Are you considering renting a car in Ukraine and looking for the right information to make a sound decision? Well, you’ve come to the right place since we’ll provide you with tons of food for thought in order for you to decide if it’s worth driving in Ukraine.
Deciding on whether or not to drive in Ukraine, similar to other countries in Eastern Europe or abroad, might be a little bit scary at first and there are many factors to consider. There’s the difference in language or, in this case, possibly a totally different alphabet, if you are coming from USA or other English Speaking countries which, in turn, challenges your ability to read signs; but, of course, it all depends on the city you’re visiting. Bottom line: It is completely doable to rent a car and to drive in Ukraine, if you take precautions and follow the tips below.
As someone who’s had to rent a car, not only in Europe but also in Mexico, without speaking the language, I can tell you it’s worth the extra effort for what you gain and, honestly, I am always up for the challenge. I totally enjoyed my road trip around Western Ukraine, which started in Lviv, crossing through Ternopyl, The Carpathian Mountains, Chernivtsi and Ivano Frankivsk. I would say that it is not as scary as you might imagine (or as people might tell you) but it all depends on where in Ukraine you are driving.
I think that, in this guide, I cover all the basics to help you come to an informed decision if driving in Ukraine is the best option for you.
Table of Contents (skip directly to the info you're looking for)
- 1 What are the benefits of renting a car in Ukraine?
- 2 Documentation Needed For Driving around Ukraine
- 3 Process of renting a car in Ukraine
- 4 Other helpful tools for getting around more easily:
- 5 Other things you should know about driving in Ukraine:
- 6 Safety advice and measures for driving in Ukraine
What are the benefits of renting a car in Ukraine?
There are so many reasons why you should consider renting a car as a tourist. It is an excellent way to organize your journey, both if you are on a luxury trip or if you’re traveling on a budget. First of all, it allows you to travel without depending on schedules of their public transportation, like bus and train timetables (which sometimes are not as reliable, especially if you are visiting Ukraine’s beautiful countryside).
Secondly, it is a good way to save money. Combining low-cost flights and a car rental is an affordable way of traveling, and much more convenient than driving your own car long distances, especially if you’re traveling with your family or friends, especially if you have children with you. Your journey can be a lot less expensive with a car rental than the total amount of bus and/or train fares for all of you. Another way to save money is by booking a hotel away from the city center, which is usually cheaper, and then driving to the central tourist attractions.
Car rental also provides you with better quality traveling and comfort – no need to carry your luggage every where, to/from bus stops or train stations, or sitting in cramped bus or train seats.
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Documentation Needed For Driving around Ukraine
In terms of driving around Ukraine, before you rent a car, make sure that you have the necessary documents. They are the National Driving License and/or an International Driving License. Note: requirements vary by country. For example, US citizens will need both their National Driving License and the International Driving Permit. For travelers from other countries, check with your country Travel Department if your National Driving License is sufficient.
IMPORTANT: If an international driving license is needed, make sure to carry a printed copy with you.
Process of renting a car in Ukraine
As much as it is affordable, it’s also easy to rent a car in Ukraine. There are car rental offices in Kyiv, Lviv, Ivano Frankivsk and other major cities, as well as at airports.
As attractive as renting a car may sound, check first if you fulfill the requirements to avoid disappointment or extra costs later on in the process.
- First, you have to be at least 18 to be able to drive in Ukraine and, generally, you won’t be able to rent a car if you are under 21 (or even 25, or 30 for premium cars).
- The rental car services will expect you to pay a deposit. The amount you will have to pay in advance depends on the type of a company – for a local provider a typical 40-dollar deposit is for a standard-class car or 50- to 60-dollar deposit for a premium car, but international firms will charge more (once, renting a car in Lviv, the deposit was $300). And drivers over 70 are also subject to additional senior fees.
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Note: You will normally be able to rent a car with an automatic transmission, but the ones with manual transmission are available too, as a cheaper option. For car rental, you will also need a credit card.
In addition, make sure you book in advance online or by phone, as it is cheaper than renting at the counter. However, do it very carefully, to avoid any misunderstandings later on. Although you can pick optional extras while booking online, you will always pay for them directly at the desk when you pick up your car. For the extras included in the price, they will be indicated during the booking process. Online booking is also safer because you will avoid risking availability, or other unexpected changes, such as in price, and lessen any misunderstandings resulting from communicating in a foreign language.
When considering renting a car in Ukraine, don’t forget that there are additional expenses including parking fees that vary from place to place (in Kyiv, for example, starting and $1 per hour).
Also, fuel policy may vary from company to company. This can be full to full (usually most economical and recommended – receive the car with the tank full, leave a deposit, return the car with the tank full and your deposit is returned). Same to same means that you will pick and return the car with the same amount of fuel (missing fuel will be charged on your return, usually at higher prices than at the gas stations, and there may be a refueling fee as well). You can also pre-purchase fuel with a partial refund or prepay it.
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Don’t forget that you can choose between an international or a local car rental agency. If you would rather rent a car from an international service, you can choose from among these companies:
Sixt, Budget, Avis, Hertz and Europcar. I personally use rentalcars.com because I can compare all the different options, and they offer car rentals in Ukraine, but also in so many locations around the world. Fact: If renting at international companies, you can expect higher prices but also some benefits.
Note: Renting at an international service provider, you may encounter the following fees for adding an additional driver, and there’s usually another fee for drivers under 25. In terms of long vs. short term rental options, international providers offer better conditions for long-term rentals.
You will find the local companies’ providers cheaper at times. They will probably offer you the car rental at a flat deposit fee and rate, with the basic insurance included, without counting every cent, and you will be fully responsible for the gas. Their approach to customers is different. Some local service providers are reliable and present all over the country. Unfortunately, you can’t get attractive long-term rentals as in international companies.
At the smaller rental shops, you will negotiate with them directly. You may get some long-term discounts and, if available at the moment, you may rent a car with a driver. Also, with the local companies, you will avoid under 25 driver charges. Although their rent per day seems to be less expensive, be ready to leave a higher deposit.
Note: Most rental services are in Kyiv, Lviv, Ivano Frankivk, so that is where you will probably want to look to rent your car; usually, they’re not available in smaller cities.
To make the most of your car rental experience, please remember that driving in big cities is best to be avoided, as you will spend a lot of time inching your way along crowded streets and looking for parking. Instead, drive from city to city and park the car upon arrival. You will save time for exploring and most larger cities have good, local public transportation options.
Renting a car in Ukraine is also available at the following sites:
Car Search Direct
Other helpful tools for getting around more easily:
Other things you should know about driving in Ukraine:
In Ukraine, you drive on the right hand side of the road and there are three types of roads: Highways, H-roads and M-roads.
Actually, Ukraine’s only highway is just 18 km long, stretching from Kyiv to Boryspil International Airport. Other than that, there are semi-highways or M-roads, which tend to be well maintained, signposted at regular intervals and wide, with two traffic lanes. Particularly smooth roads are between Kyiv – Chop and Kyiv – Odesa. M-roads typically connect big cities and the most important regions of the country.
H-roads are very important Ukraine’s routes but worse than M-roads because they tend to be inconsistently repaired and rather challenging to drive on. As you can imagine, not all of them are the same; conditions vary from region to region. Make sure plan for enough time to arrive in case you have to drive slowly.
Off H-roads and M-roads, you can take roads through the country but you will have to be very careful. There can be a lot of potholes and other uneven surfaces, and you don’t want to find yourself in a situation, especially in the middle of nowhere. For your safety, check this site for road conditions.
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Safety advice and measures for driving in Ukraine
Preparation is the key to a great experience in Ukraine’s beautiful countryside. The Carpathians Mountains are especially beautiful and the locals are amazing.
The only downside is that, oftentimes, the roads are non-existent and you will find huge potholes everywhere which, as you know, need to be avoided at all costs. On my first trip around the Carpathian Mountains, I was on a tour, and we were traveling in a van. The van actually got two flats, at different locations. Unbelievable! So it’s better to be safe than sorry.
To be better prepared for any inconvenience or situation, make sure that you keep the following suggestions in mind:
1. Select really good car insurance or sometimes, by renting the car with a credit card, that card company provides you with some coverage for incidentals, but this you would need to verify with your card company
2. Invest in good local maps, which can be found in bookstores or newsagents
3. Learn some of the Cyrillic alphabet before traveling to Ukraine – although there are signposts in English in major cities, most road signs are in Cyrillic letters. Of course, GPS maps are a good alternative that will spare you the problems with the Cyrillic Alphabet, but it’s always better to have a plan B
4. Get a sim card, when you arrive to Ukraine. The plans are quite inexpensive for lots of data or even unlimited data. I strongly suggest, KyivStar, since it is the company I used and they provide really good service; I’ve never had an issue. It is always good to have a phone and good data in case of an emergency
5. Gas stations are usually frequently found but, in some regions, you can’t find them as often so you’ll need to take care to refill the tank regularly. Additionally, not all gas stations accept credit cards, so make sure to have some cash with you.The prices may vary from country to country, so it is good to check the price in Ukraine
And lastly, since I work remotely, I always carry with me an international portable wifi, Tep Wireless, too; it keeps me connected wherever I go, and I can connect up to 5 devices at once.
Ukraine Driving Laws and Rules
Naturally, drivers have to obey the rules of the road wherever you drive. There’s a zero-tolerance policy towards drinking alcohol while driving, wearing seat belts, all passengers in front and back, and obey speed limits (generally, 60 km/h in the populated areas, up to 90 km/h on the M- and H-roads, depending on whether there are villages along or not, 110 km/h outside the settlements, and 130 km/h on highways).
Also, I strongly caution: If you can avoid it, do not drive at night; makes it harder to beware of the animals, people, bicycles and horse drawn carriages on the road. You also have to be careful about local Ukrainian drivers who tend to obey the law rather loosely. Also, in the winter, road conditions can become very harsh, with lots of snowfall, so it’s better to avoid traveling alone.
In spite of everything, don’t get discouraged and miss the chance to discover this magnificent country at your own pace and schedule. If driving in Ukraine is not for you, there are other ways to see the country: Book a tour, use the train, or buses. I usually book mine in advance through this website. I have done tons of train travel in Ukraine and while it’s not always the easiest, it is all completely doable. Everything depends on where you are and where you want to go in Ukraine.
Although there are other affordable ways to travel around Ukraine, renting a car seems to be an excellent way to visit places at your own convenience. You don’t have to waste your time waiting for buses and trains or planning around timetables. You can easily arrange your trip around the country even before you leave your home. Hope that this guide has helped you to make the best decisions for your trip!
Wishing you safe and happy travels around Ukraine!
This post was written by: Helmut Didio. He is part of the Creative Team at Dreams in Heels. You can follow him on Instagram.
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