I was too curious - after visiting the ex-Soviet Union in 1992, and later on the Ukraine and Moldova, I needed to know what it looks like in Transnistria. Almost nothing good can be heard about the PMR as it is also known - at least outside the PMR. Is it really that bad? How much propaganda is involved? It was also a trip back to the past - many things reminded me on life in Eastern Europe 20 years ago. After all, it wasn't as bad as people make you think. It doesn't look worse - and it doesn't look better than in Moldova. And people are as friendly as in Moldova.
Please note - the fact that Transnistria is treated as a country on its own in this website, doesn't reflect the authors opinion about the status of this internationally unrecognized country. It only reflects facts - Transnistria as a destination for the occasional traveler is a country on its own. Own border crossings, own army, own money etc. However, keep in mind that Transnistria is still considered to be a part of Moldova.
It's possible to move around freely in Transdniestr. The old rule that everyone staying longer than 3 hours in the country must register with the police is not valid any longer. However, it's still necessary to register when you stay overnight. In that case, you will have to register with OVIR (the infamous police visa office) in the capital →Tiraspol. As far as I've heard, hotels won't do that for you - without the correct paperwork you will be turned down by hotel staff. In some areas, namely in →Bendery, there's still a curfew. Common sense but yet worth mentioning: it's strictly forbidden to photograph strategically important objects such as army-related infrastructure, industrial facilities and so on. Attention: It's definitely wise to check the latest news about Transdniestr. The country itself is quite safe and most people are very friendly, but the political situation may tilt in the blink of an eye.
Transdniestr issues its own money. After years of galloping inflation, which even overloaded the money press, the national bank introduced new money in the year 2000.
|The new PMR-Rouble|
|Back to the USSR!|
Before, they even printed the new denomination on old banknotes (see picture above). Recently, the bank even seemed to have floated the currency, which means that it's freely convertible inside the country. Hence, the black exchange market vanished. Of course, the currency is called rouble. What else. In June 2004, the average exchange rate was € 1 = 9 PMR-roubles. Coins come in 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 Kopekes (watch the back of the coin, see photo!) denominations. As with the paper money, there are 1, 5, 10, 25, 50 and 100 Rouble banknotes.
Advice: If you intend to stay one day only in the PMR, you should not exchange more than 5 to 10 Euro per person. Why? You won't get rid of the money. There are many exchange booths around, accepting Moldovan Lei, too. Don't expect any ATM's.
Prices in Transdniestr are, well, communist. There aren't any ritzy restaurants or shops - at least I didn't see one. In canteens, you can have lunch for € 1 for two persons. Of course you shouldn't expect culinary delights. Public transport is extremely cheap, too.
BBy bus or train. All trains from →Bucharest and →Chişinău to →Kyiv (Kiev) as well as all trains from →Chişinău to →Odesa stop in →Bendery and →Tiraspol. There are many border crossings to the →Ukraine, but the most convenient and important one lies in the south-east near Первомайск (Pervomaisc). According to various reports, crossing the Ukrainian-Transdniestran border can become an expensive pleasure for travelers since bribes are common.
Several daily buses run from →Chişinău, →Comrat and other destinations in Moldova to Transdniestr. Most of them cross the border near Bendery. From Chisinau to →Bendery it takes around one hour, to →Tiraspol almost two hours. The fare is 14 Lei (€ 1) to Tiraspol and from Bendery to Chisinau 7 Roubles (€ 0.8).
Since there aren't any railway tracks north of Bendery and Tiraspol, it's only possible to get around on buses and marshrutkas (minibuses). There are also trolleybuses connecting →Bendery and →Tiraspol, a ticket costs 0.7 Roubles to be paid on the bus. Occassionally there are also some taxis.
Food and drinks
McDonalds and Co haven't taken over yet. Actually there aren't many restaurants around, but at least there are some in Tiraspol and least one café in Bendery. We've even spotted a pizzera in Tiraspol. More common than restaurants are old-fashioned canteen-like places, all of them self-service of course.
|Typical canteen food: Sorry, sauce is sold out|
The range of food depends on the time of the day and some luck. Abacuses are used. Of course, there's no distinctive Transdniestran cuisine - it's a mix of Russian, Ukrainian and Moldovan cuisine, dominated by the typical staple diet of Russian (ie former Soviet Union) canteens. There are many small markets as well as some small groceries around, so it's also possible to buy your own food without bigger problems. Needless to say that prices are very low.
Transdniestr even produces its own beer - the local brand is called Старая Крепость (Staraya Krepost', Old Fortress) but cannot really recommended. Many other drinks as well as processed food are imported from neighbouring →Ukraine. The genuine Transdniestran company Kvint with it's modern headquarters in Tiraspol produces drinkable wine and fine brandy. The Transdniestran cognac is definitely not as good as the Armenian cognac (uh, I love it...), but it's still worth giving it a try. Kvint-Cognac is one of the famous export articles - especially in Russia and other CIS countries. In Transdniestr, a 10-years old Kvint will set you back around € 4. In Moldova, the price already doubles.