When it comes to spending money in Transnistria, your credit card is largely useless. There are a tiny fraction of ATMs that will accept Western cards but we don’t recommend using them. In breakaway states, cash is king! Thankfully, there are plentiful exchange offices across Transnistria who will give you as much local currency as you want to buy. Just make sure to change it back before you leave, as it’s worthless outside of Transnistrian borders except as a souvenir. Although, some bus companies with connections to Tiraspol accept Transnistrian rubles at the bus station in Chisinau, Moldova.
History of Transnistrian currency
After the civil war in the country, Transnistria was still using old Soviet currency as it was coming to grips with its new status as a ‘breakaway nation’. The Soviet rubles, complete with a bust of Lenin, were modified with an adhesive sticker bearing the Transnistrian flag or coat of arms.
As crippling inflation had arrived by the late 1990s, an update was needed and the separatist government began handing out the country’s first currency which was in the form of locally made ‘coupons’. These can still be bought at the flea markets of Transnstria alongside Soviet medals and uniforms.
The old Soviet currency was replaced by the Transnistrian ruble, which is often derided as ‘Monopoly money’. Valued inside Transnistria against the Euro at 20 to 1, it is the only accepted currency to use in day-to-day life inside the country.
The bank notes of Transnistria
Bank notes are issued by the Transnistrian Republican Bank since in 2000 as part of a currency reform. The notes come in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 200 and 500 rubles.
The plastic coins in Transnistria
Favorite souvenir of many of our clients is the plastic coins of Transnistria. There are two types of coins inside the country: a standard kopek emblazoned with the hammer and sickle and then there are the highly collectable plastic coins, which are apparently hated by locals and will possibly be phased out soon. They are indeed bemused to see the few foreign tourists who visit try and get their hands on them.
The set of four geometrically shaped plastic coins were introduced back in 2014 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Transnistrian currency. They come in denominations of one, three, five and 10 rubles.
Can I use USD or Euros in Transnistria?
Under the table you possibly can, but these instances are few and far between. Change your currency into Transnistrian Rubles at one of the many exchange offices so you have enough cash to travel around and buy things you need.
Whilst there are ATMs dotted around everywhere, you will mostly need a Russian bank card to use them. There is a single one usable by foreigners, but this dispenses Russian rubles at an appallingly usurious exchange rate, and these need to be changed into local currency anyway. Your best bet is to bring in Euros or Dollars and exchange on arrival.
Since the year 2000 the Transnistrian Republican Bank has issued many commercial commemorative coins made from silver and gold. Their mintage numbers were very low, ranging between 500 and 5,000. Topics included for example “Ancient fortresses on the river Dniester”, “The Outstanding people Transdniestria” and “Red book Transdniestria”. Some of these coins are offered as souvenirs to tourists at the Transnistrian exchange offices throughout the country.
Controversy surrounding the Transnistrian Mint
When it was founded, Transnistria did not have its own mint. Thus a foreign mint had to be found to strike Transnistrian coins. The Mint of Poland (Mennica Polska) in Warsaw was selected. Coins dated 2000 were struck in Warsaw and transported via Ukraine to Transnistria in trucks belonging to the Transnistrian Republican Bank.
The Moldovan government was not pleased with this situation, since they viewed it as a de facto recognition of Transnistria. In October 2001 Moldovan president Vladimir Voronin addressed the issue with his Polish counterpart. The Mint of Poland responded to the criticism by stating that because the Transnistrian ruble is not internationally recognized as a currency, they were producing tokens and not coins, which is normal business for mints.
The conflict came to a height when in December 2004 Ukrainian customs confiscated a truck with US$117,000 worth of Transnistrian coins near Lviv. The coins were handed over to Moldovan authorities, who in response again protested with the Polish government.
The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote another letter to the Mint of Poland in April 2005. They warned that continued production of Transnistrian coins would endanger relations with Ukraine and Moldova and damage the image of Poland abroad. The Mint of Poland bowed to the pressure and cancelled its contract with Transnistria that same month. For Transnistria there was then no other solution but to strike future coins themselves. Thus, on 18 November 2005 the Tiraspol Mint (Тираспольский монетный двор) was opened in the presence of President Igor Smirnov.