Everything you need to know about the train
If you are travelling around Eastern Europe, you may be tempted to take the train from Bucharest, the capital of Romania, to Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. If you are, you’re in for one helluva good ride.
As many travellers will know, there is something quite romantic about travelling on an overnight train from one country to another, and travelling by train from Bucharest to Chisinau is no different, so here’s everything you need to know about the train.
Where to catch the train from:
You catch the train from Bucharest to Chisinau from the main international station; Gara du Nord.
Gara du Nord can be accessed from the metro stations (either line M1 or M3 will take you directly to Gara du Nord). A metro ticket costs 4 lei, so around about €1.
Once at Gara du Nord, you will need to walk to the international ticket office (this is on the far left as you face the station). Alternatively, ask someone where it is when you are there.
The ticket booth you want to buy a ticket from Bucharest to Chisinau is booth number one.
How much does it cost?
A train ticket from Bucharest to Chisinau costs 155 lei (approximately €36).
The train leaves at 19:35 and arrives in Chisinau at 08:55. The trains are like German clockwork; they are always on time.
To find which platform it leaves from, check your train number with the main Gara du Nord departure board; it is very hard to mess this up.
How long does the train take?
The train from Bucharest to Chisinau takes approximately 13 and a half hours, so make sure you’ve got plenty of food and water before you board the train.
What’s the room like?
As I am sure you can imagine, the train from Bucharest to Chisinau isn’t exactly the most popular, so it’s rare to share your room with more than one other person (there are four beds per room).
If you really want to be on your own, often there are spare, empty rooms.
Speak to the conductor, offer him a tip and ask if you can change rooms. This is almost guarenteed to work.
Crossing the border:
Your passport will be checked twice; once when you leave Romania, and once when you enter Moldova.
Now, this border crossing can take quite a bit of time (on my return it took around three hours). This is because they need to change the wheels on the train (yes, you read that right – they need to change the wheels).
It was Stalin’s great idea that certain countries should have different thickness railroad tracks (they are slightly thicker in Moldova so the trains from Bucharest quite literally stop on these tracks).
Stalin’s reasoning was this – he wanted to prevent smuggling of drugs, guns, money you name it, into his borders. Also, he wanted to stall the Germans should they ever invade Russia, hence the difference in track size. These days it is just a major inconvenience.
To change the wheels, they have to hoist the train up and physically pull the wheels out from underneath it; as I am sure you can imagine, this can take some time.
As this usually happens around 1 or 2am, the best thing you can do is keep your passport in your pocket and drift off to sleep; a border patrol guard will wake you if they need anything.
Once you’ve got through the border, it is straight to the capital city, Chisinau.
Once in Chisinau, save yourself the time and hassle by getting a taxi to the city centre. It’ll only cost 30 lei (approximately €2 – Warning: the Moldovan lei is different to the Romanian lei). Otherwise, there are trams outside the station, but goodluck finding the right one!
Dangers and annoyances:
Beware of people speaking surprisingly good English wanting to help you out – more often than not it is a scam.
Either they will want money for giving you the information (as if you couldn’t work it out for yourself), or they might try this:
If it is obvious you’ve never been to Gara du Nord before or that you’ve just come from another country, they will offer to pay for your ticket for you knowing you won’t have any Romanian lei.
Obviously feeling bad some “kind” stranger has just paid for your ticket, you immediately go to an ATM machine to repay them back.
Once they see how much money you have taken out, they will ask for a fee for “helping you out”. If you get to this stage, just give them 10 lei (approximately €2) and walk away.
This happened to a couple of friends of mine, so it does actually happen!
So there you go. That’s everything you need to know about catching the train from Bucharest to Chisinau. If you think I’ve forgotten anything then ask away!