Earth : Europe : Balkans : Moldova
The capital of Moldova is Chişinău. The local language is Romanian, based on the Latin alphabet, but Russian is widely used. Moldova is a multiethnic republic that has suffered from violent ethnic conflict. In 1994, this conflict led to the creation of the self-proclaimed Transnistria Republic in eastern Moldova, which has its own government and currency but is not recognized by any other country. Economic links have been re-established between these two parts of Moldova despite failure in political negotiations. The major religion in Moldova is Orthodox Christian.
Moldova's population is occupied mainly in food production and processing. Once known as "the garden" of the Soviet Union, Moldova has now lost most of its traditional Russian markets for agricultural products and is exploring new international markets.
Continental cold and snowy winters, mild springs and autumns, and warm to hot summers.
Landlocked. Rolling steppe, gradual slope south towards the Black Sea. Well endowed with various sedimentary rocks and minerals including sand, gravel, gypsum, and limestone. Natural hazards : Experiences landslides (57 cases in 1998) due to extensive soil erosion from poor farming methods
Elevation extremes : lowest point: Dniester River 2 m
Formerly part of Romania, Moldova was forcefully incorporated into the Soviet Union at the close of World War II.
Although independent from the USSR since 1991, Russian forces have remained on Moldovan territory east of the Dniester River supporting the Slavic population, mostly Ukrainians and Russians, who have proclaimed a "Transnistria" republic.
The poorest nation in Europe, Moldova became the first European (former Soviet) state to elect a communist government and president in 2001. In 2011, the current balance of communists in the Moldovan legislature is 40%. It teeters on returning to communist government but a democratic coalition retains control.
Citizens of US, EU, CIS countries, Canada, Norway, Switzerland, Japan do not need a visa to enter Moldova and can stay in the country for up to 90 days within a six month period without registration . Citizens of other countries must either obtain visa in the nearest Moldovan embassy or alternatively could obtain visa on arrival in Chisinau airport and on some land border crossings provided that officially endorsed invitation letter from Moldova is obtained beforehand.
If, being a motivated person, you are coming into Moldova via Ukraine, be aware you may be crossing Transnistria. Some buses from Odessa go through Tiraspol, while others go around, exchanging the two border crossings with more time on the road. Transnistria is an unrecognised "state" in the east of Moldova bordering Ukraine, which broke off from the country after a war in 1992. As of this year (2010) there are few issues for Westerners in crossing Transnistrian borders by bus, although foreign travellers have experienced problems in the past. There is, however, a small chance that foreign tourists may be asked to pay bribes, although the buses which travel between Ukraine, Transnistria and the rest of Moldova usually handle negotiations at the border well, collecting passports and negotiating with Transnistrian authorities. Also, there is no Moldovan border check between Transnistria and the rest of Moldova as Moldova does not recognise Transnistria as a state, so you might have some explaining to do when you try to leave Moldova without an entrance stamp.
Busiest air connections exist to Bucharest, Budapest, Istanbul, Moscow, Munich, Timisoara, and Vienna. Prices are relatively high. The cheapest tickets can be bought to Bucharest, Istanbul, Kiev and Moscow. Moldova has three air companies. It is also possible to get relatively cheap tickets from Munich with Lufthansa/Air Moldova. They were around 190 Euro (return) in May 2010.
Possibly the cheapest way to get into the country is to take the overnight train. There are now daily trains from Romania and Ukraine. Train from Bucharest is about US$40. Since flights into Bucharest cost approx. US$200 less than those into Moldova, this is the best option if you have the time. This service was suspended following 2009 political turmoil and it's unknown whether it was resumed, be sure to check. At the border crossing the cars are lifted individually onto larger gauge wheels to fit Moldovan tracks. Crossing the border from Ukraine is smoother, the track width is similar to Moldovan tracks.
When coming by car one should be sure to use a border crossing with a (non-stop) visa issuing office. You will have to pay a small road tax at the border.
There are regular buses connecting Chişinău with Bucharest, Kiev and most major Romanian and Ukrainian cities. There are 5 to six buses per day to and from Bucharest. Due to a longer stay at the border the trip takes around 10 hours. Be aware that there is a basic toilet at the border, however most coaches do not make any other stops. You will also be able to travel to most European cities by bus with Moldovan bus companies. When coming by bus one should be sure to use a frontier with a (non-stop) visa issuing office.
Kiev, 2 daily, 250 lei, 12 hours
Moscow, 4 daily, 700 lei, 30 hours
Odessa, 20 daily, 90 lei, 5 hours
Sevastopol, daily 430 lei, 18 hours
Brasov, 5 daily 200 lei, 12 hours
Although the country is landlocked, there is a ferry service between Giurgiulesti in Moldova and Istanbul, Turkey, plying the river Danube to reach the Black Sea. They leave Giurgiulesti every Monday and arrive at Istanbul the following Wednesday. It's not certain if this ferry service is only limited to the high season or not.
The most reliable and extensive domestic transport is bus - you will get to most parts of the country.
Chisinau is the main transportation hub for the country. The three bus stations serve every city and town in Moldova. The fastest form of transport are small minibuses which seat around 15 people. Larger buses are also used and are marginally safer, because they travel at slower speeds.
In Chișinău there is a state run trolleybus system which includes many new vehicles. Fare is currently 2 lei, a conductress collects fares and issues tickets. There is also a 'bus service which operates with fewer routes.
Minibuses (rutierele in Moldovan Romanian; marshrutki in Russian) are available in most cities. They are privately operated and are called by requesting the vehicle to stop, however can often be very crowded. Drivers should be paid on boarding (currently 3 lei in Chișinău), however some insist on sitting down first and by passing the money to the person in front of them to pass to the driver, so don't be alarmed if random people behind you start handing you money.
The state language of Moldova is Romanian, officially referred to as Moldovan. Russian is also widely spoken in the country, both as a first and second language. Ukrainian and Gagauz are recognized minority languages, with official status in areas with high concentration of speaker populations. French, and to a lesser extent English, are popular foreign languages taught at most schools in Moldova.
There are several museums in downtown Chisinau, including the museum of Archeology and Ethnography, the museum of Natural History, and the National Museum of Fine Arts.
Moldova is famous for its wines. With top rate wines at inexpensive prices relative to other countries, it is Moldova’s main tourism draw.
Milestii Mici - With over 200 kilometers (125 miles) of underground roadways, Milestii Mici is registered in the Guinness World Records as the biggest wine collection in the world. It may be easer to book a tour through a travel agency as one must provide a car for the tour.  +373 22 382 333.
Cricova - Moldova’s second largest wine cellar has over 120 kilometers (75 miles) of underground roadways. Only a 15 minutes drive from Chisinau, it is a favorite of tourists. +373 22-277 378.
Purcari - One of the oldest wineries in Moldova, Purcari wine has been drunk by Russian Emperor Nicolai II, the English King George V and Queen Victoria. It is especially famous for Negru de Purcari. +373 22 29 59 11.
Capriana monastery - One of Moldova’s most prominent monasteries only 40 km (25 miles) from Chisinau. Buses run hourly in the morning from Calea Ieşilor in the Sculeni part of Chişinău.
Bender (or Tighina in Romanian) - Another fortification is The Fortress of Bender, however it is being used as a military training ground and is off limits. The best views are from the bridge going towards Tiraspol.
Orheiul Vechi - Moldova's best known sight is a 13th century Cave Monastery located about a half hour drive from Chisinau. Just up the road is a tourist center with a small museum, restaurant and hotel. Call ahead to make sure it's open at +373 235 34 242. One public bus leaves from the Chisinau central bus station everyday at 10:20, but the return bus does not come until 4:00. In the vicinity are huge cliffs that contain another six complexes of interlocking caves. It is highly advised to not explore them without the help of an experienced guide. The remains of a Turkish bath house is also just off the river.
Local wine is of superb quality and cheap in comparison to other countries, but for political reasons, mostly unknown in Western Europe.
Chisinau is a good place for gourmands. There are a lot of good places to eat all over Chisinau.
Cheap, tasty food that is very popular with the locals is served in most places. For better service and more diverse food, there are a lot of small restaurants and cafés. Good restaurants have prices comparable to those elsewhere in Europe. For a quick lunch, fast food and pizza shops are recommended; these can be found at nearly every corner. For groceries, there are small shops all over. Some are even right in front of apartment blocks just a few steps away from the entrances. For harder-to-find items, go to the supermarkets. For fresh fruits and vegetables, markets are a great place to shop. Most of the products are local, but there are a lot of sellers who to sell imported stuff, mostly oranges, bananas and other tropical fruits/vegetables. Meat and meat products are best purchased from supermarkets or shops. The quality is much better than from the market, and the prices aren't much higher.
Moldova has a long local wines tradition. Especially the reds are popular throughout the country. Most Moldovan villagers grow their own grapes and press their own wine, and many standard rural households will press thousands of litres per year.
Accommodations in Chisinau are surprisingly expensive and there is no shortage of €100 a night options. Most hotel prices are listed in euros but some are listed in dollars.
Hostelling is still in its infancy in Moldova. Only two have kept a good reputation and stayed in business: Chisinau Hostel and Central Youth Hostel. Prices range from $10-20.
Many people in Chisinau rent out apartments. The location and quality can vary. Many are also not very modern. It is advised to use a booking company as it may be hard to find people who speak English. Price $20-50.
Budget options are few and very basic. $30-50.
For a city of Chisinau's size there are unexpectedly few options in this range. The most known is the Best Western Plus Flowers Hotel. $80-120.
Chisinau has a plethora of hotels to splurge on, the most famous is the Leogrand Hotel and Convention Center. $150-300.
Security issues should not be underestimated by first time travellers to Moldova. Take into serious consideration the notices regularly published by the U.S. Government State Department . Travellers to Moldova for business or romance should be aware of the potential risk of scam, above all if first contacts were made on Internet - particularly International Financial Scams  and Russian Internet dating schemes .
The break-away region Transnistria has proclaimed itself a republic but lacks diplomatic recognition. Consequently, travellers lack consular support in case of emergency. Corrupt policemen may give you trouble, and may give excuses such as not having a 'visa'.
If you do visit Transnistria, as a foreign citizen, you should register with the Militia upon arrival. It can become difficult trying to leave if you have not done this. Give your name to the representative of your country in Chisinau and tell them what date you travel to and from Transnistria.
If you persist and do travel to Transnistria, you will travel right into the age and time of the old Soviet Union. However it is wise to get a reliable guide to show you around. Once you are 'in', you'll find the population very friendly and helpful. Especially in remote areas where no stranger has been for ages, people will open up a museum for you even if it is their day off. Also, you can expect a lengthy meal to be offered to you just in your honour. Don't drink too much alcohol at such occasions since they will offer you more than you can handle.
Conservative dress must we worn at religious sites. Shorts are forbidden and women must cover their heads inside the monasteries and churches.
While bribery and police corruption are still problems in Moldova, the situation is improving. It is still advised that tourists have the number of their embassy and the contact information of where they are staying. Travelers are also required to have their passports on them at all times.
Alcohol consumption can also be a problem. Running into drunks especially at night is common. Most are friendly; they often come off as aggressive and will invade your personal space. This can be scary the first couple of times. Politely walking away normally works. People coming from a country where less alcohol is consumed can find themselves becoming the drunks.
The heavy use of agricultural chemicals, including banned pesticides such as DDT, has contaminated soil and groundwater. If you are concerned, water for drinking, cooking and oral hygiene should be taken from a known safe source, as ordinary water treatment, including boiling, does not remove such chemical contamination.
Women. Chivalry is utmost in Moldova, just like in other Eastern European countries. If you are out in public, open doors for women and let them walk in first. Do not make disparaging comments about women in Moldova, or you may find yourself in a heap of trouble with the locals.
When visiting Moldova, be careful when referring the locals as Romanians as not all Moldovans identify themselves as such. Study your host first: some Moldovans identify as Moldovan, and some as Romanian. This also applies to the language issue as well, although the larger part of Moldovans do refer to it as Romanian in everyday speech.
Also be careful when talking about Moldova to the Romanians in Romania. Many Romanians view Moldova as Romanian. See Romania#Respect