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Moldova 2017 Crime & Safety Report

Europe > Moldova; Europe > Moldova > Chisinau

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Chisinau does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizens Services (ACS) Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

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.

Please review OSAC’s Moldova-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

Crime Threats

Petty crimes (pickpocketing, thefts) continue to be the most common problems encountered by foreigners and is most common in crowded areas in major population centers (public transportation, bars, restaurants). There have been reports of occasional home burglaries, including burglaries of diplomatic residences; however, this is quite rare.

Violent crimes (carjacking, home invasions, kidnappings) are extremely rare.

Organized crime is prevalent but related violence almost never affects the international community. In October 2015, a prominent local businessman’s vehicle was destroyed by a low grade improvised explosive device. There were no injuries or damage aside from the destroyed vehicle.

Visitors are advised not to leave valuables in plain sight in parked vehicles, as there have been reports of car windows being smashed, and items being stolen from vehicles.

When dining out, pay wait 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’s location makes it ideal for smuggling into the European Union. Commercial goods are the items most frequently smuggled -- usually to avoid customs charges. Such activity is common but rarely has an impact on international visitors. Human trafficking and smuggling are also present. 

Cybersecurity Issues

In recent years, the U.S. Embassy has received reports of Internet-based fraud. Credit card fraud and ATM skimming have also been reported.

Other Areas of Concern

The Embassy has no curfews, restrictions on travel, or “off-limits” areas, although some caution is advisable when traveling in the separatist Transnistria region. Crime appears to be uniform throughout Moldova, including in Transnistria, a separatist region in eastern Moldova. However, the U.S. Embassy’s ability to visit and regularly report on activity in Transnistria is limited by the ongoing political conflict. While the U.S. Embassy has no security prohibition on traveling to this area, American diplomats are required to obtain U.S. Embassy permission before they go to Transnistria and are not authorized to remain overnight. Reports of difficulty crossing the myriad of checkpoints that lead into this area are common. Visitors are often stopped for long periods or are turned away. U.S. Embassy policy is to show American passports only to Republic of Moldova officials. Travelers to Transnistria are encouraged to adhere to all posted traffic signs and to follow verbal orders of security personnel posted there.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

The majority of roadways in Moldova are underdeveloped, fall below Western standards, and are considered to be the poorest in Europe. The U.S. Embassy urges great caution when driving at night, as most roadways lack adequate lighting. In rural regions, horse-drawn wagons and livestock are common on roads, and most wagons lack reflective warning signs, making them difficult to see.

Moldovan 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.

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.

Moldova revised its drinking and driving laws in early 2009. Any person suspected of consuming alcohol before driving will be taken to the nearest police station for investigation. Individuals with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) between .03 and .079 will be charged with an administrative offense and fined. BACs at .08+ are prosecuted criminally and can result in substantial fines and/or incarceration. U.S. Embassy policy forbids the consumption of alcohol before driving.

Public Transportation Conditions

Minibus accidents are frequent and often fatal. The U.S. Embassy strongly encourages travelers to only ride in minibuses equipped with seatbelts. 

Taxis from reputable and established companies are generally considered safe. However, there has been an increase in reports of females being assaulted in taxis late at night or in the early morning hours. The Embassy strongly encourages the use of official taxis only.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Chisinau International Airport is safe, well-organized, and is undergoing renovations to handle the growing passenger traffic

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.

Terrorism Threat

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED CHISINAU AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

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 its territory.

In 2016, there were no incidents of terrorism directed toward the U.S. Embassy, U.S. citizens, or U.S. interests in Moldova. The U.S. Embassy works closely with Moldovan security services on counter-terrorism issues.

In 2015 and 2016 there was an increase in arrests of Moldovan citizens being charged with supporting and/or participating in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. 

In May 2014, an armored car was robbed by several individuals wielding fully-automatic weapons in a military-style attack that resulted in the deaths of two security guards. The individuals responsible for the robbery were captured in July 2014 and were found to be criminals with prior military service but unrelated to terrorist or political organizations.

Anti-American/Anti-Western Sentiment

Incidents of anti-American sentiment are rare but increasing in the aftermath of political events in 2016, in which the U.S. government was largely perceived as having an orchestral role. In public rallies and on social and traditional media, the U.S. has been criticized and the Ambassador’s name used in public statements denouncing U.S. policy toward Moldova. In 2016, there were multiple small and peaceful demonstrations in front of the U.S. Embassy.

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

Since the Moldovan banking disaster of 2014, when approximately 15% of GDP disappeared from the country’s three largest banks, there have been consistent public protests and demonstrations in Moldova, primarily in Chisinau. Permits are required for most forms of public demonstration. These permits are easily obtainable and tradeable among groups. There is an additional provision for “spontaneous protests.” The process requires that the police inform affected parties of the protest. The police appear to always fulfill this obligation. Permits are not necessary for groups fewer than 25; this provision also has no time/place restrictions.

In 2016, a Constitutional Court ruling reverted the selection of Moldova’s President from Parliament to a direct election, resulting in a largely peaceful and well-administered election of a president over two rounds in November and December 2016.

In August 2016, a protest occurred in central Chisinau that resulted in the police deploying pepper/tear gas. 

In January 2016, several thousand protestors descended on and entered Parliament. Two U.S. Embassy employees, along with other members of the diplomatic corps, were present and were briefly prevented from leaving. There were reports of some injuries to police and protestors. 

In September 2015, the largest protest in recent history took place in downtown Chisinau’s Main Square. The political party Dignity and Truth (DA) organized 40,000+ supporters to protest against governmental corruption and called for the resignation of several political figures. The protest was peaceful aside from a few isolated scuffles between police and splinter elements. Following the protest, supporters occupied the main square with 300+ tents, with the final protestors and structures not departing until July 2016. A rival tent camp and periodic rallies sponsored by opposition parties protesting the government and corruption also remained in place a few blocks away in front of Parliament until removed for repairs. 

Religious/Ethnic Violence

Recent events in eastern Ukraine have 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 no violence in Moldova has been reported as a direct result of the instability in Ukraine.

Police Response

The primary law enforcement entity is the General Police Inspectorate. Police response to crimes, especially in areas widely frequented by foreigners, is good but hampered by a lack of resources. The police are particularly capable at basic policing, but the lack of equipment hampers their ability to carry out 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 taking of photographs in/around security zones, peacekeeping posts, bridges, military installations, and “official government buildings” is often prohibited by local and peacekeeping authorities. In many of these locations, but not in all, signs prohibiting photography are posted. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report “Picture This: Dos and Don’ts for Photography.”

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

Solicitation of bribes by authorities at all levels is a concern. Drivers stopped by police for infractions are reminded that such offenses are subject to official adjudication. Bribery should not be condoned, offered, or participated in. The Moldovan Ministry of Internal Affairs maintains an anti-corruption hotline, which can be reached at 1520.

Crime Victim Assistance

If a visitor experiences trouble or becomes a victim of a crime, the number to call for police assistance is 902. If you need to report a crime and are unable to communicate with authorities because of the language barrier, please contact the U.S. Embassy for assistance.

Medical Emergencies

In the event of a medical emergency, visitors can dial 901 for an ambulance. Limited medical services are available. The quality of medical services is not up to Western standards.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

The American Citizens Services section at the U.S. Embassy maintains a list of English-speaking doctors and hospitals

Available Air Ambulance Services

Air ambulance services are available from operations outside of the country, but none are based in Moldova.

Insurance Guidance

The U.S. Embassy recommends you have appropriate medical coverage for evacuation and/or any care you may need should an emergence arise. Please contact your health insurance provider.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Moldova.

OSAC Country Council Information

The Chisinau Country Council currently meets once a year and has approximately 10 members. Please contact OSAC’s Europe team with any questions or to join.  

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

The U.S. Embassy is located at 103 Mateevici Str., Chisinau, Moldova
Hours of Operation: Mon-Fri, 0830 – 1730  

Embassy Contact Numbers

Main tel: (373) (22) 408-300
Fax (373) (22) 23-3044.
The Embassy Duty Officer, on call 24/7, can be reached at (373) 069-11-0851.
The Consular Section can be reached by e-mail at Chisinau-CA@state.gov.
Regional Security Office: (373) (22) 408-989 and DS_RSO_Chisinau@state.gov.
Website: https://md.usembassy.gov/.

Embassy Guidance

Americans living in or visiting Moldova are encouraged to register on-line with the Consular Affairs Section through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at: STEP Registration.

Additional Resources

Moldova Country Information Sheet