read this great summary from the BBC.

Transnistria’s emblem has pics of bread, corn and grapes


Who recognizes Transnistria?

Unlike other unrecognized republics in the region such as Abkhazia or South Ossetia, Russia doesn’t recognize Transnistria as an independent country.

Transnistrians would like to be part of Russia but since Russia doesn’t want them – because the territory doesn’t have much value – and they don’t want to be part of Moldova, they are kind of stuck in between. 

In fact, Transnistria is an unrecognized country only recognized by unrecognized countries:

  • Abkhazia – within Georgia. Read my travel guide to Abkhazia
  • South Ossetia – within Georgia
  • Artask – formerly known as Nagorno Karabakh and only accessible from Armenia.

Also, don’t forget to read my Georgia Travel Guide

This is one of the reasons why the economy in Transnistria is really struggling and, if you think Moldova is a developing country compared to the rest of Europe, wait until you travel to Transnistria.

Still, traveling to Transnistria is a worthwhile experience for anyone interested in offbeat, Soviet stuff. 

Continue reading my Transnistria Travel Guide.

Transnistria tourism


Visa for Transnistria

Things have gotten smoother for visiting Transnistria, and pretty much any nationality who can visit Moldova can get a visa on arrival in Transnistria. 

Typically, once you arrive at the border, they will give you an immigration card valid for the number of days you requested, and which you need to show upon exit, like the Israeli visa.

How many days can you stay in Transnistria?

At the border immigration office, they will ask how many days you are planning to stay for. 

They claim your visa can be valid for up to 45 days, as long as you have a hotel booking confirming the length of your stay.

However, they did ask us the name of our hotel but never asked for the booking confirmation.

We had booked 3 nights in Tiraspol but, just in case, we said we wanted a 5-day permit, and the officer granted it to us without any further question. 

Extending your stay in Transnistria

If you wish to spend more time traveling in Transnistria, visa extensions can easily be got in a few minutes – and free of charge – at the immigration office located in Kotovskogo 2a Street, Tiraspol.

A common problem: Moldovan exit/entry stamp

Since Moldova doesn’t recognize Transnistria as an independent country, the Moldovan authorities will never give you an exit stamp upon your entrance in Transnistria, for the simple reason that, in their eyes, you never left Moldova.

Therefore, there could be two possible scenarios in which you won’t get your entry/exit stamp automatically, so here’s what you need to do:

  • You are leaving Transnistria through Ukraine, hence you are not coming back to Moldova – In this case, at the Ukrainian border, you need to ask for the Moldovan immigration office, but be aware that this isn’t an automatic procedure, so you need to look for it.
  • You travel to Transnistria from Ukraine, and then you plan to enter Moldova – If arriving by train, you will find the immigration office at the train station itself in Chisinau but once again, this is not an automatic procedure. If you are arriving by bus and don’t get the entry stamp, according to the Lonely Planet Forum, you need to get it at the Immigration Office in Chisinau, but only if you plan to stay in Moldova for more than 72 hours. 

In any case, there are reports from travelers saying didn’t manage to get the entry stamp for Moldova but, upon their exit, the Moldovan authorities didn’t give them any trouble because they are fully aware of the situation.

visa for Transnistria
The immigration card for Transnistria


How to get to Transnistria

There are different ways of traveling to the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic:

How to travel to Transnistria from Ukraine

  • By train – The train that goes from Odessa to Chisinau stops in Tiraspol. Not sure if there are daily trains, but you can check timings, prices and buy your ticket on the official Ukrainian Railway site. That’s where I bought mine. By the way, if you book the Odessa-Chisinau route, make sure to type the Russian transliteration Kishineu, otherwise, you won’t find it.
  • By bus – If you miss the train, you can also take the Odessa-Chisinau bus which goes through Tiraspol. I personally used the train because it is apparently much faster than the bus.
  • Other entry points – The Ukraine/Transnistria border is pretty long, so there are other points of entry which you can use. The city of Pervomaisk, located 200km north of Odessa, is a city with regular buses to Moldova.

Don’t forget to read my Ukraine travel guide


How to travel from Chisinau to Tiraspol

  • By bus (marshrutka) – Marshrutkas leave all day long from the Central Bus station in Chisinau. Location: 47.019546, 28.845628. It is a 2-hour journey and costs 46 Leis (Moldovan currency).
  • By train – I believe the train also works but marshrutka is a better option, as you get loads of them every day, whereas there are only a few trains.


Money in Transnistria

Transnistria acts like a separate country and, unlike other unrecognized republics such as Abkhazia or South Ossetia, which are fully backed by Russia and so use the Russian Ruble, in Transnistria, they use their own currency: Transnistrian Rubles (PRB)

1€ = 17.50PRB
1MDL = 0.90PRB

Plastic Coins – In Transnistria, in addition to their regular coins and notes, they also use some weird plastic coins which look like a joke, but they are totally valid, even though they will soon remove them from the market. They have plastic coins worth 1, 3, 5 and 10PRB.

Paying with a credit card and withdrawing money

You can pay by credit card in only a very few places, so it is better to bring cash. 

I was able to withdraw money from one ATM, but I believe this will depend on your bank. 

Just in case, bring some extra cash. 

Exchanging money

American Dollars, Euros, Moldovan Leis and Russian Rubles are widely accepted in all exchange offices.

Paying in other currencies WATCH OUT!

The local economy in Transnistria is always struggling, so that is why they always like to accept any currency different from their own, including MDL, RUR, € or USD. 

However, on our last day, we had dinner in a relatively fancy restaurant where I thought credit cards would be accepted but they weren’t, so they brought us the bill in MDL and charged a 20% commission on the exchange rate. 

Luckily, while Adriana waited in the restaurant, I was able to find an ATM that worked but the guys from the restaurant strongly insisted I should not bother to go the ATM, ’cause they knew they’d get an extra 20% that way.

How much does it cost to travel in Transnistria?

Transnistria is a cheap destination as per European standards, and I’d say that it is a 15% cheaper than Moldova. 

Transnistria money
Transnistrian money


Where to stay in Tiraspol

Best Backpacker Hostel – Like Home Hostel – The best backpacker hostel in town is run by a lovely local family, has a garden, a good location and vibes. 

CLICK HERE TO CHECK PRICES AND AVAILABILITY

Best Budget Hotel – Elektromash HotelGood quality budget rooms in a hotel which also has a kitchen.

CLICK HERE TO CHECK PRICES AND AVAILABILITY

Best mid-range hotel – Hotel Russia – If you want a more comfortable stay, this hotel is the best value-for-money mid-range option in town.

CLICK HERE TO CHECK PRICES AND AVAILABILITY


Is it safe to travel to Transnistria?

Something you need to remember when you visit Transnistria is that, unless you have a Russian passport, you won’t have any consular representation if the unlikely happens, so always travel with caution. 

Other than that, Transnistria and Tiraspol are as safe as Chisinau or any other country, even though I heard stories from people getting mugged at late hours, but I guess it was a one-off event. 

Taking photos when you visit Transnistria. Is it allowed?

Before traveling to Transnistria, I had read in a few blogs that taking photos of Government buildings like the House of Soviets was not allowed but this isn’t the case anymore. 

You can take photos of all the monuments and buildings mentioned in this article, with the exception of course, of military buildings, but this happens everywhere around the world I’m afraid.

is it safe to travel to Transnistria
The wide avenues from Tiraspol


Things to do in Transnistria

Traveling in Transnistria can certainly keep you busy for 2 or 3 days.

We stayed for 3 nights, spending most of our time in Tiraspol, but we also did some trips outside of the capital. 

Map of the things to do in Transnistria


Things to do in Tiraspol

Today the largest open-air Soviet Museum in the world, Tiraspol is a Soviet theme park or, like my Moldovan friends like to say, a Soviet zoo, even though I find this last term a bit disrespectful.

Jokes aside. 

The best things to do in Tiraspol are all related to Transnistria’s Soviet Heritage, but there is also a lively market worth to check out, as well as a few churches. 

House of Soviets and Lenin bust

The first crazy Soviet thing you may want to see is the City Hall of Tiraspol, whose main peculiarities are that they still call it the House of Soviets (Dom Sovetov in Russian) and they kept a bust of Lenin in front of it. 

It is a Stalinist style building from the 50s.

I managed to get inside the building but I was kicked out after 1.5 seconds. 

House of Soviets, Tiraspol
House of Soviets, Tiraspol


Suvorov Square: Suvorov Statue and Transnistria emblem

In Suvorov Square, you find the largest national emblem in the country, consisting of the hammer and sickle, and depictions of bread, grapes, corn, and potatoes.

You know, Communist stuff.

Next to it you find the statue of Alexander Suvorov, the last Generalissimo of the Russian Empire in the 17th century, at whose side wave the flags of the unrecognized republics of Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Artask.  

how to travel to Transnistria
Suvorov Square


Presidential Palace and Lenin Statue

The favorite postcard of Tiraspol is the Presidential Palace, which is guarded by a massive Lenin statue. 

Transnistria travel
Presidential Palace and massive Lenin statue


The T-34 tank and Saint George Chapel

Very close to the Presidential Palace you find a war memorial to those who died during the Moldova-Transnistria war, in which you find a T-34 tank, the most common tank used during WWII. 

Controversially, next to the Soviet tank, you also find a cute church that creates a big contrast, the Saint George Chapel church.

If you like Soviet stuff, read Soviet stuff to do in Belarus

Transnistria tourism
The T-34 tank and the church


Abkhazia and South Ossetia embassies

Like I said, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, along with Artask, are the only countries that recognize the existence of Transnistria, so they won their right to get their respective embassies in a prime location. 

Here you can see other unrecognized countries I have visited

Abkhazia & South Ossetia embassy transnistria
Abkhazia & South Ossetia embassies


Monument to Aviators

Quite at the edge of town, you find the Monument to Aviators, consisting of a MiG-19 plane, the world’s first mass-produced supersonic aircraft.

Monument to Aviators, Tiraspol
MiG-19 plane, Monument to Aviators, Tiraspol


Zeleni Market and the Christmas Cathedral

If you have some spare time, the Zeleni market in the center of Tiraspol gets quite lively in the morning. We were told that it also contains a flea market where they sell all sorts of old Soviet artifacts but we couldn’t find it.

Next to the market, you find the most important cathedral in Tiraspol, Christmas Cathedral, which is worth a few minutes of your time.

Zeleni Market Transnistria
Zeleni Market Transnistria


Kvint Cognac Factory

One of the few non-war-related things Transnistrians are proud of is their brandy, especially their Kvint Brandy, a distillery which has been completely functional since 1870, today producing more than 20 million bottles a year. 

I actually recommend you buy a small bottle from any supermarket or, at least, get a glass of brandy in any relatively good restaurant found across the city. 

Otherwise, you can also visit the factory, located just a 15-minute short walk from the city center. 

They offer daily tours in English and I recommend you go there the day before to book your tickets and ask for timings. We decided to visit the factory on our last day in Tiraspol but we arrived a bit late, and the next scheduled tour wasn’t until 4pm, so we missed it. 

Dniester river crossing

The Dniester is the natural border between Transnistria and Moldova but there are a few towns across the river that also belong to Transnistria, especially around Tiraspol. 

You can cross to the other side by walking over the bridge but, if you have time, there is also a ferry (shown on the map) that takes you to the other side for a few cents. 

In the evening, the shore of the river is a hanging-out-spot for locals.

Dniester river
Dniester crossing. The price of the ferry was 1 Rubble


Best day trips from Tiraspol

These are some other things to visit in Transnistria:

Bendery

Most travelers come here to just visit the famous Bendery Fortress but, if you visit Transnistria is because you like visiting Communist stuff, then Bendery has a hell load of it, perhaps not as monumental as its neighbor Tiraspol, but good enough to keep you busy for 1 or 2 hours. 

Things you need to check out are the slightly deteriorated Lenin Statue in Madagascar Park, the mosaic inside Bendery’s main bus station and the tank monument near the fortress, all of them marked on the attached map. 

By the way, entering the fortress costs 50PDR but the inside is not particularly exciting. Next to the fortress there is a fancy hotel with a cool bar-terrace that sells inexpensive beer. 

How to get to Bendery – There are buses every 10 minutes going to Bendery from the Tiraspol city center.

Bendery Fortress
Bendery Fortress


Chitcani

Chitcani is an unattractive Transnistrian town located across the river which has not much to offer except for Noul Neamt Monastery, a pretty Orthodox complex inhabited by Transnistrian monks who make a living from the wine they produce and vegetables they grow. 

There is a very tall bell tower which you can climb to the very top.

Well, you can but I think it is not allowed. I did it because there wasn’t anyone around, but I had to go through some doors which weren’t locked, but they were closed.

How to get to Noul Neamt Monastery – Marshrurkas leave from right across the river by the bridge. Otherwise, if you cross the Dniester by ferry, you can hitch a ride with any other car on the boat.

Noul Neamt Monastery, Transnistria
Noul Neamt Monastery, Transnistria


Sucleia

I missed this place, basically, because I only found out about it after visiting Transnistria.

In Sucleia there is a Youth Sports Complex containing a set of pretty amazing Soviet murals and a disproportionately large Lenin Statue.

Sucleia is around 7km east of Tiraspol.

If you want to know more about it, read this post from Kathmandu & Beyond

This was everything you needed to know to travel to Transnistria. If you have any questions or suggestion, please leave a comment below


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22 comments

  1. Nice article. Just you are wrong when you say you will not get any consular support if you need it. All countries are obligated to provide consular support to their citizens anywhere in the world. Even those who went to live in ISIL and are now in camps receive consular support from their countries and are returning there. Ofc it can be a bit harder here than in Chisinau for example, but not so much

  2. Currently the marshruka from central bus station to Tiraspol is 46 lei. Problem is, getting in now requires a Covid test not more than 72 hours before arrival, a photocopy of hotel reservation and formal permission from the Commissar which is a several day process.

    1. Xyeta,

      Such mean-spirited remarks have no place in civil society. Moreover, you fail to state what it is about the article that troubles you. Maybe the author is not as far left as you are politically, but this doesn’t make him a fascist.

    2. Are you really an idiots or followers of war criminals? You used the term of the Nazi war criminals “transnistria” to refer to modern people, thereby essentially wishing them death. I wish the author of this text the same again.

      1. The only reason I use this term is because ”Transnistria” is accepted and the most commonly used term in the English language, hence what most travelers use & understand.
        Thanks for your wishes.

        1. Where did you read this? Hardly even a fraction of the percentage of English speakers have heard about Pridnestrovie, there is no any “accepted and commonly used term”, the term is determined exclusively by the context. You wanted to offend people and question their right to a peaceful life – you did it.

          If you like such cynical and blasphemous provocations, try next time traveling to Islamic countries with a gay flag or to North Korea with a caricature of their leader. I am sure that you will not return from there, and the world will become cleaner.

          It’s a pity that I didn’t meet you: you would definitely have less teeth. Do not come to this country again and in general to the territory of exUSSR, you are not welcome here.

          1. Xyeta, The first time I learned of this country, it was referred to as “Trans Dniester.” It was in a book called “The Game” written by Savoy and concerns the subject of how men can better succeed at attracting beautiful women, and chronicles the life of some men who call themselves “pickup artists.”

            Do you like the term “Trans Dniester” any better or worse than “Transnistria”?

  3. It’s not that I don’t like the ugly Romanian word “Transnistria”, but what it actually means. It means only one thing: the occupation and genocide committed by the Romanians in southwestern Ukraine during the Second World War and the Romanian claims to lands “beyond the Dniester” (meaning in relation to Romania, therefore the prefix “trans-“). In English sources, Pridnestrovie is called whatever they like, I have come across more than a dozen variants (that is, there is not even a hint of a “common name”, as written above), but any terms built using the prefix “trans-” are variations of the Romanian term and imply offensive and derogatory context. The author of this text is clearly aware of this, because you need to be completely limited and stupid to write so much text, but not even find out the name of the country about which you writes.

    1. Xyeta, You use such hateful speech to the writer when you don’t know him or his intentions. This entire blog is highlighting the region in a good way and to show people that it is nice to travel there. His intentions were definitely not malicious.
      Now to your points about the name – I am an English speaker from North America. When I first learned about this country, it was introduced to me as “Transnistria.” I have seen it called this many times and had no knowledge of the history. I am assuming the same is for the author. It wasn’t until I did more research on my own that I came across the other names. To your point that “no one uses this hateful term”, that is not true. When I was looking to visit, many of the hotels use “Transnistria” in their address. Just look at CityHotel or Hotel Russia as examples. The author did not use it out of disrespect; he simply did not know the history. This is the same in my case – I had no idea it was a disrespectful term until you posted your comments. You should focus on educating, not threatening; especially when you do not know the person. I look forward to visiting this beautiful area in the near future.

      1. Hi Peter, thanks for your comment. This person is just a fanatic and a sad human being who has nothing to do but to use his or her hateful speech to random people on the internet.
        In any case, regardless of what he or she says is true, Transnistria is the term which most people get introduced with, as you well say, and not only this, but it’s the term used by Wikipedia, the Lonely Planet and pretty much any international media outlet like the BBC and even the New York Times so yeah, using Transnistria seems unavoidable for foreigners, especially because the official Russian name Pridnestrovian or Pridnestrove can be difficult to pronounce. I think this person will have some hard time wishing death to all Western writers and journalists who ever wrote about Transnistria. In addition to what you said about hotels, in our visit, we also did talk to several English-speaking locals who had no issues or whatsoever in saying Transnistria. Therefore, I can only think that the term Transnistria may have some negative historical connotations but nowadays, educated people will know that foreigners just use it for convenience, and only the most fanatic and closed-minded people in Transnistria will find it offensive. Anyways, I just wanted to reply to you because I know you have read some of my articles, but I don’t think this person is worth any more seconds of our time, that’s what he or she would like. Big hug,

        1. A man who insulted a whole people and the memory of hundreds of thousands of people on the Internet was offended that he was answered in the same spirit on the same Internet. Is it funny? No, it’s stupid and disgusting. As well as attempts to link to Wikipedia and other rubbish on the Internet. I repeat once again: the choice of a term in relation to concepts that are not conventionally fixed and do not have wide circulation in the language is determined solely by the author and the context. Is the country’s name harder to pronounce than the ugly Nazi term? I personally know many native speakers of English, German, Polish and some other languages. All of them, with whom I spoke on this topic, confirmed that the word “Transnistria” in English pronunciation is impossible to pronounce the first time. In any case, you had a choice from a range of neutral country names that you could find on the Internet: Pridnestrovie, Pridnestrovia, Cisdniestria, Dnestr Republic, Nistrenia, Cisnistria, Nistria, PMR, etc. But you chose the term Romanian Nazis, clearly aware of what it means. This is confirmed by the fact that you have not apologized or repented, having corrected your text, but continue to insult people. Such people are not worthy of a respectful and condescending attitude towards themselves.

      2. Does it highlighting the region in a good way? Okay, let’s see what he wrote. So, as a travel guide for travelers, the article is of little value, because it contains obvious nonsense in the spirit of “Transnistria” (“artificial, fake territory taken from Western Ukraine”, “they were sent there as part of the Russification process”, ” Bessarabia, a region from Romania which joined the Soviet Union in the 40s”, ” on the other side of the Dniester”, “Soviet zoo”, etc.), plus a lot of mistakes. I could comment on this, so that the author would use the information and make corrections, but not in the article under the heading “Transnistria”. The latter fully expresses the intentions and point of view of the author.

        I could write it off as a philistine ignorance and complete illiteracy in the history of the region to which he decided to go (which in itself is disrespectful towards him), so I see all sorts of nonsense here about “Soviet churches” and “hellish Lenins “, but no. I met “trippers” who appeared in Pridnestrovie and spat this “Transnistria” out, making excuses: “Well, it is written in Wikipedia, it can’t be a lie!!!”, but after a moment they forgot this word. I do not even doubt that the author who visited Pridnestrovie and wrote the article after that was clearly aware of what he wanted to write, whose point of view to express and who to offend.

        1. You want the author of to apologize after you wished death to his children and showed your psycho attitude? OMG, you are so unbelievable.
          I don’t know the author personally but I have followed his work for a long time and I can say is that his intentions are always good and for this article in particular he triggered the interest of many people wanting to travel to this part of the world and discover your country, which only benefits your people but it seems you are too stupid to realize.
          Get a life xyeta

  4. Xyeta,

    Thank you for that detailed explanation and for not wishing horrible things upon me for asking the question.

  5. Luis Saguilan

    You got totally wrong, I been there for 3 months there and never ask me where I will go. I told them I go for 1 or 2 weeks and if I wanted to extend I had to go to immigration of Tiraspol and told them, I would like to stay longer and never had any problems there.

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