• Constantinos Koushiappis

Border Crossing from Moldova to Ukraine. The most difficult of the trip so far.

I started from Chisinau to head to Transnistria border.

Transnistria is a stip of occupied land that was formed after the fall of Soviet Union. In 1992 after some conflicts this small country declared its independence without any luck since the Western world and the United Nations don’t recognise it. They are only being recognised by Russia.

You can get a 10 hour pass to visit the country and if you need to stay more you need to go to a police station and fill up the proper form to get 24 more hours of staying in.

From many different articles I had red online, I found out that there is no cost if you want to go to Transnistria.

When I arrived at the border, after already passing the Moldovian checkpoint, I felt that I was entering a different age. Some decades back perhaps, since there were tanks and armed soldiers left and right. The hammer and sickle emblem seemed imposing on the border building and I found myself staring at it while waiting in line.

I was told I had to issue insurance for my bike, which would cost €30.

I refused to pay this exorbitant sum for just 10 hours that I would spend in a tiny country. I started to gather my papers to go back. Officials immediately reduced the price to €20, which again was too much considering that the bus from Chisinau to Tiraspol costs only €3.

I was determined that I will not pay any money to corrupted border officials. As much as I wanted to check out this little “country" that stayed a few decades behind, still believing in the communist dream, I would not encourage any border corruption by giving money to them, and thus spoil it for other low budgets travelers.

I started my engine and turned back. In about an hour I reached the next border checkpoint in the southeastern part of Moldova connected directly with Ukraine.

As soon as I crossed the Moldovan checkpoint, the road began to look like a bombed landscape.

The potholes on the asphalt were so large, my bike could easily fit in them.

Slowly and with careful maneuvers I avoided falling into them and I arrived at the Ukrainian border.

The first question I was asked was whether I am Arab. My beard had begun to grow, and with my dark complexion, it intrigued some questions.

- Kyper ... I replied with a smile and gave him the passport.

They started asking all these questions. Where am I going, if I'm travelling alone, if I have money, where I would stay, why do I travel alone and how long have I been travelling.

After completing the essential control needed I had to issue vehicle insurance for Ukraine.

A young armed soldier was escorting me all the time at the border. He had a loaded Kalashnikov hanging down his shoulder.

The young soldier led me in a small metal cabin to issue insurance about a hundred meters away.

He asked me again why I'm there with his broken English.

I answered in a few words “Ukraine beautiful country”

He did not seem to understand why someone would be traveling alone in a country with ongoing war conflicts.

I had only €10 in Moldovan currency in my wallet plus my credit card.

The insurance cost €9 for 15 days and fortunately I had enough cash, as there wasn’t any card machine in that rotten office.

I was accompanied back to the checkpoint and I had to go through another interrogation. My passport was held by a woman officer who asked me if I had enough money to travel in the country.

I was out of cash as I had just paid for insurance.

I told her that I had enough money to travel in my bank card.

She didn’t want to accept my answer as proof, telling me that I needed a minimum of € 2000 so that they allow me to go.

I laughed and told her that I issued insurance for only 15 days and that the amount that she suggested is enormous for such a short period in Ukraine with it’s given economy.

I had no desire to show my account at the border. So I told them that this amount is in held Cyprus and is only available by order, and stuff like that so that she will hopefully spare me and let me go.

My eye caught a campaign flyer, against corruption at the borders, and a hotline, which one could call and denounce a situation.

With a relatively slow move, making sure the officers were watching me, I extended my hand and grabbed it. I acted like I read it and I put it in the inside pocket of my jacket.

I do not know if that played a role in the whole situation, but 15 minutes later I got the stamp and was ready to continue my journey to Ukraine.

This process took about three hours, making getting through the border of Ukraine the longest and hardest of the trip so far.

Sixty excruciatingly slow kilometers until Odessa. The bad road, the hundreds of potholes, the huge amount of weight I was carrying and the avoidance maneuvers I had to perform to avoid the potholes, were the main events on the road to Odessa. The good thing was that the road did not give me the chance to get bored since I had to keep watching the road and move left and right.

Some mighty LADAs were overtaking me and were flying over potholes in the most clumsy way, and were giving me the impression that they will fall apart at any time. That made my trip a little more enjoyable since I was cracking a smile every now and then.

It took two hours for those 60 km and I passed two armed checkpoints.

At each point I had to give a handwritten piece of paper torn from a notebook that I got from the previous one.

I finally arrived in Odessa…

#Ukraine #BorderCrossing

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