Frankly, the public transport in Chisinau is far from being perfect. Actually, I have yet to meet at least one person in this city who is happy with it. The problem is that the number of vehicles is limited, and during rush hours every bus is jam packed so there is no air to breathe. Now, add to this the fact that there are no air conditioners and temperatures in summer rise up to 38 degrees, and you will get the picture 😊 So, my sincere advice: if you can get to the place you need on foot, just do it 😊 Luckily, as a tourist there is little probability that you will use Chisinau public transport during rush hours.
Chisinau is a small city, but I guess you will have to take a bus from time to time, so here is my guide to the public transport.
Just some info about me for you to believe that I am talking from my own experience: I have been living in Chisinau for 15 years already, so I know a bit about the public transport 😊
In Chisinau we have three means of public transport: trolleybuses, buses and maxi taxis (or marshrutkas in Russian and rutiera in Moldovan). Don’t worry, I will mention taxis as well 😊
Trolleybuses are the main means of transport in Chisinau: they cover and connect main parts of the city. As a rule, almost all trolleybuses (but not all) pass through the city center. The municipality keeps updating the vehicles, so there are many new ones. We still have old trolleybuses from the Soviet times, but they are rare. Still, the only air conditioning they have is open windows.
The cost of a ride in a trolleybus is 2 Moldovan leis (MDL), or roughly 0,10 eurocents. Passengers pay on board to conductors, there is no way to buy tickets outside.
Many trolleybuses, for example 10, 24 and 22, run very often, like every 4-5 minutes. A good thing is that trolleybuses have designated stops, unlike maxi taxis, so you will know where to get on and off.
There are 30 different routes in Chisinau, so there is plenty to choose from 😊 Luckily, there is a very useful online service that allows you to check those routes. Go here and select any route you want to make sure that it goes where you need to go. Just make sure you check trolleybuses and not buses 😊
Useful info: check trolleybus 30, it goes right to the airport from the city center.
Buses do not run as often as trolleybuses and they can get extremely crowded as well.
Unlike trolleybuses that run inside the city only, many buses connect the center of Chisinau with the suburbs. It means that in many cases they are full when they enter the city borders. And it means that they are not so crowded outside rush hours.
The cost of a ride in a bus is 3 MDL, or roughly 0,15 eurocents. As with trolleybuses, passengers pay on board to conductors, there is no way to buy tickets outside.
Like I said, buses do not run as often as trolleybuses, there are some routes with 3-4 buses in one hour, which means longer waiting time.
There are 26 bus routes in Chisinau, and you can check them under the same link I mention above.
Useful info: bus 33 stops close to the airport, but trolleybus 30 gets much closer and takes you right to the entrance to the departure area.
3. Maxi taxis
There are many maxi taxis in Chisinau and they cover entire city. They are faster, and, in many cases, run more often and go to streets that buses and trolleybuses do not.
The cost of a ride in a maxi taxi is 3 MDL, or roughly 0,15 eurocents. Passengers pay to the driver on board, preferably when getting in. If it is crowded, just get in, do not delay others: you can pay when everyone is in. Don’t worry, our drivers are multitaskers: they drive, watch the road, take money, give the change and manage to count how many people have not paid yet, and all is done simultaneously. Unlike buses and trolleybuses, they don’t give you a ticket in return. No air conditioning here either.
The earnings of maxi taxi drivers depend on how many passengers they take, so they are notorious here for speeding. They want to take in as many passengers as possible, so they try to outdrive their colleagues.
Maxi taxis do not have (but should) designated stops, so you can hail them basically everywhere where they can safely park to pick you up.
There are 42 maxi taxi routes in Chisinau. You can use the same link to check them.
Useful info: maxi taxi 165 runs from the central market to the airport.
4. Taxi services
We have a lot of taxi services in Chisinau. Prices vary, but the difference is not huge. The service level might be different as well.
About prices: taxis in Chisinau are much cheaper than in Europe. For example, a ride from the airport to the city center will cost 6-7 EUR. Inside the city it would be around 3-4 EUR, maybe less depending on the distance.
Phone numbers of taxi companies have 5 digits and all of them start with 14.
I personally use 14999 and their partner 14222. I can’t tell you the exact reason I selected them, at one point of time they used to be the best. And, I think, they have the biggest fleet. In addition to these, you can call 14448 taxi service.
How it happens: you dial the number, talk to the operator, and when they find you a car, a robot calls your phone and notifies you of the arrival time, car model and colour, and the last numbers of its plate so that you can be sure it is your car. Some taxi companies ask whether you want a standard car or a comfort one. The comfort one costs more, naturally 😊 but the standard ones are good as well.
All official taxis are equipped with taximeters, and you will get a receipt after the ride. In case you did not like anything, or think that the fare you paid is unfair, take the receipt and call their office. Usually in taxis there is a sticker on the window with a phone number to call if you are happy or unhappy about anything.
The majority of drivers do not speak English, only Russian and Moldovan. If you are not comfortable calling them, then consider using taxi apps. We do not have Uber or Gett in Chisinau, but Yandex Taxi and iTaxi instead. They work pretty much like Uber: you put in your departure and destination, the app calculates the fare, you see the location of the car on the map. What you have to remember is that in most cases you will have to pay by cash, so do not rely on bank cards.
You can try hailing a taxi, but it is not that common here. But you can approach them when you see drivers lounging or sitting in a car as it means that they either have a break or do not have any clients at that moment.
5. Useful links and info
So, the first thing you have to remember: do not use public transport during rush hours. Or do that to get a taste of locals’ everyday life 😊.
Secondly, passengers always pay on board and always in cash.
Thirdly, buses and trolleybuses have designated stops, you do not have to push any buttons for them to stop, while you can hail a maxi taxi almost everywhere.
Fourthly, do not expect drivers and conductors to speak English, as they most likely won’t.
Stations are announced in some buses and trolleybuses, but in Moldovan only. Some of them have electronic displays with current stations.
Unfortunately, we do not have electronic displays on stops like in Europe where passengers can check the arrival time. Our municipality keeps talking about implementing this system, but nothing is happening so far. The only thing you can do is consult the timetables available in many stations.
Now, here is a useful website that will help you plan the route. It works like Google Maps but is much better: you select your departure and arrival addresses and it gives you info on all means to get there.
If I have not covered something here, comment with your question and I will see what I can do 😊
Where to stay in Chisinau
Well, in any city you travel, you have to stay somewhere 🙂 When I search for accommodation, I always use two options: it is either AirBnB (click here for a discount on your first booking with AirBnB) or Booking.com.
I have some suggestions regarding hotels and hostels in Chisinau. As always, I selected the best of the best places located as central as possible.
Guests of Amazing Ionika Hostel, located a couple of streets up from Stefan Cel Mare Boulevard like it for everything, starting with the location and ending with the staff. For as little as 7-9 EUR per night, you will get a bed in a clean room. And they have excellent Wi-Fi connection.
Hostel City Center is in the same price range as Ionika, but is more centrally located and equally good. And they have female and male only rooms.
Renting out of apartments is very popular in Chisinau. In fact, there are more apartments than hotels, and the deals are usually better. For example, for 30-40 EUR per night you can stay in this lovely studio right in the city center behind the main cathedral. If you are a group of travellers, consider this apartment that is good for up to 8 people. It is next to the main cathedral, and offers all possible facilities. Another apartment with modern twist is right on Stefan Cel Mare boulevard and costs 50-60 EUR per night for up to 4 people.
If your heart craves something luxurious, you can consider the very famous 5-star Nobil Luxury Boutique Hotel. You can hardly get a more central location. And for 130-160 EUR per night you can get all the luxuries possible of Chisinau 🙂
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