Extorted in Moldova

This item appears on page 11 of the December 2008 issue.
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My wife, Nenko, and I took a 3-week trip to Romania, Moldova and Ukraine in September-October ’08. We hired excellent private guides in Romania and Moldova and enjoyed a 12-day cruise down the Dnieper River in Ukraine, which we booked through Value World Tours (800/795-1633, www.rivercruises.net).

The only problem we encountered was on the overnight train between Chisinau, Moldova, and Kiev, Ukraine. At the second stop in Moldova, at about 1 a.m., two inspectors or Customs agents came to our first-class cabin and asked to see our passports. We thought we were at the border because they asked how much money we had and whether or not we had weapons.

After a cursory look at our passports, they informed us that we had to get off the train and go back to Chisinau to get a “central Customs” stamp. I replied that we had to catch our riverboat in Kiev and had no time to go back to Chisinau.

One agent sat down in the cabin and the other one blocked the door. My wife noted that the agent at the door carried a police-type club. Having read of robbery on the overnight train between Bucharest and Kiev, I was sure we were in deep trouble.

After some uneasy moments, the agents (thugs) informed us that we could pay a “fine” of $50 each and they would overlook the “central Customs violation.” We happily paid the $100, and the thugs put their fingers to their mouths to indicate that we should keep quiet about this extortion.

If you must take an overnight train through Moldova, I strongly suggest taking a coach seat where other passengers might be able to intervene. A sleeping compartment seems to be an invitation to be extorted by uniformed thugs.

By the way, we had no trouble crossing the border into Ukraine at about 3 a.m. And except for the above trouble and some rainy weather, we had a wonderful time and would recommend this trip to all ITN readers.

CLARE MOELK

Charlottetown, PEI, Canada

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

My wife, Nenko, and I took a 3-week trip to Romania, Moldova and Ukraine in September-October ’08. We hired excellent private guides in Romania and Moldova and enjoyed a 12-day cruise down the Dnieper River in Ukraine, which we booked through Value World Tours (800/795-1633, www.rivercruises.net).

The only problem we encountered was on the overnight train between Chisinau, Moldova, and Kiev, Ukraine. At the second stop in Moldova, at about 1 a.m., two inspectors or Customs agents came to our first-class cabin and asked to see our passports. We thought we were at the border because they asked how much money we had and whether or not we had weapons.

After a cursory look at our passports, they informed us that we had to get off the train and go back to Chisinau to get a “central Customs” stamp. I replied that we had to catch our riverboat in Kiev and had no time to go back to Chisinau.

One agent sat down in the cabin and the other one blocked the door. My wife noted that the agent at the door carried a police-type club. Having read of robbery on the overnight train between Bucharest and Kiev, I was sure we were in deep trouble.

After some uneasy moments, the agents (thugs) informed us that we could pay a “fine” of $50 each and they would overlook the “central Customs violation.” We happily paid the $100, and the thugs put their fingers to their mouths to indicate that we should keep quiet about this extortion.

If you must take an overnight train through Moldova, I strongly suggest taking a coach seat where other passengers might be able to intervene. A sleeping compartment seems to be an invitation to be extorted by uniformed thugs.

By the way, we had no trouble crossing the border into Ukraine at about 3 a.m. And except for the above trouble and some rainy weather, we had a wonderful time and would recommend this trip to all ITN readers.

CLARE MOELK

Charlottetown, PEI, Canada