How to Travel inside Ukraine - Transport Guide
Ukraine, a country I have become very fond of in recent years but there is more to Ukraine than just the magnificent capital Kyiv. The Epic country covers an area of 603,628 km2 (233,062 sq mi), it is the second-largest country in Europe after Russia, which it borders to the east and northeast. Ukraine also shares borders with Belarus to the north; Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary to the west; Romania and Moldova to the south; and has a coastline along the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. With a population of about 42 million, it is the eighth-most populous country in Europe. So with all this knowledge of its geographical size, its population and the wealth of entries and exits into the country it's clear there is a lot to see. However, one might wonder how should one travel around Ukraine?
Thankfully, I've been experimenting with the various modes of transport around Ukraine for many years now - I've made the mistakes so you don't have to!
With this guide that I hope connects perfectly to my consistent content on Ukraine, I hope it encourages you to travel around this wonderful country. I am not sponsored by any tourist board, company or individual. The article does contain affiliate links that do reward me a tiny percentage should you ever make a reservation via these links. These links do not increase the price for you they are simply the companies way of saying thank you for bringing traffic to their business. Some recommendations will not have links simply because those companies do not have affiliate programmes. The recommendations I make are the same if I were advising friends or family and I would want them to have the best experience. My first blog and this blog was designed for Friends and Family but I'm now glad everyone can now benefit from my gained knowledge.
If you have the cash and very little time to enjoy the roads of Ukraine then Air travel is one way to see the country very quickly. The network is very centralised, so more often than not you need to change flights in Kyiv when travelling between the south, east and the west. The number of domestic flights and carriers has fallen considerably in recent years. Personally, I've used Air Ukraine many times and despite the age of some of the planes, I've always found the service to be fantastic and I've always reached my destination on time and in one piece!
Buses serve every city and small town, but they're best for short trips (three hours or less), as vehicles can often be small, old and overcrowded. However, luxury bus services run by big companies provide a good alternative to trains. Some bus stations you will encounter are quite orderly, while others remain chaotic. The domestic intercity bus network is dense and you can basically get anywhere with a bus. However, the quality of vehicles can vary a lot depending on where you are travelling. On routes where many tourists travel, you will find the majority of buses are in good or very good condition. But if you are travelling on less popular routes, you will in most cases end up on an older bus. Also on many routes, transportation is done in small buses. There are literally thousands of tiny transport companies operating services across Ukraine. However, on the main intercity routes the two large operators, Gunsel and Autolux use Western-standard coaches. Opt for their not-so-expensive 'VIP' services if you want more comfort as well as onboard wi-fi. German operator Flixbus has just entered the Ukrainian market and is set to expand its network.
Travelling by car in Ukraine can be a rewarding if nerve-racking experience. However, road conditions are improving and drivers may even be becoming a little more disciplined. I've yet to experience any problems with the traffic police. This is not Asia or Africa where cops are corrupt, however, this didn't always use to be the case. Before 2014 corrupt cops were more common in 2021/2022 the cops are well trained and well paid. If you bring your own vehicle into Ukraine you will need an International Driving License as you may get yourself into trouble if you do not have one. Third-party insurance is compulsory. This will normally be covered by a 'Green Card' International Motor Insurance Certificate, which should be obtained before you enter Ukraine in your own car. Hire companies will provide their own vehicle insurance.
Drive on the right.
Unless otherwise indicated, speed limits are 60km/h in towns, 90km/h on major roads and 110km/h on some dual carriageways.
There's a zero-tolerance policy on drink driving.
Believe it or not, it's a criminal offence not to wear a seat belt (although everybody ignores this rule).
Traffic cops have the power to stop you but not to issue on-the-spot fines.
Hitching is not very common in Ukraine due to the sheer number of buses. A fancy form of hitchhiking is BlaBlaCar ride-sharing service has made inroads in Ukraine in recent years, but of course, few drivers speak English. However, the ones who do will be an excellent source of local knowledge and most likely be keen to practice their English on you. I've met some great people using BlaBlaCar - so I'm a big fan!
Ukrainian cities are navigable by trolleybus, tram, bus and (in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Dnipro) metro. Urban public transport systems are usually overworked and overcrowded. There's no room for being shy or squeamish – learn to assert yourself quickly.
A ticket (kvytok or bilyet) for one ride by bus/tram/trolleybus costs 4uah to 10uah. depending on where in Ukraine you are. Most journeys in Kyiv are now 8uah.
There are virtually no return, transfer, timed or day tickets available anywhere.
It's common to pay the driver or conductor on the bus.
Tickets on trams have to be punched on board (or ripped by the conductor).
Unclipped or untorn tickets warrant an on-the-spot fine should you be caught.
For the Metros Top-up cards & QR code tickets are now also available. The tokens are now a thing of the past.
Metros run from around 5.30 am to just after midnight.
Travelling by a standard taxi anywhere in the ex-Soviet Union can be a decidedly unpleasant experience for foreigners, as for some reason they take pride in gaming the meters. Before the days of apps I would say -if there's a bus or tram going to your destination, take it. However, since the advent of Uber, Bolt & Uklon in the major cities, the app services are now the way to go. Although sadly not every town is serviced by these Taxi apps but all the big cities are.
I massively recommend using Bolt, Uber & Uklon when in Ukraine. When there is a surge compare the price of all 3 and you will never pay too much. Please download the apps before you arrive in Ukraine and make sure your credit card or Google or Apple pay is linked to the apps that way you will never worry about the driver having change for that 500 UAH ever again! 🚕 BOLT - Use My Code - "HFDHF" - £12 Credit 🚕
🚕 UBER - Use My Code - "uberAVT" - Free £/$ changes weekly 🚕
🚕 UKLON - No discount code but worthy of your time 🚕
For long journeys, the train is the preferred method of travel in Ukraine. The most useful and comfortable are the daytime Intercity+ trains. Many overnight trains have old, Soviet-era carriages. Services are mostly punctual. Every train station (zaliznychny vokzal or just vokzal) has a left-luggage counter, which usually goes by the Russian name kamera khranyeninya (камера хранения) or kamera zberihannaya (камера зберігання) in Ukrainian. Many are open 24 hours except for signposted short breaks. You usually pay when you deposit your luggage and retrieve it with the receipt or metal tag you are given. All classes have assigned places. Your carriage (vahon) and bunk (mesto) numbers are printed on your ticket.
SV Spalny vahon (SV, sometimes called Lyux) is a 1st-class couchette (sleeper) compartment for two people. It's perfect for couples, but if you're travelling alone, sharing with a stranger can be awkward. Not available on many routes and books up immediately despite costing two to three times more than kupe.
Kupe Kupe or kupeyny is a 2nd-class sleeper compartment for four people. The most popular class and also the safest and the most fun. Sharing the compartment with two or three others is less awkward than sharing with one other (as in 1st class) and there's safety in numbers. Kupe is about twice as costly as platskart. Unless otherwise noted, train prices are for kupe.
Platskart Platskart is a 3rd-class sleeper. The entire carriage is open (no separate compartments), with groups of four bunks in each alcove, along with two others in the aisle.
Zahalny vahon (obshchy in Russian) Fourth-class travel means an upright bench seat for the entire journey. This class of carriage is now rare on Intercity trains, but most elektrychky (slow electric trains) have this kind of seating.
1st/2nd Class (C1/C2) Carriages on the Intercity services have seating divided into two classes (there's little difference between them).
There are basically three types of train: Express trains The Intercity express trains between Kyiv and major cities have airplane-style seats, a cafe, functional air-con and pleasant staff. They make few stops between the capital and regional centres. Pasazhyrsky poyizd (also known as poyizd, skory poyizd or shvydky poyizd) These are mainline services travelling long distances between cities, often overnight. They usually have compartments with individual berths for each passenger. Elektrychka (prymisky poyizd; prigorodny poyezd in Russian) These are slow electric trains running between cities and rural areas. They're often used by locals to reach summer cottages and gardens. Elektrychky sometime leaves from a dedicated part of a station set aside for local trains. They are extremely slow and stop at every station. No air-con and toilets are a hole in the floor.
To avoid the hassle, buy tickets via the Proidz App, via their website or with the form below.
In older trains, each carriage has an attendant called a provodnik (male) or provodnitsa (female), who collects your ticket, distributes sheets, makes morning wake-up calls and serves cups of tea.
Dining cars rarely sell anything more than sandwiches, snacks and drinks, so bring supplies.
Toilets are often locked some 30 minutes either side of a station. Bring your own paper.
Don't drink the water from the tap.
I'll try to keep this blog updated with up to date information as well as will keep posting videos about Ukraine on my Channel. I am not sponsored by the Ukrainian Government or any Travel Group, I simply have written this post as I enjoy travelling. Please do check out this blog for more independent travel ideas and my YouTube Channel. As always, videos can always be found on YouTube & LBRY. I use both as sadly YouTube is now censoring content whereas LBRY is for Free-Speech.
If any of this information has been useful to you and you fancy buying me a Coffee please do click the link below to buy me a Coffee via Ko-Fi.com.
Thank you - Alex van Terheyden AKA The Wondering Englishman
If you would like insight into where to stay when in Kyiv Click Here
Insight into the capital city Kyiv Click Here
A tour around Odesa Click Here
Considering exploring Dnipro Click Here