Doug Gets Lei'd In Moldova

(not as fun as it sounds)

What a great name for a mall in Moldova!
What a great name for a mall in Moldova!

I'll be adding an entry to my Things I've Learned page about this one, which is...  just because countries are neighbors, it doesn't always mean they accept each other's currencies.

The way this "predicament" came about was because I was running short of Modovan Lei a couple of days before my departure to Romania.  Whenever I use an ATM, my bank charges $5 per withdrawal, no matter what amount I'm getting.  Obviously, getting higher amounts makes the percentage of the fee smaller.  So I decided to get my usual $300 in Moldovan Lei and just exchange to Romanian Lei upon arrival in Bucharest.

The problem with my plan... they don't accept Moldovan Lei in Romania ‐ or, for that matter, any other country outside of Moldova.  One fellow-traveller I met at the hostel in Bucharest said he was heading to Moldova next and would buy the cash from me.  But when he saw how much I had, he wasn't sure he could take it all.  At the time, he was moving to another place and I was leaving on a train to Brasov (still in Romania), so I told him I would leave it at reception at the hostel and he could come back when he had enough Romanian Lei to buy it.  I then asked the girl(s) at reception if they could find any other travelers to buy my Moldovan Lei if he didn't buy it all, or if he just didn't come back.  They said they'd be happy to.

Fast-foward about three weeks...  back in Bucharest...  the envelope still had all the Moldovan Lei.  I tried again to find someone - anyone - who would take it.  But no luck!  By then I had already booked a night-train from Bucharest to Sofia, Bulgaria for two nights later.  I made a quick decision to take an afternoon train to the city nearest the Romanian/Moldovan border.  The idea was that I could get up early the next day, catch a bus over to the nearest Moldovan border-town, do a quick exchange, bus back to the Romania-side, afternoon train back to Bucharest, arriving at 7pm, with plenty of time before my 11pm train to Sofia.

The problem with that plan?...  there was only one bus a day over to Moldova, at 1pm - and one bus back to Romania, at 6am.  So I would have to stay the night in Moldova, missing my train to Sofia in the process.  Oh well, at least I got to visit another Romanian city, so it wasn't a completely wasted trip.

In the end, I contacted the friendly folds at Chisinau Hostel, where I stayed while I was in Moldova, and asked if I could mail the money to them and have them send it back to me via Western Union.  They agreed to do it, but warned me that it's risky to mail cash.  I pointed out that I'm already out that money anyway, so if it goes missing, no big deal.  But it made it just fine, and they sent it back to me, less the "fee" that I told them they should keep for their kind help.