How to Avoid Petty Crime and Scams in Moldova

In any country, there are always local laws and customs to be aware of so you don't make a fool of yourself.

Or worse. Moldova is no different. Be on the lookout for petty crime like pick-pocketing and scams, keep your wits about you when police stop you, and be polite. Follow the tips in this article and your trip to Moldova should be full of good times instead of jail time.

The Eastern European country of Moldova broke away from the former USSR in 1991. It is sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine. Its capital city is Chisinau, where the majority of travellers go when visiting the country.

After only twenty years of being a country, Moldova is still struggling to stand on its own. This means there are some characteristics that can make travelling difficult. However, the country is relatively safe and foreigners rarely report incidents of violent crime.

Criminal Activity in Moldova

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.

Petty crime in Moldova

The biggest risk to travellers 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 travellers 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. Travellers 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.

Moldovan tourist scams

Unfortunately, ATM scams have hit the country, with travellers reporting unauthorized transactions, most likely from skimming devices and hidden cameras stealing pins. Some travellers 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 travellers' 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.

Moldova 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.

Potential harassment in Moldova

Some Moldovans dislike minorities and will verbally and sometimes physically harass them. Some travellers 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.

Moldovan police corruption

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 travellers 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 travellers 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 travellers, 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.

Mind your manners in Moldova

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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22 Comments

  • john ilderton said

    Good advice, Picture is not Moldova. LOL Motomisk Pa John Canada

  • Kelly Beatson said

    I am trying to move to Moldova with my 12 year old son-Any advice is appreciated

  • Stefan Bostan said

    Hey I was born in moldova and I lived there for 7 years before I moved out, I can say that people there are closed minded, they follow a lot of weird traditions, they are friendly tho, everyone knows everyone, it's hard to make money, everything is old, there is a lot of free space to go camp, people do that alot and thats about it if you want to know more things just e-mail [email protected] ill try to help

  • Sergiu said

    This is a lazy mo...f...kin nation. Any contractor you call - will end up screwing you as the price is never what was initially agreed. And if there is work done, they always leave shit behind like it's your business clean after them.
    It really feels like the whole nation has got no system. Everything seems to be chaotic and nonfunctional, the rules don't exist, the infrastructure sucks and the "blaming on each other" is the best they can do - 99% corrupt nation -> No hope - ?

  • James said

    Is it good or bad for foreigner to work in Moldovan please be honest

  • tommo said

    went at the weekend. why? no idea? need my head testing.
    Flew in to the international Chisinau ( pronounced chicken shed) Airport.
    first thing I did was ask wizzi air for ticket back home.
    Please take me home. Get me out of this Moldovan Shit Hole , I want to go home.
    No tickets available until my scheduled flight on Monday night. Nightmare.
    Typical communist architecture and '' infrastructure''. Shabby thrown together 4,5,6,7 storey grey apartment blocks everywhere. Many structures started and not finished. Roads rough. Pavements terrible. Hired a bike. Do not hire a bike unless you have a death wish.No way out of the city. No road markings. Traffic lights in the main ignored. I don't think there is a central rail station therefore no rail roads in the country. Nothing of interest to see. No Tourist Information buro. No tourists. There is absolutely nothing to do. Do nt bring your golf clubs if you are a golfer.
    However.. the positives as I see it.
    It is poor but lack of wealth is not necessarily a problem, morally or culturally.
    The people were ok. They go about their business and get on with their lives. I did not feel threaten although I was warned to be careful by a Romainian chap I met in a bar. They are a tattoo free race which is nice to see. Not one in sight. No body modification here. Therefore, as it occurred to me, I imagine no gender changes. Gotta go west for bollock alteration. Try wealthy London for that waste of NHS dosh. Poverty is therefore not all bad. There is absolutely no evidence of a sex industry or prostitution. Its clean like the people. Such high moral standards you will not find in the despicable west.
    The prices of food and beer are cheap. You can dine out and well quench your thirst on local Chisinau draught for 20 quid = 20 euro = nearly soon to be 20 USD.
    A whole 6 kg water melon will set you back 0.40 p. Nice 4 or 5 star hotel 40-50 euros.
    The bustling large open air market was interesting. That's it.
    My advice after you read UK Gov advice is read my advice ... do nt go. there is fuck all to do or see
    I thank you.

  • ManDarinas said

    Bullshit. Moldova is a very safe, peaceful country, with amazing villages, coolest food, greatest wine. - Once you find a common language with Moldovans, you will discover a highly motivated, inspirarional, clear and open-minded people with a good humor and wise vision. If Moldovans would not have left their country, Moldova'd be a Switzerland.

  • Gary said

    I plam=n to c=visit Moldova in 2017 when I will be touring eastern europe on my motorcycle. I will be travelling alone and as a seasoned travelller of 56yrs I look forward to it. I have been to Romania, Ukraine, Turkey, Albania, Georgia and Armenia. Will I enjoy visiting the country?
    Many thanks
    Gary

  • Robet said

    I am planning to relocate to Transnistria with my wife (who was born there) and our Labrador (who is a service dog). As a black man married to a woman of this country, how safe would it be for me living there. I am a senior citizen who wants to retire there.

  • E said

    Some Moldovans dislike minorities and will verbally and sometimes physically harass them. Some travellers 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.

  • Kim said

    How safe would Moldova be for my 15 year old daughter to visit for the summer?

  • Adel said

    I was questioned and photographed by a police officer because i was smoking outside the building less than 10 meters off the wall lol, yes I don't look Moldovan or European and this is why the police officer started hus game with me.. he took400 Lei not to take me to Police Station!! Well I absolutely feel sorry for the country but I will never go again! It is very boring, old, broken, and not safe

  • Adel said

    ManDarinas said 5 months ago
    "Bullshit. Moldova is a very safe, peaceful country, with amazing villages, coolest food, greatest wine. - Once you find a common language with Moldovans, you will discover a highly motivated, inspirarional, clear and open-minded people with a good humor and wise vision. If Moldovans would not have left their country, Moldova'd be a Switzerland."
    Reply: Thanks for the advice! Let's go to Switzerland

  • Sandeep said

    I visited moldova 2 times in last one year and people from moldova are very friendly and supportive even though i dont speak their language. I notice people and youth like visiters and they wants to help. From my experience i can surely tell you, its a safe place to walk without any discrimtion or fear of being exploited. Did i mentioned i came from india :)

  • Adam said

    Robert: I would not recommend retiring to Transnistria, especially if you require a service dog--which implies you may require some physical assistance. the nicest walkway in the nicest part of the nicest city is still a tripping hazard with potential for tree branches at eye level... and Transnistria lacks most of the better parts of Moldovan "modernization."

    you may be thinking that moving to Transnistria is smart because of the low cost of living; however, you will sacrifice many basic standards if you move there. Winter is harsh and insulation in non-modernized homes can be straw-filled walls. Single-sheet asbestos roofing slabs are common and sewer systems can be poor in the nicest of buildings. I live in a very nice apartment in central Chisinau, many facets of the building lack the simplest European or American safety or hygiene (sewer) expectations. And Chisinau is decades--if not a full century--ahead of Transnistria.

    Medical services and standards are painfully lacking. There are private-pay hospitals that will meet Western medical expectations, but the administrative staff do not follow Western patient privacy or rights standards (I was emailed my coworker's blood test results and other laughable calamities). The level of service you will get in Transnistria will not be as good. Another coworker of mine that sees a standard local doctor showed me an ointment he was prescribed for an infection--the western world had debunked it decades ago as noneffective and linked to increased cases of skin cancer to the "treated areas." Healthcare is poor here and you should be prepared to argue if you are in need of legit services.

    This is a lovely country. It is beautiful and the people are more honest than the warnings of this article would have you believe. The police and ministries suffer from corruption and generations of authoritarian rule that did not value their position as public-"servants." But, again, the people are wonderful--with some bad apples who run obvious scams... not unlike every other country in the world

    Kim, my response may come too late--but I would say your 15-year-old daughter should not visit by herself or with an unchaperoned group. She won't run the risk of being the subject of the next "TAKEN" movie: There ARE student tour programs for groups of students from EU and US, so if part of such program--by all means, this is a great educational opportunity and experience. If alone or as part of a small, unchaperoned group (or not visiting responsible family)--the risks are mainly boredom, the unexpected shenanigans of bored teenagers, and the lack of ability to identify a scam.

  • Sam said

    I have a dream to visit Moldova, I saw tens of documentaries of that country. People say it is boring, mismanaged and corrupt. But I found it culturally very matured. I can just define the country as "The Melting pot of Romanian and Russian traditions". Myself being from a diverse country India, where we have similar issues with the police and thugs alike, I don't think Indians would find that country any different, except enjoying a new culture, language, country and of course wine. Lots of love from India.

  • Russel said

    Kishinev is heavily Russian speaking place. I thought it would be more Romanian when I went but I herd Russian everywhere. The police car is marked in Romanian, but who speaks it there? I am just wondering maybe 2 weeks were not enough. Traveling is getting expensive, I don't think I would return as I don't speak the languages. I can tell that Moldovans mind their own business but also they did not like the fact that I speak English; how's that my fault?

    The people that I did speak told me, what I understood, they want to leave. It felt like I was going one way and they are going the other; towards Romania. They are nice but there is a feeling of sadness going on that I didn't understand. The services lacked also. I went to a mall; that is not a real mall it was booths lined up, row by row. The people are approachable, that is if you speak Russian. All I got was: "English, no" at the airport as I was leaving.

  • Allan Smart said

    Hello from New Zealand,have read all the posts here and are more interested than before to come on our motorcycle and see your country not to interested in cities we enjoy the back country any tips,routes we should take a look at would be appreciated thanks.

  • rashed said

    i have visited moldova , and i can say that i will never go to eastern europe again ! first they don t understand english , so if you don t speak russian you are doomed , there is nothing to do there , all young people have already left to western europe . you are always harassed by agressive gypsies asking for money , but the worst , the worst is that i have been attacked for being non white by some skinheads , and when i went to the police station they told me that maybe i was looking for troubles , and they tried to rip me off 100 euros ! plus the food is awful and the women are not that beautiful ! i wich i had never go to this place !

  • Roberto said

    I have been there 5 times. The country is calm, people have treated me with respect for the most part. Seems pretty average like everywhere you go, no be loud obnoxious or attract attention to yourself, and you'll be fine. Be respectful, and mindful. Language can be a barrier if you don't speak Romanian or Russian. People do seem to try to help for the most part. Taxi service is a nightmare. No uber there...
    The food can be good, and the wine as well. The monasteries are very nice. Renting a car is ok, the driving can be quite a challenge, you have to be very focus, and drive as careful you can, while still trying to emulate the locals. Renting a flat for your stay is ok, had a few surprises here and there. For the most part I have enjoy my trips there, even had some dental work done there.

  • Vaniok said

    So i live in moldova for very long time before i move to uk, i can say lot's of good things about my country and people but the main thing which is not said here to not get in truble with the boys from the streets cause they are every time very dangerous, i lived in the main hood were lot's of boys was sale drugs without being stresed or anything else, yee it's said to not walk on the night time but you need to know there you going there are hoods like albişoara or otovaska which is very dangerous even in dayli time they can rober you or even knife if they don't like something so the main thing to not get in truble you need always to have with you alchool or money but the main thing to have a hood friend which would show you the really good live of moldavian poor people which will show you the really life of moldavian people how they are sad and happy at the same time how they can be agresive and peaceful at the same time but if you are guest everybody will wanna to give you some things that they have done or something what have been done by their parents or brothers,

  • Tim said

    I've been to Moldova on several occasions over the past decade and found it for the most part to be a nice and friendly country. Chisinau for the most part is fairly modernized. However the rest of the country can be fairly behind the times depending on where you go. The roads can be in very poor condition in rural areas. As for the language barrier you can find a fair amount of people that speak English in Chisinau. It's hit or miss in the rest of the country. My observations of the languages is that most are bilingual in Romanian and Russian. However if you go to Transnistria or the Gazuga regions (Tiraspol or Comrat) Russian is mostly spoken.

    Be careful when going to Transnistria. Getting into the region requires a separate visa for the region (obtained at the entry point) and a customs fee if driving a vehicle registered outside of Moldova. Tiraspol is the capital of the region and gets some tourism. If you're staying for less than 24 hours then the paper given to you at the checkpoint will suffice. However if staying more than 24 hours then you have to register with the local police or a local registration office. There's a monetary penalty if you don't do this and they wont let you leave if you don't pay. However the fee is only $5 USD. It might be more now. Also avoid the police as much as you can. A lot of times they will pull you over or set up traffic checkpoints and charge you with bogus offenses. And they will rob you blind, especially if you have foreign currency so hide any hard cash you have. There is an international ATM machine down the road from the Tank Monument in Tiraspol where you can withdraw US dollars or Russian rubles. I've used this machine with no problems. The bank it belongs to can also exchange foreign currency for Transnistrian rubles. The exchange rate is fairly close to what it costs to get Moldovan lei. But the Transnistrian currency is only valid within Transnistria. Some businesses may also accept Moldovan lei, US dollars, Russian rubles and Euro.

    You have to stay a little more alert for scams. Some businesses (especially strip clubs--don't go to Plush in Chisinau--this place is famous for it) will try to fleece you out of as much money as possible but for the most part I haven't had any problems when visiting Moldova and Transnistria. I would happily visit there again.

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