Difference between revisions of "Tiraspol"
Revision as of 17:30, 22 January 2013
Tiraspol is the capital of Transnistria.
You might enjoy a visit to the main street with its parliamentary building boasting a relatively new Lenin statue. Opposite, a T-34 tank from the Great Patriotic War era forms part of a monument which also contains soil from the pivotal battle of Stalingrad. You probably won't miss the Soviet-style banners either! On the other side of the city, in the Balka district, there is a monument with an old MiG-19 fighter, erected in 1975 on the 30th anniversary of victory in World War II in commemoration of Soviet fighter-pilots.
Contrary to popular perceptions, Tiraspol is a quiet and peaceful city with no military activity since 1992. The only people in uniform you will usually see are military officers and policemen. Military parades are held annually on Independence Day (2 September) and on Victory Day (9 May).
Tiraspol has a relatively modern infrastructure. The state-run bus service is a simplistic, fairly accessible method of transportation operating at peak hours during the day. Tickets can be obtained on board, and cost 1,40 roubles for trolley buses and 2 roubles for maxi taxis. Night-time operations were halted due to an increase in criminal drug trafficking, which became rampant on the bus system during the mid 1990's. Subsequent reforms by president Smirnov and other officials enabled the bus-system to remain open for at least the better part of the day, restoring a much needed public service to the Transnistrian population. In 2012 delivery of new-generation trolley buses from Belarus started under the guidance of the new Transnistrian president, Shevchuk.
Tiraspol is landlocked and is largely closed off from the outside world due to a lack of transcontinental infrastructure. There is neither an airport nor a seaport in Transnistria. The nearest international airport is located in Kishinev in neighbouring Moldova. In 2012 plans were announced to rebuild the old Soviet-era military airbase near Tiraspol as a civil airport.
The local sewer system and electrical grid are state of the art. Recently adapted from models based in western Europe, the Transnistrian basic infrastructure was built in the mid 1990s after the profits gained after the war of independence in 1992.
There is regular bus and maxi-taxi service to Chisinau (30 Moldovan Lei), Bender, Causeni, Odessa, and other Ukrainian and Moldovan cities. The main bus/train station is about a kilometre from the city centre and has clearly posted schedules. No visa or payment is officially required for EU, Moldovan or US citizens when staying for less than three days, but you must remember to register with the police unless you are just on a day trip. Visitors should note that they are highly likely to face demands for substantial bribes from the border guards either on entry or exit from Transnistria (or both). Despite official orders from President Smirnov to act professionally and to decline such payments, bribery is rife and your passport may be destroyed if you do not pay. Indeed, you may be turned away from the border on the Moldovan or Ukrainian side if you are unwilling or unable to pay the border guards a bribe. To avoid this ensure that you are not obviously carrying hard currency (therefore stash it away in carefully concealed areas on your person) as the border guards will check you thoroughly for it.
Having said that, most visitors these days visit the country with no problems and are not ever asked for bribes.
Mind that the combined bus/train station does not have a luggage depot.
You can see most of what there is to see in Tiraspol by walking up and down October 25th St., the main drag. There are several nice parks in the city, including the Culture Park near the university. This has abundant trees and a mixture of abandoned and enthusiastically used amusement park rides, and is a good place for people-watching. Most of the big monuments are at the south end of the city, about 2 km from the Palace of Soviets.
Visit many Soviet monuments that remain in Tiraspol since the days of USSR. You may also want to visit the local drama theatre, which is located near the university, and local museums in the central part of the city. The Museum of Local Lore near the parliament is also quite interesting; note that foreigners have to pay ten times more than locals - 20 rubles. There are cheap boat tours on the Dniester which take about 30 minutes; just enter the boat, the guide will collect the money after the ship departs. There is also a War Museum located in the building of the Defence Ministry of Transnistria, but it is only accessible by local citizens.
In order to purchase goods, services or souvenirs in Tiraspol, or in any Transnistrian locale you must exchange your outside currency into Transnistrian rubles. The Transnistrian central bank sets their own exchange rate and prints their own money, so the amount of rubles you will get on any given day for your euros varies significantly from week to week. Currency exchanges are everywhere, including inside many popular stores, and will change most local and major currencies. Some exchange booths (e.g. those of the Agroprom Bank which are located at the Sheriff stores) will ask for your passport. You can't pay with credit or debit cards in Transnistria. Also be aware that there is only one ATM in Tiraspol, on 25th October street, from which you can withdraw only Russian Rubles or US dollars. These can be exchanged promptly at the nearest exchange kiosk.
Museum bottle  Tourist complex where you can taste wines and brandies produced in Moldova and the Moldovan sample dishes of national cuisine, decorated in the Moldovan national style. A good atmosphere will not leave you indifferent.
Andy's Pizza provides a mix of Western-style foods such as the "English Breakfast" and other Eastern European favourites at reasonable prices. The menu is in English/Russian, which is excellent if you don't know too much Russian. One waiter when we were there spoke good English also. The atmosphere is clean and modern, but the toilets are the Eastern European squat variety, which starkly contrasts the rest of the restaurant. Decor is on par with Western standards. Free WiFi.
La Placinte is another Moldovan chain with a branch in Tiraspol. Provides traditional Moldovan food at reasonable prices and free WiFi. Menu in Russian but with pictures.
There are many shops and markets to purchase local food, drink and their famous Transnistrian Vodka drink commonly referred to as a "smirnovka" - appropriately named after president Igor Smirnov. Along the river downtown, a handful of bars and restaurants can be found, usually open till about midnight.
At night, the city has a curfew, so those without the appropriate license, subject to arrest for being on the streets at night. "Nightlife" is considered a hotbed of debauchery and fornication.
However, there are several large and modern discos in the center. They are usually open until late, seven days a week. Tourists are rare and the few English speakers that might be around are often very happy to communicate with foreigners.
There is a choice of cheap and nearly cheerful hotels. A five star hotel is due for completion in 2007 at Sherrif stadium. Be aware that in some hotels hot water and showers are not standard. They often cost extra on top of the price of a basic room, although often no more than a few dollars on top of the base price. Hotel Timoty is currently the best hotel in town until the 5 star Sherrif hotel is completed. Rooms at Hotel Timoty with standard Western amenities are available for around $50, depending on the size of the room, the date of your reservation, and your nationality. Note that many hotel rooms at cheaper hotels may not come with a private bathroom. And even if you have a private bathroom, hot water is not guaranteed. Ask in advance.
Hotel Aist is a Soviet museum of a hotel but is well located near the main square and overlooks the river. A two-room ensuite twin without hot water costs 250 PMR rubles, 400 with hot water.
A cheaper alternative to staying in a hotel is to rent a private apartment.
The last bus to Kishinev leaves at 18.35 from the main bus station. A taxi ride from the city centre to there costs 50 roubles (39 if you speak Russian without accent), and the price for the bus will be the 30 Moldovan Lei. You can however also pay in Transnistrian roubles when travelling from Tiraspol.
If you miss the last bus, you can take a taxi to any place in Kishinev for 30USD.
If you're heading the other way, there's a train to Odessa which leaves 15:58 - and bus to Kiev ( if you ask nicely, the driver will let you go as far as the Ukrainian border where you can jump on a bus to Odessa ) leaves around 16:30 - after that, there is no scheduled transport to the Ukraine - you might get lucky with a maxi-taxi, but don't count on it. if you get to the bus / train station too late - a taxi to Odessa will cost about $50 : a lot in local terms, but 80 miles for $50 is a bargain by western standards, and is a lot less hassle then finding a place to sleep and getting an extension on your visa.
You may go to the Ukraine border by bus which goes to Pervomajsk (it's not on railway station, but on the auto station near the park of Victory (park Pobedy in Russian) and swimming-pool), cross the border and take another bus in direction you need. Besides, it costs a bit cheaper.