Buying a SIM Card in Moldova and Transnistria Guide

Logos of Telecom Providers in Moldova: Orange, Unité and Moldcell. And the logo of Interdnesrcom

Moldova is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe. The country is known for its amazing wine (at least, according to many – I do not like wine).

Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, has many parks and national museums. It also has the Nativity Cathedral. Wine lovers will love visiting Old Orhei, which has many wineries.

Soroca has many monuments and castles. Cricova has lovely vineyards and monasteries. Tipova has cool waterfalls and caves. You will have a great time in Moldova.

What may ruin your good time is dealing with an expensive roaming bill from roaming with your provider in Moldova. Roaming can be expensive in many cases, which is why travelers prefer to buy a Moldovan SIM card when visiting Moldova.

Those with a SIM card from a country from the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) should especially watch out with deciding to roam in Moldova.

Moldova is neither part of the EU nor the EEA, so they are not bound to the 2017 roam like at home regulation. Be sure to check whether your operator offers free roaming in Moldova before receiving an expensive roaming bill, as your operator is not required to offer free roaming in Moldova.

What about Transnistria? Transnistria is considered to be a breakaway state as a territory east of the River Dniester. The territory is internationally not recognized, but they do have their own telecom provider.

Just like Moldova, Transnistria has many wineries, monuments, and monasteries. Most operators will not even mention this region in their roaming list because they (1) either do not know it exists or (2) believe it is part of Moldova. Additionally, they are also not part of the EU/EEA, so roaming can be expensive there.

In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Moldova and Transnistria. Let's go.

Telecom Providers in Moldova

Moldova has 3 telecom providers: Orange Moldova, Moldcell, and Unité. All operators have 3G and 4G/LTE networks. Orange Moldova and Moldcell also have 2G networks, while Unité does not.

What SIM card should you buy when visiting Moldova? If you want to buy a SIM card in Moldova, I would recommend going with Moldcell because they offer 4G/LTE to prepaid customers, while Orange does not. Do note that Moldcell’s coverage is slightly worse compared to the one of Orange.

Unlike most countries in Eastern Europe, and Europe in general, you do not have to show your passport when buying a Moldovan SIM card.

A special reminder for those from the EU/EEA: Moldova is not part of the EU or EEA, which means that the Roam like Home rule does not apply in Moldova. Therefore, it is recommended that European citizens with EU SIM cards buy a Moldovan SIM card instead of roaming with their providers. Some providers, however, offer free roaming in Moldova, but this is not the case for all. Be sure to check your provider’s site to learn whether you can roam for free or not.

There is not much more to say about Moldova, so let’s see what Moldova has to offer to us.

Tip: Looking for cheap flights? Book with AirWander and add stopovers! Not in a hurry yet? Set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog and get notified when ticket prices for your preferred route(s) drop!

Orange Moldova

Orange Logo

Orange Moldova, just Orange, is the incumbent operator and also the most popular provider with a market share of around 60%. Do note that although Orange has a 4G/LTE network, it is not offered to prepaid customers. Additionally, prepaid speeds are not as fast as subscribers/postpaid users due to deprioritization.

Orange SIM cards, called Orange PrePay, can be bought for 50 MDL ($2.80) with 50 MDL in credit in Orange stores across the country. Top-up vouchers are sold from 30 MLD to 200 MDL. To recharge, you have to dial *144*VoucherCode#. For example, if your voucher code is 123456, you would dial *144*123456#.

The following Orange packs are available, which can be activated by dialing *100# or through My Orange:

  • 10 MDL: 1 GB for 1 day
  • 25 MDL: 2 GB for 7 days
  • 40 MDL: 500 MB, 60 minutes, and 60 SMS for 30 days
  • 50 MDL: 1 GB and unlimited calls for 15 days
  • 60 MDL: 1 GB, 100 minutes, and 100 SMS for 30 days
  • 150 MDL: 20 GB and unlimited calls for 7 days

You can also get an Orange data-only SIM card, called Internet Acum PrePay, for 50 MDL, which comes with 3 GB for 30 days, which is also the only add-on available.

Moldcell

Moldcell Logo

Moldcell is the second-largest operator with a market share of around 30%. If you have traveled to various countries in Europe or Asia, then you may recognize the logo, which is the Telia logo.

Moldcell SIM cards, called Cartela Moldcell, can be bought for 50 MDL with 50 MDL in credit in Moldcell stores. Top-up vouchers ranging from 50 MDL to 200 MDL can be purchased in many stores. To check your balance, dial *444#.

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Moldcell offers several monthly combo plans, which are called Super Cartela:

  • 40 MDL: 500 MB, 120 minutes, and 120 SMS
  • 60 MDL: 1 GB, 180 minutes, and 180 SMS
  • 80 MDL: 2 GB, 240 minutes, and 240 SMS

You can activate any of these Moldcell Super Cartela plans by sending an empty SMS to 555.

If you are only interested in data, then you can get a data plan, called Pachete Internet, by dialing *202#:

  • 10 MDL: 500 MB for 1 day
  • 20 MDL: 250 MB for 30 days
  • 25 MDL: 1 GB for 7 days
  • 50 MDL: 1 GB for 30 days
  • 90 MDL: 3 GB for 30 days
  • 100 MDL: 5 GB for 30 days
  • 140 MDL: 10 GB for 30 days
  • 200 MDL: 20 GB for 30 days

All Pachete Internet plans auto-renew if there is enough credit. To cancel the auto-renewal, text 1 to 5678.

You buy a monthly social media plan offering unlimited Facebook, Twitter, Vkontakte, and Odnokassniki, for 15 MDL. Combined with a Pachete Internet, the usage of these apps will not count towards your data allowance.

Moldcell also has a data-only SIM card, called Internet ca lumea, for 50 MDL that comes with 4 GB.

Unité

Unité Logo

Unité is the smallest operator in Moldova. It also has limited coverage throughout the country, which is why I do not really recommend them if you are planning on exploring Moldova instead of staying in the big cities and towns.

Unité SI cards, called Cartela Unité Prepay, come in two variants:

  • 30 MDL: 200 MB, 200 on-net minutes, 200 minutes to landline numbers, and 5 MDL in credit
  • 50 MDL: 500 MB and 50 MDL in credit

Make sure not to buy a Unité Connect SIM card because that is only compatible with phones that support CDMA (almost all phones support GSM nowadays).

Unité top-up cards are sold from 20 MDL to 300 MDL. The more you top up, the more free stuff you get:

  • Top-up between 15 and 24 MDL: 100 on-net minutes and 100 landline minutes
  • Top-up between 25 and 48 MDL: 1 GB, 100 on-net minutes, and 100 landline minutes
  • Top-up between 49 and 98 MDL: 2 GB, 500 on-net minutes, and 500 landline minutes
  • Top-up is or more than 99 MDL: 5 GB, 500 on-net minutes, and 500 landline minutes

These bonuses are valid for 1 month.

If that is not enough data for you, then you can buy a Unité data pack by dialing *200#:

  • 15 MDL: unlimited data for 24 hours
  • 20 MDL: 1 GB for 30 days
  • 35 MDL: 2 GB for 30 days
  • 75 MDL: 5 GB for 30 days
  • 125 MDL: 10 GB for 30 days

Telecom Provider in Transnistria

Transnistria has 1 telecom provider, which is Interdnestrcom (Интерднестрком) or IDC for short. This operator uses CDMA for their 2G network, EVDO for their 3G network, and regular 4G/LTE for 4G (800 MHz on Band 20). As a result, you need a device that is 4G/LTE enabled and supports 800 MHz on Band 20. Else, you cannot use Interdnestrcom.

What SIM card should you buy when visiting Transnistria? If you want to buy a SIM card in Transnistria, Interdnestrcom would be your only option.

If you have a Moldovan or Ukrainian SIM card, there is a high probability that you can still use your SIM card in this area, so there may not be a need to buy a SIM card in Transnistria.

Unlike Moldova, you do have to show your passport when buying a SIM card in Transnistria.

Moreover, Transnistrian uses Transnistrian Rubles (PRB) instead of Moldovan Leu (MDL). 1 USD is 16 PRB, and 1 MDL is 0.91 PRB.

Let’s see what Interdnestrcom has to offer to us.

Interdnestrcom (Интерднестрком)

IDC (Interdnestrcom) Logo

Interdnestrcom is the sole operator in Transnistria, but you may not need to get their SIM card if you already have a Moldovan or Ukrainian SIM card. Remember that your device needs to support 4G/LTE at 800 MHz on Band 20. Else, you cannot use an Interdnestrcom SIM card.

Interdnestrcom SIM cards can be bought for 56 PRB in Interdnestrcom stores. The following monthly data packs, called Mobitel, are available:

  • 22.4 PRB: 1 GB. Activation: dial *888*3211#
  • 56 PRB: 3 GB. Activation: dial *888*3221#
  • 86.9 PRB: 6 GB. Activation: dial *888*3231#
  • 112 PRB: 9 GB. Activation: dial *888*3241#
  • 168 PRB: 15 GB. Activation: dial *888*3251#

To check your data balance, dial 868.

Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Moldova and Transnistria

I have discussed the relevant providers in Moldova and Transnistria in this article because using a Moldovan or Transnistrian SIM card would be much cheaper than roaming with your provider… in most cases. However, buying a local SIM card is not the only way to stay connected in Moldova and Transnistria. You can buy an international SIM card, use a mobile hotspot, or use free WIFI connections. Below, I will discuss the alternative options to use your phone in Moldova and Transnistria.

Roaming in Moldova and Transnistria with Your Provider

Roaming is a term used in wireless telecommunication that indicates a mobile device is outside the range of its home network and has connected to a different, available cell network. Let’s say your provider is bmobile from Trinidad and Tobago, then you would be roaming with bmobile in Moldova and Transnistria.

The issue with roaming is that it can be expensive. There have been many horror stories where people had to pay thousands in roaming fees when coming back from their holidays, which is just a shame, in my opinion. However, roaming does not always have to be expensive, especially when visiting a neighboring country.

Many providers offer roaming plans. Some allow you to roam for free in Moldova and Transnistria, while others would offer you a roaming bundle with a set number of minutes, SMS, and data. Finally, several operators let you use your plan’s allowance for a daily fee.

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As you can see, there are many options out there, so be sure to explore the roaming options your provider has. Conveniently for you, I have reviewed the roaming options of many providers (and many more to come) and discussed everything you need to know about roaming with your provider. If you are lucky, you may not even have to buy a SIM card in Moldova and Transnistria and can roam for free there.

No idea how roaming works? I made this comprehensive guide about what roaming is and how it works. It is worth the read – promised!

One thing I would not recommend doing is to Roam As You Go. Just like prepaid cards where you can buy bundles or Pay As You Go (as in, charged per minute, SMS, or MB), Roaming As You Go can be insanely expensive (that is how people get expensive roaming bills). So far, there are a handful of providers I have reviewed that offer affordable Roam As You Go rates. But generally, avoid it. Get a roaming plan if you can or buy a SIM in Moldova and Transnistria.

Using an International SIM Card in Moldova and Transnistria

International SIM cards are cards that have been made for travelers so that they do not have to deal with roaming costs.

The number of international SIM card providers is too many to count, but international SIM cards give you the same convenience as roaming with your provider. A few providers I know are OneSimCard, SimOptions, Surfroam, BNESIM, and SimCorner.

OneSimCard Banner

They allow people to call you at one number instead of five in case you are exploring multiple countries in one trip. Moreover, you do not have to deal with multiple SIM cards you will never use again. In short, international SIM cards have been made for the international traveler in mind.

Although this sounds fabulous, international SIM cards are much more expensive than local SIM cards in Moldova and Transnistria. Some international SIM card providers charge ridiculous fees (sometimes, even more than roaming with your provider), while others offer awful service. It is, therefore, important to go with a reputable company so that you do not have to deal with surprised when traveling around the world.

On the other hand, international SIM cards are appealing to those who travel frequently or are visiting multiple destinations in one trip. Many countries in the Caribbean require you to register before you can use a SIM card, which can be a hassle for some. Additionally, the language barrier may be off-putting to some travelers, which is why an international SIM card can be handy. You order it before you depart and can use it in various destinations.

My recommendation, however, is to get a local SIM card if you are only visiting one destination. If you are visiting multiple ones, an international SIM card could be handy. If you want to learn more about international SIM cards, check out my international SIM card comparison article, where I analyze 10 international SIM card providers so that you do not have to.

Using Portable Hotspots (Pocket WIFI) in Moldova and Transnistria

Portable hotspots, also referred to mobile hotspots or pocket WIFI, are routers small enough to bring with you everywhere you go. They are portable, battery-powered wireless routers that allow you to connect your phone, laptop, or tablet without needing multiple SIM cards for those devices to be connected to the internet. They are compact and lightweight so that you take them along with you whenever you need internet access on the go.

Just like with the number of international SIM card providers, there are so many mobile hotspots out there that it is challenging to keep track of them all. Skyroam, Vision Global Wireless, and Travelwifi are reputable pocket WIFI providers I know.

You can get a discount if you rent a router through Skyroam by using coupon code PHONETRAVELWIZ. Cellular access with Skyroam starts at $8 a day while using a Vision Global device starts at $2 a day. Teppy, the name of the pocket WIFI of Travelwifi, starts at $7 per day. All these services cover more than 130 destinations around the world.

Travelwifi Banner

The first time I used a portable hotspot was when I was in Bangkok, Thailand, with my dad. He uses the Dutch telecom provider called KPN, which does not let you roam for free in Thailand. I was with 3 Denmark (3 Danmark), which also did not allow me to roam for free. The router was offered for free by our Airbnb host. Let me tell you how convenient that thing was!

I do not remember the exact brand router we used, but we could connect our phones to it, explore Bangkok, and upload highlights of our trip on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and WhatsApp without the need of connecting to unsecure and slow connections in Thailand.

That is why I often recommend those who are traveling in groups or with families to consider getting a pocket WIFI device so that each individual does not need to buy a local SIM card and data packages. In some countries, the cost of getting a local SIM card or packages is so low that it is not even worth getting a mobile hotspot. In others, it could save you money.

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I recently wrote an article analyzing the 7 Best Mobile Hotspots for Travelers like yourself, which should be an interesting read if pocket WIFI is something you are considering. I do reviews of individual devices every now and then, so check out my mobile hotspot category to stay up to date.

Connecting to Free WIFI Networks in Moldova and Transnistria

Finally, we have the most cost-effective way to stay connected in Moldova and Transnistria which is using free WIFI networks.

Using WIFI networks should not cost you any money (unless you are connecting to premium hotspots), which is why it is a popular option for travelers. Go to a local café, buy a coffee, connect to their WIFI, and post your pictures to Facebook or Instagram. Straightforward, right? Well, let’s see if that is indeed the case.

First, you need to find hotspots. In some regions, they are readily available. In others, you cannot find any, require you to give your personal details (for commercial purposes), are restricted for those who are a subscriber of an operator’s, or are so slow that you wished you never connected to them.

In the case of Moldova, you will find many hotspots throughout the country. In Transnistria, it can be difficult.

Public WIFI hotspots are unsecure. They are a prime target for hackers to steal your data and use it for illicit purposes. That is I use, and would recommend you to start using, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) if you connect to a public hotspot. What a VPN does is creating an encrypted tunnel between your device and the hotspot so that your data will stay private. I use NordVPN, and you can get up to 70% off when you get a NordVPN subscription. Get your subscription now!

The Best Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Moldova and Transnistria

Getting a SIM card from Moldcell would do you well when considering a Moldovan SIM card. In Transnistria, IDC is your only option. Be sure to explore the roaming options your provider offers you, as they may offer free or cheap roaming bundles.

You could also consider getting an international SIM card or using a portable hotspot. International SIM cards like OneSimCard, SimOptions, Surfroam, BNESIM, and SimCorner are attractive for those visiting multiple destinations at once or within a year. Portable hotspots like Skyroam, Vision Global Wireless, and Travelwifi will be useful when traveling with multiple people so that not each individual has to get a SIM card but can use the hotspot.

Visiting other countries in East Europe? Check out my East Europe SIM card buying guide covering nations such as Belarus, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, and Ukraine.

What about other places in Europe? My Europe SIM card buying guide covers all destinations in Europe, including those not part of the European Union/EEA, such as Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.

Going to other places around the world? Then you should also check out my SIM card buying guides for other destinations around the world.

What is next?

Looking for the best companies and gadgets to enhance your travel experience? Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! Save money on plane tickets, bus rides, cruises, and accommodation. Besides that, I also list services and items I use to make my life easier – and I believe they will help you too!

Book Your Flight for Moldova and Transnistria

It is time to book your flight. Find cheap flights with AirWander so that you can add free or cheap stopovers in destinations you have not considered yet before going to Moldova and Transnistria. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Moldova and Transnistria drop.

Travel by Train within Europe with InterRail or EURail

Although low-cost carriers are a big thing in Europe, they are not the best way to experience Europe. Everyone knows that the European railway system is awesome. InterRail/EURail makes it much easier to explore Europe by train by having one ticket for participating countries instead of having to buy multiple tickets per country. InterRail is for European citizens and EURail is for non-European citizens (and are not valid in Moldova).

Book Your Accommodation for Moldova

I am a huge fan of Airbnb because it allows me to live with a local or get a local place for myself. Staying in someone’s house or apartment feels much different than being in a ho(s)tel, especially in Moldova. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in a Moldovan hotel.

Get Your Travel Insurance for Moldova and Transnistria

You will regret not having travel insurance once you actually need it and “forgot” to get it. Nowadays, travel insurance is cheap and comprehensive unlike back in the days. World Nomads is by far the best travel insurance for adventurous travelers like yourself. You can even get insured WHILE already traveling in Moldova and Transnistria, which is not something many insurance companies allow you to do.

Get a Travel Debit Card

Travel Cheques are outdated. Paying with your credit card or debit card can be expensive because of all the exchange commissions banks charge you. TransferWise allows you to convert your main currency to the local currency for a small fee (up to 8 times less than with your bank!) Getting a Transferwise Borderless account is FREE, so you will get an instant return on your investment.

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Enjoy your trip!

Ernest Adu

Ernest Adu, going by just Adu, is the founder and editor at Phone Travel Wiz. He has been a traveler for 5 years. Although from Europe, the Netherlands, Adu's favorite region in Asia, in particular, East and Southeast Asia. He currently lives in Tainan, Taiwan, and plans on exploring Oceania and more of East and Southeast Asia from 2020.

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