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Country Reports

Moldova Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

The small Eastern European state of Moldova (population 3.5 million), sandwiched between Romania (to the west) and Ukraine (to the north, south, and east), is a destination that has remained more or less off the radar of international media and global consciousness. Foreign visitors to the country should be aware of a few points before traveling to politically volatile Moldova, the poorest country in Europe.

AREAS TO AVOID

The eastern region of Transnistria, located east of the Dnieper River along the border with Ukraine, is not under the central government's control. Some Western governments advise against all non-essential travel to this strip of land, even for direct transit between Moldova and Ukraine. Currently, more than half a million ethnic Russians live in this "independent" region.

POLITICS

In March 2016, the Constitutional Court announced a decision to change Moldova's electoral system to allow for the direct election of the president. The first direct presidential elections since 1996 took place on October 30, 2016. Igor Dodon of the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova garnered 52 percent of the vote during the second round and became the fifth president of Moldova.

Legislative elections are set to take place in November 2018. The next presidential election will be carried out in autumn of 2020.

CRIME

Crime rates are low in Moldova compared to other European countries.

Pickpocketing and petty theft are the most common crimes that foreigners face in Moldova, particularly in crowded urban areas, on public transportation, and in bars and restaurants in the capital city, Chisinau.

More serious crimes such as carjacking, burglaries, kidnapping, and violent assaults are extremely rare. However it is advised not to leave personal objects in plain sight in your vehicle and to park in secured, well-lit parking area near your destination.

There have been reports of females being assaulted in taxis in the past, usually late at night or early in the morning. Therefore, it is advised to only use official taxis when travelling.

Do not accept drinks, cigarettes, or food (snacks, chewing-gum, etc.) offered by strangers.

Xenophobic incidents take place from time to time, to the detriment of travelers. Moreover, the LGBTQ community is generally not well accepted in Moldova, despite homosexuality not being illegal anymore.

If subject to police detention, harassment, or bribery, always ask for the police officer's card and try to remember the officer's name, his rank, and badge number. Do not hesitate to contact your embassy. Corruption is present in the Moldovan judiciary system.

Be aware that the local economy remains cash-driven. Thus, it might be difficult to use credit cards outside of the capital city, Chisinau. Incidents of credit card fraud have been reported, and heightened vigilance is advised. When available, use ATMs to withdraw cash inside banks during business hours.

Organized crime - particularly in human trafficking and smuggling - is prevalent in the country, however it rarely affects foreign travelers.

HEALTH

Medical facilities are scarce and the quality of medical care is far below European and North American standards. It is strongly advised to subscribe to a health insurance plan prior to leaving for the country, and ensure that the plan covers repatriation.

Customs legislation is very strict when it comes to medical equipment and pharmaceutical products, the sale of which is under state control in Moldova. There is now a border checkpoint specifically to monitor the export and import of medical products in Chisinau. Individuals following a medical regimen at the time of their travel are advised to have a prescription that explicitly states the necessary dose for the length of their stay in Moldova.

Tap water is not considered safe to drink.

Cases of animal rabies have been reported in Moldova, facilitated by the presence of numerous feral cats. The main line of defense against rabies is to avoid contact with both domestic and wild animals. If you are scratched or bitten, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Diarrheal diseases are frequent in Moldova.

Tuberculosis is prevalent in the country.

SOCIAL UNREST

Protests occur frequently in Moldova and are held over a variety of political and economic issues. In the capital, most protests take place in Chisinau's Main Square. The Parliament's forecourt is also a frequent protest site. Protests often take the form of rallies and marches through Chisinau's center, with demonstrators stopping at key government buildings and disrupting traffic.

In March 2016, several thousand protesters gathered in the capital calling for reunification with Romania. Earlier in January, protests broke out over the selection of a new prime minister, some of which resulted in violent confrontations with the police.

NATURAL RISKS

Regarding natural risks, potential visitors should note that flooding and landslides are common. During winter, heavy snowfalls may disrupt transport and cause power outages.

Moldova is situated in an active seismic zone. The country is subject to light tremors from time to time but there have been no reported consequences.

TRANSPORTATION

Police checkpoints are frequently set up on Moldovan roads, and identity checks on pedestrians can also occur. Therefore, it is advised to always carry a form of identification on your person.

Moldovan roads are among the most under-developed in the region. Most street lights are not functional, even in urban areas, which makes driving at night very dangerous. Horse-drawn wagons are still common in rural areas but are seldom fitted with reflective warning signs, which, when combined with the lack of street lighting, makes them difficult to see. Driving under the influence of alcohol is forbidden.

Pedestrians walk alongside the road due to the absence of sidewalks in most areas. If walking at night, it is recommended to carry a small flashlight.

Inclement weather in winter makes driving a bigger challenge, as snow removal operations are chaotic in Chisinau and nonexistent in rural areas. It is mandatory to travel with lights on and winter tires installed from November 1 to March 31.

Trains are slow and dilapidated; travelers are advised against taking trains to or from Russia. Traveling by train between Chisinau and Bucharest is a lengthy process; it takes 13 to 14 hours to travel between the two cities, located 460 km (286 mi) away from each other. Trains must wait several hours at the border to change axletrees, as tracks do not have the same width in Moldova as in Romania.

Minibuses do not always comply with safety standards; it is advised to only use those fitted with seatbelts.

Taxis from official companies are largely safe, although there are reports of females being assaulted in taxis late at night or early in the morning. Ask your hotel for the contact details of reputable taxi companies. In addition, taxis are not always equipped with a meter; it is best to negotiate the price of the fare before entering the vehicle.

Chisinau International Airport (KIV) is currently under renovation.

LEGAL

The national currency is the Moldovan leu (MDL).

It is forbidden to take photographs of sensitive areas such as government buildings, military sites, and power plants. 

OTHER

Mail and international packages are commonly stolen; as a precaution, choose postal services with tracking options.

Climate

Moldova has a tempered continental climate, with relatively mild winters and long hot summers. The average temperature in January is -5°C in the north and -3°C in the south.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +373 Police: 902 Ambulance: 903

Electricity

Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

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