When I left you last week, it looked as if I would make it out of Europe’s volcanic ash cloud nightmare more or less unscathed. Last Tuesday, my flight from Chisinau, Moldova to Istanbul was scheduled to take off as planned, while my mother’s flight to Milan was canceled outright.
My flight ended up leaving, as expected, without a hitch. It was, in fact, one of the very first flights to make it out following the airport’s volcanic ash-related closure. Happily, my mother made it off last Tuesday as well, on an Air Moldova flight to Rome in place of her scheduled Meridiana flight to Milan.
During my short visit to the Chisinau International Airport last Tuesday, there was excitement crackling through the air. The airport had just re-opened after several days of peace and quiet. A television crew was on hand to document the movement of passengers.
Chisinau International Airport and Air Moldova
The Chisinau International Airport is small and immaculate, not particularly noteworthy for anything other than its sparklingly clean appearance. The duty-free shops beyond customs were interesting, however, for their surprising inclusion of an entire range of goods from the contested region of Transdniestria, which does not recognize the central government.
The biggest player at the airport, by far, is Air Moldova, the country’s flagship airline. It flies to nearly two dozen airports in Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Montenegro, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom and Ukraine.
Observers of European budget airlines will note that there are few low-cost carriers flying in or out of Chisinau. The occasionally low-fare Air Baltic flies a Chisinau-Riga route, and the Russian airline S7, also intermittently budget-friendly, flies a Chisinau-Moscow link. But the heavy low-cost air traffic that has turned many other Central and Eastern European cities into weekend city break destinations for Western Europeans has not materialized.
Chisinau as a tourist destination
Chisinau deserves more tourists for plenty of reasons. If and when traffic picks, up, tourists will benefit from a fantastic city-to-airport shuttle for tourists already in place, a cheap and user-friendly bus link. It departs from the corner of Boulevard Stefan cel Mare and Ismail Street, and costs just 3 Moldovan lei (about $.24) per journey.
For budget-friendly and locally-attuned accommodations in Chisinau, I recommend checking out the Web site of Marina Vozian, which lists an atmospheric apartment close to the center of Chisinau (two bedrooms for €40 per night) as well as a wide range of tour-based services.