Dmitri Gavrilov runs a hostel in Tiraspol and keeps the Go Tiraspol blog, where he writes about life in Transnistria. We decided to interview him and find out more about tourism in the breakaway republic.
-How did you come up with the idea and how long have you been running this business?
The idea was formed based on the volume of the people interested in exploring Moldova and Transnistria. For the last 10 years, since I learned the English language I have been discovering both Moldova and Transnistria with my visitors, trying to show the uniqueness of our Black Sea region.
-How is the market: do you have much competition?
Oh Yes, and I like that in 70% of the time we all cooperate with each other. For example if one has no place to accommodate a guest we can re-direct them to other company or individual in order to make a tourist feel secure and welcomed.
-Why visit Transnistria? How do you advertise it as tourist attraction?
Why to visit any other Post Soviet Countries. The answer is simple, because it is unique and very special of its recent historical events. Moldova and Transnistria are special for a few reasons: it is secure to travel with kids and elderly people, cheap shopping in Tiraspol, a lot of Soviet monuments and buildings, very tasty and cheap food and alcoholic drinks, city night life in unique in its development process. For those who like sport we offer bicycle and kayaking trips on river Dniester. Basically anything is possible to organize on both sides of wonderful river Dniester.
-What fees do you charge? Are they fixed or flexible, negotiable?
It depends on the requirement and it is certainly negotiable. As this is my part time activity, even hobby, I can even organize a tour for free. I basically do this now. Money is not my personal priority in this project but it is a multifunctional tool.
-Tell us about the charity stuff you have going on.
That is my personal passion and desire to try to help to people in need. Without this component I would never start this initiative. The area where I live is special because of the people who live around. There are few families which are straggling in their everyday life so I decided to help them on regular basis with what I can afford to myself. Of course there are many other people in need in different cities of Moldova and Transnistria but I try to concentrate more on my level of expertise for the moment. I believe in humanity and sincerity of our society.
-Who comes to Transnistria? What professions and nationalities?
Very different people, such as backpackers, volunteers, missioners, journalists, aircraft pilots, track drivers and many other professionals. What is more important all of them come as tourists not like professionals. I prefer to meet individuals not representatives of different companies with corporate antiques.
-Do you have regular customers or people who have returned a couple of times?
Yes, and I am proud of this. There are few groups of tourists from USA, UK and Hungary who came to stay with us on Victory Day in 2013, 2014 and now in 2015.
-How tourist-friendly is Transnistria, given the KGB, the militia and the Russian troops?
Ha-ha-ha-ha, this is what tourists read before they come to Moldova in general. I think this question can be better answered by tourists. You can have a look on a few interviews on our YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCioc2FfudqN44-fgVgewEhA .
-Have you or any of your customers ever had any problems or difficulties with the authorities?
The only time when I see authorities is when I pass the checkpoint and when visiting the migration office in Tiraspol, it is a usual routine.
-What do these tourist expect initially and what are their impressions when they live? What is that impresses them most?
There are a few types of tourists who come to Transnistria and Moldova. First type know that it is not a gangster paradise and people live their everyday life as anywhere in European continent. Of course there are some local specific issues related to security and social justice on both sides of river Dnister.
Another type of tourists come with concrete impression and vision based on internet propaganda about Moldova and Transnistria. The most common propagandistic effects result in: 1) in Moldova (and Transnistria) there are lots of beautiful easy going young women desperately in need to marry a foreign men; 2) In Transnistria you can buy nuclear bombs unlimited from babushka on every corner; 3) you have to bribe some officials to get through the border 2 times (coming IN and OUT); 4) you can be arrested, detained and tortured if you overstay in Transnistria.
These rumors are created usually by travelers and media who have no clue about what is going on in real life in Moldova and Transnistria. Go Tiraspol is breaking stereotypes and prejudices in its every day work. I would advise to watch some of the interviews on Go Tiraspol YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCioc2FfudqN44-fgVgewEhA