Sunday November 18th 2018

Overnight Train from Bucharest to Chisinau

Palace of the Parliament. Bucharest, Romania. June 2014.
Photos courtesy of Standard Travel Fotos

We spent over a week in Bucharest. It’s a great city and there is a lot to see. But we have to press on with our tour. Our next destination is the small country of Moldova.

Moldova is wedged between Ukraine and Romania. Historically, the region is called Bessarabia, which has nothing to do with Arabia. Bessarabia is between the River Dniester on the east and the River Prut on the west. During the middle ages, this was the Principality of Moldova. It was under the control of the Ottoman Empire for a long time, and then became part of Russia.

The capital and largest city of Moldova is Chisenau (Kishinev in Russian). Everyone in Chisenau speaks both Romanian and Russian. In rural villages, some people might speak only Russian.

Kupe in Overnight Train
There is an overnight train from Bucharest to Chisenau. I bought the train tickets at the Gara de Nord in Bucharest the day before. Our tickets were for a kupe cabin, which has four beds in a compartment.

From our hostel in Bucharest, we took the metro back the same way we had come. When we got to the station, our train was already at the platform. In front of each train wagon stood an attendant, who all spoke in Russian. Our attendant showed us to our cabin. We got settled in, and the train soon departed.

We went to sleep early. But in the middle of the night, the train stopped at the border for passport control. We first got our exit stamps and then entrance stamps into Moldova.

View Larger Map

See Bucharest, Romania to Chișinău, Moldova on for route options and ticket prices.

Chisenau (Kishenev)
We had planned to walk to our accommodation in the center. But when we arrived in Chisinau, there was a steady rain falling. Inside the train station, I changed five Euros into Moldova Lei, the local currency, to pay for a bus ride. It’s always a good idea to carry a few Euros with you when traveling, just in case.

We walked from the station to the main street and flagged down a marshrutka mini bus, and took it into the city center. On a marshrutka, pay the driver, usually when you get off. Marshrutkas are small vehicles, and are hot, bumpy and crowded. You almost always have to stand. With luggage, they are a lot of trouble. A typical marshrutka is shown in the photo.

Marsrutka maxi-taxi. Chisinau, Moldova. June 2014.

We were standing on the marshrutka and because it was raining, the windows were fogged and I couldn’t see out the window. Fortunately, a well-dressed young woman told us where to get off. As I got off the marshrutka, a strap on my backpack got somehow caught on the bus and I couldn’t budge it. The driver was yelling at us in Russian: “Davai! Davai!” which means “Come on! Come on!”

I pulled on my bag and a screw that was holding on a bit of molding popped out. We got off the marshrutka and walked a short distance to our hostel.

The next time, when I need to get from the train station to the city center, I will take one of the larger trolleybus. A trolleybus is a large electric bus with overhead wires. There’s more room on a trolleybus, plus it’s cheaper than the marshrutka, if slower. Buy a ticket from the conductor or ticket seller on board the trolleybus.

Trolleybus. Chisinau, Moldova. June 2014.

Eventually we arrived at our accommodation, which is in a flat in a Soviet-style apartment block. The apartment was on the ground floor and even had a Soviet-era bomb shelter in the basement in case NATO attacked. But it turned out to be a very quiet neighborhood which was great for getting shut eye.

After checking in, it was about 10 a.m. We got directions to a restaurant called Andy’s Pizza to get breakfast. They served eggs until 11 a.m. so we were in luck. Andy’s Pizza is a big restaurant chain. There are many of them all over Chisenau.

Finding a Good Bank-o-Mat
Of course, before that, we had to get some more Moldova Lei. I found a bank-o-mat (ATM in America), but was only able to withdraw 400 Lei, which is only $29. Our bill for the apartment was considerably more than that. And considering that the bank charges $5 for each transaction, this is a ripoff.

Later I found a  bank-o-mat at Agroindbank that allowed withdrawals of up to 5,000 Lei ($363). The Agroindbank (see photo)  is on the main street, Stefan cel Mare. That’s where you want to go to withdraw cash.

Agroindbank. Chisinau, Moldova. June 2014.

By the way, Ștefan cel Mare means Stephen the Great. He is the hero of Moldova, His full title is Ștefan cel Mare și Sfânt, Stephen the Great and Holy. He lived from 1433 to 1504 and was Prince of Moldavia. There are all kinds of statues and monuments to him, and the main street in Chisenau is named for him. He must have been a great man.

After breakfast, we strolled around town. Here’s a picture of a sign showing the exchange rates. I always like to take a picture of these signs. When I return a few years later, I can look and see how the rates have changed.

Currency Exchange. Chisinau, Moldova. June 2014.

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