Leaning a bit bored against his car, his spitting on the ground and just his way of looking at me. He annoyed me a little. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. A blessing in disguise, so it appeared later on. Hitchhiking in Transnistria.

It was about 11 AM when I got off an old bus at the airport of Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. I do usually take a bus from big city centres to the suburbs to continue from there, seeing that hitchhiking from a city centre is not very successful. Hitchhiking from a city centre is not working.

Hitchhiking to Transnistria, a self-proclaimed independent country.

The airport was situated just outside of the city on the road to Transnistria. An unacknowledged country that proclaimed itself independent in 1990. It has its own currency, government and even its own army.

hitchhiking in transnistria
Transnistria proclaimed itself as an independent country from 1990.

An unacknowledged country that proclaimed itself independent in 1990. Cars didn’t drive too fast here, plenty of space to stop and drivers could see me from far away.

My goal was to catch a ride to Tiraspol, the capital of Transnistria. A few cars were parked on this roadside. I was wondering what for because after all we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere.

That said; in between dirty toilet papers in the shrubs next to me. Possibly a bit more was going on here on the roadside of the airport towards the city of Tiraspol?

Horror stories about Transnistria

Honestly I was a little tensed to go hitchhiking to Transnistria. Seeing the bad stories about the country. Human trafficking, arms trade and corrupt border control are things which go on in Transnistria.

Moreover it’s often called ‘the last part of Sovjet-Union’. Which doesn’t sound very positive to me. Nevertheless, it probably made me even more curious to find out more about this small unknown European country.

However, back to the the dirty toilet papers… Next to one of the parked cars a man was hanging around, spitting on the ground now and then. Spitting on the ground every now and then. He seemed to watch me carefully while two cars stopped for me.

He seemed to watch me carefully while two cars stopped for me. I said to the drivers that stopped, ‘Bezplatna’, or at least I said something that sounds like it. Which means something like ‘without money’. The principle of hitchhiking is after all not having to pay for the rides you take. The car drivers didn’t agree and drove off without me.

After about 30 minutes the, the seemingly bored man screamed something in Moldavian or Russian. I told him I didn’t understood. After that he said something like ‘Bender. 12km to Tiraspol’.

Was my first impression wrong?

I stepped into his car. I decided I didn’t want to miss the boat; ignored my first impression and took my chances.

While on the road, the man appeared to speak a little English and even a bit better German. He told me he was a taxi driver in the second biggest city of Transnistria, Bender.

Weird roads in Moldova and Transnistria.
Weird road in Moldava and Transnistria. Three lanes for two directions. I guess the middle one may be used by both.

He was probably waiting for paying clients to take from the airport to this city. Having no license to wait at the airport entrance he had to wait at the dirty toilet papers roadside. Seeing no cliente here he decided to do some good for me.

Bordercontrol of Transnistria

We arrived at the border of Transnistria, where foreigners have to register. My new friend kindly waited for me while border guards with real impressive Sovjet army uniforms were helping me register.

Official border control of Transnistria. On the left the green with red flag of Transnistria.

Back on the road the taxi driver showed me his passports of Moldova and Transnistria. He also showed me a license that permits him to work for the Transnistrian police. I asked him what the currency of Transnistria looks like, he kindly showed me some bills.

Hitchhiking in Transnistria is not a good idea?

Close to the place where my friend seemed to live he stopped the car. I asked him if this was the end of the lift. Nope, just hold on for a bit.

After that he pushed me 4 Transnistrian Rubels in my hand. “Bus 19, zu Tiraspol. Autostop nicht gut.” (hitchhiking is also called ‘autostop’ in many Eastern European countries). I told him I couldn’t take his money.

But he insisted that I took the bus for safety reasons. If someone living in this country says that, there must be a grain of truth in it.

On top of that I was already kind of impressed by what I had seen so far and there was only 12km left. I decided to take bus 19.

transnistrian roubles
The 4 Transnistrian Roubles I received to take the bus.

Vier Transnistrische Roebel is ongeveer gelijk aan 20 eurocent. But I really appreciated this friendly gesture! I said goodbye to my first Transnistrian friend, put aside my Hitchhiking principle, took the money and walked up to the bus station. Hmm…do I see correctly that they are all staring at me?

Hitchhiking in Transnistria is a good idea after all

After a day in Transnistria I felt pretty safe in this country. I embraced my principle again and decided to no longer take the bus and started hitchhiking again.

It took only 15 minutes before a car stopped. In the meantime some friendly people passed by, offering me a ride in the wrong direction, but this car was willing to bring me to the border, about 45 minutes away.

hitchhiking in transnistria
This elderly couple said ‘Odessa’ while smiling, they could appreciate my effort to hitchhike. Hitchhiking in Transnistria went pretty well.

But this car was willing to bring me to the border. About 45 minutes away. I assumed he needed to go in this direction. But while on the road it seemed he was just going there to help me.

I think he tried to tell me that he was retired. But I am not sure if I understood it right. The man told me he was only 41 years old.

He used to work for the Transnistrian justice department. According to his words as a ‘major’. Which sounded like a very important position, although his looks suggested otherwise.

But hey, my first impressions are not always the best and the intentions of this man again seemed to be very good, so I give him the benefit of the doubt and liked to believe that I catched a ride with a very important resident of Transnistria. All in all, two super friendly drivers in Transnistria. He dropped me off at the border and drove back to where we came from.

Walking over the border from Moldova to Ukraine. Or actually the border from Transnistria to Ukraine.

Did you know Transnistria is the only country in the world who uses plastic coins? Photos and other weird facts about the country Transnistria.

Categories: Blog

World Hitchhiker

Hi there! I am the guy behind worldhitchhiker.com. In 2019/2020 I hitchhiked from Holland through 26 countries to Malaysia. In total I've hitchhiked more than 40.000 km in 36 countries.


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