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Overseas Security Advisory Council
Bureau of Diplomatic Security
U.S. Department of State

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Moldova 2020 Crime & Safety Report

This is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Chisinau. OSAC encourages travelers to use this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Moldova. For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Moldova country page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

Travel Advisory

The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Moldova at Level 1, indicating travelers should exercise normal precautions. Exercise increased caution in Transnistria due to the unresolved conflict between this breakaway region and the central government. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the Consular Travel Advisory System.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The Embassy has no curfews, restrictions on travel, or “off-limits” areas, although caution is advisable when traveling in the separatist Transnistria region. Crime appears to be uniform throughout Moldova, including in Transnistria. However, ongoing political conflict may limit the U.S. Embassy’s ability to respond to specific situations in Transnistria. Reports of difficulty crossing the myriad checkpoints leading into this area are common. Security personnel often stop travelers for long periods or turn them away altogether. Travelers to Transnistria should adhere to all posted traffic signs and follow verbal orders of security personnel posted there.

Crime Threats

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Chisinau as being a LOW-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Foreigners are subject to petty crime (e.g. pickpocketing, theft), which is most common in crowded areas in major population centers (e.g. public transportation, bars, restaurants). There have been reports of occasional home burglaries, but these are quite rare. Do not to leave valuables in plain sight in parked vehicles, as criminals have smashed car windows and stolen items from vehicles. Review OSAC’s reports, All That You Should Leave Behind.

Violent crimes (e.g. carjacking, home invasions, kidnappings) are extremely rare. Reported cases do not typically involve foreigners; they most often occur in the border regions, and likely relate to smuggling activity.

Organized crime is prevalent, but related violence almost never affects the international community. The deterioration of stability in southern Ukraine has also contributed to an increase in organized criminal activity, especially in southern Moldova, where smuggling of stolen and illegal goods is most common. Moldova’s location is ideal for smuggling into the European Union. Commercial goods are most frequently smuggled to avoid customs charges. Such activity is common but rarely has an impact on international visitors. Human trafficking and drug smuggling are also present.

U.S. nationals have reported cases of sexual harassment and assault. All reported cases occurred in Chisinau, most often in crowded areas or on public transportation. Most cases involved touching or grabbing a female victim against her will. Some cases involving U.S. nationals occurred on busy sidewalks and on trolleybuses; bystanders did not intervene to help the victim. Cases reported to police are often difficult to prosecute due to inadequate laws regarding sexual harassment and assault. Moldovans generally do not make eye contact or smile at strangers. Traveling in pairs or groups, maintaining a low profile, and adopting local behaviors in public are steps that may help mitigate the risk of sexual harassment and assault. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for female travelers.

When dining out, pay restaurant staff directly instead of leaving money behind with the bill. Local establishments usually do not take responsibility for items left behind by patrons, including currency intended as payment. Moldova is mostly a cash-only economy. Businesses accept credit cards in Chisinau, and occasionally in the rest of the country, but rarely in small villages. Use your credit card with caution and protect your personal information. Restaurants bring portable card readers to the table. Your server should never need to take your payment card out of your line of sight. Review OSAC’s reports, The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud and Taking Credit.

Cybersecurity Issues

Telephonic and Internet-based fraud scams occur regularly in Moldova. Scammers use text messaging or phony social media profiles. Always be suspicious of unsolicited communications, even if they appear to come from your service provider; contact your service provider directly, as opposed to replying by chat or text message, if you need to manage your account. Most scams occurring in Moldova are conducted in the Romanian or Russian languages, and do not target foreigners specifically. Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity Basics, Best Practices for Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, and Traveling with Mobile Devices: Trends & Best Practices.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Among the poorest countries in Europe, much of Moldova’s infrastructure is underdeveloped. Most roadways fall below Western standards. Exercise great caution when driving at night, as most roadways lack adequate lighting. In rural regions, horse and tractor-drawn wagons, livestock, and other hazards are common on roads and difficult to see, particularly at night. Review OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad, Driving Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive Driving Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving and road safety abroad.

Drivers often fail to take appropriate safety measures and do not adhere to traffic laws. Many roadways lack the traffic control signage that would be found in Western countries. Drive defensively; Moldovan drivers are aggressive by U.S. standards.

In 2014, Moldova installed traffic cameras on several major roadways in/around Chisinau. The cameras have been effective in reducing speeding on key roads, but speeding motorists continue to be a problem.

Police will take any person suspected of consuming alcohol before driving to the nearest police station for investigation. Authorities will charge individuals with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) between .03 and .079 with an administrative offense and levy a fine. BACs at .08+ criminal and can result in substantial fines and/or incarceration.

Public Transportation Conditions

Some trains, trolleybuses, and buses are old and can break down. Minibus accidents are frequent and can be fatal. The U.S. Embassy strongly encourages travelers to ride only in minibuses equipped with seatbelts.

Taxis from reputable and established companies are generally safe. However, travelers should be cautious to ensure taxi drivers are driving sober. The Embassy strongly encourages the use of official taxis only. Taxis managed by legitimate companies typically are clearly numbered, with markings representing the company; you may also ask if the driver is prepared to give you a receipt or “check” before embarking on your journey. Review OSAC’s report, Security In Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Chisinau International Airport (KIV) is safe and well organized. There have been no aviation-related security incidents in Moldova in recent years. As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Moldova, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Moldova’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.

Other Travel Conditions

Many pedestrians dress in dark clothing and walk alongside or on the streets, due to the poor quality of most sidewalks. This is especially common in the winter because of the lack of snow removal from sidewalks. Clearing streets after rainstorms or heavy snowfall is sporadic in Chisinau, and rare outside of the capital.

If traveling on foot, ensure that your clothing has reflective markers that make you visible to motorists. Aggressive stray dogs are common, particularly in villages and city parks after dark.

The steps leading to building entrances are often fitted with indoor wall tile; this makes entrance and exit quite perilous in wet or icy conditions. Take great precaution on all stairs in Moldova; foreigners have had medical emergencies after slipping on ice.

Terrorism Threat

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Chisinau as being a LOW-threat location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. There are no known terrorist groups conducting operations in Moldova. With little Moldovan control over the eastern borders between separatist Transnistria and Ukraine, the U.S. Embassy remains vigilant of the risk of terrorist groups entering Moldovan territory.

In 2019, there were no incidents of terrorism directed toward the U.S. Embassy, U.S. nationals, or U.S. interests in Moldova. The U.S. Embassy works closely with Moldovan security services on counter-terrorism issues.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Chisinau as being a MEDIUM-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Civil Unrest

In June 2019, there were serious political demonstrations in Chisinau with participants surrounding specific government buildings during a tense political standoff between rival governments. While the situation ultimately resulted in a peaceful transition of power, the risk of political violence at that time was significantly elevated. Security forces demonstrated an improved ability to manage demonstrations and protests but continue to struggle with workforce shortages and resource constraints. 

While significant demonstrations continued to occur with some regularity throughout 2018 and 2019, there have been no further significant clashes or violence as a result.

Authorities require permits for most forms of public demonstration. There is an additional provision for “spontaneous protests.” The process requires that the police inform affected parties of the protest. Police appear to fulfill this obligation. Permits are not necessary for groups fewer than 25; this provision also has no time/place restrictions.

Religious/Ethnic Violence

Instability in eastern Ukraine has brought Moldova onto the front line of regional politics. While there is increased border security and accusations of Moldovans fighting with the separatists in eastern Ukraine, to date there has been no reported violence in Moldova as a direct result.

Anti-U.S./Anti-Western Sentiment

Incidents of anti-U.S. sentiment are rare. Public rallies and social and traditional media outlets have denounced U.S. policy toward Moldova. In 2019, there were multiple small and peaceful demonstrations in front of the U.S. Embassy, though most were not anti-U.S. but rather sought to draw official U.S. attention to local issues.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

If you are staying in a rural hotel or bed & breakfast in the winter months, be careful to ensure proper ventilation. Carbon monoxide poisoning has been an issue in the past in situations where village housing lacks proper ventilation protocols to avoid an overnight buildup of gas. Because of the poor conditions of most windows, ventilation exists; however, when a village home or hotel has upgraded its windows without upgrading the heating system, issues can occur.

Economic Concerns/Intellectual Property Theft

Individuals considering doing business in Transnistria should exercise extreme caution. Many Transnistrian firms have not registered legally with Moldovan authorities, which may complicate or prevent the import or export of goods. The Government of Moldova will not recognize the validity of contracts for the privatization of firms in Transnistria without the approval of the appropriate Moldovan authorities.

Personal Identity Concerns

There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI+ events in Moldova. However, traditional cultural attitudes towards LGBTI+ individuals may result in discrimination and harassment. Annual organized pride demonstrations typically draw hostile attention from conservative groups. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI+ travelers.

Narrow and steep wheelchair ramps with limited access. Streets, sidewalks, and other public paths lack proper maintenance. Ensure your accommodations are accessible before traveling to Moldova. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers with disabilities.

Drug-related Crime

There is limited cultivation of opium poppy and cannabis in Moldova, mostly for consumption in former Soviet states. Moldova is a transshipment point for illicit drugs from Southwest Asia via Central Asia to Russia, Western Europe, and possibly the U.S. There is widespread crime and underground economic activity related to illegal drugs. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking illegal drugs are severe. Convicted offenders should expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.

Kidnapping Threat

Review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping: The Basics.

Other Issues

Due to allegations in 2015 that preschool employees were exploiting children for the purpose of producing pornography, U.S. Embassy personnel may not enroll children in private preschool “Izvoraşul Cunoştinţelor,” at 9 strada George Meniuc in Chisinau, and its associated preschool “Casuţa din Poveşti,” at 26B strada Universităţii in Chisinau.

Taking photographs in/around security zones, peacekeeping posts, bridges, military installations, and “official government buildings” is illegal. In many, but not all of these locations, authorities have posted signs prohibiting photography. Review OSAC’s report, Picture This: Dos and Don’ts for Photography.

Register large sums of foreign currency (equivalent of 10,000 Euros and above) and declare all valuable goods with Moldovan customs authorities when you arrive in the country. Failure to do so can result in confiscation, fines, and/or arrest. Read the State Department’s webpage on customs and import restrictions for information on what you cannot take into or out of other countries.

Police Response

The emergency line in Moldova is 112. Police response to crimes, especially in areas foreigners frequent, is good but hampered by a lack of resources. The police are particularly capable at basic policing, but a lack of equipment hampers their ability to conduct complex investigations. The U.S. Embassy is working with the government to improve policing abilities. Most authorities primarily speak Romanian or Russian, and have limited English-language abilities. The primary law enforcement entity is the General Police Inspectorate. Although cities, villages, and districts each have their own police structures, these entities are all subordinate to the national General Police Inspectorate. Moldovan police have the word “POLITIA” printed on the backs of their uniforms. Traffic police should also display a metal badge on the outside of their uniforms. For local first responders, refer to the Embassy’s Emergency Assistance page.

Traffic congestion may delay police and emergency medical response significantly; private vehicles often do not pull off the road to allow emergency vehicles to pass. It is common in Chisinau for emergency services to take 20-40 minutes to respond, depending on your location in the city.

Solicitation of bribes by authorities at all levels is a concern. Drivers should be aware that traffic infractions are subject to official adjudication. Do not participate in or condone bribery. Call the Moldovan Ministry of Internal Affairs anti-corruption hotline at +373-080-055-555 or +373-022-257-333.

Download the State Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.

Medical Emergencies

The emergency line in Moldova is 112. The quality of most medical services is not up to Western standards. Hospital accommodations are inadequate, technology is not advanced, and there may be shortages of routine medications and supplies. Pharmacies do not always stock to Western standards, and may not label products in English. Some patients have reported poor quality and/or counterfeit medications. Certain private clinics with 24/7 emergency care offer care closer to western standards. Find contact information for available medical services and available air ambulance services on the U.S. Embassy website.

If you are sick or injured, go to Western Europe or return to the United States for treatment. The U.S. Department of State strongly recommends purchasing international health insurance before traveling internationally. Review the State Departments webpage on insurance overseas.

Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Moldova. The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Moldova.

OSAC Country Council Information

The Chisinau Country Council currently meets quarterly and has approximately 50 members. Interested U.S. private-sector representatives in Moldova should contact the Embassy Regional Security Office or OSAC’s Europe team for more information or to join.    

U.S. Embassy Contact Information

U.S. Embassy Moldova, 103 Mateevici Str., Chisinau

Business hours: 0830 – 1730, Monday – Friday

Telephone: +373-22-408-300

Emergency (24/7): +373-069-11-0851

Website: https://md.usembassy.gov/

Helpful Information

Before you travel, consider the following resources:

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