Driving, busing, car rental and hitchhiking in Moldova

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State buses, like in Romania are often slow moving, spine-grinding and filthy. Opt for maxitaxis when you can.

Eurolines, in the train station, offers regular routes to Italy, Spain and Germany in relative comfort.

Chisinau now has three bus stations. The north bus station (Autogara Nord) is where nearly all domestic and international lines depart, except Transdniestr-bound lines, which depart from central. Services include 12 daily buses to Straseni, and regular buses to Balti, Recea, Edinita, Briceni and a bunch of other towns that tourists never go to (and for good reason). There are buses every half-hour between 9.15am and 10pm to Orhei (but not Orheiul Vechi!).

International lines include daily buses to Bucharest (12 hours), Odesa, Moscow, St Petersburg, Kiev and Minsk. You can buy advance tickets at the North bus station or out of a tiny office at the train station. The information booth comically charges 1 leu ($0.07) per question, so make it count.

Domestic and international maxitaxis operate out of the central bus station (Autogara Centrala), behind the central market on Str Mitropolit Varlaam. Maxitaxis go to Tiraspol and Bendery every 20 to 35 minutes from 6.30am to 6.30pm, with reduced services until 10pm.

Bus services to/from Comrat, Hancesti and other southern destinations use the less crowded southwestern bus station (Autogara Sud-vest), 5km from the city center on the corner of Soseaua Hancesti and Str Spicului. Look for the list of destinations above each ticket-seller’s window to assess which line you need to stand in. Daily local services include five buses to Comrat in Gagauzia and six to Hancesti. A fleet of private maxitaxis to Iasi, Romania ($10, four hours) depart from here, but are often booked solid, so reserve if possible.

AVR Rent a Car in Chisinau has the best rental rates, starting at 20 euros per day (Dacia Logan), including insurance. All payments must be made in cash (euros) and a deposit is required. Hertz has locations in Chisinau and Chisinau airport.

Driving a private car into Moldova is mostly worry-free, but like parts of Romania, remember these roads are terrible and you must remain vigilant for potholes and debris at all times, lest you go home with one less axel. The Green Card (a routine extension of domestic motor insurance covering most European countries) is valid in Moldova and can usually be purchased from travel agencies or, if you omit this step before departure, impulse-buy shacks at border crossings.

In Moldova, the intercity speed limit is 90kmh and in built-up areas 60kmh; the legal blood-alcohol limit is 0.03%. For road rescue, dial 901.

Western-style petrol stations are profuse in Chisinau, but thinner as you move away. Fill up completely before a long journey.

Hitching is less common in Moldova than Romania, but not out of the ordinary. Hitch in pairs and keep your wits about you, but there’s no need to be paranoid. The days of strangers kidnapping random girls and pushing them into sex slavery are pretty much over (no really). Give the driver the near-equivalent of bus fare. To hail a car, do kind of a pat-the-dog motion, using your whole arm. Sticking your thumb out will get you nothing but perplexed looks.

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