An Englishman Abroad (Moldova)

Driving in Moldova

An Ex-Pat Drivers Tale, by Ian Tyrrell

Moldova, an interesting if small country set between Romania and Ukraine. Small but perfectly formed. I have been living here for 10 months now and will most likely stay for another couple of years at least.

A bit of background, I first came to Moldova in March 2011. I looked at hiring a car as I was going to stay for a few months while I got things sorted out with a job I had been offered. But on arrival I thought that this would not be the best option, I was told that public transport here was quite good, if a bit crowded. The ‘good and a bit crowded’ turned out to be some false statements. The transport is regular, but not always in the best condition, and a bit crowded was a major understatement. However this is not about the public transport here, it is about driving.

After completing my two months of negotiations I returned to the UK, planning to come back in late August. After much thought I decided to return by car, I will write about that journey in another piece. So to cut a long journey short I arrived at the border of Moldova on the 27th August 2011. This was the start of an interesting 10 month driving experience.

The border guards were quite pleasant; they searched the car, not so easy when you have most of your life packed in there. All the bags had to be taken out and checked, manually – no scanners here, which took about an hour. Not a major problem, I was in no great rush. However, they then checked my insurance and it seemed I did not have the correct type for Moldova. This meant I had to park the car and go and sort out local insurance, they sell it at the main border posts, although it is more expensive than buying it in a major city (15 days cost about 8 pounds) and I was told if I wanted to stay longer I would have to get new insurance. With this completed I was free to go, as I had crossed the border at Sculeni, I had some 128 Km or 2 Hours driving to go.

The main road was not too bad, the weather was good and I could see the holes in the road, there are a lot of them. So began my driving experience. Driving to Chisnau I kept to the main roads, I had no GPS and so was using the road sign for guidance. This is not so easy as they are few and far between, even major junctions may be unsigned, so you have to take pot luck. But it is a fairly straight route and so I had no problems there. The road surface however was another issue, at best it was uneven and worst there were the holes. Beware of the level crossings, they are like giant speed bumps and the rails stick out about 3 – 5 inches above the road surface. The first one caught me unawares, I was doing about 60 km/h when I almost took off, thankfully no damage was done, but I did stop to check.

My next stop was Chisnau, here the roads in the city got worse. I had on my first visit seen a sign at the entrance to the City, it read “Welcome to Chisinau, the home of broken roads”. This statement is so very true.

The roads here are in a very bad state of repair, although something is now been done about this, there are large holes, even on the main roads and the side roads are no more than tracks. The roads have bumps and dips in them, even the bridges and this makes driving here interesting. My first days here were spent learning to watch how the other drivers drove, so I could avoid the worst of these. A tip, follow the car ahead, if the swerve, then do so. However the main roads are wide enough, for this not to be a problem.

More experiences of driving in Moldova to follow….

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