Tiraspol, the capital of a country that doesn’t exist: Transnistria
Updated January 28, 2017 / João Leitão / 5 Comments / Filed in: Moldova 🇲🇩 / Reading time 8 minutes
Did you know that some countries don’t exist?
Well, they do exist, but they are not recognized by the United Nations.
This doesn’t prevent those “self-proclaimed” countries from being ruled and have a governmental administration.
This is the case of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic – PMR.
Have you ever heard of it?
How about Transnistria?
Does it ring the bell now?
Pridnestrovie is a small territory on the right side of Moldova and southwest of Ukraine, close to Odessa. Although this country is not officially recognized, there are actually land borders with police and passport control.
Flag of Pridnestrovie – Transnistria
the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic is a de-facto constitutional independent republic located between Ukraine and Moldova.
This breakaway state is internationally known as Transnistria, and it has its own currency, its own parliament and politicians, its own police force and army (in fact Russian military). On this page you have a Tiraspol travel guide and many photos of Transnistria.
Visit Transnistria and Tiraspol the capital city
The capital, Tiraspol, is a fascinating city where huge post-Soviet and Russian propaganda monuments invade the streets and are part of the daily life of the mostly Russian and Ukrainians living there – the Moldovan ethnicity represents only 15% of the population.
Transnistria is somehow famous for its reputation of being a difficult and dangerous country to travel to. It seems there is strong evidence it is a haven for arms and human trafficking.
Against all the odds I found Transnistria a normal country, where you can easily cross the border and get in, hassle free.
My visit to Pridnestrovie (also known as Transnistria, Trans-Dniester or Transdniestria), was very normal, the border police were really very friendly, and at the tourist registration office, in the city center, I was given a 10-day visa automatically.
Video – Holidays in the Danger Zone
Fascinating documentary “Places That Don’t Exist” – about Transnistria by Simon Reeve.
Pridnestrovie declared independence from the Soviet Union on the 27th August of 1991, right after Moldova. The biggest conflict in the region is that Pridnestrovie has never wanted to be part of Moldova and it has remained under the protection of Russians.
The problem goes back to 1940 when Stalin invaded Moldova and annexed Pridnestrovie by force. In short, it is a complicated conflict concerning territories possession and independence.
Hard feelings between states have been present ever since. During the war, when Moldova and Transnistria fought against each other, Moldova was defeated by Transnistria, mainly because Transnistria´s army was, in fact, the Russian army.
Also read: Transnistria – Brides and Bribes in Eastern Europe’s Breakaway Territory, by Nate Robert from Yomadic.
Nowadays Moldova is accepted as an independent territory by the international community, while Transnistria is not.
What to see in Tiraspol
For such a small territory, you can’t expect much of Transnistria in what concerns historical monuments and landmarks.
However, traveling to Transnistria is worth for the experience itself.
A country that is not recognized as so, a territory that many people would never dare to enter in, are strong enough ingredients for those travelers searching for unique experiences.
In the capital, Tiraspol, the Statue of Alexander Suvorov – the founder of the city, and a memorial to those who lost their lives in the 1990-1992 conflict between Transnistria and Moldova are the top attraction of the city.
Right next to this monument you can find the tank-memorial to the victims of the Second World War. This T-34 tank that dominates the plaza was placed here to commemorate the Soviet victory of WW2.
Just aside the tank memorial, you can walk through the Afghan War Monument honoring the soldiers who fought in Afghanistan, with walls containing thousands of engraved names.
There is also the Memorial Complex of the Fallen Soldiers for the City’s Liberation, in the war against Moldova.
If you want to get rid of the war memorials and sad feelings, you can walk along the river or even enjoy a boat trip on the river Dniester.
You can have a look at the impressive building of the House of Soviets (Dom Sovetov) – the House of Parliament.
After that, relax at the beach, right in the city center, and enjoy a cold drink, supposing you visit it in the spring or summer time, of course.
Also read: Visiting Transnistria: Tiraspol, by Justin Ames from The Velvet Rocket.
You can visit The Nativity Church, also known as the Cathedral of the Birth of Christ, located in the city center.
On weekends, if you are keen on antiques, vintage or military objects, you will love to check what Russian street vendors have to offer you.
Video – Street Singer in Tiraspol:
Walk a bit further away from the city center and experience the real life of locals. You will be surprised by people’s peacefulness and their friendly manners.
You can also indulge yourself into the town’s fresh produce market, just behind the Nativity Church.
More than traveling in a breakaway country, in Transnistria you will feel like traveling back in time – to the Soviet Union – USSR.
Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic important dates
1792: The Russian Empire incorporates the Pridnestrovian area of the Dniester River, which is the border of southwestern Russia. Across the river, Moldova has always claimed the territory of Pridnestrovie.
1924: Under the new Soviet Union, Pridnestrovie is allocated in the Soviet Republic Moldova, which also incorporates parts of Ukraine. The Dniester River is still respected as the natural border between the two countries. By 1924 Moldova is part of Romania.
1940: Under the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with Nazi Germany, Stalin invades Romania and Moldova gets attached to Pridnestrovie. These areas become known as the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic. By force, and as an act of war, the two distinct lands, Pridnestrovie and Moldova, are joined together in a single state, despite the natural border of Dniester river.
1990: In Chisinau, Moldova’s parliament annuls the 1940 pact, the Molotov-Ribbentrop, which annexed Moldova to the Soviet Union. A year later, in 1991, Moldova Republic declares its Independence.
1990: On September 2nd 1990, Pridnestrovie proclaims its independence. The declaration of independence and the creation of a Democratic Republic follow the will of the people scrutinized in a referendum.
Also read: Tourism in Transnistria: Examining the Last Remnants of the USSR, by Darmon Richter, from The Bohemian Blog.
Visa for Transnistria
Since March 2015 you are given an entry card at the border that allows you to stay in Transnistria for 24 hours.
All tourists who stay more than 24 hours in Pridnestrovie have to make a visa.
This Transnistria visa gives the right to stay longer in the country.
Registration is a simple process. Please notice that Immigration Office has moved to a new building. Thus the address you may find in travel guides may be wrong. The new office is 2 blocks down the Lenina street, at the very end of the road. It is not hard to find.
I´ve read in many websites people criticizing this process but, in fact, I don’t see any difference between this visa and the acquisition of a visa for any other country. The only difference is that here it is done on-site.
While registering, I was asked for how long would need a visa, and I answered about 3 or 4 days.
The lady replied: “OK, then I’ll give you 10 days. It is enough, isn’t it?””
It was easy. I paid next door and was ready to go. They make general questions about where you are from, where you are staying, why you are there… that kind of basic questions.
Immigration Office in Tiraspol:
Address: Kotovsky Str 2, Tiraspol – PMR
Working hours: 9:30 to 11:30 and 13:00 to 16:30
Aist Hotel in Tiraspol, Pridnestrovie
This seems to be one of the few hotels in the city center. AIST hotel is as great as old fashioned. But it is central, and the rooms on the top floors have a excellent view over the city. The employees are friendly.
The rooms are beautiful, despite the need of renewal. We can notice that it must have been a very good hotel 30 years ago.
The price of this hotel in Tiraspol is of 400 rubles = $44 dollars per apartment w / double room + living room.
There are other cheaper rooms for $25 dollars a night. The price I paid – $44 dollars – was for the whole apartment. The view of the city from the window was fantastic.
The hotel is right next to the main square, where there is a monument to the fighters of the war against Moldova, and 5 minutes away from the market.
I was not looking for this hotel at all, but after more than 40 minutes asking for hotels or hostels, everyone suggested me two: this one and another one that was closed and no longer working. I knew there were more hotels available in the city but all roads led me to this one.
Transportation to and from Tiraspol
To enter the country, I arrived coming from the Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia – an autonomous region of Moldova. I left Transnistria going to Chisinau, the capital of Moldova.
Bus from Tiraspol to Chisinau – Moldova to Transnistria
It was almost 2 pm, and I was in front of Tiraspol train station looking for a Marshrutka (mini-bus) to take me to the Moldovan capital city of Chisinau.
From the central train station in Tiraspol, there are buses and marshrutkas departing to multiple destinations, including Chisinau in Moldova and Odessa in Ukraine.
After having asked for marshrutkas which are faster than buses, I realized that my only solution was to go on the bus departing at 3:05 pm.
A big old bus drove by a man wearing a ship captain’s hat. The bus arrived in Chisinau at 7:30 pm just in time to get another bus to Bucharest at 8 pm. The price of the bus from Tiraspol to Chisinau was 27 rubles.
Minibus from Comrat to Tiraspol – Gagauzia to Transnistria
From the central bus station in Comrat, there are several daily departures to Tiraspol in Transnistria. The price of the marshrutka from Comrat to Tiraspol was 55 MDL.
Schedules are as follows: 8:40am, 2:20pm and 5:30pm. Be there a bit earlier so that you get a seat. You can buy the ticket to the driver or at the box office.
The trip is OK, the border crossing is calm. The country side roads in the south of Moldova are in poor conditions.
At the border with PMR, I had to get off the marshrutka to fill in an entry paper and answer a few questions to the police. It was not a lengthy inquiry, just the normal immigration procedure.
NOTE: You may simply say that you are a tourist and are going to stay in a hotel in Tiraspol. If you book a hotel through Booking.com website you can show them your printed reservation receipt.