Here's a little list of tips we've compiled for living on the road in Ukraine.
Ukraine’s official state language is Ukrainian. There are also 19 other recognised regional languages including Polish, German and Greek to name a few.
Ukraine’s official currency is the Ukrainian Hryvnia. Visa and Mastercard are accepted as the most common cards as well as Eurocard although they are not widely used and in many cases won’t be accepted, particularly in small fuel stations, towns and cafes. It is recommended to have cash with you.
Drinking water appears to be easy to find in the rural areas we passed through. A pipe will usually be hanging out of a wall in villages and you’ll almost certainly see a collection of plastic bottles scattered around it. Kiev’s official tourism website recommends to boil water from taps before drinking or preferably to buy purified bottled water from supermarkets.
‘Drinking water’ in Ukrainian is ‘Питна вода’ although taps will unlikely be marked as such.
Receiving post in Ukraine appears to be quite a difficult process. With no clear indicators on the country’s official postal service website. Many foreigners living in Ukraine complain of parcels never arriving and ‘getting held up somewhere’. It is possible to make an arrangement with local post offices if necessary but check with them first.
Diesel: Дизельное топливо commonly written as дт
Petrol: Бензин неетилований / A-92 / A-95
LPG: автогаз / Автомобільний Бензин / LPG
There is not currently a price comparison website for fuel although the prices are well below what you’d pay in the European Union. As of October 17 Diesel was approximately 72p per litre.
Bins are few and far between as a lot of people appear to burn their rubbish themselves. Fires are a regular sight at the sides of the roads, often affecting visibility substantially. There is a lot of rubbish everywhere with over 30,000 illegal waste dumps countrywide, according to the government.
Some residential zones 13mph (20km/h)
Built-up areas 37mph (60km/h)
Outside built-up areas 55mph (90km/h)
Major roads 68mph (110km/h)
Motorways 80mph (130km/h)
Speed limits are rarely signposted so be wary of your surroundings. Police frequently pull people and are seen parked in most urban areas and many country roads, waiting to catch people out.
It is illegal for them to ask for money from foreigners at the roadside but this is not to say they won’t try. Ensure you have all documents present and everything is as it should be with your vehicle. Foreign vehicles other than Polish, Slovakian, Czech and Romanian are rare and will draw attention.
Dipped headlights must be used during the day between 1 October and 30 April and in poor daytime visibility.
Although an international driver’s permit is officially required, we didn’t have one and nothing was said at either border regarding this issue.
Entering and exiting the country in a foreign vehicle will likely cause delays. It is not uncommon for people crossing the border to bribe the border guards to speed this process up. If like us, you don’t agree with this, expect them to make life as difficult as possible for you. Our experience took over two hours to enter and exit the country, including a complete strip search of the van, sniffer dogs, interrogation and confused guards asking you if your incense sticks are narcotics.
The general condition of the roads here are poor and often extremely dangerous. Roads are often not covered with any asphalt and drivers will understandably drive on whichever side of the road has less potholes. If using a Satnav, take in to account that many roads are simply not possible to drive on at anything more than 30-50km/h. Avoid driving after dark.
You must also have an itinerary planned, detailing where you are staying and what you are doing within your visit. It helps to translate this to Ukrainian as many officials will not speak English. We also drew a rough map, which seemed to humour the border guards if only momentarily.
Compulsory items to carry in your vehicle always:
First aid kit
Winter tyres – on all four wheels during snowy weather conditions between November and April, with a minimum tread of 4mm.
Wild camping in Ukraine is not illegal, but out of Kiev and Crimea - although Crimea is now virtually impossible to visit - the country is not set up for tourism and you will likely attract curiosity and unwanted attention. As mentioned before, the police like to hassle people for bribes so park somewhere discreet and out of view of main roads and you should be okay. Driving through, we noticed a few wild camping spots on Park4Night but after our unfriendly welcome at the border we decided to drive straight through. Please let us know if you have camped there and what your experiences were!
Ukraine is the largest country in Europe, and brings together influences of Eastern Europe and Russia into one giant crazy post-communist ball.
As well as being the biggest, it is also the second poorest country in Europe. It's known for its vast forests, the Carpathian mountains and its capital city, Kiev, which is rich with culture.
We spent just one day driving through on our way to Romania from Slovakia, and a 3 hour journey quickly turned into a 9 hour journey when we realised that the roads appeared to have been bombed and then never once repaved since the Soviet Era. The drivers are not crazy as is purported online, but rather they simply adapt to their surroundings by driving on whichever side of the road has the least potholes. There is also a lack of infrastructure such as supermarkets and shops, although there are plenty of fuel stations which are very cheap, and the fuel seems to be of better quality than most you'd find in Europe. If you want to find something to eat, your best bet is buying a cabbage from a babushka at the side of the road.
As Ukraine is a non-EU country the border controls getting in and out are strict, and it is illegal to enter the country through an unmanned border. The border guards searched our van ruthlessly, and may or may not have been looking for a bribe, but it's also illegal to bribe them so we could've been arrested straight away if we did. Confusing, right?
Corruption is rife in Ukraine and the border controls aren't the only ones who'll be looking for a bribe; the police who pull over vehicles all day long will also be looking to grease their palms.
So if you want to take a roadtrip like no other, give Ukraine a go.