Visiting Chisinau Moldova was next on my list of European countries to visit on my quest to visit all the countries in the world. In a most recent Aeroplan mini-RTW in Europe, I purposely selected to do a 5+ hour layover in Chisinau, Moldova to tick it off as a country visited. What was suppose to be a quick country visit turned out to be quite an interesting adventure.
Visiting Chisinau Moldova
I never intended to explore Moldova. When visiting Chisinau, my plan was to get out of the airport, take my selfies, then go back in. Moldova was just a check list country for me as I work on finishing up visiting all the countries in Europe.
However, as soon I as landed in the country, something just felt right.
The immigration staff in Moldova was extremely friendly and welcoming. I really liked my first impression of Moldova so far! As soon as I cleared immigration and I was now on the land side of Moldova, I proceeded to take my pictures right away!
Mission done! Right? Well, not quite. Before long I was looking at the bus time table and map just outside the airport and started pondering… What if I took the airport bus, will it go around the city centre of Chisinau? Maybe I can get a glimpse of the city centre and life in Moldova if I take the bus?
As soon as the bus pulled up, I quickly inquired about how the bus works. While the bus driver speaks no English whatsoever, someone in the bus did. A friendly Moldovan lady asked the bus driver for me if taking the airport bus meant going into the central part of the city and back to the airport again. After confirming with the bus driver, she told me that yes, I can definitely take the bus and it will cost 2 Moldovan Lei to take the bus. 2 Moldovan Lei is equivalent to 15 cents in Canadian dollar which is dirt cheap.
Exchanging my money and boarding the bus
I quickly went back in the airport and searched my pockets to see if I had any currencies to exchange to Moldovan Lei. Lucky for me, I found some Turkish Lira in my pocket. (They were my leftover during my 3 days in Istanbul prior to coming to Moldova). Immediately, I exchanged the Turkish Lira and got 7 Moldovan Lei!
Excitedly, I then proceeded to wait at the bus stop for the airport bus to arrive. About 15 minutes later, the airport bus arrived. Just to double check if the bus was going back to the airport, I asked the bus driver to confirm if this was true. He didn’t know what the hell I was saying. Lucky for me, a random Moldovan girl started translating for me and indeed confirm it would go back to the airport. The round trip journey from the city centre was estimated to take about 2 hours. And so, with my carry-on luggage on hand, I got myself seated in the bus. This was going to be the most random adventure ever!
Friendly Moldovan girl gave me a run down on what life is like in Moldova
As soon as I got seated, the girl who was helping me translate in the bus sat beside me. She looked at my under armour clothes and shoes then asked me “do you like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson?” I started laughing because I forgot I was wearing all under armour clothes and Dwayne Johnson is their brand ambassador. She proceeded to tell me that her younger brother wears all under armour clothes also and is a big fan of Dwayne Johnson.
As the bus departed, she started telling me stories of what life in Moldova is like. I learned that many Italian companies come to Moldova and outsource their business here to save money on labour. Moldova is one of the poorest countries in Europe and their average salary is no more than $400 CAD per month.
I told her that her English was pretty good and she was happy to get the compliment. She replied back by saying the that they don’t really learn English in Moldova, she learned how to speak English by watching Disney movies. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of this before.
Before long, her stop was coming up and waved goodbye to her. I paused and thought to myself “man, people in Moldova are really friendly!”
Often times, when people travel to Eastern Europe, people seem grumpy. I think it’s just their culture not to smile if they don’t feel like it. Smiling in many of the former Soviet blocs is reserved for genuine smiles only. Fake smiles are strongly frowned upon.
Checking out the buildings and local life
One of the biggest things I noticed is that many of the buildings in Chisinau is quite old. They look like the old Soviet style buildings that were mass produce to house people.
I also saw a big mall once we got closer to the city centre area. Big malls are a sign of capitalism for me and I’m a big fan of capitalism.
Soon after, we reached the city centre where a big commotion was happening. Apparently, a TV interview was being conducted for some major Moldovan politician which drew in a big crowd. I wasn’t able to take any pictures of that sadly (I was sitting on the wrong side of the bus) as I tried taking pictures of the government buildings we passed by.
Someone almost passed out on the way to the airport after visiting Chisinau
That was a neat little adventure…right? Not quite. The bus was now driving back to the airport and it seems that many were getting ready to fly out. The bus began picking up tons of passengers are various stops causing the bus to get really crowded.
Before long, the bus was full to the brim and it started getting really stuffy. I was dying in the heat and lack of fresh air in the bus and I’ve already been in the bus for almost two hours.
All of a sudden, the bus stops, and a girl collapses out in the pavement. The bus driver, and a bunch of Moldovans run to her aid. She got really light headed from the stuffy bus. They gave her a big bottle of water to drink and to wash her face. The bus driver then yelled something in Moldovan which was to signal everyone to open the windows on the bus.
“Holy shit”, I thought to myself. When you take a ride in these stuffy Moldovan buses, there’s a chance of passing out from lack of oxygen!
Once the girl wasn’t as pale anymore, she got back on the bus and we continued the journey back to the airport.
Visiting Chisinau was fun but it’s time to leave Moldova
Finally, we arrived back in the airport. I then went through immigration which was a quick and painless process. Visiting Chisinau in Moldova turned out to be an exciting and random adventure!
And this is my favourite part of travelling. Meeting random friendly people. Seeing the cultures of other countries. And learning that everyone is human at the end of the day. Those Moldovans were quick to rescue that girl who almost fainted. And the friendly Moldovan girl in the bus gave me a quick history lesson of their country.
From my experience, tourist are definitely made to feel welcome in Moldova. While there’s not much to see in Chisinau in terms of tourist attraction, it’s still a neat little side trip if you’re ever in Eastern Europe. And I would have to say, that little adventure was definitely worth the 15 cents I paid for the bus ride.