Want to visit the Eastern European breakaway state of Transnistria? I recently wrote a post about how to travel to Transnistria, which focused on some basic information about Transnistria, including entry and exit formalities.
In this post, I share practical tips on what to do once you’re there, and how to make your stay more enjoyable.
Accommodation in Transnistria
Tiraspol – the largest city in Transnistria, does not get anywhere near as many tourists as other cities in Europe. Therefore it does not have as many accommodation options as, say London or Prague. That being said, there are still plenty of options – a hostel, a few hotels, AirBnB and even CouchSurfing.
I opted for Go Tiraspol Hostel, as it was the cheapest option (ok, ok CouchSurfing would have been cheaper) – it works out as about $20AUD per night for a 4 bed dorm. It’s more expensive than Chisinau, where I paid $12AUD, but it’s still about half the cost of the hotels I saw on Booking.com
Remember – although Transnistria is technically Moldova, it’s run as a separate country with its own economy, therefore some things cost a different amount than the rest of Moldova. That being said, it’s still one of the cheapest places in Europe!
One of the great things about there not being many tourists here – last night I had the entire hostel to myself! And tonight I’m sharing only with 1 other person.
Things to note about the hostel
- Payment is in USD or Euro cash
- There is a 10 Euro or $13USD key deposit, refunded when you return the keys (this is normal in Eastern Europe)
- It does not have a 24 hour reception – you have to organise a time to meet, so Dmitri will be there. This is easier than it may sound – I said between 2pm and 3pm. I got a midday bus from Chisinau and I was at the hostel by 1:50pm
- Read the confirmation email properly – it tells you what address, information etc. to give at the border. Also gives Dmitri’s phone number to call if you have any problems
I recommend this hostel if you’re staying in Transnistria – it’s very central, clean, and Dmitri is a lovely guy and very helpful. Dmitri also took me to the immigration office to extend my visa, as you’re only given 24 hours upon entry.
While Transnistria may not “officially” be a country, it does have its own currency – the Transnistrian Ruble. You can’t get this currency outside Transnistria, but it’s super easy to get once you’re here. There are plenty of banks and other currency exchange places all along the main road. Simply walk up to one, and give them Moldovan Lei, Euro, or USD and they’ll swap it for Transnistrian Rubles.
Do not leave Transnistria with the local currency unless you want to keep it as a souvenir – it’s not a recognised currency anywhere but here you won’t be able to change it back.
ATMs (cash machines)
There are ATMs (cash machines), everywhere – but I have no idea whether they work with foreign cards or not. I’ve also heard that they dispense Russian Rubles which you then have to exchange to Transnistrian Rubles anyway… I don’t know if that’s correct, though.
Credit cards don’t seem to really be a thing here either – so ensure you have cash. My advice is to bring enough USD and/or Moldovan Lei with you to last your stay, and exchange it while you’re here for Transnistrian Rubles.
People seem obsessed with Euro & USD – larger payments such as hostels may want payment in one of these currencies. Even buying a couple of postcards worth about $2.50USD (not from an official shop – see below section about walking tour), they were hoping for USD – but in official shops, restaurants, bars etc. you’ll need the local currency.
This is due to the complicated nature of having a currency that doesn’t exist, and can’t be used elsewhere. USD is a much more practical and stable currency, and is therefore considered more valuable to many people.
Transnistrian Ruble Exchange Rate
I was super confused about the currency for a while… I’m not great at maths, so I have a currency app on my phone. I just punch in how many Euros/Lei/Pounds/whatever into it, and it tells my how much that is in AUD. Here’s the snag – this is not a recognised currency, so is not in the app!
So, I thought to myself…
“Self… I gave the bank 600 Moldovan Lei and got 425 Transnistrian Rubles. So that means my 15 Rubles beer cost me ?? Lei”
Can you work it out? I was never good at these maths questions at school. I didn’t finish high school maths. I’m sure the mathematicians reading this think that’s easy… I tried for ages to figure it out and thought I did – but checking it again now I get a different number!
When I met Anton (see below under free walking tour), I mentioned this to him. He said that 14 Rubles equals approximately $1USD. So, any price in Transnistria, divide by 14 and you get the USD cost. I can then punch this into my app and get the AUD price. aah life, you try to confuse me!
I did double check, based on the exchange rate I got – 425 Rubles / 14 = 30 USD = 600 Lei.
Free Walking Tour
There are free walking tours in most cities with tourists in Europe. With tourists being the important thing! Tiraspol really doesn’t have many tourists, so I did not expect a free walking tour… But I found one!
This morning while sitting in a cafe in Tiraspol, drinking coffee and reading about things to see & do here, I stumbled upon Anton’s Tiraspol Free Walking Tours Website. He’s a local, who loves meeting new people, practising English and teaching people about his country. His website said to meet outside the bookshop at 1pm – it was now 12:45pm, so I finished my coffee and went to find him (I also paid for the coffee… Just in case you’re wondering!)
Note: Free Walking Tours are generally walking tours where there is no set price. At the end of the tour, you decide how much to tip the guide, based on the experience you had.
When he arrived at the meeting point, Anton seemed a bit surprised that somebody was there! He said that maybe once per week somebody will be there, and he always is happy when there is somebody. It turns out that 1pm is his lunch break from work, and he enjoys spending it walking around the city with travellers.
He had a few things to do (his wife is having a baby in a few weeks, and had to buy a baby bottle as well as some other things. aaaww) I joined him, we grabbed some food and talked about all sorts of things. Even though it was freezing cold, and it started raining, then snowing, and then raining again during our walk – he was happy to continue.
Anton pointed out some of the sights, and told me the story behind them as well as sharing some information about what it’s like to live in a country that is not recognised. He’d love to travel the world, however considering his passport and currency are not recognised, it causes problems!
Postcards and souvenirs
Anton is really good at drawing! He creates postcards and magnets from his sketches. They’re REALLY good! I wasn’t going to buy any (I don’t often get souvenirs anymore as they’re all the same and I’ve got nowhere to put them), but upon seeing them I ended up getting 3 postcards and a magnet. I really like them, and they don’t take up much room in my pack
Now, before you go saying that I was scammed or whatever – Anton showed them to me, but I felt no pressure to buy them… And all up I only spent a couple of bucks. Totally worth it if you ask me!
Overall, a great hour spent with him – another friendly person! I still haven’t met anybody who isn’t super friendly. Even a random guy I keep seeing around town smiled and waved at me as I walked past a cafe he was in.
The local TV station stopped me in the street to have a chat, and giggle at my attempts to say some Russian words. Everyone here is interested in tourists – their main question is ‘why are you here?’ – not in an accusing way, but out of actual interest!
They all want the message out to the world…
Transnistria is not scary to visit, it’s a great place… Come along! Spend a couple of days. You’ll be more than welcome.
Other Info – Stay Tuned!
Stay tuned for a future post with more information about Transnistria!
Information such as rumours about the KGB, bribery & corruption. Interesting things to see, places and things to eat. Stories of people I met and things I did…
Do you have any questions or comments? Let me know in the comments section below and I’ll answer as best I can!