Where is Transnistria, and is it Safe to Travel?

Transnistria is a territory on the Moldova-Ukraine border that broke ties with Moldova after the civil war in 1992.

Bridge in Tiraspol city. The bridge connects the city of Tiraspol and the village nearest announcement Kitskany Photo © Getty Images/Anton Polyakov

If you've done any sort of research on Moldova, you'll have heard about a section on the eastern bank of the Dniestr River between Moldova and Ukraine. So what exactly is Transnistria? Find out more about this day trip destination with World Nomads.

Though Moldova does not acknowledge it as an independent state, Transnistria has its own police force, currency, army and Transnistrian border guards. This region even boycotts the Moldovan Independence Day, instead celebrating its own on the 2nd of September.

Traveling to Transnistria

As a traveler, you can enter this area fairly easily, but make sure to get two stamps on your registration card to prevent problems upon leaving Transnistria. Otherwise, it will look like you went into this area illegally.

This can lead to all sorts of fun discourse with border guards, who may try to get you to "buy" your way out of the territory. One traveler said he was shaken down for $40 for not having the two stamps. His friend, however, only had to pay $25 because he was a poor student.

This traveler advised hiding any valuables and giving a lowly impression because the greedy guards will be looking for people to overcharge. They will often pat you down and check belongings, so if you do have a considerable amount of cash, stow it away carefully.

Avoid trouble while in Transnistria

You'll probably take the Tiraspol-Dubasari-Ribnita road to get to Transnistria, either by car or bus. People who live in this area are free to travel to Moldova and bordering countries, it's easy to get through the open border of Ukraine by car or international train, though the latter is sometimes caught up in political conflicts.

Whether you're going to or coming from Transnistria, prepare for checkpoints, which you're not allowed to photograph. Don't try to snap a picture of military facilities or security forces either. You could end up getting a great photo of the inside of a jail cell.

The area of Transnistria has been accused of not granting residents proper civil liberties. It's advisable to avoid any political conversations on your trip. Keeping track of who controls what plot of land can be confusing, as Moldova presides over some and the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR) reigns over other parts.

There are border issues that remain undecided, which sometimes leads to conflict. Transnistrian forces have been involved in problems since 2005, and a 2007 standoff with Moldovan forces turned aggressive. Luckily, there were no deaths. Russian military forces have also been known to operate in Transnistria.

Overall, street crime in the territory is low, locals are friendly and the capital is very well policed.

What to see in Transnistria

One you've arrived in Transnistria, you can visit the capital city Tiraspol. It is also recommended you exchange your Moldovan lei, Euro or other currency for the local Transnistrian ruble. Exchange only what you will need for the duration of your stay in Transnistria as the currency can only be used within the territory.

Tiraspol, the second largest city in Moldova, has many beautiful tree filled parks, Soviet statues and medieval fortresses. Other sights to see in Transnistria include:

  • Taking a boat tour on the Dniestr River
  • Getting a history fix in the war museum
  • Visit the Art Gallery in Tiraspol
  • Check out the Ethnography and Natural History Museum
  • Central beach area in downtown Tiraspol on the banks of the Dniester River
  • Noul Meant Monastery

There are also several themed tours you can do to see Transnistria including an overnight culture tour where you can experience local life, check out beautiful nature areas and experience locally produced food and wine.

There is also the Kvint Distillery which makes brandies, cognacs, vodka and wine. If you book in advance, you can do a tasting tour.

Tiraspol has 14 choices of accommodation should you wish to spend a night or 2 in the city. There are several eateries, some serving local and Ukrainian cuisine.

Some reports claim that trafficking of women, drugs and weapons occurs in Transnistria, but it's unlikely you'll encounter these activities on your visit.

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5 Comments

  • Dmitry said

    Hi everyone. I'm a first-year student of the Prindistrovien State University. I'm specializing on learning English and will be happy to show foreigners all sights of our two most beautifull cities(Tiraspol and Bendery). First of all I can help you to rent a flat and provide a transport(4-mens max.). All that I'll do for free. It will be a great experience for me in communicating with English speaking people. There are many sights of interest in T. and B., for example: the monumet to the count Suvorov(the founder of Tiraspol); the ruins of the fortress of Tiraspol; the Theater of Drama and Comedy(in a name of Aronetskaya); the fortress of Bendery; Natural History Museum and etc. If someone'll get interested in my suggestion please contact me throught my email: [email protected]

  • Gyan Fernando said

    I just returned from Moldova and Transnistria. I traveled with a small group (eight of us) and with a Moldovan guide. We had no border problems involving bribes. My understanding is that it is the lone travelers who have problems. A local guide definitely helps.
    Once inside, it is a charming place. The locals are friendly and the staff at our hotel got our paperwork sorted with the Police.
    The Post Office is the friendliest Post Office I have been to...

  • ash said

    am looking at visiting there again and looking for a guide
    Am a postgrad at the University of Oxford so any chance of returning the favour just let me know

  • David Jordan said

    Just a quick note to say that myself and my friend (another British man) travelled there yesterday in a Moldovan hire car (and entirely endorse that you should visit) very much /wanting/ to be shaken down for bribes at some point. And we weren't. Both border crossings were as hassle free as North / South Cyprus. I don't know if our experience was atypical but it at least shows bribery isn't inevitable.

  • Chris said

    Just back. No bribes at the border (took a regular bus from Chisinau). Had 5 days there - heaps to do. Followed http://www.transnistriatours.com/things-to-do-in-tiraspol-transnistria.html and your list above, love that boat cruise.

    Happy travelling!

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