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The landlocked Eastern European country of Moldova is is sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine. The capital city, Chisinau, is where most travelers go when visiting the country. While this destination isn't too popular among visitors, Moldova is a fairly safe country to travel, however there are a few things you should know before visiting.
Travelers should mostly exercise common sense here: be on the lookout for petty crime such as pick-pocketing and scams, and be polite and cautious when police stop you.
Moldova broke away from the former USSR in 1991, and is a very young country considering it only gained independence in 1992. There are some obstacles that can make traveling here difficult. However, the country is relatively safe and foreigners rarely report incidents of violent crime.
Organized crime groups in Moldova exist and are responsible for human and drug trafficking. Reports indicate that more than 400,000 women have been trafficked from Moldova since the country gained independence in 1991.
The country is also a prime shipment point for drugs sent into Western Europe. While troubling, the activities of these groups don't normally spill over into violence that affects visitors.
Underground economic activity can be another major issue in Moldova. Though there is a small risk from transnational terrorism, violent attacks are infrequent. Public protests and demonstrations do occur, but stay relatively calm. One political protest in April 2009 did turn tragic, with the demonstration leading to looting, vandalism and numerous deaths and injuries of civilians and police.
The biggest risk to travelers remains petty theft, such as pick pocketing. This generally occurs in the usual high-risk areas like crowded city streets in Chisinau and on buses and trains, especially international ones. Some travelers have also reported items missing from accommodations. And use common sense. Stay away from unlit parks at night and dark alleyways when muggings could occur.
Some visitors have also reported having their international packages rummaged through or stolen. Travelers should only use official taxis "yellow ones" so you don't get ripped off.
Be on the lookout for overcharging by taxi drivers and restaurant or bar staff. To avoid this issue, agree on taxi fare before getting in the car and ask to see menu prices in writing before ordering.
If you get unexpectedly sick or injured overseas, your medical bills could be expensive. Make sure you pack travel insurance, with 24/7 emergency assistance.
Unfortunately, ATM scams have hit the country, with travelers reporting unauthorized transactions, most likely from skimming devices and hidden cameras stealing pins. Some travelers advise never using an ATM on the street, to instead get money from the ATMs inside banks.
Moldovans seem to have made a hobby out of trying to get travelers' money. Tourism is scarce in this country, and many of its citizens assume foreigners are rich and ripe for the picking. Be wary of scams.
Moldovan gangs have been noted for a few infamous scams including credit card theft and computer hacking. One particular scam involved promising free X-rated pictures to people who downloaded certain software. More than 38,000 downloaded the criminal software and got stiffed out of more than of $2.74 million. So don't forget to use your head when downloading something in a foreign country.
Email scams are also common. An official-looking website may send you an email saying they're related to immigration and ask for personal information or payment for government forms. Don't give your money or credit card information to just anyone; be sure it's legitimate.
Some Moldovans dislike minorities and will verbally and sometimes physically harass them. Some travelers of other races have reported being denied entrance into certain clubs and restaurants others report harassment by police. The problem is common enough that the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe has developed legislation targeting hate crimes.
Police do care when a crime occurs, but the lack of suitable equipment may prevent them from making an in-depth response to offenses. Bribery happens within the police force, with travelers reporting it's possible to pay your way out of a traffic violation, whether it's real or imagined by the responding officer.
Visitors say they have been stopped for small offenses like jaywalking and been forced to pay a fine. Some travelers also report corrupt border police. You are advised to carry identification with you at all times, just in case you're stopped by the police.
Sadly, police officers might also take advantage of travelers, especially those who look foreign. It's common for them to ask to see your passport; you can show it to them, but try to avoid handing it over. It might be expensive for you to get it back.
Border guards in Transnistria may demand money when you exit the territory. Learning a few Russian phrases will help you with the locals in this area, as police will be less likely to demand bribes if you speak the tongue of their former motherland.
If you're stopped by the police, you can ask to see their identity card or badge. Record all their information, such as name, badge number and title, so you can inform your embassy.
The local customs don't have a lot of quirks, it's mostly about being polite. Don't talk politics, as this is still a dicey issue in Moldova and Transnistria. Also, treat women with respect. Chivalry is important, and you'll be seen as a rude foreigner if you don't open doors for women. Do not say mean or sexually suggestive things about Moldovan women locals will be very angry.
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