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Transport in Ukraine

Transport infrastructure in Ukraine is partially very good and partially not. There are excellent aircrafts, trains, buses, roads, etc., but at the same time old Soviet transport and poor roads still exist, especially in small towns.

Trains

The best way to travel around the country (map).
You can use the following websites to search for timetables of Ukrainian trains:
http://booking.uz.gov.ua/en/ - buy tickets here
http://www.poezda.net/en/index

Types of trains:

Intercity - 1st and 2nd class carriages, goes several times to all major destinations: Kyiv - Kharkiv, Kyiv - Lviv, Kyiv - Dnipropetrovsk, etc., the speed is up to 160 km/h. The trains are new, air-conditioned, have buffets, Internet, young stewards - everything like in European top level trains. First and second classes have different seats (in the second class five in a row, in the first - four and more space). Trains can be either Hyundai Rotem or Ukrainian trains.

Hyundai Rotem trains are ready for departure
Hyundai Rotem trains are ready for departure Yuriy Buriak


Interior of the Hyundai Rotem train
Interior of the Hyundai Rotem train Yuriy Buriak


First Class seat in the Hyundai Rotem
First Class seat in the Hyundai Rotem Yuriy Buriak

Regional express - daily trains that go to the major cities that are not connected with the Intercity. All carriages are 2nd class, with four seats in a row and air conditioning. There are two types of such trains: one-level and two-level. The Skoda train is better but it's used only in Eastern Ukraine between the major cities such as Dnipropetrovsk - Kharkiv. One-level trains run throughout Ukraine, for example, Kyiv - Vinnytsia, Kyiv - Sumy.

Regional train or elektrychka - for example, Kyiv - Nizhyn or Lviv - Mukacheve. The carriages are 1st, 2nd and 3rd class. However, these types of trains are not good. Very often you can travel only in 3rd class without air conditioning and toilets. If possible, buy a ticket for the regional train of increased comfort ("elektropoyizd pidvyshchennogo komfortu"). Tickets for this type of trains can be purchased at the railway station and partly via the Internet.

Night express or overnight fast train - for example, Kyiv - Warsaw or Kyiv - Simferopol. They used to be the main trains in Ukraine until the advent of the Intercity in 2012. There are three types of carriages: coupe (2nd class, four berths with doors), platskart (3rd class, four berths on one side of the carriage and two on another side, with no doors) and SV (first class, with two berths, doors, sometimes with a TV and a sink).

The main difference from similar trains in Europe is a non-working air conditioner. The 3rd class is always without air conditioning, the 2nd one - 50/50 and the first class always has it. Another difference is a toilet, which makes no sense to describe it - if you see it, you'll understand :) Recently the carriages have been rapidly renewed, so all of them are different. Excellent carriages with air conditioning and power sockets exist together with dreadful ones.

Night passenger train - a horror of the Soviet era. We traveled by such train from Uzhgorod to Kyiv. Old carriages, no air conditioning, the speed of 40-50 km/h! This train should be chosen only if there's no alternative and the weather is not too hot.

City train - Only in Kyiv.

Kyiv city train
Kyiv city train Yuriy Buriak

Tickets
Tickets for the most of the trains are sold on the internet - http://booking.uz.gov.ua/en/. There's also a lot of railway ticket offices in large cities everywhere. Although in smaller towns you should go to the central railway station.

Intercity tickets are always available, even before departure. Night train tickets must be purchased in advance - the earlier, the better. Most people buy tickets a couple of months before the departure to have an opportunity to choose a lower berth in the carriages.

When buying tickets online or at the ticket office you need to report:

 - Your first and last names (since April 2013 you have to show your passport before getting into the train)
 - Where you're going
 - Date and approximate time of the day: morning, afternoon or evening
 - If you buy a ticket for the Intercity, then choose the class: first or second. In the regional express all seats are 2nd class. If this is a night train, you need to inform the carriage class: coupe, platskart or SV.
- You can ask for a lower berth (in platskart or coupe) and the berth which is not in the corridor (in platskart).

Use the following pictures to read the Ukrainian train ticket - image1, image2, image3.

Return Tickets
Tickets can be returned 6 hours before train departure. At each station there's one ticket office that can accept the return tickets. You will lose about $2 per ticket, depending on the time when you return them. You must have a passport with you. If you bought the tickets at the ticket office, you'll get cash refund. If you bought the tickets via the Internet, the funds will return to your card.

Night Trains
If you buy a ticket for a night train, then the bed linen will be usually included in the price. The linen will be given to you by a steward. Blankets and mattresses lay on the upper berths. If you're a girl and you need to change your clothes, just ask other passengers to leave the coupe for 5 minutes.

Coupe, 4 seats
Coupe, 4 seats Yuriy Buriak

If you're in a platskart carriage, then you can change your clothes only in the toilet. If you're used to sleep in silence, then buy a 2nd class ticket, otherwise it will be difficult for you to sleep in the platskart carriage (3rd class).

Several times we were in the "SV" cars, it is 3 times more expensive than the coupe, but it much more comfortable :)

First class car in Ukraine
First class car in Ukraine Yuriy Buriak


First class car in Ukraine
First class car in Ukraine Yuriy Buriak

Boarding the Train
The number of your carriage is printed on the ticket. Near each carriage stands a steward. Show him/her the ticket. Sometimes the steward will remind you about your place and pick up the ticket (will return it at the end of the trip).

Luggage and Security
The best place for luggage is under the bottom berth. However, quite often there's not enough space for everyone there. You can leave it under the table. It's easier to do in the coupe, there's a big shelf over the corridor. We have never experienced theft on trains, but it exists. Therefore, if you have expensive items with you, just don't leave them unattended at night, put them in your luggage or in a secured place.

Food
Most people take food with them. In the carriages you can buy tea, coffee, potato chips, cookies etc. Each train has a dining carriage where you can eat sandwiches. Very often, during stops at stations, especially in the direction of Crimea, old ladies come to the train and sell homemade food. Since they know the time of train arrival, the food is still hot. We ate such food a couple of times and survived :)

Toilets
In the Intercity and Express trains there are normal toilets, like in European trains. Night train toilets don't work when the train passes towns and cities. In the elektrychka (regional train) they may not even exist. To use a sink in the bathroom, you need to push the pedal either on the floor or on the tap itself.

Minibuses (marshrutkas)

The main mode of transportation between towns without railway stations. These are small vans like Mercedes Sprinter or "Bogdan". They go to any distances in Ukraine. It's often more convenient than the train, when the distance is small.

To stop the bus, raise your hand as if you're hitchhiking. You cannot transport bicycles in minibuses.

If a minibus leaves from the bus station, you need to buy a ticket at the ticket office. If you  catch a minibus on the way, just ask the driver how much it costs to get to your destination and give them the money (by yourself or through the passengers).

The city ticket usually costs no more than $0.5. You can pay immediately upon entrance or later by transferring the money through other passengers. Don't worry, the change will be returned the same way. There are no traffic zones in Ukrainian cities, i.e. all tickets cost the same price. If an urban minibus leaves the city, then the price may slightly increase, but it's typically less than $1 per trip. Urban minibuses usually have no schedule and leave every 20-40 minutes.

You need to ask the driver for a stop (Ostanovite, pozhaluista). It's the most interesting point, especially if you don't know Ukrainian or Russian. Try to explain the driver where you need to go. Most likely they will stop and tell you where to leave. You can also ask the English-speaking passengers for help. Don't worry, the Ukrainians are always ready to help. And you can just say "Please stop" or "Please stop near the metro", the words "stop" and "metro" are the same in all languages.

There are two websites where you can find all bus routes:

http://bus.com.ua/
http://marshrutka.com.ua/

We use them very often. But, unfortunately, they are only in Russian!!! And Google Translate doesn't help :( Maybe at the moment you are reading this text they are already being translated into English.

Intercity Buses

Large buses usually run between the major cities. There are two large carriers: http://en.autolux.ua/Main and http://gunsel.ua/en/. You can read their schedule in English at their websites. All timetables are on http://bus.com.ua/. But, as I wrote, they are only in Russian :(

Metro

In Kyiv, Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk there's a subway (metro). In Kyiv and Kharkiv it is the best way to move around the city. The metro is deep (a great attraction for tourists), always clean and has signs in English. To travel you need to buy tokens in a vending machine or at the ticket office. If you're in the city for a week or more, buy a card and add money to the account in the machine.

A trip to any destination for any time costs $0.25. The metro doesn't work at night.

Buses, Trolleybuses, Trams

Urban transport. Tickets can be purchased either in kiosks near the stops or from ticket officers and drivers (if there's no ticket officer in the bus). The fee to any destination is around $0.2-0.3 (if you have a lot of luggage, buy one more ticket). The tickets must be validated in the punching machine. Urban transport stops at all stations, you don't need to push buttons as in Europe. The are no electronic displays in the urban transport, so you need to know exactly where you're going and where you'll leave the bus. If it's difficult, ask the passengers for help, they'll always help you. The stops are announced mainly in Ukrainian and Russian, and in large cities - in English.

Not all types of urban transport have schedule and usually buses, trolleybuses, and trams have intervals of 5-60 minutes. The smaller the town, the longer the intervals. Urban transport doesn't work at night. Bicycles cannot be transported.

It's possible to meet ticket inspectors in urban transport. The penalty for ticketless travel in Ukraine is about $4-5. If you could not buy a ticket at the kiosk near the bus stop, buy a ticket either from the ticket officer in the bus or from the driver. Trams can have two carriages. Get in the one where the ticket officer is at the moment. They can be identified by uniform, at the moment it's a green vest with two bright yellow stripes.

Air Transport

Airports in Ukraine don't differ from the European ones, except for the check-in process, which begins two hours prior to departure. You can get to the airport either by bus or by taxi. The bus is usually inexpensive ($2-3) and goes to the train station. Read more about the taxis below.

In December 2018 aero express was launched in Kiev. This is a train that travels between the Borispol airport and the central railway station in 37 minutes. Tickets are bought in the machine, as for 2019 ticket price is $2.7

Main carriers in Ukraine:

http://www.flyuia.com
http://www.wizzair.com
http://www.dniproavia.com
http://www.windrose.aero
http://www.utair.ua
http://yanair.ua

Taxis

Attention! Uber is working in Ukraine in the big cities, so use it if possible. Usual ride in Kyiv cost $2-5.

Taxis in Ukraine are different from the European ones. Many cars have no meters. If you catch a taxi without a meter on the street, you can overpay. And it doesn't depend on whether you're a foreigner or a local, taxi drivers just enjoy earning money :) The best option is to call a taxi service on the phone. In this case the operator will tell you the price beforehand and be sure that it will be quite low. Let's consider an example. Boryspil airport - Kyiv: street taxi ot airport taxi - $50-100, taxi called on the phone - $15; Zhulyany airport - Kyiv: street taxi ot airport taxi - $20, taxi called on the phone - $3-4.

I cannot say whether the girls in the taxi call centers speak English. I am afraid that most of them don't. So maybe you'll need to ask the locals for help. Don't hesitate just to ask young people to help you call a taxi. In Ukraine people ask each other for help without any problems.

Some taxis in Kyiv:

+380442488248, Elit taxi (http://elit-taxi.ua/index.php?lang=en) - we use only this one. Call it if you are foreigner and come to the airport. All cars have a large yellow handset with a phone number on the roof. In Borispol cars come to the parking lot to the left from the exit of the terminal D.
+380442391515, Express taxi (http://express-taxi.ua/en)
+380442000202 - we use this one, it's economy class and very cheap

Catching a taxi on the street is quite expensive, especially if the driver understands that you're a foreigner. Tell them where you need to go and name your own price, otherwise the driver will tell you their price. If the car is equipped with a meter, the driver will inform you about it. The taxi that can be called on the phone costs about $0.3 per kilometer (economy), $0.6 - business, $0.75 - premium, $1 boarding fee, this price is relevant for all cities of Ukraine (2015). Taxis that stand along the streets are much more expensive - up to 100% more.

Private drivers are a very common practice in Ukraine. This is not a taxi, they can stand near the train/bus stations and offer transfer. We often use their services, especially in small towns, where the public transport is rare and we need to drive 20-50 km from the station. The prices are different: the smaller the town, the lower the price. You can use the prices from the previous paragraph. In towns with population of less that 50 thousand people you can drive at any distance for $3-4.



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Comments (Total: 1)

2015-07-05 18:28 # 1 Rajesh
Very helpful piece - thank you.

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