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.
|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.
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.
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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