Transnistria, a country that you most likely would have never heard off, and we can’t blame you, because we didn’t either up until a couple of years ago. Transnistria is one of Europe’s least known countries, and probably for the reason that while Transnistria calls itself a country, the rest of the world considers it to be part of the country of Moldova. Transnistria, officially the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic or Pridnestrovie for short, is a breakaway state located in Moldova, right on the border of Ukraine. Transnistria was formed in 1992 after tensions rose between Moldova and Transnistria after the dissolution of the USSR. And while Transnistria is rather a narrow strip of country with an estimate of less then half a million citizens, it does have its own army, currency, passport, flag and so much more.
When we first read about Transnistria we knew we had to add it to our Eastern Europe bucket list, and so in the summer of 2019 we finally had the chance to discover Transnistria ourselves by exploring the capital of the breakaway state: Tiraspol. Intrigued? Perhaps wondering how you can visit this breakaway state yourself? Keep on reading to find out everything you need to know about visiting Tiraspol and Transnistria. From where it is located, to how to get to Tiraspol, things to know before you go to Transnistria, and 10 unique things to do in Tiraspol itself!
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Where is Transnistria
Now, before we actually tell you about all these fantastic things to do in Tiraspol, let’s start with some basic info first, such as where is Transnistria actually located? The long narrow strip of land is mainly defined by the Dniester river, giving Transnistria its name (beyond the river Dniester), however there are parts on the Western side of the river that are controlled by Transnistria, such as the city of Bender, and vice versa on the Eastern side of the river by Moldova that are not highlighted on the map below. The long and narrow strip of country that is Transnistria is situated right on the border of Ukraine and as such can either be accessed from Ukraine or from Moldova, but we’ll discuss how to get to Tiraspol, Transnistria, further in detail down below, after we have convinced you to actually visit this unique breakaway state!
Things to do in Tiraspol
Now that you know where you can find Transnistria, let’s see what 10 unique things to do in Tiraspol, Transnistria’s capital, you should be adding to your Eastern European itinerary. As Tiraspol is rather small you can easily visit these sights within a matter of hours, so you might want to consider doing this as a day trip from Chisinau, or simply to stay the night and to see what else Transnistria has to offer. As we were a bit short on time we only explored Tiraspol, but we sure know that we will be back in the future to explore Transnistria a bit further!
1. Memorial of Glory in Tiraspol
Start you day by making your way to the Memorial of Glory, located along 25th October street, right in front of the Dniester river. The Memorial of Glory was built to commemorate the veterans and the ones who died in the Great Patriotic War, the Soviet Afghan War and the Transnistria War. The easiest way to find the memorial is by looking for the large tank, which is quite hard to miss when walking along 25th October street. Besides the tank you will also find the tomb of the unknown soldier here, marked by an eternal flame and an inscription that reads “Your name is unknown, your deed is immortal.“. The Memorial of Glory, also known as the War Memorial, is one of the must see sights in Tiraspol.
2. The Presidential Palace
Another one of the must sees when traveling to Tiraspol is the Presidential Palace, situated slightly further down the road from the Memorial of Glory. Trying to take a photo of this building isn’t easy, as it absolutely massive and you will have a hard time trying to fit it all in. However, it isn’t the building that most people come to see, instead it is the large Lenin statue that stands tall in front of the building, a must see for those who came to Tiraspol to admire the Soviet symbols that can be found all over Transnistria. Tiraspol is a city that almost makes you feel like you have stepped back in time, and finding statues and busts of Lenin here is not uncommon. However, in the rest of Moldova, and in Ukraine you will find barely any statues of Lenin remaining. In fact, while there were over 5500 Lenin monuments in Ukraine before the dissolution of the USSR, there are currently only two monuments remaining, both situated in the Chernobyl exclusion zone.
3. Church of the Nativity
Right behind 25th October street you will find the beautiful Church of the Nativity, sometimes also known as the Christmas Cathedral. The Russian Orthodox church was built in 1999 and is not only one of the newer, but also considered the main church of Transnistria. The golden domes of the church stand tall above the sights in the area, a beautiful sight to quickly stop by and admire, before making your way to the rest of the sights in Tiraspol! Near the Church of Nativity you will also find the Green Market, a place we sadly forgot to add to our itinerary but still wanted to share with you as visiting local markets is one of the things we loved doing while visiting Eastern Europe!
4. Dniester River
A visit to Tiraspol would not be complete without having visited the Dniester River, or perhaps even have jumped in the river for a refreshing swim to escape from the summer heat. Right behind the above mentioned Memorial of Glory you will find a bridge that gives you an amazing view over the Dniester river if you are short on time. But if you have a bit of time on your hands you might want to consider relaxing a bit on the beaches of the river, a perfect way to relax from all the sightseeing! We later found out there was also an option to do a boat tour on the river, something we will definitely be adding for our itinerary for our next visit.
5. House of Soviets
But the exploring, and the admiration of Soviet sights, doesn’t end just yet. As you might have realised by now you will see that making your way around Tiraspol is rather easy as all the main sights are located along the 25th October street, and so is our next sight: the House of Soviets, which is Tiraspol’s city hall. You will find a bust of a stern looking Lenin right in front of the House of Soviets, just like the stern looking statue in front of the Presidential Palace, a sight that, again, is a must see for those that come here for the Soviet style monuments, symbols and architecture.From time to time it is sights like these that will almost make you feel like you have stepped back in time!
6. Roam the streets of Tiraspol
While the sights above are some of the major sights to see in Tiraspol, nothing beats just wandering the streets. As many of the major sights are situated along 25th October street you will find that many people stop exploring here, while there is so much more to see of Tiraspol. Explore the streets around 25th October street to see what local life in Tiraspol is like, go shopping at a local supermarket, and get simply but wonderfully lost, it will give you a bit of an idea of what it would be like to live in a breakaway state like Tiraspol.
7. Monument to Suvorov
When wandering around you will see that Tiraspol is filled with monuments, you will find them simply everywhere. Some are large, like the monument to Suvorov pictured below, and some are rather small. You will find many of them along 25th October street, like the large Suvorov monument, but also the smaller monuments such as the monument to the first Moldovan power plant. The monument to Suvorov, who is the founder of the city of Tiraspol, is by far the most impressive one in our opinion, and can be found at Suvorov Square, the main square of Tiraspol.
8. Tiraspol Theatre & Pobeda Park
After a day of exploring be sure to stop by the Tiraspol Theatre and Pobeda Park for a bit of relaxing. On our way to the hostel we walked through the beautiful Pobeda Park and along the Tiraspol Theatre and we simply wished we would have paid it another visit during our time here as it just looks like the perfect place to sit and unwind for a bit after a day of exploring. Pobeda park is located all the way on the Western end of the city, at the end of 25th October street, making it a perfect stop to end your day of sightseeing in Tiraspol.
9. Transnistria Plastic Coins
This one might sound rather weird, but it is rather unique as where else in the world will you find plastic coins? The coins, made of composite, were introduced in 2014 and had 4 different denominations 1, 3, 5 and 10 ruble. Each coin has a different colour and a different shape. When we left for Transnistria we expected the coins to have replaced the bank notes for these denominations, however, it proved it wasn’t as easy as we thought to get our hands on the plastic coins. After having spent almost a full day in Tiraspol we had only managed to get our hands on one of the four coins, but with a little help from our host who told us where we could get some more we ended up with three of the four coins for our collection, the perfect souvenir to take home from Transnistria!
10. Find some Souvenirs
While the coins are the perfect souvenirs to take home in our opinion, there are definitely some other souvenirs that you can try to get your hands on as well when visiting Transnistria! We managed to get our hands on some postcards, perfect for our postcard collection at home (we have collected over 400 postcards from 30+ different countries), but another one that might be interesting to get is some KVINT Cognac, cognac that is made in a distillery in Tiraspol. Do you have any other souvenirs that you brought home from Tiraspol? Be sure to tell us in the comment section down below!
Things to know before you go to Transnistria
Now that you are considering traveling to Transnistria, you might still have a couple of questions, we did too. So to help you out we have briefly summarised some of the most important information below so that your visit to Transnistria can be easy and hassle free. But, should you have any questions left, do not hesitate to ask them in the comment section down below!
Do I need a Visa for Transnistria?
US, Canadian and EU-citizens don’t need a visa for Transnistria, you will simply get a migration card when crossing the border by bus, or you will have to get one at the migration office at the train station should you enter by train. Just tell the border patrol how long and where you will be staying and you will get a migration card handed back to you. If you don’t tell the border patrol agent how long you are staying you will be handed the standard 10-hour visa. The migration card is free of cost, and your passport will not be stamped. Be sure to keep your migration card as you will need it to leave Transnistria again. Upon receiving your migration card be sure to check the date and time at the bottom of your migration card as well as this is the date till when you will be allowed to stay in Transnistria. So be sure to check if this date is correct as overstaying apparently can get you into a bit of trouble. If you are planning on continuing your journey to the rest of Moldova after your travels in Transnistria then you might want to check if you need a visa for Moldova though.
Is it safe to visit Transnistria?
We never felt unsafe when traveling Transnistria, we felt warmly welcomed by the locals and enjoyed wandering around the streets of Tiraspol. The thing you should be careful of, however, is taking photos of military and military buildings as this is strictly forbidden and could get you in quite a bit of trouble. So simply pay a bit of attention where and at whom you are pointing your camera at and you should be just fine! However, it might be worth noting that there are no foreign embassies in Transnistria (besides the consular office of Russia). For that reason many countries will issue a travel warning for traveling to the breakaway state of Transnistria as they will not be able to help you should there be any issues during your travels. For that reason it is advised by many countries to check the news and the current political situation before heading to Transnistria.
Currency & ATMs in Transnistria
The currency in Transnistria is the Transnistrian Ruble, a currency that can be used only within the country of Transnistria, and can only be exchanged within the country of Transnistria. Now, however, comes the tricky part. As the rest of the world doesn’t recognise Transnistria as a country, the same way the Transnistrian Ruble is not considered an official currency. For that reason you won’t find any conversion rates in the currency converter apps that you can download for your phone. And as Transnistria is not part of the international banking system you won’t be able to use the ATMs in Transnistria to withdraw Transnistrian Ruble. As such it is recommended to bring cash to Transnistria. In August 2019 the exchange rate of the Transnistrian Ruble (PMR) were as follows:
- 1 EUR = 17.8 PMR
- 1 USD = 16.30 PMR
- 1 UAH = 0.635 PMR
- 1 MDL = 0.905 PMR
- 1 RUB = 0.242 PMR
While the exchange rate may change slightly it will give you a rough idea of the exchange rates. We would strongly advise to bring enough cash in one (or more) of these five currencies for your trip to Transnistria. Don’t forget to exchange all your money back to euros or dollars as you won’t be able to exchange it outside of Transnistria.
How to get to Tiraspol, Transnistria
So now that you are intrigued and want to visit Tiraspol yourself, let’s continue with the logistics: how to get to Tiraspol. The easiest way to visit Transnistria is by traveling from either Odessa in Ukraine or Chisinau in Moldova. We personally traveled from Odessa to Tiraspol and continued our way to Chisinau a day later. As international border crossings can be a bit tricky we have described in detail how to get to Tiraspol from Odessa, and onwards to Chisinau, below.
How to get from Odessa to Tiraspol
You can travel from Odessa to Tiraspol by either taking the bus or the train, whichever one you pick is completely dependent on your situation. While there are currently multiple buses leaving from Odessa to Tiraspol, there is only one train per day on this route which leaves Odessa at 6.45pm and arrives at Tiraspol right after 9pm, rather late in the day. We decided to take the bus as this allowed more flexibility in our schedule. The journey from Odessa to Tiraspol, including the border crossing, took roughly 3.5 hours and while rather bumpy, it was definitely quite the experience.
How to buy a ticket for the bus from Odessa to Tiraspol: While a complete schedule can’t be found online, you can find some info on the buses, and the schedule and prices right here (cities are spelled as Odesa and Tyraspol here). Tickets can be bought inside the bus station, not at the driver, but you might want to translate your destination, the time of the bus you want to take, and the day you want to take the bus with the help of a translation app to make sure you purchase the right ticket (this worked like a charm for us). We paid 285 UAH (±$11) for two tickets, and were asked to pay another 60 UAH (±$2.30) to put our two backpacks in the luggage compartment beneath the bus.
The Ukraine Border: When you are taking the bus you will stay in the bus at the border crossing on the Ukrainian side, a border patrol agent will simply enter the bus and collect all passports. Now, this part is important if you are planning on continuing your journey to Moldova after Transnistria: be sure to ask the driver if he can arrange a Moldovan entry stamp when you are on the Ukrainian side of the border. We know this might sound a bit confusing but as Transnistria does not consider themselves to be part of Moldova, they will not be able to provide you with an Moldova entry stamp, and there is no possibility of receiving the Moldovan entry stamp when you leave Transnistria into Moldova either unless you go and get it at an office in Chisinau. So to avoid issues when leaving Moldova, or to wander around Chisinau looking to get your stamp, it is best to arrange yourself a Moldovan entry stamp when you are still on the Ukrainian border. If you are lucky (like in our case) your driver might even offer it to you already, as they are aware of the Moldovan entry stamp issue for foreigners. It might sound complicated, but at the border it turned out to be rather easy, so don’t be worried.
The Transnistria Border: Now, at the Transnistrian side of the border all foreigners will be asked to go and get a migration card. Simply hand the border patrol agent your passport, tell him how long you are staying, and (if you are staying the night) the name and address of your hotel. They will put all info in their system and give you your migration card. Be sure to not loose this card as you will need it to leave Transnistria. And that is it! You are now in Transnistria, your driver will drop you off at the bus station located right in front of the train station in Tiraspol, from where you will be able to go and explore Tiraspol and the rest of Transnistria.
How to get from Tiraspol to Chisinau
Taking the bus from Tiraspol to Chisinau is a lot easier compared to the journey above. To buy a bus ticket simply head over to the office at the bus station (the bus station is right in front of the train station), buses leave frequently to Moldova’s capital. In August 2019 our tickets were ±40 Transnistrian Ruble per person, which is roughly $2.50 so be sure to have some cash handy. At the Transnistria/Moldova border a Transnistrian border agent will enter the bus to check your migration cards after which the bus will continue its journey to Chisinau, it is as easy as that. The journey, including the border crossing, took roughly 2 hours.
Where to stay in Tiraspol
When we visited Tiraspol in August 2019 we stayed at Like Home Hostel, a great place for those who are traveling Transnistria on a budget. The owners were extremely welcoming, friendly and knowledgeable about Tiraspol, we truly felt at home here and cannot wait to go back. But if you are looking for something a bit more luxurious you might want to check out the map below to find something that works for you!
Where to go after Transnistria
After you have explored the city of Tiraspol, and perhaps even the nearby city of Bender, it is time to continue your journey! We traveled from Transnistria to Chisinau, to continue our journey to Romania. However, another option is to go into the opposite direction and head to Ukraine instead. Visit the beautiful pearl of the black sea, Odessa, or perhaps even explore the city of Kiev to see what Ukraine has to offer! We absolutely loved our time in Tiraspol, and can’t wait to visit it again in the near future.