Why would you go to Chisinau? That’s a question I was asked by several people, before and after I went. Well, the simple truth is Moldova was one of the last countries in Europe left for me to visit, and it was on the way to Ukraine from Romania. Also, it’s cheap. Like $0.10 for a bus ride cheap. The hostels could be better, but otherwise, it’s basically the perfect city for a digital nomad to work in. It just might have the fastest internet in Europe – even faster than Romania.
Where is Chisinau
Chisinau is the capital of Moldova, pretty much in the center of the country. Moldova is a landlocked country between Romania and Ukraine in Eastern Europe.
I chose to take a bus from Cluj to Moldova since it was only the next country over. Well, after two years of traveling around Europe. I didn’t really understand the magnitude of eastern Europe. The bus ride was 12 hours long! But the bus ticket was only $20, which was a fraction of a plane ticket. The bus ride from Bucharest is marginally shorter. Another option would be to get a cheap flight to Ukraine and take a bus from Odessa, which is only about 4 hours.
By itself, Chisinau is actually a really interesting city. But when you’ve already been to all the other popular cities in neighboring countries, it loses its novelty. The city is full of communistic architecture, parks, modern businesses and empty ruins. A lot of ruins! If I’d had more time, I would have loved exploring them as I did in Romania.
The city is smallish. There are half a million residents, although the metro area has 800,000, which is nearly 25% of the country’s population. As I mentioned, it’s very cheap. Cheaper than Romania, and nearly as cheap as Albania. A good meal was $3, a hostel for the night was $5, local buses were $0.10 and I purchased two good shirts and a pair of shorts at the mall for $25.
Perhaps the best reason to go to Moldova, especially as a digital nomad, is for the internet. Uploading 1500 photos in a cafe took me less than half an hour! Honestly, I don’t know how Romania is considered faster, since I had some pretty bad internet at times in Romania. Coupled with the low cost of living, I’d personally stay in Chisinau for a month someday to get caught up on my writing. Locals mentioned to me that an apartment can be well under $200 a month, but we’ll see how long that lasts.
Activities in Chisinau
There’s no walking tour in Chisinau, so I’ll provide one for you to follow instead. Feel free to click on the Google Map below, which you can load into your phone and then follow along as a guide.
I didn’t actually go to every attraction I’ve marked on this map, but I figured I’d put them down anyway in case you get the chance. Here are some of the highlights that I did see.
One of the two central parks in town, this one has a beautiful cathedral in the center, as the name implies.
The Triumphal Arch
Paris isn’t the only city with a Triumphal Arch. In fact, there are dozens all over the world. The one in Chisinau was built in 1841 to commemorate the Russian victory over the Ottoman Empire.
Stephen the Great Central Park
Smaller than Cathedral Park, this one has a big fountain in the middle. While I was there, they had a music festival going on in the park.
Presidency and Parliament Buildings
Next to Central Park, you can see the big, Communistic-style government buildings. Unfortunately the presidential building has been closed off since the 2009 riots.
The Water Tower
The water tower by the university has been converted into a historical museum about Chisinau, and also has a great view from the top. The entrance fee is about $0.25.
Valea Morilor Park
This is unquestionably the best part of Chisinau. The park is huge and has miles of trails, thick forests and a sandy beach on the lake to sunbathe at.
4 Cafes in Chisinau for the Digital Nomad
This is the first cafe I found in Chisinau on the morning I arrived, and it remained my favorite until I left. Turns out Tucano is a chain throughout Romania and Chisinau, although this was the first one I had seen. They serve Puerto Rican coffee in a true hipster setting. Their coffee is delicious, as is their lemonades, smoothies, frappes and other drinks. I tried several!
Even better is their food. Their twist on the English breakfast was the healthiest I’ve ever tried. The salmon wrap was truly divine. If I didn’t have a responsibility to try out different places in a new city, I would have gladly eaten every meal there during my stay in Chisinau.
As to their internet…well, this is where I uploaded a week’s worth of photos in less than half an hour. They have plenty of room to sit, but my favorite spot was the single table set in an alcove surrounded by windows on the side of the building.
In order to try something new, I went across the street from Tucano to Panna Cotta, a French patisserie. I had the omelet and croissant breakfast, which only set me back $3! The eggs were plain, but the croissant was chocolate, and overall it was filling. Once again, the internet was wonderful. Oddly, I was the only one in the restaurant, which makes me wonder if it will be around when you visit.
I went to this cafe on the recommendation of my hostel (the hostel I had so much trouble with). It’s a popular cafe, located next to the university. They have a larger selection of food than Tucano, although they are slightly more expensive. There aren’t as many outlets either, but the internet was still good. Not a bad cafe, but I liked Tucano better.
On my final morning in Chisinau, I went to Bouchee, partially to cheer me up after the hostel almost lost all my clothes. What an amazing choice. I might have splurged a little, but boy was it worth it. Salmon and egg ciabatta, porridge with fresh fruit and a banoffee shake. I’m always surprised at how good the food can be in countries which appear to be so simple and cheap. Best $8.50 I’ve ever spent.
The Best Restaurants in Chisinau
This was another restaurant I went to at the recommendation of my hostel. It was a good recommendation. Perhaps too good. I’m not the biggest fan of restaurants that have too many options to pick from, and this place had a novel for a menu! Honestly, their menu felt like a phone book. They didn’t speak any English either, so they weren’t a lot of help with recommendations. Luckily they had WiFi, and I was able to use Google Translate. If you don’t know about their instant translate feature, you’re missing out on one of the most important tools for international travel. As long as you have a good connection to WiFi, you can get an instant video translation with your camera simply by pointing your camera at the text. The translation will show up on your screen. Well, using the app, I was able to choose a plate of Moldovan sausages and fries. To be fair, I prefer Romanian sausages, but these were still pretty good.
La Plăcinte was recommended to me by several people. Originally starting in Moldova, it’s another restaurant that has branches in Romania as well. Their cuisine is primarily Moldovan, although the truth is that Moldovan food is heavily influenced by Romania. Anyway, I had the mititci (Moldovan style), potato pancakes and lemonade. For dessert, I had papanaci, the quintessential dessert of this region. It’s made with donuts, sour cream and berries. All of it was delicious. I probably put on a couple pounds that night.
My trip to Chisinau was only four days. I feel I covered most of the key attractions of the city, but I hardly scratched the surface of the country. I’ll definitely have to return someday, if only to visit Mileștii Mici – the world’s largest wine cellar. It’s a whopping 124 miles long! That’s the equivalent length of nearly five marathons!!!
Next time, I’ll plan my accommodations a little better and avoid the summertime heat. Chisinau gets really hot and I’m not a big fan of excessive heat…which you probably couldn’t tell since I always seem to be landing in hot places.
What about you? Would you visit Chisinau, or is it too far off the beaten path for you?
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Planning to Visit Moldova?
Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.
- 5 Steps to Book Cheap Flights
- Hostels: To Book or Not to Book
- Is Workaway Worth it for the Traveler?
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