Published: September 5th 2008September 2nd 2008
Early morning we got ready to do a day trip to Tiraspol, capital of the self proclaimed republic of Transnistria, perhaps only Russia recognizes it, anyway you cant stay for longer than 6-8 hours in the area if you try to spend the night, will be lots of hassle, there is a border we need to cross and we heard bad things about the way customs deal with foreigners says our homestay host but we really wanted to get there so we wing it. took the minibus to the Central bus station, where we were supposed to meet Tuuka and Yarom our 2 Finnish friends we met on the bus from Brasov to Chisinau. Got there no sign of them so we looked up the terminal where the minibus leaves for Tiraspol, found it and bought our tickets. Sat on the minibus hoping they eventually find us there, 10 mins. later the bus left, we figured they will make their way on their own and meet them up in Tiraspol. The trip was about 3 hours if i remember it right, arrived at the" border".
We filled out forms and got our passports scanned, we have to write the purpose of
visit and duration of stay in hours, we got the immigration card back, no stamp on passport, then from there we walked our way to the other side to hop back on the bus when 2 customs official pulled us over and had us fill up customs declaration, only us among people on the bus, the driver was impatient and told the customs guy we leave soon, we quickly filled the forms and handed it over, he found a loophole to get a bribe from us, we did not fill in the amount of money we have with us and not declared camera as electronics etc, he said we broke the law and will be put to jail for 5 days unless we pay 200 local dibdobs each($20 approx.) We insist we can fill it in if he is so particular about it, he refused and started filling up a form he claims is to document we broke the law and be put to jail, this time the bus left already and we are pissed, so I said look take the 200 for the 2 of us and let us go, he said no and left the office then after
5 mins. came back took the money and shooed us out, pointing us to the other minibus that just arrived. We were both seething with anger but we cant do nothing as we did not want to be put to jail in a corrupt self proclaimed country. If they want the world to support their cause, it's not gona help them asking for bribes from every tourist, we later found out they try this with every foreigner, Yarom had the same experience as he related to us on the way back when we met on the bus.
We hopped on the minibus and eventually made it to Tiraspol, passing through Bender, in 45 minutes.
We walked around town, lots of Soviet memorabilia, they even kept the Lenin sculpture statues in town. You can walk the center in couple hours, quite nice people, very helpful with directions, Craig mentioned only the officilas are corrupt! Slowly made our way back to the bus station, we decided to walk it than pay $4 taxi, we found it and met Tuuka and Yarom in the bus and we related each others misfortunes on the border. We actually tried to go to Gagauzia, an
autonomous region we notice a Comrat minibus departing but will take hours to get there, we will run out of time so we hopped back for the Tiraspol bus, the trip back was pleasant, did not get customs officials again, smooth sailing, Yarom pointed from the bus window the officer he encountered, it was the same one that did us, I tried to take a photo but cant get a ggod view of him.
Tiraspol is a nice place to go only if the officilas at the border is not corrupt, gives you a bad impresion of the general population, on our way to Odessa, we will make sure we take the trip that does not go through this part.
Transnistria, also known as Trans-Dniester, Transdniestria, and Pridnestrovie (full name: Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic), is a breakaway republic within the internationally recognised borders of Moldova, with the official status of an autonomous territory. It is de jure part of Moldova and it is de facto independent state. It is organised as a presidential republic, with its own government, parliament, military, police, postal system and its own currency. Its authorities have adopted a constitution, flag, a
national anthem, and a coat of arms.
Transnistria is located mostly in a strip between the Dniester River and Ukraine. After the dissolution of the USSR, Transnistria declared independence leading to the war with Moldova that started in March 1992 and was concluded by the ceasefire of July 1992. As part of that agreement, a three-party (Russia, Moldova, PMR) Joint Control Commission supervises the security arrangements in the demilitarized zone, comprising 20 localities on both sides of the river. Although the ceasefire has held, the territory's political status remains unresolved, and Transnistria has been de facto independent since that time.
Transnistria is sometimes compared with other post-Soviet frozen conflict zones such as Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia. The latter two since declaring their independence from Georgia after the 2008 South Ossetia war have subsequently recognised Transnistria as an independent state and plan to establish diplomatic relations in return for the recognition of themselves.
ansnistria is landlocked and borders Bessarabia (i.e. the rest of Moldova, for 411 km) to the West, and Ukraine (for 405 km) to the East. It is a narrow valley stretching in the North-South direction along the bank of the Dniester River, which forms
a natural boundary along most of the border with (the rest of) Moldova. Tiraspol, the capital and largest city of Transnistria, has 159,163 inhabitants.
The territory of Transnistria is mostly, but not completely coincident with the left (eastern) bank of Moldova (with respect to Dniester). It includes ten cities and towns, and 69 communes, with a totality of 147 localities (counting the unincorporated ones as well). Ten localities on the left bank are controlled by the Moldovan government, as part of the Dubăsari district. They are situated north and south of the city of Dubăsari, which itself is under Transnistrian control.
On the west bank, the city of Bendery and six villages to its south and south-east, roughly opposite Tiraspol, are controlled by Transnistrian authorities.
The ten localities controlled by the Moldovan authorities on the eastern bank, the city of Dubăsari (situated on the eastern bank and controlled by Tiraspol), the seven localities controlled by the Transnistrian authorities on the western bank, as well as two (Varniţa and Copanca) on the same bank under Chişinău control form a security zone. The security situation inside it is subject to the Joint Control Commission rulings.
The main transportation
route in Transnistria is the road Tiraspol-Dubăsari-Rîbniţa. North and south of Dubăsari it passes through the lands of the villages controlled by the central government (Doroţcaia, Cocieri, Roghi, while Vasilievca is entirely situated east of the road). Conflict erupted on several occasions when the Tiraspol authorities prevented the villagers from reaching their farmland east of the road.
Transnistrians are able to travel (normally without difficulty) in and out of the territory under PMR control to neighbouring Moldovan-controlled territory, Ukraine, and on to Russia, by road or (when service is not interrupted by political tensions) on two international trains, the year-round Moscow-Chişinău, and the seasonal Saratov-Varna. International air travellers rely on the airport in Chişinău, the Moldovan capital.
Disputed status of Transnistria
Transnistria is internationally recognised as being a legal part of the Republic of Moldova, although de facto control is exercised by its internationally unrecognised government which declared independence from Moldova in 1990 with Tiraspol as its declared capital.
Prior to unification of the territory with Moldova in 1940, Tiraspol was the capital of the Moldavian ASSR, an autonomous republic within Ukrainian SSR, which existed from 1924 to 1940.
no direct control over the territory, the Moldovan government passed the "Law on Basic Provisions of the Special Legal Status of Localities from the Left Bank of the Dniester" on July 22, 2005, which established Transnistria as a separate territorial unit within the Republic of Moldova, which can be given a status of a large autonomy. The law was passed without any prior consultation with the de facto government in Transnistria, which felt that it was a provocation and has since ignored it.
Between 300,000 and 400,000 Transnistrians (the majority of the population) acquired Moldovan passports by 2008. No country recognizes passports issued by the Transnistrian government.Russia opened a consulate in Tiraspol (against the will of Moldova) and issued about 80,000 passports to Transnistrians by the end of 2006.
There are unsettled border issues between the PMR and Moldova. Nine villages from the Dubăsari district, including Cocieri and Doroţcaia which geographically belong to Transnistria, have been under the control of the central government of Moldova after the involvement of local inhabitants on the side of Moldovan forces during the War of Transnistria. These villages along with Varniţa and Copanca, near Bendery and Tiraspol, are claimed by the PMR.
One city and six villages on the west bank are controlled by the Transnistrian authorities, but are considered by Moldova as a separate municipality (Bendery and two villages), or part of the Căuşeni district (four villages).
Tense situations have periodically surfaced due to these territorial disputes, for example in 2005, when Transnistrian forces entered Vasilievca, in 2006 around Varniţa, and in 2007 in Dubăsari-Cocieri area, when a confrontation between Moldovan and Transnistrian forces occurred, however without any casualties.
According to Moldovan sources, in 13 May 2007 the mayor of the village Corjova, which is under Moldovan government control, was arrested by Transnistrian police, together with a councillor of Moldovan-controlled part of Dubăsari district.
As a non-Moldovan and non-Ukrainian citizen, you can get into Transnistria via bus or train or car from Moldova (namely Chişinău). If you enter Transnistria from the Ukrainian side and then enter Moldova, you will not get a Moldovan entry stamp, and when you leave Moldova, border guards may claim that you have entered the country illegally.
When crossing the border between Moldova and Transnistria, you will be checked only by Transnistrian officials. There are also peacekeeping Russian and
Ukranian soldiers who may stop and search vehicles. There is no offical fee for entering Transnistria anymore. But any minor misconduct will be used to get some foreign currency. All foreign money (including coins!) has to be declared. You also have to get a "talon" (small sheet of paper with your entry date). You need this piece of paper to get out of Transnistria again.
If you are holding a passport from a non-CIS state, you can expect delays at the border, and will most likely be asked to pay a bribe. The Transnistrian government does not condone this, but in practice the individual border guards are known for targeting non-CIS passport holders in an attempt to extract bribes. The situation can vary considerably. Certain crossings (Dubasari) are known for being easier to cross for non-CIS nationals than others (Bendery).The best course of action is to have a back up plan, and to be flexible. If you don't get in at one crossing, try another crossing or the same crossing another day. Your situation depends entirely on what guards are working the border at the time you cross, and often what kind of mood they are in. If you
speak one of the official languages of Transnistria (especially Russian), you will have a much easier time at the border as a foreign national.
If you are turned away at the border, there are many buses and Marshrutkas (minibuses) that will take you back into Moldova or Ukraine, and that these can be hailed on the non-Transnistrian side of the border after they have passed through both borders. You will be expected to pay cash, and the cost can vary. Taxis also can often be found at the border. From the Bendery crossing to Chisinau, a taxi costs 100 to 150 Moldovan Lei.
Complaints are possible on http://customs.tiraspol.net/, but you have to go to the Russian version (klick on Горячая линия). You can also send a complaint to firstname.lastname@example.org (Transnistrian Customs). The complaint should be in Russian. Use the google translator, if you don't know anybody who speaks Russian. Future travellers will be grateful for your complaint! There is also a complaint hotline: (+373 533) 9-45-78 oder 9-25-68. Try to memorise the number of the officer before he asks you for a bribe. Even the nicest officer can be corrupt! If you complain you should also state the
time, the date and the name of the border crossing.
It is no longer necessary to register with the police: this is now done at the border for up to 24 hours.
On entering Transnistria you will need to obtain, fill out and get signed a Transnistrian ‘immigration’ entry form (a white A5 similar to the entrance form for Ukraine, written in Russian and English). This can be obtained at the border or if your lucky in your Chisinau-Tiraspol bus/marshutka. Ask the driver or fixer of the bus for a form. It is often easiest to cross the border in a (large) bus or marshutka. The driver and fixer (and to a lesser extent other passengers) have a vested interest in getting their bus (and thus you) across the border as quickly as possible. If you don’t speak Russian yourself, look forlornly at the fixer/driver/fellow passengers and if you are lucky they will point you in the correct direction or tell border guards to hurry up and help you. After passport control there will be a queue to get the form filled out for Moldovans, Ukrainians, Russians etc. If you make it
obvious you are a Westerner (who they are going to want a bribe from) you will probably be dealt with separately in an office. Once your entrance form is signed (stating the time at which you must leave the country) and no one is stopping you from crossing the border barrier any more you can safely head on to Tiraspol. All you need to leave the country is the ‘departure’ half of the entrance form (It is by far the easiest to visit Transnistria for a day from Chisinau - you will be given permission to stay in the country for 10 hours). Leaving the country is ridiculously simple once you have the ‘departure’ form. When travelling back you simply hand over the form to the border guards, who will probably not even want to check your passport.
For non-CIS citizens bribes are standard at the Transnistrian border. They are still illegal though and border guards will want to keep it secret that they are taking euros or dollars off you. On no account offer a bribe yourself! Wait for a border guard to make a veiled suggestion before offering any money. The crucial part of the
bribing process appears to be the (apparantly standard question) of how much cash you have on you. Don’t be fooled! Unlike crossing other international borders this is not a question about importing money, but about how high your bribe can be. Say you have €10 and they will ask you for a €10 bribe, say you have €150 and they will ask for a €150 bribe! Best is to make sure you have a fair amount of cash, but claim you have about €/$5-10 (this is more convincing when travelling with a larger group and if you look a little dishevveled or like a ‘poor’ student) or that you only have a credit card with you. €10 seems to be a typical demand. You will probably be taken aside two to three times by different guards and asked a host of random questions before they subtly ask for a bribe. In general always remain polite, patient and calm at the border. Speak as little as possible, don't laugh, speak only when you are spoken to, give short answers and do not make demands or raise your voice.
There are more photos below