Crossing the Transdniester border is one of those travel horror stories you may have heard about in the past. Tales of corruption, detainment, bribes, shakedowns, entry refusal, phantom permits and general nastiness were common among travellers going to and coming from the region.
However I can thankfully report that this seems to be all a thing of the past, for now. The word on the grapevine is that, tired of the negative press, the Transdniestrian authorities have cleaned up their act and come down hard on border officials. Apparently, groups of border officers were fired from their posts after reports of corruption and bribery from foreign visitors.
My experience of the border crossing was of a protracted but trouble free crossing. On arrival at the border, you will be asked to go to the border control office where you present your passport and filled in entry card. You will be registered on a computer and your passport and departure card handed back with your departure time written on the top. Make sure you don’t misplace this card as to do so will inevitably lead to problems when you try to leave. Your passport will not be stamped.
While this process takes infinitely longer than necessary, it is painfree and there was no sign of having to pay any money or bribe to cross. However, like everything in Transdniester, nothing is set in stone and while it does look like the border crossing is much easier and hassle free than before, this could change without warning in the future. My advice would be to seek out the recent experiences of other travellers in either Odessa (Ukraine) or Chisinau (Moldova) before you set off. Also if like most people you are only crossing on a day trip, only bring the amount of money you are prepared to part with...if you only bring $10 then that’s all they can get from you! Stash some back up cash in you sock!
Whatever happens, stay calm and try not to be intimidated...even during more troublesome times, people who stood their ground and didn’t give into corruption were generally left in when the guards realised they were on to a lost cause. It’ll make a great travel story no matter what happens ;)
Again the train service into and out of Transdniester is something which has only recently changed making most of the informtion on the internet worthless. For now, the train service from Chisinau to Odessa via Transdniester HAS resumed and is a troublefree way to cross from Moldova to Odessa. There is an early morning train departing Chisinau at 7.00 and taking about 5-6 hours to reach Odessa passing through and stopping in Transdniester. This is a newly resumed service and may be discontinued without warning depending on political relations between Moldova and Transdniester but for now there is no problems using this service but check locally in Odessa (Ukraine) or Chisinau (Moldova) before you plan anything.
Before the resumption of the train service into and out of Transdniester, taking a bus was the only economical way of reaching Tiraspol. From Chisinau’s central bus station there are regular buses to Tiraspol via Bendery leaving every half hour from about 6.30am to 6.30pm. Buses for Tiraspol leave from the last bus bay at the back of Chisinau’s Central Station (near the central market) and you can buy your ticket before boarding the bus from a specially designated ticket office just beside the Tiraspol bus bay. The conductor will point you in the right direction and will present you with an entry form which must be filled out for presentation to border officials. From what I remember the cost of the ticket is 25 moldovan lei. The journey takes between 1½ - 2 hours depending on the border crossing.
Returning to Chisinau from Tiraspol you can take a bus or maxitaxi from Tiraspol’s bus/train station. You can buy the ticket direct from the driver in Moldovan lei or transdniestrian roubles (25-30 lei or equivalent in roubles). Make sure you are in time for the last bus of the day (between 17.00 and 18.30) or you will be stranded in Tiraspol which will lead to problems regarding overstaying your stay and registration with authorities (see separate tip on Registration in ‘warnings’ tips)
It is easy to get around Tiraspol on public transportation. Numerous busses and trams run inside the city, and all are clearly labeled with their destinations. As well, some of the trolleybusses run as far as Bendery, meaning you can ride public transportation almost all the way back to the border! You can pay the fare on board in Transnistrian rubles.
It is easy to take a minibus from Chisinau to Tiraspol. Busses depart regularly from the Central Bus Station (just behind Piata Centrala) in Chisinau. The bus bays are marked and the ticket window for Tiraspol-bound busses is just a few meters away (you don't have to enter the actual station to buy your ticket). There does seem to be something of a schedule; while I don't think busses would leave before their departure time they do seem to wait beyond the scheduled time if they are not full. A one-way bus ticket cost 28 lei.
On board the bus you will be given forms to fill out for when you reach the Transnistrian border. You are not likely to encounter another tourist on the bus. Most of the passengers on the bus will be familiar with the forms and can help you if need be. However, you should have your own pen. Fill out the papers before you arrive at the border.
It could easily take up to an hour for your bus and its passengers to get across the border. In the summer most passengers waited on the side of the road because it was very hot on board the bus. Keep an eye on your bus as other similar-looking busses might stop at the border as well! There is a tiny convenience store at the border, where you can buy water, other drinks and snacks while you wait. I believe the store also has a bathroom facility.
The bus will pass through Bendery and drop you off at the station in Tiraspol. From there, it's a short walk into the city center. To return, head back to the station and you'll find busses leaving regularly. Keep in mind that if you come on a one-day visa you'll need to be out of Transnistria by about 9:00 pm, and oftentimes the last minibus leaves the Tiraspol station at 7:00 pm. Don't miss it!
It's easy to get to Tiraspol. There are many buses and trains from Ukraine and other parts of Moldova that go to this town.
When you're already in Tiraspol, the best option is to go by trolley bus. That's best way to find out how ordinary people live.
There are the Maxitaxis, Minibus, Taxis to Tiraspol. From the Bus Station.
If you have a proper visa then no problem, however if you are after the 10 hour visa which you get at the Border for 10 lea.
But then none of the Minibuses or Maxitaxis will take you, because it means you'll hold up the process for the locals. I had to pay a taxi driver to take me and my friend for $30. The return was much easier as I was able to jump on a maxitaxi for 30 Moldovan Lea..
As you are already in Tiraspol then getting out is easier... Go to the Train Station and there will be a Maxitaxi (minibus) waiting... it costs from 20 - 30 Moldovan Lea (the driver prefers moldovan money) The Journey takes 1 hour and 30 minutes with the normal border delays...
Buses to Tiraspol depart from the Central Bus station in Chisinau. There is no timetable - they just depart when all seats are busy. Cost of the ticket is 22 lei (about 2$). The trip to Tiraspol takes about 2 hours stopping at the border after about 1 hour of journey. There are also mini-buses (called maxi-taxi or marschrutes too). Ther cost is the same but they are usually faster (1,5 hour).
You can reach Tiraspol by train. There are a few trains going from Chisinau, as well as from Odessa. I do not recommend to enter Transdniestr from Odessa. It is better and faster to go by bus.