Booked! Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova (and Transnistria)

I locked myself inside this weekend and planned trips. Apologies for the blog laying fallow, trip planning is an addiction that I cannot tear myself away from when in full steam.

My two main spring campaign targets are Belarus and Moldova/Transistria. It took a long while to work out that the best approach will be two separate one week trips. I had been playing with the sub-$700 roundtrip New York-Moscow fares that have popped up so much this winter, but I just could not fit together the pieces, Ukraine to Moldova has crappy options by plane, train and bus. Flights to/from Moldova or Romania to NY were pushing the fares to $900+, even with open jaw to Moscow. The breakthrough was seeing on The Flight Deal the Delta Newark-Istanbul as low as $494 deal.

I could get a Newark-Istanbul Friday night departure, Sunday return,  to maximize my time, for just under $600. Or return from Chişinău, Moldova for $641. Yes!

Since I would now be passing through Istanbul I got a bit greedy and decided to head to Sofia, Bulgaria by way of Cyprus. I have a fascination with disputed/breakaway regions. Atlasjet will get me from Istanbul to Ercan in the north, then I will mosey across to the other side of the island where Cyprus Airways will carry me to Sofia, Bulgaria. From there it is overland through Romania to Moldova and the breakaway region of Transnistria. The Altasjet and Cyrpus Airways flights together will add about $300.

Back to New York on Tarom, KLM and Delta.

9 days.

Ready to roll.

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  • Brian Cohen

    I have been to Romania and Bulgaria – but I have been warned by Romanians not to go to Transdnistra, and Moldova to a lesser extent…

  • Bulgaria was great when I went there on a whim back in December 2003 … but it was very cold. I liked it so much that I went back to visit again in September 2004:

  • ЖенЯ

    i wager that transdnistria will have the best hookers

  • Hi, you must have some courage to try the Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova / Transnistria.

    Off-topic: please do not use the term Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus – it does not exist and Cyprus people will get pretty upset about it (I’m a Romanian, but I visited Cyprus). There is only one republic in Cyprus, and the north part of the island it’s just not under the control of the government.

    Otherwise: please be careful when travelling to all the three countries mentioned above. It’s full of tourist traps: starting with the taxi drivers and continuing with restaurant waiters, up to police officers looking for a little bribe.

    Try to look as little touristy as possible and try to travel around with a local.

    Have a safe trip

  • How many nights are you spending in each place?

  • George

    I’ve been to Cyprus and its a beautiful place. However you might not want to mention you’re traveling there because they have a breakaway region, that might be offensive to some Cypriots.

  • Zero?

  • Owen G

    If you have time, go to Sibiu in Romania. It’s very beautiful. And try some mititei; you should be able to find it most places.

  • @Danny, @George – thanks for the heads up, I am planning to be very discrete on the ground, and after I posted and was falling asleep was thinking I probably shouldn’t have used the disputed area’s self-proclaimed name so have amended the post to refer to the “north.” If anyone asks why I want to see the north my #1 answer as a Roman history buff, is Salamis.

    @TravelBug, @Tom – hahah, yes, will be a bit rushed, looks about 2 nights in each country, including the disputed/breakaway areas. Still mapping out my ground route.

  • @Brian Cohen – I can’t resist Transnistira, though am reading up on all the issues travelers report and hoping to avoid trouble.

    @Kalboz – great picture, I am looking forward to it!

  • George

    No worries. It’s a great place. I would check out Famagusta at the very least, and if you have more time then Kyrenia, Ayia Napa, and Limassol.

  • AlohaDaveKennedy

    Sound like you are into country tagging. So what is your country count and have you considered joining the TCC?

  • Levy Flight

    Nice looking trip. I look forward to your blog.

  • @AlohaDaveKennedy – TCC list I am at 106 and submitted my paperwork just a week ago, I am looking forward to it. For several years I have been steadily working on it, slow going through Asia where the bulk of my travel has been, and Central and South America. Europe and Caribbean are almost wide open for me, so I can pick up steam going forward. What’s your count?

  • Mike from Berlin

    Unless you are the bearer of a passport from a EU country, I’m afraid that your routing might NOT work! Entering the island of Cyprus through Ercan is considered an illegal entry by the (greek) Cypriot authorities. When you show up at the border, you will be denied entry into the greek part of the island unless you have an EU-passport. The reason for this is that non-EU passports can ask for their passport not to be stamped by the authorities at Ercan airport (they will stamp a seperate paper instead) – so the authorities of the Republic of Cyprus will not know, you entered through Ercan (because they don’t stamp EU-passports at the POE for the Republic of Cyprus – so you can claim to have entered through any of these). If you are on a Non-EU-passport, it would be stamped upon entry into the Rep. of Cyprus and therefore you would lack the stamp and thus evidence of authorised entry.

  • Mike from Berlin

    Sorry, I meant EU-passport-holders can ask for their passport not to be stamped. You could do that on a non-EU-passport, too, but then still face the problem of showing up at the border without proof of legal entry into the Rep. of Cyprus, in the first place. Hope, this is not too confusing…

  • @Mike from Berlin – thanks for this info, I have been reading many conflicting reports on this subject, it seems like it might work, but there is a risk, I have until midnight tonight to cancel the ticket and trying to make the final call.

  • LarryInNYC

    Had one of my most bizarre travel experiences when I visited Sofia in the mid 1980s. I arrived by overnight bus from Istanbul — the bus had originated as a package tour in Iran and was crowded with Iranians, Syrians, Yemenis (and one New York Jew). I was assigned a roommate who was a newly minted (a few months before the revolution) judge in Tehran.

    The city was a stereotypical Soviet wasteland of impossibly wide boulevards with no traffic and nothing in the stores. Those stores which did have a few canned goods had identical displays, with identical handwriting, in every single window of every single store.

    I was approached several times by very attractive women in restaurants and museums. Having met me, you can imagine this is not a common issue I have to deal with.

    On the whole, I felt I was in a really cheesy cold war spy movie. It was very cool.

  • @LarryInNYC – sounds awesome!

  • FDS

    I would strongly advise against going Moldova and Belarus. Those places haven’t changed much since the Soviet regime. Very little to do or see. People are still not too friendly to non-native speakers. Instead, I’d recommend going to, or at least making a quick stop in Kiev, Ukraine.

  • @FDS – thanks for your recommendation, I am planning Ukraine in April! (but with Belarus, I can’t resist!)

  • @Mike from Berlin – thanks for prompting my further research, I uncovered some flight options back from Ercan that will work ok and not have me worried about issues. I assume I should be able to head to the south for the day but if not I will enjoy the north and be back out.

  • RakSiam

    You are certainly adventurous! I considered Moldova/Transnistria/Odessa a couple of years ago. But ultimately decided to just go back to Asia instead. Definitely looking forward to the pictures.

  • KB

    As someone who actually lives in Moldova, I can report that it is perfectly safe. Whilst you have chosen a most bizarre travel route (compared to the ease of flying IST-KIV) and perhaps did not fully investigate the many options to Ukraine (incl the v interesting Odessa), you will find it generally safe. It is true, there are not thousands of sights to see, but instead some interesting and offbeat experiences await – the world’s longest wine cellars, a massive and never-completed Soviet bunker seemingly lost in the middle of a forest and excellent late-night bars in Chisinau. I have even been to Moldova’s sole UNESCO world heritage site, which is unknown to most locals.

    Transnistria remains a complex place and care should be taken; limited assistance is available for those who run afoul of the authorities. If you do not speak Russian, you will need a guide who does. You should ensure you do not overstay your entry permit and be properly registered for the purpose of your visit. Take cash in USD or EUR and do not use cash machines or credit cards. Be prepared to be followed even when on clear tourist activities and photographing some facilities is not advisable. The people are very friendly, especially in Tiraspol and the nightlife has its interesting feastures. Try to catch a football game at FC Sheriff.

    While your itinerary does not suggest you will do this, it is also important to note that if you enter Transnistria from Ukraine you need to leave it via Ukraine. You will not get a Moldovan entry stamp on the ‘internal border’ and would encounter problems when leaving Moldova.

    There is not much written about Moldova in English, but I can recommend Tony Hawks’ late 90s classic ‘Playing the Moldovans at Tennis’. While we now enjoy some street lighting and manhole covers, it does capture many of the cultural habits of this land.

  • @KB – this is excellent advice, thanks for much for taking the time to write, I owe you a meal in Moldova!

    My routing is due to a bit of country collecting, and I even have now added a stop in Macedonia. I researched the Ukraine options when originally my routing was to be Belarus-Ukraine-Moldova but I didn’t have enough time for a Belarus visa and the Ukraine-Moldova options seemed all time-consuming and some with hassles for routing through Transnistria. Most of what I want to see in Ukraine is in the north and I am looking at an April trip to Abkhazia-Kaliningrad-Belarus-Ukraine.

    I will be in touch by email with some more questions, thanks in advance.

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  • We’ll have to compare notes on Transnistria. I had an amazing visit.

  • @Matthew – it was interesting, I tried to get into the fort at Bender, ended being shut out by the soldiers so continued walking all the way to the border, I enjoyed that part through the neighborhoods and fields the best.

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