For Romania our Albanian participant and all EU
citizens needed a visa, while Austrians got it for
free. The usual price at the border is $33 for a 30-
day tourist visa.
First, we all received an official invitation letter from AEGEE-Iasi and AEGEE-Cluj-Napoca in order to apply for a free or discounted Romanian visa at the consulate in our own country. Following this procedure, one of us got a visa for DM 10 at the consulate in Bonn.
But at the Romanian embassy in Budapest, we were twice told to pay DM 60 - even for Austrians - and no one even bothered to read our letter. With those results we decided to try with the rest at the border.
There it was really easy. Without leaving the train, we produced all the passports, with the invitation letter and our best smiles, and in half an hour we got free visas. Excellent. The first battle was easily won.
To avoid the international train fares, we bought tickets good only until the last Hungarian station before the border. There we tried to bribe the conductors for the international part, which is always expensive. We couldn't do so on the Hungarian side, because the conductors sold us a ticket to the border right away, but in Romania we negotiated an agreement to pay just DM 60 for the entire group, then 10 persons. So we paid around DM 30 instead of the regular DM 60, which would have been a real rip-off.
On that happy day in Iasi, due to the
many difficulties in reaching or crossing
the border by public transport, we decided to split
up the group. All public buses and trains cross
border stations where Westerners cannot buy a visa.
So the three of us who needed only an invitation to
enter Moldova (two Poles and an Albanian) went
by bus, together with the American, who
had already bought his visa. The rest went
in two private cars through the only
border point where it is possible to get a
visa: Leuseni. One of the cars was going to
continue to Chisinau and the other one
just to the Moldovan border, where a car
from AEGEE Chisinau was waiting for us.
All of this had to be arranged very late at
night, because the cars and drivers were
not available during daytime, and only
around midnight were we able to leave Iasi
by car. In all we had to stop something
like a dozen times at traffic controls,
border police checkpoints, waiting (for an
hour) in the queue to cross the Romanian
border, plus passport control and customs
twice. The same process of getting the
visas took over an hour, and afterwards
we had to pay border-crossing tax and
road-use tax (we were able to avoid the
ecology tax). In all we needed around six
hours for the 170 km which separates Iasi
It was a very cold night. The customs officers needed some alcohol to warm themselves up a bit, as we could see in their eyes and their movements. Congratulations to the brave drivers from AEGEE-Iasi and AEGEE-Chisinau, who took us to Chisinau and who had to work the following morning (or rather, the same morning, because we arrived at 6 a.m.) Congratulations also to AEGEE-Chisinau and to Markus, whose negotiations got us one more free visa. That time we saved $30 each.
Very easy. Going there was one of the main
objectives of the trip. After some discussion with
the organisers about the risks of visiting Tiraspol',
everything was much simpler than we thought.
Since the civil war, the border has been controlled
by Moldovan and Russian peacekeeping troops, as
well as Transdniestrian militia. There is no real
passport control, and even if there were any,
nobody cared about a flock of Westerners coming
to visit. They only checked the luggage lockers of
the bus for weapons. This border gave us
apprehensions, but not any real problems.
This time we took a bus AEGEE-Chisinau
had hired from Chisinau directly to Iasi,
crossing the border once more at Leuseni.
Of course we had to suffer all the usual
controls, waiting a long time in the queue, though
the main problem on the Moldovan side was that
this time they did not let our Albanian friend leave
the country, because he did not have a visa to get in
(when in fact, with his service passport, he does not
need a visa). An hour was spent with doubts,
arguments, and waiting for the border-station chief
to return from lunch. In the end, since our Albanian
was also on the list of the persons applying for a
free visa, they simply stamped one into his passport
and let him go.
Then on the Romanian side there was a similar story. It had been very easy getting free visas to enter Romania the first time. But now that we needed only a transit visa we (well, Markus and Nicoleta) had to go through a lot of heated discussion to get them for free. We saved $23 more, making a total of $86 we saved in visa fees. It was worth the effort. Things were easier only for the Polish passport holders. These two did not need visas for Romania and only an invitation letter for Moldova.
Thinking that we could save some time and money,
we took a direct bus from Arad (Romania) to
Budapest, which cost only DM 18 and took only 20
minutes to reach the border. The only problem was
that we spent at least three hours there. There are
passport and luggage controls on both sides. Most
of the passengers were Romanian citizens working
in Hungary, legally or illegally. There were some
problems with one of the passengers, who was not
allowed to enter Hungary. They also kept the
Western passports for a while, because it seemed
suspicious for people like us to be travelling in such
conditions, with such people. Once all this annoying
border bureaucracy was finished, it was time to
make another stop for lunch right after the border.
And we saved an hour with the time difference
between Romania and Hungary. Finally on our way
to Budapest, the bus took minor roads via Szeged.
Perhaps it was to avoid police controls. But after the
bus stopped yet again for a drink, still 200 km away
from Budapest, I could not stand it any more, so I
hitchhiked with a friend the rest of the way, which
took about the same time as the bus.