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 Nicolae Timofti since 2012.
Prime Minister Pavel Filip since 2016.
220 volts AC, 50Hz. European-style plugs with two circular pins are used.
Last updated: 13 March 2017
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.
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.
Elections to the de facto leadership will take place on 11 December. You should avoid rallies, demonstrations or political activities. These are likely to be closely monitored by the de facto security forces.
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
(Moldovan officials speak Romanian, Russian and limited English)