Why the Train Is the Best Way to Travel from Odessa to Chişinău (+ How to Buy a Ticket)

Why the Train Is the Best Way to Travel from Odessa to Chişinău (+ How to Buy a Ticket)

The best way to travel from Odessa Ukraine to Chişinău Moldova is with the train. Flying is too expensive and taking a bus takes too long.

You may save €1 or so by taking the bus, but you are unlikely to be travelling in the same level of comfort as you’d get with the train.

However, although travelling by train is the best way to get from Odessa to Chişinău, the options are somewhat limited. There are only three trains per week:

  • Friday Evening
  • Saturday Evening
  • Sunday Evening

The 642 Ш is the only Train that travels from Odessa to Chişinău and the schedule is always the same. You can view an up-to-date train timetable HERE, but read the information below before clicking the link.

The English version of the Ukrainian Railways (Ukrzaliznytsia) website is good, but there is something you need to know before visiting the site.

Although its normal in English to write “Chisinau” or the more correct version “Chişinău”, Ukraine and many other Slavic countries don’t use the Latin alphabet. They use the Cyrillic alphabet instead.

In Russian, Chişinău is written like this: Кишинев

It’s written slightly differently in Ukrainian: Кишинів.

The Ukrainian Railways website uses “Kyshyniv” and “Kishineu”. It uses Kyshyniv because that’s how the word sounds when read from written Ukrainian. I’m not sure why the second version is used or why two versions of the name can sometimes be found on the same page. However, Chişinău, Kyshyniv, and Kishineu are all the same place.

The use of these two translations caused me a little difficulty when I was making my travel arrangements, so I think it is important that I point this out.

The train leaves the main train station at Odessa (Odesa-Holovna / Одеса-Головна) [MAP] at 18:45 and arrives in Chişinău at 22:28. You don’t need to reset your watch. Moldova and Ukraine are in the same time zone.

Timetable for the Train from Odessa Ukraine to Chişinău Moldova (Train no. 642 Ш)

Travelling by bus is slower, but there are several buses each day. If you want to travel from Odessa to Chişinău by bus, you can find up-to-date timetables and ticket information HERE.

 

Why Buying Online Is the Best Way to Get a Train Ticket from Odessa to Chişinău (If You Don’t Speak Russian / Ukrainian)

Although the official language is Ukrainian, and everyone in Odessa speaks it, the people in Odessa usually communicate in Russian. However, train tickets, supermarket receipts, and most other things you will encounter will be written in Ukrainian.

The problem is, although there are plenty of people in Odessa who speak English, finding them can be hard. If you go to a cafe or bar, the chances are you will find someone who speaks your language. You will also encounter plenty of other English speakers on the street and elsewhere, but there is a certain amount of luck involved.

If you can communicate in Russian or Ukrainian, the best place to buy a train ticket from Odessa to Chişinău may be the main train station. If you don’t have the necessary language skills it’s a lot less hassle to buy your ticket to Chişinău online.

The train station can be a pretty busy place and, if you want to buy a ticket from one of the ticket kiosks, you could have to wait quite a long time in the queue. Then, when it’s your turn, there is a helluva good chance you will find yourself trying to explain your requirements to someone who does not speak English. Buying a ticket online removes a lot of the stress.

 

How to Buy a Train Ticket Online and How Much it Costs

I went online and bought my ticket to Chişinău at the end of November (2018) and it cost me 280.55 Ukrainian hryvnia. That’s only around €9 so it was cheap. In fact. for a journey between cities that are 180 km apart, that’s an incredibly good price.

However, depending on when you are reading this and the current exchange rate, the cost of a ticket may be slightly more or less.

When you visit the Ukrainian Railways (Ukrzaliznytsia) website to buy a train ticket from Odessa to Chisinau, you will be able to complete the process in English.

The first thing you need to do is visit THIS PAGE.

When you start to type “Odessa” into the “From”, box on the left of the page, you will be given a dropdown menu. There are several train stations in Odessa, but you will need to select the first option “Odesa”. If you are wondering why it’s written with one “S” instead of two, I have no idea.

The Next thing to do is start typing “Kishineu” into the “To” box and select it from the dropdown menu when it appears.

Train Odessa to Chişinău (Dropdown Menu)

You may think I’m oversimplifying things but I’m not. If you type too fast and enter “Odessa” instead of “Odesa”, the system doesn’t offer you the dropdown menu and you cannot proceed. You’ll have a similar problem if you begin typing “Chişinău” or “Kyshyniv”.

When you select the departure date you will also need to be certain you have chosen a day when there are trains running. If you don’t opt for a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, it will simply tell you there are no places available. It won’t offer you any better options.

When you enter a viable date you are able to proceed to the next page, where you are presented with a seating plan that allows you to see which seats are still available and choose the one you want.

How to Choose Your Seat on the Train from Odessa to Chişinău

After that, it’s just a case of moving on to the order page, adding your personal, details, and paying for your ticket.

When the payment has gone through, you will be able to download a PDF document. The same document is sent to you in a confirmation email, but this is not your ticket. It’s only a document that provides you access to it.

Personally, I’d never encountered a system like this before. Normally when I buy travel tickets online I get a virtual copy I can print or show to people via my phone.

When possible, I prefer to have a copy on my phone. It saves paper and is more environmentally friendly The thing is, I’ve travelled with a few bus companies that won’t accept a digital copy and demand a printed ticket. This can be a problem because it means I have to search for somewhere to do the printing. Printing my train ticket from Odessa to Chişinău was not a problem. You have to do it at the train station. There are no other options because all you have is a document that proves you have paid for a ticket.

Arriving at a train station, with luggage and trying to find the right place to print your ticket can be a pain and I knew it. Fortunately, the room I was renting in Odessa was not far from the station, so I walked there and got my printed ticket a few days before I was due to depart. I was very glad I did.

When I arrived at the station, I saw a counter that looked like some form of reception desk. The lady there did not speak any English and pointed to another similar desk a little distance away. The queue was only short, but it was taking a long time for the lady to help the people in front of me. After waiting 10-20 minutes I gave up. Let’s remember, at this point, I didn’t even know if I was waiting in the right place.

I then found a lot of payment desks. They all said “KACCA” above them. This is the Cyrillic way of writing “kassa”. In Dutch, that means the same as “till” or “checkout”, so no problem there.

The problem was, there were too many queues and I still did not know if I was in the right place or if I would get to see someone who spoke English. Fortunately, the girl standing behind me in the queue spoke English and I discovered I was in the wrong place. I had to go upstairs.

I went upstairs, visited a little kiosk. The lady did not speak any English, but when I showed her the document on my phone she printed my ticket and gave it to me. I didn’t find anything about this ticket-printing adventure stressful, but I was glad I’d done it in advance. If you want to travel from Odessa to Chişinău by train, I suggest you do the same.

Of course, if you speak Russian or Ukrainian, arrive at the station in plenty of time, and don’t have too much luggage, you could print your ticket on the day of your departure.

Train Facilities and Getting Through Customs

When I looked at the train from the outside it did not exactly look ultra modern, but appearances can be deceptive. It was very nice inside. I walked to the correct carriage and showed my ticket to a lady inside the doorway. She also needed to see my passport. Once these formalities were out of the way I was able to find my seat and sit down.

There was no Wi-Fi in the train, but there were plenty of electrical sockets. I was glad about that because it meant I could arrive in Chişinău with a fully-charged phone. The seats were comfortable and everything was nice and clean. The on-train toilets weren’t much different to those in any other country I’ve been—functional, but not a place I would like to sit down.

I have no idea if there was a cafeteria on the train, but I saw someone with coffee so it must have been available somewhere. There was also a lady came around selling some sort of pastry dish.

The train terminates at Chişinău. It’s the final destination, but there are four other stops along the way.

At most of the stations, the journey only halts for a few minutes. Things are different at Kuchyrgan. It stops there for around half an hour while official-type people in military garb come onboard to do the passport checks.

There’s no need to get off the train. You just sit and wait. They come to you. My passport was checked by a very pretty, young Ukrainian girl. She examined it and then ran it through some sort of small computerised scanner.

The interesting thing was, although she was all decked out in army-like camouflage and most of her long, black hair was hidden under a green woolly hat, the girl was wearing jewel-studded earnings and, like most Ukrainian girls, her fingernails were immaculate and covered in varnish. So it appears it’s still possible for a girl to look good in khaki after all. Who knew?

As for the train station at Chişinău, it has a customs area if you have “anything to declare”. That surprised me. I’ve never seen one of those at a train station before.

There is also a cashpoint, which is handy when you arrive without any of the local currency. If you need them, there are also plenty of taxis waiting outside.

But no Uber. There is no Uber in Moldova. Not even in the capital city. I’m not sure why. That’s just the way it is.

I don’t like travelling via taxi. I prefer to walk, take a bus or use Uber. However, I’d booked a hostel for my first night in Chişinău because I knew I’d be arriving late. It would have taken me 30 minutes to walk there. That’s no problem, but I’ve had a couple of bad experiences in Eastern Europe and didn’t like the idea of walking through a strange city so late at night. I took a taxi. I’m pretty sure I was ripped off, but I had a safe journey.

Why I Wrote this Blog Post About Travelling From Odessa to Chişinău by Train

Although the actual process of buying a train ticket from Odessa to Chişinău is actually pretty simple, the way the Ukrainian Railways website is designed makes it more difficult than it needs to be. It took me a while to figure out how everything worked.

At first, I thought the train must have been discontinued because I could not find “Chişinău”, but I eventually figured out why.

Then it appeared all the seats must have been sold months in advance. I’d originally planned to travel on a Monday, but the site said there were no seats available that day. There were none for the Tuesday or Wednesday either. Out of curiosity, I tried these days for each of the upcoming weeks for a period of several months. I really did not want to travel on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday and, at that point did not know these were the only options available to me. In the end, I realized this and figured things out.

I’m an experienced traveler and I like to believe I’m not stupid so, if I had problems it stands to reason other people may do so too. Those who do will probably go looking for information online. I did that too and didn’t find much help. That’s why I wrote this post.

If you are presently exploring the possibility of travelling from Odessa to Chişinău by train, I hope this post helps.

The picture of Odessa Train Station is not mine. I never took any, but needed a picture to accompany this post and must give credit where credit is due. The picture was taken by Sven Eppert and posted via his Flickr account.

I’m using it here under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

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26 Comments

  • MH

    11th October 2019 at 6:26 am Reply

    Im on train from Chisinau to Odessa in first class. There is a wifi albeit not so fast.

    • Steve Calvert

      11th October 2019 at 11:16 am Reply

      Hi MH,

      That’s interesting. If you’re travelling first-class, that probably makes a difference. You’re paying more to enjoy a better quality of service. I always travel the cheapest way that I can. I’ve never traveled first-class in my life and I doubt that I ever will. However, thanks for the comment, the information will be useful for anyone who wants to travel between Chisinau and Odessa and really needs to have Wi-Fi during their journey.

  • David B

    23rd August 2019 at 4:02 pm Reply

    I’ve just done this journey. I don’t speak any Russian or Ukrainian so was grateful to find your post. Things worked out a little differently for me: I went upstairs at Odesa station and could see two kiosks, so randomly chose one and showed the lady the booking document on my phone and she directed me back downstairs and to the left. I went back downstairs and could see a kiosk different to the Kaccas, so tried showing the lady there the document and she wrote on a piece of paper ’13’ pointing left. I went left, tried Kacca 13 and was silently given my ticket.
    Other useful points are that there is a place to leave luggage at Odesa station, on the train it was possible to buy beer from a lady with a fridge at the end of the carriage, and there was a WiFi network, which I connected to and didn’t find internet, but when I arrived in Chisinau found new messages on my phone so it must have connected somewhere along the trip.

    • Steve Calvert

      23rd August 2019 at 4:42 pm Reply

      Hi David,

      Thanks for sharing. I’m sure other people who need to travel from Odessa to Chişinău will find the information useful. I never needed a place to stow my luggage on that trip, but there may be plenty of people who do.

      Steve

  • Lawrence Fay

    13th July 2019 at 9:06 am Reply

    Thanks Steve,excellent article. We are traveling the same route on Friday 20 September, had to shift our day from Thursday.
    Two question we are travelling from Kiev to Odesa on Tuesday 17th September by bus and trying to book tickets online through Tickets.ua but have been unsuccessful is this 13-07-2019 too early’
    Is Google translate something you use, and is it successful

    • Steve Calvert

      13th July 2019 at 1:37 pm Reply

      Hi Lawrence,

      Google translate works okay for many sites, but don’t bother using copy and paste. The most efficient way is to visit the site you want to use via a computer then right click anywhere on the page. You should get the option to “translate to English”.

      Everything I write on this blog comes from personal experience. I believe the train is the best way to travel from Odessa to Chişinău because I travelled that route. I’ve never travelled from Kiev to Odessa.

      However, although I’ve never done the route you want, I’m still going to try and help.

      I’m not familiar with Tickets.UA. I just visited the site and tried to make a test booking. All it did was offer me flights. I would never waste my time with a site like that.

      I suggest you go by train. There are normally several trains per day. Unfortuantely there don’t appear to be any seats on the date you want. I tried a few days either side and it was the same story. There are plenty of seats this month though. Next month too. I’m guessing it’s only saying there are no seats becasue it’s too early to book. I truly believe you should be able to get there by train.

      Give it a month and then go to this page (it’s in English): https://booking.uz.gov.ua/en/

      I think you will find it easy enought to buy a ticket. You won’t even need to enter the cities in the boxes. Just hit the button that has the route you want.

      How to Book Train Ticket: Kiev to Odessa

      Out of curiosity, I checked a few bus companies and couldn’t find any seats for that date.

      If you really want to travel by bus, you will be able to sort it out with a local company in Kiev. Just ask around. Many companies don’t have an online presence, but the people in Kiev will be able to help you out.

      I have no home. I drift from country to country and always get where I want to go. I’ve learned that things don’t always work the way you might expect them to. There are still a lot of companies that do everything using paper and pen. Don’t stress about the journey. You will get there.

  • Heather Watson

    22nd June 2019 at 6:56 pm Reply

    I’m planning on this route next month and so glad I came across your information. Thanks so much, made it very easy and made it stress free.

    • Steve Calvert

      22nd June 2019 at 8:53 pm Reply

      Hi Heather,

      I’m glad the post was useful. I wrote it because I wanted to make it easier for people who need to travel that route, so it’s always great to hear when it delivers the goods 😉

    • Malik

      9th July 2019 at 12:23 pm Reply

      I will be in odessa on the 20th july aswell , you will be there ?
      Thanks a lot for this translation i heard its so difficult to communicate , lucky i will have my girl who speak russian

  • Jonathan

    28th May 2019 at 4:49 pm Reply

    Hi there, thanks for this, it was super useful! Just a question – did you get a stamp from Customs on arrival in Moldova?

    • Steve Calvert

      28th May 2019 at 6:23 pm Reply

      Hi Jonathan,

      I’m glad the post was useful for you. I’ve just checked my passport. The Ukranian girl who scanned my passport on the train added a stamp that shows I left Ukraine. There were no customs checks by Moldovan officials, either on the train or at the station in Chişinău. There is no Moldovan stamp that shows me entering the country. When I left Moldova four weeks later I went by plane. I have as stamp from the airport that shows I left the country.

      Judging by my own experiences, I would say it’s going to depend on how you enter the country. If you arrive via the airport, you’ll probably get a stamp. If you arrive another way you may not. Hope this helps 🙂

  • Jesse

    26th May 2019 at 12:38 am Reply

    Update: between 01-06-2019 and 01-09-2019 the train goes daily. So for people who wants to visit Odessa or Chisinau it is easier to plan a trip.

    Train: Odessa-Chisinau departs at 18:45.
    Train: Chisinau-Odessa departs at 07:05

    • Steve Calvert

      26th May 2019 at 3:26 pm Reply

      Hi Jesse. Thanks for sharing the information. It should help make things easier for people who want to travel this route. That’s what this post is all about so thanks again 🙂

    • Malik

      9th July 2019 at 12:24 pm Reply

      Thanks for the update k was worry about it , coz my girl need to take back the train on tuesday either wednesday

  • David Turner

    23rd May 2019 at 10:43 am Reply

    I believe the spelling query in your blog is that Odesa is the ukrainian spelling in latin script. The russian spelling has two S’s (or two C’s in the cyrillic). Yes I should probably get out more! Very useful information on travelling from Chisinau, so thanks for that. David

    • Steve Calvert

      23rd May 2019 at 11:46 am Reply

      Hi David. Thanks for the comment.

      There is no query really. I only mentioned the different spellings because I noticed the site uses more than one version of the names on certain pages. This may confuse people who are trying to buy a ticket to travel from Odessa to Chişinău so I thought I’d point it out.

      The other problem is if you try to enter names too fast the system doesn’t give you the dropdown menu. So when you are trying to buy a ticket it’s best to type nice and slow. It gives the system time to catch up with you and do what it’s supposed to do. In fact, it may be a good idea to just type the first letter or two, wait for the menu to appear, and then make your choice.

  • Gustav

    27th March 2019 at 12:09 am Reply

    That’s really useful. Just what I was looking for. Thanks a lot.

    • Steve Calvert

      27th March 2019 at 10:41 am Reply

      Your welcome 🙂

  • Tino

    25th March 2019 at 10:41 am Reply

    Regarding “There is no Uber in Moldova” I can recommand Yandex Taxi. It is as convenient as Uber and works in both Moldova und Ukraine.

    • Steve Calvert

      25th March 2019 at 1:33 pm Reply

      Hi Tino,
      I know about Yandex Taxi, but I personally will never use it. When you are travelling alone, safety is an important issue. When people use Uber, their journey is being tracked by an American company. That makes for a safer Experience. Yandex may have a similar system, I don’t know. However, it’s a Russian company. I would rather trust my safety to an American company. Although, I’ve never written about it on this blog, I’ve had some very nasty experiences in Eastern Block countries that have cost me a lot of money due to loss of property and medical bills. When I arrived in Moldova, I took a taxi from the rank, but I chose a very old driver. It seemed like a safer option than walking the streets of a strange city late at night. Had the option been available though, I’d have still preferred to use Uber.

      • Megan

        26th March 2019 at 9:54 am Reply

        I’m with you steve. I’d rather take a taxi off the rank than use yandex. Apart from anything else, I would not want to have to share my card details with a russian company. I’ve also had friends who had bad experiences using their services. The best thing to do is stay away from yandex taxi

        • Steve Calvert

          26th March 2019 at 10:28 am Reply

          Hi Megan, thanks for dropping by.

          It’s not a service I will ever use. When I arrive in a new city I often walk to my destination. If it’s too far I may use the metro (if available) or catch a bus. If it’s late at night though, I prefer to use Uber. I was quite surprised when I discovered there was no Uber in Chisinau, but it’s a situation that may change in the future.

  • Andrew W

    8th January 2019 at 2:50 pm Reply

    Very informative, thank you. Do you know what times the train goes in reverse, i.e. what time they leave Chisinau and arrive in Odesa? I assume they also only go on Friday, Saturday and Sunday too?

    Thank you!

    • Steve Calvert

      8th January 2019 at 3:17 pm Reply

      Hi Andrew,

      I’m glad you found the information useful. I’ve just checked and it appears the train leaves Chisnau at 06:57 and arrives at Odessa at 10:45. It’s the same for all three days.

      However, the best thing to do is visit this page: https://uz.gov.ua/en/passengers/timetables_cis/

      Then look for trains from Kishineu (Moldova, Republic Of) to Odesa-Holovna (Ukraine) on any Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.

      That way you can get the most up-to-date information.

      • Linda Kucera

        20th March 2019 at 9:23 am Reply

        Thank you Andrew
        I think this information will be very helpful! Thank you for taking the time to share!

        • Steve Calvert

          20th March 2019 at 10:51 am Reply

          You are welcome, Linda, but my name is Steve, not Andrew. Never mind, I’ve been called worse 🙂

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