Moldova Travel Guide
Best known for its native wines and spirits, Moldova is still recovering from damage wrought by previous wars but remains one of the most scenic places in the region and has retained much of its historic charm. It’s also one of Europe’s poorest countries. Families flock to the Chisinau Lake to relax and enjoy the scenery, while others opt to explore the vineyards and wine-cellars all over the country. Other popular attractions are Benderi, a picturesque historic town; bustling open-air markets and the cultural museums that dot the capital. It may not be as famous as other European destinations, but for tourists seeking a taste of Europe without the usual crowds, Moldova is worth checking out, if only for the wine.
When to Go
Moldova has a generally mild and pleasant climate, with warm summers and cold winters with moderate snowfall. Autumn is crisp and sunny and is the best time to visit. Wear medium to heavy clothing in autumn and winter, and light, breathable linens in the summer. Heavy topcoats are recommended in the winter. There is occasional rainfall throughout the year, so have a lightweight raincoat handy at all times.
Getting There & Away
Chisinau International Airport is located 14kms from the city center. Taxis and bus services provide regular trips to the city. There are also overland entry points from Ukraine and Romania, and rail services connecting Chisinau to Moscow, Odessa and Bucharest as well as minor trips to Minsk and . Taxis travel to most major cities and can be requested by telephone. You should negotiate the fare in advance, although some drivers will charge by the hour. Buses, minibuses and trolleybuses are also available, but they tend to be overcrowded and uncomfortable.
Health & Safety
There are very few health risks in Moldova, although some embassies recommend immunization against typhoid. Rabies is also present, so steer clear of stray and crazy dogs. Mains water may be chlorinated, so drink bottled water. Most fruits, vegetables, meat and poultry are safe to eat. There are good medical facilities in Chisinau, but some hospitals lack facilities in rural areas. The threat of terrorism is low, but petty thefts and street crimes are common in Chisinau. Don’t flash your cash or don your Rolex here, and if you’re going out at night, bring a flashlight or small torch with you as some streets are poorly lit and you could end up head over heels in a pothole, especially after too many bottles of wine.
Food & Hospitality
Aside from the grapes, Moldova combines Ukrainian, Bulgarian and Russian elements into its cuisine with maize porridge and soups being served with whatever’s going as well as cabbage rolls. If the sound of this gives you trapped wind, rest assured you will likely be exposed to more sophisticated dishes such as goulash and plates of grilled meats. Wines are undoubtedly Moldova’s biggest culinary attraction. Most of the villagers are skilled at growing grapes and pressing wine, and the homemade wines are a favorite among tourists.
Chisinau has some small but high-quality hotels with air-conditioned rooms and excellent catering. Most of them provide easy access to the railway station and city center. Hotels in surrounding cities range from low to mid-grade, but off the beaten track it may be tricky to find accommodation of any sort.
Three days in Chisinau
One day on Chisinau Lake
One day in Benderi
One day in Krikova-Veki and Mileshti
Museums: there are several fascinating museums in Chisinau, the capital. Some of the most popular are the Fine Arts Museum, History and Regional Lore Museum and the Pushkin House, where the Russian poet spent three years in exile.
Chisinau Lake: this sprawling manmade lake is a favorite for boating, picnicking and biking. The autumn sunsets are particularly scenic.
Benderi: one of the oldest towns in the country, Benderi is slowly recovering from serious damage brought by the recent war. However, its 17th century fortress remains beautiful and continues to be a major tourist attraction.
Vineyards: being a wine-growing country, Moldova has some of the finest vineyards and wine cellars in the region. The Krikova-Veki and the Mileshti cellars are particularly famous, but mind you don’t drink too much when joining the locals, who will normally ply you with much more than you can handle.
Spas: the town of Cahul is famous for its thermal spas and mud treatments. It’s about 100 miles from the capital, but there’s a small hotel in the area for tourists who wish to stay overnight.
Boating: on the Chisinau Lake can be a perfect day out, offering great views of the hills and fields. The best time to go is late afternoon, as the sunset over the lake is a particularly beautiful scene.
Theater: Chisinau has a good selection of theaters and performance halls where local classical music is regularly performed. Recommended venues include the Eminescu Music and Drama Theater for Roman productions, Chekhov Drama Theater for Russian plays and the Philharmonia Concert Hall for Moldovan dance and classical and folk music.
Shopping: the main open market is in Calea Mosilor, about 10 minutes drive from the Chisinau city center. Some of the best buys are handmade carpets, colorful Moldovan costumes and of course, native wines and spirits.