Moldova travel guide
Moldova is a largely overlooked destination, as yet untouched by the budget airline brigade. But it shouldn't be. In this land-locked Eastern European country, you can wander round vast monasteries, trek through ancient forests, or sample the local wines. Rich with history and fertile soils that produce abundant vineyards, Moldova is a special country despite its lack of fame, and one well worth getting to know.
Despite remaining one of the poorest countries in Europe, the people are friendly and welcoming, and the main hubs, such as the capital Chişinău, have everything a visitor could need. Although few outsiders have heard about it as a viable city break destination, Chişinău has plenty going on. There's a buzzing cafe-bar and restaurant scene, while its cathedrals, monuments and museums have survived despite the city taking a serious pounding from aerial bombardments during World War II. One such survivor not to miss is the house where the writer Pushkin spent his days in exile penning some of his most famous works.
The most obvious selling point of Moldova is probably that it's almost the least known spot in Europe. With only a few thousand visiting the country in every year – even neighbouring Romania and Ukraine see far higher foreign footfall – it's mainly favoured by intrepid backpacking completists. But there's much more to the country than this.
A largely unspoilt, natural hinterland with plenty in the way of traditional culture and village life still going, Moldova can feel like a fragment of old Europe, at least if you get beyond the cities. Cross the Dniestr River, and you'll find yourself in the beguiling separatist Russian-speaking province of Transdniestr, all Soviet architecture and Lenin busts.
Then there's the wine. The Moldovan grape's slowly fermenting fame means that the wine tourism industry is just beginning to emerge. The upshot? You can try one of Europe's best, most unique wines in a hidden land that will surely have more than its fair of tourists in the years to come.
33,800 sq km (13,050 sq miles).
4,062,862 (UN estimate 2016).
104.9 per sq km.
President Igor Dodon since 2016, has been temporarily suspended in January 2018.
Prime Minister Pavel Filip since 2016.
Last updated: 19 January 2018
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
You should be alert to the possibility of political protests and demonstrations. While these are generally peaceful, the situation could quickly change. Be alert to the latest developments and take extra care.
The British Embassy, Chisinau is monitoring the situation in Ukraine closely. At present there appears to be no immediate threat of the destabilisation spreading to Moldova, and there is no information suggesting an increased threat to British citizens or businesses in Moldova.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Moldova, attacks can’t be ruled out.
If you visit Transnistria you should be aware that the region is outside of the control of the Moldovan authorities, and the British Embassy may be able to offer very limited consular assistance.
Most visits to Moldova are trouble-free.
The Moldovan authorities strictly enforce penalties (including deportation) against those who overstay.
You should be vigilant to petty crime, particularly in Chisinau. Leave your passport, travel documents and other valuable items in a safe place, and carry a photocopy of your passport for identification purposes.
There are strong penalties for possession or use of drugs. Avoid taking photographs of military or government installations.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
Safety and security
Although most visitors experience no difficulties, some visitors of Asian or Afro-Caribbean descent have reported being stared at, verbally abused, assaulted, denied entrance into some clubs and restaurants, or harassed by police.
Be alert to the risk of street crime and petty theft, particularly in Chisinau, and for pickpockets and bag snatchers in crowded areas. Take precautions when using ATMs, there have been instances of credit card and ATM fraud see Money
Streets, pavements, and other public paths are not well maintained or illuminated including in Chisinau and other cities. It’s useful to carry a small torch after dark, as street lighting is poor.
Keep your valuables and passport in hotel safes and carry a copy of your passport with you.
The Transnistria region is not under Moldovan government control and seeks independence.
There are many checkpoints along roads leading into and out of Transnistria. You should avoid taking photographs of checkpoints, military facilities, and security forces or other sights of strategic importance, including buildings used by the de facto authorities and power plants. If you’re caught taking photographs of such installations or personnel you may face arrest or detention.
You should exercise caution if you travel to Transnistria and avoid getting into difficulty with the Transnistrian authorities. If you do get into trouble, try to contact the British Embassy in Chisinau at an early stage. The embassy will do its best to provide consular help where needed. But in practice this will be very limited.
See the Entry requirements section for further details on entry in to Transnistria.
To drive a vehicle into Moldova you will need the following documents:
- car registration
- valid insurance (Green Card)
- UK driving licence
- if you are not the owner, written permission from the owner to drive the vehicle. This should be translated into Romanian and legalised.
The vehicle will need to be declared to the customs authority at the point of entry into Moldova. Vehicles can be brought into Moldova without payment of import taxes for a maximum of 90 cumulative days in a 365-day period, from the date of first entry. Contact the Moldovan Embassy in London if you have more detailed questions about bringing a vehicle in to the country. The British Embassy is unable to offer help to individuals attempting to bring vehicles into Moldova without the correct documentation.
Avoid driving outside urban areas, particularly at night. Driving standards are poor and roads are of variable quality. There are a high number of traffic accidents, including fatalities. You should comply with all local speed limits. There is a zero tolerance policy on drink driving.
From 1 November until 31 March, drivers are obliged to travel with headlights on at all times. Winter tyres should also be fitted to road vehicles during this period. Failure to do so could result in a fine.
Official looking taxis can be unlicensed. Do not share a taxi with strangers or flag down unofficial taxis. You should negotiate a price before getting into a taxi. Where possible ask your hotel to get a taxi for you, or to give you the telephone number of a reputable company.
The Department of Traffic Police has published the following helpline:
42, Vasile Alecsandri street, Chisinau, Moldova Telephone: 00 373 (22) 255-920 Fax: 00 373 (22) 255-200 email: email@example.com email: firstname.lastname@example.org (Moldovan officials speak Romanian, Russian and limited English)
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Moldova, attacks can’t be ruled out. You should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be in public areas, including those visited by foreigners.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Local laws and customs
There is a zero tolerance policy for possessing or supplying any drugs. While legislation stipulates that fines are possible for drug use/supply, in practice possession of even small quantities of drugs (Class B/C drugs as well as Class A) could result in long prison terms in addition to heavy fines.
Homosexuality is not forbidden in Moldova, though the Moldovan government does not formally recognise unmarried or same-sex partners. There is an active social and lobbying group on gay and lesbian issues in Chisinau, but public attitudes are less tolerant. Be careful about public displays of affection. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
Avoid taking photos of military and government facilities (including airports, power stations etc). You’re likely to be detained for questioning or arrested if you’re caught.
There are frequent police checks and police officers have the legal right to ask for identification on the street. You should carry a copy of the bio data page of your passport with you at all times. You should carry a copy of the bio data page with you at least a copy of your (passport) at all times.
You must obtain permission from the Moldovan Department of Monuments to bring out of the country any artwork or antiques. Failure to obtain this permission could result in the artwork or antiques being impounded and criminal charges brought.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
Visas are no longer required to enter Moldova if your stay is under 90 days. For all other types of travel, contact the Embassy of the Republic of Moldova in London. See below for information on entry into Moldova.
The Moldovan authorities strictly enforce penalties (including deportation) against foreign visitors who overstay the terms of their visas. As a visitor you are allowed to spend no more than 90 days in any six months period in Moldova. At any official point of entry, your arrival date will be registered automatically. Please see below for details of entry through Transnistria. Residence and/or work permits are required for stays over 90 days. Immigration, residence, and work permits usually need to be extended annually, but can be issued for up to five years. Alternatively, you must regularise your stay by applying for a residence or work visa.
Entry into Moldova via Transnistria
If you’re entering into Transnistria overland from Ukraine (for example by bus or rail) be aware that the Transnistrian border guard will not place entry stamps into passports.
If you cross the border by car or bus, there are 6 check points with immigration controls, where you can receive a registration document. If you cross the border by train, there are no ‘immigration controls’. In this case, within 3 days, you should go to the Bureau for Migration and Asylum in Chisinau (124 Stefan cel Mare Boulevard). Alternatively, you could go to the local offices of the Bureau for Migration and Asylum within 3 days. These are located in: Hîrbovăț in Anenii Noi; Hajumus in Căușeni; Pîrîta in Dubăsari, Criuleni in Criuleni, Rezina in Rezina and Sărătăuac în Florești.
Your passport won’t be stamped but you’ll receive a registration document. Keep this document until your departure and present it at the border. The service is free of charge.
To register your stay you must present the following documents:
- your passport
- proof of travel (for example a Green Card if you drive a vehicle into Moldova; airfare, bus/train ticket)
Failure to register may result in fines and difficulties when leaving Moldova.
Entry into Moldova via Ukraine
If you enter Moldova overland from Ukraine do so at one of the internationally recognised border crossing points between Moldova (excluding the Transnistria segment) and Ukraine in the north and south of the country.
Entry into Transnistria
There are no ‘immigration controls’ in place on the internal boundary between Transnistria and Moldova proper and entry stamps won’t be placed into passports.
The authorities in Transnistria have announced that they intend to implement an entry permit and vehicle insurance requirement for foreign nationals. The implementation date for entry permits is not yet known. The vehicle insurance requirement is expected to come in to effect on 1 January 2016 for UK registered vehicles (and those of all other countries except for the rest of Moldova and Romania for which earlier implementation dates are expected to apply) and will apply to travellers intending to visit or transit the region.
The scheme is expected to be similar to the European Green Card system, but details have not yet been published.
Your passport should be valid for at least six months and have at least one unused page.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK ETDs are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Moldova.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
The standard of medical care in Moldova is below that available in the UK and English is not widely spoken. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
Drink only bottled water.
In the 2010 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that around 12,000 adults aged 15 or over in Moldova were living with HIV; the prevalence percentage was estimated at around 0.4% of the adult population compared to the prevalence rate in adults in the UK of around 0.2%. You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 903 and ask for an ambulance, but be aware that if you do not speak Russian or Romanian you may encounter difficulties. You should inform your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Moldova is located in a seismically active area and is prone to small earth tremors that are recorded throughout the year without consequence. The last significant earthquake occurred in 1986, causing fatalities and damage to buildings.
Independent advice on how to prepare for an earthquake and how to protect yourself during an earthquake or tremor is available from many sources online.
The Moldovan economy is traditionally cash-driven, you may not always be able to pay by card (particularly outside of the capital city Chisinau). When paying by card, ensure that you maintain sight of it at all times.
The most widely accepted foreign currencies are the US Dollar and the Euro. You should carry some Euro cash. Notes should be in perfect condition or they may not be accepted. It’s not always easy to exchange Sterling for local currency.
Moldovan Lei can be obtained from a number of ATM machines in Chisinau, but only a very limited number will accept ‘chip and pin’ cards. ATMs outside Chisinau will not accept ‘chip and pin’ cards.
ATMs in banks in Transnistria won’t accept cards from non-Transnistrian banks. The de facto currency in use in Transnistria is the Transnistrian ruble. It isn’t possible to exchange Moldovan lei or other currencies into rubles, or rubles into other currencies outside of Transnistria. Attempting to pay for purchases in Transnistria in currencies other than the ruble is considered an illegal act by the de facto authorities.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.