Transnistria: The Ultimate Travel Guide
Updated: Nov 11, 2019
What is Transnistria?
Transnistria, or Transdniestria, officially the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, is an unrecognised country that declared independence following the dissolution of the USSR.
It primarily consists of a narrow strip of land between the Dniester River and the territory of Ukraine.
It has its own government, parliament, military, police force, postal system, currency and vehicle registration. Its authorities have adopted a constitution, flag, national anthem and coat of arms as well.
As old Soviet symbols and imagery are commonplace, the unrecognized country has been called the best example of the Soviet Union today.
This is seen through the Soviet-style parades and events that take place in its capital, Tiraspol, throughout the year. In addition, statues of Vladimir Lenin are widespread and the country’s flag is the only one in the world containing a hammer and sickle.
Where is Transnistria?
Transnistria is landlocked and borders Moldova to the west, and Ukraine to the east.
It is a narrow valley stretching north-south along the bank of the Dniester River, which forms a natural boundary along most of the border with Moldova.
The territory controlled by the PMR is mostly, but not completely, coincident with the left (eastern) bank of the Dniester River.
Best Things to Do in Transnistria
Transnistria is widely considered the last remnant of the Soviet Union, where travellers can get an authentic glimpse into what life was like before the fall of this ex-superpower.
1) Lenin Statues
Transnistria is home to a large collection of authentic statues of Vladimir Lenin that have remained since the time of the Soviet Union
2) Kvint Factory
Take a tour of the factory that made the Soviet Union’s most prestigious cognac. Yes, it is still in operation and travellers are able to taste test and purchase cognac.
3) Abandoned Factories & Warehouses
During the Soviet Union, Transnistria was home to a fair amount of Soviet industry. Today, many of them are left abandoned for curious travellers to come and check out - at their own risk.
4) Transnistrian Parliament
Check out the parliament of a country that doesn’t exist!
5) Central Bank
The country that doesn’t exist also has a currency that doesn’t exist! Take a closer look into this unrecognized currency - the Transnistrian Ruble.
Walk around this Transnistrian city situated right on the border into Moldova.
7) Zeleny Market
This market is a great place to get an idea of local tastes and produce.
8) Bender Fortress
A well-preserved 16th century Ottoman fortress with walkable ramparts & several museums.
9) Tank Monument
The Tank Monument of a Soviet tank in central Tiraspol.
Although not in Transnistria, when visiting the region, pop into the neighboring autonomous region of Gagauzia!
Getting Around in Transnistria
Firstly, you should that on a tour with us, you will be provided with private transport.
Transnistria is a very small country and getting around is not too difficult. Travellers can rely on ‘Marshrutkas’, the train or in the event of a private tour, private transportation to all the main sites in the country.
While in the capital Tiraspol, or in neighboring Bender, it is not a problem to spend most of your time walking around the cities and seeing most of the main sites on foot.
Where to Sleep in Transnistria
Transnistria has many interesting options when it comes to accomodations. From Soviet-style lodging, to modern luxury rooms, Transnistria has overnight options for most types of travellers.
The ‘Aist’ Hotel is probably the most famous of all Transnistrian hotels. This hotel, which up until recently did not have a website, is the best example of a Soviet hotel, in a country that is the best remaining example of the Soviet Union today.
The claim is, that nothing has been changed in the hotel since before the fall of the former superpower and travellers can experience exactly what it was like to stay in a hotel behind the iron curtain.
What to Eat in Transnistria
The population of Transnistria is made up of three primary ethnic groups; Russians, Ukrainians and Moldovans (Romanians).
As such, the food of all these of these groups can be found around the country. With that said however, it is definitely not a secret that the country holds the closest ties to Russia and therefore Russian food, culture and products are by far the most prevalent.
Entering the supermarket or other shops, it is quite easy to notice that the majority of foreign-produced products come from Russia - although products from Europe and around the world can also be found.
What to Drink in Transnistria
During the Soviet Union, the regions of Moldova and Transnistria were famous for its grape and wine production.
As such, the most famous and prized cognac of the Soviet Union was produced here, in what is today Transnistria. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the KVINT cognac factory has remained in production, producing the same Soviet spirit from inside the unrecognized country of Transnistria - although with a ‘Made in Moldova’ sticker.
Travellers, can go on a tour of the factory and try prized cognac from a country that no longer exists (Soviet Union), in a country that technically doesn’t exist (Transnistria).
Is Transnistria safe?
Since the end of the Transnistria War in the early 1990s, when a ceasefire was signed, no open conflict has taken place. Tourists are able to safely visit the country and freely cross both of its borders, including the border with Moldova.
Crime against tourists is very low and has not been a cause of concern for tour groups entering the country.
Why is Transnistria not in the U.N?
In the case of Transnistria, the international community considers it as part of Moldova and not an independent state.
Much like other post-Soviet ‘frozen conflicts,’ the international community has tended to only recognize territories that were separate Soviet Socialist Republics in the USSR and not autonomous regions within those republics.
As such, Transnistria, being part of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic, was recognized as part of the newly independent Republic of Moldova.
In reality however, the unrecognized country functions as a sovereign and independent state and not as part of Moldova.
How do I enter Transnistria?
Transnistria is probably the easiest unrecognized country to access. Entrance can easily be made through either Moldova or Ukraine, with little restrictions.
Currently, only land borders can be crossed as there is no active international airport in Transnistria.
Do I need a visa to enter Transnistria?
Because travellers need to enter Transnistria through either the territory of Moldova or Ukraine, travellers first need to understand if they can enter one of those countries without a visa.
The good news is, that citizens of most western countries have visa-free access to both of these countries.
Transnistria itself does not require foreign visitors to obtain a visa; they can stay for up to 45 days without a residence permit and the process is pretty straightforward.
What currency do they use in Transnistria?
The unrecognized country of Transnistria issues its very own unrecognized currency - the Transnistrian Ruble.
It is the only currency used within its borders. All foreign currency must be exchanged at one of the many currency exchange shops before any purchases can be made.
Outside of the country however, the Transnistrian Ruble has no more value than monopoly money and cannot be traded for other currencies anywhere in the world.
Is Transnistria a country?
Transnistria is an Unrecognized Country and not recognized as a sovereign state by the international community (except for Russia and other some unrecognized countries). It is internationally recognized as part of the Republic of Moldova.
As with all Unrecognized Countries, the nature of their status revolves around the fact that few or no other countries recognize their sovereignty over their claimed territory.
Although the country is unrecognized, it does in fact have sovereignty over its borders, a government, a legal system, its own military, passports and other characteristics of recognized countries.
How did Transnistria gain independence?
After the dissolution of the USSR, tensions between Moldova and Transnistria escalated into a military conflict from March 1992 until July of the same year.
The Transnistria War followed armed clashes on a limited scale between Transnistrian separatists and Moldova as early as November 1990.
Volunteers came from Russia to help the separatist side. In mid-April 1992, under the agreements on the split of the military equipment of the former Soviet Union, negotiated between the former 15 republics in the previous months, Moldova created its own Defence Ministry.
According to the decree of its creation, most of the 14th Soviet Army's military equipment was to be retained by Moldova.
The fighting intensified throughout early 1992. The former Soviet 14th Guards Army entered the conflict in its final stage, opening fire against Moldovan forces.
A ceasefire agreement, signed on 21 July 1992, has held to the present day.
Who are the Transnistrians?
As of 2009 the population of Transnistria was about 555,000 people. Transnistrians often have dual or even triple citizenship, including:
Citizens of Moldova – around 300,000 people (including dual citizens of Moldova and Russia (around 20,000) or of Moldova and the EU states (around 80%) of Romania, Bulgaria, or the Czech Republic).
Citizens of Russia – around 150,000 people (including around 15,000 dual citizens of Belarus, Israel, or Turkey); excluding those holding dual citizenship of Russia and of Moldova (around 20,000).
Citizens of Ukraine – around 100,000 people. There are around 20,000–30,000 people with dual citizenship (Moldova and Ukraine, or Russia and Ukraine) or triple citizenship (Moldova, Russia and Ukraine). They are included in the number of Ukrainian citizens.
The largest ethnic groups in 2015 were Russians (34%), Moldovans (33%), and Ukrainians (26.7%).
Bulgarians, Gagauz, Belarusians, Germans and Poles made up minority populations.
What language is spoken in Transnistria?
Official languages in Transnistria are Russian, Moldovan (which is fundamentally identical to Romanian), and Ukrainian.
Moldovan in Transnistria is spelled using the Cyrillic alphabet, rather than the latin alphabet which is considered Romanian and is a matter of dispute.
The most common language used in shops, bars and taxis is Russian, which practically everyone understands and is the language of government. Moldovan and Ukrainian are understood and spoken too but to a lesser extent.
Are foreign embassies present in Transnistria?
Because of its unrecognized status, very few foreign missions exist in Transnistria. However, should tourists need consular assistance, foreign embassies can easily be visited in neighboring Moldova or Ukraine.
Russia is the only recognized country to have a diplomatic mission in the territory of Transnistria. In addition, the unrecognized countries of Abkhazia and South Ossetia maintain a joint representative office on the main street in Tiraspol.
Will travelling to Transnistria affect future travel plans?
In short, no. Travelling to Transnistria is one of the most straightforward out of all unrecognized countries. No countries ban or restrict travel to Transnistria, including Moldova.