Balti (‘balts’), 150km northwest of Chisinau, is Moldova’s fourth-largest city, full of industrial ugliness and that about sums it up. It’s a major mafia influenced area and predominantly Russian-speaking, offering little beyond being a convenient stopover en route to Ukraine, though you might want to opt to make a run for the border; locals and ex-pats alike report that they ‘feel dirty just going into the city’. Fittingly, the name ‘Balti’ comes from the Romanian word for ‘swamp’. The only upshot that I can offer is that the city has the best nightlife in Moldova outside of Chisinau.
Hotel Basarabia (Tel. +373 (0) 231-61 219; address Str M Sadoveanu 1) is an 80 room, slightly run-down, 1960s holdout in central Balti. Probably the best base of operations for exploring northern Moldova, if you’re too lazy to drive back to Chisinau.