Moldova: getting there, accommodation, travel money etc



Update: Our sister site now includes an extended version of this article with additional information on prices, ATMs, trains/rail and Chisinau Airport. See the "travel tips section of this Moldova Information page.



ATMs/Cash Machines

Don't assume you will be able to obtain the local currency (Lei / Leu) from ATMs in Moldova.

I have recently read blogs in which people reported difficulty using ATMs and in some instances had their cards retained by the ATM. This surprised me because I had no problems during my visit.

A check of current Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice for Moldova reveals that few ATMs accept chip and pin cards in the capital Chisinau and none outside. This probably won't be a problem for those with US issued cards, where chip and pin is rare.

Visa's ATM Locator doesn't even include Moldova in its menu.

Our useful travel links include Visa and Mastercard ATM finders.


Credit/Debit cards and Traveller's Cheques

Moldova operates on cash, other methods of payment are not widely used.

Banks are open Monday to Friday - only a small number accept credit cards.

"Credit card and ATM fraud is on the increase and you should avoid using credit/debit cards whenever possible and take precautions when using ATM's." (Source FCO)

Traveller's Cheques will be of little or no use in Moldova.


Exchanging other currencies for Lei whilst in Moldova

Foreign currency can be exchanged at hotels or bureaux de change.

Extracts from the FCO travel advice.

  • The most widely accepted foreign currencies are the US Dollar and the Euro.
  • We recommend that you carry some Euro cash.
  • The Euro notes should be in perfect condition or they may not be accepted.
  • It is not always easy to exchange Sterling for the local currency.

Exchange Rate and obtaining Moldovan Leu before your visit

I had no problem obtaining Leu instantly from a Cambio whilst next door in Bucharest, Romania.

US/UK and other non-neighbouring countries: You will probably have to order well in advance. Unlike the Euro the exchange rate quoted cannot easily be compared with competitors, none of the online Bureaux de Change that I checked quoted a rate for the Leu. So you may find big differences in the exchange rate offered by shopping around.

Todays Exchange Rate: Our travel dashboard includes a currency converter that lists the Leu


Moldova - additional information:

Travel Advice and Vaccination Information for Moldova is available from our Travel Research Dashboard. As well as information on Transnistria; you should particularly note the advice on entering overland from Ukraine (bus or train) and issues with entry stamps. Note: some sections of the advice e.g. visa requirement (or lack of!) are applicable to UK EU citizens only.



Use our search engine to find Chisinau Hotels listed by 33 major booking sites, and compare prices:



See 29 Chisinau Hostels/Homestays etc (Hostelbookers.com)

Accommodation in Chisinau, Moldova - what to look for

Chisinau mini-buses can be jam packed, and even if you know where to get off, exiting from the back with a suitcase or backpack can be a nightmare. Unless you are within walking distance of your accommodation get a taxi (or arrange a driver with your host) on first arrival and final departure. Taxis and drivers are normally very cheap.

Moldova is more challenging than other European destinations. It has few tourists, and English is not commonly spoken, you cannot guarantee that you will meet other travellers to explore with. Five years ago it was not even listed by hostel booking sites or by LP/RG travel information pages.

1. Budget Accommodation e.g. Homestays or Hostels: On your first visit choose somewhere that offers personal support e.g. that can provide a guide for you or a group to break-away Transnistria (wages are very low so it should cost you little).

My homestay host has left Moldova, but I suggest you choose somewhere that offers a similar service e.g. "... 24 hours emergency assistance is available. Extra support and care (guidance, translator, driver etc.) is also available from the English speaking hostess. Travel desk and travel info....". This is an extract of the details for "Svetlana's flat", there are other properties/hostels listed that also offer this type of service. I've not stayed at Svetlana's so I can't personally recommend it - but it has good reviews.

Standards vary - ensure you read reviews.

Where to book: As a result of our review of 7 major hostel booking sites we have affiliated with Hostelbookers.

It doesn't charge you a booking fee so it is usually cheaper than its competitors.

It listed 29 properties for Chisinau (Hostelworld 16, others less).

Due to small visitor numbers and "newness", much of the accommodation has yet to be rated and reviewed (Hostelbookers had 121 ratings for 5 properties, Hostelworld 24 ratings on 3 properties).
 

Outside the capital accommodation is scarce. but Hostelworld and Hostelbookers do list a few homestays in Tiraspol, Vilcele, and Krasnaya Besarabka.

2. Hotels: Prices quoted for rooms in the same Chisinau Hotel varied significantly between the various booking sites. The hotel search form (above) offers more choice and better value. It lists hotels from 33 major booking sites, complete with pics, maps, reviews etc. It shows the rates quoted for a hotel by the booking sites; and you click through to the website of the company offering the best deal.

Our price comparison search is free. Neither we nor the companies compared add anything to the hotel price because of its use.

24 Chisinau Hotels - direct link to hotel search for Chisnau (just enter you dates to check prices offered by up to 33 booking sites)


Guide Books

If you are an independent traveler or backpacker touring Europe: from personal experience I recommend Lonely Planet's "Europe on a Shoestring" which now includes a section on Moldova (Rough Guide's equivalent does not).

Europe on a Shoestring

As it covers the "whole of Europe", it is a thick guidebook; but is probably the perfect compromise of detail and size.

A Kindle version is also available at Amazon which will save you space and weight (but at the risk of theft, breakage or battery expiry when you need it!).

Europe on a Shoestring (Amazon.com) | Amazon.co.uk

Guidebooks providing more detail are available (e.g. guides to Romania and Moldova or Ukraine and Moldova) - travellers have there own guidebook preferences, mine is Lonely Planet; however like other publishers they have different contributors and authors for different countries so quality can vary.

Tip when buying any guidebook: Regulations and situations are always changing, so ensure you buy the latest edition (and also check the latest online travel advice).

In bookshops: ensure the guide you've picked off the shelf is not an old edition - shops do continue to sell them. Online stores (including Amazon): may sell both new and old editions and it is very easy to buy the wrong one (use the sort facility to list by publication date). When using links to Amazon from Travel Sites (including ours) you should also check for later versions as the linked edition may be superseded.




Author Andy Wrigley+     last update 8 April 2011