What makes Moldova a unique country to travel to?
The Republic of Moldova is a parliamentary democracy. Moldova is a member of NATO's Partnership for Peace program as well as a member of the Council of Europe. The capital, Chisinau, offers adequate hotels and restaurants, but tourist facilities in other parts of the country are not always highly developed and some of the goods and services taken for granted in other countries are not yet available.
Most travelers to Moldova enjoy a safe and pleasant stay. Occasionally, travelers become victims of crime, usually petty theft, but sometimes more serious fraud. Foreign visitors rarely suffer physical violence or sexual assault. Some U.S. citizens have reported theft of money, passports, and small valuables from hotel rooms and local apartments, along with home and office burglaries. Be careful and protect your valuables in Chisinau, just as you would in any major U.S. city.
Be cautious when using ATMs in Moldova. Some U.S. citizens have reported unauthorized access to their accounts after using ATMs (although banks sometimes post their fees later as separate transactions). They have also reported PIN theft from ATMs in Moldova, either by "skimming" devices, which record the card information, or by hidden cameras or "shoulder surfing."
Train and bus services are below Western European standards and some U.S. citizens have been robbed while traveling on international trains to and from Moldova. Be on your guard against pickpockets on public transit. U.S. citizens who use the Moldovan postal service have reported that international letters and package mail are sometimes opened or pilfered.
Don't buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal to bring back into the United States, but if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.
Internet fraud warning: There are various Internet scams in Moldova that target foreigners. Since 2008, "phishing" schemes have hacked the bank accounts of U.S. businesses and transferred the money to Moldova. Internet auction fraud, in which buyers fail to pay for purchases or send counterfeit checks as payment, is not uncommon.
Be aware of dating scams, in which someone you met over the Internet asks for money. They may say they need money to help their family, buy plane tickets, pay medical bills, provide "economic solvency funds," etc. A number of U.S. citizens have been defrauded. Fraud committed in Moldova is subject to Moldovan law and could prove difficult to prosecute. The U.S. Embassy can do little to assist U.S. citizens defrauded via the Internet. Please see our information on International Financial Scams.
If arrested: If you are arrested in Moldova, authorities of Moldova are required to notify the U.S. Embassy of your arrest. However, Moldovan police, particularly in Transnistria, do not always report the arrest or detention of U.S. citizens. If you are concerned the Department of State may not be aware of your situation, you should request the police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy of your arrest.
While you are traveling in Moldova, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Moldovan laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. In some places you may be taken in for questioning if you don't have your passport with you. In some places, it is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings. In some places driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. These criminal penalties will vary from country to country. There are also some activities that might be legal in Moldova, but still illegal in the United States, and you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or possessing or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States.If you break local laws in Moldova, your U.S. passport will not help you avoid arrest or prosecution.
Medical Facilities and Health Information
Medical care is substandard throughout Moldova, including in Chisinau. If you are sick or injured, try to go to Western Europe for treatment. In an emergency, try to contact the local ambulance service. Hospital accommodations are inadequate, technology is not advanced, and there may be shortages of routine medications and supplies. Elderly travelers and those with existing health problems may be at particular risk. The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of medical facilities and English-speaking doctors, but cannot endorse any doctors.
If you take prescription or over-the-counter medications, you should bring an extra supply with you. Pharmacies are not always stocked to Western standards, products are not always labeled in English, and poor quality and/or counterfeit medications have been reported.
Safety and Security
Although there have been no terrorist incidents and we are currently unaware of terrorist threats against U.S. citizens in Moldova, stay aware of your surroundings at all times. Because police have the legal right to ask for identification on the street, carry your passport or a photocopy with you at all times.
A separatist regime controls the Transnistria region, east of the Dniester River. Be careful when visiting or crossing Transnistria, since the U.S. Embassy may not be able to help if you encounter difficulties. There are many checkpoints along roads leading into and out of Transnistria. Taking photographs of checkpoints, military facilities, and security forces is prohibited.
Members of racial minority groups visiting Moldova have sometimes reported that they were stared at, verbally abused, denied entrance into some clubs and restaurants, or harassed by police.
While Moldovan police can be helpful and might assist travelers in need, U.S. citizens have sometimes been harassed, mistreated, or subjected to extortion by Moldovan police. If a policeman stops you, you have a right to see his identity card ("legiti-MAT-seeya" in Romanian). Traffic police should also display a metal badge on the outside of their uniforms. If the policeman harasses you or asks for a bribe, try to remember the official's name, title, badge number, and description, and contact the U.S. Embassy. If you refuse to pay a bribe, you might be delayed, but there have been few reports of any problems beyond inconvenience.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in Moldova, you may encounter very different road conditions from those in the United States.
Moldova's highway infrastructure consists mainly of two-lane roads that often lack signage, are unevenly maintained, and seldom have lighting. Be careful of tractors, bicyclists, horse-drawn carts, pedestrians, and livestock on the road. Streets in Moldova are not well maintained. Try to limit driving outside cities to daylight hours. Many Moldovan drivers would be considered aggressive or erratic by U.S. standards. Many accidents involve drunk drivers. In 2009, Moldova adopted a law that established a maximum legal blood alcohol content of 0.03%, well under the levels allowed in most states in the United States. If you drive with a blood alcohol level above 0.08%, you will be charged in criminal court. However, traffic police generally do not have testing equipment at roadside, so if they can smell alcohol on your breath, you're likely to becharged with a crime. If this happens, you have the right to request a blood test to confirm your actual blood alcohol level. To be safe, don't drink alcohol before driving. The quality and safety of public transportation vary widely. Trains, trolleybuses, and buses are often old and frequently break down. Taxis are available in most urban areas, and vary from old Soviet-era vehicles to new Western European or U.S. vehicles. Emergency services are generally responsive, although you may not find an English-speaking operator. You can call police at 902 and an ambulance at 903.